By Dave Russell


Smoky Mountain High School Principal Evelyn Graning was probably only half kidding when she said she wanted the school’s new digital sign to be seen from space.

The school is raising funds to move further into the digital age with the installation of a plasma TV-style sign in front of the school.

The informational sign would take the place of two existing signs on the hillside flanking the main driveway into the school at the intersection of Webster Road and N.C. 107.

“We’ve been in early communication with some companies getting some bids,” Graning said. “It’s going to be an expensive undertaking.”

Preliminary bids have come in between $30,000 and $50,000, she said.

“The Jackson County Board of Education has given me their blessing to go out in the community to talk about it, but the capital budget is tight,” she said. “It’s one of those things where if the school district could, they would.”

The high school is trying to raise all of the money itself and not have to ask the board for anything, she said.

The new sign will replace an old digital sign and an older wooden sign with vinyl letters.

“My plan is to put it where the older sign is,” she said. “It’s the one that faces the intersection.”

The new sign will be visible from both N.C. 107 and Webster Road, she said.

“When you’re sitting at that stop light, you’ll be able to see it from the bank (Mountain Credit Union), from Webster Road, from Ingles and the direction from Western Carolina University,” she said.

The content displayed on the sign will reflect the programs and news from the high school.

“My plan is to run all announcements through it,” she said. “You know Smoky Mountain, we have a number of very successful programs and events ... HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America), band concerts, blood drives, musicals, talent show auditions, all athletic events ... so that our community is more united in terms of what’s happening up here at the high school.”

The names of donors who contribute $200 or more will appear on customized bricks along the walkway.

“That idea was brought to me by my FFA (Future Farmers of America) teacher, Blake Fox,” she said. “We want our students to have some involvement in the creation of the sign. His idea was that the bricks could be engraved by his class. We like when we can do something on campus without outsourcing it.”

Donors could have their family name or the name of their business on the bricks, she said.

“The plan for the bricks is to start along the sidewalk and do an extension of the sidewalk down to the sign to make it visually appealing from the intersection,” she said. 

The county office has been in touch with the N.C. Department of Transportation to ensure construction on the road will not require the sign to be moved, she said.

“This is going to be an amazing opportunity to have community support and unity,” she said. “Communication is so key to school success. I think this will give us one more way we can communicate with the community.”

Any individual, business, graduating class or community organization interested in learning more about the project can call the school at 586-2177. Cash or checks made out to Smoky Mountain High School with a memo for the new sign can be sent to the school at 100 Smoky Mountain Drive, Sylva, NC 28779.