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School board honors Pine Forest High School students who saved custodian’s life


The Cumberland County Board of Education’s February meeting was a bittersweet occasion Tuesday as school officials celebrated students who saved a life and mourned the loss of one of their own.

Chairwoman Deanna Jones began the meeting with a moment of silence in honor of George Hall, the school system’s director of safety and security, who she said died unexpectedly Tuesday morning. 

The meeting’s solemn start turned joyous as the board recognized Pine Forest High School seniors Caroline McMillan and Caleb Clifton for saving a school custodian’s life during a Jan. 5 basketball game.

“During a boys’ varsity basketball game in the gym at Pine Forest High School, both students noticed from afar a group of people crowded around someone who was slumped over on the bleachers,” said Dr. Lindsay Whitley, associate superintendent of  communications and community engagement for Cumberland County Schools. “They saw a gentleman start compressions on this individual, who happened to be one of the school’s custodians.”

McMillan, a participant in Pine Forest’s Academy of Emergency Medical Science, and Clifton, a participant in Pine Forest’s Fire Academy, ran to grab a bag valve mask (a manual defibrillator) and an automated external defibrillator, which they used to save the man’s life, Whitley said.

“Within a few seconds, the custodian was conscious and talking,” he said. “The medics arrived and transported him to the hospital.” 

The seniors received a standing ovation for their heroism.

“Obviously, both have been paying attention in class,” Whitley said, smiling.

In other business:

  • The board unanimously approved its consent agenda.
  • Former Commissioner Charles Evans spoke out against the potential relocation of E.E. Smith High School during the board’s public forum. “I want you to rethink this school being placed on Stryker Golf Course,” he said. “I think it would be unfair to a number of residents. I think it would be unfair to the Black communities.” 
  • Kenneth Williams, a senior and student body president at E.E. Smith High School, spoke in favor of a new site for E.E. Smith, saying he had surveyed his peers and a majority of them were in favor of the move. “There is no room for expansion to fit our needs,” he said. “We, the student body of E.E. Smith High School, request that our community and school board unify on what is best for us, the students, and our school.” 
  • The board unanimously approved Heidi Hudson as the new principal of Stedman Primary School. Hudson currently serves as an assistant principal at Stoney Point Elementary School, according to a news release. She has worked for Cumberland County Schools since 2009, the release said.

The board will next meet at 6 p.m. on March 12 at the Central Services building at 2465 Gillespie St.

Reporter Lexi Solomon can be reached at lsolomon@cityviewnc.com or 910-423-6500.

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Cumberland County schools, Pine Forest High School, E.E. Smith High School