Teachers pied for playground

Dec. 20, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Between getting to meet Santa and seeing some beloved staff members take a pie to the face Thursday morning, the students at Floyd L. Knight school wound down their fall semester with some excitement.

The school, which has pre-K classes in addition to serving the county’s most disabled students, is trying to raise money for a new playground that all will be able to use. That’s where the pies came in; the class that raised the most money in a recent loose change drive got to hit their teacher and the school’s principal, Angela Cockman, in the face with chocolate pies. They also got one of the custodians.

Michelle Pinto’s preschoolers won the contest, so she took a pie along with Cockman and custodian Mike Holt. Holt said that a call came on the radio in the morning for a different custodian, but he answered — not knowing what he was about to be volunteered for. But he’s not complaining.

“At least it was good chocolate,” Holt said with a laugh.

Cockman agreed, saying this was the first time she had been pied — and although she got a little more than she would have liked up her nose, she still had fun.

“It was good,” she said after coming back, all cleaned up.

The school raised about $3,000, said Lacey Harvey, the middle school teacher who is leading the movement for a new playground. They still have a ways to go — about $300,000 more — but Harvey said they’ll be stepping up with bigger fundraisers in the future. And despite the high price tag, she said, it’s worth it.

The school has drawn up some potential plans for the new playground, complete with both swings and a merry-go-round that wheelchair-bound students can strap into, as well as raised sandboxes, a walking path and a ground made out of rubber instead of mulch and woodchips.

“It’s needed to happen since I started here (in 2007),” Harvey said.

Noting that disabled students have higher obesity rates than their non-disabled peers, she said a playground is important for that reason, as well as for helping the students with developmental disabilities.

“They learn so much from playing, from that social interaction,” she said.

On Thursday, the students had a different kind of interaction, getting to sit on Santa’s lap as he gave them a toy. His elves were busy elsewhere, so the Sanford Civitan Club stepped in to help, as they have done since the early 1990s.

“It’s always been our thing, helping special needs kids,” Civitan President Van Blanton said.

He and fellow club members Larry Price and George Noel were helping out Thursday, distributing toys and taking pictures of each child with Santa. They also later donated $5,000 to the school to upgrade security on campus. Blanton said it’s come a long way in just the past few years but still could use an extra boost.

And Carrie McGee, Cockman’s secretary who set up Thursday’s Christmas extravaganza, said that when she opened the door to the gymnasium to tell the kids that Santa was coming and saw them cheer and leap up in joy, she couldn’t help herself.

“I cry every year,” she said. “I know it’s coming, but I still do. There’s just no one more sincere than these kids.”