For the past two months, in addition to highlighting academics at each month’s meeting, the Rappahannock County School Board has presented a Community Partner in Action award to recognize and thank citizens for their assistance in bettering the county schools.
At Tuesday’s meeting (Nov. 12), superintendent Donna Matthews presented the award to Rappahannock Sheriff Connie C. Smith, in recognition of her efforts to help improve school safety.
“Sheriff Connie has been our hero,” Matthews said.
Smith has been heavily involved in improving the school system’s safety measures in recent months, Matthews said. In addition to new locks on all the classroom doors, the high school has implemented a buzzer system whereby visitors must be “buzzed in” through the main door before entering, though some technical difficulties are still being sorted out with the system.
In particular, Smith worked to provide a school safety workshop, “Violence in the Workplace/Active Shooter Training,” to the staff on Oct. 24. The program, written by Lt. Bryant Arrington, under the direction of the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office, was presented free of charge, Matthews said, thanks to Smith’s connections.
Matthews said the four-hour program offered crisis training to all school system staff — bus personnel, central office staff, school staff and cafeteria staff, and was a great asset in boosting responsiveness to a potential crisis.
“We thank Sheriff Connie for her dedication to provide training and support for our teachers and staff, as well as her dedication and direction for safe schools,” Matthews said.
Last month’s recipient was well-known Rappahannocker Hal Hunter, who, among an ever-growing list of impressive community-service deeds, was honored for his role in establishing the elementary school’s BackPack Program.
Hunter’s program provides easy-to-prepare weekend food for children who qualify for free school lunches, and has quickly grown from offering nutritious snacks to kindergartners through second-graders to serving students up to fifth grade.
Hunter delivers the food every Friday to the Old Washington School, where the eight members of the high school’s service learning class quickly pack the food and deliver it outside the teachers’ doors. Foods supplied are healthy items that children can easily open and prepare for themselves, such as instant oatmeal, pop-top canned vegetables and boxed juices.
Hunter is no stranger to volunteering, as he also founded the county’s Conservation Alliance, Plant-a-Row program and the Food Pantry it spawned. He’s no stranger to awards, either, having received the Rappahannock News’ Citizen of the Year award (along with his wife, Beverly) in 2009, among many others.
“The school division wishes to thank him for his consistent dedication to our schools and his eager involvement to support education for students at Rappahannock County Schools.”