The Warren County School Board during its August 17 meeting voted unanimously to allow Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) to enter a partnership with James Madison University and Laurel Ridge Community College to provide its paraprofessional employees with the opportunity to become licensed teachers.
“Providing every student in Warren County Public Schools with an exceptional teacher is imperative,” said WCPS Director of Personnel Shane Goodwin in justifying the proposal to board members. “To accomplish this mission, we need to develop a local pool of licensed teachers.”
Specifically, WCPS will partner with James Madison University (JMU) and Laurel Ridge Community College to provide WCPS paraprofessionals with a chance to become licensed teachers in the areas of early childhood education, elementary education, or special education, Goodwin told School Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins.
JMU will fund the so-called Grow Your Own program, which includes a scholarship for service loan forgiveness when a paraprofessional earns licensure and commits to teach for two years in the Grow Your Own school division where he or she was employed as a paraprofessional, said Goodwin, and JMU will pay the Laurel Ridge tuition and fees according to the same agreement of loan forgiveness for service where they are employed.
“The Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] will enable us to create a pathway to licensure for all currently employed paraprofessionals who wish to become early childhood, elementary education, or special education teachers,” Goodwin said. “We see the MOU as a great partnership opportunity for our employees and ultimately for our students.”
The MOU is contingent upon JMU’s receipt of sufficient Commonwealth of Virginia Budget Appropriations for the Grow Your Own program. The MOU term is August 15, 2022, to August 14, 2023. Goodwin said the opportunity has been advertised to WCPS paraprofessionals and currently six employees are ready to begin work at JMU and 14 WCPS employees are ready to begin work at Laurel Ridge.
The board also unanimously approved a new Clerk of the Warren County School Board and a new Deputy Clerk of the School Board.
Due to the resignation of board clerk Robert Ballentine, who continues in his position as WCPS finance director, Timothy Grant will take on those duties. Grant is also the technology director for WCPS.
At the same time, Douglas Stefnoski has been approved to be appointed as the Deputy Clerk of the Board in a term that runs this month and expires on December 31. Stefnoski is also the WCPS instructional technology coordinator.
Board Chair Pence thanked Ballentine “for all the years that he served as Clerk of the Board.” Ballentine, who was present for the work session, received a round of applause.
In other action, the board unanimously approved a recommendation made by WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Administration George “Buck” Smith to make October 10 a Parent-Teacher Conference Day that will run from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. The change replaces the scheduled Professional Workday that was scheduled for October 10.
“The current 2022-23 school calendar does not include an in-person Parent/Teacher Conference,” Smith explained. “With the importance of increasing Family Engagement, an in-person Parent-Teacher Conference is recommended.”
Smith also requested approval from the School Board to purchase the point-of-sale software and hardware support package from Data Business Systems Inc. in the amount of $18,370.28 for the Food and Nutrition Program. He said the system is used in all WCPS cafeterias. The program automates sales activity, meal and eligibility counts, and provides data for state and federal reports, while the software processes cafeteria sales, tracks items sold, generates reports, and provides information on meals purchased, Smith said.
“This system also allows parents to put money on students’ lunch accounts through a secure Internet connection,” he added, “and parents are able to monitor their child’s purchases for breakfast or lunch using the online portion of the program.”
The board unanimously approved the recommendation to purchase the point-of-sale software and hardware package from Data Business Systems.
The School Board also voted to hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. on August 24 to act on which bid to accept for the planned renovation project at Leslie Fox Keyser (LFK) Elementary School. The bid opening for the LFK renovations project was held on August 10 and two bids were received from LCW Construction and Taft Construction.
Additionally, the School Board unanimously approved the WCPS 2022-2023 Crisis Management Plan, which aims to provide staff with guidelines and pre-planned responses to various emergencies or crisis situations.
WCPS Director of Special Services Michael Hirsch outlined the Crisis Management Plan, pointing out that it is essentially a living document that gets updated as needed. “It’s not a once-a-year thing to plan for crises,” he said. “A crisis can impact a single building or the entire school division. The most crucial consideration in dealing with a crisis is our students’ and staff’s health, safety, and welfare.”
The plan includes: school division procedures, responsibilities and contacts, as well as currently trained staff in first aid and CPR; guidelines for various emergency situations such as lockdown, bomb threat, fire and death; a Medical Emergency Response Plan that includes sample procedures for a variety of incidents, such as diabetes, seizures, bee stings, and allergies; and school-based plans and procedures such as contact lists, building blueprints, and evacuation procedures for non-ambulatory students.
Four new additions to the Crisis Management Plan are the Safety Audit Committee, an Incident Command Structure Training and Roster, “Secure the Building” or “Soft Lock-down” procedures, and a standing order with the Virginia Health Department to provide stocked albuterol at each school—WCPS currently has epinephrine stocked in all schools, Hirsch said.
The work session portion of the meeting included reports from Smith on Facilities, Child Nutrition, and Transportation operations, as well as an instructional update from WCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Heather Bragg.
WCPS Director of Transportation Aaron Mitchell also took School Board members outside to view one of the school division’s newly purchased (with federal grant funds) state-of-the-art vans, which will be used to transport students with disabilities who are in a wheelchair in a safer way.
Hirsch also told the board that he intends to request during a September board meeting that a $5,000 stipend be approved for each WCPS Instructional Assistant who is a certified nursing assistant (CNA).
Currently, there are three such CNAs in WCPS, Hirsch said, and they serve students with a variety of academic, behavioral, and medical needs.
“Our school nurses and classroom staff work with parents and community-based professionals to implement student health care plans on a daily basis,” he said. “In some cases, students require support all day and an instructional assistant is assigned to carry out these assigned duties, which can include toilet etiquette, specialized feeding, stretching and exercise, and much more.”
With the ability to be reimbursed by the state through Medicaid billing, Hirsch plans to propose the stipend for an Instructional Assistant who has an active CNA certification and is assigned to one of these roles. There will be no local cost, he said.
In his personnel report, Goodwin told the School Board that the Virginia Department of Education has officially listed critical shortage positions at the state level, including those for Prek-6 teachers, Career & Technical Education teachers, and teachers in 6-12 math, secondary science, secondary English, and Health and PE, among others.
The state list means that localities like WCPS now may hire retirees to fill such positions without them losing their state retirement benefits, said Goodwin, who noted that WCPS last year had almost 120 resignations.
Goodwin said he’s currently compiling data on why they exited in an electronic format to present to board members and noted that WCPS “are not the only folks facing an exodus from the profession.”
WCPS this year still has 19 open positions as of August 17 — six are IA positions; 11 are teacher positions; two are maintenance positions.
Among other information, Ballenger also pointed out that the school division will make a future budget transfer request to the Warren County Board of Supervisors to provide the five percent salary increase and the $1,000 bonus to all WCPS employees. He said some of these funds will need to be transferred from the Instruction category to other categories.
Prior to adjournment, the School Board convened a closed meeting to discuss an employee personnel issue.
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Flags to be flown half-staff
This December 7, we remember the world-changing event known as Pearl Harbor Day, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his December 8, 1941 speech declaring war on Japan, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Early on Wednesday morning, December 7, 2022, many will gather at Pearl Harbor National Memorial for the 81st Commemoration. The early start marks the moment to the minute 81 years ago when Japanese warplanes descended on Oahu, killing 2,403 service members and civilians, injuring thousands more, and dealing a near-fatal blow to the Navy’s fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Most young Americans who died that day, along with those who served in uniform during World War II or on the home front war effort, are collectively known as the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifices reflect the theme of this year’s Commemoration: Everlasting Legacy.
The focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought us peace through reconciliation.
Governor’s Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in solemn respect and memory for the nearly 4,000 American service men and women killed or wounded in the early morning of December 7, 1941, at the United States Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered at sunrise on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.
Ordered on this, the 6th day of December 2022.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: American Goldfinch
These two American Goldfinches hit the same window at the same time and ended up here at the Center for care.
Though both are currently having breathing difficulty, and the male has significant head trauma with bleeding from the left ear, neither sustained any fractures. They are recovering together while they receive supplemental oxygen and pain medications.
Do you know what to do if a bird hits your window?
Though it was once standard to contain a window strike bird and let it rest for a few hours before attempting release, research has now shown that this is inadequate. Many of the issues we see with window strikes manifest 24+ hours after the strike, long after the bird can fly off.
If you see a bird hit a window, contain it right away and call the closest permitted rehabilitator. Do not release it! In the meantime, take steps to break up the reflections on your windows with tape, paint, or decals spaced no more than 2” apart. Prevention is better than treatment!
A new record!
Yesterday we surpassed last year’s intake number with this window strike pair. We are hopeful that they will soon be released together to enjoy the rest of their wild lives!
If you are looking for an easy way to help native wildlife become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.
Local grandma steps out of shower, holds intruder at gunpoint until police arrive
A Warren County family had an exciting Monday morning after the family’s matriarch thwarted an intruder who may have intended to steal a family vehicle.
Tricia Montoney told Royal Examiner Monday evening that an eagle-eyed neighbor noticed a man in the family’s driveway, around 7 a.m. standing beside a Ford F-150 pickup truck belonging to Tricia’s daughter, Rachel Montoney.
Rachel said in a phone interview that “once our neighbor told me about the man attempting to enter my vehicle, I ran to get my mom.”
Tricia was in the shower but quickly put on a robe and grabbed the Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun she keeps for personal protection. She then went outside to confront the intruder. By then, she said, the man was sitting inside the pickup with the door closed.
Rachel says her mom yelled to the intruder, “What are you doing? Get out of the truck and on your knees!” The man, later identified by arresting officers as Larry Huyser, exited the truck and complied with Tricia’s instructions while a neighbor called 9-1-1.
Huyser, who was dressed in a fluorescent green sweatshirt, jeans, and a black hat, said that he had gotten into the unlocked truck “because I was cold.”
Warren County deputies who arrived on the scene found Tricia holding Huyser at gunpoint. He was taken into custody without incident.
Huyser was booked into the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail (RSW) and charged with vandalism, damaging property, tampering and entering a vehicle, and breaking and entering an auto.
He is being held without bond. Online court records show that Huyser has been arrested before for similar offenses.
Both Tricia and Rachel expressed their gratitude for their neighbor and his assistance in contacting the police and for staying with Tricia as she held the intruder at gunpoint.
The Montoneys also appreciated the deputies, who arrived quickly and transported the intruder to RSW.
Asked if she would now lock her truck at night, Rachel said, “Absolutely!”
Both ladies expressed their gratitude that no one was injured and said they were especially grateful for their close friendship with their neighbors. “We take care of each other out here,” Tricia said.
Congressman Ben Cline holds Town Hall meeting in Warren County
Residents of Warren County were invited to a town hall event with Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) on December 5, 2022. This town hall event was an opportunity for residents of Warren County to engage in a dialogue with Rep. Cline about important issues in Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District.
Watch the Town Hall meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office deputies help rescue horse after fall into pool
On December 2, 2022, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Deputy’s responded to a residence on Green Springs Rd. in Frederick County. This was regarding an 1800-pound draft horse that fell into a swimming pool. Once on the scene Deputies determined that the horse had knocked over the top rail of the fence around the pool, jumped the fence and walked out onto the nylon pool cover causing the horse to fall into the water. However, its head and part of the body remained above water.
The Draft Horse was in the 9-foot end of the pool. Deputies Cram, ACO Deputy Tasker and Sgt. Hawse started cutting the pool cover away from the horse. Once it was clear of the cover and haltered, the horse was pulled to the shallow end of the pool where it was able to stand and catch its breath. Deputies were able to guide the horse up the stairs to the pool deck and into the yard.
The Veterinarian who handles the horse was called and advised to dry the horse as good as possible, feed it hay and keep it moving. That information was passed on to the owner’s children that arrived on scene. At the time of this email the horse was doing fine.
“You just never know what type of calls we respond to every day. This is one for the books. We are happy that it was witnessed, and we could respond to assist. Deputies were ready to go in the water if needed to make sure the horse stayed above water,” Sheriff Lenny Millholland observed of the incident.
Local doctors take time out to again treat third world country residents of Honduras
For the past 14 years, local Dr. Thomas (call me “Tommy”) Ball has ducked out of Front Royal Family Practice to spend up to two weeks leading a medical team to serve the people of Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Dr. Ball – okay, we’ll call him Tommy from here on – has always considered serving the under-served a core mission of his medical practice. For the past 20 years Valley Health has recognized and supported that mission as part of his faculty position at the Shenandoah Valley Family Practice Residency. “Valley Health recognizes that young doctors want to understand Global Health and want to contribute internationally. They allow me to devote time as a teacher to global health issues and they support our work overseas,” he told us.
Medical faculty from around Virginia have formed a nonprofit organization, SAGE (Students And Global Engagement), focused on introducing trainees to a small community in rural Honduras. As Tommy describes it, “We attempt to foster better health among the Hondurans and to expose Americans to the needs people face in a third world setting. It is a two-way street in which both parties benefit.”
SAGE helped build a small mountainside clinic in the village of Pinares, Honduras. They send medical teams for one to two-week stretches three times a year at four-month intervals. The area they serve is approximately the size of Warren County, with similar mountainous terrain. Average take-home pay for the mostly agricultural workers around Pinares is about $3-dollars a day (yes, a day, emphasized Ball).
Medication, some donated by Valley Health, helps patients cope with a variety of diseases including familiar problems such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, as well as problems uncommon here such as parasites caused by contaminated water. SAGE tries to go beyond just medication and address the underlying social factors that foster illness. In recent years they have donated monthly food packages to families with young children and filters to improve the safety of drinking water.
This fall the team included Dr. Paulius Mui and Dr. Sean Sutphen from the residency training program and seasoned local physician Dr. Shyama Rosenfeld, as well as support personnel in pharmacy, emergency transport, and anthropology.
Tommy has developed close ties and friendships in the community SAGE serves. He notes that he is older than most volunteers, but hopes he still has a few more years left of visiting and doing his best to improve health conditions in Pinares. “We have the personnel who want to help, but we are always struggling financially,” Tommy said, hoping that local service clubs and other non-profits might see their way to help support SAGE.
If you, the reader, are interested and require additional information, email Tommy at Front Royal Family Practice (email@example.com) or visit the SAGE website (sage-community.com). And yes, you may call him Tommy!