Randy Smith: She Feels Safe

Monday, September 14, 2020 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
She feels safe. My greatest asset and the heart of our family feels safe. When the most storied high school football rivalry was cancelled last week, it brought on another conversation about the pandemic and the toll it has taken...beyond the loss of lives and sickness. I cannot imagine how the kids on the South Pittsburg and Marion County teams felt. This game has been played continuously since 1954. The rivalry has been the subject of a book and if you're from that area you have heard the stories, you make sure the players know what's at stake and you plan your entire schedule around that game. Then...it goes away.  Disbelief, frustration and confusion replace game plans, anticipation and school spirit.

That brings me to what happened behind the scenes.
The educational and athletic leaders who had to make the no play call certainly had a gut-wrenching few days. Put yourselves in their shoes. They ultimately chose to do the right thing, versus the popular thing. But that is what good leaders do. They take unpopular ideas and educate the people about why this has to be. That is the mark of a leader.

So what does this have to do with Shelia being safe? Before school began we debated, prayed and seriously worried about whether or not she should return to her job as a school counselor. We are in "that" age group. I have some of those health risks. Most of her friends are retired and enjoying the no alarm clock life. But she wanted to be at her school, doing what she does for that group of people she loves. First day of school is her "big game day." She wanted to be in the game but now that three weeks have gone by, I asked Friday if she wanted to reconsider. Every week a different Hamilton County school announces a closure. High school games are being cancelled. Walker County in Georgia has hundreds in quarantine. Leaders are overwhelmed with decisions and are being bombarded by legions of second guessers. Some of the legions are genuine in their concerns but some are just downright vicious and totally ignorant or oblivious to the responsibilities of leading the community. Worst of all is the mindset that "because I have been in school or I have been to a football game, I know what is best." To those I say you have no clue. You have no vision. You need to THINK. 

In Catoosa County where Shelia works, they are implementing the most common sense, visionary, solid plans for managing schools in a pandemic. The majority of students go to school two days a week, but if parents are not comfortable with that, a plan is in place for online learning. Is it ideal? I say it is as near "normal" as you can get now. Because of this solid plan, the school community is not in a state of flux with the likelihood of a closure at any time. It matters that 10 kids are in a room versus 30 in the same confined space. It matters that kids feel some continuity and less stress. It matters to everyone that a cleaning protocol is in place that the superintendent requires to be vigorously followed. It matters to me that Catoosa County has gotten it right.....that when I ask, Shelia tells me she feels safe.

To every leader making those tough decisions, you are in my prayers. To the second guessers I say, find something better to do than torment your hard working leaders. Mostly, to Superintendent Denia Reece I say thank you for not only taking care of my "greatest asset" but for developing a model plan for all schools to follow, for keeping the school community safe and for doing the right thing, even if not always the popular thing.

To the players, supporters and coaches in Jasper and South Pittsburg, I am so sorry this game was cancelled. I share your disappointment, but I applaud the leaders making the tough calls. 

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com

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