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Parents protest principal at Body Camp Elementary being reassigned

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By Tom Wilmoth

    The decision to reassign popular Body Camp Elementary Principal Dr. Marvin McGinnis from the school didn’t sit well with a number of community residents who spoke to the Bedford County School Board at last Thursday’s meeting.

    The remarks followed a 5-0 vote by the board to move Dr. McGinnis to fill a teaching vacancy at Bedford Middle School. He and school secretary Marsha Sheinman had been placed on administrative leave the week before school started.
    Board members voting in favor of the move were Joy Wright, Julie Bennington, Cheryl Toler, Mickey VanDerwerker and Gary Hostutler. Board members Shirley McCabe and David Vaden abstained and Board Chairwoman Debbie Hoback was not at Thursday’s meeting.
    Sheinman was  reassigned by the board to a vacant library media aide position at Staunton River High School.  The board also appointed Staunton River Middle School Assistant Principal Christy Craig as  the new principal at Body Camp Elementary for the 2010-2011 school year, replacing Dr. McGinnis.

    It was not a popular decision with a group of residents from that community who attended the meeting.
    Liz Jackson has had three sons attend Body Camp Elementary, two while Dr. McGinnis has been there. “I have seen first hand the way that Dr. McGinnis has taken a pile of bricks and built a thriving school,” she said. “He has had a tremendous influence on the school and the community.”
    Jackson said the school’s former principal welcomed parents with open arms. “This makes us comfortable leaving our most prized possessions there,” she said. “He treats all the children like people, not numbers.”
    She said her son told her that the new principal would never be like Dr. McGinnis. “This is out of the mouth of babes,” Jackson told the board. “He loves Dr. McGinnis as a very important person in his life. He misses him terribly.”
    Jackson added that Dr. McGinnis helped Body Camp stop from being a segregated community. “He has made it his mission to totally integrate our school and community as one,” she said. “I think I speak for the BCES family in saying that we need Dr. McGinnis back. He is the foundation that makes BCES strong.”
    Rachel Williams, the parent of a fifth grader at the school, told the board that Dr. McGinnis provided a positive role model for the students there. “He believes in all of his students, even if they do not believe in themselves,” she said. “He teaches them to have pride in who they are and in who they can become.”
    Several of Thursday night’s speakers referred to last year’s battle with the school board and administration over a proposal to close the school. “We could not shelter our children from this. But Dr. McGinnis, in his loving way, kept BCES normal, helping his staff and students to remain focused and upbeat,” Williams stated. “Our school came through, our children came through.”
    Williams said the decision to remove Dr. McGinnis from Body Camp had hurt the school. “We need him there,” she said. “The children need him there. There are still tests to take, learning to continue and foundations to be laid.”
    Charlotte Maxey also said she was concerned about the timing of the decision — just prior to the opening of school — by the board and school Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch. “Dr. McGinnis has been the backbone of this community and the school,” she stated.
    “It makes absolutely no sense as to what is going on,” added Brenda Smith, who attended Thursday’s meeting with her son, a fifth grader at the school. “We are all one big family, stop trying to take our Dad, so to speak, away from us.”
    After the meeting, as she held her son, Smith said Dr. McGinnis had helped her family a lot. “I’m still trying to explain it to my child,” she said.
    District 2 board member David Vaden said, during the meeting, that he had appreciated the hundreds of phone calls he had received concerning Dr. McGinnis.
    “All of us recognize Dr. McGinnis for the contributions he has made to Body Camp,” Vaden stated. Vaden added that the outpouring of support from the community was a testament to Dr. McGinnis as a leader.
    Dr. Schuch stated that because the issue was a personnel matter, no further comment on the reassignments of Dr. McGinnis and  Sheinman would be made. He did state, however, that he believes Body Camp’s new principal will do well there.
    “We have full faith that Mrs. Craig, and her nearly 30 years of experience in education here in Bedford County, will work together with the outstanding staff at Body Camp to carry on the excellent work that that school has been doing with the children of that community,” he stated this week.
    Craig holds master of education degrees from Lynchburg College in the areas of educational leadership and special education. She has a bachelor of music education degree from James Madison University.
    Craig has served as assistant principal at SRMS since Aug. 1998. She began her teaching career in Bedford County Public Schools in 1983. She was named Bedford County Middle School Teacher of the Year for the 1995 – 1996 school year.