WNC Travel Guide

Hours after students in schools across the nation walked out of their classrooms to protest gun violence in American schools, students leaders in Jackson County’s high schools walked into the auditorium of Smoky Mountain High School to deliver their thoughts on the topic to a gathering that included the entire Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners. 

Last week, students across the country walked out of classrooms to acknowledge the 17 people shot to death at Marjorie Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida. 

Doing nothing to enhance school safety is not an option. Thoughtful gun control measures would be helpful and are one tool to help get there, but there are other — perhaps more beneficial — avenues we as a society should pursue.

At a Haywood Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting last week, Waynesville Police Lt. Tyler Trantham’s topic was how to plan for live shooter situations in businesses, churches and schools. It was the second part of his presentation, the first having come on Feb. 7 — exactly one week before the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day.

Columbine, Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas — those names ring out like the bullets that once flew through their hallways, stark reminders of a perplexing and tragic problem that simply hasn’t gone away. 

Haywood County’s high-performing public schools will see a small budget increase for the FY 2018-19 school year, but at the same time takes care of some critical needs, including teacher supplement pay that helps attract and retain the best instructors. 

By Virginia Jicha • Guest Columnist

I was in the process of writing about the need for school nurses when the Parkland school shooting happened on Valentine’s Day. As the President of the North Carolina Parent Teacher Association and an educator, I know that we have too few nurses per students — leaving many schools with a nurse one day a week or less and with teachers and administrators needing to respond to health emergencies and manage the daily needs of our children’s many chronic health needs. Each school nurse in the state serves an average of 1,112 students, serving far more students than the federally recommended ratio of one nurse per 750 students.

The latest mass shooting on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has spurred a number of potential threats across Western North Carolina. 

• Jackson County leaders plan to prevent Jackson County leaders plan to prevent school violence
• Swain High students walk out of class

School officials and law enforcement officers are investigating several students who’ve made comments about school shootings while others have dealt with social media threats. Not all of the student comments have been found to be a credible or eminent threat, but local law enforcement agencies have made it clear such statements will be taken seriously. 

When a teenage shooter shattered an otherwise normal day in Parkland, Florida, with gunfire and bloodshed, the ripples of fear and tragedy didn’t stop at the boundaries of the previously low-profile town. They spread throughout the country, ricocheting through the halls of far-away schools, homes and government buildings filled with folks asking themselves the same question — how can we make sure this doesn’t happen here? 

Cape Cod.

Well, to be more specific, the small seaside town of Chatham, Massachusetts, on the southeastern coast of Cape Cod. April 20, 1999. My family and I emerged from our old Nissan Quest minivan to check into our bed and breakfast for spring break. 

As someone who’s spent 13 years as a school superintendent and four decades as a teacher and administrator fostering the personal achievement and enrichment of others — all in Haywood County — it’s finally time for Dr. Anne Garrett to focus on her own goals and dreams.

“I think 40 years is a long time to do this, and it was just a good time for me. I think our school system is in really great shape. We’ve got good academics and a sound budget right now, we’re not having to close any schools or do anything negative,” Garrett said. “I think it’s just a good time to make that transition.”

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