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Burton keeps FHS legacy alive

After a full day of attending meetings, observing classrooms, and having conversations with students, Principal Clarence Burton is usually found running his four children to their various after-school activities or making a quick stop at Wal-Mart before going home. In fact, the well-being of his children drives his decisions as an educator. He evaluates every aspect of the school’s programs against the gold-standard of whether he would want his own child to be in that educational environment.

When he attended James Madison University, Burton majored in political science and secondary education; he even managed the JMU basketball team. After graduating college, he taught government, world history and U.S. history at his old high school, North Stafford High School, then at Douglass Alternative School in Loudoun County. After attending George Mason University for an educational leadership program he became an eighth grade dean at Simpson Middle School to gain some administrative experience before moving to Fauquier County to become an assistant principal at Kettle Run.

Burton says that he enjoys teaching government because he misses student interaction and thinks that current events make the class more engaged. He loves seeing students become passionate about taking certain points of views.

“I like seeing kids develop arguments without becoming disagreeable,” Burton said. “We’re all affected by government everyday, and it changes all the time.”

Burton says he likes both politics and sports because they correlate. There is always a scoreboard and a bigger goal than working for oneself.

“A lot of the time you have winners and losers, and in the end it doesn’t really matter,” Burton said. “They’re competitions; people try to do the best they can, and sometimes you learn more from when you lose than when you win.”

After becoming the principal in 2013, Burton spent his first year trying to get a feel for the school and its environment. He says that he’s still learning everyday and just hopes to make a difference in the students’ lives.

“This was a preexisting school, and I had to learn what the Romans do in Rome,” Burton said. “When you go into a new school, you have to be mindful of the traditions that are there and really immerse yourself in that. The majority of the staff was here before I was, so I had to learn their strengths and hear what they want; I had to develop trust from them through performance.”

His main goal for his students is to keep them safe and to hire quality teachers who will make an impression on the student body.

“Our staff feel so strongly about this place,” Burton said. “They could work at other places, but they choose to work here. I’m honored to be a part of that.”
One of his favorite aspects of being principal is experiencing the tradition and history that this school has within the community.

“People care about this school,” Burton said. “Our athletics booster club has many members that don’t have children in this school, haven’t in years, but they want to give back. That’s a responsibility, on one hand, because you mean so much to so many people, but it’s also very unique because you don’t find that everywhere.”

Although he can’t pinpoint only one favorite moment, Burton says that graduations are always a powerful part of the year because he loves seeing the joy of the students and parents.

“I’m really looking forward to this year’s graduation because it is the first class I’ve been with all years,” Burton said. “I was here when they were freshmen, and they had to suffer through my mistakes and continued learning curve.”

In the years to come, Burton hopes the school will offer more real life experiences to students to broaden their horizons before college.

“I think we’re going to have more internships; I see that exploding in the next five to 10 years,” Burton said. “[I see students] learning what they like, and more importantly, what they don’t like. I think the days of sitting at a desk and spitting facts back to a teacher are leaving us fast, but the days of using that information is where we’re headed.”

Seeing students succeed is Burton’s favorite part of being principal. Whether it’s as simple as getting a problem right in class or winning the state championship, he loves how much the students care about each other.

“The main part of the job is the students; you always learn things from them, the energy, the hope, the change. It’s not about the leader, it’s about the whole organization,” Burton said. “My philosophy of my classrooms is: ‘If it’s not good enough for my children, it’s not good enough for anyone’s child.’”

~erica gudino, editor-in-chief

FBLA members advance to nationals

featured image courtesy of karen chipman


Students of the two Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) teams, Entrepreneurship and Management Decision Making, placed first in regionals, and second at states. Senior Victoria Kroencke and junior Cate Boulter will be advancing to nationals in Atlanta, Georgia on June 29- July 3.
This is the first year marketing teacher Karen Chipman, has sponsored the FBLA teams, and she is impressed with their determination and success in competition.
“These kids are knocking it out of the park, they really are,” Chipman said. “I’m very happy with how well everyone has done so far.”
Sixteen students competed in the regional competition online, which consisted of a series of computerized tests. Eight students scored high enough to move on to states which were held in Reston, Virginia and featured two rounds of competition: tests and role-play.
“If you get a high enough test score then you move on to the role-play part of the competition. You get 20 minutes to read over a situation and prepare your response, and then you go into a room with judges for seven minutes,” Chipman said. “You tell the judges your problem and then the solution you came up with, and then they grade you on everything from your presentation to the way you’re dressed and how you speak.”
Of the eight students that went to states, four advanced to the role-play round. Seniors Tyler Deavers and Diana Mejia competed on the Entrepreneurship team and placed third in the role-play round. Kroencke and Boulter of the Management Decision Making team placed second in the role-play round and qualify to compete in the national competition.
“This was the first time we’ve competed in the role-play section with FBLA, and so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Kroencke said. “For the role-play we had to pretend like we were managers of a construction company, which was kind of scary, but we ended up actually doing really well.”
Chipman got the call that her Management Decision Making team would be moving on to nationals in the middle of prom.
“Ms. Chipman ran up to us during prom and told us that we had placed second and would be moving on to nationals,” Boulter said. “We were all so excited and also kind of shocked because we had been pretty nervous about what the judges had thought of our role-play.”
Students interested in business attend nationals from all over the country. It will be a new experience since this is the first time that Fauquier’s FBLA students will be competing in nationals.
“I’m excited to be there and meet other people that love business and want to pursue that,” Kroencke said. “It’s going to be cool to be around so many people that have the same interests as me.”
To help prepare for the competition Kroencke and Boulter practice often, and agree that it is the key to success during competitions.
“Going to Atlanta for nationals is going to be so much fun, especially because I love Georgia,” Boulter said. “Right now we are mostly just making sure that we are taking practice tests and going over possible role-play situations so that we really know our stuff come June 29.”

~emily armstrong, staff reporter

Students voice expectations for the future of Warrenton

warrenton logo

Students who would like a voice in Warrenton’s development have an opportunity to participate in a project concerning the 25-year comprehensive plan. Students have been asked to voice their favorite things about Warrenton today, and what they would like to see in 25 years, to help the planning council. The town of Warrenton wants students’ input because they will be the adults in Warrenton 25 years from now.

Art department head Charlene Root strongly believes that all students should participate in this opportunity. She is offering a service hour for all NHS members who complete a project.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea to get input from students who will or may be the residents of Warrenton 25 years from now in 2040 [so they] can say, ‘I had a voice in how Warrenton has changed or grown,’” Root said. “The possibility that some of our students’ thoughtful responses will actually impact the planning council is monumental. After all, this is a ‘once-in-25-years’ opportunity.”

Student can create a pair of postcards; the first postcard is about the student’s favorite thing about Warrenton now, and the second postcard is about what he or she would like to see in Warrenton in 2040. Each 5×7 postcard must contain a brief written message on the back.Postcard submissions can incorporate photos, collages, or drawings. Alternatively, students can write a brief essay describing how he or she wants Warrenton to be in 25 years.
Denise Harris, who works for the Warrenton Planning and Community Development Department, believes that students should submit their input because they will be the community leaders of tomorrow.

“Since the comprehensive plan is a vision of the entire community, it is important for everyone to have input and a voice,” Harris said. “You live here, you go to school here, you have an opinion of what you value, what works, and what you would like to see different. In 2040, your generation will help hold the decision-making reins of Warrenton. Therefore, you should have input now. Like voting, participating in your community’s conversation about its future is an important responsibility.”

The comprehensive plan is a long-range, guiding document for the town of Warrenton that helps prepare the community for the future by examining how the town will look, feel, and function in 25 years. Town budgets and capital improvement plans are based on the goals and objectives stated in the comprehensive plan.

“The students of Warrenton will jumpstart the public engagement process for the greater community,” Harris said. “Through your participation, you become an ambassador for the comprehensive plan update. There is an opportunity to inform your family, teachers, and neighbors this process is taking place and encourage them to participate in upcoming surveys and meetings.”

Students who are participating must complete all projects by April 22 and submit their work to their teachers, who will forward it to Amy Acors, the the social studies coordinator at the FCPS central office. The postcards and written submissions may be displayed on Main Street for people to enjoy. There is also a chance that some of the postcards will be turned into actual postcards and sold to the public.

~emma dixon, photography director

Grading policy change benefits students, promises consistency

Beginning in the 2016-17 school year, teachers will be required to round up to the next whole number if a student earns a grade of 89.5, 79.5, 69.5 or 59.5, to report grades in all classes using a 100 point scale. The policy was adopted in response to parents and teachers who objected to discrepancies between teachers who rounded and those who don’t.

Associate Superintendent for Instruction Sandra Mitchell drafted the new policy, and said that it does not remove teacher discretion in determining student grades.

“We received complaints about inconsistent final grading practices among teachers from parents, teachers, and teachers who are also parents. Dr. Jeck thought the concern was compelling enough to warrant putting a regulation in place,” Mitchell said. “Does this regulation obliterate all teacher discretion in grading? No way. I believe the most important teacher discretion actions exist in the instructional and assessment process.”

Some teachers prefer the discretion to round, based on a student’s effort and mastery. Other teachers prefer the new policy because it makes the decision on whether or not to round easier. Math teacher Ann Meyer doesn’t think rounding should be mandatory.

“I don’t think [the policy] should be mandatory because everyone has different standards. I use the rounding because my grading standards are so strict that I round to give the students an advantage,” Meyer said. “I understand the county wanting consistency, but I’d like for teachers to have more leeway.”

The county adopted a 10-point grading scale in 2009 that lowered an A from a 94 to a 90. Math teacher Laura Nix-Berg feels the rounding policy will make it even easier for students to get higher grades.

“The grading scale used to be more strenuous than it is now. With the policy, it is as if we are inflating the grades,” Nix-Berg said. “It’s almost as if it is setting them up, especially if they are going to college.”

Junior Alex Amirato sees advantages in the rounding policy and few disadvantages. To her, the half a point is not big enough to create a difference in the teacher’s grading or in the students’ work.

“The new policy won’t change anything,” Amirato said. “Students will still work hard for an A; if there is no risk, there is no reward.”

History teacher Ron Pfieffer does not have issues with the new policy because there are multiple ways a teacher can work in discretion by increasing the difficulty of the work, weighing participation grades more heavily, or giving the students more assignments.

“Consistency is the right thing to do. I can’t see a situation where a half a point difference will give a massively misleading idea,” Pfeiffer said. “There are more tools in a teacher’s tool box than just rounding.”
Pfeiffer also points out that the final letter grade tends to be extremely important to a student’s parents. In terms of college applications, the difference between letter grades is significant. If a student gets a rounded grade in one class, but not in another, the discrepancy upsets parents.

“Letter grades are very important to some parents,” Pfeiffer said. “To some, a letter grade is more important than the actual education.”

Most students welcome the new policy. The work load from classes can be stressful, so the new policy reduces stress. The half point isn’t seen as an unfair advantage, but rather as a consideration students deserve because of the work they have done.

Junior Erika Smith sees the new policy as a great opportunity for students. For example, students with a 69.5 could use the boost to a C. In the past, Smith has been on the verge of having all A’s, but one teacher, who refused to round, gave her the one B on her report card.

~nina quiles, staff reporter 

Motivational speaker influences students

Wes Moore, a motivational speaker, came to FHS on March 14 to speak about his journey from a troubled youth to become a White House fellow, a Rhodes scholar, and a decorated Army officer.

In 2010 he wrote the bestselling novel The Other Wes Moore, a true story of two boys with the same name, who grew up blocks away from each other, but whose lives took completely different turns; one is currently serving a life sentence for murder, while the other seeks to make a difference in the lives of young people.

Moore said the decisions that are made in our lives are just as important as the people in our lives who are helping us make those decisions.

“People are striving in the line of greatness [every day] and they don’t even know it,” Moore said. “There are Wes Moores that exist in every one of our communities and every one of our schools: People who might not look like this, might not speak like this or [who are] from another part of town or country. It’s about who we define as the others, and what we’re willing to do to make them feel a little less ‘othered.’”

The PATH foundation was responsible for bringing Wes Moore to FHS. Director of Communications Amy Petty said that his message that decisions can have such a lasting impact is important.

“As high school students, you’re faced with so many decisions, so many pressures,” Petty said. “The PATH Foundation hopes Wes will inspire students to give more weight to the choices they make, as well as gain an appreciation for how important is it to have the support of strong mentors.”

English teacher Cynthia Pryor said that Moore’s journey inspired her, and she loved the way he honored students’ questions and aspirations.

“He’s incredibly intelligent and articulate; but even more important, he’s compassionate. He demonstrated a head-heart connection that I think we should all aspire to,” Pryor said. “His life is a resounding affirmation that we can choose to walk in the light.”

One thing that Moore wants readers to take away from his book is the realization that the story is more than just about two kids who went in different directions.

“Whether you realize it or not, people are modeling themselves after you, and using [your voice] wisely is going to matter,” Moore said. “Who it is that we chose to stand up for will be the greatest definition that we have about whether or not we have lived up to our expectations.”

Freshman Aileena Slafter approached Moore after the presentation and told him how much he inspired her.

“It’s my dream in life for someone to come up to me and tell me how much I’ve inspired them,” Slafter said. “Coming from a variety of living situations that are not ideal, [it was reassuring] to know that someone who came from a place like that and worked themselves up can do something like that. It gave me an inspirational feeling that I can’t quite explain.”

~erica gudino, viewpoint director

Pride survey provides stats on mental health, drug use

infographic USELast fall, 4450 Fauquier County students in the seventh through 12th grades took the Pride Student Survey. Last administered in 2009 and sponsored by Fauquier County Public Schools (FCPS), Fauquier CADRE, and the Mental Health Association of Fauquier, the survey provides the School Board with statistics regarding student drug use, mental health, and safety issues.

Among the most salient findings of the survey was that, although overall drug use has gone down since 2009, students are beginning to do drugs at significantly younger ages, with the ages of first use being around 13 and 14 on average

“Whether it was alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana, what we’re seeing, statistically, is that over time the age of first use has dropped,” Assistant Superintendent  Frank Finn said. “It’s definitely younger than the last [Pride Survey], but that’s a national trend, as well.”

The survey revealed that 400 students are potentially addicted to substances, and 79 students tried heroin last year. In the past 30 days, 574 students reported using an illicit drug, with 202 of those students being seniors. Twelfth graders use drugs at a rate above the national average, with 4.5 percent of seniors admitting to using heroin, one in five using marijuana, and 20 percent smoking cigarettes.

“I am concerned to see that heroin use is occurring within our student population, especially given the lethality of the drug,” Finn said. “In addition, I’m still trying to figure out why substance use for 12th graders is so much higher than other grades.”

In senior Ella Wilmore’s opinion, drug use is a direct cause of students attempting to self-medicate mental health issues.

“I think kids are so stressed, depressed, anxious, and they don’t know what to do,” Wilmore said. “So they resort to the easiest thing, which is drugs and alcohol.”

A significant number of students report struggling with their mental health. Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed have felt depressed in the past year, and 272 students have thought about suicide.

Senior Bailey Jenkins isn’t surprised by the statistics.

“I’m surprised [the amount of students having suicidal thoughts] isn’t higher,” Jenkins said. “It seems like everyone I know has had these thoughts at one point. There’s so much stress and pressure in high school.”

Around 60 percent of students report schoolwork as being a major stress factor for them.

“Kids feel so unprepared for college and that stresses them out. When you’re taking core classes and each teacher gives you an hour of homework every day, that’s also stressful. Then there are tests, AP tests, SOLs, and midterms,” Wilmore said. “Being so stressed that kids are considering killing themselves is definitely a problem, and it isn’t always the students’ fault. I think there is some blame that needs to be put on society, and parents, and teachers, and adults as a whole. That’s something people should recognize and work on fixing.”

Sixteen percent of students said they wouldn’t talk to anyone if they were dealing with intense feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, or thoughts of self harm. Senior Genevieve Zitzmann believes students refuse to speak with teachers regarding personal problems because they fear their issues will be written off as “teenager problems,” and they believe they can resolve the dilemma better on their own.

“I think a lot of students feel it isn’t right for them to impose their personal problems on a teacher,” Zitzmann said. “There are more expectations [for a high school student]. You’re either treated like a child or adult, being patronized or held to super-high expectations.”
According to Finn, FCPS is working with CADRE and the Mental Health Association to hold a community meeting on April 29 to discuss the survey’s findings and formulate goals intended to help students with mental health and substance abuse.

“We know the stigma is the number one barrier to students seeking help,” Finn said. “So, we are going to develop goals focused on how to decrease the stigma in the community.”
Wilmore believes that, for students, schoolwork often takes precedence over their well-being and that advocating for mental health awareness may help.

“It’s a societal problem. I think it would be helpful to tell kids it’s okay that if they’re having a bad mental health day to take the day off, that they’re more important than their grades, and that they aren’t worthless if they are too depressed to go to school,” Wilmore said. “However, I know that no matter how bad I’m feeling, I won’t miss school because I don’t want to take exams that will make my stress worse.”

~lana heltzel, editor-in-chief

School Board compromises publications policy

In April, 2012, the Fauquier County policy manual was restructured and updated to make it easier to navigate online. As part of this restructuring, the policy governing student publications was also revised by Frank Finn, Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services, and School Board attorney Brad King. The revisions reinstated language that had previously been rejected in the December, 2009, student publication policy.

Under the language of the 2012 policy, school principals are the “editors” of all student publications and are responsible for “approving all publications in accordance with School Board policy and his judgement and discretion.” These revisions were made without the input or knowledge of the county’s publication advisors.

“The problem with the language in the 2012 policy is that editors make all the decisions about the paper’s contents, and those editors should be the students. A principal can censor a particular article in certain circumstances, but he or she shouldn’t say what topics can or can’t be written about,” Falconer advisor Marie Miller said. “Student journalists often report on and question decisions by school administrators. A principal should not be given authority to use a vague standard like ‘discretion’ to censor student articles about his or her policies.”

In the fall of 2009, the publications policy was revised to meet the needs of students to express their viewpoints and write about their school community under the protection of the First Amendment. This policy revision ensured that students avoided unprotected speech and operated within Supreme Court cases like Hazelwood and Tinker. During this process, input was obtained from all county publications advisors and principals. The 2012 publications policy was brought to attention during the controversy of censoring the FHS student newspaper, The Falconer. Because it was updated three years ago, Principal Clarence Burton was not involved in the revision process. However, he asserts that the 2012 revisions do not change his role of overseeing the school’s publications.

“It’s kind of like a filter system, if the faculty adviser feels there’s something that needs to be looked at,” Burton said. “I don’t see it as any change in the way we’ve gone about business in the almost three years that I’ve been here.”
However, according to Finn, prior review is necessary under the 2012 policy. Finn said the language in the December, 2009, publications policy was too weak, because it simply stated, “The school principal is responsible for all school publications.” The principal should be given absolute authority in student publications, according to Finn.

“One of the things I’m concerned about with that language [in the December, 2009, policy] is it’s a little vague. What does that really mean?” Finn said. “What authority does that grant him? Maybe the ‘editor’ is problematic, but maybe the policy that preceded it is problematic in the other extreme.”

Finn acknowledges that principals would have to engage in prior review in order to “approve” publications under the current policy.

“I think that’s part of the problem: how practical is it that a principal can read every article independently and go through it in detail and make editorial decisions?” Finn said. “I don’t think any principal has the where-with-all or the time to do that. The principal does not want or really need to have the responsibility of editorial control of the publication because that takes away all the uniqueness of a student publication. What they do need, though, is the explicit right to make decisions.”

According to Finn, the Supreme Court’s Hazelwood case gives schools the ability to limit or censor student publications for speech that is not consistent with the school’s educational mission. Hazelwood provided the rationale for the censorship of The Falconer’s article on dabbing when the principal found the article was not appropriate for its intended audience.

“What is frustrating is that the December, 2009, policy gave principals all the authority they need under existing case law and the First Amendment to censor student publications,” Miller said. “The ‘editor’ and ‘judgment and discretion’ language was specifically rejected when policy was adopted because it invited violations of students’ First Amendment rights.”

Finn is in the process of drafting proposed changes to the 2012 policy which will be circulated to the county’s publications advisers for comment. The revisions should be in place by the beginning of the 2015 fall term.

“If the word editor attached to the principal is problematic, then what other language can we construct that gives him that explicit authority, but doesn’t have to put him in the role of editor. That’s the essence of the struggle we’re having right now,” Finn said. “From my perspective what we’re trying to ensure is that the principal has decision over student-generated publication of any sort–articles, the yearbook–when there’s a specific issue that goes against the specific mission of the educational institution.”

For now, Burton will not engage in prior review of all publications; and will only look at material that may be controversial or disruptive to a school day.

“I don’t see working much differently than I have in the past. Mrs. Miller will bring me things she expects to be controversial or that I may need to look at. As of now I don’t see myself looking at everything–that’s not going to happen,” Burton said. “[The policy] is all in interpretation. I don’t interpret it that way. If I’m told to do that [prior review], then I guess I have to, but it’s not something I want to do. I trust Mrs. Miller’s judgment.”

Superintendent David Jeck asserts the 2012 policy’s specific language makes the policy stronger and better defines the purpose of school publications.

“The 2012 policy adds more specificity, which strengthens the policy,” Jeck said. “Student newspapers are not forums for the expression of free student speech. Student newspapers are a School Board approved component of the school division’s curriculum with an ‘…. intended purpose, as a supervised learning experience for journalism students’ (quoting Hazelwood). Likewise, the School Board maintains complete control over all approved curriculum.”

~SaraRose Martin, co editor-in-chief