Group again comes before board of education on name change

Published 9:48 pm Friday, September 13, 2019

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By Beth Alston


AMERICUS — A group of citizens attended the September meeting of the Sumter County Board of Education (BOE) Thursday to show solidarity in its mission to have the word “Americus” included in the name of the new high school to be constructed on Southerfield Road. The BOE voted unanimously in December 2018, to name it Sumter County High School.

Representing the group of about 20, local businessman and former Americus City BOE member and chairman, Russ Childers, addressed the board.


“I, more than most people in Sumter County, understand that the City of Americus gave up its City school system charter back in the mid ‘90s. I was chair of the city school board when we did so. We did so after much consideration because we felt the cost of maintaining two school systems had become too much for a relatively rural county in Georgia. I also served on the Sumter County Board for several years after the merger. As Mrs. (Juanita) Wilson (former Americus High School principal) said at your Monday work session, all the details of that merger — the two high schools — were worked out in a cooperative way between the two systems, to make sure everything we did would provide the best outcomes for all of Sumter County and its students and citizens — to the best of our abilities. And Mrs. Wilson explained how the new name was determined in a cooperative effort of the two high school principals.

“But there is more to a high school name than something to call a school. It is a calling card, so to speak, for a community as it is known around the state. The general population of the state recognizes the names — and locations — of towns much better than county names. For people all around the state, those that have moved here — and even those who have lived in Georgia for life — they pay little attention to the county names. But many of them remember the cities and towns they travel to or through or even hear about. That is one reason having a four-lane highway helps in business recruitment — people are more likely to drive through your town on a four-lane and remember it.

“And other ways people hear of your town re-emphasize their memory or impression of it —  including, unfortunately, when a tornado strikes your town — not that such an event helps your community — but it might create a memory of it.

So, when the community high school merits special recognition — whether for the College and Career Academy, girls basketball, football, or the success of a graduate, or a group of students — and people around Georgia better recognize a town’s name than a county’s, and that gives the success a geographic reference — a place in the state. To put it more simply, a lot more people would recognize Americus as a town in southwest Georgia than might recognize the same place referenced as Sumter County.

“This can be helpful in other ways. When people recognize a town’s name — and through it the location — it can help with everything. We expect our school system to grow in its success in educating our young people, with their achievements in learning, sports, and the arts becoming known around the state, with those successes recognized by universities and employers. As that happens, the reference to the location can be helpful, as business, industry, government — and the general public — know where the success is from the city name.

“Any good way a community can gain notoriety can help attract new citizens, new students to colleges and universities, new businesses and, perhaps, new industries. So the city name as part of the high schools name can help — when they are mentioned in the “big cities” newspapers, on television — or on the wall at a major sports stadium where the school won state Championships are recorded — as Americus Sumter High has done.

“Granted, most city systems use the city name for the high school, just as we did when Americus had a city system — but a number of county school systems use their main city as the name of the high school for better recognition. Just to list a few — it’s Cairo High School, not Grady County; Bainbridge, not Decatur County; Thomson, not McDuffie County; Fitzgerald, not Ben Hill County; and Griffin, not Spalding County. People more readily recognize the location you are talking about by the town, not the county. Very few people in Atlanta could tell you where Ben Hill County is — or Sumter County. Many would know of Americus or Fitzgerald. And I think having both names on the school helps this location reference even more.

“Lately there have been several other benefits pointed out from the continued use of Americus in the name, such as a recognition by an NFL player from Americus (or Americus-Sumter County) through a donation that could be matched by the NFL but only if the school still has the same name (coaches would know the details, I am sure).”

In other business Thursday, the BOE voted unanimously to select Georgia Power to provide power to the new high school.

The board also took the following actions.

• Approved the copier lease renewal.

• Approved acceptance of a school safety security grant.

• Approved allowing 25 high school students to volunteer/participate in the 2019 JapanFest in Atlanta on Sept. 21.

• Approved the following personnel matters.

— Release from contract: Calandra Parker

— Retirements: Isa Bell Tyson and Sherri McDonald

— Resignations: Justin Wells, Dominique Mitchell, Brenda White, Brittany Wallace and Emily Bix

— Transfers: Pie Smith and Priscilla West

— Employments: Tamika Sparks, Jimmy Moore, Jeamber Burts, Tiffany Rowe, Shyericka Thornton, Courtney Gample, Shunda Green, Joan Converse, Laura Clance, and Parker Schabeck

— Family Medical Leave Act requests: Betty Jean Allen, Latrisha Monroe, Carol Briley, and Cassandra Roberts

— Third-party contracts: FNU Abdulla (Intalage), Santhi Sudha (Intalage), and Mary Shierling

— Long-term substitute: John Daughety

All the personnel items were approved unanimously except for John Daughety. Board members Alice Green and Jim Reid voted against while Board members Rick Barnes, Meda Krenson, Edith Green, and Sylvia Roland (by teleconference) voted yes.