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January 2012

The Greater Raleigh Court Civic League

R a l e i g h C o u r t — A H i s t o r I C A L N E I G H B O R H O O D L O O K I N G F O R WA R D

Roanoke Schools: We Just Can’t Blink by Susan Koch

“You deserve a wonderful school system,” announced Roanoke City Public Schools Superintendent Rita Bishop at the November Greater Raleigh Court Civic League meeting. “It will keep real estate values up and help the economy.” Dr. Bishop was joined by School Board Chairman David Carson in reporting on significant progress towards creating that “wonderful school system.” The progress has been so noticeable that a school system once called “a drop out factory,” according to Carson, is now attracting new students. When the system was rezoned several years ago and schools such as Raleigh Court Elementary were closed, a consultant predicted a significant decline in the school population. That hasn’t happened. In fact, the city schools now have about 500 more students than the consultant anticipated just a few years ago.

Inside This Issue

President’s Message..................................................... 3 Lighten Up............................................................... 4 Communication Services.........................................4-5 Big Dog.................................................................... 5 Cafe2- One Stop Shop................................................ 6 Roanoke Schools (continued from page 1).................... 7 The Lively Arts - Scenes from Our Parade.................8-9 Our Common Denominator...............................12-13

Carson reported a turnaround on many fronts. Several years ago, only about 50% of the schools were accredited by the state; now 100% are, even though the standards are rising. Pass rates for 3rd, 5th, and 8th graders on reading and math tests have risen from 50 to 60% in 2005 to over 80% in 2010. He also cited the graduation and completion index, This a weighted index used by the state as part of the accreditation process. It evaluates schools based on students in a graduating class receiving regular degrees, GEDs, certificates of completion and those still in school. It has jumped 15%, to over 80% in just five years. ... continued on page 7

Meeting Announcement Our first meeting of the New Year, on Thursday, January 12, will feature two speakers. Diana Christopulos of the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition will present Lighten Up: Changing Rules and Changing Light Bulbs, a hands-on and educational program about the myriad home lighting choices available in stores. Marla Robertson with Lead Safe Roanoke will also talk about lead hazards and funding programs available for lead remediation in our homes. We hope to see you at 7 pm at the Raleigh Court Child Development Center.

Greater Raleigh Court Civic League Officers 2010-2011 OFFICERS President: Chad Braby Vice-President: Jake Gilmer Treasurer: Ruth Dickerson Recording Secretary: Cassandra Van Hyning Corresponding Secretary: Vacant

Directors at Large:

Mary Dykstra Immediate Past President: Susan Koch

COMMITTEE CHAIRS: Membership: Martha Graves Adopt-a-Highway: Kurt Navratil Brook Dickson

Matt Pritts

Neighborhood Affairs

Martha Graves

Program: Mary Dykstra

Parke Loesel Ellen Brown

Committee: Vacant

Newsletter: Ellen Brown Special Projects: Tony Stavola Greenways: Mike Urbanski Building Management: Bobby Hartman Grandin Road Merchants Liaison: Vacant Web & Social Media: Jake Gilmer

The Court Reporter is published by the Greater Raleigh Court Civic League five Melissa Morgan times a year on or about the first week of September, November, January, March, Dawn Werness and 10:18 May. AM Page 1 Project2 8/3/11

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From the President A Lucky Star “Mav, you must’ve soloed under a lucky star” is a line from one of my favorite movies of my 80’s youth. Maverick, our hero in the film Top Gun, seemingly trips backward into a series of fortunate circumstances and earns the comment that he may have gained his fighter pilot wings under some divine guidance. I’m beginning to feel like Maverick. While a bedroom scene with an uber-hot astrophysicist flight instructor probably isn’t in the cards for me, there’s definitely a lucky star overlooking my life when it comes to our local early childhood and public education systems. When my wife and I moved to the neighborhood in 2004, we were childless. Schools were a factor in our decision on where to buy, but, for me, were still an abstract consideration. One month later, abstraction turned the corner toward reality with Shelley pregnant with our first child. The search for day care and preschools came first. Generally speaking, we were disappointed with what we saw in Virginia early childhood education. Having spent four years in North Carolina, our southern neighbor seemed light-years ahead of Virginia in support and funding for early childhood initiatives, and it showed in the quality of the facilities we visited.

Carson when they addressed the Civic League in November, there are a lot of positive changes happening in our schools (for more detail on this, please read Susan Koch’s piece in this month’s Court Reporter). So why all the angst? Why are folks moving away to enroll their kids in better schools? Here’s the secret; they’re not. As Mr. Carson reported in November, enrollment across the fifth-to-sixth grade category has actually increased in recent years, meaning more kids are showing up to attend RCPS’ middle schools than attended the elementary school the previous year. I strongly believe that the biggest problem in our City schools is one of perception. The facts tell the real story. Our schools are strong and getting stronger, and over time the facts will overcome the perception. So next time you hear a neighbor grousing about our schools, take a minute to spread a positive word. Thank your lucky stars, Roanoke City schools are second to none. See you around the neighborhood.

We also hadn’t been in the neighborhood long when we started hearing stories about Roanoke City’s K-12 system. “You don’t want to go to such-and-such elementary school” and “We’re moving so our kids won’t have to go to that middle school” seemed to be the prevailing sentiments. And let’s be honest; at some point in the past ten years you’ve all probably heard a friend or neighbor say something similar. Fast forward a few years. Our younger daughter, age four, is in a preschool here in the neighborhood, and we couldn’t be happier with the education she’s getting. Early childhood centers across the Valley are undergoing evaluation, training, and accreditation. I wrote about this in some detail a few months ago so I won’t go into the detail again, but, briefly, Virginia’s new Star Quality Initiative and its mentoring programs are paying dividends for our young children. Our older daughter is in first grade at a local public elementary school, and, so far, we love the facilities, teachers and school system leadership, and the overall education our daughter is receiving. As we heard from RCPS Superintendent Dr. Rita Bishop and Board Chairman David

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1322 Grandin Rd 982-2022

Communication Services

Internet options Cell phone services can now include internet access, as well as traditional calling and texting. Text messaging costs only a few extra dollars a month, allowing an entire family to stay in touch easily. We all know that kids would rather text than call.

What’s best for me? By Robert Turcotte Robert Turcotte is a life-long Roanoke resident. His contributions to the area are numerous. He has worked primarily to strengthen neighborhoods and schools, and to provide housing for the working poor. His contributions to the Greater Raleigh Court area include two years as President of the GRCCL. He continues to run the holiday parade. His professional career buying and selling technology dates from the 1970s. He is currently a Senior Systems Consultant at Entre Computer Center. Is it time to review your internet and phone service? Confused? It’s no secret; the number of ways to buy these services is exploding. As well, folks are using services in new ways, which adds to the complexity of choosing. This article will introduce you to options, open your mind to new possibilities and suggest resources. There are so many choices, and they are changing so quickly, that this is simply a starting point, however. Bundling can save you a bundle “It’s all about bundling,” my friend Christi says. She recently changed her service after looking into getting phone, internet and television from a single provider. Her new choice saved almost $500 a year. Internet speeds are slower, but she likes the television channels better. Christi’s family isn’t a heavy internet user and doesn’t use streaming services like Netflix. Saving money made sense for her in exchange for slower internet speeds. There are two options for bundles that include television, internet, and phone service. At, you can select one of the standard bundles or build your own combination. If you need the fastest internet speeds, this is the way to go. Bundles start at $90 per month. has residential bundles that can include phone, DSL internet and Direct TV. Bundles start at $65 monthly. From time to time, promotions that include free installation or discounts may make a decision easier. If you’re happy with the service you get now, but have found better pricing or features elsewhere, call your provider to see if they have a customer retention discount. You may need to sign a new contract.

Eliminate the landline for additional savings. According to CBS News, one-quarter of people own only a cell phone, not a landline phone. If your home number is important to keep, you can transfer your landline number to a wireless phone. This alone can save hundreds of dollars a year. When it’s time to talk, many plans allow you to call from your phone to another phone using the same provider without using your minutes. Calling after certain times of the day can be free. Business professionals often require mobile access to the internet and email along with cell phone service. Today’s technology makes this easy and relatively inexpensive. Some folks are replacing their laptops with less expensive tablets such as the iPad because of the small size and great features. Free applications like Dropbox allow you to synchronize files between devices while you’re on the go. Teamviewer will let you access another computer and modify files remotely. It s also free. Easy email access makes tablets a practical choice for the professional or the consumer. Tablets combine the ability to connect using a built-in cellular internet access card or a wireless connection, making this alternative a must for those who need connectivity and convenience. You may find software that’s free or free to try at Editors’ ratings at the site make selection easier. A young college student needs an easy way to stay in touch with Mom and Dad. Students also need internet access. Wireless Providers offer data packages that start at around $30 a month when added to a typical cellular minutes plan. Most college campuses are wifi enabled. This allows students to use tablet computers or Smartphones to surf the web free, sharing the school’s internet connection. Applications can help lower cost. GroupMe provides free internet based texting for your Smartphone, without taking away from your allotted text package. If your life style is mobile, consider using your cell phone provider for a wider range of services. Mobile broadband is a service that connects users to the internet wirelessly. A 4G wifi device is a little bigger than a credit card. It works with your internet connected phone to emit a hi-speed internet signal that allows up to 8 devices to connect at once. This is called a “hot-spot.” Some phones can provide a hot-spot on their own. Be aware that cellular internet usage is measured. There are limits on the number of megabytes you can use in a month without being charged extra. Providers now notify

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users who near these limits. Be sure you know how to check in! Applications like DataMan can help monitor usage. Alternately, some folks use a USB cable to “tether” their cell phone to their computer. This gives the computer access to the internet using the phones high speed cellular internet connection. Connecting in Roanoke Roanoke is lucky to have 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) services from some cellular providers, including Verizon. The latest in faster internet speeds is called 4G (4th Generation). Before the 4G service started, users could surf the web at approx. 1.5 Mbps/sec (3G). Now download speeds run as high as 12 to 15 Mbps/sec. This new option gives consumers a high speed internet service that will compete with Cox and Verizon. Be sure that your device is 4G capable to gain the additional speed. Wireless internet is available from at least two local companies: and B2x. They send signals from local antennas. This option is often used when fee-based land line and cellular options are hard to find. If you’re looking for public internet access, there are several places in our corner of the world. Community Inn and CUPS offer wireless hot spots. Close by, Panera Bread, Barnes and Noble, Star Bucks, McDonalds’, Szechuan Restaurant, and several local hotels are just a few of the businesses offering free wifi services. Pricing and bundles vary wildly. Be sure to shop for the services you need using a combination of the internet and local businesses. For cellular products, I find the folks at the Verizon stores at Towers Shopping Mall and on Franklin Road near Home Depot to be especially helpful.

The sculpture that Raleigh Court residents affectionately nicknamed “Big Dog” will be staying in his spot by the firehouse. The Civic League has partnered with Neighborhood Services and the city’s public arts program to purchase the friendly neighborhood mascot. Local artist Ann Glover created the dog, officially called “Trojan Dog” as part of the city’s temporary arts program. This innovative program is funded by a 1% contribution from various city construction projects. It rents art and places the pieces around the city for 18 months, then the artworks are returned to their creators. A sculpture of a fish-swallowing bird, called “Second Chances,” previously stood in front of the fire station on Memorial. Trojan Dog was slated for replacement this summer. However, many Raleigh Court residents wanted to keep him. A big, friendly canine, he seems perfect to guard the fire station and keep a watchful eye on the kids up the street at Virginia Heights Elementary and across the road at Tarpley Park. With the help of Bob Clement, Roanoke’s Neighborhood Services Coordinator, the Civic League was able to re-purpose a neighborhood grant to pay for part of the purchase price. Susan Jennings, Roanoke’s Arts and Culture Coordinator, and the Arts Commission and City Council agreed to fund the rest of the purchase. Unfortunately, because Trojan Dog was constructed as a temporary artwork, he wasn’t made to withstand the elements as a permanent piece would. The plan to make him a permanent neighborhood mascot was almost derailed. However, creator Ann Glover was enthusiastic about the project and began exploring materials and construction techniques that would last longer than the current wooden dog. Glover found a local company that can make a new spotted dog out of long-lasting fiber glass. So later this year we’ll have a new dog to guard the neighborhood. And we expect he’ll be wearing the #7 tag—for Raleigh Court Firehouse #7—on his collar.

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Cafe²: A One-stop Shop

his MBA through the Executive Program at the Wake Forest University School of Business where his studies focused on sustainability economics, the intersection of public policy and business, and global strategic business management.

Cafe²: A One-stop Shop for Home Energy Upgrades Homeowners…here is some good news for you! You might be able to dramatically improve your home’s energy efficiency thanks to a newly created Community Alliance for Energy Efficiency (cafe²).

Cafe² is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Christiansburg based Community Housing Partners (CHP), as part of a Better Buildings Initiative (administered by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME) and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.

Cafe² is a non-profit program and one-stop shop for what to do, who to call, and how to pay for home energy upgrades. The organization was established in 2011 to lead an energy efficiency home improvement program with the City of Roanoke and the Town of Blacksburg.

For more information about the program, contact Gregg Lewis at 540-260-3494 or

for Home Energy Upgrades

Cafe²’s mission is to promote energy and cost savings, local economic development and environmental stewardship. It provides educational programs for homeowners, prequalifying and certifying home energy assessors and contractors, performing third-party quality assurance for energy improvement measures, and promoting available financial incentive programs to pay for energy upgrades. Director Gregg Lewis has an impressive background. He was one of Virginia’s first LEED Accredited Professionals and a leader in the effort to form the southwest Virginia U.S. Green Building Chapter. He was also a founding board member of a regional nonprofit working with government and business leaders to develop strategies to mitigate the risks of climate change. And there is more. He orchestrated the internationally acclaimed C2C Home Competition in 2004 where more than 1,000 architects from 41 countries and teams from 88 universities worldwide participated. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. As for his education, Lewis has his Masters of Architecture from Yale University and recently completed page 6

... continued from page 1

Success for a Wide Range of Students “We need to focus on all levels of our kids,” Carson reminded the audience. He reported a huge jump in Advanced Placement exams taken by Roanoke students— from 430 in 2005 to 1170 in 2010. There has also been an enormous increase in students receiving career and technical education certificates—from 38 to 441 in just five years. Carson finds this significant, since “88% of the available jobs in the Roanoke Valley require only a two year degree.” Participation in extracurricular activities is also surging, with over 50% of middle and high school students participating in athletics or arts related programs. Patrick Henry has 25 different athletic programs, and is racking up many championships. Carson is particularly excited about the Community College Access Program with Virginia Western. Roanoke is one of only two school divisions in Virginia offering its students free tuition at a community college if they meet certain minimum standards. Thanks to agreements Virginia Western has with colleges around the state, successful students can transfer to four-year colleges to complete their bachelor’s degrees, saving a significant amount of money on their college educations. While Superintendent Bishop is pleased with the progress in our schools, she says, “You just can’t blink.” She is constantly looking for ways to improve the schools. One is her Reach Down/Raise Up initiative to find very young students who are struggling and to begin coaching them. A personal initiative is to identify ninth graders who have failed two or more classes and to intervene rapidly. She cites failure in ninth grade as a high predictor of dropping out.

Roanoke Schools Highlights • Graduation and Completion Index (2011): 83% • Schools Accredited: 100%

Bishop also addressed some disturbances this fall at James Madison Middle School. She announced that the principal asked to be reassigned, and a new principal was already named and planning an open house for the community. As a result of closing several schools and the growth in the school population, Bishop reported that every school is at 85 to 90% capacity. At the same time, schools have greatly reduced the use of trailers for classrooms. “Public education is an investment,” says Bishop. “There has to be a return on that investment.” Under the leadership of Carson and Bishop, Roanoke’s investment is producing growing returns on many fronts. They both agreed that the successes are under reported, and urged the audience to share the dramatic turnaround story. Remarking on that turnaround, Greg Brock, Raleigh Court resident and former GRCCL director, recounted the concern he and his neighbors had about sending their kids to Roanoke City public schools. “After much deliberation and research, we all collectively opted for the public school system, sending our first, (then second) to Wasena Elementary. Our experience was so incredibly positive on so many levels that we feel it is one of the best kept secrets in the Roanoke Valley. “However, as our first born began 5th grade, the dialogue started again - and this time with more concern and angst due to rumors, the media, etc.,” continued Brock. “And once again, research, feedback, and common sense ruled, and we watched our son (and his friends) head out the door to their first day at James Madison Middle School. “Much like our elementary experience, we have been extremely pleased not only with the caliber of teachers, but also with how much our son is enjoying his middle school experience. The leadership of Dr. Rita Bishop, David Carson and the school board have done a phenomenal job of rolling their sleeves up and going to work to improve and provide energy to a school system that we are really becoming proud of.”

• Number of Advanced Placement & IB tests 2005: 430 tests 2010: 1170 • Number of career & technical education certificates: 2005: 38 certificates 2010: 441 page 7

The Lively Arts - Scenes from Our Parade by Kara Daffas

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•Aeration •Mowing •Mulching • Tr i m m i n g S h r u b s • Tr e e W o r k

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Our Common Denominator…Civic Mindedness By Ellen Apperson Brown

Who doesn’t love a parade? Kara Duffus, Court Photographer, has captured the excitement and wonder of our annual holiday celebration – of the children, dogs, clowns, marching bands, and silly costumes. Robert Turcotte, who has been running this event for many years, and Susan Stump, who organizes it, can take credit for another fabulous success. By some magical process, scores of organizations (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, retail stores, non-profits, school bands, baton twirlers, and clowns), mostly perennial favorites, all showed up, lined up, played music, honked their horns, and carried their banners down Grandin Road, culminating in the arrival of Santa in his sleigh (red fire truck). The Greater Raleigh Court Civic League cannot take much credit for the Grandin Village parade. All we are asked to do is to direct a little traffic. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the Grandin Village Business Association. Sometimes people ask me about the Civic League, posing questions such as “What do we do?” “Who belongs?” and “What are the benefits of membership?” My usual response has been to talk about parades, block parties, membership meetings, educational grants, art projects, and my pet project, the bi-monthly newsletter. Since we are having our annual membership drive (see announcement), perhaps now would be a good time to try and articulate a more thoughtful response. “What do we do?” We provide an organizational framework that allows us to publish newsletters, schedule public forums

and membership meetings, apply for grants, partner with other groups and organizations, initiate volunteer projects (cleaning up parks and green ways, etc.), and serve as advocates for schools and the arts. If you would like to help build our community, you might be interested in offering your time and talents to this good cause. We need thoughtful and resourceful people to offer to serve on the board and take responsibility for the operations of the league. “Who belongs?” The membership mailing list now has about 350 names, including individuals, couples, and businesses, and we’d love to see that number grow. After all, new memberships would add revenue to the budget. We’d like to increase the readership, and attract more advertisers, too. Perhaps the key to attracting new members might come through an expansion of our website…with the addition of more content that is timely and relevant. Is there anyone out there interested in helping us make more effective use of social media? Jake Gilmer conducted a survey last summer and asked some of these same questions. One interesting statistic that emerged from his questionnaire had to do with home ownership. All of the respondents owned homes, with only one lone exception, someone living in a rental apartment. Maybe we could do more to attract renters, and other demographics that are underrepresented. “What are the benefits of membership?” I can speak to this from my own experience. Since joining this organization, I have felt welcomed into a cadre of articulate, professional, and compassionate individuals. They have allowed me to take on a very responsible, challenging, and creative assignment (the newsletter). We are all eager to recruit others to join and have a similar positive experience. If you have talents that ... continued on page 13

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have gone unnoticed or underutilized, perhaps you should consider getting involved. You could serve on a committee, help serve hot dogs at the block party, write an article for the newsletter, or become our web-master‌whatever it is that you can do! Common denominator‌ Are you someone who loves a parade, cares about children, parks, and public art, and who is eager to learn (or teach others) about saving energy or the latest technologies? It sounds as though you are just the sort of new member we are looking for. Or, if you have already joined, help us recruit a few neighbors from the block where you live. Special thanks to the members who have contributed significantly to this issue: Chad Braby, Susan Koch, Jake Gilmer, Robert Turcotte, and Kara Duffus.

1504 Grandin Road 1504 Grandin Road (next to the Pure Station) (next to the Pure Station)

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Lighten Up Many people long for the good ol’ days. The problem is, those days weren’t necessarily better. We have a tendency to neglect the negative and romanticize the positive. Thus, the good ol’ days. Often, those days were simpler. Such is the case with the light bulb. In the ol’ days, the only home lighting choice was the incandescent bulb. Simple, but not good. Edison’s bulb, unchanged for a century, dispels most of its energy to heat instead of its intended use, light. Then came the compact fluorescent, or CFL. These are available in a wide variety of looks and profiles, and put out most of their energy to light and very little to heat. The newest lighting choice is LED, still more efficient than CFL. If you take a trip to Home Depot to buy bulbs, you’ll find an aisle stacked with all three bulbs, in differing light output, light appearance and life expectancy. And most of us still think in terms of watts when bulb brightness is actually measured in lumens. Not simple, not good. But help is on the way. A new label, similar to a food label, will soon be on every bulb package available. The label will list the bulb brightness in lumens, the energy consumed in watts, and the light appearance in warm or cool. More help is on the way from your Greater Raleigh Court Civic League. We are an affiliate of the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition, a group dedicated to tackling the global warming problem. RVCCC has a new program that helps simplify the headache inducing task of buying home lighting. One of the group’s founders, Diana Christopulos, will bring the program to our next meeting on January 12 at 7 pm. It’s a very hands-on and informative conversation, making the lighting choice simple and good.

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OutrageousRewards FOR THE WAY YOU BANK

Pizza • Calzones • Salad Bar Kid's Menu • Pasta Specials Appetizers • desserts Three 14" Cheese or Pepperoni Only $15.99 plus tax Open Tuesday through Sunday

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Research all the benefits of MyLifestyle Checking by visiting our website


1316 Grandin Road • Roanoke, VA 24015 • Also visit our new location at 4321 Brambleton Ave, Roanoke VA 24015 Phone: 540-904-5424 (Carry out only)

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Greater Raleigh Court Civic League P.O. Box 3092 Roanoke, VA 24015 Address Service Requested

Membership Form

q new member q renewing member

New members are welcome to join the Civic League at any time. Your mailing label shows when it’s time to renew your membership. You may pay your dues at the next membership meeting. Multiyear or life memberships are welcome! The Civic League is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization. Donations may be claimed as charitable deductions for tax purposes. Please mail your membership dues ($10 family, $15 business, or $100 life membership) or gifts to: GRCCL, P.O. Box 3092, Roanoke, VA 24015 Or go to and click on “JOIN US” to fill out a membership application online. Name Address

E-mail Address



Home Phone

Business Phone

Amount Enclosed I’d like to help out with:


Donation q in memory of q in honor of

GRCCL Newsletter 2012-01  
GRCCL Newsletter 2012-01  

Newsletter of the Greater Raleigh Court Civic League