Several years ago, I was hunting in Texas for aoudads along the Rio Grande River. It was a rugged desert area but it was a beautiful place. We camped in an extremely isolated area where there were no homes or people for miles on our side of the river. Each day, my guide and I climbed one of the bluffs overlooking the river where we glassed for aoudads. There was a small town across the river which we could see from our vantage point. For the first couple days, we saw lights in the small town across the river in Mexico in the evening. However, there were no lights in the town on the third evening. I asked my guide about the absence of lights.

He was confident that the army, or some of the local drug dealers, had commandeered the town and was using it as a location to transport drugs over the river. I thought he was dramatizing the situation, but my concern level increased significantly when he told me what we had to do to remain safe. He told me that we would have to lay face-down on the ground, place our rifles far away from our hands, and remain silent if anyone approached us. He further explained that the drug dealers would not do anything to an American on this side of the river because it created too many problems from DEA and the American government. A simple look at his grizzled face told me he was serious because there was true fear in his eyes. We moved camps to another location the next morning, and we never encountered another person. He explained to me in camp that, often the military or the drug dealers, would take over an entire town and push the inhabitants away for days. The men, women and children of that town would have to fend for themselves and find shelter and food while their homes were used to push drugs over the border. These individuals had no protection from the police, military, or government because all of these entities were heavily involved in the drug trade.

That past experience in Texas was reinforced last week when I helped conduct a student leadership program which was held at Morristown Utility Systems. Jody Wigington led the program, and he talked about the important attributes great leaders would need to possess to be successful. It was a great presentation and it provided students with relevant insight on the important values which should guide all leaders. During the session, he asked the students to raise their hands if they had breakfast and lunch today. Everyone in the room raised their hands. MUS provided pizza for the students so he asked them if everyone had enough to eat for dinner. Again, all raised their hands. He asked them if they were able to walk up the stairs, if they were able to drive to the program, and if they had a warm coat to put on when it became cold. All students raised their hands. He concluded by reinforcing the fact that a significant portion of this world’s population do not have access to even these basic luxuries.

Without question, there are a number of issues we could focus on which are negative. However, most of us have a better life on our worst day than most of the world would have on the best day. Perhaps it would be important for us to take a few minutes to focus on what we have instead of what we do not have. Life can be extremely difficult these days, and I am not sure if we take the time to reflect on the good things in our life. Without question, some in our community are struggling with some of the basic necessities of life, but most of us are extremely fortunate. Next week is Thanksgiving week, and it may be a great opportunity to take a few minutes to actually think about all the blessings we have. It may also be a good time to reflect on the good of this world instead of focusing on all that is wrong.

Review the following information and contact us if you have any questions or concerns. Also, remember to email Mrs. Webb (webbk@hcboe.net) if you have other questions you would like us to address in future articles.

1. Schools will be closed the entire Thanksgiving Week from November 22 - 26.

2. Our COVID numbers continue to remain relatively low. Toward the end of this week, we had seven total active cases in the district. This involved six students and one staff member.

3. Last week, we wrote about the executive order all individuals working in companies, (governed by OSHA) are required to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022. The Fifth Circuit Court issued an injunction against the enforcement of that mandate. We are not governed by the Fifth Circuit, but it does appear that OSHA has suspended enforcement of the mandate until the final outcome of the current litigation. Many believe this litigation will be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court for final resolution. This is a highly complicated legal issue, and there are a number of facets which are unclear at this time. However, it is clear that OSHA has placed a temporary hold on the enforcement of the mandate. This means the school district is not moving forward with any provisions of the President’s Executive Order until a final legal resolution is reached.

4. High school graduation will be held May 20 at the WSCC Expo. West High will start at 4 p.m., and East High will follow at 8 p.m. At this point, we are anticipating a more normal ceremony this year.

I was watching a morning news program several years ago. The main focus of the broadcast was centered on the constant fighting in the Middle East. Although it was not the main story, I saw a man in the background who came out of his shop and was locking up the door for the day. There was an armored tank parked across the street. One of the soldiers by the tank fired a shoulder-held missile launcher toward the enemy. There was also chatter of a machine gun from the tank toward the same direction.

The thing which impressed me the most was the man never flinched at the gun fire and he did not look up from his task. That type of violence was so familiar to him that the firing of machine guns and shoulder-held missile launchers directly across the street had no impact on him. The next few shots from the news program actually showed multiple dead in the street, a triage medical station attempting to treat the multiple causalities, the absence of food, shelter, and appropriate clothing for the citizens of that small town. Few of us have ever experienced this degree of struggle or adversity. We all struggle with different things, but we also have so much to be thankful for during this holiday season. We hope you are able to enjoy a restful and peaceful Thanksgiving break with family and friends. Thanks for your attention to this article and remember, School Matters!

-Dr. Jeff Perry is superintendent of Hamblen County schools.

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