|A Howard High School baton twirler|
Copyright © Fancy Rhino
Although not as dramatic a story of recovery as Howard's, many Chattanooga schools are working hard to improve after decades of frustration and complaints from locals about the lackluster quality of local education. For years parents had to weigh which of the suburban schools was the least mediocre, with Red Bank usually winning out over Hixon or East Ridge. There were also the Christian and private alternatives, including St. Nicholas School, The Bright School, Chattanooga Christian School, Boyd Buchanan, Notre Dame, Girls Preparatory School, McCallie School, and Baylor. In the past ten years, however, the city has been making a concerted effort not only to bring its downtown business and residential districts back to life, but to invest in the revitalization of local education.
|GPS students in the traditional summer uniform|
Copyright © GPS.edu
"Over the years, the school system dabbled with a lottery system for enrollment into CSAS and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts, but for most of the schools’ history securing a seat for a kindergartner meant one thing: sheer willpower. Parents would camp outside the school for weeks to guarantee their child a place.
'It was horrendous, and it was great,' said Vallerie Greer, who camped out in line in 1989 and again in 1992 and got both her kids into CSAS. “We were in a town that didn’t value public education, but there was a whole group of people sitting outside because they did value it.”
|Su Hendrickson in her wig and makeup for a|
2009 CSAS production of Seussical the Musical
|Students boarding the bus to go home from school|
Copyright © Chattanooga Times Free Press
Those changes are already in effect, however.
Fancy Rhino documented the success of new state and national standards and excellence programs at Howard School in their documentary Build Me a World. Ms. Vaughen noted that big changes are ahead for Red Bank high school, which was shaken up when many of its students were redistricted when Signal Mountain opened its own high school. "Red Bank just went through a new re-do and infusion of energy and they have new leadership," she said. "Also keep an eye on Brainerd's transformation. Glenn Perry who just left Howard to be part of new leadership at Brainerd as assistant principle." She also noted there are great new developments at East Ridge elementary, which is emphasizing English for Speakers of Other Languages programing and cultural diversity.
|Battle Academy, at the corner of Market and Main in Chattanooga' s Southside|
For those who are interested in magnet schools, or want a more urban lifestyle for their families, there are more options near major magnet schools. North Chattanooga and Riverview are nearby Normal Park and the Chattanooga Creative Arts schools. The Southside and Highland Park are near Battle Academy and Chattanooga School of Arts and Sciences. For those parents and families interested in home schooling, St. Elmo has long been the neighborhood in Chattanooga with a high concentration of home schooling and un schooling families. While it isn't necessary to live there to be tapped into that community, for those who want to be nearby other home schoolers and more easily coordinate outings and study sessions, it's definitely an area to consider.
For those whose incomes or other factors put them in districts with lower performing schools and private or magnet schools are not an option, don't despair. Brainerd and Howard schools are rapidly improving thanks to strong leadership and community attention. Orchard Knob and East Chattanooga will surely see similar revitalization in the next 10 years thanks to neighborhood comebacks in Highland Park and the Glass Farms district of East Chatt. Organizations like Glass House Collective are working hard to bring new life and hope to historically forgotten neighborhoods, which will in turn affect the quality of their schools.