Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 16, 2014

Musician does his part to encourage students

Mike James
CNHI News Service

CANNONSBURG — A distinguished alumnus who knows what it means to go all out returned to Cannonsburg Elementary School on Friday and encouraged students there to do the same when they take important accountability tests next week.

It was Jesse Cline, who became something of a local celebrity earlier this year when producers of “American Idol” plucked him from the crowd and judges sent him to Hollywood to compete in the popular TV singing competition.

Cline, who sang three songs and then hung around to mug for snapshots with his former teachers, said he hoped to send a message to children at his old school: “It all starts here. Hard work and determination pay off.”

Cline’s appearance was part of an annual celebration on the eve of the accountability testing week. The tests are designed to show how effectively schools are teaching their students. They provide in-depth information on the performance of students, schools and districts.

Educators use test results to make decisions about future curricula and educational programs.

Cannonsburg takes a two-pronged approach to motivating students — serious discussions with its principal followed by a raucous pep rally.

“I have talked to every fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grader individually,” principal Jon Stevens said. “They shook my hand and promised to go above and beyond doing their best,” he said.

Friday it was all light-hearted, however. Teachers donned costumes as Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, Pocahontas, Jasmine and other animated movie heroines, and used their Disney cred to push their message.

The message is simple — to get sufficient sleep, eat an adequate breakfast, focus on the test and give the best effort possible on it.

Teachers performed a line dance in their costumes and testing coordinator Teresa Kazee, costumed as a fairy godmother, repeated the message.

Cline accompanied himself on guitar and performed with bassist Clayton Ward, also a former Cannonsburg student. Both graduated from Boyd County High in 2012.

They were backed on drums by school custodian Chris Griffith.

Cline said his first public performance was in Cannonsburg’s gym — a third-grade rendition of “World of Peace.”

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or

(606) 326-2652.