It's true. Rural America often lags behind the times. You won't find many tanning salons or Barcelona Bright clothing stores with RFD addresses.
On the other hand, when it comes to crime, drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, being a little behind the times isn't such a bad thing. People who grew up in Honeyville, Utah, in the 1950s, for instance, may never be able to go back to the idyllic '50s, but they can go home again. And they'll find Honeyville hasn't changed all that much; especially when it comes to community-minded teachers and helpful parents who still side with the school - not the child - when there's a scuffle."The school is still the center of activity for the community here," says Dee Pace, principal at Honeyville Elementary, "so everyone here takes a lot of pride in what we're doing. In the years I've been here I've never had one parent become my enemy."
One reason, of course, is you run across parents like Sheila Bingham. She's a bit hesitant to talk about all she does, but word has it she's heavily involved in PTA, helps with the Reflections competition, runs off copies for the kindergarten, grades papers for the second grade, puts together birthday tables, spends a couple of hours a week helping first-graders learn how to read and plays chaperon for field trips.
"My kids keep volunteering me," she explains. "I've told them I'll do anything but put on a swimsuit and go swimming at Crystal Springs."
One reason the Binghams take such pride in the school is one kid of every 80 is theirs. "We have four kids in school here - Kayleen, Jamin, Shaylyn and Eric," she says. "I know their names are unusual, but when your last name's Bingham and you live in Honeyville, you have to be creative with first names."
At Honeyville Elementary it's not unusual to find six or seven parents in a first-grade class helping children read, or to take the roll at PTA and have 90 percent attendance.
Pace ticks off several reasons.
"For one thing, we have a complete open-door policy at the school," he says. "Parents are always welcome here. If they drop by just to see how things are going, well, we put them right to work. We also try to keep our teachers involved in the community. For my part, I'm a member of several church and civic groups, sing in a local barbershop quartet and attend all the community functions I can. I want to be involved in the lives of the kids and parents even away from the school."
That "one hand washing the other hand" approach has worked out well.
"Parents feel comfortable about coming to school because the teachers feel comfortable having them here," says Bingham. "The teachers try to be positive, they don't do a lot of negative disciplining. They reward and encourage. Principal Pace has started several little programs for the kids that they just love."
Says Pace: "The thing is we don't want kids to just feel good about themselves; we want them to leave here feeling good about school."