CHILDERSBURG -- While educators are figuring out how to safely return to school, one principal wants to make sure kids remember to laugh and enjoy life, even during a worldwide pandemic.
Dr. Quentin Lee, principal at Childersburg High School, recently created a video parody of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” song, complete with dance moves and warnings to sanitize and social distance, all in the name of safety and good, carefree fun.
“Doing silly stuff is something I really enjoy,” Lee said in an interview Thursday with Alabama NewsCenter. “I released a song in May about my feelings toward COVID, and it was just me sitting at my desk screaming. It made national media, and I figured it was time to do something different.”
Donning a Childersburg Tiger blue facemask and armed with a light blue can of Lysol, Lee in the video dances his way through CDC-recommended guidelines, repeatedly warning unconcerned students that they “can’t touch this.”
The production of the video – from writing of the original lyrics by Lee to production of the music video by local film director Jaylen Mitchell of City Vizualz – took around 24 hours.
“I wrote the lyrics in 15 minutes,” Lee said. “I called Jaylen, and he came to the school to record. I had the video by 10 that night.”
Getting volunteers to star in the video wasn’t too difficult. The student actors are Zay Youngblood, Jaden Robinson and Aniyah Oden. Teacher Jessica Veazey also makes a cameo.
“They were nervous at first, but they knew it was gonna be something fun,” Lee said. “Zay said there was a zero percent chance of him dancing. They played their parts to a T. It was just fun to hang out, and they did phenomenal.”
Lee posted the 2-minute, 13-second video to his YouTube channel around 2:20 p.m. Tuesday. By Friday, it had been viewed more than 182,000 times. It doesn’t hurt that a popular Alabama television meteorologist shared the video from his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“Quite frankly, I think we all could use a good laugh and a smile,” James Spann tweeted.
And unlike, well, almost anything on social media, comments about the video have been completely positive.
“I hope the students at this school realize how lucky they are. I’d have loved to have had a principal like this when I was in school. Loved the video!” – Nobody Home
“We didn’t have cool principals when I was in school. He makes you WANT to come to school.” – AlabamaDad
In thanking God for his creativity, Lee said the response to the video has been overwhelming and exactly what he was hoping for.
“I’ve been reconnected to a lot of people from my past – high school and college friends,” he said. “Parents and teachers are so proud. Having conversations with the kids and Ms. Veazey and all the interviews have been fun.
“We are working tirelessly to make sure school is a place where students can be accepted, loved and clean,” he continued. “Everybody needs love, regardless of political party or ethnic background. If we can allow people to laugh and forget about their problems, then we’ve accomplished the goal.”
Childersburg is part of the Talladega County school system, which has a hybrid plan for returning to school Aug. 20.
Group A will attend classes on Monday and Tuesday, Lee said. Group B will attend on Thursday and Friday, and the two groups will alternate on Wednesday. When students are not physically at school, they will participate in distance learning.
“Talladega County is a one-to-one system, so students have access to a device that they take home,” he said. “Most students have internet, and we’re looking for resources to help provide internet for the ones that don’t have Wi-FI at home.”
Lee said at least two or three buses in every community route are equipped with Wi-Fi, which can also be used by students in the neighborhoods where those buses are parked overnight.
“There’s no perfect plan, but we have to find plans that best meet the needs of the students,” he said. “The superintendents have a tough job, and I applaud their efforts to educate the students and keep everyone safe.”
Lee said he recently held a “Kickin it with Dr. Lee” virtual meeting, and dozens of students attended. The purpose was to begin driving home that point that the school will be enforcing all of the health community’s COVID-related guidelines – washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing, etc.
“It will be uncomfortable,” he said, “but I’d rather be doing that than going to a memorial service because we were negligent.”
The video parody helps reinforce that message. Lee said the dance moves were less a matter of learning the choreography and more about recalling muscle memory from copying MC Hammer’s moves in his 1990 hit song and video, “Can’t Touch This.”
“I love to dance and I remember trying to mimic all his dance routines,” Lee said. “When I went to Alabama A&M, I did the routine at the battle of the bands.” He said many of his students weren’t alive when MC Hammer released the song, ”so it’s an opportunity for parents and kids to talk and connect.”
Lee said he’s not looking to challenge any other principals to a dance-off, but he does challenge them to do whatever it takes to reach their students.
“Find out where your kids are and meet that need,” he said. “Find some kind of mode to be connected with our kids.”
Lee said his hope is that those who see the video will get a good laugh while also taking to heart the underlying message of protecting themselves and others from the coronavirus.
“We have got to make safety a cool thing,” he said. “If we don’t see the warning signs, we’ll be doomed for destruction.
“By following these guidelines, we could save someone’s life.”