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America Recycles Day billboard contest winners announced

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The winning artwork of a Robert Smalls International Academy student was unveiled on Beaufort County’s Facebook page after being selected as the top design in the county’s first annual America Recycles Day billboard contest.

The winner of the billboard contest was seventh-grader Cheyene Ly. Her design will be displayed on a billboard in Beaufort County in spring 2017.

The billboard contest, coordinated by the Beaufort County Public Works Department Solid Waste and Recycling Office, was held in celebration of America Recycles Day.

“The students played an important role in educating the community on the importance of recycling,” said Ashley Jenkins, Beaufort County recycling coordinator.  “We can’t thank them enough.”

The contest was developed to help promote, educate and bring awareness to middle school students and the community on the importance of recycling.

All winners received a certificate and have their work displayed on the county’s website and Facebook page. The top entries were: Cheyene Ly, first place; Malina Bennett-Hart, second place; and Jourdin Davic, third place.

Tekera Brown, Jaili Lopez and George Luna received honorable mentions.

“It is necessary that we educate the public on the importance of keeping recyclable materials out of the landfills,” Jenkins said. “The ultimate goal is to have a clean and sustainable environment.”

Beaufort County Public Works Department Solid Waste and Recycling Office provides environmental education opportunities to schools in Beaufort County area.

For more information, call 843-255-2823 or visit

Student Cheyenne Ly poses with Ashley Jenkins, Beaufort County recycling coordinator.
Student Cheyenne Ly poses with Ashley Jenkins, Beaufort County recycling coordinator.

Foundation surprises teachers with grants

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Jan Davis-Vater, of the Foundation for Educational Excellence, John Mosca, of the Foundation for Educational Excellence and Okatie Rotary, and Bell Beltz, of the Okatie Rotary, surprise River Ridge Academy teachers Jennifer Bell and Chandra Payne and their students with a grant for a study of bones and vertebrae. River Ridge Academy Assistant Principal Matt Hall helped gather the group for the grant presentation.
Jan Davis-Vater, of the Foundation for Educational Excellence, John Mosca, of the Foundation for Educational Excellence and Okatie Rotary, and Bell Beltz, of the Okatie Rotary, surprise River Ridge Academy teachers Jennifer Bell and Chandra Payne and their students with a grant for a study of bones and vertebrae. River Ridge Academy Assistant Principal Matt Hall helped gather the group for the grant presentation.

Supporters and members of the board for the Foundation for Educational Excellence visited 11 different Beaufort County schools to surprise 28 public school teachers with grant awards. These teachers were recipients of the foundation’s Fall Innovative teacher grants. It was a day of celebration as each teacher and classroom were visited with balloons and an oversized check.

The 16 grants awarded ranged from $150 to $1,493 and totaled more than $13,300.

It is projected that these efforts will provide over 4,400 innovative learning opportunities for students districtwide.

Funded projects ranged from an interactive sea turtle exhibit, reading, science and math grants and musical arts performances.

Chandra Payne and Jennifer Bell of River Ridge Academy in Bluffton submitted the top rated grant of this fall cycle, “What Can It Be?”

These teachers were awarded the Dr. Valerie Truesdale Innovative Teacher Grant Award, in honor of Truesdale, the Beaufort County School District superintendent who was instrumental in starting the Foundation for Educational Excellence in 2007.

The monies allotted will allow students to demonstrate an understanding of how scientists classify organisms and how the structures, processes, behaviors and adaptations of animals allow them to survive.

The Foundation for Educational Excellence Fund raises funds to support classroom innovation. Established in 2007, the foundation awarded its first grants in 2009.

Grants of up to $750 are awarded to individual teachers and up to $1,500 for team requests twice each year, and thousands of students have benefited since 2009.

This grant cycle was partially funded by grants from The Bargain Box of Hilton Head Island and the Friends of Callawassie, as well as contributions from the Rotary Club of Okatie, individuals and the foundation’s major fundraiser, Jewels and Jeans.

The event is held each spring and offers an opportunity for attendees to “Fund a Grant” by pledging money towards partial funding of the foundation’s grants.

St. Peter’s celebrates 25 years

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This school year marks the 25th academic year of St. Peter’s Catholic Elementary School on Lady’s Island.

“There is a tangible buzz on campus,” said Principal Ann Feltner, who began her long association with the ‘Saints and Scholars’ of St. Peter’s in 1996 as a parent, and has since held various leadership and teaching positions at the school. “I can see the excitement growing that people in our community have for St. Peter’s. Many volunteers from the community are helping us make it into the vibrant campus it has become.”

She exudes enthusiasm and pride while discussing the volunteers who worked side by side with paid employees, contractors, parents, and teachers to give the school a major renovation this past summer to get it ready for its 25th anniversary year.

New paint, new lighting, new flooring, new safety doors and new security cameras were added, in addition to the volunteers who have been tutoring students, reading to classes, gardening campus grounds, working in the school office and shelving books in the library.

Admission to St. Peter’s Elementary School is open to children of all faiths, so “it is good for the children to see the volunteers from all walks of life come to the school and give of their talents,” said Feltner, who had four children attend St. Peter’s and now has grandchildren enrolled.

The school has seen many changes in the 25 years since the now-retired Monsignor Martin Laughlin began garnering support from the St. Peter’s Church parishioners because he felt strongly the children of the area deserved the opportunity to get a traditional religious education.

The school started in the small eight-room education wing of the parish complex in 1991. In its first year, the school consisted of five classrooms, a library, a work room and an office. As grades were added, space was needed.

A new school building was constructed on the church’s property in 1995. Enrollment peaked in 2000, when the school averaged about 220 students.

But the road to success wasn’t always easy.

Feltner remembers when the recession hit Beaufort in 2007 and enrollment dropped dramatically. Since then, the Beaufort County School District’s public charter schools have opened in addition to a new Christian school in downtown Beaufort. All have offered enrollment challenges to St. Peter’s Elementary School.

But Feltner remains resilient, stating “no other elementary school in the Beaufort area can offer the solid, traditional teachings” of a religious education “combined with the training, discipline and high academic standards” that St. Peter’s offers.

Two-thirds of the faculty hold graduate degrees. Spanish is taught in grades K4 through sixth grade.

Values and discipline are emphasized. Teachers are concerned about the character development of each student.

“Our educational environment nurtures the whole child – mind, body and soul – into becoming a saint and scholar,” said Feltner, quoting the school’s motto of Saints and Scholars, which emphasizes St. Peter’s commitment to supporting the spiritual and intellectual growth of each child.

In addition, all paid staff, volunteers and anyone who interacts with children are trained to proactively recognize and safeguard students from bullying and abuse.

“Another positive aspect about our school is that decisions are made at the lowest level possible. Cumbersome, stifling bureaucracy simply does not exist,” said Feltner.

Today, during the school’s 25th year, the school is a vibrant, active campus and enrolls 103 Saints and Scholars in grades pre-K through sixth grade, with the seventh and eighth grades having moved to John Paul II High School in Okatie two school years ago.

Kim Morris, a third-grade teacher at St. Peter’s, recently received a sizable national grant to improve math fluency and assist students in mastering basic math skills. The school has also utilized the talents of the college students studying Computer Science at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, having them repair and update all of the school’s computers.

When it came time for their children to start school, John and Catherine Stephens of Beaufort felt St. Peter’s Elementary School was where their children would receive the best overall education.

In the two years their daughter, Laura, 5, has been enrolled, “we have been amazed at what she has learned about faith,” said her mother. “She says things out of the blue like, ‘Jesus wants us to help people when they are sick.’ ”

Catherine Stephens admits the tuition is a sacrifice, but surprisingly the tuition is a lot less than other private schools in the area.

But despite the successes the school has seen in its 25 years, Feltner has bigger plans she would like to see achieved.

“I would love to see our school continue to do more community outreach. There are many local organizations that would benefit from having our students share their talents,” she said, as she was getting some students ready to attend an outing to Morningside Assisted Living to sing for the senior citizens who live there.

To learn about enrollment and the tuition assistance available, contact Feltner at 843-522-2163 or visit

Students to make up 4 days in December

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After several members reconsidered their votes, the Beaufort County board of education changed course and decided to make up four of the eight instructional days lost to Hurricane Matthew by shortening winter break rather than by extending the first semester into January, according to a district release.

Full instructional days will now be held Monday, Dec. 19, through Wednesday, Dec. 21, with all schools operating on normal schedules.

Students will have a half-day on Thursday, Dec. 22, which will be the final day before winter break.

Students will return from winter break on Jan. 4.

Seven of the 10 board members participating in the meeting voted to make up four days in December, which was the option favored by school principals, by school district employees and district parents in a pair of online surveys, and by two advisory groups of high school students.

Board members who changed their votes said they were increasingly concerned about extending the first semester into mid-January, which would have created problems for high school students taking important end-of-course exams after winter break, seniors who planned to graduate early and begin college in early January, and high school students who planned to begin taking dual-credit college-level courses in early January.

Superintendent Jeff Moss said that school principals would work with parents and employees whose families have travel plans or schedule commitments for Dec. 19-22.

“We certainly understand the complications that may arise from this change, and any parents or employees with scheduling problems should contact their principals immediately,” Moss said.  “Our schools will be as flexible as they possibly can.”

South Carolina regulations covering minimum instructional time meant that the district had to find a way to restore a minimum of four days to the first semester so that high school students could meet their course requirements.

A total of eight school days were lost during Hurricane Matthew.  The board had already approved a waiver for three days, and the district expects to receive permission from the state board of education to waive up to three additional days.

With the board’s vote, key dates on the school year calendar now include:

• Nov. 23: Teacher workday, no school
• Dec. 15: High school end-of-course testing begins
• Dec. 22: Last day of classes (half day) before winter break; first semester ends
• Jan. 3: Teacher work day
• Jan. 4: Students return from winter break; second semester begins
• March 15: Third quarter ends
• May 26: Last day of school (half-day)
• May 26-June 3: High school graduation ceremonies:  May 26 for Whale Branch Early College High; May 30 for Hilton Head Island High; May 31 for Bluffton High; June 1 for Battery Creek High; June 2 for Beaufort High; and June 3 for May River High.

School briefs for November 10th-16th

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Photo above: Beaufort Academy’s Langdon Taylor and Vann Hefner have been nominated to attend the National Youth Leadership Forum, Pathways to STEM, an envision program to be held next summer. Both Langdon and Vann will be attending the program the week of July 23-28 in Atlanta at Agnes Scott College. NYLF Pathways to STEM is a unique learning experience for bright, forward-thinking elementary and middle school students who will evolve into next-generation innovators, engineers, doctors, software developers and scientists.

River Ridge students take part in litter pickup

A group of students from River Ridge Academy participated in a litter pickup day on Bluffton Parkway as part of the school’s partnership with Keep Beaufort County Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful Inc.

River Ridge Academy students made a commitment to remove litter from Bluffton Parkway four times per year through the Keep Beaufort County Beautiful Adopt-A-Highway program.

“We are so proud of the students for their commitment to their community,” said Caroline Jordan, Keep Beaufort County Beautiful coordinator.

The partnership’s success comes in two parts – the students are able to learn about community service and civic engagement, and the parkway remains litter-free and safe for Beaufort County residents.

To get involved with Keep Beaufort County Beautiful, call 843-255-2734.


Student of the Week – November 10th

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Karen Grandos
Grade: 11
School: Bluffton High School

Karen Grandos, an 11th grader at Bluffton High School, is this week’s Student of the Week.

She was nominated by English III teacher Nicole Starling.

“Karen is always prepared for class, helps her peers and works really hard each day to push herself beyond average work,” said Starling. “She doesn’t settle for less or rush through her work.

“People don’t always recognize that the all-star student doesn’t have to be someone who is involved in everything, but students like Karen make me happy to be a teacher,” said Starling. “She’s genuine and gets overlooked but deserves for people to know how amazing and appreciated she truly is. She helps her family a lot, which is a huge priority and huge reason she doesn’t have time for so many school activities. I find that admirable.”

Grandos took a few minutes recently to answer some questions:

Q: What’s your favorite subject and why?

A: My favorite subject is English because I see it as another way to express and reveal my feelings and thoughts.

Q: What are some of your accomplishments? 

A: I have a job working at Aunt Annie’s Pretzels, which makes me feel proud. I also feel proud of helping my mom and dad raise my sisters to be good daughters and people, which is important in life.

Q: Who do you admire and why? 

A: I admire my family. They’re very supportive and understanding when it comes to my decisions. My sisters keep me happy by watching them grow.

Beaufort Academy prepares students for the future

in School News/Schools by

If you are reading this with your own high school education deep in the rearview mirror, then you will remember that when we were in school there were not very many choices.

Schools were created in the industrial age and modeled after factories: We put the youngest students in on one end of the building and they came out of the other end older, larger and with
more brain power.

Curricula were fairly prescriptive: We learned to read in the first grade, to multiply in the second grade, state history somewhere in the middle grades, biology in ninth grade and trigonometry at some point that most of us would rather forget.

In the end, this form of education served us fairly well.

We were able to succeed in college if we so chose and we were able to succeed in the workplace.

We now know that our education also stamped out most of the creativity and original thinking that we once possessed.

Thankfully, the educational world has advanced, and we are faced with quite the buffet of options today.

There are many terms that describe different types of education these days: Paideia, Classical, Montessori, Experiential, STEM, and on and on.  All of these terms represent legitimate and potentially rigorous academic environments.

At Beaufort Academy, the form of educating children is harder to describe with a single term or methodology.

It delivers an educational experience that is broad, robust and challenging for all of the students.

The school recognizes that each of us learns in a unique way and with unique skills and unique hurdles to cross.

If you walked the halls of Beaufort Academy classroom buildings and peeked into multiple classes over the course of the day, you would see techniques that could be used in any one of the environments listed above.

The goal is to prepare the students for their future, not for the past.  Part of that goal is to produce students who have learned in multiple ways and who are able to understand different perspectives and a variety of points of view.

The school has Paideia-style discussions, traditional lectures, experiential opportunities and many other educational practices.

Through this multifaceted approach, it can reach every student and provide each student with the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

In its small classes, educators are able to know and understand each child, and are able to guide them educationally, morally and socially to be prepared for their next step in life.

That next step may be first grade or a large university, but in any case, Beaufort Academy will have aimed to prepare them well for all that is in front of them.

In addition to the usual five subject core academic offerings, it teaches computer coding and critical thinking to grades 1-9; offers a range of seven Advanced Placement courses to upper school students; and takes advantage of the area in which we live and allows its students to experience the Lowcountry by visiting area attractions and by engaging members of the community to come to the school and share ideas and experiences.

Additionally, it allows students to express creativity through various art, drama and creative writing classes.

Beaufort Academy is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools and is accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools. It is the only school in Northern Beaufort County that belongs to these organizations, and it takes pride in studying and following their guidelines for best practices in developing a rich and rewarding educational experience in the classroom and beyond.

Attorney seeks theological degree

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Why would a partner in a prominent Lowcountry law firm put a successful law career on hold in order to pursue a post-graduate diploma in theology at the University of Oxford?

For Alan Runyan, a partner at Speights & Runyan in Beaufort, it was no easy decision. But in the end, it was a logical conclusion to 20 years of theological self-study and the realization that now was the time to seek something more “official.”

And so he traded the paneled courtrooms of American jurisprudence for the hallowed halls of one of England’s most prestigious universities. Oxford traces its heritage back to 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

To earn his post graduate diploma, Runyan had to choose three “papers” from among 30 offered in the theology program. A “paper” is similar to a course. He chose Christian Moral Reasoning, Philosophy of Religion and Science and Religion.

The coursework is very demanding. In each course students attend a weekly lecture, read 700 to 1,000 pages of specified material, then prepare a weekly essay of 2,500 words. The student then discusses the essay with a tutor in the field.

“One must be motivated,” Runyan said, “as reading/research and essay writing are all self-directed and attendance at lectures is voluntary.”

The last term will conclude in June 2017 with a three-hour examination in each paper.

The Beaufort lawyer sees many parallels between his present course of study and the curriculum at Holy Trinity Classical Christian School in Beaufort, where he spearheaded the Farrell & Elizabeth Runyan Raise Up a Child campaign.

Having served as a board of trustee member, he is currently serving as a member of Holy Trinity board of governors.

“The English tutorial system, in my opinion, is one of the few systems in contemporary culture specifically designed to teach students how to think; in particular, how to communicate a logical argument in both written and oral formats,” he said. “Of course, it is not necessarily ‘Christian,’ as I define that term, but it is certainly classical in its higher forms.”

School briefs for November 3rd-9th

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Photo above: Each month several Bluffton Middle School students are selected by their teachers as “Mustangs of the Month” based upon overall student performance and following the Mustang Path by demonstrating responsibility, academic excellence, respect and honesty. Mustangs of the Months are recognized at a special monthly ceremony hosted by Principal Pat Freda and Assistant Principals Beth Bournias and Steven Schidrich. The Mustangs for October 2016 are, from left back row, Diana Anaya, Alisyn Zigelstein, Cristofer Cano, James Marler, Freda and Hanna Heun. In the front row are Luis Rojas Matkovic, Brian Sanchez, Tien Nguyen, Jones Saylor and David Tucker.

Samantha Wood’s third-grade class read the most minutes during the school’s Red Ribbon Week Read-a-thon.
Samantha Wood’s third-grade class read the most minutes during the school’s Red Ribbon Week Read-a-thon.
Hannah Murphy’s kindergarten class was honored for being all “Red Out” for Red Ribbon Week.
Hannah Murphy’s kindergarten class was honored for being all “Red Out” for Red Ribbon Week.

M.C. Riley celebrates Red Ribbon Week

Students at Michael C. Riley celebrated Red Ribbon Week from Oct. 24-28 with the theme “I Have the Power to Be Drug Free.”

Red Ribbon Week is celebrated each year as students take an active stand against drugs. Students participated in activities throughout the school, including a school-wide read-a-thon and dressing in red.

Spanish-speaking parents invited to schools meeting

District Superintendent Jeff Moss has added an additional town hall meeting to the 2016 fall cycle that will focus on Spanish-speaking parents.

At a 6 p.m. town hall meeting at Bluffton Middle School on Thursday, Nov. 3, services will be provided to translate parents’ questions and Moss’ responses to those questions.

One out of every four of the Beaufort County School District’s 22,000 students is Hispanic.

Achievements, challenges spotlighted State of the Schools breakfast

More than 100 community members, business and government representatives, elected officials, board of education members, educators and students were briefed recently on the status of Beaufort County’s public schools at the district’s annual State of the Schools breakfast.

Superintendent Jeff Moss pointed to significant achievements in 2016, including improvements in student achievement that he attributed to the hard work of district educators.

“Our teachers and administrators know that in their classrooms, there are potential Nobel Prize winners,” Moss said.  “They know that in their classrooms are tomorrow’s leaders.”

District achievements highlighted at the 2016 State of the Schools breakfast included:

• The district’s on-time high school graduation rate – the percentage of students who earn a diploma “on time” in four years – has improved for six consecutive years and is now at an all-time high.

• Graduating seniors in the Class of 2016 earned $30.9 million in college scholarships, an all-time high.

• The district’s average SAT score has improved by 61 points over the past five years, and African-American seniors have reduced the achievement gap with white seniors by improving their scores by 87 points while white students improved by 30 points.

• Fifty-five percent of high school students taking Advanced Placement courses scored high enough to qualify for college credit in 2016, an all-time high for the district.  In addition, the number of students completing college-level courses while still in high school has increased from 308 to 532 in just two years.

• National publications rank two district high schools among South Carolina’s best. Hilton Head Island High is ranked No. 5 in South Carolina by U.S. News and World Report, and Bluffton High is ranked No. 7. In addition, Hilton Head Island High ranked No. 6 in South Carolina and Bluffton High No. 12 in The Washington Post’s annual listing of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools.”

• The district has created “schools of choice” in all buildings, meaning that parents can apply to send their children to any academic program at any school in district, regardless of where they live. More than 2,300 students are taking advantage of the opportunity this school year.

• The Connect2Learn program has put a mobile computer in the hands of every student in grades K-12.

• The district has added 260 full-day pre-kindergarten slots, which has allowed schools to reduce or even eliminate waiting lists of at-risk children who need focused attention before they start classes.  The district won the Champions for Children Award from the Institute of Child Success for its efforts to improve early childhood education.

• The district is dramatically expanding career and technology courses designed to prepare students for high-paying jobs and industry certifications in rapidly emerging fields. Two new high-tech facilities are at Battery Creek High and May River High.

Moss also noted significant challenges that district educators face.

“There are achievement gaps, here in Beaufort County and around the nation, he said. “We also have students arriving in our schools who speak no English at all, and that’s also a significant challenge for teachers.  We have to do a much better job of making the teaching profession attractive and making it pay well enough so that we can attract students from colleges and universities.”

Shealy lands on Dean’s List at GSU

Georgia Southern University recently recognized nearly 200 students on the Summer 2016 semester Dean’s List.

Brittany Shealy of Bluffton has been named to the list for excellence in academics. To be eligible for the Dean’s List, a student must have at least a 3.5 grade point average and carry a minimum of 12 hours for the semester.

Georgia Southern University, a Carnegie Doctoral/Research University founded in 1906, offers more than 125 degree programs serving approximately 20,500 students.

Bluffton board members to meet with public

Beaufort County School District board of education members representing Bluffton will hold a town hall meeting to hear from their constituents.

Board members Evva Anderson (District 7), Laura Bush (District 9), Mary Cordray (District 8) and Paul Roth (District 6) will meet with interested constituents from 6-7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7, at the Bluffton Town Hall, located at 20 Bridge St. in Bluffton.

Included in both meetings will be informational presentations on the 1-penny Educational Capital Improvement Sales and Use Tax Referendum placed on the Nov. 8 general election ballot for consideration by local voters.

Lentz participates in Math Jeopardy

More than 20 cadets from majors across The Citadel’s campus competed for the title of 2016 Math Jeopardy Champions recently. Cadets solved problems from calculus, differential equations and linear algebra among other topics. Brian Lentz, of Beaufort, participated in the 2016 Citadel Math Jeopardy Competition.

Holy Trinity builds classical library

Librarian Barbara Hathaway reads a Shakespearean play with Holy Trinity third-graders Cady O'Connell and Molleigh Reaves.
Librarian Barbara Hathaway reads a Shakespearean play with Holy Trinity third-graders Cady O’Connell and Molleigh Reaves.

A classical school should have a classical library. But what should it look like?

Shortly before it opened in August 2011, the Holy Trinity Classical Christian School accepted the challenge of building a classical library from scratch. With the support of a generous anonymous gift, school administrators and faculty began accumulating books, bookcases and busts and statues of prominent figures in world history who would inspire young readers.

There was Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, Plato and Aristotle, for example, all donated by grateful parents and enthusiastic faculty members. They took up positions alongside maps of Greece, donated by a trustee, and bookshelves brimming with hundreds of classical favorites: “Little Women,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “Stuart Little,” “Pilgrims Progress,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and books on Greek, Norse and Roman myths.

Today, the school library boasts an enviable collection of nearly 3,000 volumes. In addition to the classics, there are books on virtually every element of science: trees, insects, birds, animals, vertebrates, the planets, physical science, physics and chemistry.

Given the focus on a classical Christian education at Holy Trinity, it’s little wonder that two of the library’s most popular titles would be: “Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaveril” and “Cattus Petasatus,” both by Dr. Seuss. You may be forgiven if you don’t recognize “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat” in Latin.

“To open a book to an eager child is the keenest joy my heart can know,” said Barbara Hathaway, Holy Trinity’s volunteer professional librarian.

Hathaway said the school employs a rigorous selection process for determining which books to add to the school library. To qualify, a book must reflect the finest classical fiction and nonfiction. It must aid in building reading skills while assisting students in building a Biblical worldview. It must inspire a passion and a respect for the love of learning and reading the great novels, poetry, stories and nonfiction. And, finally, it must support the curriculum.

“Books open students’ minds to the world of knowledge in an environment that cherishes and embraces the written word in book form,” said the Rev. Chad E. Lawrence, the school headmaster.

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