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School board has packed agenda for Monday's meeting
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A packed agenda awaits the Hopkins County Board of Education Monday as the regular session will be followed by a work session and a closed session.

Superintendent Dr. Deanna Ashby said during the closed session Owens Saylor, a coordinator with the Kentucky Association of School Administrators who is guiding the new superintendent search, will update the board on how the process is going.

“It is just a little bit of training and bringing them up to speed,” she said.

The closed session is only for board members and the board attorney, no school administrators will be allowed into the closed session, said Ashby.

Ashby announced her retirement at the Feb. 22 school board meeting after 29 years in the school system. Her last day will be June 30. At the March 15 school board meeting, the timeline search for the new superintendent and job posting was approved by the board.

During the work session, Assistant Superintendent Marty Cline will update the board on Senate Bill 128 and what the school has heard from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association and the Kentucky Department of Education.

Cline said the bill has been relabeled as the Supplemental School Year Program and would permit any student in grades K-12 to redo the 2020-2021 school year during the 2021-2022 school year.

“Almost like if a student were to be held back,” he said.

The bill also has parameters on student’s athletic participation if they decide to stay in class for another year, he said.

Cline said the program is something students or parents would need to apply for, and the school district will share how to get the application out into the community, hopefully by Tuesday, he said.

“Then, on down the line, there are deadlines that allow the board to see those applications, and they have to make a decision on whether they are going to accept or deny all of them,” said Cline. “They can not individualize those decisions.”

Also in the work session, the board will discuss the virtual learning program. Ashby said the board has to approve a waiver and send it to Frankfort by Friday, April 30.

“That does not mean we will have virtual learning, it does not mean we won’t have virtual learning,” said Ashby. “It just means that we have to submit some type of waiver to Frankfort that we are considering it.”

The board will then have the entire month of May to tweak the virtual process, she said. Ashby is unsure how the board will want to design the program for next year.

“We are still seeking input from administrators about this. We have also had some parents call about it,” said Ashby.

She said there is no action expected from either the work session or the closed session.

Ashby said she is aware of a Facebook post calling on parents to come to the board meeting on Monday night to discuss their concerns relating to this school year and the continued impact of COVID-19 guidelines.

At every board meeting, there is a sign-up sheet for community members to have their voices heard. Ashby said community members, parents and students are always welcome to speak to the board and discuss their concerns. Those signing up to speak will be allotted three minutes to address the board.

The board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Hopkins County Career and Technology Center.

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Circle of Peace statue dedicated at Mahr Park Arboretum
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With a desire to make Madisonville a better place for generations to come, Dr. Jack and Beverly Hamman donated the Circle of Peace statue to Mahr Park Arboretum Friday afternoon.

The statue was unveiled in front of a large crowd at the park and shows five children holding hands in a ring with a space open.

“There is an empty space to complete the circle, and so we hope that every child will want to have their picture made to remind them of a special time and a special day at the park,” said Jack.

The Hammans first saw the statue in New Mexico about 30 years ago and thought it would be wonderful to have it in a playground.

“Of course, it was beyond our financial reach at that time because we are talking about 30 years ago,” said Jack.

Beverly saw the statue again at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville and decided it was time to figure out how to bring it home.

Beverly said there are only going to be 50 of the statues created then the mold will be destroyed. She said Madisonville’s statue is number 29.

The statue was created by Gary Lee Price to represent children from all walks of life playing with each other. The children are in a circle to represent the continuum of humanity, and they are clasping hands to represent the interaction and cooperation of humanity.

In his written explanation, Price said the empty space was created so someone else can complete the circle.

“Each and every person is a vital element in this wonderful circle of life,” he said.

Park Director Ashton Robinson said if it was not for the Hammans’ generosity and kindness, the park would not be where it is today.

“I am very thankful for supporters such as Jack and Bev,” she said.

Mayor Kevin Cotton said the statue is the perfect piece to represent the kindness and generosity of the Hammans.

“It is a true testament of the character that they both encompass,” he said. “They truly live out making sure they leave things better than when they found them.”

Jack said they donated the statue to the park without any restrictions on where it had to be placed other than in a prominent position. The nature play area was under construction and it was decided to place it at the new play area.

“What better place to have it then as the entrance to the playground,” said Jack.

Robinson is hopeful the nature play area — which is being created out of all-natural Douglas Fir wood — will be completed by summer.

“It is going to offer a safe spot for children to play and make it feel like they are outdoors and in the woods,” said Robinson, adding there will be different sensory options for the kids to explore, things they can touch, smell and interact with.

“It is something I have never seen personally, so to be able to have this in Madisonville is just amazing,” said Robinson.

Funding for the play area came from the Community Improvement Foundation, The Mahr Charitable Trust, anonymous donors in the community and the Hopkins County Tourism.

Bowman encourages locals to become organ, tissue donor
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Hopkins County Circuit Court Clerk Tanya Bowman is joining other Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks in celebrating Donate Life Month.

Every April, Bowman and the rest of the state’s clerks celebrate the Donate Life Month in association with the Kentucky Circuit Court Clerks’ Trust For Life and Donate Life America.

To help illustrate the message of donation, Donate Life America creates unique artwork for each National Donate Life Month. The 2021 National Donate Life Month art was inspired by the springtime scene of a garden.

Bowman described the garden and added that the insects in the image serve as symbols of hope, courage and a transformed life, which are themes repeatedly found within the donation and transplantation journey.

“April is a time to focus Hopkins County’s attention on every individual’s power to make life possible by registering his or her decision to be a potential organ and tissue donor,” Bowman said. “Just as each of us takes care of our own garden, registering as an organ donor produces hope within our own community.”

One of the ways communities celebrate locally is with billboards that are set up across Kentucky.

According to Bowman, there are 52 billboards put up around the state this year that feature a local donor, family or a recipient.

Bowman said even during the COVID-19 pandemic that children and adults are still in need of donors, adding that currently over 60% of Kentucky’s adults have registered to become organ donors.

However, the number of people in need of transplants continues to outpace the number of organs donated.

Bowman said currently there are 108,000 people that are waiting for a transplant in America. According to information provided by Bowman, on average, 22 people die each day because they organ they need is not donated in time, which equals to almost one person dying every hour.

“Everyone can help by registering your decision to be an organ, eye and tissue donor,” said Bowman.

There are three ways to become an organ donor: by filling out information at www.registerme.org, on iOS phones on the Health App and toggle to “organ donor” and during license renewal at all Circuit Court Clerk offices and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet offices. In Hopkins County, the KYTC Real ID office where the majority of licensing business will be conducted after April 26 is located at 56 Federal Street.

J&J pause hasn't slowed local vaccination efforts
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With federal regulation pausing the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, Hopkins County health leaders say they have ample supply of other COVID-19 vaccines to meet the demand.

Federal regulators paused the use of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot on Tuesday after six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed blood clots, including one who died.

Hopkins County Health Department Director Denise Beach said no issues have been reported by those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the county.

Beach also stressed the rare chance that the side effects could happen with the vaccine were less than one in a million.

“It is something to just be mindful of and to pay attention to symptoms,” she said. “If anybody has concerns they can call 270-821-5242 extension 222. The main thing is that if it has been a couple of weeks since they had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and they get a headache that doesn’t resolve with medication, they need to contact their medical provider and make sure and tell them they have had the vaccine.”

Beach said supplies of other vaccines with Moderna and Pfizer are still available for the Health Department and Baptist Health Madisonville to use.

“We still have plenty of Moderna and the hospital still has plenty of Pfizer,” she said. “Nobody that has had the messenger RNA vaccines has had this problem, so we are going to continue to vaccinate and get the vaccines out to people ... we are not having an issue with having supply at this time.”

On Monday, 148 Hopkins County Jail inmates received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Beach said she communicated with Jailer Mike Lewis some information on what to discuss with those who were vaccinated.

“I spoke with my medical director about that, too,” said Beach.

Lewis said the jail had had no issues due to the vaccine, but said some inmates had concerns after seeing news stories about the reported cases of side effects.

Beach said as of Friday morning there have been 25,000 vaccine shots given between the Health Department and Baptist Health Madisonville.

“We will be doing more mobile clinics,” Beach said. “We have more in house clinics and booster doses to give in the next week and then we will start scheduling mobile clinics the week after next. This past week, we did the jail, a clinic at the food bank and at Teen Challenge. We hope to get to the south end of the county again.”

Updates for the mobile clinic plans will be done through the health department’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/hopkinscountyhealthdept.

FBI says it interviewed FedEx mass shooter last year

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The former employee who shot and killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis was interviewed by FBI agents last year, after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop,” the bureau said Friday, as investigators searched for a motive in the latest mass shooting to rock the U.S.

Coroners released the names of the victims late Friday. Four of them were members of Indianapolis' Sikh community — another blow to the Asian American community that comes a month after six people of Asian descent were killed in a mass shooting in the Atlanta area and amid ongoing attacks against Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Marion County Coroner's office identified the dead as Matthew R Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jasvinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Skhon, 48; Karlie Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.

The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said. The home is located in a neighborhood of midcentury houses near Interstate 465.

Hole began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility late Thursday, killing four, before entering the building, fatally shooting four more people and then turning the gun on himself, McCartt said. He said the shooter apparently killed himself shortly before police entered the building. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally.

“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” he said. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”

McCartt said the slayings took place in a matter of minutes, and that there were at least 100 people in the facility at the time. Many were changing shifts or were on their dinner break, he said. Several people were wounded, including five who were taken to the hospital.

A FedEx employee said he was working inside the building Thursday night when he heard several gunshots in rapid succession.

“I see a man come out with a rifle in his hand and he starts firing and he starts yelling stuff that I could not understand,” Levi Miller told WTHR-TV. “What I ended up doing was ducking down to make sure he did not see me because I thought he would see me and he would shoot me.”

Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned Hole last year after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop.” He said the FBI was called after items were found in Hole’s bedroom but he did not elaborate on what they were. He said agents found no evidence of a crime and that they did not identify Hole as espousing a racially motivated ideology. A police report obtained by The Associated Press shows that officers seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole’s home after responding to the mother's call. Keenan said the gun was never returned.

McCartt said Hole was a former employee of FedEx and last worked for the company in 2020. The deputy police chief said he did not know why Hole left the job or if he had ties to the workers in the facility. He said police have not yet uncovered a motive for the shooting.

Police Chief Randal Taylor noted that a “significant” number of employees at the FedEx facility are members of the Sikh community, and the Sikh Coalition later issued a statement saying it was “sad to confirm” that at least four of those killed were community members.

The coalition, which identifies itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the U.S., said in the statement that it expected authorities to “conduct a full investigation — including the possibility of bias as a factor.”

Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, a national advocacy group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a statement that the shootings marked “yet another senseless massacre that has become a daily occurrence in this country.”

Nikore added, "The senseless gun violence that we’re seeing in this country is reflective of all of the spineless politicians who are beholden to the gun lobby. Period. End of story. They will be hearing from us -- instead of offering thoughts and prayers, it’s time to mobilize for direct action and vote them out. That is what we’re doing today. We will end the violence, only when we have leaders who have the guts to do so.”

The agonizing wait by the workers' families was exacerbated by the fact that most employees aren’t allowed to carry cellphones inside the FedEx building, making contact with them difficult.

“When you see notifications on your phone, but you’re not getting a text back from your kid and you’re not getting information and you still don’t know where they are … what are you supposed to do?” Mindy Carson said early Friday, fighting back tears.

Carson later said she had heard from her daughter Jessica, who works in the facility, and that she was OK.

FedEx said in a statement that cellphone access is limited to a small number of workers in the dock and package sorting areas to “support safety protocols and minimize potential distractions.”

FedEx Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.”

“This is a devastating day, and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel,” he wrote in an email to employees.

The killings marked the latest in a string of recent mass shootings across the country and the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in the city in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during at argument at a home in March. In other states last month, eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses in the Atlanta area, and 10 died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the community must guard against resignation and “the assumption that this is simply how it must be and we might as well get used to it.”

President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on the shooting and called gun violence “an epidemic” in the U.S.

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation,” he said in a statement. Later, he tweeted, “We can, and must, do more to reduce gun violence and save lives.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was “horrified and heartbroken” by the shooting and called for congressional action on gun control.

“As we pray for the families of all affected, we must work urgently to enact commonsense gun violence prevention laws to save lives & prevent this suffering,” the Democratic leader said in a tweet.

Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until April 20.


Associated Press reporters Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report. Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.