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Biscuit complaints bring Warner to Ridgeview Middle School

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Virginia Senator Mark Warner (right) talks with seventh-grade teachers Portia Fletcher (left) and April Hay and his way into Ridgeview Middle School in Dickenson County Monday. Warner's stop at the school was the second of five stops on the first day of a three-day tour of Southwest and Southside Virginia.

CLINTWOOD, Va. - It was complaints about bad biscuits that brought Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) to Ridgeview Middle School Monday.

Last school year, Ridgeview seventh-grade teachers April Hay and Portia Fletcher noticed their teenage students were not eating breakfast.

“Especially boys, when they are not eating, something is wrong. I started questioning them about why they were not eating and they said, ‘Well, we don’t really like it,’” Hay said. “It was whole wheat instead of the white wheat, and they were just not eating it.”

The director of food services suggested Hay write a letter to the senator about the issue. Hay took the suggestion a step further and worked with Fletcher to turn petitioning the government for better biscuits into a writing assignment.

“We went through the writing process to learn how to write a letter,” Hay said. “We sent those to the senator and I got a call one day from Richmond about it.”

Senator Warner’s office said Warner had seen and read the letters and wanted to help. The first response came last year in the form of breakfast from Hardee’s for the class from Warner. Then representatives from Warner’s office said the senator wanted to come meet the students in person about their project.

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“We thought maybe we would get a nice letter or something from the senator,” Hay a teacher for 25 years said. “We never expected this much. This has been the highlight of our careers.”

So on the first day of the school year for Dickenson County, Warner met with the now eighth-grade class to say hello and answer questions, including a query asking if he has any aspirations beyond being a U.S. senator, which would be a run for president. After explaining he felt like he was in a good place to get things done for Virginia as senator, Warner did not reveal any potential presidential run to the auditorium full of eighth graders.

“I’m not sure that is in my future,” Warner said. “I don’t think it probably is in my future.”

Warner also met with area school superintendents and county officials discussing a variety of topics such as broadband access, mental health assistance for students and the issues surrounding teacher shortages.

Warner said he fears the recent controversies surrounding school boards would dissuade citizens from running for office leaving seats vacant in the future.

“I can’t think of a job that’s got less perks or upside and more grief. School board members have always been citizens who care about their community and I just worry that sometimes people’s anger and frustration have gotten so awful at some of these school board meetings around the country that people will just say, ‘I’m done,’ and that would be a huge loss not just to our education system, but to our democracy,” Warner said.

Bristol Virginia Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Perrigan was one of the local school officials in attendance at the event. He said Warner has always been a big supporter of the public school system.

“Senator Warner, even back when he was governor, has always been a huge supporter of public education,” Perrigan said. “Obviously, at the federal level he doesn’t have the same opportunities that he did when he was governor, but he is always willing to listen and willing try to find a solution.”

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