By Dave Russell


Smoky Mountain High School now offers a 22,000-pound tradition, hoping to build memories and friendships.

“Even with days gone by, former students look back on these times with fondness for the relationships built with teachers, friends, coaches and community members,” SMHS Principal Evelyn Graning said. “It is frequently these relationships that help forge the way for future careers, college admissions, and future partnerships. The relationships that schools build with community allies are especially crucial.”

The Smoky Mountain administration partnered with Dillsboro quarry Harrison Construction, Scott Farmer Grading, and Jeff Polson Tree Care to have a boulder moved near the school’s front parking lot over the past few weeks.

Harrison donated the rock and everyone else donated their labor and help with transport, Graning said.

According to Graning, the rock is set to be a cornerstone of showing school spirit, celebrating individuals and organizations, and serving as a reminder to the community of how partnership brings about the success of Big Blue Nation.

“Special thanks go out to Jeremy Cauley (former assistant principal) who served as the liaison between the school and community and worked diligently to ensure that everyone was on the same page,” she said. “Huge gratitude to Jean Farmer, Matt and Aaron Picon, Scott Farmer and John Polson for adding a new tradition to the campus of Smoky Mountain High. Community and school connections are shown through shared beliefs, common goals, and a mutual love for people.”

The SMHS Art Department will be responsible for painting the rock for each upcoming event and celebration, Graning said.

Meanwhile, the front entrances will get a makeover in the form of two new digital signs.

At the Nov. 15 meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education, Deputy Superintendent Jake Buchanan presented the board with the design and asked for funding.

“I would point out that over $16,000, almost $17,000, was fundraised by students and parents at Smoky Mountain High School to purchase these signs,” he said.

The total cost for both is set at $58,048. SMHS rolled over $10,000 of its capital funding from last year and added another $10,000 this year.

The amount of local discretionary funding for the signs was $21,219.86.

“If you recall, Smoky Mountain High School doesn’t have a sign,” School Superintendent Dana Ayers said.

“Are you aware Blue Ridge Early College has no sign, either?” Board of Education member Lynn Dillard said.

JCPS is in talks with the same sign company, Major Display in Franklin, to remedy that situation, Buchanan said.

One of Smoky’s signs would be visible from both N.C. 107 and Webster Road, Graning said in a 2019 interview when she first began fundraising for the signs.

The content displayed on the sign will reflect the programs and news from the high school – HOSA, band concerts, blood drives, musicals, talent show auditions, all athletic events.

“We want the community to know what is happening at Smoky Mountain and engage more,” Graning said.

The money was generated through local business and community sponsorships and sales through Smoky’s annual calendar project, Graning said.

“These front entrance signs will serve to beautify, inform and unite our students and community, and I could not be more thrilled,” she said. “Huge thanks to all our sponsorships through our calendar project. We are extremely grateful!”

According to the paperwork from Major Display, the signs are part of a line of single-sided monument signs designed for campuses. Overall dimensions are 80” tall x 120” wide with a single-sided LED display at 104” x 52”.