The Sherando Times: January 27, 2010

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Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 2:10 am  Leave a Comment  

FCPS may rezone students out of Sherando

Spokesman denies move was aimed at keeping school dominant in AA

By Angela Kreitz
The Sherando Times

On January 19th, the Frederick County School Board announced their proposal to take approximately 60 students residing in the Wilde Acres/Mountain Falls area from Sherando High School and transfer them to James Wood High School with a spot school rezoning. The change would come into effect at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year.

The primary reason given and discussed at the meeting was the desire to prevent Sherando High School sports from moving from AA to AAA by the Virginia High School League (VHSL) beginning in fall 2011. At the meeting, Superintendent Patricia Taylor asked for the rezoning as a direct result of the threat of being placed in AAA. Taylor said that this move would put a significant financial strain on the Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) and the community.

School Board Vice Chairman Stuart Wolk outlined the proposal attributing the VHSL threat as the primary reason for the rezoning nine times during his four-minute overview and discussion. Wolk twice mentioned other benefits to the rezoning.

When called for comment the following day, FCSB Coordinator of Policy, Records Management, and Communications Steve Edwards said that the impending change to the athletic system was not the Superintendent or the Board’s sole reason for the rezoning plan. Edwards said that the AAA threat was just what everyone would want to focus on but the rezoning was about balancing out enrollment numbers and keeping kids from Frederick County Middle School together rather than splitting them between two high schools. Despite Edwards claims, the discussion at the board meeting suggested the solid and sole reason for the rezoning was the AAA threat.

Edwards insisted that the rezoning is an attempt to balance out enrollment because Sherando High School is projected to be 10.8% over capacity and James Wood High School is projected to be 10.6% under capacity. FCPS 2009-2010 publication, “Fast Facts” gives membership numbers taken September 2009, as 1,310 for James Wood High and 1,583 for Sherando High. Changing those numbers by 60 will not bring either school to their capacity. Edwards admits that Sherando will still be over and James Wood will still be under.

So, is the rezoning really about balancing enrollment?

While the change would not completely fix enrollment variations, it is certainly thoughtful of the FCPS officials and board members to have the desire to keep all Frederick County Middle School students together rather than splitting them between two high schools. Unfortunately, that consideration would not be shared with the current Freshman, Sophomores, and Juniors residing in Wilde Acres/Mountain Falls if they are taken away from the majority of their classmates and forced to graduate from a different school than the one at which they began their high school career.

Initially, it did appear that some of those students would be given an exception in the letter sent to all parents of affected students from Superintendent Patricia Taylor.

Taylor wrote, “The proposal includes that rising seniors at Sherando High School who live in the rezoning area would be granted an attendance variance to remain at Sherando upon request if they provide their own transportation to school.”

That said, a call to Edwards about the proposal allowing rising seniors a variance received the response, “Whoa, Whoa, let me back you up. They haven’t voted to do that. The School Board would consider that.”

If you were in attendance at the board meeting, you heard that the rezoning was proposed in response to VHSL AAA potential and not a result of enrollment numbers or 8th graders being separated from some of their friends.

So why is FCPS so opposed to Sherando moving up to Triple A?

Taylor says that this move would cause a great financial hardship and Edwards agrees that the impact would be strong and negative financially. Edwards attributes the financial change to increased travel and decreased gate sales. He explained that if moved to AAA they would have to play schools in far away counties like Prince William.

A quick look at Sherando’s 2009 Football schedule found that they already travel to schools in Prince William County, as well as Fauquier County, and Loudoun County. Although these schools are not currently in their district, the schools choose to play each other for nondistrict games and thus they choose to travel. When raising this point with Edwards he responded that, “All of our district games would be of greater distance…. The majority of the games you play are within your district.”

Edwards is entirely correct that his district games would be further, however, he is incorrect that district games are the majority played.

Currently, Sherando experiences about a 50/50 division between the numbers of district versus non-district games played. After that was pointed out to Edwards he acknowledged it as accurate for this year but claimed that it would not be evenly split if they went to AAA.

Agreeing with Edwards was Sherando High School Coordinator of Student Activities Jason Barbe, who said moving to another district could mean having ten teams in your group. Currently in Sherando’s double A district, they have only five teams, giving them entire weeks of unscheduled time in the beginning of the season to choose to play non-district teams. If they moved into a district of a lot more teams their schedule would be filled up significantly leaving them little time for their choosing of non-district games. However, a quick call to the VHSL’s Lori Bickley put the worry to rest. Bickley explained that Sherando’s move to AAA would put them in a district of just six teams. She also estimated that in that size district they would have roughly the same 50/50 division of district to non-district games that they currently have. This would allow them the flexibility to use their open weeks and spots to continue playing schools in the local
community.

Take football for example.

Current VHSL regulations call for a 10-game regular season. If Sherando moves into the AAA six team district as Bickley states they would, Sherando would have five district games and five non-district games.

Both Taylor and Edwards expressed concern that a move would impact the long time rivalries held with James Wood, Millbrook and Handley high schools. However, Sherando can continue to play these schools if they chose to in their nondistrict schedule. Edwards’s refuted with, “how many double A schools are going to want to play a triple A school?” Right now Sherando is a double A school that plays multiple triple A schools in many of their sports. But to ease the anxiety, a call was placed to Millbrook High School’s Coordinator of Student Activities Chris Garber. Garber responded to the question, ‘Would you be willing to play Sherando if they moved to triple A’ with an enthusiastic, “Oh, definitely!” But, Edwards continued to be unsatisfied with the idea that Sherando could still have the opportunity to play their rivals. He insisted that ticket sales would drop drastically and the number of fans would fall even for local games because,
“[the rivalry schools] wouldn’t be competing with one another for a district championship” Edwards argued.

Rather than continue to barter with assumptions and projections, this debate needed a past example, and we got one.

One high school in a nearby county went through the transition from double A to triple A roughly five years ago. Their Activities Director spoke candidly about the change. He stated the reason a school would not want to make the move is simple, “Triple A is more competitive. You’re going to do better in double A.” So, is it actually about winning?

The coordinator agreed that it is also a scheduling hassle when you have to change around all the teams you play and sometimes you may be placed with a team that is at a great distance. A conversation with another member of the athletic staff at this same school touched on gate sales. Their county had a very similar history of rivalry among their neighboring double A high schools. Those games brought in huge gate sales every time. But when they went to triple A did all of that diminish or at least lose some of its luster? The athletic staffer answered, “Absolutely not. In fact, our two biggest rivalries are double A schools that we play non-district and they continue to produce our largest gate sales every year.”

If you would like to have your voice heard on this topic, the FCPS School Board has scheduled a community forum on this re-zoning issue for Thursday, Feb. 4th at 7pm in the Frederick County Public Schools Administration Building, 1415 Amherst Street, Winchester, Virginia. Anyone is welcome to attend this meeting and address this situation with the School Board.

Readers are encouraged to comment on this topic by emailing the author: angela@sherandotimes.com

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 2:09 am  Comments (1)  

FREE: The Early February edition of Warren County Report

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Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 2:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Victims identified in mass murder in Appomattox County

Law enforcement officials have charged Christopher B. Speight, 39, of Appomattox, Va., with one count of First Degree Murder involving the deaths of eight individuals. Speight was taken into custody at 7:10 a.m. Wednesday (Jan. 20, 2010) after surrendering to SWAT Team members. Further charges are pending against Speight.

The Mass Casualty Team with the Office of the State Medical Examiner and special agents with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation began processing the crime scene in the 3000 block of Snapps Mill Road/Route703 early this morning. Identifications of the victims have been confirmed and next of kin have been notified. The following eight victims have been identified as:

Ronald I. Scruggs II, 16, of Dillwyn, Va.
Emily A. Quarles, 15, of Appomattox, Va.
Karen Quarles, 43, of Appomattox, Va.
Jonathan L. Quarles, 43, of Appomattox, Va.
Dwayne S. Sipe, 38, of Appomattox, Va.
Lauralee Sipe, 38, of Appomattox, Va.
Joshua Sipe, 4, of Appomattox, Va.
Morgan L. Dobyns, 15, of Appomattox, Va.

All of the victims were transported to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke where cause of death will be determined.

Speight was acquainted with the victims and he had lived at the residence where the murders took place. He co-owns the residence and owns land adjacent to the residence.

Speight is being held in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Lynchburg with no bond. No arraignment date has been set. Speight’s motives remain under investigation.

State and local law enforcement are securing the area through the night and crime scene technicians will be back at the scene tomorrow for further processing.

From a release.

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Law enforcement canvassing Appomattox County murder scene for evidence and victim recovery

Charges are pending against an Appomattox County man being investigated for the deaths of eight individuals. Christopher B. Speight, 39, of Appomattox, Va., was taken into custody at approximately 7:10 a.m. Wednesday (Jan. 20, 2010) after surrendering to SWAT Team members assigned to the security perimeter. Speight is cooperating with investigators.

Speight remained confined within the established law-enforcement security perimeter the entire time of the search operation. He managed to conceal himself overnight in the wooded area and then turned himself in to authorities at daybreak. At the time of surrender, Speight was wearing a bulletproof vest and did not have a weapon in his possession.

Virginia State Police crime scene technicians are currently processing the scene in the 3000 block of Snapps Mill Road/Route 703, as well as the wooded area within the secured perimeter. Bomb technicians and explosives-detection canines are also on scene to detect and render safe any potential incendiary devices. Based on information gleaned during the course of the investigation, there is a probability of explosive devices being found outside and inside the residence.

The Office of the State Medical Examiner has dispatched it Mass Casualty Team out of Roanoke to assist with victim recovery and identification, examination and cause of death. Once identifications of the victims are confirmed, their next of kin will be notified.

Speight’s motives remain under investigation. Charges are pending. The Appomattox Sheriff’s Office has consulted with the Office of the Appomattox County Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Speight was acquainted with the victims and he had lived at the residence where the murders took place. He co-owns the residence, as well as owns land adjacent to the residence.

More than 150 personnel from the Appomattox County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office, Farmville Police, Lynchburg Police Department, Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, Amherst County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Police, Virginia National Guard, Holliday Lake State Park Rangers, and ATF were involved in the search and recovery of the suspect.

From a release.

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 11:15 am  Leave a Comment  

SEARCH CONTINUES FOR SUSPECT IN MASS MURDER IN APPOMATTOX COUNTY

UPDATE: Suspect surrenders, charges pending

From the Virginia State Police:

State and local law enforcement continue their search efforts Tuesday night (Jan. 19, 2010) in Appomattox County for a gunman responsible for killing eight people earlier in the day. More than 100 deputies, officers and state troopers will continue working through the night to locate and apprehend the armed subject.

The incident began at 12:02 p.m. Tuesday when the Appomattox County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call about a male subject lying in the middle of Route 703/Snapps Mill Road and in need of medical assistance. When the deputy sheriff arrived in the 3000 block of Snapps Mill Road, he heard gunfire in the immediate area. The male subject was transported by Med-Flight State Police helicopter to Lynchburg General Hospital, where the man later died.

As additional units responded, a search perimeter was set up in a wooded area within the vicinity of Snapps Mill Road and Route 613/Police Tower Road. Further investigation by law enforcement yielded the discovery of four additional bodies outside a nearby residence and three bodies inside the residence. Among the deceased are males and females. One residence near the search perimeter has been evacuated as a precautionary measure.

A possible suspect has been identified as Christopher B. Speight [rhymes with SPITE], 39, of Appomattox, Va. Authorities are also trying to locate two vehicles that belong to Speight. One is a tan 1997 Ford Escort LX. The second vehicle is a green 1996 Ford F-150 pickup truck. Anyone with information pertaining to Speight or these vehicles is encouraged to call the Virginia State Police Appomattox Division at 434-352-3419 or the Appomattox County Sheriff’s Office at 434-352-8251. Anonymous calls are welcome.

During the course of the search Tuesday afternoon, a State Police helicopter was shot by the suspect. The helicopter was struck at least four times. The Trooper-Pilot was able to make an emergency landing in a field near the scene.

Resources from the Appomattox County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office, Farmville Police, Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, Amherst County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Police, Virginia National Guard and ATF are on scene and coordinating search and investigative efforts. No law enforcement personnel have been injured during the course.

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 12:57 am  Comments (1)  

The Sherando Times: January 20 – 26, 2010

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Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 11:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Athey keeps high-profile committee assignments in Richmond

Delegate Clifford L. Clay Athey, Jr. (R-18) announced a number of committee re-appointments today, joining a handful of senior legislators who serve on four Standing Committees in the House of Delegates.

Athey was re-appointed yesterday to serve as Vice-Chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee for the Virginia House of Delegates. In his role as Vice-Chairman, Athey will also serve as Chairman of the Civil Law Subcommittee of the Courts Committee. The Civil Law Subcommittee oversees proposed civil legislation affecting the Virginia Court System. The House Courts of Justice Committee hears over sixty percent of all the bills introduced in any legislative session and recommends all the appointments to vacancies in the Virginia Judiciary.

Athey was also re-appointed to the House Education Committee where he will serve as Chairman of the Students and Day Care Sub-Committee and he was re-appointed as Chairman of the House Policy Committee.

Athey’s other committee assignments include a re-appointment to the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee which oversees all laws relating to health care in Virginia as well as re-appointment to the Militia, Police, and Public Safety Committee which oversees law enforcement agencies throughout the commonwealth.

A member since 2002, Athey represents Warren County and parts of Fauquier and Frederick counties.

Information from a release.

Published in: on January 14, 2010 at 9:57 am  Leave a Comment  

The Sherando Times: January 13 – 19, 2010

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Published in: on January 12, 2010 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

FREE: The Mid January edition of Warren County Report

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Published in: on January 7, 2010 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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