Tag Archives: Sugar Grove School

Sugar Grove Yearbook Collection Now Available

For the past few years, Sugar Grove School Alumni have found a small corner of the web on a private Facebook group where a variety of yearbooks, photos and other school related items have been shared and discussed. Our little group has flourished since its creation originating from a small but growing collection of school yearbooks. The group has digital copies of all published Sugar Grove High School yearbooks from 1949-1969 as well as most yearbooks from 1970 to present. Until now, these yearbooks were not available outside of the group except in their physical form at events or by appointment for private viewing.  Nonetheless, these yearbooks are a community resource that should be publicly available to anyone wishing to browse them.

Though the fact that there was a book scanner available for public use at Smyth Bland Regional Library–soon to be the Smyth County Public LIbrary–it only recently came to my attention. Hopefully these yearbooks will be digitally available on the S-B Digital Repository as well as through this website. The S-B site will feature searchable text while the Sugar Grove page here will just provide general browsing options.

Currently the available options are available under the COMMUNITY > ALUMNI GROUP drop down at the top of the page in our YEARBOOKS section.   As the available digital resources of this website grow, they will be further categorized and organized into sections for more efficient browsing.  If you have a yearbook to donate or lend to digitize please email SugarGroveVirginia@gmail.com

Over 100 Prizes Given Away at Sugar Grove School

Grand Prize winners of Sugar Grove School’s National Breakfast Week grand prize drawing. Dalton Ray and Kennedy Mattingly are the winners of the two bikes donated by Rowland Creek Church of the Brethren.

Students at Sugar Grove School participated in National Breakfast Week during the entire week. The program encourages children to begin each day with a healthy breakfast. Each student who participated had the chance to be entered into the daily drawing for one of the prizes. There were also multiple prize opportunities in the serving line for the students who picked up a “lucky tray” which was randomly pre-selected by the cafeteria staff before each group came through the line.

More than 100 prizes were given away this year during Breakfast week at Sugar Grove. According to cafeteria manager, Elizabeth Aker, this was the largest number of prizes in any year the school has participated. We would like to thank the Sugar Grove School Alumni Group for sponsoring the donation drive that brought in items for this cause as well as Rowland Creek Church of the Brethren for their generous donation of the two bikes and other items as well as those in the community and beyond who contributed in various ways to our program. It was the best yet. There was over 95% participation in National Breakfast Week from Sugar Grove School’s student body–there were even enough prizes to include our former students who still eat breakfast at Sugar Grove but attend school at Marion!

On March 10, 2017, the school gathered in the gym for the final grand prize drawing of the week. The large teddy bears, cash prizes and two bikes were the prizes on today’s list of giveaways. The bikes were won by Dalton Ray and Kennedy Mattingly. Dalton took his bike for a ride around the gym while Kennedy marveled at hers.

Box Tops for Education | Sugar Grove School

Box Tops For Education is a national program that benefits schools.  When you buy participating products at your local retailer and clip the box top logo, it is turned in to the school you support and exchanged for money that the school can put toward needed items.

Sugar Grove School is collecting box tops. The money we save doing this will go toward building up our school library’s selection of books.  A full listing of participating items can be found here along with fun collection sheets you can print and use. NOTE: You do not have to attach the box tops to the collection sheet to participate, you may simply clip them and deliver them to the school either by mail, by a student or in person at the office. (Mail to Sugar Grove School 242 Teas Road, Sugar Grove, VA 24375)

Please send them in each month as they do have an expiration date.

If you would like to follow the school’s progress, you can create a free login at http://www.boxtops4education.com Creating an account is not only free but it will let you watch our school’s progress and how we stack up against other participating area schools. Right now, this is where we stand among area schools, we are #27


Donation Drive Continues at Sugar Grove School

Donations for Sugar Grove School’s National Breakfast Week event are ONGOING!  This means that you can still be part of our community effort and the effort of the Sugar Grove School Alumni Group to make this a memorable event for our students.  Presently from now until the last week in February, the school cafeteria will be accepting donations of items to be used as giveaway incentives for the children to eat a healthy breakfast during the program.

Already, two bicycles have been donated to the school along with a selection of smaller items, these items were provided by the efforts of members of the alumni group. We are now challenging and inviting the community to also participate by selecting one or more items from the wish list to be shipped directly to the school cafeteria.  —WISH LIST HERE—  We are reaching out also to any churches or community organizations who would also like to contribute as well as the Sugar Grove School PTO.

If shopping local fits your schedule better, please feel free to do that too–simply drop off your items at the school office before the event.  For more information please see our page here.

History of Sugar Grove School Sold Out!

History of Sugar Grove SchoolLast August, 2016, Sugar Grove Alumni hosted a gathering at Sugar Grove School that was attended by approximately 200 people, all having ties to the school. A special alumni edition of “The History of Sugar Grove School” written by Sarah R. Combs especially for this event was part of the ticket price. Everyone who purchased a ticket received a copy of the book with the opportunity to purchase extra copies at a special price at the event.

The alumni edition copies have officially sold out! Only 195 copies were printed prior to the event for purchase. This makes the original alumni edition now a collector’s item. Recently, it’s been noticed that copies of the book have even turned up for sale listed on ebay for prices upward of $50 and some even outside the country! (who would have thought our school would be of interest internationally!)

Over the holidays, several made inquiry as to how they may obtain a copy for themselves. 2nd edition copies are available from Create Space, Amazon and Books A Million.

What’s the difference in 1st and 2nd edition copies? The 1st edition copy features a special Sugar Grove School Alumni page with green lettering in the front cover and the alumni logo. The 2nd edition features a title page with plain black & white lettering and no alumni logo. Only 195 “Alumni Edition” copies were printed. They were printed and sold exclusively at the August 2017 event at Sugar Grove School with all extra copies now sold.

Alumni Group Continuing to Sponsor Book Drive to Benefit School

Sugar Grove School Alumni Book DriveThe Sugar Grove School Alumni group is currently sponsoring a book drive to benefit the Sugar Grove School library. The goal of this book drive is to fill the gaps where budgets fell short and to provide the library with books on approved reading lists that coincide with Standards of Learning goals. Many of these books are popular ones that children at other schools enjoy but are not available in our school library. A wishlist has been put together by working with school administration, the local librarian and students and contains over 150 different items to choose from in a variety of price ranges.

The group’s goal was set at 50 books over summer break; to date, 48 new books have been shipped to the school to be cataloged into the library for the new school year. Some community groups have contributed to the drive as well making it possible to place group orders and therefore get free shipping so that every dollar spent can go toward books, not shipping.

The Sugar Grove School Alumni Group is made up of 360+ members hailing from all across the country with one thing in common–a love for Sugar Grove School.  Since the group has grown exponentially since it’s creation just a few years earlier, a unanimous decision was made to sponsor several efforts throughout the year to improve the school, provide needed materials, items, etc. for the benefit of the students, faculty and staff.

You may read the full rundown of this effort here and also get a link to the wishlist.


Sugar Grove School Alumni Reunion

It has been more than 25 years since Sugar Grove School’s famous “Gathering of the Maple Leafs” reunion in 1990. According to the local newspaper, more than 1500 people attended the event and it was lauded as the biggest event ever held in Sugar Grove and likely the largest school reunion in the county.  Now, in 2016, Sugar Grove School Alumni will once again get the opportunity to gather and enjoy an event in the community.

This highly anticipated event is set for Saturday, August 27, 2016 beginning at 11 AM until 3 PM at Sugar Grove School. This year’s event will take place in the school cafeteria dining room rain or shine.  Ticket purchase in advance is required for this event. Each ticket includes 1 catered meal, beverage, and an event exclusive souvenir book “The History of Sugar Grove School” which is a full color publication in 7 x 10 format.  **PURCHASE TICKETS HERE**

“The History of Sugar Grove School” was originally written in 2014 to document the history of the school in our community when we learned that our school faced closure or consolidation and eventually a name change. This original version was published for a while on our community website until which point it was further researched and revised for the purpose of this event.

The book features a collection of historic photographs as well as recent documentation of the 2015 Alumni Luncheon and more. There’s even a memories section in the back for you to write down your thoughts, friends contacts, etc.

Four Seasons Bakery from Marion will be providing the catering for our event this year and will be serving Pulled Pork BBQ, 2 sides, bread, salad, desert and beverages.

Tickets for this event are $20 each and will be on sale until July 1, 2016. You may purchase tickets securely here. For more details about the event, please visit THIS SECTION of the page.

Let The Facts Be Your Voting Guide

If you missed The Lincoln Theatre’s “Meet the Candidates” event hosted by the Smyth County Chamber of

Commerce on the evening of October 15th, you may have missed out on some pretty interesting commentary from our currently elected school board member, Jesse Choate who is seeking re-election in the Rye Valley District.

Let me clarify nature of this article–I am writing it because I truly have concerns about the future of our school and community in relation to some of Mr. Choate’s remarks at last night’s event. I’ve added a video clip to further validate this article for anyone reading who was unable to attend the event. I would ask that you at least watch the video in its entirety even if you choose not to read the article and allow yourself to be open minded.

The speech begins with some rather mundane points and biographical information as per the usual candidate’s speech however it grabs my attention 40 seconds in where we hear  a very negative statement “the school board has had some rough times, we have had shortfall from the state and from the county.” This statement is presented as though it were designed as an excuse to vote for him rather than a good reason–in other words, it is as though Choate is shifting the accountability from himself and the school board for the events that have recently befallen our community to the county and state rather than accepting accountability and responsibility for his previous voting record which is unanimous with the board. (You can access minutes dating back to 2002 online) (Related Article: Consolidation Apparently Unnecessary for Sugar Grove School.)

Later in the video at 1:45 Choate begins to brag about Oak Point Elementary School which is located in Marion and is not part of the Rye Valley District where he is currently seeking election. It’s fair to say that he seems to have a desire to take credit for this project as if it were some sort of  noteworthy accomplishment on his part when in fact, it was one of the biggest financial blunders the Smyth County School Board ever made and they made that blunder with Choate in the Chairman’s position bringing every single motion and vote to the floor and leading the way in consistent unanimous voting until the board got exactly what they wanted.

They wanted to spend an enormous amount of money constructing a school on a pile of rocks that first had to be removed at a substantial cost. Rock removal is one of the most expensive aspects of ground preparation. Other properties were available at better locations in the county. What Choate absolutely won’t mention is that Sugar Grove’s consolidation paid for the budget shortfall that occurred because of the construction of Oak Point Elementary.

For Choate to claim credit for this and cast it in the light of an accomplishment and basis for re-election is appalling at best considering the negative impact it has had on our community that he was elected to represent. There are two buildings in Rich Valley that aren’t being efficiently used. One of those could have been consolidated without losing a portion of a school in a community. Choate never brought this idea to the table during the discussion of consolidation of our school but he did ask for the motion to vote on the consolidation. (see here) This is the only vote that turns up that is not unanimous but at this point in time, it’s a little too late. I recall that he was presented with 971 signatures of registered voters from the Rye Valley District requesting alternative action that he ignored. The above suggestion involving Rich Valley’s two schools would have been a good starting point rather than consolidating Sugar Grove.

At 2:14 in the video after all of the bragging about Oak Point Elementary and after having nothing positive to say about Sugar Grove School or the community, we finally get to the real reason why Choate is asking for our vote in the upcoming election and it’s pretty simplistic: “The reason I am running for the school board again is because I’ve been here for 24 years and I’d appreciate it if you’d send me back for another 4 years…I know we had some bad times there last year when we lost our middle school but we kept our elementary school and as long as we keep a school in Sugar Grove, that’s a hub for Sugar Grove so I just want you to vote for me November the 3rd…” 

Choate is running again because he feels entitled to the office. He states being there for 24 years and indicates that he wants another 4 years. In the past he’s been sliding into office term after term without opposition. Last year when he blatantly ignored 971 petition signatures presented to him concerning the future of Sugar Grove School, he made it pretty clear that he isn’t interested in serving the people of the community but rather is more concerned with what his buddies in Marion at the school board office think of him. It’s all about ego and popularity and that’s certainly not a good platform for any candidate to expect to use for the basis of a successful campaign and election.

I take issue with the glaring and obvious statement of entitlement and outward show of ego which seems to be prevalent in our community. If you look around and take into account the number of campaign signs and print ads in the Rye Valley District it’s pretty obvious that the basis for an ego fueled campaign of entitlement does exist.

Friends, I dare say that the enormous funding that has been spent on re-election mirrors  spending habits with your tax dollars and the school board’s budget. It’s extensive and quite unnecessary but we have to remember one important fact: Signs do not vote. Registered voters go to the polls and vote.

I believe the future of our community and Sugar Grove School depends on change and that change begins one vote at a time. I encouraged you to watch the video earlier even if you didn’t care to read the points I have made in this article but if you did read this far, you’ve probably been given a few things to think about in the days leading up to this election. I urge you to let the facts, not opinions or a lack of valid information guide you to vote for a change on election day. Our community deserves a new representative that will listen to the voice of our community where our school and children are concerned and act on it in a way that is productive, not detrimental to the social and economical development of our community for the future.

I believe based upon available documentation, facts and other information existing as a matter of public record at Smyth County School Board and also based upon recent events in our community that if we place Choate in office for another 4 years, we will see the closure of our school in that time frame. As a community, we shouldn’t allow this to even be a possibility. Right now it is a very real possibility.






Disclaimer: This article is not approved by or endorsed by either candidate seeking election for Rye Valley School Board Representative on Smyth County School Board and solely represents the views of the author.

Some Facts Before You Elect a School Board Representative

Get Te FactsGetting the facts before you vote is a very important aspect of deciding who you will vote for. First of all, you should never ever vote solely based upon party. That’s an old school game and a misconception particularly where local offices are concerned. The office of school board should be neither a Republican or Democratic office. This is a position where emphasis should be placed upon concern for the schools represented, those attending the schools and the communities they serve. Every community has a diverse issues that must be tackled by school board representatives as well as other local elected officials and these issues should be approached each time in a way that is the most beneficial to these communities. Sugar Grove, Virginia’s Rye Valley District is no different.  This being said, the community website would like to offer some factual and referenced information for your consideration before you cast your vote in 2015 for a school board representative. This year Jesse Choate is seeking re-election and is being opposed by Stuart Orr.

The 2015 election for Smyth County School Board is a pivotal one coming a little more than a year after Sugar Grove School was consolidated by the current Smyth County School Board. The term of a school board representative is 4 years. The next 4 years for Sugar Grove will be crucial to keeping the school in our community. As we all know, if the situation is not properly managed and actively represented in the community, the next step is closure.

Choate’s Votes

For the record, these are the facts that have taken place under the current school board prior to the upcoming election in 2015 for your consideration:

  • The board considered a called school board meeting to be held on Monday, April 21, 2008, at 5:00 P.M., for the purpose of hearing a proposed Facility Master Plan as presented by MGT of America. On motion by Mr. Choate, seconded by Mr. Coulthard, by 5-0 vote, the meeting was approved. (Reference 2/11/2008 Smyth County School Board Meeting Minutes)
  • The board considered bids for the Facility Study. On motion by Mr. Choate, seconded by Mr. Doane, by 6-0 vote, the board approved the bid from MGT of America, Inc., Olympia, Washington, in the amount of $132,570.00 as recommended by the superintendent. They will provide a presentation for the board at the August 13, 2007, meeting. (Reference 7/16/2008 Smyth County School Board Meeting Minutes)
  • Sarah Combs, a resident of the Sugar Grove community, presented Chairman Choate with a notarized petition containing 971 signatures in opposition of closing Sugar Grove Combined School. (5/12/2014 Smyth County School Board Meeting Minutes) No further discussion or consideration of this petition was made by Mr. Choate or the rest of the board. The petition was also not in favor of consolidation and requested that the school board, specifically Mr. Choate, seek other alternatives that do not harm the community long term.
  • Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Marion, and Mr. Choate expressed their concerns about the budget and decisions the Board would need to make to balance the budget for 2014-2015. (5/27/2015 Smyth County School Board Meeting) You can listen to the details in this audio: CLICK HERE where you will note that Rich Valley board member Mac Buchanan rants and insults the Sugar Grove Community blaming us for the consolidation of our school all the while, Chairman Choate, Rye Valley Representative sits idly by allowing this inappropriate insult to take place. His little hate speech toward Sugar Grove was then followed by his spite vote which sealed the deal for Sugar Grove’s middle school. No intervention or action on the part of our current representative there!
  • Also at the meeting, Chairman Jesse Choate asked if there would be a name change for Sugar Grove Combined School since the middle school division has closed. He asked what it would take to change the name to Sugar Grove Elementary School. (Reference Smyth County News & Messenger, July 14, 2014)
  • Sarah Combs, a resident of the Sugar Grove community, requested that the community have an opportunity for input in changing the name of Sugar Grove Combined School. (Reference July 31, 2014 Smyth County School Board Meeting Minutes.)  After an enormous documented blunder of numbers, the school board renamed the school against the community’s wishes and seemingly on the sole suggestion made by Mr. Choate above.
  • On motion by Mr. Grinstead, seconded by Mr. Veselik, by 6-0 vote, the Board in recognition of Dr. Robinson’s outstanding performance and with Dr. Robinson’s concurrence, terminated the division superintendent’s current appointment and employment, effective September 8, 2014; appoint and employ him to a term of four (4) years as division superintendent beginning July 1, 2014 and ending June 30, 2018; and authorize and direct the Chairman to finalize and execute on behalf of the Board a new contract with Dr. Robinson on terms substantially consistent with terms negotiated and agreed to by all parties. (Reference September 8, 2014 School Board Meeting Minutes.)  No explanation has been given to date as to why the superintendent’s contract was renegotiated. Only vague commentary found in November 10, 2014 School Board Meeting minutes.

The current school board member has demonstrated a unanimous voting record for the past several years even when not in the best interest of our school in our community with his only NO vote being on the consolidation of the school during the May 27th meeting however it’s important to point out that the unanimous voting that took place up to this point included the very plan of action that the board is following to consolidate and eventually close Sugar Grove School–this is of course a reference to the MGT Facility Master Plan.

You can also reference in this article published in Smyth County News & Messenger where the school board claims to have saved $130,000.00 from “personnel changes” and another $30,000 from last year’s savings. With these figures being documented in August 2015, perhaps we should review last year’s school consolidation and commentary made by our current school board member to determine whether Sugar Grove may have paid the price unnecessarily. The answer to this question is a resounding “yes” because our community did pay the price and it has become apparent at this point that the Smyth County School board and our current elected school board member seemed to have a different set of numbers they were presenting just a little over a year ago to accomplish their agenda of consolidating the school.

Choate can also be heard in a recent campaign speech bragging about Oak Point Elementary School which has nothing to do with Sugar Grove except that our community and school are paying for that school with the consolidation of ours.

Remember, these facts when you go to the polls and vote accordingly for what’s best for our community. A 4 year term represents an adequate time frame for positive change or plenty of time to accomplish the current mission of closing Sugar Grove School.

It’s better to vote informed than to vote opinionated.

Disclaimer: This article is not approved by or endorsed by either candidate seeking election for Rye Valley School Board Representative on Smyth County School Board and solely represents the views of the author.

Consolidation Apparently Unnecessary for Sugar Grove School

the-truthIn May of last year, Sugar Grove School was consolidated on a 7-4 vote by the Smyth County School Board. We were told that financial shortfall was the reason.

That decision was not thought out. That much is clear if you listen to the available audio of the school board meeting from May 27, 2014. In it you can hear Mac Buchanan’s 11 plus minutes of ranting, laying blame and hateful comments later followed by his deciding spite vote to consolidate our community’s school. Meanwhile, the Chairman, our elected representative, sat in silence, apparently and evidently in full support of these hateful comments toward the Sugar Grove Community. There was no intervention or calling out of order on the part of the Chairman during Buchanan’s excessive commentary.

Even more alarming is the way our elected school board member, Jesse Choate, is blaming our community for what is the fault of the school board. He states beginning at 15:26 in the provided video: “I’m afraid that it is too late. I do wish all of you could have showed up for the school board and board of supervisors meetings and maybe that would have ….[garbled]… maybe they could raise taxes but everybody feels like they’re paying taxes enough.”

To this statement, there’s only one response–it wasn’t too late when the unanimous votes were being cast by the school board over the past 10 or more years for everything designed to close and consolidate Sugar Grove School. It wasn’t too late when we all realized that the MGT Facilities Master Plan was not working to the favor of our community or school and it still wasn’t too late when 971 petition signatures were presented to Choate at a previous school board meeting which represents the majority of the Rye Valley District requesting an alternative course of action that did not involve closure or consolidation. This petition was never brought to discussion or mentioned to date. To those 971 individuals who signed that petition, I encourage you to exercise your voting rights accordingly in November. You are the majority of the Rye Valley District and your input will not be ignored at the polls the way it was by the school board and Mr. Choate.

Choate is quoted May 27, 2014 as follows: (audio linked above) “I understand that money now is tight and I wish somebody would donate us , you know, if they would give us a hundred and fifty more thousand dollars we probably could have saved the school but they didn’t so I’ll have to call for a vote.” (37:34 in Audio)  This of course is referencing the consolidation vote brought to the table by Choate who is Chairman of the board and had the option of seeking out other alternative action such as personnel changes and looking for left over money in the slush fund or wherever it happened to be sourced before this vote was cast. This was precisely what the petition presented containing 971 signatures was requesting–alternative action that did not involve the closure or consolidation of our school.

Now that everything is said and done and the dust has settled around what is left of our school, an article appears in the local paper documenting this interesting and well-timed accomplishment of the school board. (read article here) They’ve managed to come up with $160,000.00 suddenly and only $150,000.00 was necessary according to Choate’s own commentary at last year’s consolidation meeting as documented in the audio mentioned above to keep Sugar Grove School in tact. The money magically turned up that would have kept our school in tact and just in time for November elections too! $30,000.00 was left over from last year while $130,000.00 was rounded up from “personnel changes.” Also one of last year’s big concerns was enrollment numbers at Sugar Grove. This year as documented in the above mentioned article, it seems that class sizes are increasing particularly at Sugar Grove School.

Please don’t let anyone convince you that because this money turned up all of a sudden that it will have any bearing on whether our school stays open or not in the future nor should this weigh on your vote in November when you head to the polls to elect a school board representative for the Rye Valley District. This is a classic example of “too little too late” and it’s the fault of our school board and current representative for allowing it to proceed in the manner that it did without appropriate action to keep our school in tact. If that wasn’t enough, it was Chairman Choate who brought up the first motion to rename our school which was then justified by a rigged and erroneous online voting poll designed to suit the school board’s needs to reclassify our school as “elementary” so that it would fit into the MGT Facilities Master Plan’s model for a consolidated school system.

Don’t forget to register to vote and show up at the polls if you want to keep our school open and functional in our community. This is an important non-partisan issue for everyone. Remember, campaign signs don’t vote, people do! If you need to register to vote, please do so BEFORE elections. If you will be 18 years of age on or before election day, you are eligible to pre-register to vote. YOUR VOTE MATTERS AND CAN MAKE CHANGES!


Disclaimer: This article is not approved by or endorsed by either candidate seeking election for Rye Valley School Board Representative on Smyth County School Board and solely represents the views of the author.