Douglas School alumni want to preserve history, heritage

Published 11:15 am Friday, July 17, 2015

Star Photo/Kayla Carter The Douglas Community Park mural was the target of vandalism. The Douglas Alumni Association hopes to help restore it.

Star Photo/Kayla Carter
The Douglas Community Park mural has been the target of vandalism. The Douglas Alumni Association hopes to help restore it.

The Elizabethton City School Board got a history lesson about the building in which they operate from two members of the Douglas Alumni Association (DAA).

When segregation was abolished, it also meant the end of the Douglas School’s heritage to Rev. Jeannett Clark, a DAA board member.

“I was one of the last class members who graduated from this school,” she said. “There was a special bond here. When I graduated, it was the saddest day of my life. I knew that part of my heritage would be lost.”

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Every time she has walked into the school since it closed in 1965, Clark said she could feel her heart sink.

“It sinks because there is a lack of semblance that Douglas School ever existed,” she said. “There are a few remnants around the room, but very few.”

Clark walked the board members through the list of questions she submitted prior to the meeting.

Elizabethton City Schools Director Corey Gardenhour explained to Clark that the organization has access to a facilities use form. It allows organizations to request use of many school facilities.

The mural on the backside of the school board building was the next point of discussion. Gardenhour informed Clark that the ogranization has permission to restore the mural if they wish to do so.

There was also discussion about usage of a room used by the late Connie Baker for an after school program. Clark informed the board that the DAA would like to use that space for social gatherings and dinners. Gardenhour seemed willing to facilitate these requests with the understanding that the school board may need to use the space for offices in the future. The items currently stored in the room are either property of Baker or the school system. Gardenhour also asked Clark to refer anyone who is interested to the city’s extended school program.

Gardenhour also addressed the fact that most of the memorabilia and records from the Douglas School are unable to be located.

“It means something to us,” Clark said.

Gardenhour assured Clark that the school system would continue to help the organization find answers and memorabilia.

“Not that it doesn’t exist, but at this point we have not located any of those records,” he said. “It’s a common practice for all public entities to purge records at periods of time.”

Administrative Assistant Clara Perkins clarified to the board that she was able to locate attendance records for Douglas and other schools no longer in existence. She also offered to make an inquiry with the Carter County School Board to see if they could provide additional information.

Clark took time to also point out that the issue of losing records and memorabilia is not solely the school system’s fault.

“It is not just the Elizabethton City School System’s fault,” she said. “It is also our parents and the community for not securing those things for us.”

Gardenhour was impressed by the organization’s idea to send questions beforehand.

“It’s going to be a model for what the board is going to use from this point forward,” he said. “We appreciate you giving us the opportunity so that we could have some answers ready for you.”

In other business, the memorandum of understanding between the school system and Niswonger College and Career Consortium was approved.

“The benefit of us doing this this evening is the fact that they have professional development for teachers and adminsitrators,” Gardenhour said. “They also have specific institutes for teachers especially in math and science and so forth.”

The annual fee is $1,600.

“It’s a small investment for a large return,” he said.

In other news, the board approved an online payment system with Heartland Payment Systems, which will allow parents to put money in an online account for school lunches.

Also, policies for sick leave, food service management, granting Tenure, separation practices for non-Tenured teachers, student assignments, and medicines were approved on first reading.