Idlewild: We'll help the Hillsborough district any way we can
While the role of Idlewild Baptist Church might change somewhat in the next school year, the church will continue to offer its assistance to the district and Superintendent Jeff Eakins.
"We stand fully committed to working in support of Superintendent Eakins' vision of preparing students for life," Barry Chesney, the church's pastor of missions, said Monday. "Our role is to support that vision and help in every way we can."
Idlewild attracted attention this year because of a spirit t-shirt donation and the motivational sessions it provided for principals and assistant principals. Attendance at the sessions was voluntary, and the content was secular. But critics said the arrangement elevated the large Lutz church into a position of too much influence; and that there might have been implied pressure to attend.
It's not clear Idlewild will arrange another series, Chesney said. The church is waiting for feedback from the district.
But Idlewild does want to get involved in the Elevate schools project, which is an effort to broaden the services offered at seven schools in high needs communities. While plans are in the discussion stages, Chesney said the church is contemplating a "day of service" on Saturday, Aug. 27. On that non-school day, church volunteers might visit all seven schools and perform beautification projects such as planting trees and painting the teachers' lounges.
Idlewild already is active in numerous inner-city schools. District officials discussed one aspect of the church's work at Just Elementary; the volunteers wear bright red shirts with a Scripture verse. As nothing in district policy dictates what can be worn on a t-shirt, the district said the practice can continue. Chesney said the shirts identify the visitors as tutors and mentors. "The students see it as a positive thing," he said.