It was a rare off-the-record call from a high-ranking individual in the school system. I knew it was important when it came to my cellphone and not the office line.
Immediately I was asked if we could speak privately for a few minutes.
Personally, I do not like “no-notes” conversations but I could tell by the tone of voice this was important.
Initially the official did not know where to begin. This observation was obvious by the length of time it took to transition into the heart of the discussion.
Finally, a point was made about much-needed funding granted to Mercer County by the state School Board Authority for two new elementary schools.
I interjected here to praise the county’s role in bringing these dollars to the area. I was familiar with plans for both schools and knew they were much-needed facilities.
Soon the conversation turned to a goal of obtaining money for a new school in the Bluewell/Brushfork area.
And then came the could-be-awkward part of the exchange.
The official told me that the safety of schoolchildren was of paramount importance and incidents of crime or violence near an existing school could be used as supporting documentation for a new facility.
Bottom line: While not actually saying the communities were not safe, I was basically being asked by the official to cite incidents showing the neighborhoods around the schools may not be safe.
Now there’s a political correctness conundrum.
Soon, I was listing off incidents that had occurred in the area.
Just months earlier I was at the scene of a brutal animal abuse case that occurred within full-view of the Bluewell school.
A man in a nearby apartment complex placed a puppy on a stump and beat it to death with a log. The scene was visible from windows in the classroom.
I will never forget the sight of the tiny, bludgeoned pup, or the tears on the faces of animal control officers as they carried its body away in a rainbow-colored blanket.
But that was just the start.
As my brain kicked into gear my mouth went into overdrive.
“There was also the bank robbery — no wait, there were two. Well, actually one bank robbery and a second attempted bank robbery that occurred across the street from the convenience store that had an armed robbery the week prior. And I’m pretty sure there have been other robberies as well. Oh, and the hit-and-run death. An inebriated pedestrian was struck and killed by a DUI driver.”
Sadly, my list went on.
After a few minutes, it struck me that I was speaking of a community I loved.
I shopped at the mom-and-pop stores.
I waved at friends while traveling through the main thoroughfare.
And I smiled each time I passed a container overflowing with flowers.
So why did my description of this quaint and cozy hamlet suddenly sound like an image from the wild, wild West?
I realized there was a great divide here between the responsible citizenry and those whose life goals had no socially redeeming purpose.
Good people, good families and good residents can not be held responsible for the misdeeds of others.
Nor are they accountable for ne’er-do-wells who move into a town with the morning breeze and leave in the afternoon sunset with a bag full of burglarized garage tools.
Last week the Bluewell/Brushfork Elementary School project was advertised for construction, with bids on the project due Feb. 7.
Mercer County was awarded $9.6 million in funding for the project in 2021 by the School Building Authority.
The plan is to begin construction in the spring at a site off Airport Road close to the current Brushfork Elementary School.
With hope, children in these communities will soon be attending classes in state-of-the-art facilities where they will have no worries of crumbling facilities, outdated equipment or less-than-adequate heating and cooling system.
Our children deserve to learn in safe and secure environments.
This funding should provide that, and more.
Samantha Perry is editor of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @ BDTPerry