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Taller safety fence, 8 new school buses, higher summer school wages pass School Board

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The Warren County School Board unanimously approved several action items during its Wednesday, March 17 meeting designed to bolster safety at a local elementary school, ramp up transportation, and bring in more summer school staff for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS).

Due to safety concerns at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School regarding public access and use of the school grounds after normal school hours, WCPS Maintenance Director Greg Livesay told School Board members that division staff has implemented several measures to improve the overall safety and security of the site, including fencing, increased video surveillance, additional site lighting, and signage.

 

But more is needed, specifically fencing, Livesay said. The existing 4-feet-high chain link fencing at the school does not provide adequate safety of the hard surface play area directly behind the building and between the vehicle travel lane, which separates the hard surface play area from the playground and the modular classrooms, he said.

 

“We have plans to replace approximately 540 linear feet of 4-feet-high chain link fence with new 6-feet-high metal fencing with vehicles gates at each end of the travel lane that will be used to prevent traffic flow behind the school during and after school hours,” said Livesay, noting that WCPS staff solicited three proposals for the work with two bids received.



Winchester, Va.-based McGrane Fence Co. Inc. was the lowest responsive bidder with a $34,725 bid to install the new 6-feet-high metal fencing with driveway gates at the elementary school, he said.

A motion to accept the contract with McGrane Fence Co. was made by School Board member Kristen Pence with a second by School Board member James Wells, who along with Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, and member Ralph Rinaldi voted yes.

“This would just give us more flexibility in being able to control some of the issues that we have been experiencing at E. Wilson Morrison,” said WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger.

When asked to detail what kind of issues there have been at the school, Ballenger wrote Royal Examiner in an email on Thursday, March 18: “We have had some issues with some vandalism and trash being left on the school grounds after hours and over the weekends. There is also a safety concern because the road is open to traffic and students cross the road to access the playground. The fencing will help us to mitigate these issues.”

Also, during the meeting, School Board members voted unanimously to approve a contract price not to exceed $935,000 in current appropriated funds for WCPS to purchase eight new school buses to be delivered in June, according to WCPS Transportation Director Aaron Mitchell.

Specifically, the new buses are needed “to update and maintain our school bus fleet,” Mitchell said. He also noted that the diesel, 77-passenger-seat school buses will be purchased from Thomas Bus Company.

One of the eight buses will be outfitted with a wheelchair lift, as well as fully removable seats. Mitchell explained that such a bus will support students with special needs, who will not have a barrier to going on field trips, for instance. “We are reaching that ultimate level of inclusion to even include transportation now,” he added.

In another unanimous vote, School Board members approved increased hourly rates for WCPS staff for summer school, which this year will run from June 23 through July 8.

“In recent years, it has been increasingly difficult to attract the amount of staff needed with the current hourly rate,” WCPS Personnel Director George Smith told board members. “This summer will provide an additional challenge to secure staff due to a short summer break” as the WCPS summer school program is scheduled for 10 days.

On behalf of WCPS, Smith recommended increasing the hourly rate for the summer school administrator from $35 to $45 per hour; raising pay from $25 to $35 per hour for summer school teachers, and bumping up hourly pay for summer school instructional assistants from $10 to $15 per hour. The cost is covered in the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school budgets.

Ballenger said that the school division will send out a flyer shortly regarding summer school once details are solidified.

Other approved items
The Warren County School Board also unanimously approved several other action agenda items.

Among them, Superintendent Ballenger is authorized to request that the Warren County Board of Supervisors appropriate the fiscal year (FY) 2020 School Operating Surplus in the amount of $2,380,365 as follows: $1 million to the Schools Capital Improvement Fund; $1 million to the School Transportation Fund; and $380,365 to the School Textbook Fund.

“The transportation fund will be a new fund that will be used to purchase buses,” Ballenger wrote in his email earlier today. “The buses approved last night [March 17] were requested in this year’s budget.”

The board also authorized the Transportation Department to replace its current Ricoh printer/copier, which Mitchell said is nearly 10 years old, for a monthly lease cost of $217.84.
WCPS also received approval to spend $17,355.82 for a one-year renewal of Frontline PD, a professional development management system that WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille said houses staff professional development offerings, keeps track of professional staff’s license renewal points and provides a mechanism through which professional development can be approved toward re-licensure efforts.

And the School Board approved a request from WCPS Director of Special Services Michael Hirsch, who asked that WCPS enter a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with The Warren Coalition to provide a variety of evidence-based programs to WCPS students that address bullying, making healthy choices, and developing emotional intelligence.

“This helps students to be aware of, control, express emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and with empathy,” Hirsch said.

The evidence-based programs are “LifeSkills Curriculum” for grades 6-8 and students attending Brighter Futures; the “HALO” program for preschool students with disabilities; and the “Too Good for Drugs” program for 9th graders and students attending Diversified Minds, according to Hirsch.

Another program targeting bullying prevention that is coupled with the middle school program and is not a part of the MOU also will be delivered to middle school students, he added.

Superintendent Ballenger clarified with Royal Examiner that these programs are “a continuation of the programs that we already have in place within our schools.”

The School Board also unanimously adopted a resolution requesting that the Warren County Board of Supervisors (BOS) issue general obligation bonds to refund an existing bond. The BOS requested that the School Board adopts the resolution so that it may proceed with an application to refund the bonds and realize associated savings totaling an estimated $1.17 million over the remaining life of the bond, Ballenger explained.

Upcoming items presented
A representative from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) updated the School Board on the length of an upcoming Happy Creek Road improvement project this summer and its possible impact on school transportation for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

No action was required during the board’s Wednesday night meeting as VDOT right now is waiting on project start-date news from the utility companies, which are working with the railroad companies on related proposals and permits, the VDOT rep said.

The potential start date for the project is June 10 with a completion date set for August 10, but the VDOT rep said those dates could change. Ballenger would prefer not to change the current school calendar for the fall start date of school if VDOT can meet its project deadlines.

The VDOT rep said the department will know by July 1 whether it can meet the August completion date. School Board member Wells suggested waiting until July 1 to decide whether WCPS should adjust the school schedule, saying it’s better to “deal with the issue once rather than twice.”

WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard also presented an item not requiring School Board action last night regarding an MOU to be entered into between the School Board and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office that sets forth the powers and duties of the school resource officer (SRO). No motion was necessary because the MOU will be presented at the April 7 School Board meeting for consideration, said Sheppard.

SROs assist with safety and security matters at schools and help school administrators develop school crisis and response plans. They also work with administrators on crime prevention measures and to promote school safety, said Sheppard, who added that SROs serve multiple, interrelated roles that help support positive school climate.

“This MOU is reviewed and affirmed or amended at least once every two years,” Sheppard said, adding that the revised MOU is modeled after the Virginia School-Law Enforcement Partnership Model MOU developed by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. “WCPS and the Sheriff’s Office have worked collaboratively to ensure the MOU aligns with our policies and practices,” she said.

The Sheriff’s Office will provide 10 law enforcement officers that it employs to serve as SROs for WCPS, said Sheppard.

Watch the entire School Board’s March 17 meeting in the exclusive Royal Examiner video below.

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EDA in Focus

Warren County EDA reaches bank agreement on McDonald parcel, moves C-CAP rental forward among other actions in final meeting of 2021

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The Board of Directors of the Front Royal and Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) held the combined November and December meeting via Zoom. All Board members attended the meeting.

The Board adopted two resolutions. One resolution to approve C-CAP using Suite C located at the EDA office building to store food for distribution. The use of Suite C is at no cost to the organization while it transitions to a lease in Suite B and C-CAP will provide evidence of an insurance policy to cover the use of Suite C. The EDA and C-CAP will negotiate the terms of a lease on Suite B and possibly Suite C at the Kendrick office location at an agreed rental rate.

The second resolution authorizes the EDA Chair and Treasurer to finalize details of an agreement with Atlantic Union Bank where it gives up its claim in the Jennifer McDonald bankruptcy and the EDA will release its claim on the property formerly owned by “Little Rugratz” on Virginia Avenue. The existing bank loan is more than the value of the property and the release of the EDA claim allows the bank to sell the property. In return, by the bank releasing its claim in the bankruptcy, the EDA can recover a higher percentage of the recovery from the McDonald bankruptcy and save money in attorneys’ fees.

The Board is working with Public Works to address the maintenance issues at the Kendrick Lane building including HVAC repairs and installation of water shut-off valves.


The EDA and County are working on soliciting bids for appraising all the EDA properties. The first priority is the Baugh Drive building.

Chair Jeff Browne updated the board on Nature’s Touch and the VDOT grant. Scott Jenkins stated all the marketing material for the Commonwealth is updated and was approved by VEDP (Virginia Economic Development Partnership).

Greg Harold presented the final draft of three Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that will be used as guides for EDA and prospective purchasers of EDA property. He stated the documents were not “static”, but are “living” documents that will be modified as needed. The three SOPs approved are Letters of Intent, Contract Management, and Property Disposition Due Diligence. The documents will be posted on the website by December 15.

The EDA and Warren County are working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to govern the transition of EDA’s staff moving to the County payroll and EDA’s role in future economic development in the county. One change beginning immediately is the County will permanently take over receiving and coding EDA bills prior to the EDA Chair and Treasurer approving the expenses.

The EDA Board approved the meeting schedule for 2022 and future meetings will be in person. The next EDA meeting will be on Friday, January 14th at 9 a.m. The location will be posted on the website as well as the remaining dates for 2022.

(From an EDA Press Release of December 5th)

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Local News

’Tis the Season

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The town Christmas Tree and decorated light poles in Front Royal’s Gazebo-anchored Village Commons area before and after additional holiday season lights were placed on surrounding trees by the Public Works crew on Friday, Dec. 3, just prior to the Christmas Parade the following day. Photos by Roger Bianchini

One seasonal float appears to be taking an early dry run as the crowd gathered throughout the late morning and afternoon awaiting the parade’s scheduled 4 p.m. start.

Santa greets and is hugged by happy children in front of Front Royal’s Virginia Beer Museum.

Town Manager Steven Hicks and his dog Charlie are greeted by a Beer Museum elf in the person of Museum proprietor David Downes


The holiday spirit was building throughout the day at the center of Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District.



 

WATCH: Christmas Parade 2021

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Local News

WATCH: Christmas Parade 2021

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If you missed the Christmas Parade or want to see it again, sit back and enjoy!

This year the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade was hosted by Mike McCool, Publisher of the Royal Examiner. Thanks to Connor Clark for operating the video camera and the parade sponsor Lindsay Chevrolet.

Winners in this year’s parade are:

Best in Show – Edward Jones


Walking Group – Warren County High School Band

Best Large Float – White Horse Car Wash

Best Small Float – Samuels Public Library

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Explore Art & Clay opens on Main Street Front Royal

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Explore Art & Clay has opened a gallery at 501 East Main Street in Front Royal. The Gallery features locally handmade pottery, ornaments, mugs, glasswork, plates, paintings, cards, ink work and so much more. Local potters, artists, photographers, and makers work added every day.  Love Front Royal? Love Virginia? This is the shop for you!

Visit their website for more information or Facebook page.

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Local News

Student at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School EarlyAct Club collecting canned goods for Salvation Army

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For the month of December, the EarlyAct students at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School (EWM) are collecting canned foods (soups, canned meats, etc) for the Salvation Army.


If you have canned foods you would like to donate, please stop by our main office at EWM, and drop off your donations. For any questions, ask for Student Support Coach, and Early Act Faculty Advisor, Michael Williams.

The Early Act Club at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School is sponsored by The Rotary Club of Warren County. For more information on Rotary and/or InterAct/EarlyAct programs, please e-mail Michael at mdub0308@gmail.com or visit www.rotary.org

Town Talk: A conversation with Michael Williams – RYLA, EarlyAct/InterAct Club

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Update: ‘Tis the Season for Kindness

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(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with photos taken during Shae’s trip to Ecko Studio in Memphis, TN.)


A local singer/songwriter has a message for the world in his debut release starting with the opening lyrics, “Put the kind back in humankind”. “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” was written by local musician and businessman Shae Parker and recorded in Memphis, TN earlier this year. Parker, who has been playing music semi-professionally for the past three decades is no stranger to helping convey messages. The sign maker and owner of Hanna Sign Company also spent years as a radio broadcaster and as a Front Royal Town Councilman and Vice Mayor.

“I’ve always written songs”, says Parker. “In retrospect, I’ve always helped to convey messages. Whether it was a commercial on the radio, a sign for someone’s business, or as a public servant I’ve always tried to help others convey their message.”

Like many during the pandemic, Parker says he did some soul searching and decided he needed to put his own message out in song. After combing through years of writings and narrowing down a list of about two dozen, he formulated a plan to record as many songs as possible. Shae says he reached out to a childhood friend and fellow former disc jockey, Till Palmer who is the Chief Engineer at Ecko Records in Memphis for help.


Inside Ecko Studio; below, Recording Engineer Till Palmer behind the glass with drum reflection

“Initially the plan was to take the band with me (River Driven Band), but schedules didn’t align and I realized I either needed to reschedule or refocus on a solo project”, said Parker. “A big part of my pandemic soul searching revolved around doing this before I turned 50, so I headed to Memphis for a solo project”.

Fourteen songs were recorded in Memphis over three days according to Parker, with twelve of those planned for release. Most of the overdubs were handled by Shae before leaving, but he says over the coming months the remaining overdubs will be completed by him and his bandmates from the River Driven Band before being sent back to Palmer for mastering. The other two tracks, “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” were independently released in November by Parker on most digital streaming platforms.

“SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” has a message that I felt all humans needed to hear”, explains Parker. “It’s about kindness and how easy it is to just be kind, that’s why I had to put it out first”.

Shae says that independently releasing his music has its own challenges. He says it has been a learning curve from researching and finding a digital distributor to upload the songs to Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube Music among others, to registering songwriting credits with BMI and SESAC.

“There is a reason it’s called the Music Business”, quips Parker. “What is an ISRC number or a DDP? Things like that I didn’t have a clue about as a performer, but Till being in the industry gave me a lot of insight of what needed to be done to make this a reality.”

Shae recording with Till’s grandfather’s 1956 Gibson.

While Parker maintains the music is the best thing to come out of the experience, he is quick to point out the joy of working with a lifelong friend and using a vintage Gibson Les Paul Junior on some tracks that were bought new by Palmer’s grandfather, Ralph Palmer in 1956. He also finds irony in his and Palmer’s past on radio given that a fellow DJ, Rick Dee’s recorded his number one hit “DISCO DUCK” in the same studio in the 1970s. Parker also recounts that his nickname at 4H camp growing up (where he and Palmer first met) was Duckie. Irony indeed, however despite a good beat you can dance to any other similarities in the compositions end there as Parker’s message of kindness prevails.

The Daily Planet/Shoe Productions studio was built by STAX Records founder Jim Stewart and Bobby Manuel (Booker T & the MG’s) shortly after the shuttering of STAX in 1975. In 1995 John Ward bought the studio and changed the name to Ecko Studios/Records, an American Blues and Soul Blues label that has released albums by Rufus Thomas, Ollie Nightingale, Bill Coday, Barbara Carr, and others.

Mural on outside of Ecko Studios

Shae Parker’s first two releases “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” are available on all streaming platforms or wherever you listen to music. Links to the songs and information on booking can be found on his website at www.SongsByShae.com.

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GLORY BEA: A Shenandoah Christmas Story, by Rich Follett and Larry Dahlke, set in the 1930’s in the Shenandoah Valley and the Depression has hit the valley residents. This story is being presented by Selah[...]
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Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
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Sweeter, Still… Holiday Concert @ Front Royal United Methodist Church
Friday, December 10, 2021 7:30pm Front Royal United Methodist Church 1 West Main Street | Front Royal, VA 22630 COVID-19 Guidelines: Masks are required for attendees Sunday, December 12, 2021 4:00pm Trinity Episcopal Church 9108[...]
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2:00 pm Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
Dec 11 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key @ Skyline Middle School
Dancing By His Grace Classical Ballet Ensemble presents Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key, featuring selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, at the Skyline Middle School in Front Royal, Virginia. Join us for our original[...]
7:00 pm Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christma... @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christma... @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
Dec 11 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christmas Story @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
GLORY BEA: A Shenandoah Christmas Story, by Rich Follett and Larry Dahlke, set in the 1930’s in the Shenandoah Valley and the Depression has hit the valley residents. This story is being presented by Selah[...]
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Clara, Little Mouse, and the Gol... @ Skyline Middle School
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Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key @ Skyline Middle School
Dancing By His Grace Classical Ballet Ensemble presents Clara, Little Mouse, and the Golden Key, featuring selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, at the Skyline Middle School in Front Royal, Virginia. Join us for our original[...]
3:00 pm Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christma... @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christma... @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
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Glory Bea: A Shenandoah Christmas Story @ LFCC's William H. McCoy Theatre
GLORY BEA: A Shenandoah Christmas Story, by Rich Follett and Larry Dahlke, set in the 1930’s in the Shenandoah Valley and the Depression has hit the valley residents. This story is being presented by Selah[...]
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Valley Chorale’s Christmas Concert @ Calvary Episcopal Church
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