Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 17, 2014
Evangelical kids club OKed for Penobscot school
Good News Club to begin in October
by Anne Berleant
The Penobscot School Board on July 14 unanimously approved the use of the school for a Good News Club “to capture some kids, right after school,” said the Rev. Ron Jackson of the South Penobscot Baptist Church, who made the request.
“It’s basically using the building as a community center,” said board member Jim Goodman.
“The purpose of a Good News Club is to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living,” according to the Child Evangelism Fellowship website, through which the nationwide clubs are operated.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 (Good News Club v. Milford Central School District) that the evangelical organization could have access to public school facilities to conduct its Good News Clubs.
The court’s majority opinion stated that “Milford has opened its limited public forum to activities that serve a variety of purposes, including events pertaining to the welfare of the community” and that “Instruction related to morals and values from a religious perspective does not somehow ‘taint’ that instruction so as to alter the viewpoint such instruction takes.”
Two supreme court justices wrote dissenting opinions, with Justice Souter stating, “It is beyond question that Good News Club intends to use the public school premises not for the mere discussion of a subject from a particular, Christian point of view, but for an evangelical service of worship calling children to commit themselves in an act of Christian conversion.”
The Penobscot Community School is often used as a community center for various activities. Likewise, the South Penobscot Baptist Church opens its doors for use by groups such as Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, Jackson said.
Jackson, who became pastor of the church in 2014 and is a certified K-8 teacher, said the reason behind the request to use the school was “convenience,” as students won’t require transportation to the church. The club will meet once weekly, from 3 to 5 p.m. Background checks will be done for all workers, and insurance will be provided by the Child Evangelism Fellowship. Activities will include songs, a bible story, memorizing bible verses to earn rewards, and a snack. A parent’s written permission is required for a child to join.
Shake up at central office
The Union 93 office has taken some staff hits in recent months. After filling the business manager position vacated by Carolyn Heller, who accepted a job with the Ellsworth School District, it is now actively seeking to replace curriculum coordinator Rachel Kohrman Ramos, who has also accepted a position at Ellsworth. Still vacant is the position of executive administrative assistant previously held by Mary-Jane Maltezos.
In other business, board members unanimously approved field trip and eighth grade trip policies, which will be posted on schoolunion93.org.
“Times have changed…It’s good to have a policy in place,” said Chairman Jerry Markley.
Also approved was a proposal by middle school teachers Heidi Riopell and Chandra Bisberg to reassign all of fifth through eighth grade science to Bisberg and social studies to Riopell.
Finally, technology support staffer Luke Allen will spend twice as many hours at the school in 2014-15 than previously, after the board approved 16 hours per week, which was included in the town meeting-approved budget. Allen is also technology services contractor at the Union 93 central office for 20 hours a week.
“Technology is one thing that if you don’t have the right person, you’re lost,” said Principal Allen Cole. “This is the best thing that’s happened since school let out.”