The Rapp for Aug. 24

Fourth Estate Friday

Time once again to brainstorm with Rappahannock News staff — 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 25, at the Country Cafe in Washington. This will be the final Fourth (Estate) Friday gathering of the summer, and there certainly has been plenty of news to discuss (so much for the lazy Dog Days of August).

Not only is the coffee (and assorted breakfast treats) on our dime, it’s a great way to get to know the faces behind the bylines.

PIO opening

Shannon Grimsley, the new superintendent of Rappahannock County Public Schools, has announced that her office is accepting applications, through Sept. 4, for the school system’s new position of Public Relations and Digital Communications Officer.

“I would love to have some applicants with press and communications experience,” Grimsley tells the Rappahannock News, including retired journalists who might desire a part-time position — “about 20 to 25 hours per week.”.

Complete position details and responsibilities have been posted to the school system’s online employment page, under “certified openings.”

Among numerous other duties, the PR rep “will serve as a liaison between the school division and the media; respond to issues related to emergency situations both during and after normal operating hours for the purpose of receiving and conveying information; [and] provide training to division staff related to community relations and how to interact with the media.”

Editor’s note: The creation of such a position was recommended in a Rappahannock News editorial earlier this summer. We applaud the school system for bringing it to fruition.

To Charlottesville

Dr. Gary R. Blair, who until June 30 was interim Rappahannock County Schools Superintendent — including during a difficult period beginning in April when two students threatened to attack their high school on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre — is bound for Charlottesville.

“It is with a heavy heart that I deliver news that Dr. Blair will be leaving our RCPS family for new stomping grounds . . . where he has been offered a position to help with some unique and pressing challenges with a long-time colleague,” Superintendent Shannon Grimsley wrote in a staff memo on Tuesday. “I am very thankful for all that he has done for us, both in HR (human resources) and as our interim superintendent. He is a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I have learned so much from him.”

Before becoming interim, Dr. Blair was the school system’s director of Human Resources. Grimsley tells the News her team “is ready to take on additional duties” and she will not be posting to fill the position.

Camp Fantastic

For 35 years, the Rappahannock Lions Club and other volunteers from the county have hosted Camp Fantastic’s weeklong series of events for kids with terminal cancer (half of the 30 volunteers from the Lions Club are shown here).

By Don Audette

In total, county volunteers provided and prepared a record breaking 300 meals for the kids, medical staff, visitors, and Camp Fantastic volunteers.

“Each year it is like magic when the kids arrive to eat what they want, sing and dance to a small band, shout with glee, and share camaraderie amongst themselves,” says Lion Don Audette. “And then, as twilight descends, they leave for their quarters with rich memories of a truly remarkable moment in time.”

Rare horse dies

Maja, a 13-year-old Przewalski’s (cha-VAL-skee) horse, was recently euthanized at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute near Chester Gap. Maja began showing signs of illness Aug. 11 and during the following days stopped eating and had difficulty standing and walking.

Courtesy photo
Maja, an endangered 13-year-old Przewalski’s horse, was recently euthanized at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. She had given birth to a colt in May.

Because of her rapidly declining condition, lack of response to treatment and care, and laboratory tests that supported renal failure, veterinarians and keepers elected to humanely euthanize her. A full necropsy report will be completed in four to six weeks.

Maja actually gave birth to a colt, Zygmund, on May 9. Fortunately by the time of Maja’s death the colt had already started eating solids. Anne, another experienced mother and “easy-going female,” was chosen to provide companionship for Zygmund. Anne is also Maja’s daughter and Zygmund’s half-sister. The two are said to be doing well together.

Maja moved to the facility in 2007 from the Stuttgart Zoo in Germany based on a breeding recommendation. She gave birth to three foals: Anne born in 2008, Batu born in 2013 and Zygmund.

All of the Przewalski’s horses (the last species of horse that has never been domesticated) alive today are descended from 14 founding individuals. The species was extinct in the wild in 1969. Today, as the result of reintroduction efforts, a population of about 500 horses live in the wild in Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

Chemical trim

For any motorists who might have wondered what the tall swath of spraying was all about along Rappahannock’s highways of late, we received an answer from VDOT’s communications manager, Stacy Londrey.

“The purpose is to keep brush and tree limbs from encroaching into the travel way, which can reduce visibility as well as damage vehicles,” she says.

“In Rappahannock, we are using krenite,” says Londrey. “As with all of our chemicals, it is specifically approved by the EPA for highway use and is rated with a very low toxicity. Instead of causing the leaves to ‘brown out’ right away, krenite is a bud inhibitor. It prevents new buds from forming and putting out leaves next spring, which kills only the branches sprayed.

“This is a major advantage of krenite; we can target the branches up to 12 feet above the road without doing any damage to the rest of the tree. This fall, there will be no unsightly browning, just a little yellowing that blends in with the fall foliage.”

When conditions are hot, as they were this past week, the spray equipment is adjusted to produce larger droplets to reduce effects of evaporation.

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The Rappahannock News welcomes contributions from any and all members of the community. Email news and photos to editor@rappnews.com or call us at 540-675-3338.

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