‘Wizarding World’ descends on Parkside

W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune

Parkside teachers Jacy Douglas, Karen Moon and Tracey Jones react to the news of a $25,000 donation from Warner Bros., presented by Jude Law at the school on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

BAILEYTON – On a promotional tour for the new wizarding world motion picture “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” that, according to one cast member, will include places like Los Angeles, New York, London, Madrid and Paris, Warner Bros. stopped in Baileyton on Thursday to visit Parkside School, where a group of teachers have transformed a middle school hallway into the halls of Hogwarts School over the last two years.  Cast members Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander), Jude Law (Albus Dumbledore), Zoe Kravitz (Leta Lestrange), Ezra Miller (Credence Barebone) and Callum Turner (Theseus Scamander) met students and faculty and presented a check from Warner Bros. for $25,000 to the three teachers who spearheaded the hallway transformation. The money will be used to purchase new smart boards for classrooms.

English and reading teacher Jacy Douglas, math teacher Tracey Jones and life science teacher Karen Moon began by repainting and redecorating their classrooms in 2017, a project that blossomed into a hallway transformation with fantastic doorways, murals and other features.  Douglas turned her reading classroom into the Ravenclaw common room, Jones recreated the Hogwarts Potions classroom with a Slytherin theme and Moon came up with a Gryffindor-themed “Care of Magical Creatures” classroom. In 2018, a Hufflepuff classroom was added to complete the Hogwarts set.

Jones told reporters that, since the hallway transformation began, student class participation is up, participation in reading assignments is way up, and students are even helping clean and maintain the classrooms.

Early Thursday morning, before the festivities began, Cullman County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette told The Tribune, “We’re real excited about the publicity.  They have a lot of surprises that everybody doesn’t know about yet for the kids, and that’s going to be really cool–and they’re even holding that from most adults.  But it’s really exciting.

“They’re going to have cast members here, and they’re actually going to do an assembly and make some presentations to the school and to the administration.  And then, after that, they’re going to participate in the ‘houses’ competition with the kids. And that’s going to be pretty cool, too.

“It just brings exposure to the system, and it helps everybody outside of Cullman County see the great things that are going on in Cullman County–and not just Cullman County, in the whole state.  I mean, this is a pretty big event, statewide.”

A slew of officials descended on Parkside for the event, including Baileyton Mayor Johnny Dyar and the town council, Cullman County commissioners, Sheriff Matt Gentry (who brought approximately 30 of his deputies along to provide tight event security), Circuit Judge Gregory Nicholas, new State Senator-elect Garlan Gudger, members of the Cullman County Board of Education, and even members of the Alabama State Department of Education.

Among the dignitaries present for the program was Aaron Sullivan, the local artist who painted the murals that helped transform Parkside’s middle school hallway into Hogwarts School.  His artwork was an attention-getter in the online movement that garnered Parkside national and even international attention, but he gave the credit to the school’s teachers, telling The Tribune, “I’m glad that they get noticed for all that they’ve been doing here, because, I mean, it’s like I just work for them.  I mean, it’s all the stuff they want to get done, so it’s really cool that they get noticed for that, because they’ve been doing it for several years. Actually, it’s been getting more and more and more, but then they’ve never gotten noticed, really, like this before. It’s real fun, yeah.  I’ve liked working for them, because you get to something completely different all the time.  It’s like all over the school, all kind of stuff, so it’s fun.”

Sullivan is still working on other projects in various places around the school.

After the presentation of the check during a school-wide assembly that kicked off the day’s activities, Parkside Principal Richard Orr met with reporters, saying, “It’s been a whirlwind: just the emotion of the cast coming and J.K Rowling recognizing our school and choosing to include us in something so big, for the donation they gave for our students–it just blows me away.  What it means to a small school, low budget, that we can do so many more things. It’s just overwhelming.”

He continued, “I’ve got the most amazing faculty and staff in the world.  They give so much of their heart. Like I said, a small budget.  They spend their own time, extra hours after school doing things, not only on this hall, but all over the place, all over the whole school.  They do so much for our kids; it’s just nice to see it rewarded.”

See Orr’s full comments at www.facebook.com/CullmanTribune/videos/2212799022323941/.

Speaking to reporters after the assembly, Law, whose own parents were teachers, said, “To see teachers like this or to experience teachers like this who have put their hands in their pockets, given up their own time, and really thought about what they can do to make a difference, to engage and capture their students’ imaginations, and encourage them to dream and think . . . really work out what it is that makes them want to learn is very, very special.  And that’s what we’re here to celebrate.”

See full comments from all cast members at  www.facebook.com/CullmanTribune/videos/343120716455496/ and www.facebook.com/CullmanTribune/videos/192261158316222/.

The final word

The Tribune asked the three teachers what they wanted people to remember about Parkside once the news crews left and the actors headed to their next stop.  

Jones responded: “We’re a big old family here.  We love each other, and we take care of each other, and our students know that.  We love each other. We love our kids. Our kids, you know, they take care of each other.  And if this little bitty school that’s 78 percent free and reduced lunch can do something amazing that makes the kids excited to be at school, then any school can do it.”

Moon added, “When they leave us, they often come back to see us, because they know they’re truly loved by us.”

See the teachers’ full comments at www.facebook.com/CullmanTribune/videos/483149818841155/.

See the school assembly and check presentation at www.facebook.com/CullmanTribune/videos/499861267177065/.

See a full photo gallery of the event at www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1964266836968335&type=1&l=74d6602fe.

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