The Warren County School Board during its Wednesday, April 21 meeting will consider requests by Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) to increase hourly pay rates for extended school year positions, purchase two vehicles, and approve the 2021-2022 local Perkins Career and Technical Education Plan.
The first of three action agenda items to be considered this week by the School Board is to approve a request by WCPS to increase the hourly pay rates for extended school year (ESY) positions, which provide services to qualified students with disabilities throughout the county. ESY student support generally occurs in the summer but is designed and planned to meet the individual needs of each student, according to the School Board’s agenda.
Due to this year’s short summer break, it has been increasingly difficult to secure staff, according to WCPS Director of Special Services Michael Hirsch, who will recommend increasing the hourly rates of the ESY administrator from $35 per hour to $45 per hour; the speech pathologist and physical and occupational specialists from $35 to $45 per hour; the ESY teachers from $25 an hour to $35 per hour; the Summer School and the ESY school nurse from $25 to $35 per hour; and the ESY instructional assistants from $10 to $15 per hour.
The second action agenda item for the School Board’s consideration is the 2021-2022 Local Plan for Career and Technical Education Perkins Funds, which provide WCPS with funds to support Career and Technical Programs and includes equipment, professional development, and student organization support. The funding is not to supplant but to enhance local funding, according to the agenda.
The last item slated for School Board action on April 21 is a WCPS request to purchase two used Dodge Caravans from G&M Auto Sales in Front Royal, Va., that will be used primarily for student transport in and out of Warren County. WCPS Transportation Director Aaron Mitchell will explain that WCPS seeks to maintain a quality, safe, and needs appropriate vehicle fleet, and the plan is for WCPS to trade in four vehicles for the two Caravans, according to the School Board’s agenda.
A work session is also scheduled during the School Board’s Wednesday meeting during which time Hirsch is scheduled to discuss required immunizations for WCPS students, and WCPS Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Melody Sheppard will provide a second reading and further discussion on the Virginia School Board Association’s School Board Policy Updates.
April 7 meeting summary
In highlights from the School Board’s April 7 meeting, Sheppard reported that the WCPS Food Services staff has prepared more than 900,000 meals for students since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recognizing staff members for their hard work, Sheppard commented on the extraordinary job that both Food Services and transportation employees have done in preparing and delivering meals during this time.
She also presented Nickole Kinsey, WCPS Food Services general manager, with a plaque from the state in appreciation for the work that has been done to make sure students remained fed during the pandemic.
In his report to the School Board on April 7, WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger said that as of that date, there were 15 active student cases of COVID-19 and six staff cases. He said that the school division will continue to utilize the same mitigation guidelines it has been using.
Ballenger also reported that he has held initial conversations with both high schools and class representatives about upcoming graduations. The current plans call for Warren County High School’s graduation to be held in the stadium on Saturday, June 12 at 8 a.m., and for graduation at Skyline High School’s stadium to be held at 10 a.m. on the same day.
Students would be given four tickets with 10 feet of social distancing required between families, said Ballenger, noting that the plan is based on the current state and federal guidance and could be adjusted if that guidance changes between now and graduation.
In addition, Ballenger told School Board members that a proposal for a Linden, Va., bus stop is being reviewed by the Virginia Department of Transportation and an initial meeting with families has been held to review the plan.
The School Board also on April 7 adopted a resolution honoring Ballenger as a Virginia Superintendent of the Year for 2020-2021. The Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) is honoring all 133 division superintendents throughout the state as Virginia superintendents of the year due to their extraordinary leadership during the 2020-2021 school year and their roles in serving their communities through the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the School Board’s April 7 meeting minutes.
VASS plans to recognize all the superintendents during its spring conference and asked that each school board in Virginia adopt a resolution recognizing their superintendent as a Virginia Superintendent of the Year for 2020-2021. The motion to adopt the resolution honoring Ballenger was made by School Board Vice Chairwoman Catherine Bower, seconded by board member Ralph Rinaldi, and carried by a 5-0 voice vote with School Board Chairman Arnold Williams, Jr., and members Kristen Pence, James Wells, Rinaldi, and Bower voting aye.
In other action on April 7, the School Board unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the School Board and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office for School Resource Officers (SROs) that was signed by the superintendent.
Current policy requires that the Warren County School Board and the Sheriff’s Office have an MOU that sets forth the powers and duties of the SROs. The MOU is reviewed and affirmed or amended at least once every two years and is modeled after the Virginia School-Law Enforcement Partnership Model MOU, Sheppard told School Board members.
The partnership between WCPS and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office is intended to facilitate effective, timely communication and coordination of efforts, and the MOU establishes a framework that both the schools and the Sheriff’s Office can work within to achieve shared goals toward creating and maintaining safe and secure school environments and to promote a positive and supportive school climate, according to the School Board’s agenda.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office will employ and provide WCPS with 10 law enforcement officers to serve as SROs who will assist with matters related to the safety and security of the schools. Sheppard pointed out that SROs also will help school administrators develop school crisis and response plans, as well as coordinate crime prevention and school safety, among other tasks.
The School Board also unanimously approved a request that WCPS enter an MOU with Shenandoah University to provide a reading specialist endorsement program within the school division and that the superintendent be authorized to sign the memorandum.
As part of the partnership, WCPS will provide a cohort with a minimum of 20 participants at the cost of $624 per student per course, to cover the cost difference should the cohort drop below 20 participants, and to secure a commitment from participants to complete the program.
Sheppard said that WCPS has 21 teachers and one instructional specialist who have signed commitment letters to complete the reading specialist endorsement program. For those seeking the add-on endorsement, they have committed to completing the program and remaining in the division for three years following their completion of the program, she said, adding that for those seeking a master’s degree as a reading specialist, they have committed to completing the program and remaining in the division for five years following their completion of the program. Should they fail to complete the program or not stay the agreed-upon three or five years, she said they are responsible to pay back all funds paid on their behalf.
For its part, Shenandoah University will provide the instructional delivery, invoice the school division based on the agreed-upon rate, and will waive all graduate application fees and offer direct admission for all cohort participants, Sheppard explained.
The MOU will remain in force for two years but can be terminated by either party given a 90-days written notice, she said, adding that courses will be paid for using a combination of Title I funds, tuition reimbursement funds, and local professional development funds.
In another unanimous approval, the School Board voted to award a $17,543.75 contract to Roanoke, Va.-based Time Technologies Inc. for the purchase and installation of a digital marquee sign at Skyline High School to replace the current manual one.
Skyline High School (SHS) Assistant Principal Jody Lee told School Board members that SHS administration recognizes “this is not a need but rather a want but feel that this will be an asset to SHS and the community to enhance notifications for the students, families, and surrounding community members.”
“We feel that due to COVID-19 impacts, being virtual has allowed us to spend less than normal and feel this opportunity will not come again without a long-term fundraiser,” Lee said, noting that the sign will be single-sided with an illuminated routed nameplate for the school’s name. SHS also wants to use a Cloud-based software program for the sign images and notices.
The project, which should take roughly two months from the date of a signed contract, is over the $15,000 threshold so SHS asked to use its School Board funds to pay for the sign due to the current availability of allocated funds.
The School Board also voted 5-0 to adopt the 2021-2022 Special Education Annual Plan, which includes an application for federal funding in the total amount of $1,241,840.
The board’s April 21 meeting starts at 5 p.m. and will be held at the Diversified Minds meeting room located at 465 W. 15th Street in Front Royal.
EDA gets McDonald company property as part of settlement agreement
On Wednesday, October 20, Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors Chairman Jeff Browne verified the EDA’s acquisition of the 41-acre “Happy Creek Road” parcel owned by former EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald’s Moveon8 real estate LLC. Acquisition of the undeveloped property assessed at just over a million dollars according to county court records is part of the $9-million-dollar no-fault settlement agreement reached between the EDA, McDonald, and the Harrisonburg Bankruptcy Court handling McDonald’s 2020 bankruptcy filing. The EDA will now be able to market the property as a developable EDA asset. It is located near the intersection of Happy Creek Road and Leach Run Parkway.
Browne said that in addition to receiving full value on the Happy Creek parcel, the EDA was in line to receive a percentage of the sale price of other McDonald assets distributed through the bankruptcy court proceeding. Exactly how close those percentages might get the EDA to the $9-million-dollar settlement figure remains to be seen. It was not immediately clear as to whether the EDA will have an outright full value claim to any other McDonald-held properties or assets.
McDonald is the central figure in the EDA financial scandal that began unravelling in mid-to-late 2018. She resigned in December 2018 under mounting pressure from her board of directors. She has been accused in civil and criminal court of utilizing her EDA position to misdirect EDA assets to her and others personal benefit. Western District of Virginia federal authorities have taken over the criminal side of the EDA case after a state special prosecutor’s office in Harrisonburg dropped criminal charges against McDonald and as many as 23 co-defendants due to speedy trial concerns as it wrestled with the volume of evidentiary material – estimated at 800,000 to over a million pages at the time. With charges against some defendants originating with the county commonwealth attorney’s office that initially handled the criminal investigation during Brian Madden’s tenure heading the department, failure to meet speedy trial timelines could have led to defense motions for dismissal of criminal charges against the defendants.
On August 31, 2021, federal prosecutors made their initial move, handing down a 34-count indictment against McDonald. Of those 34 counts, 16 were for money laundering, 10 for bank fraud, 7 for wire fraud, and 1 count of aggravated identity theft regarding someone identified as “T.T.” – ITFederal principal Truc Tran perhaps?
Joint Tourism Committee soliciting proposals for exclusive retail rights located at the Front Royal Visitor’s Center
The Front Royal & Warren County Joint Tourism Committee is soliciting proposals for exclusive retail rights located at the Front Royal Visitor’s Center. The proposal must include and respond to the following scope of services.
- The retailer will provide a merchandise for sale local to Front Royal and Warren County within a 35-mile radius. Merchandise should include local artists’ and photographer’s works, food items, branded material and other unique items to the Front Royal and Warren County area.
- The retail selection will include curated items exclusive to Front Royal and Warren County. The vendor must be willing to work with the Tourism Committee, and its contractor operating the Visitor’s Center, on merchandise selection. The Tourism representatives will have the right to approve or disapprove of merchandise to be incorporated for sale in the retail location to ensure quality product.
- The vendor will provide a cashless payment method at the vendor’s expense.
- The vendor will provide training to the Front Royal Visitor Center employees on the system and provide seven day a week support when necessary.
- The Front Royal Tourism Committee nor the employees of the Front Royal Visitor Center will be responsible for merchandise set up, inventory, or monitoring stock.
- The vendor will maintain the merchandise in an aesthetically pleasing manner neat and updated on a weekly basis.
- The vendor will provide a monthly report to the Tourism Committee representative on the sale of merchandise and provide suggestions for each season.
- The merchandise will reflect seasonal changes.
- The vendor will carry all necessary insurance and provide a current Warren County business license.
All potential vendors must address all the requirements as outlined including the time frame to begin the retail operation at the Visitors’ Center. A business plan for the merchandising must also be included. Bidders will be required to present their business plan and proposal to representatives of the Joint Tourism Committee.
Respondents are expected to organize their proposal to include:
- Operating model and requirements in response to scope above
- Proposed financial model i.e., lease for square footage or percentage of sales
- Relevant experience
- A minimum of three references
- 1 year with an option of a 2-year renewal.
- Awarded contractor must be operational at the beginning of the contract start date of 10/18/21.
- RFP released: 10/1/21
- Proposals due: 11/12/21
- Interview date: 11/22/21
- Contract begins: 12/1/21
- Contract Initial Term Complete: 12/31/22
- Potential Contract Term Extension through: 12/31/24
Front Royal ready for Fall tourists
The Town of Front Royal has hired three employees to staff the downtown Visitors Center.
Thousands of tourists travel to the area every fall for leaf viewing. The increased number of Visitor Center staff will play a key role in bolstering the Town’s continued effort to welcome tourists and assist them with experiencing the many attractions along with enjoying the fall foliage.
The Visitors Center averages over 150 visitors daily and over 200 each day on the weekends. “Welcoming visitors and letting them know about all the area attractions, lodging, outdoor adventures, arts, and cultural programming, fine food and drink grow the economy,” said Mayor Chris Holloway. “Front Royal and Warren County are committed to increasing visitation beyond a day visit.”
Visitor Center staff are responsible for many customer experience activities, including being ambassadors, providing tourists with information that enhances their visit, and encouraging tourists to return to Front Royal.
Tourism is a major economic driver for Front Royal and Warren County and its hospitality businesses. Visit www.DiscoverFrontRoyal.com for the many things to do.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Southern Flying Squirrel
The most common rodent you never see:
Southern flying squirrels are quite common across Virginia, but since they’re nocturnal and much smaller than Eastern Gray Squirrels, people rarely see them and often have no idea they even exist!
Unfortunately, cats are quite skilled at finding these nocturnal tree squirrels. Approximately 60% of our adult flying squirrel patients, including this one, come the Center as confirmed cat attack victims.
This patient is very lucky. He had minimal wounds and is doing well on pain medications and antibiotics.
In general, only about 30% of cat attacked patients survive to release. We have already received over 480 confirmed cat attack patients so far in 2021. We hope that this flyer will be in that minority!
Though feral cats are estimated to cause two thirds of cat-related wildlife deaths, the patients we see are almost always from owned cats when they bring animals to their owners, or when the finder interrupts a neighbor’s cat with an animal.
Please help our native wildlife by keeping cats indoors, or leashed/in an enclosed space when outside.
Cats cannot change their instincts, but as the species that domesticated them, it is our moral responsibility to do everything we can to keep cats safe and healthy, as well as protect the health of humans and wildlife from the dangers outdoor cats pose.
Despite the name, flying squirrels do not actually fly. They have a fold of skin between their front and back legs that allows them to glide between trees. Their long, flat tail steers them in flight like a rudder. Some can cover more than 150 feet in a single glide!
To donate to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, click here.
Show your support for the Warren County High School Band with their annual Fruit Sale Fundraiser
The Warren County High School Band has started our annual fruit sales, and we’re looking forward to another great year of sales!
We are offering 3 Whole and Half Box offerings of single types of fruit, and 2 mix box options for those who want variety. Here are the fruit options:
- Navel Oranges, Hamlin Juice Oranges, Pink Grapefruit
- Whole Boxes and Half Boxes: $40 for 40 lbs., or $30 for 20 lbs.
- Mix Fruit Box 1
- Navel Oranges/Grapefruit/Mandarin Oranges: 6 of Each, Total of 18 pieces of fruit – $30
- Mix Fruit Box 2
- Navel Oranges/Grapefruit/Apples: 6 of Each, Total of 18 pieces of fruit – $30
How to Pre-Order Fruit:
(PRE-ORDER Deadline: November 7th, 2021)
You may order online and pre-pay with a credit card or check. There is usually a $1 dollar fee for this, but it saves later on with convenience and for those looking to limit personal contact with others.
Second, you may pre-order with me or with any student in the band and then simply pay when you pick up the fruit. We will accept cash, check, and credit cards on site.
- Pre-Order with a WCHS Band Student.
- Pre-Order with me through email: email@example.com
- Pre-Order and pay online, and you may select a student to give credit to: order online
Pick up dates:
As of now, we do not have a firm date, but it will be a 1 day pick up sometime in the second week of December. We will email out to let customers know a week ahead of time the firm date. Our hours will be from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.
We hope you hear from a student to pre-order your fruit, but if you do not, please contact me through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the heading “Fruit Order” and I will enter your order.
Thank you for supporting the Warren County High School Band program.
Director of Bands
Warren County High School
Reaching Out Now partners with Warren County and Skyline High Schools to host Senior Planning Night
With the 2021-2022 school year in full swing, Reaching Out Now is partnering with Warren County and Skyline High Schools to host a Senior Planning Night! The event will be held at Warren County High School on November 18, 2021, from 5:30pm – 8:00pm, in the gymnasium and auditorium.
Senior Planning Night will cover important dates to guide senior year, decisions to make before graduation, financial planning, application processes, provide an opportunity to meet with college reps from around the state, and much more. Dinner will be provided! All Seniors and parents are invited and encouraged to attend. Interested Juniors may also attend to begin preparing for their Senior year.
Mr. Knesh, Principal of Warren County High School stated, “We look forward to sharing food and friendship while learning about navigating the college application process. We are also thrilled to give out two scholarships to seniors this evening to give them a head start towards their future college plans.” Mrs. Sperling, Principal of Skyline High School echoed his sentiments sharing “I am grateful for the partnership established between Reaching Out Now, Warren County High School, and Skyline High School. We are excited to jointly host a college planning night… where students and families can learn more about the process of planning for post-secondary education.”
All interested families, please register at: bit.ly/registerSeniorNight