Just the Facts

Iotla welcomes school board

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Henrietta Haithcock

The Jan. 22 meeting of the Macon County Board of Education (BOE) was hosted by Iotla Valley Elementary School. A diverse group, including parents, teachers, board members, and other school personnel watched as K-12 students opened the meeting by performing a variety of musical presentations.

The third and fourth grade choir sang, “I Have a Dream.” Another performance involved the participation of all board members in a Native American dance. The dancers were accompanied by drum and xylophone music played by a select group of K-12 students from the music classes.

As part of Iotla’s presentation, the 27-member Iotla Lighthouse Team shared individually the duties and responsibilities required to be a part of that leadership organization.

A presentation was given by Danielle Hernandez, program director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a United Way agency, which serves Franklin, Highlands, and Cashiers. Hernandez and Dorian Palmer, president of the organization, encouraged individuals to become mentors for this important and free program.

“Giving encouragement and positive reinforcement can change the direction of a young person’s life,” said Palmer. “Responsible high school-age students would make a great fit for this school-based program to encourage academic and social/emotional well-being.”

Recognitions at the BOE meeting included the Iotla Valley Elementary Teacher of the Year, Mina Jenkins. Iotla’s principal, Michelle Bell, praised Jenkins’s achievements by noting her dedication and skill teaching 4th grade the first half of the year and then switching to teach kindergarten for the second half.

Custodian Chuck Dishman was recognized as Iotla’s Support Person of the Year. Franklin High School Band member Elias Peek, percussion section leader, will perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Feb. 10 for the WorldStrides Honors Instrumental and Choral Performance.

Crisis averted

BOE Superintendent Josh Lynch and Chair Jim Breedlove presented an emotional recognition and thanks to the Macon County Sheriff’s Department for its immediate and professional actions during a Jan. 16 lockdown emergency at Mountain View Intermediate (MVI).

Three juveniles were subsequently charged following the incident.

Lynch addressed the matter in an official BOE statement to parents and the press on Jan.17: “Yesterday afternoon, in a matter of moments, faculty and staff throughout the district secured their classrooms and provided comfort and security to their students while law enforcement mobilized swiftly to secure the campus of MVI. … The events that unfolded could have been a community’s greatest nightmare. … I am grateful and proud of the brave men and women in our local law enforcement agencies that answered the call of duty to serve and protect our students, faculty, and staff without hesitation.”

Accompanying his statement was one by Sheriff Brent Holbrooks: “I would like to address the incident that occurred at Mountain View Intermediate yesterday so it is clear and there are no questions. … I want to be clear that there was no hostage situation, no chases through the playground, no gunshots, and no taser deployments. I have seen these accusations posted online and they are false. …”

He continued: “The investigation continues; however, we have discovered that there were 911 calls made from inside Mountain View Intermediate, one of which posed an immediate threat to those inside the school building. There could be several individuals involved with this incident and they will be charged accordingly. Your local law enforcement agencies take any type of threat against our schools very seriously. Please speak with your children at home about the seriousness of this type of situation. I would like to commend the deputies of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office for a job well done. The citizens and our schools are lucky to have such caring and committed individuals looking after them. … And last but not least, a job well done by MVI’s teachers, staff, and students. Thank you for remaining calm in a high stress situation and for trusting us with your safety and the safety of the students you love so dearly.”

Speaking to the situation of Jan. 16, Lynch and Breedlove expressed particular appreciation for the actions of Sheriff Holbrooks as well as Chief Deputy Adam Wishon and Trey Chastain, the Sheriff Department’s school resource officer at MVI.

“Our Sheriff’s Department was able to do what it could to protect,” said Breedlove, at the meeting. “They are the stars, the heroes.”

MVI principal Nancy Breedlove was also recognized for her ability to handle the lock-down event.

“Every teacher was standing at their doors between any possible threat and their students,” she said. “I am just the face of all of these incredible people.”

Lynch praised Principal Breedlove.

“She had the true qualities of a leader by being steadfast and strong for her students. That is what leadership is all about,” said Lynch.

“These teachers also qualify as heroes,” added Breedlove.

The next BOE meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19 at Macon Early College.

Haithcock is a children’s book author. She wrote “The Secret Life of Mr. Brownie” and contributed to the latest edition of the locally published Suminski Family Books’ Animal Stories series. She shares this story as a read-aloud for families this Christmas.