Patriotism Prevails

I suppose it is the confluence of Veterans Day, Election Day and of course, Halloween that compels me to re-examine my deepest feelings about the country in which I am so fortunate to have been born. I fly our flag on appropriate holidays, remembering the days I was in uniform performing color-guard duty. I became very proficient at raising, lowering and folding Old Glory. Now, I just spinher around the staff, fasten her with a rubber band and stick her in the corner of the garage until she is needed again. Continue reading “Patriotism Prevails” »

EMU A Door To Better Things For Two German Alumni

Carl Wesselhoeft, EMU class of 1955

HARRISONBURG, Va. – Both of them were born in eastern Germany, both fled their homes in the aftermath of the second World War, and both – through a series of coincidences – arrived in North America as laborers on Mennonite farms before attending Eastern Mennonite College (now University) in the 1950s.

The second weekend in October, 2010, Carl Wesselhoeft, EMU class of 1955, and Werner Will, class of 1960, returned to Virginia to celebrate their 55th and 50th class reunions during homecoming at Eastern Mennonite University. Though they only lived briefly in Harrisonburg, both men said they gained much-needed opportunity and purpose at EMU. Continue reading “EMU A Door To Better Things For Two German Alumni” »

This post was submitted by Andrew Jenner.

In Support of the 10-Point Grading Scale

Switching to the 10-point system will not lower the bar for Rockingham Co. students because their teachers will likely change the manner in which they grade slightly enough to make the change less abrupt than some perceive it to be. This idea of the bar being lowered appears more like simple pessimism to overall change.

The change will balance out for several reasons. First, most teachers will likely raise their standard grading procedures to meet the change of scale, thus keeping the standards the same and only changing there numerical representation in order to make them consistent with colleges, universities and the majority of the nation?s public schools. Second, the teachers who do not change their grading procedures at all will be balanced by those who do. The amount of potential detriment here is extremely low and in no way substantiates a refusal to join the majority of public schools already using the 10-point scale.

Universities say they look at grading scales and are able to distinguish between the different grading systems, but it is unnecessary and simply redundant to ask them to spend extra time trying to approximate equivalencies between student grades per grading system. As a parent and former public schools teacher, I simply cannot assume that the institution of higher education that my children wish to attend will distinguish them from other children who come from schools using the 10-point scale.

I have heard institutions such as UVA claim to make the distinction between grade point scales when looking at GPA scores, but I have yet to hear how exactly they do that. Perhaps they use some formula for students to equalize all the GPA scores before assessing the scores as a whole. Even if this is not the method, they obviously are claiming to do something of the sort out of fairness. Therefore, out of fairness they will in the end render the distinction between grading scales useless, unnecessary and simply irrelevant.

The counter argument here is that students will work harder for an A in the current system because they will need a score of 94% in order to get it. The problem with this consideration is that it ignores other potential changes within the system that will balance out the admittedly abrupt change of going from the current system to the 10-point system. Overall it seems teachers would readjust their grade giving procedures making it require nearly the same effort to get an A in a 10-point system as it is to get an A in the current system.

All assignments are not numerically equitable. A math test translates to numerical grading practices easily, whereas an essay does not. Even if the teacher uses a rubric to grade student writing, they will at some level ask themselves ?Is this an A, B, C, D or failing paper?? Oftentimes this will be the starting point and from there the teacher will approach a numerical grade based on the merit of the particular paper among others receiving the same letter grade. In this circumstance I see very little potential for negative change from going to the 10-point scale.

There is no doubt that the change would require effort and there may be a period of getting used to the 10-point scale, but it would be worth it in the end. I have yet to hear the school systems that have switched from our current grading scale to the 10-point scale discontented with the change they decided to make for the sake of simplicity and fairness. So the question I pose to parents, teachers, administrators and school boards working in the current grading scale is this: In a national system such as the public schools, which rely on standards and the consistency of standards, why would we refuse to use what has become he standard grading system of US Public Schools?

This post was submitted by Paul Somers.

Celebrating Dr. Joanne Gabbin, Celebrating Lucille Clifton


Flickr image shared by permission of Joanne Gabbin

Joanne Gabbin read at Lucille Clifton's Celebration

When I first met Dr. Joanne Gabbin late in 2004, it was clear she heard a different drummer. Here was a woman who dreamed big, kept her feet on the ground, and made things happen in Harrisonburg. She is owner of Franklin Street Gallery, English professor at JMU, and the visionary behind Furious Flower Poetry Center at JMU.

In June 2009, Furious Flower sponsored a seminar with African American poet Lucille Clifton. Eight months later, February 2010, Clifton unexpectedly died. On Sept 21 2010, Furious Flower brought 73 poets and poetry fans together to celebrate the life Lucille Clifton, and the free event was attended over 1,000 people from all over the state and country.   Continue reading “Celebrating Dr. Joanne Gabbin, Celebrating Lucille Clifton” »

This post was submitted by Diana Woodall.

Protesters Rally at DMV in Harrisonburg: “Hey McDonnell Shame on You. Immigrants are People, Too!”

Harrisonburg- On Wednesday, a crowd of forty community members gathered in front of the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in Harrisonburg to call attention to Governor Bob McDonnell’s anti-immigrant, discriminatory policies including his recent decision to make it difficult for legal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.

Governor McDonnell has angered Virginia residents with his latest call for the DMV to deny federal Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) as a form of identification in obtaining a driver’s license which protesters say is an act of discrimination against all immigrants. The law causes significant risk for Virginians, especially those who are undocumented, and those on Temporary Protection Status from countries such as Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan.

The protesters stood on the sidewalk in front of the DMV chanting Continue reading “Protesters Rally at DMV in Harrisonburg: “Hey McDonnell Shame on You. Immigrants are People, Too!”” »

This post was submitted by Julie Blust . Begins City Council Questionnaire, the longest-running local Harrisonburg news blog, published its first post in a series devoted to sharing Harrisonburg City Council candidate responses to questions submitted by readers.  The first question answered is, “What qualifies you to be on council?”

Six candidates are vying for two spots on the city council on the November 2 election day. Due to my role on city council and close affiliation with the, readers here  are encouraged to look to for community-driven information about this local election.

Upd8: The Super Gr8 Film Festival

The Super Gr8 Film Festival to take place November 16th at 7:30 at The Court Square Theater in Downtown Harrisonburg.

The Super Gr8 Film Festival is coming together one splice at a time.  After talking with all of the filmmakers who are making the 20 films that will be presented, I can tell you it will be an intriguing show of local talent.  Nearly half of the filmmakers are visual artists who have exhibited and sold their artwork.  Others are professional photographers or play directors or SMAD students or video editors, the list goes on. The experience of all the filmmakers will enhance their filmmaking ambitions and abilities in different ways, making each film a unique exploration of form.

After the meeting with the filmmakers in September, where they were given a crash course in Super 8 filmmaking, Continue reading “Upd8: The Super Gr8 Film Festival” »

This post was submitted by Paul Somers.

Beloved Former EMU Campus Pastor Dies

Truman H. Brunk

Truman H. Brunk, 79, a former campus pastor at Eastern Mennonite University died Friday, Oct. 8, at Rockingham Memorial Hospital, Harrisonburg, Va.

Brunk was born May 19, 1931 in Washington, D.C., the son of the late Truman and Ruth Smith Brunk. He grew up in the Denbigh community of Newport News, Va.

Brunk joined the EMU faculty in 1965 following his Continue reading “Beloved Former EMU Campus Pastor Dies” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

Greenhouse is Built for New Community Project

A greenhouse can be built in an affordable manner, like this one for the New Community Project in Harrisonburg. Photo: Diana Woodall

On a warm Sunday afternoon, October 10, members and friends of New Community Project in Harrisonburg met at 715 N. Main St and contructed an inexpensive greenhouse.

The project was done in conjunction with the call from for communities across the nation and world to take action to address climate change.  (350 stands for the Continue reading “Greenhouse is Built for New Community Project” »

This post was submitted by Diana Woodall.

Immigration Reform Protesters Rally at DMV in Harrisonburg

Harrisonburg residents joined together at the local DMV location to protest Governor McDonnell’s attempts to deny drivers licenses to legal immigrants with work permits.   Isabel Castillo, local organizer, says in a Facebook status update, “We need to send the message that we will not sit idly by as persons who are doing the right thing are punished unjustly.”

The press release is below.  Please share comments about the event below. Continue reading “Immigration Reform Protesters Rally at DMV in Harrisonburg” »

This post was submitted by Julie Blust .

Do We Need to Correct Our Thinking About Corrections?

As a a long time advocate of criminal justice reform, I was heartened by something our new governor Bob McDonnell included in his January 10 Inaugural Address to the Joint Houses:

“Tough sentences are only half of the equation in making Virginia safer. We must provide real opportunities to prisoners to turn their lives around, and to become responsible and contributing members of society when their sentences have concluded. A failure to do so only leads to more crime, and more victims. I will work with faith-based and community organizations to create an effective prisoner re-entry program to keep people out of jails and prisons. It’s smart government, and will save money.”

These are bold words from a governor of a state with the 8th highest per capita incarceration rate in the US, the nation with the distinction of holding more prisoners than any other country in the world, including China. Continue reading “Do We Need to Correct Our Thinking About Corrections?” »

This post was submitted by Harvey Yoder.

Harrisonburg “Climate Work Parties” Join Thousands Across the Planet

On October 10, people across the planet will pick up hammers, shovels, and caulking-guns and join the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, the world’s largest day of practical action to fight the climate crisis.

Here in Harrisonburg, three different events are planned for Sunday afternoon: Continue reading “Harrisonburg “Climate Work Parties” Join Thousands Across the Planet” »

This post was submitted by Elizabeth Scott.

Host Families Needed for Up With People Cast Members

Up With People, a traveling multicultural arts and music performing group, is planning a series of performances in Harrisonburg – and the cast members need local host families willing to provide a place to sleep, limited transportation, and a meal a day. More information is in the following press release: Continue reading “Host Families Needed for Up With People Cast Members” »

Hydrofracking Continues to be Discussed by Citizens

WHSV TV3 is reporting that a citizen meeting today in Broadway focused on the status of hydrofracking in Rockingham County.  While a special use permit to allow hydrofracking remains tabled by the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors and Carrizo, the company proposing the drilling, decided to leave the area, citizens and community organizations met to discuss actions and legislation needed in case hydrofracking is revisisted in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As noted in the story, an aid to Delegate Tony Wilt says his office, “has not yet been contacted by either side about bringing the hydrofracking issue up in the General Assembly’s next session.”

The hydrofracking story is within the first 2:30 of the embedded video.

Bus Chartered for Rally to Restore Sanity

As previously reported, Shenandoah Valley residents are heading to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity – now by the bus full.   Beginning at noon on October 30, the star of Emmy Award-winning TV program “The Daily Show,” will be hosting the event on the Mall in Washington, DC. A group of area residents, led by Lowell Fulks 7Generations PAC, have contracted for charter buses to bring attendees to the event.

Seats are priced at Continue reading “Bus Chartered for Rally to Restore Sanity” »

Sachedina to Focus on Furthering Relations Between Children of Abraham

Image from

Professor Aziz Sachedina teaches at University of Virginia and will speak at Eastern Mennonite University on October 4th.

From 4-5:30pm on Monday, October 4, Professor Aziz Sachedina from the Religious Studies Department at UVA will be presenting, “Disenchantment” with “interfaith dialogue” for furthering better relations among the Children of Abraham.  The presentation will be at Strite Auditorium and will be followed by discussion.

In recent years Aziz Sachedina has had significant high level teaching roles and encounters in Iran. He is considered one of the foremost scholars on Shi’ite Islam in the world and he is at the progressive front for conflict transformation, medical ethics and human rights within the Islamic tradition. He is very interested in how the peacebuilding and conflict transformation education and training process has developed at EMU.  

The event is co-sponsored by Eastern Mennonite Universty’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and Abraham’s Tent.

Up With People Coming to Harrisonburg to Benefit the Childrens Museum

Up With People released a press release stating it will bring its cultural show to Harrisonburg for a series of performances scheduled October 25-November 6.  The performances will benefit the Harrisonburg Childrens Museum.

Press Release:  When the multinational cast of Up with People takes the stage at Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg on Thursday, October 28 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 31 at 4 p.m. audience members will find something for virtually every musical taste and interest. [A special show is scheduled at the new Forbes Center – more information soon]

Long before American Idol began discovering and refining new talent or High School Musical tapped into the exuberance of young ensemble casts, Up with People pioneered these attributes while touring the world with their optimistic message of global cooperation and goodwill. Continue reading “Up With People Coming to Harrisonburg to Benefit the Childrens Museum” »

Virginia Biodiesel Conference Convenes in Harrisonburg

Approximately 75 people convened today at the Virginia Biodiesel Conference.  Hosted by Virginia Clean Cities, the event sought to bring together producers, users, and policy experts to discuss the state of the biodiesel industry in Virginia.  Attendees included representatives from Red Birch Energy, Reco Biodiesel, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services, Public Policy Virginia, Virginia Soybean Association, and many more organizations.  Elected officials included Delegate Tony Wilt (26th House of Delegates District) and Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner, who facilitated the event in his professional position as the Fairfield Center.   Continue reading “Virginia Biodiesel Conference Convenes in Harrisonburg” »

EMU Signs Agreement to Build Va.’s Largest Solar Panel Array

Posted below is a news release from Eastern Mennonite University marking the formal announcement that the university will be proceeding with plans to install solar panels on the library roof. This effort, led by Tony Smith, the co-director of EMU’s MBA program, was first announced last spring. In April, the city council approved a rezoning to allow the construction of the project.

At the time, Smith and his colleagues hoped to install enough panels on campus to generate 1 megawatt of power. Over the summer, a number of factors prompted the university to scale back the solar project. The first phase, which began this week, will generate 104.3 kilowatts with panels on the library roof, and will still be the largest solar array in the state. The university plans a second round of construction to install panels on canopies above a parking lot, adding another 300 kilowatts of capacity. Continue reading “EMU Signs Agreement to Build Va.’s Largest Solar Panel Array” »

Still ‘Speedy’ After All These Years

Phil Helmuth, executive director of development at EMU, accepts the keys and title to Margaret Martin Gehman's 1967 Volkswagen Beetle. Photo by Jim Bishop

HARRISONBURG – At age 88, Margaret Martin Gehman of Harrisonburg has lost a little of her trademark drive, largely because she has parted company with a faithful friend.

Dr. Gehman and her trusty, albeit a bit rusty, mechanical steed, a blue 1967 Volkswagen Beetle, are almost synonymous to many observers. For years she motored the streets of the greater Harrisonburg area even though she preferred walking to as many destinations as possible. She has been a resident of Continue reading “Still ‘Speedy’ After All These Years” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.