Buice column: Clemmons and West Forsyth just go together

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 22, 2019

Some things just go together. You know, like salt and pepper, bread and butter, shoes and socks, soap and water, etc.

Then there’s Clemmons and West Forsyth High School, or West Forsyth High School and Clemmons — whichever one you want to put first.

Certainly, the two are virtually interchangeable. Like Stuart Egan, a longtime teacher at West who heads up the English department, said: “There are not many towns or zip codes that can send all of their students to one high school.”

West has been around for some 55 years, so it’s no surprise when Egan said he’s currently teaching third-generation people from Clemmons.

Egan came before the Clemmons Village Council in last Monday night’s meeting with an idea that he and others came up with a while back — in addition to the usual “Welcome to Clemmons” signs when people come into the town, let them know this is also the home of West Forsyth, too.

Egan, who grew up in a rural town in Georgia, recalls spending plenty of time traveling on the roads through towns along the way saying, “This is the home of this high school, and we’ve done this, or whatever.”

So when he learned that funds might be available through the town’s utilities reserve account to paint the water tower near U.S. 158 and/or put up some new city limit signs that this might be the perfect opportunity to see the Clemmons-West Forsyth connection become much more visible.

As Pete Villasmil, the outgoing student body president who served as the “Titan,” said when he followed Egan to the podium during the public comments portion of the meeting: “Simply put, West Forsyth is one of the few locations in this village that can bring everyone in the community together. Passing this would move the village and the school one step closer to establishing a common identity.”

This seems to be a good way to address a blank water tower that has been a point of contention in the past when Clemmons voted a while back not to spend $6,600 or more for some type of logo — with councilman Mike Combest stating that kind of money could be better spent on more worthwhile projects.

Then last year, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utility Commission pushed to place its own logo on the water tank (after all, it is their tower) unless Clemmons took the space. Many thought that it was a form of blackmail or strong arming over the town not being a willing participant to help with the county’s financing of Tanglewood Business Park.

But there was consensus among the council that this union — promoting the town and the high school — was the right way to proceed, with even Combest saying he was now onboard with getting out the paint brushes.

He heard Villasmil say: “The big reason my family moved to Clemmons in 2007 was so that I could attend West Forsyth during my high school years.”

To which, Combest said, “The words he used were right on target. There is a tangible and demonstrable benefit to doing it. It is real. It does apparently recruit families with school-age children. I am converted and in support.”

Plus, consider West has claimed 10 state championships (seven in sanctioned sports) in the last seven years, and was rated as high as second in the state in academics three years ago. With 2,400 students, it’s the largest high school in the state not located in Mecklenburg or Wake counties, and, as Egan said, “It’s a vibrant high school, and it’s yours.”

Councilman Chris Wrights said that he was in favor of promoting West Forsyth but didn’t like that the water tower was nowhere near the high school or even I-40. Councilwoman Michelle Barson said it had more to do with creating fandom in the community.

The next step will be for Shannon Ford, marketing/communications director, to get with Principal Charles McAninch to talk about possible verbiage regarding the water tower and entrance signs.

Egan said that for those who have never been to a football game at West Forsyth, the football stadium is often called the “Village,” which seems to be a perfect marriage with a town that has always called itself the “Village.”

That led to one early suggestion: “This is the Village of Champions. This is West Forsyth High School.”