Royal Examiner was recently contacted on our website regarding social media posts of a somewhat inflammatory political nature alleged to have been made by a Front Royal Police Officer. The link and query as to whether we knew if the Town Police Department was addressing the matter after having been contacted by the posting source was actually found in our website SPAM folder, as the email inquiry to us was from firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Thought you should be aware of this: (followed by LINK) I know that the police chief has been contacted and has not responded. What actions are they taking?” we were asked by Mister or Missus “Anonymous”.
The LINK took us to a Twitter page with a double flagged “Content Warning” from the posting source “Firestorm on Fascism@AntifascistF12” which self-identified to the right of the page stating, “We ID fascists, bigots, supremacists, propagandists & funders. Not organized/funded. 100% outraged”.
Okay then – this reporter found himself wondering if he had landed at an ANTIFA or ANTIFA offshoot site, ANTIFA being an acronym for “Anti-fascist” as the site was identified. From information I have read, Antifa’s original MO or Mode of Operation was the outing of members of neo-fascist organizations to their employers as such.
Below that was the apparent Twitter handle of the alleged FRPD officer who had aroused this group’s ire. Since Royal Examiner has not independently verified if the named officer actually made the featured posts, we will not use his name in this story. However, we will note that the officer included in his self-identification as a “Common Sense Conservative” and that, “Tweets are my own, not of my agency or other personnel.”
And it did not appear there was any claim this officer was a member of any known neo-fascist group; rather suggestions his anti-BLM posts indicated racism and his intolerance for opposing political views, a tendency toward right-wing fascism.
A quick scroll through of posted Tweets opened with a reference to a story lead “Police union to replace American flags on NJ Turnpike after official …” above which the officer allegedly posted, “Local governments are now banning the American Flag.. Line these scum up and shoot them for treason!”
Several negative references to the Black Lives Matter movement were posted, including, “Now that BLM and Antifa have served their usefulness to the Democrats, will they now issue stand down orders to their commanders in the field? Retire your banners and send your mentally-challenged foot soldiers back into their basements until they are needed for another election.”
Another accusation was the officer’s repeated posting of retired professional wrestler Hulk Hogan memes, which the “Firestorm on Fascism” posters alleged is often used by American neo-fascists as an “HH” code to mean Heil Hitler”. Or also self-identifying as “a fitness guru” I guess he could just be a pro-wrestling fan of the “27-inch pythons”.
We did notice in another post where the officer references a protester running a vehicle into police vehicles and/or officers, the observation, “A vehicle is the preferred method lately of radical extremists…this is another example. Don’t care if the driver is BLM, Antifa, Neo Nazi or a PETA member. The driver should be put down immediately!” – Not sure how PETA got drug into the conversation, but the post perhaps suggested little patience with radicals of the left or right – “Neo Nazi” being referenced – clashing violently with police.
Okay, was the FRPD Administration aware of these allegations. We decided to inquire of Chief Kahle Magalis and Communications Officer Crystal Cline by email Thursday afternoon, October 12. A short time later we received this reply from Captain Cline:
“Recently, the Front Royal Police Department was made aware of posts made on the personal social media account of one of our officers. We appreciate your concern and have taken steps to open an investigation into this personnel matter. The Front Royal Police Department strives to maintain a professional and unbiased agency and recognizes that all actions by police officers can impact community relations. We take this matter very seriously and will be conducting a thorough investigation. Due to this being a personnel matter, no further information on the investigation may be released at this time.”
So I guess that answers email@example.com’s question posed to us under the SUBJECT field “Racist FR police officer”.
As to the allegation of racism, we noticed a post by the officer acknowledging the on-duty shooting death of a black St. Louis police officer with the notation, “RIP Officer… Anyone else getting tired of this? How about you BLM?”
The entire experience of sifting through both the quite shrill posts against BLM, Democrats and leftist politics in general by the officer and equally shrill accusatory posts of his critics on the opposite end of the political spectrum reminded me of lyrics from a song from another era of sometimes violent political unrest in the late 1960’s, early ‘70’s. Stephen Stills of the Buffalo Springfield penned the song “For What It’s Worth” which included some timeless lyrics:
“What a field day for the heat; A thousand people in the street; Singing songs and a carrying signs mostly say ‘Hooray for our side’ …
“There’s battle lines being drawn; Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong …”
When opposing political sides lose the ability to rationally converse over differing philosophical perspectives without immediate deterioration into demonization and vilification, the odds become increasingly slim that a democratically based, representative republic form of government will continue to function as planned.
From Twitter posts and claims about a Front Royal Police officer to the ongoing Tweets from a “white house” 70 miles to our east, is it any wonder that the post-2020 national Election conversation has drifted from a peaceful transfer of power towards the potential of an attempted coup to overturn the electoral result due to unsubstantiated claims of fraud by an incumbent installing loyalist civilians at the Pentagon to join others already in place at the Justice and State Departments and U.S. Supreme Court?
Asked on Wednesday, November 11, by reporters about a “smooth transition” of power to a Biden Administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo actually said, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump Administration.”
And I thought the LBJ and Nixon eras were weird.
School Board approves $63.9M operating budget, new Skyline High School principal
The Warren County School Board on Wednesday, May 5 approved the 2021-2022 budget for Warren County Public Schools (WCPS), as well as the appointment of a new principal for Skyline High School.
During its first action agenda item, the School Board approved the appointment of Danelle Sperling, the principal at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School for the past five years, as the new principal at Skyline High School beginning on July 1. Sperling replaces Michael E. Smith, who had been Skyline High School’s principal since July 2015.
According to the Skyline High School website, Smith’s name, title, and pictures have been removed. The Royal Examiner today asked WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger to provide more details about when and why Smith left his position. Ballenger responded in an email that such information regards a personnel matter “and our policy and practice is not to discuss personnel matters.” And while it’s unclear when Smith left his position, Ballenger wrote in his email that “the admin leadership team continued to lead the school.”
On Wednesday night at the board meeting, Ballenger introduced and recommended Sperling’s appointment, telling the School Board that she “has a wealth of experience in and out of education and has served in various positions in Georgia, Ohio, New Jersey, and Virginia.”
Sperling’s experience includes stints as an assistant high school principal, a middle school special education teacher and department chairwoman, music therapist, writer and editor for the U.S. Department of Defense, and group home and program manager, all of which “have provided her with the extensive preparation needed for this position,” Ballenger said during the meeting.
The superintendent added that Sperling is a dedicated community member, who has been a Warren County resident for 14 years, and her two children both attend Warren County Public Schools.
Following a motion by board member James Wells and a second by member Kristen Pence, the board voted unanimously to approve Sperling’s appointment, with Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., and board members Catherine Bower, Wells, and Pence voting aye. Board member Ralph Rinaldi was absent during the May 5 meeting.
“I have been truly, truly blessed for the last five years to work with the most amazing faculty, staff, students, and families” at Keyser Elementary School,” Sperling told the School Board members following their vote. “It is an experience for which I will forever be grateful.”
Sperling said she’s also grateful for the opportunity to help lead Skyline High School and “to continue to serve my community in this new role.”
WCPS now begins the search for Sperling’s replacement at Keyser Elementary.
The second action agenda item approved unanimously by the board, with Rinaldi absent, was the fiscal year (FY) 2021-2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors at its April 27 Special Meeting approved the FY 2022 County Budget, which included both the WCPS FY 2022 Operating Fund Budget in the amount of $63,944,829 and the School Cafeteria Fund Budget in the amount of $2,896,000.
The approved Operating Fund budget represents a reduction of $165,589 from the proposed FY 2022 School Operating Fund Budget that was adopted by the School Board at its February 17 meeting.
Reductions to the proposed budget totaling $165,589 were then made at the board’s April 7 meeting and the adjustments were included in the final recommended budget.
“A couple of things happened since then that we’re going to have to absorb within our current budget and we can do that with our staff turnover,” explained Ballenger prior to the board’s vote. In fact, WCPS Personnel Director George “Bucky” Smith told the board that thus far, the division will have to fill 20 resignations and seven retirements.
The items WCPS will absorb, according to Ballenger, include a decision by Warren County supervisors to authorize the establishment of its own tech department. WCPS had been providing the County with one full-time and one part-time tech specialist. Now that the County will have its own three-person tech department, WCPS “will not receive that revenue,” Ballenger said, “so we will have to absorb that other part-time so that we can keep the one full-time employee.”
The other item relates to the Virginia State minimum wage, which is set to increase in January 2022. Ballenger said that WCPS decided to proactively implement the increase now. “We just felt that it was fair to our staff members who are in those positions,” he told board members. “It’s the right thing to do and it’s something that we can manage.”
The cost for WCPS to cover the minimum wage increase is around $27,000, Ballenger said.
In reviewing other budget highlights, Ballenger pointed to a 2-percent salary increase for teachers, plus a step. WCPS also adjusted the majority of its salary scales in the budget, he explained and placed all employees at their appropriate steps according to their years of experience.
However, there were several salary scales that did not get adjusted, such as those for maintenance journeymen, a maintenance bus driver, certain administrative personnel, and a social worker and psychologist, among others, according to Ballenger, who said their positions have been moved to the proper step for their years of experience.
Another benefit of the approved operating budget is that it “helps us in providing stability for our health insurance, so we’ll be able to take the savings from moving carriers to Aetna and put that in our account to help offset any increases we would see in future years,” he said.
WCPS will also add staff, including two activity drivers — who drive students home following practices, events, or other participation activities — one English language teacher, two gifted and talented teachers, one half-time criminal justice teacher, one history teacher, a special education assistant, a sign language interpreter, and one dual enrollment English teacher, said Ballenger.
The approved budget also includes a $100,000 increase for maintenance, he added, “so we can move from 40-percent scheduled maintenance to 60-percent scheduled maintenance. We want to schedule more of the work instead of always running around and trying to fix what’s broken. Let’s go ahead and get in front of this.”
Ballenger also said that previously approved federal COVID-19 relief funds will enable WCPS to complete HVAC renovations at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary and at Blue Ridge Technical Center, both of which also need new roofs. The school district also wants to buy eight new buses, as well as new textbooks for science, English as a Second Lange, and foreign language, according to the budget.
Overall, the new final budget will enable WCPS “to attack all the things we want to attack and address this year,” Ballenger said.
“It’s really nice to see that we can take care of our community,” Board Chairman Williams commented after Ballenger’s presentation.
Approval followed a motion by board member Pence, a second by Vice Chairwoman Bower, with all members voting aye and Rinaldi absent. A copy of the final approved budget is available at: https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/warren/Board.nsf/files/C2QSWS71E353/$file/FY22%20final%20budget.pdf.
The School Board also unanimously approved 10 other action agenda items, including the purchase of elementary science textbooks totaling $236,747.75; an almost $160,000 contract for new Chromebooks for the 2021-2022 school year; a new preschool curriculum costing $33,349.73; and two contract awards to the Gordian Group, one in the amount of $56,969.36 to perform site work and to erect a newly purchased greenhouse at Skyline High School, the other for $22,427.21 to provide all labor and materials to prepare and paint the west side exterior windows and columns on the historic front entrance to Skyline Middle School.
School Board Vice-Chair Bower asked WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant if the approved purchase of the new laptops will fulfill the school division’s technology needs. Grant replied that the purchase of technology is always going to be a revolving door for WCPS, as it is in other districts.
To view the entire WCPS School Board meeting video, go to: https://wcps.new.swagit.com/videos/120466.
Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – May 6, 2021; some mandates lifting June 15th
Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response.
- Hospitalizations are down
- Deaths are down
- 46% of Virginians have had one dose of vaccine, 33% fully vaccinated
- Younger children will be approved soon
- Walk-in clinics opening around the state
- Virginia can meet the President’s goal of 70% of the population vaccinated by July 4th
- Restrictions will be eased for gatherings next week
- Gatherings increase to 100 people indoors and 250 outdoors
- If cases keep decreasing, all capacity and social distancing measures will be lifted on June 15
Two Winchester, VA residents arrested after investigation by the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force
On April 29, the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force concluded a month-long investigation with the arrest of two Winchester, VA residents. Rasheed Riley, 29, and Josie Peacoe, 31, both of Winchester, VA, were arrested by the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force following a search warrant executed at their residence.
In early April, Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officers received information that Rasheed Riley and Josie Peacoe were distributing large quantities of cocaine in the Winchester and Frederick County, VA area. Through the course of the investigation, Northwest Virginia Drug and Gang Task Force officers learned that Riley and Peacoe would routinely travel outside the Commonwealth to a cocaine source of supply. The pair would then transport the cocaine back to the Commonwealth for distribution and sale. Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force officers completed multiple controlled purchases of cocaine from Riley and Peacoe during the investigation.
On April 29, members of the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force obtained a search warrant for Riley and Peacoe’s residence located at 2971-116 Valley Avenue in Winchester, VA. During a search of the residence, 266 grams of cocaine with a street value of $12,350.00, 2.5 grams of crack cocaine with a street value of $250.00, $1,570.00 in currency, and 1 firearm was seized. Rasheed Riley and Josie Peacoe were both arrested. Rasheed Riley was charged with possession of a schedule I/II controlled substance, a probation violation, and an active felony warrant for forging and uttering. Josie Peacoe was arrested for distribution of a schedule I/II controlled substance. Additional charges are forthcoming for Riley and Peacoe.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force was assisted by the Winchester Police Department, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, and the District 11 Office of Probation & Parole.
The Northwest Virginia Regional Drug and Gang Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from the Clarke, Frederick, Page, and Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Departments, Front Royal, Luray, Strasburg, and Winchester Police Departments, and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Culpeper Field Office.
LFCC naming task force narrows list of possible names to five
Five top names have emerged as LFCC’s naming task force continues the work of choosing a new name for the college.
In February, LFCC’s College Board voted to rename the college, which was founded in 1970. The college, like the other 22 in the Virginia Community College System, had been directed last summer by the Virginia State Board for Community Colleges to review its name, as well as those of all its named facilities.
Following the LFCC College Board’s decision, students, staff, alumni, and members of the community were encouraged to submit possible names for consideration, and more than 100 did so.
The top five names selected by the task force are Valley & Vista, Red Oak, Laurel Ridge, Valley & Ridge, and Newbridge.
“Overwhelmingly, the community input centered around the breathtaking beauty of the natural surroundings for which the LFCC service region is known,” said Kelly O’Keefe, CEO of Brand Federation, which is working with the college during this transition period. “They sought names that were both anchored to geographic features of the Shenandoah Valley region and reflective of the values that unite the college, its students, and its community.”
Numerous community colleges in Virginia have links to their local geography, including Blue Ridge Community College, Mountain Empire Community College, Tidewater Community College and Piedmont Community College.
Further explanation of the final proposed names follows:
- Valley & Vista Community College
- The task force thought the name was unifying and inclusive of the entire service region.
- It brings to mind an upward progression, much like the academic journey and broader horizons our students explore.
- Vista has inspirational connotations.
- Red Oak Community College
- More than half of the forest in Shenandoah National Park consists of red oaks, and the strength and towering stature of the trees represent the growth and opportunity provided by the college.
- Oak trees have historical and cultural significance. Kings wore crowns of oak leaves, and the tree signifies strength in the Bible.
- Laurel Ridge Community College
- Laurels grow abundantly within the college’s service area, which also features distinctive mountain ridges.
- Laurel is also a verb meaning “to bestow an award or praise in recognition of an achievement, often academic.”
- The ancient Greeks presented laurel wreaths to athletes, poets, and war heroes.
- As the upper edge of a mountain range, ridge can serve as a metaphor for the level of success and range of opportunities offered by the college.
- Valley & Ridge Community College
- One of the regions of Virginia, west of the Blue Ridge and east of the Appalachian Plateau Region, is the Valley & Ridge Region.
- The name unites the service regions while paying tribute to the natural landscape.
- Newbridge Community College
- A recurring theme among comments and stories from students and alumni was that the college gave them a new outlook and a new start. The word “new” speaks to new beginnings.
- “Bridge” can refer to where students are now and where they’d like to be in the future.
The college is hosting a telephone town hall beginning at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 6, to give the public a chance to learn more about the renaming process and our aspirations for our new name.
Naming change for LFCC – want to participate in telephone town hall on May 6th?
After celebrating our 50-year milestone, the Lord Fairfax Community College board made the decision to find a new name for our college — one that aligns with our mission, vision, and values. With an eye toward selecting a name befitting of our college’s rich history, welcoming culture, and bright future, they engaged a task force and a team of naming and branding professionals.
As they approached the end of this journey, they want to invite you to participate in a Q&A discussion about the renaming process, their aspirations for the new name, and the list of naming finalists. The discussion will take place on May 6 from 6:30-7:30 pm.
Registration will close 3 hours before the event; 3:30 on May 6. Click here to register.
For 50 years, LFCC has been welcoming students from all walks of life, from every race, every religion, every socio-economic group, every generation. As our 50th-year draws toward a close, we are excited to be given the opportunity to really examine how we want to move the college forward for the next 50 years – and beyond.
After months of study, research, discussion, and contemplation, it became evident that our name – the first introduction to the college our potential students receive – must change. In the days following George Floyd’s murder, Glenn DuBois, the chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges, was determined that the 23 institutions he oversees in Virginia do better and contribute solutions to our nation’s ills.
“Equity and access to opportunity have been at the heart of our community college mission since we first opened our doors in 1966,” Chancellor DuBois said. “We need to invest ourselves, and our colleges, in actions that elevate equity before we can realize the rhetorical promise of equality – and that work begins now.”
In July 2020, the State Board for Community Colleges passed a resolution asking all community colleges in Virginia to review their names. This provided us with an opportunity to reflect upon and honor our past while ensuring our name and brand reflect our values and our future.
The name Lord Fairfax was chosen in 1969 – a year before the college opened. The original college board chose the name in part for its link to the region’s colonial history. Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, was born in England, and would ultimately hold more than 5 million acres from Virginia’s Northern Neck to near what is now Pittsburgh. He became a friend of George Washington, although his loyalties lay with the British during the Revolutionary War. Lord Fairfax – like many large landowners at the time – used enslaved workers to further enrich himself. There are historical records indicating he also engaged in the long-term sexual abuse of enslaved women.
Our research showed that 90 percent of those surveyed were unaware of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, and some respondents found the name confusing since they associated it with Fairfax County in Virginia, and Fairfax, W.Va. Additionally, we discovered that people feel an affinity for the college because of what it has meant to them, and not to the man for which it was named.
Most importantly, we learned that when those surveyed learned more about the history of Thomas, the 6th Lord Fairfax, support for changing the name more than doubled in all demographics, except one. Among people of color, that support more than quadrupled – it increased from 14 percent to 61 percent. Integrity and diversity are among LFCC’s core values. This means we exemplify honesty, character, and respect for our communities, and we honor the uniqueness of individuals and communities. The college needs a name that honors those values.
College Board Vice Chair Mike Wenger said considering whether or not to rename LFCC was a “challenge that everyone took very seriously, saying, “Throughout the effort, everyone consistently came back to the values of the college and our shared concern for the students and communities we have served and will serve over the coming decades. It seems appropriate that these six months of self-reflection came during our 50th year and in the midst of a major strategic planning effort to lay the foundation for the next 50 years.
“The process has been comprehensive, disciplined, inclusive, deliberative, and, above all else, respectful of our responsibility for the history and future of the college. Hard-working groups reached out to constituents, dug into the records, read history, gathered data, and debated issues. We considered the overall college branding with an eye to the future. The process invited deliberations about the values we want to inculcate, the focus we hope the college brand projects, and the breadth of community reach we want to facilitate. Though this decision wasn’t easy, it was in many ways clear.”
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, who represents Shenandoah County on the Board, said, “Often, we just move forward day by day without thinking about our name, so this gives us a great opportunity to look at ourselves and determine who we are in relation to our values, our mission, where we are today as an institution, and where we want to go tomorrow. Lord Fairfax doesn’t represent anything we are about.
“Our students come to us from different backgrounds, but they value the opportunity presented by earning an education at LFCC. The college embraces inclusion, opportunity, equality, access to education, and helping students find their way forward. Our faculty is devoted to that. We want people to feel welcome where they serve and live, and if we exclude some part of our faculty and some part of our students, that’s not who we are, whether that exclusion is intentional or unintentional. I think for our students, for our faculty, and for our future, it’s the right time to take this opportunity to rename the college and move forward, capturing all we have accomplished in the past and the bright future we have ahead.”
The college is now in the exciting phase of searching for a name that will move us forward and stand the test of time, one that will serve as a welcoming beacon to all students, a name for which we can feel pride. A task force made up of stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and board members will work with our communities as we embark upon this task. Our goal is for the board to have a name to consider by this summer.
Following the college board’s decision to rename the college, LFCC President Kim Blosser shared with faculty and staff a video message the evening of Feb. 4, 2021. She noted, “We have a fantastic history and so much to be proud of – our college has changed the lives of many thousands of people in our service region and beyond. Our dedication to our mission and our values is what has made our community college the asset it is today. As we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to our next 50 years, we will find a name that better suits our vision of an inclusive, equitable learning environment for every student, one that improves their economic mobility and supports the economic development of the communities we serve. And we will involve our employees, our students, and our community members in this process; we will do this together.”
Main Street Vaccine Clinic in Front Royal on May 10th
Front Royal Brewing Company and the VA Heath Department are bringing a COVID walk-in vaccine clinic to Main Street! The clinic will be from 8:00-11:00 am on Monday, May 10th, at Front Royal Brewing Company.
WALK-IN APPOINTMENTS ONLY, NO NEED TO REGISTER BEFOREHAND
The Virginia Department of Health will be giving the Moderna vaccine which is a two-dose shot. Anyone (18 and over) that hasn’t received the first dose of a vaccine is welcome. So you can bring your friends and family members too.
Anyone who gets the first dose at the brewery will automatically be guaranteed to get their second dose here four weeks later. Right now, the second dose is planned for June 7, 2021, at the Front Royal Brewing Company. This is expected to be quite a popular event, so get here early (first come, first served).
IMPORTANT: Please click that you are going/interested on the Facebook event here, so we have an estimate of how much of the vaccine the Health Department will need. This will NOT reserve your spot, the Health Department just wants to get an idea of how many vaccines to bring. COME EARLY! This will be a popular event!