Originally created 12/20/97

Teacher kisses pig for cash

WAGENER - Johnney Williamson tends to 15 pigs, one of them named Winkie.

Weighing in at 100 pounds, Winkie's venue is a half-worn dog pen. His business is eating, only eating and forever eating.

A quick glance at his crusty ears and matted fur was a sure sign that Winkie hadn't had a bath in weeks and never intended on taking one.

Inside the gymnasium at A.L Corbett Middle School, LeMyra Young, the epitome of cleanliness, stood tall.

Dressed in black, not one hair out of place, the eighth-grade teacher knew that in a matter of seconds she would come eye to snout with the filthy rooter. Her pupils had put about $50 of their weekly allowance into a jar.

Since November, the middle-school pupils had been contributing money to buy new library books. In all, about $100 was collected.

It worked this way: There were three jars, one with Mrs. Young's name on it, one with the mayor of Wagener's name and one with the principal's name. Pupils could choose which jar to put their contributions in, and the winner had to pucker up.

When the big moment came, the student body was slightly disappointed.

Winkie wouldn't stop squealing. Mrs. Young lightly touched her frosted lips on his neck, then he wet the gymnasium floor and the people who were holding him down.

In an instant, Winkie was no longer a celebrity. He was once again a regular pig.

"When they asked me to participate, I agreed because I would do anything to help our students and this school," the veteran teacher of 29 years said.

A few months ago, a concerned parent realized something needed to be done to upgrade the school's library books. The average age of the collection is about 25 years old. And until recently, there were books on the shelf that said someday man would land on the moon; another discussed the ongoing Cold War and the Berlin Wall.

Donna Williamson, whose daughter, Anna, attends A.L. Corbett, began the push for new books. Through a variety of fund-raisers, about $500 has been collected for the cause. But at $14 per book, that will only buy about 36.

Last year, about $2,000 in state and local funds were used to buy books, but for the ones replaced, twice that number were weeded from the shelf. Currently, there are about 5,000 holdings in the school's library, but a large portion of them must be replaced at the end of the year.

Democrat Jim Hodges, who continues to make education his top priority in his bid for governor, announced a proposal this week to pay for updated library resources.

Mr. Hodges, who recently resigned from the Statehouse where he served as minority leader, said South Carolina should use part of the extra $68 million expected in next year's budget to upgrade "hopelessly out-of-date" books and materials.


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