Prayers, Praise, and Performance
As I write this column, I sit angry, saddened, and perplexed over the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, where an obviously disturbed teenager decided to senselessly attack his former high school and ravage it leaving seventeen innocent victims dead at the scene.
Such situations are occurring with increasing frequency and intensity. As a result of such unforeseen tragedies, it becomes essential to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. I am most grateful for the strong partnerships we have with the City of Clinton’s Department of Public Safety, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, Laurens County EMS, Presbyterian College, and other emergency management agencies coordinated by Joey Avery. Such mind-numbing tragedies may not always be preventable but quick response and planned coordination can help mitigate the consequences.
Please continue to pray for the families touched by this and other tragedies. Small communities may not always have the amenities of larger cities; however, the “I-have-your-back-and-we-are-all-in-this-together” mindset is irreplaceable. There are just some things larger cities cannot replicate because of size and unintentional anonymity.
Enough sadness … let’s focus on another “only-understood-in-a-small-town” praise report. Clinton High School has worked tirelessly over the last month to promote the “Make A Wish” Foundation. For those who may not be familiar with “Make A Wish,” our students raise money to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences for critically or terminally ill youth and teens. The students at CHS have presently raised nearly $7,000 to make some child’s wish a reality. Having been featured on the “Hometown Spotlight” on News Channel 7 (CBS, Spartanburg) in January as well as hosting a “Father-Daughter” Valentine Dance in early February, these students and staff have embraced the idea to make someone, someone they likely will never know, have the experience of a lifetime. That too is something far, far more common in small towns. You see, people in small towns may be perceived as nosy by outsiders but such thought is not the case.
Small town people just want to get to know you … and these people, our people are generous to a fault. Teachers in our schools see a need, they address it. They don’t announce it … they work to resolve it. Small town folk by and large are good people. They care about other people and they are always willing to support a good cause.
A large number (76.8%) of our students district-wide are considered Low Income but these same students will give their last dollar to help someone they see more unfortunate than they are. This too is a blessing of a small town, our small town.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge two teachers who recently earned a very high distinction. Mr. Michael Mack and Coach Matt Stewart’s Biology students earned the top five rating in the state on the End-of-Course Biology Exam for 2016 – 2017. Clinton in particular and Laurens County School District 56 in general are very proud of their excellence in academics, athletics and the arts. We recognize excellence as a mountain to be scaled and not an accolade to be given. Mr. Mack and Coach Stewart worked tirelessly with students all across the academic spectrum to earn this high performance. Their students earned the award, they were not given it. A lot of people in Clinton also see excellence as a journey and not a destination. As the old Smith-Barney commercial statesman John Houseman used to remark, “We make money the old fashioned way; we earn it.” So it is with these two sterling teachers … they and their students achieved excellence the old fashioned way; they earned it.
Our public schools are proud exemplars of excellence, compassion, and pride. I think the greeting in the Municipal Building in Clinton is accurate, “It IS a Great Day in the City of Clinton” and Mountville, and Joanna, and Cross Hill.
May it be so!
(Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of School District 56.)