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Warren County School Board preps for superintendent search



FRONT ROYAL — Warren County School Board members on Wednesday started to get their ducks in a row regarding the forthcoming selection process for the next school district leader to replace current Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) Superintendent Greg Drescher, 59, who announced his retirement plans earlier this month.

Catherine Bower discusses the search for a new School Superintendent

“We need to have a discussion about how we want this process to go,” said School Board Chairwoman Catherine Bower during the work session portion of the School Board’s September 18th meeting.

“We have two new board members coming on in January and I think it’s probably not in our best interest to go ahead and start the search now,” Bower said. “We probably ought to think about appointing an interim superintendent and begin the search in January when the new board comes on so that they have a say in the process.”

In addition to Drescher retiring at the end of the year, terms are up at year’s end for School Board members Donna McEathron, who represents the South River District, and Vice Chairman Douglas Rosen, who represents the Shenandoah District. Neither are running for re-election in November.

North River District School Board Member Arnold Williams Jr. is running for re-election in November; his term ends on December 31.

Each of the five School Board members serve four-year terms. Terms for both Bower, who represents the Fork District, and for James Wells, who represents the Happy Creek District, end on December 31, 2021.

Bower suggested that members set a March 2020 deadline to hire a new superintendent. Wells, Rosen, and Williams agreed that was a good idea. McEathron gave no input.

More discussions about the superintendent search will be had, the chairwoman added.

Drescher on September 6 released a statement announcing his retirement, effective January 1, 2020. He has clocked 37 years in education, the last five years as the WCPS superintendent.

At the same time, Drescher has been on the fringes of the local Economic Development Authority (EDA) financial scandal, finding himself included in mounting public criticism as one of the primary public officials who could have prevented the alleged fraud and embezzlement. He’s been simultaneously holding the superintendent’s position for WCPS and sitting on the EDA Board of Directors — serving as chairman in 2017-18 when years of suspected EDA wrongdoing started to unfold.

Nevertheless, Drescher denied any related burnout factor.

“This is totally about my wife — this has been on the horizon for a while,” Drescher told the Royal Examiner on Sept. 7, referring to the health challenges faced by his wife, Debbie Drescher, also a former educator.

“The stage that she is in now is accelerating my retirement plans so that we can enjoy more time together,” according to his statement. “While certainly not the exact path I would be choosing, it is the right thing to do and I have no doubt will be best for all concerned.”

WCPS Maintenance Director Greg Livesay discusses the costs for installing the modular classrooms.

In another work session item, WCPS Maintenance Director Greg Livesay provided School Board members with a cost estimate for modular classrooms that would be placed at A.S. Rhodes Elementary School while renovations are completed this school year.

“We need modular units to create that swing space, or empty space, to provide the contractor more space to work within the school,” said Livesay.

He passed out a cost estimate from Charlotte, N.C.-based Mobile Modular Management Corp., which would deliver, set up, and install decks and ramps for four 24-by-34 modular classroom units at the school for just over $46,000. The company also would remove the units for an additional $29,000, according to the estimate.

The monthly rental of each modular unit for 18 months would run another $49,920 total; the electrical would cost roughly $15,000; and the poured footers for each unit — if required by the County — would tack on another $17,550, bringing the estimated total price tag to more than $157,000.

Livesay said the modular units would be located on the pad outside the school’s gymnasium, which inside would serve as temporary space for another four or five classrooms.

“That’ll free up about 75 percent of the building for the general contractor to be able to do his work throughout the school year,” said Livesay.

Regarding the general contractor bids for the A.S. Rhodes renovations, Livesay said the original bid due date, which was September 19, has been extended one week to next Thursday, September 26. He’s given several companies a tour of the school building to explain the scope of the work and said he will provide more tours this week.

“It appears we’ve generated more interest this time with this pre-bid,” he said.

School Board members also held a closed meeting to discuss, consider or interview “prospective candidates for employment; assignment, appointment, promotion, performance, demotion, salaries, disciplining or resignation of employees of the School Board, specifically two employee personnel issues,” according to the agenda. WCPS Director of Personnel George “Buck” Smith also attended the closed session.

No announcements were made following the closed session.

To view the entire discussion of these and other meeting topics, watch the Royal Examiner video:

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Skyline High School Homecoming Parade



Skyline HS Homecoming Parade on October 17, 2019. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Royal Examiner’s camera was there to capture the Skyline High School Homecoming Parade on October 17, 2019.

Watch it here on this exclusive video:

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Warren County School Board Meeting October 16, 2019



Here is latest Warren County School Board meeting of October 16, 2019.  Here is the link to view their agenda and supporting documents.

Watch this exclusive Royal Examiner video:

Related stories from the meeting:

Additional funds approved to cover empty superintendent position

School Board approves new head lice policy

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Elks adds to Skyline High School Band fund



Skyline High School Marching Band members surround Elks Dennis Henline, black shirt, and Band Director Daniel Holland for check presentation after a recent practice.

Elks Exalted Ruler Dennis Henline and Lodge Secretary Jane Wine recently visited Skyline High School in Front Royal to watch a school band practice, and the Lodge wound up donating $1,500 for much needed band equipment.

While the Elks have consistently funded school athletic teams in Warren County, Henline said after the Skyline practice that he didn’t want their supportive school bands to be left out, so he handed a check to Band Director Daniel Holland.

For Holland, this was the second time in just a few months that community funds have come to him. The Rotary Club of Front Royal recently made a donation toward uniforms. One of many forms of payback for these generous donations has been Holland’s brass ensemble appearances at the annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Town Gazebo the last Monday in May.

Henline took the opportunity to encourage Skyline seniors “to make sure they applied for college scholarships offered by the Front Royal Elks Lodge and the Elks National Foundation.”

Dennis Henline presenting a check to the SHS Band Director, Daniel Holland.

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Sunday evening house fire caused by improper heating of home



Photos courtesy of Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services

On Sunday, October 20, 2019, just after 3:00 pm, the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services was dispatched to the 8000 block of Winchester Road for a reported residential structure fire.

Firefighters quickly arrived on the scene and reported a working fire in a two-story single family dwelling. Firefighters were able to verify that the sole occupant of the home had self-evacuated and removed 5 dogs from within the residence. The occupant, who was asleep at the time the fire occurred, was awoken by her dogs and discovered the fire. It took firefighters approximately 10 minutes to contain the fire. Crews were assisted on the scene by Warren County Sheriff’s Deputies and Animal Control Officers.

The cause of the fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office. Investigators determined the fire resulted due to an upholstered sectional couch being placed too close to electric baseboard heater. The fire caused an estimated $60,000 in damages. The occupants, who were displaced from the home as a result of the fire, received assistance from the American Red Cross.

Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie stated “Heating of the home is the second leading cause of home fires nationwide. As the weather turns cold, we remind our community to utilize these safety tips to prevent the unthinkable”:

  • Keep all flammables, like paper, clothing, bedding, drapes or rugs, at least 3 feet from baseboard heaters, space heaters, wood-stoves or a fireplace.
  • Never leave portable heaters and fireplaces unattended; turn off heaters and make sure fireplace embers are extinguished before leaving the room.
  • If you must use a space heater, place it on a level, nonflammable surface, like ceramic tile, not on a rug or carpet.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • When buying a space heater, look for models that shut off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Have your furnace and chimney professionally inspected annually and cleaned if necessary. Chimney tar buildup is a common cause of chimney fires.
  • Dispose of hot ashes in covered metal containers placed away from the house.

This is also the perfect time to check your smoke alarm. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home. Test smoke alarm batteries every month and change them at least once a year. Consider installing a 10-year lithium battery-powered smoke alarm, which is sealed so it cannot be tampered with or opened. If you do not have a working smoke alarm in your home, contact us at 540-636-3830 to learn how to have them installed at free of charge.

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School Board approves new head lice policy



Head lice have three forms: the egg (also called a nit), the nymph, and the adult. Photo from Lice Clinics of America.

Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) now has new regulations in place for managing pediculosis, commonly known as the infestation of head lice.

“It is the position of the school system that the management of lice should minimally impact students and minimally impact their attendance,” WCPS Director of Special Services Michael Hirsch told members of the Warren County School Board during their Wednesday, October 16 regular meeting. “So, we looked at our policy because we review all of our policies on a regular basis” to update them.

Hirsch outlined for School Board members what lice can and cannot do.

“They can’t hop; they can’t fly. The only way they transfer is by direct contact,” he said, adding that it’s “very, very uncommon” for lice to transfer between people via clothing, scarves, coats, hats and other personal items, like combs and brushes.

The most common way lice transfer is by head-to-head contact, said Hirsch.

“They can be a nuisance. They do not spread disease,” he said. “Personal hygiene and cleanliness in the home and the school has absolutely nothing to do with head lice.”

In reviewing the policies of surrounding school districts, Hirsch said WCPS was found to be the only school division with a no-nit policy, meaning if a student has live nits or lice, he or she must be sent home.

There are school divisions that allow live lice, while others permit live lice and nits, he said.

“That made us think very hard … about if we’re on target and supporting our students in the most effective way possible,” said Hirsch. “After a considerable amount of discussion with our nurse team, as well as the administration, we’re recommending that we do allow a nit policy for the students, but not a live lice policy.”

Hirsch recommended to the School Board a policy stating that if lice are suspected, a student will be sent to the nurse for diagnosis. If live lice are not present, then the student goes back to class. If there are some nits, then “our nurses are such caring, wonderful professionals, they’re going to get rid of them,” he said. “They do it every day. And they’ll contact the parent and talk about an action plan.”

Additionally, if there are live lice present, WCPS staff will ask the student to be sent home with both educational literature and free lice treatment kits, courtesy of WCPS and several of its community partners.

“We don’t want any financial burden to fall on the parents to have to deal with this,” Hirsch added.

Following treatment, the proposed policy states that a student may return to school and check in with the nurse. If there are nits, a new action plan will be created with them, but the student will be allowed to return to class.

“If a student has nits, we’ll try to get rid of them right there at the nurse’s office in a private, confidential way,” said Hirsch, “but we’ll allow the student to stay in school because we know that the best place for a student to be is in school.”

School Board Chairwoman Catherine Bower asked how much time infected WCPS students were missing school. Hirsch answered: “significant amounts.”

“There are a lot of various factors,” he said. “But it’s not hygiene; it’s not people being unclean. Sometimes it’s maybe just knowledge about how to get rid of them or the ability to follow through and get rid of them.”

“We just can’t have them missing school and that was the big impetus in having this conversation,” Hirsch added.

Bower said some parents were concerned about the current policy and how it compared to policies in other nearby areas.

Hirsch confirmed that WCPS did get some letters from “very informed and concerned parents about the policy and we take their concerns very seriously.”

A motion to approve the WCPS lice regulations change was made by School Board member James Wells with a second by School Board member Donna McEathron. The members unanimously approved the change, with Chairwoman Bower, along with board members Arnold Williams Jr., C. Douglas Rosen, Wells, and McEathron, voting yea.

Some facts about lice…

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses advocate that “no-nit” policies, which require a child to be free of nits before they can return to schools, be discontinued because:

* Many nits are more than ¼-inch from the scalp. Such nits are usually not viable and very unlikely to hatch to become crawling lice, or may in fact be empty shells, also known as ‘casings;’

* Nits are cemented to hair shafts and are very unlikely to be transferred successfully to other people;

* The burden of unnecessary absenteeism to the students, families and communities far outweighs the risks associated with head lice; and

* Misdiagnosis of nits is very common during nit checks conducted by non-medical personnel.

Who is at risk for getting head lice? Head lice are found worldwide. In the United States, infestation with head lice is most common among pre-school children attending childcare, elementary schoolchildren, and the household members of infested children. Although reliable data on how many people in the U.S. get head lice each year are not available, an estimated six million to 12 million infestations occur yearly among children ages 3 to 11 years. Infestation with head lice is much less common among African Americans than among persons of other races, possibly because the claws of the head louse found most frequently in the U.S. are better adapted for grasping the shape and width of the hair shaft of other races.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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Candidate Forum: Warren County Clerk of the Court



Ray Bramble was the moderator at the Candidate Forum for Warren County Clerk of the Court. Left to right: Janice Shanks, Angie Moore and Stephen Jerome. Photo and video by Mark Williams, Royal Examiner.

The Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce hosted the first Candidate Forum on Thursday, October 17, at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School for Warren County Sheriff, Board of Supervisors and Clerk of the Circuit Court.

In this video will be the candidates for Warren County Clerk of the Court. There are three candidates running for this position: Janice Shanks, Angie Moore and Stephen Jerome.

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1:30 pm Botanicals in Watercolor I – Fal... @ Art in the Valley
Botanicals in Watercolor I – Fal... @ Art in the Valley
Oct 22 @ 1:30 pm – 4:00 pm
Botanicals in Watercolor I - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This four week course with instructor, Elena Maza, will deal with the basic three-primary color palette, different pigments and how they interact, how to mix all colors from three primary colors, how to apply washes,[...]
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We are offering classes for children ages 7-12 who would enjoy expressing themselves through art. The students will expand their creative side with drawing, painting and constructing, using various mediums such as acrylic, pastels, watercolor[...]
1:30 pm Botanical Drawing: October 2019 @ Art in the Valley
Botanical Drawing: October 2019 @ Art in the Valley
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Botanical Drawing: October 2019 @ Art in the Valley
Learn and practice the art of botanical drawing in pencil with local artist and instructor Elena Maza. This four session course will focus on learning basic drawing skills as applied to botanicals: basic line drawings[...]
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Small Business Lending Forum @ Samuels Public Library
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Small Business Lending Forum @ Samuels Public Library
The forum will provide participants with an overview of U.S. Small Business Administration and USDA/Rural Business Cooperative-Services (RBS)’s financing programs and services.  Participants will have the opportunity to field questions to lenders and learn more[...]
1:30 pm The Fundamentals of Oil Painting... @ Art in the Valley
The Fundamentals of Oil Painting... @ Art in the Valley
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The Fundamentals of Oil Painting - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful oil paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with oils necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]
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Virginia Department of Veteran S... @ Able Forces Foundation
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Able Forces Foundation is hosting Andre Miller, Resource Specialist, Virginia Veteran and Family Support, Virginia Department of Veteran Services, to assist veterans, their spouses, and dependents with questions regarding Veteran benefits and in filing claims[...]
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The Fundamentals of Acrylic Pain... @ Art in the Valley
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The Fundamentals of Acrylic Painting - Fall 2019 @ Art in the Valley
This class will focus on proven approaches for successful acrylic paintings. Subject matter will be the student’s choice. No previous painting experience with acrylics necessary. The class will introduce students to fundamental concepts of color[...]
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Join the Northern Shenandoah Valley Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s Together, we can provide care and support to improve the lives of Americans affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia (including family, friends, and caregivers), and[...]
11:00 am “The Great I Am” Refreshing, Hea... @ Warren County Fairgrounds
“The Great I Am” Refreshing, Hea... @ Warren County Fairgrounds
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“The Great I Am” Refreshing, Healing & Restoration @ Warren County Fairgrounds
Come to the Warren County Fairgrounds October 26th and 27th to enjoy live praise and worship! Miraculous testimonies will be shared both days, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., at this free event. Bring your[...]