Warren County School Board members on Wednesday, Sept. 6, voted 4-1 to end the district’s membership with the Virginia School Boards Association.
Board Chair Kristen Pence, Vice Chair Ralph Rinaldi, and board members Antoinette Funk, Andrea Lo, and Melanie Salins were present at the meeting. Lo voted against leaving the VSBA, which describes itself as a voluntary, nonpartisan organization of Virginia school boards that promotes excellence in public education through advocacy, training, and services.
“Looking at the big picture, I do think that the VSBA is more aligned with us than not aligned,” Lo said in explaining why she thought the Warren County School Board should remain a VSBA member.
The main points of the VSBA’s legislative positions, said Lo, are that it lobbies for local support for schools and supports funding from state and local governments, including for infrastructure, broadband, employment, and school safety, among others.
“So, I just think legislatively, they are still pulling for most of the things that would help us more so than not,” Lo said.
The School Board’s majority, however, sees benefits to leaving the VSBA.
For instance, Funk pointed out that Warren County wouldn’t have to pay the yearly membership fee of $9,353 plus the $10,200 to use the online school board management software platform provided through the organization. The $19,553 total paid for using the platform and the cost of the VSBA membership fee is higher than the $12,000 the School Board would pay if it chooses to use the BoardDocs platform on its own, she said.
Funk also said that because the School Board currently uses its attorneys to develop local policies, “I’m kind of like, what are we getting from it [the membership]? I’m looking at budgets here and stuff.”
Rinaldi agreed though he acknowledged that the VSBA does provide some services that are worthwhile. But he said, “The return for what we’re putting in and what we’re getting” don’t add up.
“Then I look at our geographic location, and there are other counties here in the valley that sort of get snubbed by [VSBA] also,” said Rinaldi. “And who knows this county better than everyone in this room? I don’t see the benefit at this time.”
Salins, the board’s delegate to the VSBA who for a year has advocated for Warren County to end its membership with the organization, listed several reasons for leaving the group, including that it “is constantly telling us to water down our discipline rules.”
She also said that the VSBA “is not in favor of notifying parents about just about anything at all. They take common sense, and they train it out of us as hard as they possibly can. And then you elect officials in Richmond, and they go down, and they lobby using your taxpayer dollars to make sure that those changes that you wanted to see made are not made.”
Additionally, the VSBA basically caters to the richer counties in the state by advocating more for what they want, according to Salins, because the VSBA “is interested in the communities with the billions-of-dollars budgets.”
Salins also said that the VSBA “loves to bully” her when she asks what she said are non-controversial questions during VSBA meetings or trainings. And she added that there are “tons of alternatives to their pieces of training.”
“As for their policy services, we left those last year,” said Salins. “The VSBA is responsible for many of the policies or lack thereof that are creating the problems that you are seeing in our school system today. Why would we want to continue to pay for those policies?”
At the same time, according to Salins, legislative priority changes she submitted to the VSBA on behalf of the Warren County School Board all were rejected. “They do not give a reason why; they did not ask questions; they did not give any discussion period whatsoever,” she said.
However, Lo said it’s not fair to say that the VSBA is responsible for Warren County School Board policies.
While the Warren County School Board has followed VSBA policy positions for a number of years — instituting some policies that disagree or are inconsistent with those of the VSBA and some that did not — Lo said, “Part of that is just due to it having built up over many years, predating all of us that are currently on this board.”
Lo said there’s a need for the School Board to work with its attorneys to review existing policies to ensure they make sense and are in line with the board’s values.
“I think that is part of the conversation that we were having earlier that needs to happen,” she said, “but I wouldn’t put that at the feet of the VSBA. I think that’s our responsibility as a school district to address those.”
Lo said she wasn’t disagreeing with Salins but said she “just came to another conclusion.”
Having put in a substantial amount of time and effort into being a delegate for the VSBA, Salins said it’s busy work, and it’s wasting her time. “It is wasting this community’s time. It’s wasting this community’s money. You gotta know when it’s time to cut bait, and it is time to cut bait.”
The Warren County School Board’s contract with the VSBA ends in March.
In other action, the School Board unanimously approved its consent agenda items, which included an item to authorize the superintendent to request that the Warren County Board of Supervisors increase the School Board’s fiscal year 2023-2024 Operating Fund Budget by $112,847 in Category 61000 – Instruction.
Contingent upon the Board of Supervisors’ approval of the additional appropriation request, a new position of Behavior Coach assigned to Special Education in Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) was also approved.
The consent agenda approval also included items to approve Warren County High School’s overnight wrestling and cross-country trips, as well as Skyline High School’s overnight wrestling tournaments.
The School Board also unanimously approved the addition of the Student Support Position contract and its grade 42 salary scale. WCPS Personnel Director Jody Lee said the interim position will allow newly hired district staff to accept a contract as they work toward their licensure while filling a WCPS vacancy.
“This could also help accommodate those who are working on their degrees in our ‘Grow Your Own’ program as they enter the final stages of their degree program and/or student teaching,” Lee said.
WCPS also received permission from the School Board to purchase Chromebooks for the district’s Technology Department totaling $284,972. Funding for this purchase will come from the Virginia Public School Authority technology grant, according to WCPS Technology Director Tim Grant, who said the department is in need of replacement Chromebooks for students and staff. The cost covers hardware, product protection, and licensing for 767 Chromebooks, he said.
Front Royal’s Town Council Race: Candidates Share Visions on Housing and Blight
Candidates Open Up About Their Plans and Backgrounds at Recent Forum.
On September 27, the Warren County Builders Association played host to a riveting forum featuring candidates eyeing a seat on the Front Royal Town Council.
Melissa DeDomenico-Payne: A familiar face in the Front Royal political scene, Melissa has been serving on the Town Council since her appointment in January 2023. A local resident since 1971, she vividly remembers the water pollution issues from Avtex during her younger days. Melissa’s approach to blighted properties leans heavily on beefing up the enforcement of rental rules and town codes. She’s vocal about the need for affordable housing. Melissa’s rich background in public service was a focal point during her closing, and she urged builders to establish better communication channels with the council.
Connie Marshner: Branding herself as the “uncandidate,” Connie brings a fresh perspective, free from the binds of political history. She moved to Front Royal in 1995 and recalls a childhood dictated by her Navy family’s frequent relocations. Her take on neglected properties echoes a common sentiment—more hands on deck. She envisions Front Royal as a “lifelong community” with houses everyone can afford. Ending her segment, Connie painted a picture of Front Royal at a crossroads, emphasizing the need to cherish its unique charm and walkable streets.
Glenn Wood: A true Front Royal son, Glenn’s roots trace back to his school days in the local institutions. After dedicating half a century to manufacturing and human resources, he hung up his professional boots, although his heart remains tethered to community service. Glenn expresses deep concern over blighted properties, advocating for prompt actions. On the housing frontier, he’s all for partnerships that benefit those earning under $50k annually. In wrapping up, Glenn put his planning commission experience on display, pledging to ensure the well-being of Front Royal’s residents.
Missing from the forum was the fourth candidate, Skip Rogers, who couldn’t make it to the event. The discussions from that evening painted a clear picture of each candidate’s vision for Front Royal, especially on burning topics like blight and housing affordability. As election day approaches, the residents of Front Royal are undoubtedly better equipped to cast their votes.
Warren County Builders Association Spotlights School Board Hopefuls: Pence & Mabie Talk Education
Candidates Pence and Mabie Weigh in on Bullying, Homeschooling, and Community Engagement.
With the Warren County Builders Association as the backdrop, a pivotal discussion surrounding the direction of local education was presented, showcasing school board candidates Kristen Pence of the South River District and Amber Mabie of the Shenandoah District. Their perspectives, experiences, and solutions took center stage, providing Warren County residents with an in-depth look into their educational aspirations for the region.
Kristen Pence: A Warren County High School alumna, Pence has roots deeply embedded in the community. With a dual role as a veterinarian and a parent, Pence leveraged her four-year tenure on the school board, emphasizing her unwavering commitment. She drew attention to her consistent efforts over the past term, treating the board seat as a full-time job, and her constant engagement with students, parents, and teachers.
Amber Mabie: Mabie’s narrative was equally compelling. A long-standing resident of Warren County and a mother to eight, Mabie exhibited her intimate familiarity with the local school system. With a rich tapestry of experiences ranging from classroom volunteering to substitute teaching, Mabie made a strong case for her grassroots approach to education. She was passionate in her stance against political interference in schools, underscoring the need for an untainted educational environment.
The Core Issues:
Bullying and Student Violence: Rick Novak, the evening’s moderator, didn’t hesitate to address one of the most pressing issues: the alarming increase in bullying and student violence. Mabie passionately voiced her perspective, emphasizing the paramount importance of teacher safety and advocating for reinforced in-school support. Pence, while echoing the sentiment of robust support, stressed the necessity of not just having discipline policies but also ensuring they are effectively enforced.
Homeschooling vs. Public Schooling: This debate took an interesting turn, with Pence acknowledging the growing homeschooling community in Warren County. She advocated for the respect of diverse educational choices while emphasizing her commitment to bolstering public education. Mabie, on the other hand, emphasized the crucial insights gained from having children within the public system and was candid in her skepticism about school board members without this connection.
As they wrapped up, both candidates exhibited a deep-seated commitment to the community. Pence focused on student behavioral challenges and underscored the importance of family engagement. Mabie, casting a wider societal net, championed inclusivity, safety, and the urgent need to address pressing social challenges affecting students.
As the election date of November 7 nears, voters will undoubtedly be reflecting upon the depth and breadth of perspectives presented during this seminal event.
Solo Spotlight: Candidates Stand Alone at Warren County Builders Association Forum
Warren County Builders Association Hosts Noteworthy Candidate Forum.
Warren County’s Builders Association took a significant stride in strengthening community ties and promoting transparency by hosting its first-ever candidate forum.
George Cline, President of the Warren County Builders Association, expressed gratitude for the overwhelming participation and emphasized the Association’s continuous commitment to the community. Since its establishment in 2006, the association has launched various philanthropic initiatives, from scholarships at the Blue Ridge Tech Center to supporting local veterans and families in need.
Here’s a look at their messages.
- Melanie Salins – North River School Board
Melanie, a re-election candidate, emphasized the importance of parents in the education process. Voicing concerns about elitism in education organizations, she advocated for increased parental involvement. Salins also acknowledged the positive strides Warren County Public Schools have made, including the accomplishments at Blue Ridge Tech.
- Angie Moore – Clerk of the Court
Angie provided an insight into the vast responsibilities of the Circuit Court. During her tenure, she has made significant strides in digitizing documents, securing grants, and maintaining operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moore showcased her qualifications, emphasizing her commitment to the role.
- John Bell – Commonwealth Attorney
With a personal touch, John shared his family stories and the importance of justice in a small-town setting. He discussed the challenges brought forth by the pandemic and the need for a prosecutor who understands the community.
- Crystal Cline – Warren County Sheriff: Crystal underlined the importance of bolstering resources for the Sheriff’s Office. She commended the dedication of deputies, highlighting the need for specialized training and equipment. Crystal stressed the importance of dedicated school resource officers and effective community support.
- Janice Butler-Shanks – Warren County Treasurer: Janice, the Republican nominee for Treasurer, emphasized the Treasurer’s role in managing and collecting taxes. Drawing upon her extensive background in local businesses and government, she committed to upholding the highest standards in office.
- Sherry Sowers – Commissioner of Revenue: As a long-serving Commissioner, Sherry discussed her dedication to assisting Warren County residents. She addressed the improvements in liaising with contractors regarding business licenses and encouraged community members to seek help when needed.
The inaugural candidate forum by the Warren County Builders Association marked a significant step toward enhancing community engagement. Each candidate, though unopposed, showed a deep commitment to their roles and a vision for a better Warren County.
Warren County’s Crossroads: Voices of the Future
Board of Supervisor Candidates Share Visions for Warren County’s Growth and Governance.
On September 27, 2023, the Warren County Builders Association hosted a Candidate Forum at the Government Center, showcasing the diverse visions of five remarkable candidates for the Board of Supervisors.
Rich Jamieson – North River District
Having dedicated a significant portion of his life to industrial engineering, Jamieson brings a keen analytical perspective to the table. With nearly 30 years of experience focusing on financial and operational enhancement, he firmly believes in the integration of these principles into local governance. Jamieson has consistently promoted the notion that a systematic and engineered approach can solve even the most intricate community issues. His campaign theme, “Professionalism in Governance,” mirrors his dedication to elevating county management standards.
Nicole Wanzer – North River District
Wanzer’s campaign resonates deeply with those who hold Warren County close to their hearts. A third-generation resident, her stories weave a tapestry of love for the land, its history, and its people. She speaks not as a distant politician but as a neighbor, sharing joys, concerns, and hopes for the community’s future. Wanzer is particularly passionate about ensuring the voices of North River residents are at the forefront, pushing for public safety measures, fiscal transparency, and a departure from divisive politics that have plagued community discourse.
Walt Mabe – Shenandoah District
The journey of Mabe, the Shenandoah District representative seeking re-election, stands as a testament to his resilience and adaptability. Although initially challenged by his lack of political experience, Mabe’s narrative is one of growth and transformation. He speaks of lessons learned during his tenure, emphasizing the importance of collective action and continued progress. His message, “We’ve faced challenges, but we’ve always risen,” encapsulates his unwavering optimism for Warren County.
John Stanmeyer – Shenandoah District
Stanmeyer, with his background in economics from the University of Virginia, combines academic rigor with on-ground practicality. He offers a vision rooted in metrics, accountability, and efficiency. He seeks to balance tourism growth while preserving local interests and wants to confront the drug epidemic using data-driven strategies. His campaign, focused on “Data and Dedication,” highlights his belief that evidence-based policymaking is the key to sustainable growth.
Cheryl Cullers – South River District
Cullers, the incumbent representative for the South River District, embodies a legacy of dedication to Warren County. She champions numerous causes, from pushing for broadband access to enhancing emergency services. Her tenure is marked by a non-partisan approach, always prioritizing community needs over political allegiances. Her rallying cry, “I represent you, not the politics,” embodies her service ethos.
Warren County stands at a crossroads, with each candidate offering unique paths forward. Their collective vision showcases a future rich in potential:
- Jamieson: A future of systematic, professional governance.
- Wanzer: A future that embraces history, unity, and community voices.
- Mabe: A future forged through resilience and optimism.
- Stanmeyer: A future steered by data and unwavering dedication.
- Cullers: A future that prioritizes the community over politics.
The impending election is pivotal, shaping the trajectory of Warren County’s journey. It’s more than a vote; it’s a declaration of belief in a prosperous tomorrow.
Building a Better Tomorrow: Candidates for VA Delegate District 31 Outline Their Blueprint at Warren County Builders Assoc Forum
Hopes, Challenges, and Community: Candidates Share Visions for District 31.
On September 27, 2023, the Warren County Builders Association hosted a Candidate Forum at the Government Center. Three hopefuls—Steve Foreman, Grace Morrison, and Delores Oates—took center stage to articulate their aspirations and plans for District 31 of Virginia.
Delores Oates passionately highlighted her deep-seated roots in Warren County. Citing her multifaceted roles in the community, from a baseball mom to a mentor for teen mothers, she emphasized the community’s significance in her life. Expressing concerns over Warren County’s segmented representation in the past decade, she pledged a unified, committed voice in the State House of Virginia.
Steve Foreman’s professional background shone through as he referenced his 25-year tenure with Sprint, delineating duties that married technology with project management. Affirming his commitment to the entirety of District 31, he vowed to equip citizens with the resources they need to thrive.
Grace Morrison brought forth her unique perspective as a conservative independent. With family roots deep in the Virginia building legacy, Morrison presented herself as a bridge between tradition and progress. She underscored her commitment to genuine representation, free from the binds of corporate interests and partisan loyalty.
Moderator Rick Novak probed the candidates on their strategies for maintaining connections with Warren County constituents. Each candidate emphasized accessibility, with Oates advocating for individual conversations and Foreman prioritizing regular community meetings.
In discussing the top issues for Warren County, education was a resonant theme. While Morrison drew from her teaching experience to emphasize support from Richmond, Oates spotlighted the integration of trades in the educational curriculum. Foreman, on the other hand, highlighted the importance of retaining public funds in public schools.
The forum concluded with each candidate outlining their visions. While Oates focused on her roots in Warren County and the importance of economic development, Foreman advocated for pragmatic compromises and solutions that serve communal needs. Morrison reiterated her role as a trustee and servant to the people.
With a shared love for Warren County, each candidate offered their unique lens on progress, challenges, and community welfare. While the election will ultimately decide District 31’s representative, the forum provided a valuable opportunity for the community to gauge the visions and priorities of each contender.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: Mourning Dove
How is a juvenile dove different from other songbirds?
Last week, this little one was the unfortunate victim of a cat attack. Upon admission, this patient was having trouble breathing and multiple puncture wounds were found over the hips. They were in otherwise good condition and well hydrated—signs mom was taking great care of them prior to the attack.
Mourning Doves grow incredibly quickly, which is why renesting a healthy fledgling with their parents is so important when possible—they’re learning a lot and ready to be on their own within just a few short weeks.
This baby will have to grow up under human care due to the extent of their injuries. There are many babies of various species everywhere still, unable to fully fly or run, and are at great risk of predation in general. This is one of many important reasons that cats should be kept indoors.
Mourning Doves are not like other songbirds we often receive. They are in the family Columbiformes, which only includes pigeons and dove species.
They’re characterized by short, stocky bodies and the presence of a crop, which is a muscular pouch off of the esophagus that holds seeds, allowing them to digest slowly.
They also have a gizzard (“second stomach”) that helps grind up these hard seeds, with the assistance of small rocks (“grit”) stored in the organ.
Because this species almost exclusively eats seeds, babies are fed something called crop milk which is produced in the lining of adults’ crops and is regurgitated into the crops of babies.
In rehabilitative care, nestling doves are fed a slurry that mimics the nutritional composition of crop milk until they are ready for seeds.
Thankfully, after just one week, this dove has grown quickly and figured out how to use our “seed tube” to feed itself, allowing us to be more hands-off, which is always the goal in rehabilitation! (Click here to see it in action!)
We expect this bird to be ready for outdoor conditioning in another week or two and released shortly after that.
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