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2017-11-16

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Virginia Home-Schoolers Top 40,000 for First Time

By Will Thomas, VCU Capital News Service

Alycia Wright, a Short Pump resident, used to have her own classroom where each day she taught dozens of middle-school students. That all changed after Wright had her fourth child and decided to begin home-schooling her children.

“We tried it for a year, loved the freedom and we have not stopped,” she said.

A licensed middle school teacher for 12 years with a master’s degree, Wright initially made the switch to home schooling as a financial decision: It meant saving on private-school tuition for her two daughters. After experiencing a year in the home-schooling community, Wright was more than happy to continue home-schooling her children.

Wright’s children are among more than 1,000 home-schoolers in Henrico County, where the number of students being taught at home has risen 130 percent since 2006.

Home schooling involves more than just parents teaching students. Wright praises professionals from the community who are willing to teach her children and other home-schoolers.

“Our science teacher is a veterinarian,” Wright said. “The history teacher is actually the curator of the Virginia Historical Society.”

Last year, the number of home-schoolers in Virginia eclipsed 40,000 students for the first time – an increase of 50 percent in the past decade, according to newly released statistics from the Virginia Department of Education. The agency has been collecting and reporting data on the home education population since 1994.

If home-schoolers constituted a school division, it would be the seventh-largest district in the state.

“It’s become more commonplace, it used to be regarded as somewhat fringe,” said Karen Skelton, president of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers. The nonprofit group, which began in 1993, provides advice and other assistance to home-schooling families.

Skelton lives in Annandale in Northern Virginia. Both of her children are home-schooled graduates.

Skelton said that every month, she hears from families frustrated with their local schools. She believes this is a major reason why more Virginians are turning to home education.

“Customizing one's education to fit the learning style – to me, that has been the biggest (reason for the) increase,” Skelton said.

She said home schooling has grown in popularity nationwide with parents becoming more involved in their children’s education. “You learn together as a family, and you do more hands on things. People come to it with an idea of, ‘This could be a real positive experience and a new lifestyle.”

Another reason for the increase in home schooling is that parents want to provide hands-on help to their children who may have learning disabilities, said Yvonne Bunn, director of legislative affairs for the Home Educators Association of Virginia. That group was formed in 1983 – the first home education organization in Virginia.

Bunn said parents often approach her with questions about home schooling. “They ask me, ‘All right – give me the facts. Tell me what the outcomes are, and I want to make a choice that’s the best thing for my family.’”

Parents are especially concerned about their children’s academic success. Bunn tells them that home schooling produces excellent results.

“We have some of the highest levels of standardized achievement tests scores. Our kids are going to college; they are getting into universities with scholarships,” Bunn said.

Editor's Note: Homeschooling in Emporia-Greensville is down 38% from 2011.

Scams on the Rise, Dominion Energy Helping Customers Fight Back

  • Scams reports from customers rose 49 percent over last year
  • Customer education and awareness are best tactics to beat scammers
  • Dominion Energy offers tips to recognize scams and stay safe

RICHMOND, Va. – Utility scams are on the rise again in Virginia and across the country. Reports of scammers calling Dominion Energy customers threatening disconnection in exchange for immediate payment has increased by 49 percent since last year.

“Customers report that the caller ID on their phone says ‘Dominion’ when they are actually being contacted by a scammer,” said Marc Gaudette, director-Corporate Security, Safety & Healthat Dominion Energy. “They are told the power to their home or business will be cut within minutes if payment (usually via a pre-paid debit card or credit card) is not provided immediately. Customers are given a fake number to call for payment, and the recording is a copy of Dominion Energy’s own phone greeting.”

Dominion Energy reminds customers that it doesn’t do business this way.

“We never threaten customers with immediate disconnection when they are behind on their bills,” said Charlene Whitfield, vice-president-Customer Service at Dominion Energy. “We contact customers by phone or in writing multiple times to work out a payment plan before disconnection occurs. The payment plan never requires payment within an hour or less.”

Dominion Energy is working with local and federal law enforcement as well as other energy companies and utilities to monitor these scams. The best defense against scams is education and awareness. This year alone, nationwide scams awareness and education has resulted in the shutdown of more than 500 bogus phone numbers.

Dominion Energy does not:

  • Use aggressive threats to disconnect service (usually within an hour or less)
  • Insist on immediate payment, over the phone
  • Request a pre-paid card to be used for payment over the phone

But customers can protect themselves and their community by remembering:

  • Never purchase a pre-paid card to avoid shut off— we will not insist on just one type of payment. You can pay in-person at a designated payment center (locations listed here) or through your online account. All payment options available are listed here.
  • Verify what you’re being told about your account.Hang up and call us at 866-DOM-HELP to confirm whether or not a payment is due, not any other number.
  • Collect information from the scammer, such as phone numbers or names, to help us and law enforcement track and spread the word to customers. 

For more information about protecting yourself against scams, visit https://www.dominionenergy.com/scams.

Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center Announces September & October 2017 Employees of the Month

Emporia, VA – Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) is pleased to announce the September and October 2017 Employees of the Month: Robin Duncan and Jakai Barnes. These employees are nominated for demonstrating excellence in one of ten Standards of Behavior. As Employees of the Month, they each received a certificate of recognition, balloons, cookies to share with co-workers and a cash prize.

 

September

Nominated for demonstrating excellence in Sense of Ownership, September’s Employee of the Month, Robin Duncan, RN works in SVRMC’s Emergency Department. Ms. Duncan’s nomination included the following statement:  “Robin takes responsibility for all tasks assigned to her and ensures they are completed accurately and thoroughly.   She often takes charge of difficult situations without any hesitation, making sure that she does so in the best interest of the patient and the facility.   She is actively involved in the community and promotes SVRMC in a positive manner.  We are lucky to have Robin on our team.”

 

October

Nominated for the All-Star Award, highlighting several Standards of Behavior: Responsiveness, Attitude, and Commitment to Co-Workers, October’s Employee of the Month, Jakai Barnes, works in SVRMC’s Patient Access Department. Ms. Barnes’ nomination included the following statement:  “In addition to Jakai’s daily role as Insurance Verification Clerk, she steps in as PBX Operator, ED registrar, Outpatient Registrar, and Centralized Scheduler, as necessary.  She has the ability to wear many hats and takes pride in her work. She has a strong commitment to her co-workers as she is always willing to adjust her schedule for the needs of the department while maintaining a smile and a positive attitude.  She is an asset not only to the department, but also to SVRMC. “

Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center (SVRMC) is an 80-bed, acute-care facility located at 727 N. Main Street in Emporia, VA. With a medical staff of more than 70 physicians representing over 25 specialties, SVRMC serves nearly 50,000 residents in Emporia and the surrounding communities. The medical center is conveniently located near Interstate 95, Hwy 58 and Hwy 301. For more information about SVRMC and the services it provides, please visit SVRMC.com.

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