The school system has been in the news quite a bit lately and not all of the coverage was positive. But hopefully this column will help some to refocus our thoughts.
When I was in the eighth grade at North Canton Elementary I had a teacher named Homer Key. Mr. Key was more than a teacher. He was a man who loved the kids he taught.
One time I was talking in class and he had called me out several times. He finally told me that if I said one more word he would put me in the closet until the next break. I said one more word. And being a man of his word, he put me in the closet.
Oh, he checked on me every two minutes with a smile. There was no danger, only a lesson in love.
That was in 1975 or ’76. Today, he would be fired, locked up, banned from the community, and never allowed to be around children again. And that my friend is where we have come.
Mr. Key moved on to Cherokee High School before he retired. There was a time when I was working crimes against children for the sheriff’s office and was called to Cherokee by the administration.
I walked in to Mr. Key’s office with tobacco in my mouth. We shook hands and I sat down. He politely pushed a trashcan toward me and said, “Get rid of that tobacco. You know I am still big enough to put you in a closet.”
I did as he said and he offered me a Mountain Dew and a MoonPie.
As we met with the victim of a child abuse case, Mr. Key allowed me to do the talking and do my job. Since I worked with abused kids routinely during that time, I was somewhat hardened to the trauma they endured. But the look of anguish on Mr. Key’s face as he heard the details of the situation I will never forget. It was one of heartbreak.
You see, Homer Key changed the lives of children. It didn’t matter if they were rich or poor. It didn’t matter what the color of their skin was. He was an advocate for all of his students. They loved him for that.
I said all of that to say this. There are more like Homer Key teaching in our school system today. They love the kids they teach and want them to succeed.
And it isn’t only the teachers. I remember the lunchroom staff at North Canton and Cherokee High School. They worked tirelessly to feed hundreds of students every day. And many are still doing it while knowing it is the only meal that some of the kids will get all day. Try doing that day in and day out.
Then we have the counselors who have the responsibility of keeping track of the student’s academic progress while making sure they are emotionally stable.
And then you have the office staff and principals who must keep track of everything going on in addition to remaining professional as they are berated by angry parents.
I won’t and can’t get into the politics going on right now. But I will tell you this by giving you a hypothetical. If there were no school board at all, what would happen? I will tell you what.
The good teachers would keep teaching. The good lunchroom workers would continue to make sure your children are fed. The good counselors would keep counseling. And the good principals and administrative staff would continue being professional and keeping track of it all. Because that is who they are.
It better be about loving the kids and doing what is best for them or we have missed the boat.
I could give you many examples of people who have succeeded after being educated in Cherokee County public schools. And there will be many more. And it will happen despite politics. For love is stronger than politics.
I don’t know if there are any bad ones in the education field in Cherokee County or not. But if there are, let’s call Mr. Key. I am sure he has a fitting solution.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.