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Support shown for Bible request

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

An estimated 25 to 30 people packed into the Martinsville School Board meeting Monday night to support a pastor’s request that the board allow Gideons International New Testaments and/or Bibles to be distributed to students.

“We’re just wanting to get kids information that may help them in life and in school,” said Bill Moss, pastor of Hill Memorial Baptist Church.

He said Gideons should be allowed to distribute New Testaments/Bibles to fifth-graders (graduating to sixth grade) who want them. He said he feels Gideons have a right to make New Testaments available (for example, in a box) for students who want them but not to tell students to take them, and that students have a right to accept New Testaments if they want them.

He cited a law and a number of legal cases that he said support his position. He said Muslims also legally would be entitled to distribute Qurans in schools if they made such a request. The Quran is the Muslim holy book.

Moss also appeared at the school board’s July meeting and asked the board to consider allowing Gideon Bibles to be distributed to students.

According to a Bulletin article about that meeting, the school division’s policy, according to Superintendent Pam Heath, is that information distributed in schools — but not by the system itself — must be from either a government agency or a nonprofit organization, and the intent of the distribution must be for educational purposes.

“The Gideons International is an association of Christian business and professional men and their wives dedicated to telling people about Jesus through sharing personally and by providing Bibles and New Testaments,” according to its website. “While we are known worldwide for our work with hotels, we predominantly share Scriptures in schools and colleges, prisons and jails, hospitals, and medical offices.”

“I received my first little Gideons Bible when I was in elementary school at Clearview,” James Clark, a former city councilman and vice mayor, said at Monday night’s school board meeting. He said he doesn’t recall people being offended then.

“Kids enjoyed the Bible,” Clark said. He said he doesn’t see a problem with there being a box where students could reach in and get a Gideons Bible/New Testament if they wanted one.

“I hope you do the will of the people,” Clark added.

Robert Williams, chairman of the school board, said he has sought legal advice on the issue and expects the board will make a decision at its next meeting.

Moss said there were at least three or four pastors at the meeting.

In other business, T.J. Slaughter, the school division’s director of school safety and emergency management, gave school safety updates. Last year’s “rapid notification system” was done in several phases. The project was funded in part by a $100,000 Virginia Department of Education School Safety Equipment Grant.

Repeaters were installed in all K-12 schools so there are no dead zones for radio signals.

Wireless speakers were installed through school buildings.

“Building administrators can activate the speakers from any area of the building using their portable radios and have (instant) communication with staff and students to give out instructions,” Slaughter said. “Building administrators can also now communicate with other administrators or SROs (school resource officers) at different buildings, and Martinsville/Henry County 911 Center dispatchers can communicate with our administrators in the event of an emergency. These speakers are on a battery back-up so they are still operational in the event of a power failure.”

Also, a severe weather notification was installed, whereby all severe weather bulletins are transmitted to all staff personnel with a portable radio. “The notifications are in real time from the National Weather Service in Blacksburg,” Slaughter said.

The last phase of the project, being completed now, is the installation of a “telephone interconnect,” which will allow for each school to have an assigned emergency number that will be shared with staff members. “Staff will be able to call administrators on their portable radios from any land line or cell phone in the event of an emergency situation,” Slaughter said.

In addition, he said, a visitor management system has been installed in both elementary schools. “This system scans driver’s (licenses) or ID cards and checks all 50 states for anyone who might be registered as a sex offender,” Slaughter said.

In other business, the school board:

• Re-elected Williams as board chairman and Carolyn McCraw as vice chairman; reappointed Janie Fulcher as clerk of the board and Darlene Stroud as deputy clerk of the board; reappointed senior Armonti Rountree as a student representative on the board and appointed junior Lauren O’Neil as a student representative on the board; and voted to continue meeting at 6 p.m. each month on the second Monday.

• Recognized and welcomed new school board member Victor Correa, who succeeds Pastor J.C. Richardson Jr., who did not seek reappointment. In June, Martinsville City Council appointed Correa to a three-year term on the school board, beginning July 1. Council reappointed Craig Dietrich to a second three-year term. The city school board did not meet in July.

• Heard a report on the opening of school Monday; a report on certification of crisis or emergency medical plans and medical response plans (no changes to plans); and efforts to make improvements in student achievement at Albert Harris Elementary School, which the Virginia Department of Education has designated a Priority School.

• Heard a report that the division’s fifth annual endowment golf tournament will be Sept. 18 at Chatmoss Country Club (spots are still available). Lunch will be at 11:30 a.m. and tee off at 1 p.m. Sponsors are ebay; Memorial Hospital; and Dr. Scott O’Neil, Martinsville Surgical Associates.

In a related matter, Travis Clemons, MCPS executive director of administrative services, reported that the endowment will soon have a total of about $306,000 in principal. The endowment is a component fund of the Martinsville Area Community Foundation, according to the MCPS website. Interest on the principal is used to fund grants for innovative learning activities that would not otherwise be possible in a school’s budget.

• Approved a plan for the education of students identified as gifted and talented, which includes updates; and approved some policy updates.

• Accepted the resignations of Brian Chitwood, Lillie Baker-Small, Tina Reynolds, Cynthia Morrison, Pam Steele and Frank Lawson.

• Appointed: Jemeisha Childress, paraprofessional; Judy Cox, principal at Albert Harris Elementary School; Allison Martin, school secretary; Robert Divers, Michelle Fulcher, Julia Hared, Frances Holland, KateLyn Koschoff, Andrew Kuntz, Kristin Moorefield, Jenny Oldham, Elizabeth Rigney, Melody Russell, Amanda Turi and Kimberley Unger, all teachers; and Travis Worrell, school psychologist.

• Appointed these coaches:

At Martinsville High School: Nathaniel Hairston, coordinator, varsity football; Douglas Hankins, head coach, JV boys basketball; William Hankins, assistant coach, varsity basketball; Morgan Belton, head coach, varsity basketball cheerleading; Tresita Holland, head coach, JV girls basketball; Hailey Richardson, head coach, JV volleyball; Sheree Hairston, head coach, JV basketball cheerleading;

At Martinsville Middle School: Donna Lowery, head coach, football cheerleading; Cynthia Carter, head coach, girls basketball.


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