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‘Thank you, thank you, thank you’: Cumberland County teacher recognized for saving student’s life


Before getting their first preview of next year’s budget, members of the Cumberland County Board of Education took two pauses at their Tuesday meeting — one to honor a life saved, and one to honor three lives lost.

First, the board held a moment of silence in honor of former board members Milton Yarboro and Helen Hooks-Farrior, who Chairwoman Deanna Jones said died recently. Yarboro represented Dist. 2 on the board from 1988 to 2003, while Hooks-Farrior represented Dist. 1 on the board from 2001 to 2008, Jones said. 

The board also recognized Domonique McGeachy, a former Cumberland County Schools student Jones said was previously recognized as a “successful student” in 4th grade. McGeachy and her 12-year-old son Jerel Jr. were killed in a double murder-suicide at her Kansas City, Missouri, home last week but retained deep ties to Cumberland County, ABC 11 reported.

Shortly after that solemn moment, the meeting took a more celebratory tone as Olivia Culbreth, a 4th-grade teacher at Armstrong Elementary School in Eastover, received the district’s Extra Mile Award for saving a student’s life in January. 

Cumberland County Schools Associate Superintendent of Communications and Community Engagement Lindsay Whitley said Culbreth performed the Heimlich maneuver on a student who was choking on food during snack time Jan. 30.

“Without hesitation, Ms. Culbreth assessed the situation, remained calm and swiftly performed the Heimlich maneuver, which dislodged the food and prevented further harm,” Whitley said. “I speak for everyone in saying thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Culbreth received resounding applause from the dozens of audience members present at the board meeting.

First step in budget process

The board heard brief remarks from Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr. and Associate Superintendent of Business Operations Jay Toland on the district’s proposed $602.3 million budget for fiscal year 2024-25. As CityView previously reported, the school system plans to seek roughly $91 million in funding from the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, a slight uptick from the current budget year, and will take $21 million out of its projected $37.5 million fund balance to pay for positions whose funding will soon end.

Other than a question from board member Greg West about funding for low-performing schools, the budget presentation did not result in much discussion. Toland said the budget will next be addressed during the board’s upcoming May 7 meeting, when board members will vote whether to approve the budget to forward it to county commissioners.

Though the board was originally scheduled to meet May 14, the next meeting will take place at 6 p.m. May 7 at the Central Services building at 2465 Gillespie St. The change was necessary because the boardroom will be used as a polling place during the second round of Republican primaries May 14, Jones said. 

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

This story was made possible by contributions to CityView News Fund, a 501c3 charitable organization committed to an informed democracy.

Cumberland County schools, school board, budget, Cumberland County