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Warren County Public Schools to submit pandemic-relief grant application



Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) on Wednesday received approval to submit a $786,820 grant application to the Virginia Department of Education for emergency pandemic relief funds.
The Warren County School Board unanimously approved the district’s grant application, which must be submitted to the state by August 1. WCPS seeks a portion of federal funding allotted to states under the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, which is authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

RoyalExaminer file photo. WCSB: Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard; South River District School Board Member Kristen Pence; Happy Creek District School Board Member James Wells; Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., representing North River District; Vice Chairman Catherine Bower, representing Fork District; Shenandoah District School Board Member Ralph Rinaldi; and Robert Ballentine, School Board clerk and WCPS director of finance.

“Funds to local districts can be used for coronavirus-response activities, such as planning for and coordinating during long-term school closures and purchasing educational technology to support online learning for all students,” said WCPS Director of Elementary Instruction Lisa Rudacille during the School Board’s regular meeting held June 3.

Rudacille gave School Board members a breakdown of how the total amount of grant funds would be used.

First, the largest cut of the funds ($366,941) would be used to buy supplies to accompany the contracted Social Emotional Learning (SEL) training and contracted services. This portion also would be used to buy Chromebooks and licenses for elementary students and materials and snacks for the after-school and summer programs.

Regarding the purchase of new and/or replacement technology, Rudacille said WCPS was “able to provide grades 6-12 with devices to take home [during the pandemic] and many of the elementary students also used some at home. We anticipate that many of them won’t be returned in tip-top shape,” she said.

A total of $273,068 would fund the salaries and benefits for teachers and paraprofessionals who would provide extended learning after school and during the summer this year and in 2021, while another $111,810 would be used for the contracted SEL services, which would support teachers and students as they return to school.

These services would include professional development for teachers on best practices in K-12 online learning, among others, as well as professional development for all staff on sanitation practices.

A portion also would be used for Power School Enrollment to allow parents to register kindergarten and new students online, and for the i-Ready math assessment in grades 6-8 to determine student learning gaps.

“We’re not going to know exactly what students will need when they return,” Rudacille said. “Kindergarten through 5 has assessments that we’ll continue to use, and we have Performance Matters, another system we will use to identify students’ needs.”

Grant funds of $35,000 would cover transportation for after-school and summer programs.

The motion to accept the grant application’s submission to the state education department was made by School Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, with a second by School Board Member James Wells. The motion carried with yeas from Board Chairman Arnold Williams Jr., and board members Bower, Wells, Ralph Rinaldi, and Kristen Pence.

In other action on Wednesday night, the Warren County School Board unanimously approved a 12-month Custodial Service Management Agreement with Sodexo Operation LLC totaling more than $2.05 million for fiscal year (FY) 2020-2021.

File photo: WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard

WCPS Interim Superintendent Melody Sheppard told the School Board that eight proposals were received on May 13 in response to the custodial services company bid. The district’s Custodial Service Management Company (CSMC) selection committee — which is comprised of two School Board members, two principals, the WCPS director of facilities, and the interim superintendent — then selected two companies to present their proposal based on qualifications, the experience of the firm, project plan, client references, and pricing. The CSMC selection committee then chose Sodexo.

The negotiated agreement would be paid in 12 monthly installments and Sodexo will employ the current custodians, paying them their current wages. Sodexo also agreed to provide health insurance and a retirement plan for the employees, said Sheppard.

The Warren County School Board also unanimously approved a $48,269.74 contract award to OpenRDA for support of the WCPS finance software system for FY 2020-2021.

WCPS Finance Director Robert Ballentine told the School Board members that the school system has used financial accounting software from RDA (now known as OpenRDA) since the early 1990s. While RDA is considered an open-source software provider—which means they provide the software at no cost—it is necessary for users to contract with them to provide updates, support, and training on the system said Ballentine, who noted: “there is rarely a week when we do not have to contact them and usually it is multiple times.”

While a 4 percent renewal price increase was originally proposed, OpenRDA agreed to a zero-percent increase for next year’s pricing, Ballentine said.

The School Board also unanimously voted to accept with gratitude a $1,344 donation to WCPS from Martin’s to help sustain the food service program and continue to provide school meals for the children of Warren County.

The School Board meets again on June 17 for a regular meeting and work session. To view last night’s meeting in its entirety, watch the video below courtesy of WCSB. There are some audio issues in the first part of the video. The Royal Examiner attempted to enhance the audio as technology would allow.

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Governor Northam COVID-19 update briefing – July 14, 2020; calls for stronger enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines



Governor Northam joins the Virginia Emergency Support Team to share the latest updates on the COVID-19 response. Here are the highlights:

  • increasing statewide cases
  • increase testing
  • on average, 10,000 tests administered daily statewide
  • the state should increase the enforcement of face coverings and social distancing
  • reminded business owners that they have the right to deny service to someone who is not following the mask mandate or social distancing guidelines
  • plan to impose an earlier cutoff for alcohol sales at restaurants is also being considered
  • state continues to receive shipments of personal protective equipment, and hospitals have reported no shortages
  • school boards and universities will continue to make decisions regarding this school year
  • update on the rent and mortgage relief program
  • DMV locations continue to reopen
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More images from another Front Royal Historic Downtown weekend



In addition to the “From the Heart” weekend downtown Front Royal entertainment mentioned in a related story on music, haircutting and styling, this past weekend saw other downtown events and entertainment.

Those events, among others we may have missed from simply not knowing about them until after the fact, included the Mark Clay-led Vinyl Tracks band entertaining with its repertoire of classic vinyl-era music at a Thursday evening Gazebo Gathering;

Vinyl Tracks gathers fans at the Gazebo, early Thursday evening. Below, haven’t we seen that father-daughter/drummer-singer team on stage with their own band somewhere before? – Hint, it was ‘Aftershock-ing’. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini

a Saturday vintage car show on East Main Street;

Beautiful over and under the hood

a late afternoon Friday resurrection of the weekly “Yappy Hour” Julia Wagner Animal Shelter/WC Humane Society fundraising event at East Main Street’s ViNoVa wine, beer and tapa restaurant, as previewed by Malcolm Barr Sr. on Royal Examiner’s website;

Pals Rico, left, and Diva at outdoor portion of Friday’s ‘Yappy Hour’ at ViNoVa – Below, ‘Could we have some more water in our bowls, please’ these 2 hot dogs may have been thinking; and water they got under the tent shade.

and the band Starting Early tracing rock history through the 1960’s-‘70’s beginning with a properly suited Beatles set, followed by some classic power trio (Hendrix, Cream) and quartet (Zeppelin) music, among others, followed by some originals in the Virginia Beer Museum back-of-house outdoor Biergarten.

It was too late to be Starting Early by the time the band got to its 1960’s-‘70’s power trio and quartet sets in the Va. Beer Museum Biergarten.

Enjoy these images from those events, and come on downtown for the next installment of Front Royal re-opened, masks and social distancing encouraged, as Warren County and all of Virginia walk the tightrope between pandemic precautions and COVID-19 spikes and economic rebounding this unprecedented summer of 2020.

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From the Heart helps Front Royal celebrate a measured return to business – But can I schedule a haircut and shave after the band is done?



Unless booked elsewhere, From the Heart plays something for everyone from around 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in Front Royal’s reopened downtown commercial center. Royal Examiner Photos/Roger Bianchini

It may not be your traditional “Barbershop Quartet”, but to celebrate Virginia’s measured walk-back of COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic emergency management restrictions, punctuated by the Town of Front Royal’s weekend downtown business district street closings facilitating a walking mall ambience to draw residents and tourists back out into the properly social distanced commercial world, “Mr. John’s Barbershop” proprietor John Landes has brought his band From the Heart into play – literally.

As of June 27, according to the band Facebook page, From the Heart has set up in front of Landes’s Chester Street barbershop on Friday and Saturday evenings from approximately 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to bring their mix of classic country, rock and popular music to Front Royal’s re-opened Historic Downtown Business District.

Yes, the barbershop is closed – the barber is doubling up fronting his band on Friday and Saturday evenings outside his 8 Chester St. business location. Below, May Landes steps in on vocals.

From the Heart gets fans dancing and smiling with material spanning decades and genres – you’re liable to hear favorites from Charlie Daniels to Rod Stewart among others on your personal top of the charts list.

And while you can’t get a haircut while the band is on – it’s hard to sing, play and snip those overgrown locks at the same time – a small contribution to the band’s tip jar might just get you to the front of the line for the barbershop’s next day of business.

From the Heart is, in addition to Landes on guitar, harmonica and vocals, his wife May on guest vocals; Kenny Smith on banjo, guitar and vocals; ‘Bubba’ Ward on rhythm guitar; and Marty Jacobs on percussion.

Kenny Smith

‘Bubba’ Ward, left, with John Landes

Marty Jacobs

A new style ‘Barbershop Quartet’

Downtown visitors Damian and Linda the well-groomed dog, stop for a photo op. Good girl, Linda – don’t look at the band, look at the camera. Linda, are you sure you haven’t been two-timing Mr. John’s at the New Creations Hair Salon next door?

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Community Events

Don’t miss the Humane Society of Warren County’s Annual Yard Sale



The Humane Society of Warren County is poised for the biggest yard sale in their history this Friday and Saturday, July 17 and 18. Thanks to a huge outpouring of support from the local community, the donations for this year’s annual yard sale far outnumber any previous year’s donations.

The HSWC Annual Yard Sale has been an important source of funding for the shelter since it began in 2013, typically bringing in $2,000-$4,000. This year, due to the enormous amount of donations, the goal fundraising goal for the shelter is $5,000.

Because the shelter is open by appointment only, there will be a portable toilet and portable hand-washing station available, and social distancing will be required. Shopping will be 10am until 2pm on both Friday and Saturday.

Local non-profit groups have been invited out on Saturday to take anything that will benefit their cause at no charge.

Since it’s beginning, the yard sale has operated using a “name your price” format, which means that there are amazing deals to be found. Highlights for this year’s sale include two sets of golf clubs, a swing set, a leather sectional couch, new with tags clothes and shoes, and kitchenware.

“I hope people come out to shop, there are so many great items, and every dollar spent is used for our life-saving work” says Meghan Bowers, Executive Director at the shelter. “This is one of my favorite events, and I am really looking forward to it.”

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Derrick Leasure of R-MA assumes Front Royal Rotary presidency



Derrick Leasure – the new president of the Rotary Club of Front Royal. Courtesy Photo/R-MA

Randolph-Macon Academy Assistant Dean of Students Derrick E. Leasure officially took over as president of the Rotary Club of Front Royal at an “actual” ceremony in the town’s community center on Friday, July 10.

Outgoing president Bret Hrbek passed the gavel after his year in office, made more challenging when interrupted by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, which sent its regular weekly meetings since March to the internet via “Zoom.”

The real-life meeting that greeted Leasure, attended by a dozen past presidents from John Marlow (1977) to the retiring Hrbek, likely will return to “Zoom” as Leasure begins his tenure. After the gavel was passed, Leasure swore in members of the new board of directors, including Hrbek.

“He has a difficult task before him,” Hrbek had said earlier. Like other local organizations, Rotary has taken a hit in its fundraising activities but nevertheless managed to take in $126,000 last year for local and international projects.

Leasure, who came to R-MA’s middle school in 2008, earned his Bachelor’s Degree at Ohio State University and a Master’s in History from the University of Arizona. He is an active member of the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, serving on the education committee. Outside his teaching and later administration posts at the Academy, Leasure has been a student mentor and head coach in golf as well as his promotion to assistant dean.

Married to Michelle Cantlebary, the couple has two children. He joined Rotary shortly after arriving in Front Royal 18 years ago.

(Malcolm Barr Sr., our contributing writer, is a member of the Rotary Club of Front Royal)

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LFCC Professor Mark Sunderlin receives statewide recognition



LFCC Professor Mark Sunderlin

Professor Mark Sunderlin recently received the George B. Vaughan Leadership Award for Outstanding Adjunct Faculty from the Virginia Community College System with support from the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education.

Earlier this year, Professor Sunderlin was named the 2020 LFCC Distinguished Faculty Award winner.

An adjunct faculty member for the past eight years, he spent many years working for the federal government, before serving as the senior technical manager of AOL for seven years. Currently, Professor Sunderlin is principal data engineer for Verizon Media Services.

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King Cartoons

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