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Students win big at Publication Champions

FREDERICKSBURG, VA — Five Falcons were named first place winners at the 2013 Virginia High School League Publication Championships on October 7.

The Falconer was well represented in the newspaper competition; Alumna Sophie Byvik (2013) placed first in the Straight News/News Feature for her piece, “Volunteers Coordinate Relief Efforts,” while Alumna Fiona McCarthy took home gold in the Feature: Human Interest/Personality. Alumna Sarah Thornton’s ad for Toslon’s Appliance Center ranked first, as did senior Natalie Smith’s submission in the Infographics/Secondary Packaging category.

“I didn’t expect to win at all,” Smith said. “The entry was a graph that compared the different costs of playing various school sports that I did to accompany a story my friend was doing. I’m really honored to place first in a state competition.”

Fauquier also placed first in the literary magazine category. Senior Abby Seitz’s photograph “Twists” received first place honors.

~Abby Seitz, managing editor


Superintendent Jeck delivers leadership, vision, strength, and a dose of humor

Superintendent David Jeck didn’t initially want to be an educator. He just wanted to play baseball. Specifically, he wanted to start for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, as he often says, sometimes opportunities just find you. The roots of Jeck’s own calling came in the form of educational mediocrity.

“I was motivated by a teacher who wasn’t very good,” Jeck said. “I hated that class. I’d go in every day, and he taught in such a way I remember thinking, ‘I can do it better than you.’”

Jeck grew up in Whittier, California, playing baseball, basketball, and listening to old Beatles LPs. Led Zeppelin, The English Beat, The Clash, and The Talking Heads can all be found in his record collection. He still plays guitar and restores old jukeboxes in his free time. He also enjoys cooking, something he picked up from his mother.

“I still have every LP I ever had when I was growing up,” Jeck said. “Reflecting back, my parents were all about the sports and being the best, but I wish I had spent some of the time I put into sports on playing an instrument. That’s something I’ve tried to do with my own kids.

Family Life
Jeck began his career as a history teacher in Nyak, New York, after a brief stint with communications in college. Jeck also coached baseball and basketball for about eight years. He and his wife of 24 years have moved around, but have lived in Virginia for the last 19 years, the past five in Greene County. They met when they were teaching at the same school. 

“I was actually engaged to someone else when I met her,” Jeck said. “About two weeks after we met, I broke off my engagement. It was love at first sight for sure.”

The Jecks have two sons. One is a senior at William Monroe High School in Greene County and the older son is enrolled in culinary school in Vermont. Jeck’s experience as an educator influenced him to focus his parenting on “soft skills.”

“My wife and I have tried to exemplify characteristics like caring for other people, being generous, kind, polite, and learning to deal with adversity,” Jeck said. “They’re going to get the academic piece because they’re being raised by educators. We’ve really tried to encourage them to be courteous, respectful of people, and focus on others before focusing on themselves.”

Jeck sees these skills as a crucial ingredient in the establishing of a student’s future success and happiness.

“The reality is when you go out looking for a job after you’re done with school, those attributes are going to matter to your employer,” Jeck said. “There’s plenty of smart people out there in the world that can’t get a job. You need to have those soft skills to have the ability to communicate with people and be honest.”

Administrative Career
Jeck’s first administrative job was as a middle school assistant principal in Louisa County.
“When I taught and coached, I never had any inkling that I would become an administrator,” Jeck said. “I was happy teaching and coaching, but sometimes fate intervenes. I think sometimes leadership opportunities just find you.”

Next, Jeck’s career went from high school principal, to the director of a regional technical education center, followed by assistant superintendent, and then eventually superintendent in Greene County. Jeck tries to channel the passion he had for teaching through his role as an administrator.

“My experience in education has been that sometimes people aspire to be administrators because they don’t want to be in the classroom anymore, and I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing,” Jeck said. “I enjoy working with kids. It’s still the best part of the job, even as a superintendent. That’s the way it should be.”

Jeck says that interacting with students is one the biggest challenges that comes with an administrative position.

“Getting out to the schools gets harder and harder, and it’s harder still in Fauquier,” Jeck said. “In my last school division we had six schools and 3,000 students in the entire division, so it was relatively easy. It’s more difficult the more schools you have, but to me there’s nothing more enjoyable than spending time with the students.”

Leadership Policy
Jeck is confident in his ability to overcome the challenges of being a superintendent, despite the pressure and responsibility that comes with it, and is determined to make decisions for the right reasons.

“It’s a difficult job, but if you’re grounded in the philosophy that you’re making choices to benefit students, then you’ll find pleasure in the job,” Jeck said. “Sometimes that’s not in the best interest of the adults, and sometimes the adults don’t like that. But I think that’s the way it should be, because ultimately we’re here for the students.”

Rather than exerting his individual authority, Jeck prefers to take a communal approach in his leadership.

“I like to be collaborative,” Jeck said. “I believe in a circular leadership style, not top down. I believe in ‘we’ vision, not ‘me’ vision.”

Assistant Superintendent Frank Finn has been working with Jeck since early May.

“I’m enjoying getting to know him,” Finn said. “He’s good at listening, and you can see him taking things in and observing people, trying to process what people are saying about FCPS. I haven’t found him quick to act or draw conclusions.”

Finn appreciates the way Jeck functions in the workplace and interacts with his employees.

“He’s got a great sense of humor and he enjoys people,” Finn said. “While he’s serious, he thinks when you’re working it should also be a positive experience. He has strong leadership qualities, and he is very genuine. People can connect to him, and that’s going to be good for the school division overall.”

Vision for the Future
Jeck’s primary vision for Fauquier County involves the STEM initiative, short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“STEM is an important initiative, not because I have a science background but because in the next four or five years that’s where the jobs are going to be,” Jeck said. “There’ll be eight million new STEM-related jobs by 2017.”

Jeck emphasizes the importance of preparing students with the job skills they will need as adults, while pushing education in a direction that allows students to develop left-brain skills and creativity.

“The whole concept of 21st century teaching and learning involves teaching things other than SOL standards, teaching some soft skills, and teaching kids how to work together in groups and problem solve,” Jeck said. “Because of the emphasis we’ve placed on accountability and testing, we’ve moved away from those things and we need to come back to them. Teachers in the school system want to be freed up to be more creative in the classroom, teach collaboration and project-based learning where you’re actually producing something.”

As for FHS, Jeck plans to observe and evaluate the concerns of students and faculty, rather than rush into his own personal initiatives.

“FHS has had enough change, given the new principal and building,” Jeck said. “I want to get input from others. Important decisions about direction and vision have to be made collaboratively. My vision as a leader is important, but ultimately the direction we go should be our vision, not just mine.”

Despite the pressure and responsibility he faces as a new superintendent, Jeck is confident that he’s up to the task.

“Taking a job like this is kind of like getting married,” Jeck said. “You’re never really ready to get married, but you just do. It’s not daunting, it’s exciting. It’s a challenge, and there’s lots of opportunity. It’s got its roadblocks, but the thing I love about Fauquier thus far has been that people want more for their students. They want to give more, and they want more opportunities for them. I think that’s key, and you don’t see that in a lot of places, so we need to take advantage of that.”

~Patrick Duggan, editor-in-chief

Brand new school, locked up tight

Along with the new building comes new security policies with one goal: keeping the students and staff of FHS safe.

Although a new state law went into effect this summer, requiring all school systems to have a crisis management plan, Fauquier County has been doing this for years, according to School Resource Officer Sergeant Sal Torelli.

“After Columbine we changed a lot of policies, so we’ve been doing crisis and threat assessments for awhile,” Torelli said.

However, security procedures have undergone a complete overhaul in the past year. Assistant Principal Kraig Kelican described this process as of the highest importance.

“What has happened over the last year is a panel of people – school system employees, emergency service personnel, and central office personnel – have revised our county-wide crisis management plan,” Kelican said, “It now covers the gambit of threat assessments and emergency situations.”
Threat assessment teams, made up of administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists, and resource officers, now meet once a month to predict and prevent emergencies, and identify threats to the school community.

According to Assistant Superintendent Frank Finn, new guidelines may cause what could be considered jokes, or perhaps anger-fueled nonsense, to be of concern to the school’s threat assessment team.

“Keep in mind that a lot of kids will say some dumb things, and it may not be a threat, but we have to look into every single thing,” Torelli said. “You’d be surprised the stuff we see on Facebook, and we sit down and talk about it, and the kid’s just having a bad day. They make comments that are out of frustration, but we still have to look into every single threat, regardless.”

Comments that could be interpreted as suicidal are red flags to threat assessment team members.

“We have our suicide risk assessment protocol so that we can identify students that might be struggling and thinking of self-harm,” Finn said. “We make an assessment of the situation and put measures in place with their parents to get them help.”

In terms of security measures specific to FHS, the school’s crisis management plan has been modified to fit the new building and the largely open campus. This includes designating specific plans for evacuation of handicapped or injured students during emergencies, which has become more difficult with the four-story new building.

“There are areas of refuge on our side stairwells [with] telephones that are directly linked to emergency services. So staff members, as they’re evacuating the rest of class, make sure that student gets to the area of refuge,” Kelican said. “We know that student is in the area of refuge because the teacher would report that to us right away. We also maintain a log of handicapped students, so we know where they are throughout the day. And there is also an emergency evacuation chair on both sides of the third floor.”

The new building is also outfitted with a video surveillance system that covers the majority of the campus and is connected to a central server that all administrators can access.

“Whenever we have a situation, we listen to each one of the students and get their versions, and in some cases we go to the video cameras,” Kelican said. “Typically we can see most of the campus, and we can even track somebody by the different cameras across the school.”

Administrators also have the ability to download film from bus cameras to enforce disciplinary action.

“We also have the capability with the new technology that if we have an incident on a bus, we notify transportation, and they’ll give us the bus number,” Kelican said. “We can download the film right here from the school.”

All of the components add up to a more structured and comprehensive plan to react to emergency situations, and bolster the school’s ability to predict and prevent threats from within. However, Finn insists a large part of the responsibility to keep the school safe falls on the students.

“I think that everybody has a vested interest in a school being safe,” Finn said. “There has to be some hope if the collective community sees something wrong, they’ll speak and bring it to the attention of the adults that have the authority to act and to get things addressed that are problematic.”

~Kerian McDonald, viewpoint director

School becomes tech saavy

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a county-wide policy that allows students to use their personal electronic devices at specific times and places during the school day. However, some students haven’t noticed a change.

“I used to use my phone anyway,” sophomore Ava Thorton said. “Now I can just be more open about it.”

Some students are not complaining about the policy.

“A lot of teachers still don’t let you [use personal devices]. I don’t feel like much has changed,” said senior Helena Wojcik. “It’s progress, though; a step forward.”

Assistant Superintendent Frank Finn helped develop the policy.

“The reality was our old discipline policy was outdated,” Finn said. “What was happening day-to-day in most of our schools was that students had devices and may have been using them in a covert fashion. To have this comprehensive ban on electronic devices, particularly technology devices that could add an educational value, just ceased to make sense; change was long overdue.”

The use of devices at school is regulated with green, red, and yellow zones. The cafeteria is a green zone. Students cannot use devices in the hallways during class changes because of safety issues and concerns about students being late to class. The classrooms are yellow zones, meaning the use of student devices is up to the teacher.

“Most of the math teachers are concerned that students are just using [BYOD] as an excuse to play on their phones,” math teacher Carol Hordusky said. “It’s a learning curve; I have mixed feelings. For my class, I see no use for it; for other classes I can see how they might.”

Some teachers envision using student devices to access interactive apps and the internet.

“I’m excited; it opens possibilities in the classroom setting,” English teacher Lindell Palmer said. “We say we teach for the future; educators tend to stick to the things we know and how we were raised. [The use of devices in the classroom] would prepare students for the world we actually live in.”

English teacher Cynthia Pryor feels it’s important that students without devices are not excluded from the learning experience.

“I think we have to consider how to make participation in BYOD equitable for all students,” Pryor said. “If some students can’t participate because they or their families have chosen to remain ‘unplugged’ then how do we make this opportunity accessible for them?”

Some feel that making students provide their own technology is unfair.

“The county needs to take responsibility and provide the resources for the students,” junior Evan Daly said. “They’re trying to get out of that responsibility by “letting” students bring their own devices.”

Teachers expressed concern about an increase in cheating. However, many students feel that if they want to cheat, they can, phone or no phone, and there are easier ways to do it, such as simply looking at a classmate’s work.

“I don’t cheat personally,” junior Will Griffin said. “But if I did, I would just write it on my thigh.”

Teachers can require students to turn off their phones and put them on their desks on test days. As the program progresses, Finn believes teachers will acquire instructional strategies to use the students’ devices.

“I believe in telling students what the expectations are and saying this is how we want you to use these devices,” Finn said.  “When you have an expectation that’s out there, the vast majority of students will meet that and respect that expectation.”

The increase in the number of devices accessing the school’s network has strained capacity, according to Todd Hickling, manager of information resources. Students who connect to the school’s network can be monitored and will be blocked from accessing prohibited sites.

“Regarding blocked sites, all BYOD’s that use school wireless to connect to the network will be filtered like any other device on the network,” Hickling said. “If a BYOD is using their phone provider’s service, such as Verizon, then they will not be filtered.  We can monitor the BYODs on the network, but we cannot monitor the BYODs when they are using their service provider.”

Like any new program, BYOD is expected to have some problems that need to be tweaked, but Finn is confident that students and faculty will recognize its value. As an added benefit, BYOD may reduce the amount of technology schools must purchase.

“I think it’s recognition of where our students live in other areas of their lives, and recognition that we shouldn’t exclude access to technology, particularly if it can help enhance education in the educational setting,” Finn said. “I think it’s time, and the value is there.”

~SaraRose Martin, features-arts director

Sixteen students named finalists in state publication championships

On August 7, the Virginia High School League announced the finalists in their annual Writing/Photo/Design Contest. Sixteen Fauquier High School students were named finalists in the publications championships.The contest welcomes submissions from all public Virginia high schools. Winners will be announced at the Jostens-VHSL Publications Championships in October. 

Group AA: Literary Magazine

  • Photograph
    Senior Abby Seitz, “Twists”
    Junior Haeley Waleska, “Mountain Lake”
  • Drawing
    Junior Jett Zopp, “Tree by Lake”
  • 3-D Art
    Alumnus Kyle West (2013), “Shattered”
  • Mixed Media
    Junior Ellie Avery, “Only Dancing”
  • Poetry Spread
    Junior Eryka Hackett, seniors Nicole Ward and Chris Perez, “No Place at All, Blossoming & A Tree for All Eternity”
    Alumnna Nicole Layton (2013) and junior Ellie Avery, “That Small Room & Only Dancing”

Group AA: Newspaper

  • Straight News/News Feature
    Alumna Sophie Byvik (2013), “Volunteers Coordinate Relief Efforts” and “School Meets New Principal”
  • Sports News
    Senior Abby Seitz, “The Hunger to Win”
  • Feature: Human Interest/Personality
    Alumna Fiona McCarthy (2013), “World Traveler Aspires to Treat Horses”
    Senior Patrick Duggan, “Hooker Hankers for Music”
  • Feature: In-depth/Informative
    Senior Abby Seitz, “School Sports Bring Long Term Consequences”
    Senior Jake Lunsford, “Eating Disorders Plague Teens”
  • Editorials
    Alumna Sophie Byvik (2013), “Poverty is Not Shameful”
  • Bylined Personal Column/Opinion
    Alumna Jordyn Elliot (2013), “Double Standards do Real Harm”
    Senior Abby Seitz, “Adolescent Mental Health System Needs Reform”
  • Review
    Senior Abby Seitz, “Visual Spectacle a Dazzling Adaptation”
  • Front Page Layout
    Alumna Sophie Byvik (2013), “Demolition of Main Hall Rolls On”
  • Advertising
    Alumna Sarah Thornton (2013), “Tolson Appliance”
  • Infographics/Secondary Packaging
    Senior Natalie Smith, “The Price to Pay”

~Abby Seitz, managing editor

School meets new principal

Clarence “Tripp” Burton, who will join the FHS community as principal on July 1, spoke to the faculty and staff for the first time on April 22. His short presentation emphasized the importance of tradition, accessibility, and relationship-building as the school enters its next transitional period.
“This is a high-achieving school with great students, great faculty, great community, and great tradition,” Burton said. “You feel it when you walk in. It means a lot to a lot of people; there’s a lot of graduates working in the town. I’m just honored and humbled to be selected for this position.”
According to Associate Superintendant for Instruction Sandra Mitchell, Burton was chosen for his leadership qualities and fresh perspective. However, Mitchell knew the appointment would be controversial since two FHS assistant principals, Kraig Kelican and Jim Raines, were also in the final round of interviews and were strongly supported by the school community.
“Mr. Burton is exceptional in leading projects and has a desire to build new relationships at FHS,” Mitchell said. “My heart breaks for those who are here, yet I do understand the decision.”
The announcement of Burton’s appointment resulted in a tense firestorm from students, teachers, and community members as people posted comments on Twitter in support of Kelican and Raines. Many faculty members felt that the surveys and interviews in which they expressed support for having an FHS assistant principal replace the retiring Roger Sites were ignored by the School Board office.
“I have an issue with presenting [the decision] as if we had a choice,” English teacher Lee Lorber said. “It’s part of our society to work hard and move up, and these two men have worked very hard to go forward in their careers. Because they are who they are, they will stay here and continue to do good work for the school, but it’s an insult.”
Spanish teacher Janice Hall expressed her frustration in a letter to the School Board that Kelican’s and Raines’ long careers at FHS appeared to be liabilities when they were considered for the position.
“I see the way [Mr. Raines and Mr. Kelican] work with students; they do it with such grace,” Hall said. “I wonder what [the School Board] think the message is to other people who work in the educational community. If the people you work for don’t recognize what it’s about, then you just kind of feel like a fool.”
While tensions have eased somewhat, some, like English teacher Robin Frost, remind colleagues to give Burton a chance.
“I’m keeping an open mind,” Frost said. “When he spoke at the faculty meeting, the thing that struck me most about him was that he acknowledged that there’s nothing to fix here. As long as he keeps that in mind when he’s making changes, I’m open.”
Frost believes that, in the past few years, accountability has become increasingly important to the school division, an emphasis that played a part in the decision to appoint Burton.
“Kettle Run seems to have gotten accountability under control through experimentation,” Frost said. “Hopefully, Mr. Burton has been on the trial and error side of things. He even said, will he make mistakes, but he’s willing to learn from them.”
Burton graduated from James Madison University with a degree in political science, and worked as a dean for Prince William and Loudon Counties before joining Kettle Run when it opened in 2008. He hopes to continue the student-teacher-administration dialogue built at Kettle Run as he joins the FHS community.
“I believe that our teachers and students feel comfortable coming to us and giving ideas,” Burton said. “I want people [at FHS] to feel comfortable coming to me with ideas. I’m talking about students, staff, parents, community members. If you have an idea or way to make our school better, I want to hear it because it doesn’t all come from the principal, and it shouldn’t.”
Building a network of trust also bolsters school safety, according to Burton.
“Part of keeping a school safe, too, is those relationships we have with kids,” Burton said. “[Students] are really the first line of defense because you guys tell us what’s going on. And I love preventing things more than I do reacting to things.”
Since the announcement, Principal Roger Sites, has worked closely with Burton to introduce him to the FHS environment.
“I’ve been meeting or talking with him almost daily to ensure we have a seamless transition,” Sites said. “We’re working together to make sure we do everything we can for the faculty, students, and FHS community.”
According to Kettle Run senior Maggie Swift, Burton does not shy away from enforcing school rules.
“He’ll definitely call you out in the hall if you’re breaking the dress code, but he’s fair about it,” Swift said. “He’ll [also] joke around and have conversations with you. He’s really nice.”
Burton stresses an educational environment that allows students to learn how they learn in order to prepare them for future learning, whether in the working world or higher education. And he expects to do a lot of learning as FHS principal.
“I’ve got a lot of listening and a lot of learning to do,” Burton said. “Like anything else, it takes time. Judge me not by what I say here today; judge me by what I do. I’m just here to help and serve. That being said, everyone here has treated me outstandingly – first class and professional. I can’t say enough about the way the present administration and everyone I’ve come into contact with has treated me.”

~Sophie Byvik, editor-in-chief

Festival celebrates horses, heritage

Tens of thousands of people will converge on Great Meadows, just outside of Warrenton, on May 4 for the Virginia Gold Cup Races, one of the biggest social and equestrian events of the year – and one popularly attended by FHS students.
“This is my first year going to Gold Cup,” senior Ryan Ranslem said. “I like dressing classy and I’m into horse racing. It’s also a good opportunity to hang out with friends… classily.”
This year’s Gold Cup will be the event’s 88th anniversary. Gold Cup began in 1922 as a single steeplechase race at an estate in Fauquier County. Now, the event consists of two steeplechase races, four hurdle and timber horses races, and a Jack Russell terrier race.
“It’s a really important race for local riders,” senior Samantha Bunn, an avid horse rider, said. “It has a lot of the big names in horses, and people look [at Gold Cup] to see which ones are doing well that season.”
The races are a big deal in the horse community because the event is nationally-renowned as a prestigious racing competition; both horses and jockeys must compete to be included in the lineup.
“It’s not just anyone who’s in it,” Bunn said. “There’s definitely more experienced riders who have been training all their lives for these kind of races. They have to qualify beforehand.”
Many of the 50,000 patrons that attend Gold Cup bet on the races, and some shell out upwards of $15,000 for a prime seat on the railside, but most spectators attend the event with a $90 car pass, available at Despite these sky-high prices, however, Gold Cup remains a popular event among students.
“I didn’t know about it [before this year]” Ranslem said. “I found out about it via social media. [I’m excited to go] because it’s an opportunity to act like an adult.”
If acting like an adult includes a formal dress code, then Gold Cup has it down. The event tells ticket-holders that “afternoon dress” is expected from patrons, with women typically wearing sundresses and hats (there is even a hat contest), and men wearing button-downs, khaki shorts, and bowties.
“Dressing classy is the best part,” Ranslem said. “I’m going to wear a bowtie and shorts and nothing else.”
Gold Cup is also one of the most controversial events of the year, at least for the under-21 crowd. Senior Aubrey Munoz, who has attended Gold Cup throughout high school, estimates that most of the 50,000 spectators that attend the event are drunk by the end of the day – including many underage students.
“Most people that go are a bit older, like middle-aged or in their 30s, but about 10 percent of the people there are high school and college kids,” Munoz said. “About 90 percent of those are drunk, and the only ones who aren’t are designated drivers.”
This poses a dangerous threat to drivers on the road when the gates close at 7 p.m., and the drunken crowds are forced to leave.
“Police officers don’t really account for all the drinking unless a person is belligerently drunk,” Munoz said. “So a lot of people will still be drunk and driving. The cops tend to ignore older people because I guess they think they’re more experienced, and they’re a lot more suspicious of kids.”
Munoz believes that this problem could easily be solved by organizing public transportation, instead of trying to convince people, both underage and legal, not to drink.
“I think there should be buses to come in and out to prevent drunk driving – for everyone,” Munoz said. “As long as people are safe, then [drinking] should be fine.”

~Fiona McCarthy, staff reporter