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Street Talk

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Mickey’s gone. Now, before everyone gathers on Main Street for an impromptu parade and Ms. Betty gets overwhelmed with new subscriptions, you should know that he’ll be back next month. I don’t know where he is, what he’s doing, or with whom he’s doing it. What I do know is that for the next four weeks you’re stuck with me. 

If we’re stuck with you, who the heck are you? 

Great question. My name is Joe York, and I moved here to Water Valley about three years ago. I definitely out-kicked my coverage when I tricked my wife Kathryn into marrying me seven years ago. Since then, we’ve been blessed beyond measure by the addition of our two children Emma and Herschel.  Emma just started at DES this past fall, and Herschel will be there soon enough. We live on Panola Street, I produce videos for tourism agencies across the US from my office on Main Street, Kathryn works for an education-based non-profit organization, and our kids do their best to make sure we never have quite enough sleep or money. In short, we love it here. 

When we made the decision to move here from Oxford, our friends would always say the same thing, “Oh, the Valley is so cute. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SCHOOLS?” And the way they said the word “schools” let you know what they wanted to say was actually, “That’s so great you want to live in Water Valley, but you must not care much about your kids if you’re going to send them to THOSE schools.” 

Now, there’s a faint whiff of snobbery and elitism coming from Oxford that we won’t get into here, but hidden in that slanted question is a real concern. Why would we take our kids out of a community with highly rated schools and take them to a community with not-so-highly rated schools?

I’ll tell you like I told them. Two plus two is still four in Water Valley. The laws of physics, the lessons of history, and the principles of science still apply in Water Valley. My wife and I went to small public schools in Alabama and Georgia, and we did just fine, thank you very much. And honestly, we value the sense of community, the feeling of belonging, and the overall quality of life here in the Valley more than we care about the ranking of the school. 

That said, now that we have a kid in kindergarten here, we have some concerns. 

Teachers I’ve talked to tell me they’d love to have more and better resources to share with their students. They need help getting access to programs and curricula that could supplement their lessons and enrich the learning experience for those who need advanced material to remain challenged and those who need extra attention to succeed. The problem is that there’s never enough money for them to get these resources. 

Let me say this as clearly as possible: That’s unacceptable. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that a teacher in this community should ever have to say, “If I only had this resource or that resource, I could teach these kids a little better.”

Just a few weeks ago when our football team needed money to get down to Hattiesburg to play for the state title, this community raised well over $1000 in under an hour to help them get there. You know what they did when they got there? They took Seminary to the woodshed, came home with the State Championship, and made a whole town proud. 

I was so happy to donate to that cause and so happy to see our team play so well. But I’m here to tell you that the rest of our students need help, too. 

To that end, a handful of folks in this community are working right now to create a fund for teachers and our goal is to raise $10,000 before Mickey gets back and takes his column away from me. 

We’re still working with teachers and others to define how the fund will work, but the basic idea is that our teachers know what they need to succeed and we’re going to help them get it. 

So far we have $4,000 committed to this fund, and we’re confident we’ll get to our goal of $10,000 very soon. If you’d like to make a pledge of support, feel free to email me directly at

I know money won’t solve every problem and I know many people and organizations are already giving a lot of their time, talent, and energy to our schools. This fund is simply a way for us to make sure our teachers and kids have the resources they need to succeed. And if they succeed, we ALL succeed, parents, teachers, and even those of you who don’t have kids in the schools. 

If we can come together as a community and become number one in football, we can come together and become number one in education.  It’s going to take hard work from every member of this community and accountability from the bottom to the top. It’s going to mean showing up, staying late, and buying in.  

The State Champion Blue Devils showed us how to get to the top. It’s our turn to follow their lead because, frankly, good enough just ain’t good enough for our kids.

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