Anmoore’s newest police 
officers have experience

by James Fisher
    Anmoore’s two newest police officers have been working nearly two weeks and say they are enjoying the challenges and experiences.
    Roger Cunningham, 30, was sworn in April 6 and Dennis Kirby, 27, started working April 8, said Anmoore Police Chief Christopher Cogar.
    Cunningham is a veteran officer  and came to Anmoore from the Monongah Police Department in Marion County.
Kirby is a 6-year veteran and has served most recently with the Paden City Police Department.
    The officers were hired to replace Chris Minor, who left for the Shinnston department, and Danny Dolin, who left for Ripley, Cogar said.
    For about three weeks, Anmoore was down to two officers, Cogar and Chris Gearde. But council moved quickly to bring the department back up to near-capacity. Anmoore also has one part-time officer, Chris Magee. One more full-time position will be filled within the next four months, Cogar said.
    Except for Cogar and Magee, all the officers are paid for by the COPS MORE grant. About 75 people applied for the two positions, Cogar said.  Cunningham and Kirby were selected by council out of the final five applicants.
    Because the two officers have experience and are already certified, the town will save about $7,000 by not having to send them to the academy, Cogar said.
    Cunningham said he was excited to be in Anmoore.  The department has a reputation across the state as a good department, he said. “I really enjoy being here. I’ve met some really great people,” he said.  “This is a good department and I am proud to say I work here.”
    Cunningham is a Fairmont native and was an All-American defensive tackle at Glenville State College. He left school early to play for two years in the Arena Football League but returned last year to complete his degree.
Kirby is a Cameron native and has been a police officer most of his adult life. He has worked on the Hundred and Pine Grove departments as well as Paden City.
    “It’s a challenge down here. It’s really nice,” he said. “It’s more of a challenge than I thought it would be, because we’re so close to Clarksburg and Bridgeport, but we get a lot of their traffic.”
    Cunningham said Anmoore was similar to Monongah in that the violent crime rates are low and the majority of arrests are traffic stops. However, he sees a bigger opportunity for advancement both within the department and in the area.
“I wanted to go somewhere to make rank,” he said. “Someday I hope to test with the county and be a deputy.”
    Kirby, on the other hand, said he is content to be a municipal officer and has enjoyed his time with all the departments. One big difference he sees between Anmoore and the Northern Panhandle is the amount of cooperation between departments.
“Sometimes, in Wetzel County, your nearest backup was 45 minutes away,” he said. “Down here, you request mutual aid, and there are officer there within just a couple of minutes.”

R.C. Byrd High wants 
valedictorian waiver

by Gail Marsh
    In the midst of what has become a federal court battle over who can be named valedictorian in one Harrison County high school, another high school is asking for a waiver to change the way valedictorians are selected.
    The Harrison County Board of Education will take up Robert C. Byrd High School’s request tonight at its regular board meeting at its offices on E.B. Saunders Way.
    RCB’s School Improvement Council has asked the school board to let its new valedictorian policy take effect with this year’s senior class, rather than with the class of 2002, as stated in the policy.
    The wavier would allow any senior who has a 4.0 or above grade point average to be named valedictorian, and the student with the next highest average to be named salutatorian.
    According to Louie Nardelli, guidance counselor at RCB, four students will share valedictorian honors if the waiver is accepted.
    “Because the policy did away with weighted grades at the end of last year, these students didn’t have the chance to try to improve their averages. We think the wavier is the best way to make things fair for the students,” Nardelli said.
    For the past eight years, Harrison students have been able to earn grades above 4.0 by taking honors and college-level classes. The new policy did away with weighted grades so that students graduating after 2001 will all be graded on a scale of 4.0.
    Both South Harrison and Lincoln High schools have already received a wavier to allow the policy to begin this year. Liberty High School has not asked for a wavier.
    Bridgeport High School requested a different wavier to help students who took foreign language or math classes worth high school credit in the eighth grade or extra classes in summer school. Until the wavier, those students were penalized because their grade point averages were divided by a larger number of classes. The wavier allowed those students to have their grades averaged on the same basis as the other students in their graduating class.
    Julie Felton, a Bridgeport High School senior, requested an injunction to halt the valedictorian process until a uniform policy is put into place. That case, in which Felton says the policy is unfair, has been sent to federal court. A date for the hearing before Judge Irene Keeley has not been set.
    In the meantime, the school board will continue with the current valedictorian process, according to Robert E. Kittle, superintendent.
    “School is nearly out and we’re facing academic banquets and other year-end events, so we will proceed with the policies that are in place. If changes do come down as a result of the court case, then we’ll have to make some adjustments,” Kittle said.

Clarksburg teacher works at refugee camp
by Gail Marsh
    While her students headed out to enjoy spring break in early April, Notre Dame High School teacher Brigitte LaFontaine traveled halfway around the world to offer what help she could to the refugees pouring into Macedonia.
    The situation she found in the border town of Skopje, where 60,000 ethnic Albania men, women and children were herded into a muddy, open field, was much worse than she expected.
    “It’s outrageous what is happening there. When I heard their stories of rapings and hangings and so many killings, I wondered if it all could be true — but you could see it in their eyes that it had happened,” the Harrison County Catholic School teacher said.
    LaFontaine is a native of Belgium who has volunteered in the past with the International Red Cross. An American citizen since 1978, LaFontaine was contacted by a missionary friend who requested her help with the refugee camp at Skopje. She never hesitated for a moment to take the trip, all the while knowing that she might not come back.
    “My mother was a young woman during World War II and told me stories about working in the Resistance, and my grandfather served in the Resistance, too. When you are raised in Europe, it is expected of you to work to help somebody else,” she said.
    LaFontaine flew from the United States to Aviana, Italy, and on to Skopje, where the refugees had camped after a torturous walk from Kosovo through the mountains, many without shoes. Conditions were deplorable, with no food, no water and no bathrooms. Rain was collected in plastic sheets to help the refugees survive.
    Before the end of the first day, workers had buried 150 people who had been worn down by the trip. Though she was overwhelmed by what she saw, LaFontaine said she fought each minute to keep her strength, her faith and willingness to help.
“I wanted basically just to give them all a hug, to help to alleviate their pain for just a second, to let them know that somebody cared. I worked very hard to do whatever I was asked to do, but it was 100 times more difficult than I thought it would be,” she said.
    LaFontaine said she helped to heal blisters on the feet of those who had walked up to 80 miles to get to Skopje. She also delivered a baby boy on the second day of the trip, something that spelled hope to those around her. The mother of the child died during the night, but the newborn was taken in by others who were helping to care for him amid all the suffering.
    Sometimes LaFontaine would just sit and talk with the refugees and listen to their stories. She described the ethnic Albanians as beautiful people who were very proud of their culture, well-spoken people who often knew several languages.
She said the ethnic Albanians would have been happy to have been left alone to live peacefully on their farms and in their cities.
    “These people did not pose a threat to anyone, but instead had a peaceful vision for the world. They had great courage to suffer all the things that had been done to them,” she said.
    LaFontaine talked with an elderly priest at the camp, who could hardly believe that the atrocities that happened during World War II were being revisited again in the area. In the muddy field she met teachers who had witnessed the hanging of other teachers in front of their students. Other survivors told of losing family members and of their own mistreatment.
    She said many of the refugees recognized a systematic plan by the Serbians to do away with the Albanians by killing the young men and destroying or taking away property. She heard many reports of mass graves back in Kosovo.
    “This was not an accidental act by some people just going crazy, but you saw a definite plan of mass killings of all the young men, the raping of the young women and the expulsion of the rest of the people,” she said.
    By the third day enough supplies had been flown in from Italy to feed the 60,000 refugees, and blankets and sleeping bags followed. Showers were set up, but they were never used — Macedonians came from the south and began to beat the people with sticks, dividing them into three groups to be sent out to other areas. LaFontaine was beaten when she risked her life defending an old man.
    “I didn’t even think about myself, I was so angry at the inhumanity that was taking place before my eyes,” she said.
LaFontaine said she was not sure why the people were dispersed, but assumed it was because the Macedonians were afraid of the Serbs. One group was sent north by foot and on buses. A second group was herded back into the mountains in the direction of Kosovo, where the area was burning and continually being bombed. LaFontaine said she believed 10,000 of the refugees were taken back to be used as human shields so that NATO would stop the bombings.
    “I knelt on the ground as I watched them walk away. I have never felt such sadness at the cruelty that I witnessed that day,” she said.
    LaFontaine followed a third group to Greece, and she was eventually returned to Aviana. She said she would never forget the proud people she met in Skopje, nor the lessons she learned there.
    “Going to Skopje taught me first of all to be thankful for everything I have. And that it’s important to let the people close to you know how you feel about them.
    “I saw a lot of regret of those who had lost relatives and had things they wish they would have said to them. I would like to live so at the end of my life I would have no regrets, about helping people and making things better for others,” she said.

Trauma nurses
‘talk tough’ on
unsafe driving
High school students receive graphic
lesson about failing to wear seatbelts
by Gail Marsh
    More than 400 Robert C. Byrd High School juniors and seniors sat stone-faced during an assembly Monday afternoon — the only sounds an occasional groan or gasp at what they were seeing on the stage screen.
    “There are no words to describe what kind of impact this should have on every single student here, especially when we’ve had things like this happen in our area,” said Natalie Nardelli, an RCB senior.
    Nardelli and her classmates were sitting through a presentation called “Trauma Nurses Talk Tough,” an accident prevention program presented by nurses from West Virginia University’s Ruby Memorial Hospital. The four nurses who gave the presentation on Monday work in the intensive care unit and the emergency room of the Morgantown facility.
    “The teenagers we see in our line of work are the ones that are in the worst shape. We’d rather talk to them here than to see them on a bed looking up at us,” said Steve Chapman, a Ruby nurse. Vicki Vecchiolla, Doanna Cupp and Sherri Whipkey of Ruby were also on hand.
    The junior class advisor, Karen Steele, helped to coordinate Monday’s program, which was presented earlier in the day at South Harrison High School. Steele said the show may have been graphic, but it was an important tool to help remind students that accidents can happen to anyone.
    “Sometimes this is the only way they will understand — to make things as graphic as they can be. With the school prom taking place in just two weeks, students need to be reminded that anyone is vulnerable,” Steele said.
    With lights out in the RCB theater, the nurses took turns describing the circumstances behind the disturbing slide show that showed everything from a pickup truck driver who was crushed to death to an unbelted occupant who had gone through the windshield. Another slide showed the gruesome results of a motorcycle driver wrecking without a helmet, with only the pavement to stop his slide.
    “I never expected it to be so graphic, but it definitely has an impact. I’ll be wearing my seat belt all the time from now on,” said Johnny Joe Madia, an RCB senior.
    Chapman said this is the third year for the “Trauma Nurses Talk Tough” program, which will be presented in 25 high schools in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland in the next few weeks. He said the main goal of the program is to educate students, to let them know that it is not just drugs and alcohol use that can cause accidents.
    “We do the show to encourage young, inexperienced drivers to slow down, to wear their seat belts and to do everything they can to help avoid accidents. We want to be able to prevent the accidents, not just treat the results,” he said.