Escaping the Storm


Next month I plan to return to chronicling the distinctive excellent programs and opportunities found in each of our six district schools; however, this month it was just too timely not to mention the efforts—most behind the scenes—in preparation for and response to Hurricane Florence.

We have many great things in our district and across our county but among the very best is the work of Joey Avery, director of Laurens County Emergency Preparedness.

Well before the storm was in the Carolinas, Mr. Avery had established a close, personal contact with all public agencies in Laurens County.

Numerous webinars and phone conferences provided increasingly clear data and projected paths of the storm. Mr. Avery also had a face-to-face meeting with numerous public agencies, including officials from both districts, Presbyterian College and Laurens Academy to provide us the latest information and extend opportunities for each agency to ask questions and discuss how we could work together.

While at this meeting, I noted how important everyone’s tasks were and how dependent we are in public education on these other, often invisible entities. I was especially appreciative to see how in times of trouble the best comes out in people.

Throughout the weekend, Mr. Avery continued to feed us information and solicit our input. Fortunately, the storm’s worst effects mostly missed us; however, the planning, coordination, and evaluation prepared us to work closely together should the storm have taken a more ominous path our way. 

These conversations and advanced planning remind me of the best path for success not only in storm mitigation but also in every successful endeavor.

Teaching is truly a communal profession and requires numerous conversations with a multitude of constituents: parents, students, fellow teachers, coaches, pastors, administrators, business and industry.

Teaching and learning cannot flourish without the rich soil of communication and the guiding light of continuous preparation. Laurens County is fortunate to have a close relationship with Piedmont Tech, many businesses and industries, and a strong Chamber of Commerce. 

I think some of the lessons I learned “escaping the storm” were these:

People can’t speak at the same time and be heard;

Sometimes you must just trust the expertise of others;

What you expect to happen may not, but the effort is still worthwhile; and most importantly,

Working together provides many opportunities to learn from each other.

Parents and students along with teachers and administrators achieve so much more when the above “lessons” are applied in educational settings. The hurricanes we face daily are apathy, illiteracy, mistrust, despair and hopelessness but the antidote remains open, honest communication and adherence to a plan. The plan may be revised as needed but a plan is always needed.

Only by working together can we hope to avoid, endure, or escape the storms of life.

Thank you, Joey Avery, for being an excellent teacher!


(Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens School District 56.)

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