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Group called 'pipeline' of deadly drugs
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Three people were arrested over the weekend after investigators found around 36,000 pills of a potentially deadly narcotic under the hood of the vehicle they were in, the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office said.

Jermaine Doglas Grandy, 39, and Nevaeh Douglas Grandy, 18, both of Old North Road in the Lenoir area, and Khyran Rasaan Littlejohn, 25, of Patton Place in Morganton were a “major pipeline” for fentanyl pills in Caldwell County and the surrounding region, Sheriff Alan Jones said in a press release.

The three were the object for a multi-agency investigation that started at least several months ago and involved the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, the Alexander County Sheriff’s Office, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the Boone Police Department, the Taylorsville Police Department, the Lenoir Police Department, and the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office.

The group was arrested Sunday after investigators stopped the 2018 Mercedes-Benz they were in on U.S. 321 Granite Falls.

In a search of the vehicle, investigators found over 9 pounds of pills, $894 cash and three handguns, the press release said.

The drugs seized have a street value of $1.08 million according to North Carolina State Drug Guidelines.

Investigators also searched the Grandys’ home on Old North Road and found 29 guns and more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition.

Jemaine Grandy was charged with trafficking heroin or opium. His bond was set at $500,000 secured.

Nevaeh Grandy and Khyran Littlejon were charged with two counts each of trafficking heroin or opium. Their bonds were each set at $100,000 secured.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Preschool teachers achieve state certification
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As a result of years of training and coaching, almost half of the pre-K classrooms in Caldwell County are now certified in a program that teaches ways to integrate social and emotional learning into the daily curriculum.

The North Carolina Preschool Pyramid Model is an evidence-based program that promotes children’s social skills and prevents challenging behaviors. In order to become certified in the PPM project, teachers and their assistants must complete 21 hours of training followed by direct, in-class coaching for one or more years.

Caldwell County Schools announced Monday that nine of the county’s 19 preschool classrooms are now certified, with more in the coaching stage and working towards certification in the next year.

Helena Vanhorn, the preschool program coordinator for the school district, said that learning the program is time-intensive and involves years of dedication from teachers and their assistants in order to achieve certification and have it renewed each year.

“While all teachers and assistants participate in the training, only a few classrooms can participate in coaching each year because of the time-intensive nature, and because trained coaches are volunteers who do the work in addition to their regular duties,” she said in a press release. “Teachers use this training to address emotional and mental wellness needs for their students throughout the entire school year. Meeting not only the pre-academic needs of our students but also supporting their social-emotional and mental health wellness helps prepare them for kindergarten but also begins building skills they will use throughout their lives to benefit our community.”

On Monday, school system representatives met with teachers and teacher assistants to recognize their achievements.

Nadia Beam, who teaches preschool at Dudley Shoals Elementary School and has maintained her certification for all six years that the county has participated in the project, said that the training focuses on ways to integrate social and emotional wellness into everyday activities for a seamless blend of education and nurturing.

“It can be something as simple as the way that you say something,” she said. “I think the key is to embed it in everything that you’re doing, it doesn’t have to be separate so much as embedded in what’s naturally occurring throughout the day.”

Kimberly Hedrick, another Dudley Shoals teacher, said that she has noticed a shift in the atmosphere in her classroom thanks to the lessons she learned and the coaching she received.

“It gives them a sense of community in the classroom so that they know that they’re safe and they’re loved and that no matter what’s going on, the teachers are going to be there for them,” she said.

The nine certified classrooms are at eight schools around the county. In addition to Beam and Hedrick, assistants Kristy Price and Jennifer Russell round out the certified teachers at Dudley Shoals. The other pre-K teachers and assistants who earned certification or recertification this year are Keesha Houston and Jennifer Parham at Baton; Tiffanie Bell and Carolina Jarquin at Davenport; Christy Smith and Shannon Franklin at Gamewell; Donna Bumgarner, Kristi McDaris and Kelly Dellinger at Granite Falls; Laura Pace, Wendy McClure and Kristen Poarch at Hudson; Rebecca Hefner and Rachel Collins at Kings Creek; and Sherry Pendergrass, Areisha Carlton and Brittney Frazier at Whitnel.

County must renovate animal shelter
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The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners committed around $20,000 to renovate the county animal shelter and make repairs that a state inspection found to be necessary.

Commissioner Randy Church said that plans to build a new animal shelter for Caldwell County Animal Control stalled last year because officials were concerned that the pandemic would cause sales tax revenue to drop. County commissioners have been in talks with an architect but don’t yet know how much the building will cost.

He said that a couple of years ago, the county found that it could cost $2.5 million to build a new shelter. Now, prices have risen, and it could cost as much as $5 million, Church said.

“We just don’t know, and we’re not going to know until we bid it out,” he said.

A state inspection found that the floor and the walls of the kennels at the current shelter need to be resealed.

The floors where the dogs are housed have chipped and cracked in many places since the previous inspection. The chips and cracks are sanitation and disease hazards.

Additionally, outdoor exercise yards have areas of bare dirt that should either be re-seeded with grass or covered in gravel, the inspection said.

The inspector also recommended additional ventilation to combat odor.

Church said that the walls of the kennels are porous, and “over time the way we have to sanitize the shelter, the hot water that we use breaks down the barrier, and so we have to go back in and reapply that, and we’ve done that a couple of occasions already.”

Church said that county officials have property near the Caldwell County Health Department where they would put a new shelter.

“We’ve been planning. We’re planning and we’re very concerned about it, and as a board we’re trying to address it, but we’ve got to address it as conservatively as we can,” he said.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.