In the grand scheme of national affairs, or even those of Alabama, the PTA meeting at Vaughn Road Elementary in Montgomery on Oct. 9 didn't make news of any sort. Fox News was not there, nor even a local TV station or newspaper reporter.
Just some dedicated teachers and a principal, some volunteers from a local church armed with snacks and cold drinks, some mothers and daddies and grandmas and grandpas, several dozen squealing grade schoolers and one old school board member with lots of gray hair.
As schools go, Vaughn Road is pretty typical. It has about 500 students, more than 60 percent of them on free-reduced lunches. Several thousand cars pass it every weekday, most drivers not giving it a second glance. "Just another school," most probably think.
And in a sense, they may be right. Because stop and visit any "just another school" and you will find some extremely dedicated people doing everything in their power to teach those in their care. They don't hand pick 'em. They welcome all comers, warts and all. They may have special needs that are clearly visible - and many that are not.
Brenda Lindsey is principal at Vaughn Road. She has been an educator for many years and still gets to work before 7 a.m. She appreciates her staff and tries to make sure they know it. Teachers there tell me they enjoy working at the school, that they feel a sense of "family."
Sherry Beasley teaches second grade for Lindsey. Some of her charges were performing for the PTA meeting. It was a song that related to their study of African history. Sherry stood in the back of the cafeteria while the students were on the stage. She was swinging and swaying right along with them.
It is obvious Sherry's calling is working with young children. Before the event began, kids lined up to get a hug from her. A sure sign that she connects with them. She showed me pictures of her students preparing for their "egg drop" experiment two days after the PTA meeting. (I was sorry I would be out of town and could not be there.)
But the most amazing thing about Sherry to me is that she commutes every day from her home in Barbour County. A one-way distance of about 70 miles. She leaves school and heads down AL 110 through Cecil, Fitzpatrick, Mitchell Station and Thompson Station to Union Springs. Then takes U.S. 82 on to Midway and into Barbour County. She passes Comer and a historical marker announcing the Voters Riot of the 1870s.
I know the route well. Have driven it many times. But would not want to do it twice a day.
Ask Sherry about it and she flashes a big smile and says, "I love it." It's the same smile she gives students when she hugs them.
No. All public schools aren't great. Neither are all teachers - or principals or doctors or lawyers. But I believe little miracles happen in most schools most every day. And just because no one mentions them doesn't mean they don't happen. All because of compassionate and dedicated grownups like my friends at Vaughn Road.
Larry Lee is a public-school advocate and co-author of the study, Lessons Learned From Rural Schools. He is a member of the Montgomery County school board. Larrylee133@gmail.com