Letter to the Editor from Clarence Resident and former Educator, Ginger Wood

June 17, 2018

Dear Editor,

So much is going on with the redistricting issue that I thought I would share a few thoughts of my own. This message is not to tear down Macon school by any means. In 2009-10, I taught 4th grade in Macon under "critical shortage." I felt that the administration and school board were amazing. The curriculum was quality. The professional developmental opportunities I was given were top notch. And the best part is that I developed life long friendships with teachers and staff. The students that I taught graduated from high school last year and I got invitations to attend these milestones in their lives. I cannot find one single negative thing to say about Macon School. Was I nervous to go there. YES. Did I doubt myself as a teacher and as a person. YES. Was I scared. Oh YES. I was completely out of my comfort zone, but I was welcomed and quickly became at ease. Nor do I have any negativity against those who want to redistrict. Each member of that committee has played a role in my life. Even though I may not agree with their cause, I understand that they are fighting for what they believe is best, just like I am.

Even though I don't have a "dog in this fight", I still am going to stand up for all the puppies out there who will be affected by this issue. If you are a teacher, or have ever been a teacher, you will know that every student that you ever had will always be "your kid." After putting in 547.5/550 hours of substitute teaching, a large percentage of these 250 students are my kids. I am not going to compare South to Macon. I think we have had lots of good information put before us about that. Both schools are going to balance out as equal, in my opinion. So I am going to focus on a few other things that makes South Shelby the best choice.

I have been in every building this school year and every one of them are unique and special. I loved the way Clarence Elementary was always warm and welcoming. When you walk in the door, you know that you are special. The low lighting, the color, the comforting décor make it a place that you just want to stay. When I taught for Darcy, I enjoyed the well written lesson plans from a new teacher... the organization of her classroom, the way Heidi treated the children as they found excuse after excuse just to go in the office, and how Mrs. Whelan came in to check and make sure all my needs were met and to praise the students for their accomplishments of the day. It's true, I voted Yes for consolidation. Not because I wanted this all to end, but because I wanted something even better. And I hope that when our new elementary is built, that the atmosphere that made my Clarence School so special, will be spilling out within the walls of South Shelby Elementary.

When I went to Shelbina Elementary, I was always welcomed with little students being leaders and exhibiting good character traits. I loved the mini museums and the art that was always everywhere in that building. One didn't have to go in a classroom to find out what was going on, it was obvious just standing and looking. I hope this practice continues in South Shelby Elementary. I couldn't ask for a better education for my grandson.

I loved the middle school and high school. I witnessed respect given to the students, the staff and the administration. I looked forward to every phone call I got to come in for the day. In those 547.5 hours, I never had a bad experience. So this is why I am going to vote NO in August....It is because South Shelby is the best! What makes this school stand out above all others? It's simple. You can tell as soon as you set foot in the door.

How is this possible, I hear you ask? In my role when I taught at the South Shelby campus, the first thing that hits you is the ethos. These ethos are there for all to see and feel. It pervades all aspects of the school and has many tell-tale signs.

The most important is positive teacher-pupil relationships as well as the friendliness of the students and their interaction with one another.

The key values can be seen all around and you sense that every individual, students, teacher and staff, in that building wants to be there. There is both evidence and a feeling that high expectations are pervasive, from the quality of the building to the quality of work being presented.

You quickly understand that teachers are dedicated to those in their care. The young men and women are individual human beings and know that they will be treated as such. They are a person first, a student second. Their personal needs, their heart, their souls and being nurtured before a book or assignment is even presented. Teachers care.

Behavior is excellent, because the structures are understood by everyone.There is also evidence that staff are allowed to take risks to enable them to get the best from the pupils. Strong leadership is present. You will quickly see the relationships and mutual respect that exist.

The school district vision is communicated not by what is said but by what can be seen. It’s evident that the staff are a team who are motivated by common purpose and by administration who show honest and caring leadership.

So what does all this tell us about Shelby County R-lV (SCRIV)? It is not earth-shattering to say that our school is about relationships. But I would go one step further and say that we are about LOVE. The best learning is achieved when both the teacher and student have a common purpose. They share the same journey and bond. It is a bond that is filled with a joyful desire to provide challenging experiences that truly stimulate the individual. And what creates that bond is LOVE.

Every day, SCRIV teachers show this, creating a school full of respect, wonder and a desire to learn. South Shelby is a place where all members are learners one minute and teachers the next. But they all share love. It’s so important to recognize that SCRIV shows the best side of humanity.

I will never forget the night of my mom's visitation. A SCRIV school bus pulled in the parking lot, and in walked Tim Maddex. I heard him explain to the funeral director that he knew if he drove all the way back to the high school to get his personal vehicle, that he may not make it in time to pay his respects. That is love. Love for me and my family, and love for my mom. This incident popped in my mind when I read young Mason's letter to the editor about Mr. Windsor being there for him when his father died. Until you actually experience something like this, you will not know how a simple act of kindness on the worse day of your life, will impact your perception forever.

There we have it. South Shelby is the best because we have relationships at our core along with high-quality teaching and strong leadership. It is a formula that produces the dedicated teachers we seek, guided by administration who truly care. What follows is a strong ethics and students with high expectations who behave and want to be part of this fabric or quality education. What we have is love, of and love for a school.

Love is an emotive word. It’s one we do not use nearly enough in the context of schools. And that’s a pity, because this one simple word produces everything we are all looking for.

SCRIV perfect? NO. Is hate and bitterness ever exhibited? Probably. Do we have some things to work on? Of course. Could Macon or any school have our great qualities? Yes. But no other school is MY school. SOUTH SHELBY IS HOME! Home is where the heart is. I want to stay home!!!! "The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go and be who we are meant to be and not be questioned" by Maya Angelou. "Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends and family belong and laughter never ends." unknown. Home is just about the nicest word there is. SOUTH SHELBY IS HOME. That's why I am voting NO.


Ginger Wood