Delora McDaniel, William McDaniel’s widow, cries as she is presented with a copy of the resolution naming the McDaniel Learning Center in honor of her late husband by Laurel County School Board Chairwoman Lola Owens Reed, left. Delora McDaniel is comforted by her daughter, Jane Nelson.

Less than three months into the school year, five students who were on the verge of becoming high school drop-outs are, instead, high school graduates. With two more students scheduled to reach that goal before Christmas, the McDaniel Learning Center is off to a flying start.

Members of Dr. William McDaniel’s family, along with friends and colleagues, gathered at the facility, which is located in the former administration building on the South Laurel campus, for the dedication Sunday.

The center is named for McDaniel, a former school board member, because, according to fellow board members, it would never would have become a reality without his dedication and determination.

“He didn’t hide his passion for the alternative school,” Superintendent David Young said. “He believed in it.”

Board member Ed Jones explained the process of creating the alternative school began one night when the board was holding a disciplinary hearing.

“Dr. Bill slammed his hand on the desk and said ‘We have got to do this,’” Jones said.

Board Member Albert Binder said while it is a great day for Laurel County because McDaniel’s dream is a reality, it is bittersweet because he is not here to see it and see the results it is producing.

“The thing that I hate, is that we had to wait this long,” Binder. “The kids will never get to know the man who made this possible.”

After reading the resolution formally dedicating the building to Dr. McDaniel, Board Chair Lola Reed presented a framed copy of the resolution to Delora McDaniel, Dr. McDaniel’s widow.

We are overwhelmed and very proud,” said Jane Nelson, Delora’s daughter, who was among more than 20 members of McDaniel’s family that attended the event.

“On behalf of the McDaniel menagerie and especially on behalf of Dr. William C. McDaniel, thank you Laurel County,” McDaniel’s brother Roger McDaniel added.

Several board members and other school system officials took the time to tell Dr. Bill stories, remembering him for his willingness to don a variety of costumes, including a grass hula skirt and coconut bra, or a Grinch suit, in an effort to motivate the students.

As a final tribute to McDaniel, the audience stood and sang one of his favorite songs, “Deep and Wide.” As colleagues explained, the hand gestures that go along with the song had to be done as well, because Dr. McDaniel would have said so.

“He had fun,” Young said. “He would do anything it took for the students to succeed.”

The facility includes four classrooms. In each classroom, the students have access to computers, which they may use to work independently to complete core content classes.

Angela Hayes, a math teacher at the center, said the students may also receive traditional classroom instruction if there is a significant number of students working in one subject.

When they are teaching these classes, Hayes said teachers attempt to incorporate life lessons into these classes along with the regular content,.

“If I’m teaching Algebra I, I will include lessons on writing checks, managing money and income tax,” Hayes explained.

Roger Wright, the center’s director, explained the center is designed to help students who are anywhere from four to five credits behind to a couple of years behind.

“The kids in the program are full-time students who have gotten too far behind for the credit recovery program’ Wright said.

Staff writer Dean Manning may be reached at

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