Connect with us

Local News

UPDATE: School superintendent placed on paid administrative leave; Sheppard assumes duties



WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard assumes superintendent duties. Photo by Kim Riley.

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Greg Drescher is now on paid administrative leave, said Catherine Bower, chairwoman of the Warren County School Board during its October 2 meeting.

“Mr. Drescher is on paid administrative leave until his retirement on December 31, 2019,” said Bower, following the board’s 6:30 p.m. closed meeting “to discuss an employee personnel issue.” The closed meeting preceded the School Board’s regular 7 p.m. meeting.

His replacement is Melody Sheppard, WCPS assistant superintendent for administration, “who will assume the day-to-day oversight of school duties,” said School Board Chairwoman Bower.

Drescher is one of 14 elected or appointed current or former County and EDA officials indicted September 20 by the EDA Special Grand Jury on misdemeanor charges alleging an absence of due diligent oversight of former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) Executive Director Jennifer McDonald over the last four months of 2018. Those defendants were allowed to turn themselves in for bookings at the magistrate’s office at RSW Jail and released on personal recognizance bonds on September 24 and 25.

The grand jury charged Drescher and each of the other officials, who include all of the members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, with two counts of misfeasance and one count of nonfeasance, meaning they had knowledge of but didn’t act on the EDA’s mismanagement of funds.

That inaction after investigative public accounting firm Cherry Bekaert was contracted in mid-September 2018 by the County on the EDA’s behalf to investigate financial fraud is cited as allowing the misdirection of an additional $309,000 or more during that time period.

The EDA is seeking recovery of as much as $21 million in allegedly misdirected or embezzled assets from four individual defendants and associated business entities. The Town of Front Royal has also filed suit against the EDA to recover as much as $15 million of Town assets believed involved in those transactions.

Drescher, who simultaneously served as chairman of the EDA Board of Directors and as WCPS superintendent, resigned his EDA Board chairmanship on August 24, 2018. That was one day after Town auditors and officials confronted him, McDonald and then EDA Attorney Dan Whitten over eight-plus years of debt service overcharges to the Town by the EDA. Those payments totaled over $291,000. Whitten is also one of the 14 charged with misfeasance and nonfeasance.

In March Drescher resigned completely from the EDA board after 12 years of service.

On September 6, Drescher announced his retirement from WCPS, where he has served the last five years as superintendent.

Sheppard, who attended the October 2 School Board meeting, was seated in Drescher’s chair on the dais, along with the School Board members, and provided the superintendent’s report. Drescher did not attend the meeting.

During School Board reports, the mood turned somber as members acknowledged Drescher’s impact and contributions.

“I would like to wish Mr. Drescher a good life and to thank him for his service to Warren County Public Schools,” said School Board member Arnold Williams, Jr. “I think he gave us his all every day.”

“I really enjoyed working with Greg,” said School Board member C. Douglas Rosen, who retires at year’s end. “He’s always been open, he’s been compassionate to students, and he’s been probably one of the biggest assets that the Warren County school system has had in many years. I’m gonna miss him.”

School Board member James Wells said, “There is nothing that makes me feel Greg Drescher ever gave anything less than 100 percent of his time, attention and skill to leading the school system. And his focus was clear at all times that our students and staff deserve the best opportunities to exceed what we could give them. And I wish him all the best.”

Bower also stated her appreciation for Drescher’s 37 years of dedication to education, with 34 of those years spent in Warren County.

“His passion for education was evident in many of the programs he initiated,” Bower said, noting that she had three pages listing all of them.

For instance, Drescher was behind getting all students in grades 6-12 a Chromebook to use as a learning tool, while elementary schools have Chromebook carts for each grade level, Bower said.

Drescher also initiated the summer meals program; the development of more afterschool programs; and was committed to retaining highly qualified teachers, she added.

“I want to thank Mr. Drescher for his guidance and all that he’s done for our school system and for his friendship,” said Bower.

Paid administrative leave means that Drescher will continue to receive his six-figure salary until the end of the year.

Share the News:

Local News

Warren County Splash Pad now open



Ribbon cutting at the new Warren County Splash Pad. Photos and video by Mike McCool, Royal Examiner.

It was 67 degrees out but that didn’t stop Whill Stanley from trying out the new splash pad.  The new Warren County Splash Pad is an exciting addition to the popular Dr. Seide Memorial Botanical Gardens and the adjacent Lion’s Park and Fantasyland playground.

Whill Stanley is the first ‘kid’ to used the Splash Pad, despite 67 degree weather.

And a big ‘kid’ too

Watch as this exclusive Royal Examiner video brings you the ribbon cutting and remarks from Dan Lentz, Director of Warren County Parks and Recreation, along with Dan Murray and Tom Sayre from the Board of Supervisors and Doug Stanley, County Administrator.  Also representing the Rotary Club of Front Royal was Bret Hrbeck. This project was a community effort with about 30% of funding coming from community donors.

Special thanks to the Dominion Foundation (Blue Ridge Arts Council), Warren Coalition, Rotary Club of Front Royal, Kiwanis Club of Front Royal, County of Warren and Warren County Parks and Recreation.

And for Beth Waller for her assistance in talking to Dan Murray, Dan Lentz and Doug Stanley.

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Local News

A letter to the Skyline Middle School community regarding bullying



To Our Skyline Community:

In the last week, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding bullying at Skyline Middle School and our response to instances of bullying. We believe that all students have the right to live and be educated in a safe, caring and supportive environment with mutual respect and courtesy. Bullying is anti-social behavior that threatens the values, standards, and peace of our school and community. I would like to take the opportunity to address the Skyline community regarding how we handle bullying from a preventative and responsive point-of-view.
Skyline Middle School has many preventative programs that address the bullying situations your child may face. Our first level of bullying prevention starts with our school-wide behavior expectations. We teach expectations for how students are to treat one another, show kindness to one another, respect one another, and how to own their actions when they are not meeting those expectations.

Sometimes students struggle in meeting behavior expectations. We provide all of our students training using a social-emotional program called Second Step. We have used Second Step for the last five years, and students regularly participate in this program throughout the year. Students focus on empathy and communication, as well as bullying prevention and management of their emotions.

Additionally, we provide a mindfulness program for small groups of students. We provide this additional support to assist these students in proactively regulating their emotions. This support is in place to prevent instances of bullying.

Over the last four years, we have been able to provide our students the opportunity to view a production from the Same Sky Project.

“The Same Sky Project features a traveling group of performers who advocate for and promote messages of empathy, love, inclusion, acceptance and inspiration through music and performance. Conceived in 2011 by a client with cerebral palsy, the Same Sky Project showcases a changing group of teens, each with different physical, intellectual and developmental challenges who perform original shows at local school assemblies in an effort to communicate their daily struggles and aspirations to fellow classmates.” (Taken from the Same Sky Project website)

Although we have preventative programs, some students continue to engage in behavior that negatively affects others. Ripple Effects, a computer based program, is designed to help students reflect on their actions and how they impact others. Peer mediation and social skills groups are other ways we address bullying and student conflicts. We are able to refer students to outside agencies like Family Preservation Services for outpatient counseling through the Therapeutic Day Treatment program. This agency works to provide counseling services to students in need of behavior modification.

We recognize that many students have been exposed to trauma. Project Courage, which is funded through the Warren Coalition, provides students with trauma-informed care, thus working to provide a high level of behavior support for students in need.

We continue to add programs to assist students in becoming more compassionate and empathetic towards one another. Our newest program is called Do You in conjunction with the The Phoenix Project. This program is designed to facilitate youth resiliency. Students focus on self-esteem, healthy relationships, and communication skills. This past year, we partnered with a local non-profit group called Reaching Out Now. This group’s mission is to provide uplifting experiences to female students through self-esteem building, leadership development activities, and much more.

The goal of Skyline Middle School, as this year’s motto states, is One Vision, One Team, One Community. We are here to help support and grow engaged, healthy children into engaged, healthy young adults who are ready for the academic challenges of high school. We welcome a partnership with the parents of our students in order to form a strong community connection. Should you have any questions, or if you would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact me at (540) 636-0909 or via email, Thank you for your time.

Yours in Partnership,

Robert Johnston
Principal Skyline Middle School

‘No one deserves to be bullied,’ says mom of bullied son

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Local News

Tuesday is the deadline for Virginians to register to vote in the November 5th election



The voter registration deadline for the November 5, 2019 General Election in Virginia is Tuesday, October 15, 2019. To register to vote or update your voter registration information:

• By mail: Applications must be postmarked by October 15, 2019.

• In-person: Applications must be submitted by 5 pm on October 15, 2019.

• Online: Applications must be submitted by 11:59 pm on October 15, 2019.

Any Virginian can check or update their registration name or address, or register for the first time at

To register to vote in Virginia, you must:

• be a U.S. citizen,

• be a resident of Virginia,

• be at least 18 years old by Election Day (November 5, 2019),

• have had voting rights restored if convicted of a felony,

• have had the capacity restored by court order if declared mentally incapacitated,

• not be registered and plan to vote in another state.

In addition to registering online, eligible Virginians may also register at their local voter registration office. Find additional information about your local voter registration office online at

Voter registration applications are also available at DMV customer service centers, social service offices, public libraries and other state and local government offices.

For more information about registering, local voter registration offices, absentee voting, acceptable photo IDs and more, visit the Department of Elections website at, send an email to or call toll-free at (800) 552-9745 or TTY 711.

The Warren County Office of Elections and Voter Registration is seeking interested citizens who are willing to serve as Officers of Election for the November 5, 2019 General and Special Elections.

To be qualified you must be a registered voter in Virginia, are willing work all day on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, are able to attend training classes, have reliable transportation, and are interested in serving your community and voters on Election Day.  This is a great opportunity for interested citizens to participate and assist in this very important democratic process and for students of voting age to learn more about the election process.  Your help is needed and welcomed. 

For more information, please contact the office by calling 540-635-4327 or email the office at  Please make a difference by helping with this very important process!

Director of Elections and General Registrar
Office of Elections and Voter Registration
465 W 15th Street, Suite 800
Front Royal, VA  22630
Phone: 540-635-4327
Share the News:
Continue Reading

Local News

Lane closures October 13-24 at I-81 and Route 50/17/522 in Frederick County



Soil and rock testing will require a series of overnight lane and shoulder closures at the interchange of Interstate 81 and Route 50/17/522 (Millwood Pike) at exit 313 in Frederick County near Winchester. Traffic restrictions will be in place Sunday through Thursday nights from October 13-17 and October 20-24. Details are as follows:

Sunday to Thursday, October 13-17 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.:
• The right lane of northbound I-81 will be closed from mile marker 313 to 314.

• Alternating lane closures will be in place on Route 50/17/522 in the area of the I-81 interchange.
• All on- and off-ramp ramps between I-81 and Route 50/17/522 will remain open throughout this time period but will have occasional shoulder closures as needed.

Sunday to Thursday, October 20-24 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.:
• The left lane of northbound I-81 will be closed from mile marker 313 to 314.

All work is weather permitting.

Virginia traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at

Share the News:
Continue Reading

Local News

Meet Hollis Tharpe – Candidate for Mayor of Front Royal



Hollis Tharpe speaks with Royal Examiner publisher Mike McCool. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

Former Mayor Hollis Tharpe is again running for Mayor of Front Royal in a special election on November 5, 2019.

This election is an special election, to replace interim Mayor Matthew Tederick after the seat was vacated during Hollis Tharpe’s solicitation case. The term for this election will be just one year, with an additional election held in 2020 for a two-year term.

Join our publisher Mike McCool as he has a conversation with Mr. Tharpe about his campaign and the future of our town, in this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

He’s back: Hollis Tharpe’s solicitation charge dropped – will run for mayor

Meet Eugene Tewalt – Candidate for Mayor of Front Royal

Share the News:
Continue Reading

EDA in Focus

Berlik moves to withdraw as McDonald’s civil counsel as payment in dispute



Is Jennifer McDonald’s civil case counsel on the verge of a “take the money and run” move? Hot on the heels of being cited in the amended EDA civil complaint filed on October 4 for the return of a $10,000 wire transfer made to the Berlik Law Firm, LLC on November 21, 2018 by McDonald, the Reston-based law firm filed a motion to withdraw from further representation of the embattled former EDA executive director.

Berlik, his co-counsel Jay McDannell and the firm filed the motion for withdrawal to the Warren County Circuit Court on October 9. The filing appears to be signed by McDannell.
McDonald is not contesting BerlikLaw’s withdrawal petition.

“I have been notified that my current attorneys, Lee E. Berlik and Jay M. McDannell of BerlikLaw, LLC, may file a motion to withdraw from these cases. Should they proceed to file such a motion, I want the Court to know that I consent and agree to their withdrawal,” a statement from McDonald accompanying the motion reads. The statement notes BerlikLaw’s representation of McDonald and her two real estate LLC’s, DaBoyz and MoveOn8 also named as defendants in the EDA civil litigation.

That letter consenting to the attorney withdrawal is dated July 3, 2019. In it McDonald cites the Berlik attorneys’ representation of her personally in three civil matters: the now amended EDA civil litigation seeking recovery of $21.3 million in which she is the primary figure among 15 defendants, including 10 surviving people and five related business entities; and dueling defamation suits with County Supervisor Tom Sayre.

Berlik’s most recent representation of McDonald was on September 11 in a losing cause when Sayre won a $20,000 defamation judgment from McDonald in Warren County General District Court. Well, Sayre was seeking $25,000 in damages so you might generously call it a mixed legal result.

And since July 3, McDonald has dropped her $600,000 defamation suit against Sayre.

Following the EDA’s amended civil filing of October 4, BerlikLaw’s receipt of $10,000 cited as Afton Inn legal expenses in the Cherry Bekaert report on financial fraud in EDA operations is directly addressed in the EDA civil litigation.

Across the street from the Warren County Courthouse, the Afton Inn in February prior to work stoppage after it was named as a vehicle for the misdirection of EDA assets by former Executive Director Jennifer McDonald in civil litigation filed on March 26. That alleged misdirection now includes a $10,000 payment to McDonald’s civil attorneys. Royal Examiner File Photo/Roger Bianchini

“The Berlik Law Firm has refused to return the unauthorized payment from the Warren EDA and has taken the position that the money may have been permissibly paid to that firm which it was not,” the amended EDA civil complaint states, adding of BerlikLaw’s stance, “It has further asserted that because the money has been spent on services rendered, albeit not services rendered for the Warren EDA, the Berlik Law Firm is entitled to enjoy the benefits of the stolen money.

“The Warren EDA neither knew of nor approved of this payment. It had no need for services from the Berlik Law Firm,” Sands Anderson attorneys for the EDA wrote in the amended complaint.
When the issue of the wire transfer came up in Sayre-McDonald defamation case hearings in June, Berlik told media outside the courtroom, “I don’t work for the Afton Inn.”

Inside the courtroom on June 19, David Downes as counsel for one potential witness raised the specter of the $10,000 November 2018 payment.

Downes told the court that Berlik “can’t continue to use potentially stolen funds” to pay for his representation of McDonald” adding without suggesting Berlik had previously been aware he may have been paid with stolen funds – “He’s on notice.”

The possibility of McDonald’s use of embezzled money to pay for some aspect of her civil litigation attorneys fees was initially raised by Sands-Anderson attorney Cullen Seltzer on the EDA’s behalf during a May 22 motions hearing.

“Is she using stolen money to pay her attorneys,” Seltzer asked Judge Clifford L. Athey Jr. during discussion of McDonald’s civil counsel’s request to quash a plaintiff subpoena of his client’s financial records related to her legal representation.

In explaining the request to the court Seltzer noted that the former EDA chief executive is accused of “defrauding a significant amount of money from the EDA” and wondered if some of that money was being used to fund her legal costs.

And now BerlikLaw may have to argue the legal basis for that November 2018 payment in civil court, not on behalf of McDonald, but on its own behalf.

Lee Berlik could not be reached for comment on his firm’s withdrawal as McDonald’s civil counsel, or its stance on the November wire transfer payment prior to publication.

Sayre elicits public comment on alleged McDonald embezzlement scheme

Share the News:
Continue Reading

King Cartoons

Get Your Zombie Walk Shirt

Front Royal
07:2118:35 EDT
Feels like: 46°F
Wind: 0mph NE
Humidity: 93%
Pressure: 29.98"Hg
UV index: 0
min 43°F


Upcoming Events

10:00 am Acrylic Painting: An Individuali... @ Art in the Valley
Acrylic Painting: An Individuali... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 15 @ 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Acrylic Painting: An Individualized Approach @ Art in the Valley
With an emphasis on individuality and creativity, this acrylic painting class welcomes all skill levels. Some concepts we will explore include various paint application techniques, color theory, and composition. Within these basic parameters, we will[...]
10:30 am Art Class “Fall is Here” @ Art in the Valley
Art Class “Fall is Here” @ Art in the Valley
Oct 16 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Art Class "Fall is Here" @ Art in the Valley
We are offering classes for children ages 7-12 who would enjoy expressing themselves through art. The students will expand their creative side with drawing, painting and constructing, using various mediums such as acrylic, pastels, watercolor[...]
7:00 pm Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Oct 16 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Author Jeff Hunt book signing @ Warren Rifles Confederate Museum
Author Jeff Hunt will be presenting and signing copies of his books from the Meade and Lee Series at multiple events in the state of Virginia. The first event is at 7:00 pm on Wednesday,[...]
1:30 pm The Fundamentals of Oil Painting... @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 17 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful oil paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with oils necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]
10:00 am R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Oct 18 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy will welcome alumni and their families back to campus on Friday and Saturday, October 18th and 19th, during the annual Homecoming weekend. Events that are open to the general public include the Homecoming[...]
1:30 pm The Fundamentals of Acrylic Pain... @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Acrylic Pain... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 18 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
The Fundamentals of Acrylic Painting - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful acrylic paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with acrylics necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]
10:00 am R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Oct 19 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
R-MA Homecoming @ Randolph-Macon Academy
Randolph-Macon Academy will welcome alumni and their families back to campus on Friday and Saturday, October 18th and 19th, during the annual Homecoming weekend. Events that are open to the general public include the Homecoming[...]
10:30 am 2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Bre... @ Valley Roots Farm
2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Bre... @ Valley Roots Farm
Oct 19 @ 10:30 am – 7:00 pm
2nd Annual Peak Leaf Music & Brewers Festival @ Valley Roots Farm
Join us for the 2nd annual Peak Leaf Music & Brewers Festival! Come party on Saturday, October 19th, 2019, for a day of live music, local brews, local merchants, and local food trucks; all for a[...]
1:00 pm Workshop: An Introduction to Col... @ Art in the Valley
Workshop: An Introduction to Col... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 19 @ 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Workshop: An Introduction to Color Theory @ Art in the Valley
This one day workshop will be an introduction to color theory as it applies to image-making. We will talk about primary, secondary and tertiary colors and how to mix them from a simple palette for[...]
5:30 pm 7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Oct 19 @ 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm
7th Annual Front Royal Zombie Walk @ Bing Crosby Stadium
Put on your best zombie costume and practice your best shambling limp, because it’s time for the annual FRONT ROYAL ZOMBIE WALK! The Walk will begin at Bing Crosby Stadium at 6pm sharp. We will[...]