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Street Talk

I got called to the principal’s office this week, and I have to admit it sent waves of icy terror through my veins. I was never a bad student or a really bad kid, but I got myself into plenty of trouble in school. 

There was the time I tried to fill up the space between the cubbyholes and the wall with glue in third grade. I was about three weeks into that one before my plot was discovered and I was sent to the office. There was the time Jason Keenum and I got caught flipping dollars in the bathroom in the middle school and got three licks a piece. 

But my masterpiece, if I don’t say so myself, was when we picked the lock of the vice-principal’s office with a ruler and put a stray dog that had wandered into the high school in there. Ah, the 80s! 

We got by with light punishment for most of our pranks and stupid behavior, but the fear of the principal’s office has stayed with me. So this week when Mrs. Barnes called and asked me to come by and speak with her, I was worried. I took my wife and our youngest kid with me for back up and headed to the office. 

What followed was one of the most inspiring conversations I have in a long time. We sat and talked with Mrs. Barnes for over an hour about her plans to make sure our kids excel and our teachers have what they need to succeed. We talked about how to bridge the gap of communication between the schools and the community. We talked about our shared dreams for our kids and our school and our town. And let me just tell you, we’re lucky to have someone as committed, passionate, sharp, and caring as Mrs. Barnes leading our kids. 

In the past when I left the principal’s office it was my backside that was fired up and ready to go. This time it was my heart and spirit and mind that were fired up and ready to get to work with Mrs. Barnes, our great teachers, and our talented kids to transform our schools into the envy of the state.

Perhaps the most touching and meaningful part of our conversation was when Mrs. Barnes told us about her friendship with former DES principal, Dr. Carol Gary. Mrs. Barnes and Dr. Gary were very close and, like so many of us, Dr. Gary’s tragic passing shook her deeply. Mrs. Barnes now sits in her friend’s desk, at her friend’s school, carrying on the work she began, but never got to finish.  

I was deeply moved by the connection between these two purpose-driven women, their shared commitment to our kids and our community. We decided right then and there that our new teacher’s grant fund will be named for Dr. Gary and that every dollar we collect will help teachers at DES carry on the work and vision laid out by Dr. Gary for a better future for our kids. 

I happy to say that we deposited $3,000 into the Dr. Carol Gary DES Fund for Educational Excellence just yesterday and that we have commitments for another $4,000 already. 

Our goal is to raise $10,000 to create a grant fund for teachers at DES. Once we reach that goal we will make the funds available to teachers who apply to the fund for specific, “big ticket” resources for their classrooms that can be used across multiple school years and impact the maximum number of students. In other words, this ain’t for chalk and markers. It’s for the kind of resources that can change the trajectory of the educational experience at DES. 

Representatives from the DES PTO and the faculty at DES will make decisions about which applications to approve, so that the only folks making decisions about where the money goes are parents and teachers, the most important stakeholders when it comes to our kids’ education. 

I’m asking you, yes YOU, to write a check to the Dr. Carol Gary DES Fund for Educational Excellence. Take it by the school and leave it at the office. Someone from the PTO will come by and deposit it into the fund. Or send it to me at 20 S. Main St, Water Valley, 38965 and I’ll walk it down to Mechanics Bank myself. 

Let’s come together to make a real difference in the lives of our teachers and students. Let’s take a stand for education in this town. Let’s put our money where our mouth is and make sure that the work and legacy of Dr. Carol Gary continues to live on in this community and continues to fan the spark of brilliance in each and every child in this town into a roaring fire. 

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