New Heights Middle School will have a new start, with a new principal this school year, putting headlines from the past, “in the past,” said Matthew Scandrol, principal of New Heights Middle School in Jefferson for 2012-13.
The school’s former principal, Larry Stinson, made national headlines last fall when he allowed a Christian concert and rally to be held during school hours.
The invitation to host Christian rapper Bryan Edmonds, known as B-SHOC, and evangelist Christian Chapman, in the school gymnasium in September 2011, prompted the American Civil Liberties and the Freedom From Religion Foundation to file a lawsuit against Chesterfield County School District for violations of the U.S. Constitution in regards to separation of church and state.
Stinson received tremendous parental support for his Christian leadership of the school, which serves just under 600 students in the western region of the county. The middle school’s parents turned out in droves last year to support him. School board meetings, which normally draw a crowd of less than 20 people in the old cafeteria at Edwards Elementary in Chesterfield, saw standing room only on Stinson’s behalf.
According the district’s Public Information Officer Ken Buck, Stinson was not asked to leave his position, but chose to leave the district.
The lawsuit resulted in a consent decree and order against the school district which forbids religious practices by faculty and staff. Those sanctions extend to the school board meetings as well, where the agenda now calls for a moment of silence rather than prayer. According to the decree, “school officials who violate this Order may be subject to contempt proceedings or other judicial relief.”
Scandrol would not comment on the events of last year, as he was not involved with the lawsuit and is focusing on moving forward. But he did say Stinson had set forth a “great foundation” on which he plans to build.
Scandrol comes to Chesterfield County with several years experience in teaching English/Language Arts. Originally from Pittsburgh, Penn., he and his family moved to South Carolina in 2001. Scandrol has served as principal of Sneed Middle School in Florence School District One for the past six years. He received his bachelor’s degree from Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio. His master’s degree was earned from the University of South Carolina, where he is currently working toward his doctorate’s degree in educational administration.
“I love the middle school age,” said Scandrol. “I love it. There’s never a dull moment.”
Scandrol describes middle school as a time when young people are “trying to figure themselves out.” It’s also a time of “tremendous growth,” he said, in regards to academics and maturity.
It’s rewarding, said Scandrol, to help nurture these strides in a child’s education.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.