Students want safe environment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Last week, we heard news of another fight at Gates County High School, but it is only one negative incident out of a wealth of positive things happening with the &uot;Red Barons.&uot; The fight is also the first that has taken place in quite a while; actually since the School Board took the initiative and installed Sheriff Ed Webb’s deputies within the hallowed halls.

Just as with the incidents that took place at the beginning of the year, Deputy Mike Bunch immediately stopped the fight last Wednesday and the student was charged with causing the incident.

We certainly must commend Principal Charles Mason, Deputy Bunch and School Superintendent Dr. Robert F. Hahne. It was Dr. Hahne who set the Zero Tolerance policy into place and he and Mason and the sheriff are certainly proving they mean businesses. No rabble-rousers at Gates County High!

No, instead, we are seeing proof that students do want an environment in which they can safely attend school and learn lessons to prepare them to become productive, responsible citizens of Gates County. Just take a look at the &uot;Baron Beat&uot; on page 5A and it is quite obvious that our students are greatly interested in developing a quality of life for themselves that they can only get through education.

On reason for the excellent school system in this county is the quality of the people who staff and serve our schools. People like Gatesville Elementary Principal Michael C. Felton. Every parent in the county should also offer congratulations to &uot;Mike,&uot; as he is known across the county. He has been named the &uot;2005 Wachovia Principal of the Year&uot; in a program co-sponsored by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and Wachovia.

Felton certainly deserves the honor for the 14-years he’s served as the principal at the school. With 27 years in education, Felton previously served as the physical education instructor at both Buckland and Sunbury Elementary Schools, and also was the Assistant Principal at both Central Middle and Gates County High Schools.

Be sure to congratulate Mr. Felton when you see him.

Also, the sheriff should also be commended for his efforts to initiate a Neighborhood Crime Watch program for communities in Gates County. He has offered to present information on the program to any church, civic or social club, or neighborhood group who will invite him to their meeting.

The great thing is that not only can neighbors keep an eye out for suspicious activities and unknown people wandering through neighboring yards, but they can also keep watch over senior citizens and others who may occasionally need assistance.

Prior to coming to the Gates County Index, I was a crime reporter in Suffolk and I saw the initiation of several Neighborhood Watch programs in that city. It was amazing to see the changes in the communities where the Watch was established. Take the Kingsboro neighborhood, for instance. It’s a small neighborhood just off Constance Road and prior to the Watch, the place was riddled with thefts and vandalism. There were even empty houses where the drug culture was flourishing and it was nothing to find drunks and drugged out vagrants laid out in those houses.

The community gathered for a meeting, inviting several &uot;Community Improvement&uot; officers who came armed with boxes of information for the troubled residents. They discussed the procedure that gets Neighborhood Watch signs set up in the neighborhood, and they discussed how to establish a &uot;telephone tree,&uot; a means of communication from one neighbor to another. The police officers also advised the community that they would stand behind them, 100 percent.

All the residents had to do was keep watch over their neighborhood, and if they spotted suspicious activities, like an unknown vehicle riding back and forth, they called 911. Of course, the police responded immediately. The first night the watch was officially in place, the neighbors observed two youths &uot;messing around&uot; in the yard where the residents were on vacation. The young men hot-wired a vehicle in that yard and as they attempted their getaway, police pulled them to a stop in the next block. All because neighbors cared.

These Neighborhood Watch groups are proven across the nation to be a valuable tool in crime fighting. It’s one way in which citizens can take action without becoming a vigilante, and by helping police clean up the streets, residents are helping themselves.

Anyone who would like to establish a Neighborhood Watch should call the sheriff at 357-0210.