The second George Clem Commemorative Night, in conjunction with the Greeneville High School basketball teams’ games against Daniel Boone High School and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was Monday.
Organizers said the event grew from last year, with at least 40 alumni attending, including members of classes as early as 1953 and others who were early in elementary school when segregation ended and the school was closed in 1965.
Both teams wore what assistant basketball coach Nathan Hale called “throwback” uniforms, with the girls team wearing George Clem School colors, blue and gold, and the boys team wearing black and white.
The cheerleading team also wore blue and gold and performed some George Clem School cheers.
Treva Edmonds, who graduated from George Clem School in 1964, said she didn’t remember her school having a cheer team until a young teacher named Virginia Davis started one.
Edmonds said Davis was young, fun and “a special teacher.”
Edmonds, who also remembers participating in music and theater programs while studying at George Clem, taught the GHS cheerleaders some of the cheers she could remember.
“I can hardly wait to see how it comes together tonight,” Edmonds said.
Alumni also joined the GHS chorus in singing the George Clem School alma mater between the boys’ and girls’ basketball games.
George Clem School served as the school for black children during segregation until the school was closed in 1965.
Information panels about the school and its history were placed outside the gymnasium along with yearbook and school photos. The panels, which were created ahead of last year’s event, were researched by director of the Museums of Tusculum University Dollie Boyd. Boyd wrote a grant, which was awarded by Humanities Tennessee, for the creation of the historical exhibit. Boyd’s husband Mike Reed designed the panels.
While segregation is still within living memory, organizers and alumni said it’s important to share the history of the school and how times have changed with younger generations.
Edmonds said her children grew up in the Greeneville City Schools and that younger people likely don’t have a deep understanding of the fact that children were once schooled separately.
“It’s a different world,” Edmonds said.
While some alumni attending Monday’s event, like Edmonds, remember graduating from George Clem up until 1965, others were younger when the school closed.
Anita Gudger said she was in third grade when the schools were integrated, at which point she started going to Highland Elementary School, where she said she had a good experience.
Gudger said that her third grade teacher Eva White also moved to Highland, where Gudger was in her fourth grade class.
Gudger called her class “a close-knit unit,” and said everyone worked together.
Edmonds echoed the sentiment, calling George Clem “very family oriented.”
Fond memories of the school were shared throughout the evening.
Linnie Gillespie, who was part of the last graduating class in 1965, said, “I learned a lot of things there – things I didn’t think I needed to learn, but I’ve realized I learned a lot.”
Gillespie remembered her home economics, where she said she learned to cook, particularly fondly.
Gillespie’s classmate Jimmie Davis also mentioned home economics, saying he especially enjoyed the course.
Richard Elder, of the class of 1957, said he enjoyed seeing many familiar and new faces Monday night.
“I welcome all the strangers and I hope they enjoy it as much as I do,” Elder said.
“I’m thrilled to see so many alumni from such a vibrant, important school,” organizer Carla Bewley said. “It’s very meaningful that the city schools recognize and honor George Clem alumni.”
“A lot of people don’t know the history, but it’s important to bring it to light,” said Hale, whose idea after seeing an exhibit at the Greeneville-Greene County History Museum about athletics at George Clem sparked the first Commemorative Night last year.
Hale approached the George Clem Multicultural Alliance with an idea for a celebration of George Clem School’s athletics, which then began a collaborative community committee including Hale, George Clem alumni Don Hamilton, Bewley, Peter Higgins, Beverly Miller and Jeff Taylor.
Hale shared a comment from Hamilton that George Clem history is Greeneville High School history and Greeneville High School history is George Clem history.
Taylor said the games Monday night were originally going to take place at Daniel Boone High School, but the coach was happy to work with GHS to move the games to Greeneville in order for them to coincide with the event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“We’re grateful we lived to see this day and that we’re being recognized,” Edmonds said.
“I thought this was a great event to recognize and honor George Clem alumni,” said Hamilton, who graduated with the class of 1958. “It shows unity still exisits.”
Facility projects for a number of schools will be considered Thursday by the Greene County Board of Education.
The board will meet at 4:30 p.m. at the Greene Technology Center.
In addition, the board will consider a contract to provide a school psychologist for the spring semester, a contract with Food City for a training location for School To Work program students, the implementation of a gun accident prevention program for students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, and joining the Comprehensive Instructional Program for Upper East Tennessee.
The board will consider two options of capital facility improvement projects for 2020 — one for projects totaling an estimated $1.6 million and the other for $1.5 million. The projects are to be paid from the school system’s unassigned fund balance.
The difference between the two options are that one includes bleacher work at the Camp Creek Elementary School football field and in the DeBusk, Mosheim and Ottway gymnasiums, which are all related to the conversion of facilities at the latter three schools into middle schools. The other option does not.
In the upcoming 2020-21 school year, DeBusk will become South Greene Middle School and Ottway will become North Greene Middle School. The current sixth- to eighth-grade facilities at Mosheim will become West Greene Middle School while grades K-5 will continue to be housed in other facilities on the campus as Mosheim Elementary School.
Some items in the list are related to the middle school conversion including construction of a road to create a traffic loop around DeBusk, bathroom and tile improvements at Ottway, painting in hallways and bathrooms at Mosheim facilities, the addition of storage buildings and new exterior signage.
Also included in the list of projects is continuation of the effort to equip each high school student with a computer with a purchase of 505 student devices for next year’s incoming ninth-graders as well as 79 new computers for teachers.
Other facility improvements proposed include the addition of biology and STEM classrooms at North Greene and West Greene high schools, a comprehensive development classroom and top floor evacuation steps at Baileyton Elementary School, a partial roof at Camp Creek, security cameras at Chuckey Elementary, a gym roof at Nolachuckey Elementary, installing a safety entrance at the Central Office, and sprinkler system repair at Chuckey, Chuckey-Doak High School and the middle school building at Mosheim.
Upgrades in cafeteria equipment at Baileyton and DeBusk will also be considered by the board. The funds for the $180,000 in improvements, if approved, will be taken from the school system’s non-instructional fund balance.
In other business, the board will consider a contract with ProCare Therapy to provide a licensed school psychologist for the second semester of the 2019-20 school year.
A contract with Food City to add a site for the system’s School to Work program is on the agenda. The contract would allow students in the program to receive on-site retail training at one of the supermarket chain’s local stores. The students in the program do not receive wages at work sites.
The School Resource Officers (SROs) are seeking approval of the Eddie Eagle GunSafe program for pre-school through fourth grade students. The program, developed by the National Rifle Association, is designed to prevent gun accidents by teaching young children to not touch a gun if they come across one, to leave the area of the weapon and go find an adult to tell about the firearm.
The board will also consider a proposal for the district to participate in the Comprehensive Instructional Program for Upper East Tennessee. The program, modeled on a successful program in Southwest Virginia, would allow teachers in participating school systems to share successful lesson plans and materials that would be available for other instructors searching for good classroom resources.
The board will also consider policy revisions, which primarily involve upgrades to legal references, minor procedural changes, a free youth football camp at North Greene High School and out-of-state field trips.
The Greeneville Board of Education will consider renewal of the director of schools’ contract and approving the replacement of the gymnasium floor at Hal Henard Elementary School on Thursday.
The board will meet at approximately 7:30 p.m. at the Greene Technology Center on Hal Henard Road.
At its December meeting, the school board was of a consensus that work should begin work to prepare a four-year contract extension for Director of Schools Steve Starnes for consideration at its next meeting.
Starnes began serving as director of schools in June 2018 and was given a three-year contract then by the board.
In other business, the board will consider replacement of the Hal Henard gym floor, which is beginning to show wear with seams coming apart in small areas throughout the surface.
During several months of study, three replacement flooring options have been considered: a hardwood flooring system, poured in place rubber floor, and a vinyl floor. After research and visiting several schools with either the poured in place rubberized floors and hardwood floors, the school system has decided a wood floor would provide the best surface for the gym’s multiple uses.
In addition to the flooring, the project will include replacement of fire sprinklers inside the gym, replacement of two sets of fire doors leading to the hospitality area and purchase of a cover to protect the wood floor during events such as graduation.
At its meeting Tuesday, the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen are to consider providing funding for the estimated $183,091 cost for the replacement.
The board will also consider approval for an AP (Advanced Placement) capstone diploma at Greeneville High School, beginning in the 2020-21 school year. Students will have to meet course and exam score requirements to earn the diploma.
The emerald ash borer has killed a staggering 90% of ash trees in Greene County’s portion of the Cherokee National Forest, officials said recently.
It makes Greene County one of the hardest hit areas in East Tennessee.
“Of the six counties on the northern portion of the Cherokee, Cocke and Greene were infested first with the ash borer,” said Terry McDonald, public affairs staff officer with the Cherokee National Forest. “Those two counties have seen severe mortality in the ash trees, our estimate would be approximately 90% of the ash trees are dead at this point.”
The news comes following the announcement from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture that Lewis County, located southwest of Nashville, is the latest portion of the state with the beetle.
“When EAB kills an ash tree, that dead tree can be hazardous to people and property,” State Forester David Arnold said in a news release. “We encourage landowners and communities to inventory their ash trees and develop a plan to minimize potential impact of EAB.”
Officials first detected the insect within Greene County in 2012, according to information compiled by agriculture departments and universities and housed on the Emerald Ash Borer Information Network.
In 2018, Area Forester Neal White said a “very high percentage” of ash trees are either dead or dying in Greene County. He said ash trees near bodies of water, especially green ash trees close to Lick Creek, had been devastated.
Forest officials alerted the public years ago.
“Existence of invasive species are likely to cause harm to the economy, environment or human health,” McDonald told the newspaper in 2016. “If left unchecked, invasive species can threaten native species, ecosystem services, recreation and property values.”
A glittering green beetle native to Asia, scientists have scrambled over the last 30 years to stop the insect’s fatal spread across North America. Now, it exists in 35 states and has unleashed devastating environmental and financial consequences.
The Tennessee Division of Forestry estimates that 5 million ash trees, worth about $2 billion, are at risk. With the addition of Lewis County, there are now 62 counties statewide that have the beetle. While Cocke and Greene counties have been hit the worst in the region, other counties are poised to suffer. Unicoi, Carter and Johnson counties will likely see “severe ash mortality” over the next two to four years, McDonald said.
There are steps the public should take, forest officials urge. Those include: