Prayer service focuses on unity for school district

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Rev. Mary Poston of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, left, and Father Eugene Schmitt of St. Isidore Parish recite the Lord’s Prayer during a prayer service for the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Dubois on Sunday. Clergy from the churches led prayers of unity for the parents, students, teachers, administrators, board members and community members. 

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

DUBOIS — Members of the Dubois and Celestine communities gathered at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in Dubois to pray for the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation Sunday night.

The corporation is facing changes after years of falling enrollment and financial struggles. In January, Architect George Link with VPS Architecture of Evansville completed a facilities need study that ended with a recommendation to close Celestine Elementary, driving a wedge into the Jeeps community.

Sunday’s prayer service — co-hosted by St. Peter’s UCC, St. Isidore Parish, St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Dubois and Christ Lutheran Church in Haysville — was meant to bring the community together to focus on the future of the school system that serves both communities.

John Sterrett, pastor of St. Peter’s said clergy at all the churches heard a desire for a service from their parishioners. Joint prayer services have become somewhat of a tradition for the community when facing a challenge. The parishes have also held services for the avian flu outbreak in 2016 and for the opioid epidemic in 2018.

This time, the clergy came together to offer prayers of unity for the Northeast Dubois community as the school district faces coming changes and for guidance for the district’s administrators and board members. As the communities face the coming changes, Sterrett said the churches’ role is to support the community and promote unity.

Rev. John Sterrett led a prayer during a prayer service for the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation at St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Dubois on Sunday.

“We’re not here to take sides,” he said.

Northeast Dubois High School junior Nikita Fischer participated in the worship band for the service. She saw the prayer service as a way to bring the community together during a contentious situation, though she admitted she hasn’t felt much of the tension.

Unity has also been the focus of the school board and administrators. The board held public work sessions on Jan. 29 and Feb. 4 to discuss the results of the facilities study and to plan for the corporation’s future. At both meetings, the conversation focused on how to make Northeast Dubois the strongest school corporation it can be for its families, even if it means consolidating buildings.

For Gerald and Shirley Terwiske of Dubois, keeping Northeast Dubois strong is a priority. The two are Northeast Dubois alumni, as are their five children and eight of their grandchildren. The couple would like to see the school corporation thrive and be there for their great-grandchildren. They attended the prayer service to show support for the school corporation.

“It’s good that everybody got together,” Shirley said. “It’s a way to remind us that we’re all one community.”

The next action from the school board will be creating a public survey for community members to share input about the direction of the corporation. The board’s goal is to launch the survey Friday and close it on Monday, March 4. Once the survey closes, the board will schedule another public work session to discuss the results.

St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Dubois.
Rev. Mary Poston of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church led a prayer during a prayer service for the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation at St. Peter's United Church of Christ in Dubois on Sunday.



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