Building for the future

Warren County Superintendent of Schools L. Gregory Drescher stands at an adjustable keyboard in his office. Among his plans for the new school year is the hope of implementing a health and wellness initiative for students and staff. Josette Keelor/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — Sitting at an asymmetrical cherry wood table he built himself, new Warren County Public Schools Superintendent L. Gregory Drescher said he has some constructive plans for the future of the school system.

First, though, he would like input from the community — parents, teachers, students and anyone else who has a vested interest in the direction area schools might take in coming years.

“I know there are some things that we do great, and I also know some things that we’ll want to improve on. And I want to hear those,” he said.

“I’d like to kind of hear what they think would make our schools excellent,” he said. A planning survey posted at the school division website, http://www.wcps.k12.va.us, asks area residents what sort of changes they might like to see happen in schools.

Also hoping to reach individuals by phone, through social media or in person, he said he’s interested in learning if residents without children in the school system care about what goes on in schools, and, if so, how they acquire their information.

He said he hopes feedback from the community will give him greater insight into how he might help encourage greater communication between schools and the public.

Drescher became superintendent on July 1, following Pamela McInnis who served for the last 14 years — unusual since he said many superintendents don’t stay in the same job for that long.

Money and experience impact their choices, as does a change in School Board membership.

School Boards like to choose their own people, said Drescher, “which is understandable.”

Previously assistant superintendent for instruction since 2008, Drescher said he and the School Board already have a good working relationship.

“I feel very, very fortunate to have the School Board I have,” he said.

Though in a position to have a rejuvenating effect on the schools, Drescher said he doesn’t plan anything like an overhaul.

“The plans are based on building [on] what we already are doing,” he said.

He will make necessary improvements where possible, like at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School, which he said needs “a facelift.” Money for improvements might come from the sale of surplus property this summer or from any money left over from the new middle school building project, due to break ground this fall.

Drescher also plans a health and wellness initiative to span all staff positions and address physical wellness goals, as well as emotional and mental health goals.

“I think everybody wins,” he said. “Healthy people are happier, you know, you feel better when you’re healthy and ultimately we do our jobs better.”

The third part of the plan is helping staff members reach their financial goals.

“I believe we have a responsibility to help all of our staff understand personal finances, and what it means to come in as a 23-year-old and plan for when I’m 65 or 70,” he said. “So we’re going to focus on having ways to kind of educate our staff members. … If you start planning for retirement when you start working, chances are you’ll be able to retire.”

“That’s my initiative. My initiative is health,” said Drescher. “It also helps our kids, because the better, the healthier our workforce is, the better job they’ll do.”

Front Royal has an edge on other communities for helping its workforce improve its health and wellness, Drescher said. The town is where Skyline Drive begins, two forks of the Shenandoah River converge and the Appalachian Trail hikes through.

“We have lots of good opportunity here.”

<p id=’reporter_info’>Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or <a href=’mailto:jkeelor@nvdaily.com’>jkeelor@nvdaily.com</a></p>