A Breath of Fresh Air

This piece was written by Rose Anna MacDonald of Caldwell County, North Carolina.

On the second Monday of each month at 5:45 PM, you will see adults with their children filing into a building at 1914 Hickory Blvd. in Lenoir. The atmosphere isn’t tense or hostile. Instead, you see a lot of smiles, parents with their hands on their child’s shoulder or around their waist, shows of affection. There are no extremist groups present intimidating participants or trying to push their anti-CRT, ban books and mask mandate agendas. There are people going to the Caldwell County School Board meeting to celebrate their children.

If you haven’t been to or watched Caldwell County School meetings on YouTube, they include a large portion of time devoted to praising students, teachers, and other school system staff. At every meeting, artwork done by students in all grades line the Education Center hallway and are projected on a large screen for all to see. Students’ names are called, and you see them smiling as they walk to the front of the room, sometimes joined by their art teacher. Medals are awarded by Chair Mr. Pennel and parents beam as they step up to snap a photo for a proud cherished memory. 

It is not just about artwork. Each month three students are chosen who embody a positive character trait. Their teacher, or sometimes their principal, stands to talk about why this particular student was chosen and again, smiles, hugs, a medal, and photos. Students are also celebrated for their accomplishments on debate teams, for essays written, school competitions and other educational events. Libby Brown, Community Services Director, moderates this portion of the school board  meetings with much positive enthusiasm. POSITIVE ENTHUSIASM. Embrace that, hold on to that, cherish that, because you don’t see this at other school board meetings surrounding Caldwell County right now.  

What is happening at school board meetings in other North Carolina counties is a very different story. Angry parents and community members, some who belong to white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who are there to push an extremist agenda, are disrupting participants, maligning the public school system, threatening school board members and encouraging parents to take their children out of the “government schools.” There is nothing at these meetings that celebrates students. 

The first school board meeting I attended, as children filed past me to the front of the room to accept their awards, I thought of how supportive and positive this is for students.  I’m proud to be part of a community that does this. I encourage you to go to YouTube and look for Caldwell County NC School Board meetings. Thank Caldwell County teachers, Dr. Phipps, school board members, and Libby Brown for creating a positive experience for the students..

 It is a breath of fresh air.