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Brian Cannon Rallies Support for Richmond Public Schools By Kate Loveluck Staff Writer for the Richmond Association of REALTORS®

When former Hugenot High School history

and government teacher Brian Cannon looked with his wife, Kelly, to buy their first home, Westover Hills provided all the neighborhood characteristics and amenities they were looking for. “We wanted to live in the city, cause that matters to us, and the best bang for our buck was in Westover Hills,” Cannon explained. “This is the type of place where we would never have to move again and we could be really happy,” he added. After settling into the diverse neighborhood, Brian and Kelly began meeting neighbors in life stages similar to theirs (young childless couples just starting out), who also intended to stay in the neighborhood long-term. Eventually, conversations turned to future plans for child rearing and the neighbors discussed viable school options in the community. Brian, with his unique perspective formed through experience working in the Richmond City public school system, took the opportunity to add some insight to debates on public versus private schools.

Brian graduated from Byrd High School in Chesterfield County. His parents moved into the Byrd district from the Hugenot district around the time he became school-aged. “That was the high school I would’ve gone to, so it meant something for me to teach there,” Brian explained. “One of the things I was most surprised about [while teaching] was that the perception of Richmond public schools is like this ‘Dangerous Minds’ image, which is totally misplaced,” he said. “If it ever was like that, it’s not anymore. Richmond City schools aren’t as bad as people think they are, and poverty and low test scores aren’t contagious,” he added. While the discussions between neighbors continued, Brian observed that few of the neighborhood children actually attended the neighborhood school, Westover Hills Elementary. Eventually, Brian met Westover Hills resident Bryce Lyle—a Chesterfield County teacher also interested in advocating for Richmond City schools. “Bryce actually went to Westover Hills Elementary,” Brian said. “We like to joke that he ‘shockingly’ turned out just fine.”

Like Brian, Bryce was also interested in garnering more support for their neighborhood school. Several neighbors also took interest and joined them earlier this year in taking these discussions a step further by establishing a Facebook community called “Curious About Westover Hills” and hosting a party of the same name at the local Taza coffee shop. About 60 people attended the event, where the principal and several teachers from Westover Hills Elementary were available to join in discussions and answer questions. “It was a really pleasing turnout,” Brian remarked. “Since then, the ball has been rolling.” Brian has been impressed by the level of engagement he has seen on the “Curious About Westover Hills Elementary” Facebook community he helps facilitate, which now has over 200 members. In this forum, Brian and his neighbors have broadened discussions by adding a “Curious About Richmond Public Schools” page to encourage other Richmond residents to get involved in the school system.


“One of the things I was most surprised about [while teaching] was that the perception of Richmond public schools is like this ‘Dangerous Minds’ image, which is totally misplaced,” he said. “If it ever was like that, it’s not anymore. Richmond City schools aren’t as bad as people think they are, and poverty and low test scores aren’t contagious,” he added.


The ‘Curous About Westover Hills Elementary” community has begun contributing to online fundraisers for teachers’ projects. They have encouraged one another to participate in fundraisers for the school and provided support for one another while going through the process of enrolling their children in the Virginia Preschool Initiative program. Brian’s hope is that continued interest and involvement in the school will create a “domino” effect, getting more parents and residents involved, more students enrolled, and helping the school reach its full potential. “Our ultimate goal is for Westover Hills Elementary to look more like the entire neighborhood it represents,” he said. “We want to invest in the school, show up, and participate.” An asset Brian believes to be vital to a school’s quality is an excellent Principal—which he believes Westover Hills Elementary has in Virginia Loving. As he continues to help lead a new movement of Richmond residents—including young professionals like himself—engaging in the city’s public school system, Brian is hopeful that eventually the Westover Hills Elementary district will be bragged about by residents and sought after by home buyers. To join the “Curious About Westover Hills” Facebook Community, visit: and click “join group.”

COLLEGE-BOUND SENIORS The Rising Trend of University Based Retirement Communities By Kate Loveluck Staff Writer for the Richmond Association of REALTORS®


ccording to a press release published last December by the United States Census Bureau, the population of people in the country 65 and older is projected to grow to 20 percent of the overall population during the first half of this century. There is no question that a demographic shift skewed toward advanced age is happening—not just in the U.S., but all over the world. Andrew Carle, Executive-inResidence, Assistant Professor, and Founding Director of the Program in Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University states: “In the next three decades, individuals aged 65 and older will come to represent one of every five U.S. citizens and, more importantly, control more than half of all discretionary income. Their demographic and economic influence will extend to the farthest reaches of American society – from entertainment, to travel, food, retail, technology, and housing. By force of sheer volume, the young adults who in 1968 thought they would change the world, by 2028 actually will.” These demographic shifts coincide with trends like universities looking more to the private sector for supplemental funding through partnerships; increased interactivity and collaboration between universities and surrounding business communities; and significant increases in the participation of adults age 65 and older in educational activities. The later—commonly referred to as lifelong learning—has been linked in studies to greater physical and emotional wellbeing for participants, as well as

increased engagement within the community. In the midst of these intersecting patterns—which Andrew Carle refers to in a 2006 article published by Long-Term Living Magazine as a “near perfect storm”—there has been a rising trend of University Based Retirement Community (UBRC) establishments in the United States. Andrew estimates that more than 100 retirement communities, either formally or informally affiliated with a host academic institution, have either opened or gone into development since the concept first began coming into fruition in the early nineties. Examples of these communities include:

• Classic Residence by Hyatt at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California • Oak Hammock at University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida • Lasell Village at Lasell College, Newton, Massachusetts • The Village at Penn State, State College, Pennsylvania As UBRCs are a relatively new concept with a relatively small quantity of trailblazers, some have experienced major pitfalls. In an effort to provide a research-based framework to help ensure the success of these types of communities, George Mason University’s Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration has established a five-criteria model to define best approaches for the design and operation of URBCs.

This criteria includes: 1) A location within an accessible distance (preferably one mile or less) from core campus facilities, such as theaters, sports complexes, and classrooms; 2) Formalized programming that ensures integration between community residents and university students, faculty, and staff; 3) Inclusion of the full continuum of senior housing services, including independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and dementia care, as needed; 4) A documented financial relationship between the university and the senior housing provider; 5) Targeting and documentation that at least 10% of the community’s residents have some connection to the university; either as alumni, retired faculty, or staff (or family of the same). “Ultimately, the decision to add a retirement community to a campus environment must combine pragmatic business and design considerations with a commitment to maintaining the ‘school spirit’ so inherent to the model’s success. Done correctly, such communities represent a win-win scenario for all parties involved,” Carle states. It is exciting to envision future retirement living that more seamlessly integrates citizens with advanced knowledge and experience into the community. It is promising to see trends fueling a movement that will provide increased vibrancy to communities and increased fulfilment in the lives of seniors.

The Search for Housing in Coveted School Districts By Kate Loveluck Staff Writer for the Richmond Association of REALTORS®


are acutely aware that property values have a positive correlation with the quality and ratings of the surrounding school district. Given the recent local housing inventory shortages, properties in sought after school districts have been in increasingly high demand—particularly in the Glen Allen area of the Greater Richmond region. The average sales prices for homes in Henrico were highest last year in the high school districts of Deep Run, Freeman, Godwin, and Glen Allen. Sales prices were consistently the highest in the Deep Run district across a range of square footage between 1001 and 4000. Sales prices tend to be not only higher overall in these school districts over others in Henrico, but a higher price per square foot has also been observed. ®

REALTOR® David Hamil, an Associate Broker with Napier ERA, has both witnessed and experienced with clients what some would deem a “western Henrico school district frenzy.” “I had a listing a couple of months ago in the [new] Glen Allen High School district that sold

in three days,” Hamil said. “Buyers were waiting on the property to see it the day it went on the market,” he added. David also shared an account of an open house recently held by another REALTOR® in the Twin Hickory Elementary district, where buyers lined up outside, waiting to attend. This August, he completed a closing with buyers who had been looking for a home for a year before concluding their search—starting out searching in a broader area, and eventually narrowing the search exclusively to homes within the Shady Grove Elementary school district. As elementary schools tend to be the greatest in number, this was a much smaller area to search than a middle or high school district. David was informed about some redistricting on the horizon for Shady Grove Elementary and factored the coming changes into the MLS search he set up for his clients. David attributes part of the driving force behind the “frenzy” to the increasing popularity of school rating websites, such as and Another popular source for school rankings is an annual report published by U.S. News. Each source has its own system for ratings and/or rankings—but a common thread is average standardized test scores. School rankings can become hazy, as the information on which the ratings are based shifts to some degree each year (with new standardized test scores); these three major resources are updated at different times; and information and ratings from each source are presented in different ways. For instance—despite the recent hype over Shady Grove and Twin Hickory Elementary schools, the most recent information published on for the 2011-2012 school year ranks Nuckols Farm Elementary as the number 4 elementary school in the state—two notches above Shady Grove and Twin Hickory, which tied for the

number 6 spot. All three of these schools are rated a score of 10 out of 10 on On, Midlothian Middle School received the highest rank in the state, followed by Tomahawk Creek and Robious Middle (which also ranked in the top 10). All three of these schools are located in Chesterfield County. Interestingly, on, all three are rated an 8 or 9 out of 10. In the category of high schools on, Deep Run was outranked by Godwin High (in the number 5 spot), Open High in Richmond City (in the number 7 spot), and Chesterfield County’s Cosby and Henrico’s Freeman High (both tied in the number 12 spot). Each of these high schools received a rating of 9 out of 10 on—with the exception of Freeman High School, which is currently rated a 7.


School rankings can become hazy, as the information on which the ratings are based shifts to some degree each year...


Perhaps those vehement about getting their kids into the Deep Run High School district have given more weight to the U.S. News high school rankings, which were published this spring. The list was based on factors that included reading and math scores on state proficiency exams and college preparatory courses. According to this source, Deep Run ranked number 12 among other high schools in the state and number 265 among others in the nation. Also according to this source, Richmond Community High School—a City of Richmond public school, with a significantly smaller student to teacher ratio—was right up there with Deep Run in the number 13 spot at the state level, and ranking number 283 nationally. They both received a gold medal distinction from U.S. News. They were closely followed in the state high school rankings by Cosby High School, Open High School, Midlothian High School, and Godwin High School, respectively. Another interesting note about the average SAT scores among Henrico high schools: Deep Run High School has not earned the highest average (combined) score in the last three years. That position has been held by Godwin in 2010 and 2012, and Freeman in 2011.

The redistricting Hamil had to consider while working with his clients was due to the new Kaechele Elementary School on Pouncey Tract Road that is set to open this fall. “That was the first time I had ever drawn a school district [in the MLS], but since it was about to change, that was what I needed to do,” he explained. If the “frenzy” continues, it is a safe bet that it will not be the last map David draws. “I don’t think schools can be solely responsible for the success of students—that has more to do with the parents,” Hamil remarked. “But I encourage buyers to consider a school district as it relates to future buyer demand.”

THE GREEN SERIES CATCHING THE SUN IS CATCHING ON A Look at How Solar Energy is Captured and Applied By Guest Columnist, REALTOR® Tim Dunkum

Every morning, our planet rotates in a

manner that allows the sun “to rise” and start a new day for us. It also starts a new energy generating cycle that, if captured, can be transformed into heat and electricity. There is no energy resource more infinite than the sun; yet it has always been a secondary resource to fossil fuels in popularity. That trend is starting to change. In this article, we will explore the ways Solar Energy is being captured and used in today’s world. First, here is a brief overview of terms and the process that is taking place when the sun’s rays are converted into useful forms of energy: There are two main types of energy utilized by today’s solar energy consumers: thermal energy (heat) and electricity. Passive solar heating is something we are fairly familiar with in our daily lives. A building with the proper design can capture heat in the winter, but minimize the heat gain in the summer. Building materials, window placement, and shading structures are key elements in utilizing this heat in a variety of ways. Green houses are a very common use of passive solar; the glass causes the space to be warm and the house retains the heat, which allows plants to grow. Active systems capture the sun’s energy then convert it to useable energy. Mechanical devices are needed for this capture and conversion; the two most common are solar heat panels and photovoltaic panels. In a massive array called a Concentrating Solar Power Plant, solar panels are used to heat a liquid to a very high temperature. This heat is then circulated around water to cause steam; the steam turns a

turbine which creates electricity. This electricity is then fed into the grid; in the same way as power from a coal or nuclear power plant. On a smaller but more common scale, we see hot water panels on the roof handling a few different tasks within homes and businesses, providing water heating, space heating, or space cooling. Photovoltaic or PV panels are made from sand particles that are purified into polysilicon pieces which are then turned into a block of polycrystalline. Super thin layers are cut from this block of silicon to form the wafers that make up the individual cells. Many cells connected together form one module; typically multiple modules are installed together to form an array, which should generate the amount of power needed for each application. Electricity is created when the sun hits the cell, causing the electrons to separate from the atoms and flow through the cell material. This electricity is then sent through wires to a storage center or directly into use within the adjacent facility or in the municipality’s electric grid. PV technology is not new; however, it has recently made significant advances and is being utilized in many new and interesting ways. An excellent application for solar power is a solar generator. Working much the same as a gas powered generator, but with no noise, this equipment can be quickly set up when the power goes out. These systems are usually packaged in a rolling plastic box with different power receptacles on the side. They include a flexible or rigid PV panel, an inverter and battery; and are capable of providing power for a few lights, computers, cell phones, specially-made refrigerators and other household necessities. They are also easy to load up and take on a camping trip, or to a tailgating party. There are many applications for this type of portable power that needs no fuel, other than the sun—a resource which is in plentiful supply in most

PV technology is not new; however, it has recently made significant advances and is being utilized in many new and interesting ways. areas of the world. Keep your eyes open for other solar applications, such as: road signs, construction lighting, garden lights, street lights, solar cars, and more. The most common way to use solar energy remains the home or business solar PV array for electricity generation. Many of these systems are designed to feed power to the grid in exchange for credit toward the owner’s electric bill. Net metering is the term for the process in which the electric company determines a certain dollar amount per Kilowatt hour (kWh) that the energy sent to the grid is worth. Most electric meters record accurately in either direction; so when the solar system is generating more power than the home is consuming, the meter spins “backward.”

Think about the typical home and what happens during the day when the sun is at peak efficiency. Many homes are sitting empty using very little power. The system could be sending a significant amount of energy to the grid during these hours. Once all the occupants get home, the use swings the other way. With a medium size system on today’s average home, approximately 2/3 of the energy usage can be offset. Another application of home solar is to go off-grid or generate all the power a building needs for its intended use. It takes a fairly large array and a very energy-efficient home, but this can and is achieved regularly all over the world, with more and more projects starting up in the U.S. There is a company currently planning a solar village right here in Richmond. The plan is to build all the homes with solar arrays of an appropriate size, and offset about 75% of monthly power bills. These will be high-performance homes, built for today’s first and second time home buyers. Solar is not just for the wealthy anymore; it is becoming more mainstream. And with manufacturing costs decreasing, it should grow into a major supplier of our world’s energy needs.


Central Virginia Regional MLS is proud to introduce the new RVA Homes app. RVA Homes provides the most accurate, on-the-go access for REALTORS® and consumers to search homes, explore real-time listing details, view photos, conduct location-based searches with GPS, filter by a variety of criteria, and save and share results electronically.

NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD The new RVA Homes App allows users to: Search listings with the touch-sensitive “draw search” and retrieve listings in the drawn area on the map; utilize a GPS enabled device to find listings nearby; or search using an address, city, zip, or MLS#. Connect with an agent or client using the app’s messaging feature. Post favorite listings and share saved searches via Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, or email. Stop printing directions. With the one-touch maps function, agents and consumers enjoy the simplicity of guided directions straight to each listing. View properties on an interactive map (street, satellite, and hybrid). Filter searches by listing status, price, beds, baths, etc.

Visit the Apple or Google Play app store today to experience the speed, accuracy, and simplicity of this brand new mobile tool.

The Housing Interpreter: Education & Real Estate in Richmond (August 2013)  

In this issue: • Brian Cannon Rallies Support for Richmond Public Schools • The Search for Housing in Coveted School Districts • College-Bou...