My Alma Mater Made the News

The Good Shepherd by Warner Sallman (Image from

The Good Shepherd by Warner Sallman (Image from

Seems there was controversy brewing in New Concord, Ohio around a picture that used to hang in the lobby of John Glenn High School in memory of a beloved teacher who died years ago in front of her classroom of students.  No matter where you weigh in on the place of “religious art” in public places this story touched many alumni and friends of the school.

I followed this story and knew that the end was near.  The picture no longer hung in the lobby area but in the administration area where it was not visible to the majority of students.  But one person started a campaign and with the threat of hundreds of thousands of dollars having to be spent to fight the uphill battle to keep the painting the school board wisely, in my humble opinion, did the right thing.  They said they would take the picture down.  They could not spend money that would be much better spend on education on a lawsuit that they most likely would not win.

An article in The Zanesville Times Recorder gives a little more detail to the emotions swirling around this issue. You can read this article by clicking here and a new window will open up with the article.  Another article appears in The Columbus Dispatch which gives yet more background into the history behind the potential lawsuit—click here to read that article.

On behalf of the Board of Education I would like to humbly thank each of you for your support to East Muskingum Local School. Your words and actions have been very heart felt. This has been a very emotional and thoughtful process for our entire community. We value the democracy of this country to assemble ourselves and express our opinions.
Those who knew Margaret Barnett fondly remember her as a truly wonderful person and a devoted and able teacher. Throughout her 51 years of teaching Miss Barnett had very high expectations for all students’ academics and behaviors. She taught to the whole child, and developed relationships with students through mutual respect. She was the advisor of many student organizations and attended as many student events as possible because she felt it was her obligation to know the students. Margaret was involved in her community and church with the families of the children she taught. Miss Barnett was an Accomplish teacher.

May 7th, 1971, was a tragic day for the faculty and students at John Glenn High School. Miss Barnett submitted an announcement urging faculty to attend the National Honor Society Induction that evening. However, as she wrote on the chalkboard she reached back for her chair and collapsed on the floor in front of her students.

At a memorial service on May 10, 1971 the faculty donated a picture which appropriately portrayed the life of Miss Barnett in the painting of “The Good Shepherd.”

This has been difficult as community members to express our emotions. For Board Members this has been a thoughtful process based on educated facts. It is in our fiber to want to take a stand.

Throughout the past three weeks, we sought and received input and council from Bricker and Eckler, Crabble Brown and James, Liberty Counsel, American Center for Law and Justice, Liberty Institute and the Alliance Defending freedom. Based upon the legal precedent set before us, the consensus was it would be a very difficult uphill battle. The law concerning this issue is not favorable.

Our liability insurance coverage is very limited on this type of case. In the recent Jackson City Schools case the legal fees of the opposition had grown to $160,000 before they settled and paid $95,000. We could lose a Million to a quarter of a million dollars in resources and still be required to take the picture down.

The responsibility of the Board of Education is to make wise and thoughtful decisions with the tax payer’s money. We cannot mortgage our future. We cannot take away from the education of our children to fight a battle among adults not
from this community. Our hallways are not a place for this agenda.

We heard you tonight and the board agrees that:

This must challenge us all to be examples of the reasons this memorial was given.

We do not need a picture on the wall to tell us what is true and in our hearts.

We hope this is a springboard for us all to have courage in our convictions.

Again, we would like to thank you for your respectful assemblage this evening. Let us use this spark driven from the Spirit of the Good Shepherd Memorial Battle awaken us and come together for an even better future for East Muskingum Students and our Community.(School Superintendent Jill Johnson)

I applaud the board and especially applaud the words of the superintendent, Jill Johnson, that follow the news clip link .  They made a difficult decision. While the picture for many was not about the religious nature but rather the intent behind the gift of a grieving staff —it did have a religious theme.   It infringed on a student’s rights, according to the ACLU, and that needed to be addressed.  I think there was a lot more to the story than I was aware of but regardless—–taking the picture down does not do anything to lessen MY faith at all.

You see –my faith and my belief is not based on being able to see a picture.  It is faith.  The belief in things unseen.  That knowledge that is very difficult to explain that yes—-there is a God who loves us even when we are seemingly unloveable.

Today I embrace that faith and that belief and applaud the East Muskingum School District for the hard decision that was made.  A picture does not define a belief and with or without the picture of The Good Shepherd hanging on a wall in John Glenn High School people will still believe.

(All comments are welcome but please be respectful when you leave one.  I realize that there will be differing opinions and I embrace dialogue but disrespectful comments will be deleted.)


  1. I love what you said here as well as the words of the superintendent. Having this discussion brought the teacher’s memory to life again!

    • Thanks, Allison. I thought the superintendent’s words were excellent. I also viewed a video where she spoke but it would not allow me to embed it on my blog but basically it said the same thing. And you are so right—the conversations reminded everyone of that teacher again.

  2. hilaryfeelingbeachie says:

    I got chills as I read the announcement. I find it sad that the tribute to her was taken down, but agree, the picture doesn’t capture what is in everyone’s hearts

    • I have quite a few high school friends who still live in the area and attended the meeting. It was interesting that all the reports indicated that all who spoke at the meeting were in favor of keeping the paining.

  3. Planting Potatoes says:

    this was a wise decision based on the the type of world we are living in these days and I agree with you…but isn’t it sad that such a memorial to a good shepard be challenged in the first place?

    • Yes it is sad and I think that there was probably much more to the story than I am privy to. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment. I really appreciate it!!! Come back anytime!

  4. I think, it’s sad that the painting had to be taken down but I agree, that spending the money that’s desperately needed for funding education shouldn’t be used to fight a lawsuit that may or may not be won. Public school funding is meek at best and I think, every dollar is needed to provide the best education the kids can get. The memories people have of this amazing teacher are worth so much more than a painting!

    • I think they did the right thing and I applaud them for it. Not an easy decision and I am sure they felt a great deal of pressure from a lot of different fronts but they had the best interest of the students in mind. I agree–funding is so tenuous at times and the need to preserve that is necessary. Thanks for the comment, Susi!

  5. threadcrazy says:

    Yes I too agree that while it wasn’t an easy decision, it was in the best interest of the school not to undertake and spend valuable resources when the outcome was almost a certainty. You are so right – “faith” lives in us and no matter what is said or done, our “faith” cannot be taken from us. While these types of decisions will continue to be made, our faith will never fade but become stronger, just as memories of this teacher will never fade but live on in memories forever.

    • Thanks for the comment. I think you understand the situation like I do—-it is not worth it to fight what would be a money consuming and most likely losing battle. No one can take away the faith that lives in us—so there!!! 🙂

  6. But again Beth Ann, as I eluded to in my poem “A Walk Amongst The Ancients” our values and traditions are being altered and determined by the “vocal minority”. They are using the liberal media, political correctness and their moral bias’ against everything that this country once stood for and in fact, was founded upon.. I believe that these lawsuits are being funded, and initiated, by those other than the complainant. And the moral fiber of this country is eroding with each of these legal decisions. I do appreciate the dilemma that the school board found themselves involved in and I know that their decision was based on the burden to the taxpayer. But where will it all end? And what will be the result of these decisions? God help us all..

  7. A public school can not show bias to one faith over another and despite the fact that it a lovely image it is a religions image. I applaud the thoughtful and fiscally responsible decision of the board and I suspect (based on the description in this post) that Mrs. Barnett would have agreed with boards decisions.) I agree, her spirit will stay with her students and the school despite the removal of the picture.

    • You are exactly right in what you wrote. A public school has to be unbiased–not always an easy road to go—but the important thing is that education continues. I agree–Mrs. Barnett would applaud this decision and her spirit and the attention that this story got was much more valuable than any advertisement.

  8. I appreciate the financial dilemma the school was faced with. I understand the picture is not essential to keep the memory of this beloved teacher alive in their hearts. Still – I would have fought to keep the picture up.
    At some point, we all will be asked to take a stand and defend our Faith. To stand for Christ. What will that moment be? A simple picture? A gun to our head? Because that is what those who answer a higher call to minister in far more dangerous places than a school hallway endure. They die for the chance to proclaim AND walk their Faith. And we can’t even fight for Our Equal Right to have a religious picture in our school hallway?
    My faith is not threatened by the removal of the picture, however…..I fear a great opportunity to proclaim that the Gospel – that God! – is something worth fighting for, has been lost. And each time we allow the world to pressure us into removing said opportunities, we slip a little further away from Him.
    Yet, the world will ask: Where is God?
    It’s up to those of us of Faith to tell them.

    • Great comment, Les. I really am loving what you are saying and I think you echo a lot of the same sentiments that Jake from Poems and Ponderings was writing about. It is a choice that we all make on a daily basis of how to live out our faith. I am sure there was a lot of agonizing and sleepless nights for these board members and those in attendance. When all of the folks that commented at the meeting were commenting in favor of keeping the picture it makes me know that the world still has faith and a lot of us understand what that means. It is still alive even when hard decisions like this have to be made. I am not sure how I would have spoken to this issue had I been there in person. I tend to get emotional and I suspect it would have become very emotional for me. Thanks for the great comment. I really appreciate what you wrote.

  9. Thank you Beth. I believe every time the school district has asked for more money in the School Levy, it has passed. I believe that is because they spend our money wisely. The students always come first. Thanks again for your opinion and your blog.

    • Thank you for taking the time to stop by and comment, Vicki. It is a hard job these days to be involved in public school administration and teaching. There are so many hoops to jump through and “rules” to follow but I am happy that there was so much thought put into this decision. All the articles I read and videos I watched regarding this topic made me think that the community really supports the school and the administrators. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  10. I think you did a beautiful job of writing this post. The death of the teacher is so sad and I agree she should be honored, but I don’t a public school is the appropriate place for religious art. It’s sad it came down to a lawsuit. I agree that our faith is something we carry with us everywhere whether it’s expressed in the seen or unseen.

    • Thanks, Jeni. That means a lot to me that you read and liked what I wrote. 🙂 I know there is a lot that I don’t know about the entire story but it seems like the board acted with the right motivation. Funny how the picture had been moved to the office area (it was in the lobby when I was in school) and hung there for so long without anyone ever mentioning it.

  11. I really loved your take on this situation. It could have become so ugly and then the true meaning behind the painting would have been lost. Thank you for sharing the story and your perspective.

    • Thanks, Liz, for stopping by and commenting. I hope that the resolution calms everyone. It was one of those things that could have been a real divisive issue.

  12. This is just another example of how our freedom in America is disappearing. That ACLU is plain Godless and I wish it never existed! All they do is pick on perfectly decent things and they know they will win any case going to court for this exact reason–it’s all about the money. This kind of thing really riles me up and I should not have gotten started on this. I hope the painting was at least give to that teacher’s family and not just tossed out or stored away in some storage area. And yes, I do not care about being politically correct. Boo on politics!

  13. I find it sad the picture had to be taken down and that it came to deciding between money and the kind good gesture that represented the love for a teacher. I do think it was the best decision to keep the money where it best served the students. Miss Barnett will remain in the hearts of those who loved and admired her. Thanks for sharing this Beth Ann.

    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting. It is just another sign of the times, I guess, when we are forced to compromise on some things but if it had to happen I think it was handled really well. Not an easy decision at all.

  14. This is a sad commentary on our society today.

  15. Why can’t more communities find agreements not requiring legal action?

  16. I think you have had a good reaction to this but I do feel bad that God has to stay out of our schools completely. I remember when I taught in New Jersey, teachers were to read to the pupils from the Bible each morning. My how things have changed!

I love your comments--each one makes me smile and makes a difference for Comments for a Cause! Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: