Weil gets patriotic goodbye from TES

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2001

News Editor

The international situation hit a little closer to home as Ken Weil, vice principal at Troy Elementary School, said goodbye to his school family to attend a two-week training camp with his Alabama National Guard unit based in Birmingham.

The student and teachers planned a going-away ceremony for Weil, who stopped by the school early Tuesday morning, before leaving for Birmingham to join the other members of his unit.

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According to the Alabama National Guard public affairs office in Montgomery, Weil’s unit has not been activated, but is on alert status and will be in training for the next two weeks.

Even though Weil has not been activated, Geoffrey Spann, principal at Troy Elementary School, along with officials from the Troy Board of Education thought having a ceremony for him would help the students understand why he won’t be at school.

"When Ken left the school it was like a one-man parade," Spann said. "The children were chanting ‘U-S-A.’ There are yellow ribbons all over the school and they will stay there until he comes back."

The students, teachers and staff sent him off with a care box overflowing with items and the students are planning on writing letters to Weil while he is away.

"I was really proud of the student’s response," Spann said. "They have been inquisitive since the attacks on Sept. 11 and some of them have come to me with questions."

Spann said recently one of his students came to him and said "Mr. Spann, they are putting out that bad stuff." Spann said the student was talking about anthrax, but once he reassured the student that "everything was going to be okay," he was fine.

Reassuring worried students was part of the job for Spann and the teachers and staff at TES long before the attacks on Sept. 11, and it’s a part of the job they take seriously.

"They don’t really understand what is going on, but once they are reassured they are fine."

Since the attacks in September Spann said the students in grades three through five have watched some of the coverage on television.

"I had discussed it with the parents beforehand and told them this is part of history," he said. "We didn’t shy away from letting some of the older students watch it. These students know that some bad folks did some bad things, but they have learned from it too."

Some of that learning came in the form of history and geography from watching the coverage on television.

Even while the students had questions about the international situation there was an outpouring of patriotism even at their young ages. The halls of TES are covered in red, white and blue and yellow ribbons are on every classroom door. The students are also participating in a patriotic project by sending $1 to the White House at President George W. Bush’s request.

"I have been pleasantly surprised by the students’ reaction," Spann said about the international situation and Weil’s departure. "As a teacher you don’t really know what people think about you, but I think Ken does now."

Although no one knows now whether Weil or other employees of the Troy City School System will be activated, the Troy Board of Education passed a resolution at its last meeting for temporary employment in case employees are called to active duty.