The Greenville News

Monday, October 21, 2002

Greenville, S.C.

Parker group wants to build community around school

 

By Angelia Davis

STAFF WRITER

 

 

The Parker community will lose portions of the historic former high school.

 

But in return, they want a new Parker Academy that's truly a "showpiece" for the Westside community.

 

Parker High graduates told executives of Institutional Resources Monday they want to preserve as much of the high school's history as possible when a new Parker Academy is built by 2004.

 

"It's unique. It was the first vocational high school in South Carolina. We have literally thousands of people that want to preserve the history of the high school," said Walter Huff, president of the Parker High Class of 1951.

 

Executives of Institutional Resources, the company managing construction projects for the Greenville County School District, met with the community to gather input and hear concerns about plans for a new Parker Academy.

 

Located off Woodside Avenue, Parker Academy is the campus of the former Parker High. Brian Stark, an area manager for Institutional Resources, said two of the old Parker High buildings will be torn down for construction of the new middle school.

 

The auditorium, which is listed on the National Registry of Historical sites, will be spared, Stark said. The new 600-capacity school will be constructed behind the existing school and around the auditorim.

 

School District Trustee Roger Meek questioned why the auditorium will be the focal point when there are no plans to renovate it. The executives' reply was that no funds are available to renovate the building.

 

"We were assuming at some point and time this would be renovated. If we were to locate the building to block the vision (of the auditorium) and it is renovated, what have we accomplished?" Stark said.

 

Faculty members asked Institutional Resources to find out the cost to renovate.

 

"We don't want to have an old raggedy building sitting in the middle of a new school," said Principal Lillie Lewis.

 

Earlier Lewis told the group, "I don't want us to be shortchanged. I'm real concerned about that. I know there's only so much in the budget. "If the auditorium is not renovated and all of these rooms on the back of the auditorium are not renovated, how is that going to blend in with the new school?" Lewis said. "If this school remains a magnet school of the arts, it would be a shame for our students to have to perform in a cafetorium and we have a beautiful auditorium sitting here. This (new school) could be a showpiece."

 

John Leppard Jr. said it could be a showpiece that would help the community and his business.

 

"I'm a history buff. I love history. I love Parker High School. I love this side of town." he said. He said if the community doesn't unify and "make something for the community where it will grow, it's just going to die." Leppard owns Quality Lube Center on Woodside Avenue.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Greenville, S.C.

 

 

Alumni hope to save some of old Parker High

 

By Angelia Davis

STAFF WRITER

 

 

 

Graduates of Parker High School want a new place to exhibit historic treasures of the former school and hope to build a new Parker Museum.

 

In fact, that is the reason the Parker High School Alumni Association was formed, said Walter "Rock" Huff, Parker's 1951 student body president.

 

"There are literally thousands of people who want to preserve the history of this high school. Our goal is to try to do this through the Parker High School Alumni Association," he said.

 

Huff said he and Marion Robertson, president of the Association, are working with the architect and staff for Institutional Resources to preserve as much of the high school's history as possible.

 

Institutional Resources, the company managing construction projects for the Greenville County School District, plans to tear down the school's gymnasium and library for a new 600-capacity school. Construction on the new school is expected to begin in 2003, behind the existing school buildings.

 

Parker High was built on Woodside Avenue, in the City View community, in the 1920s. It was South Carolina's first vocational school, and one of the first of its kind in the nation, Huff said.

 

The gymnasium, auditorium and a portion of the Hollis building are the remaining buildings of the Parker High of the 1930s.

 

The school closed as Parker High in 1985 and reopened that fall as Parker Middle School. In 1996, Parker Middle became Parker Academy for the Fine Arts and Humanities, a magnet school for sixth- through eighth-grade students.

 

Brian Stark, an area manager for Institutional Resources, said they looked into trying to save the gymnasium, but that building has too many structural problems that cost too much to fix.

 

And the media center, he said, "is a large space but it's not something I can't re-create."

 

The auditorium is like none other in Greenville County, said Parker Principal Lillie Lewis. That building, which faces Bramlett Road, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites and, Stark said, "it's not something I can re-create. There's just no way I can."

 

Kathy Jones-Richard, a 1975 Parker graduate, suggested preserving the high school's history by selling bricks that come from the buildings that will be torn down. The bricks could somehow be incorporated into the design of the new school, or money from the brick sale could be set aside to fund renovating the auditorium, she said.

 

"I would be willing to buy bricks to preserve Parker High School," she said.

 

Huff said the alumni association already has lots of memorabilia from the high school to fill the future Parker Museum.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

October 31, 2002

Greenville, S.C.

 

Parker High alums push for school museum

Graduates want place to house memorabilia on new campus

By Angelia Davis

STAFF_WRITER

 

Graduates of Parker High School want a new place to exhibit historic treasures of the former school and hope to build a new Parker Museum.

 

In fact, that is the reason the Parker High School Alumni Association was formed, said Walter "Rock" Huff, Parker's 1951 student body president.

 

"There are literally thousands of people who want to preserve the history of this high school. Our goal is to try to do this through the Parker High School Alumni Association," he said.

 

Huff said he and Marion Robertson, president of the association, are working with the architect and staff for Institutional Resources to preserve as much of the high school's history as possible.

 

Institutional Resources, the company managing construction projects for the Greenville County School District, plans to tear down the school's gymnasium and library for a new 600-student-capacity school. Construction on the new school is expected to begin in 2003, behind the existing school buildings.

 

Parker High was built on Woodside Avenue, in the City View community, in the 1920s. It was South Carolina's first vocational school and one of the first of its kind in the nation, Huff said.

 

The gymnasium, auditorium and a portion of the Hollis building are the remaining buildings of the Parker High of the 1930s.

 

The school closed as Parker High in 1985 and reopened that fall as Parker Middle School. In 1996, Parker Middle became Parker Academy for the Fine Arts and Humanities, a magnet school for sixth- through eighth-grade students.

 

Brian Stark, an area manager for Institutional Resources, said they looked into trying to save the gymnasium, but that building has too many structural problems that cost too much to fix.

 

And the media center, he said, "is a large space, but it's not something I can't re-create."

 

The auditorium is like none other in Greenville County, said Parker Principal Lillie Lewis. That building, which faces Bramlett Road, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites and, Stark said, "it's not something I can re-create. There's just no way I can."

 

Kathy Jones-Richard, a 1975 Parker graduate, suggested preserving the high school's history by selling bricks that come from the buildings that will be torn down. The bricks could somehow be incorporated into the design of the new school, or money from the brick sale could be set aside to fund renovating the auditorium, she said.

 

"I would be willing to buy bricks to preserve Parker High School," she said.

 

Huff said the alumni association already has lots of memorabilia from the high school to fill the future Parker Museum.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

Sunday, September 7, 2003

Greenville, S.C.

 

School board could tear down county landmark

 

By Jason Zacher

STAFF WRITER

 

The Parker Middle Academy auditorium, a picturesque 65-year-old building, could soon meet the wrecking ball if the Greenville County school board approves an administration recommendation to demolish it.

 

"It's unique. There's nothing else like it," said Lola Padgett, who graduated in 1959 from Parker High. "I'd hate to see any of it go."

 

The biggest problem with keeping the auditorium, according to the district, is the cost. A renovation would require an estimated $4.5 million.

 

Demolishing the building would keep the renovation from adding to the overall price of the entire $863 million school construction project, which jumped by more than 10 percent earlier this year. The board has already approved the sale of $920 million in bonds.

 

Don Buck, CEO of Institutional Resources, the company rebuilding and remodeling the district's schools, said there never was a choice of remodeling the auditorium or demolishing it.

 

"The decision is do they leave it there and do nothing, or do they tear it down," he said. "We don't have it in our budget to remodel it."

 

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, but its historic designation does little to protect it.

 

Owners of buildings listed as historic places with the National Park Service may do whatever they wish with the buildings, provided no federal money has been spent on them, according to the park service. In a document to be presented to the board Tuesday, district construction director Bryan Morris said no federal funds have been used on the auditorium.

 

County Attorney A. J. Tothacer Jr. said the county's historic ordinance forces any building or demolition permit on a historic building to go through a special process to determine its impact on the building. In this case, state law governs the construction of schools, he said, so the county building ordinances do not apply.

 

"We have no authority over the school district," he said.

 

Current Parker principal Tecora Prince and former principal Lillie Lewis would not comment on the demolition.

 

Buck said he did not know how the company came up with the $4 million figure, but he said it was to "bring it up to school standards."

 

Trustee Debi Bush's mother attended Parker High, and Bush joked Friday that her mother won't speak to her because of the decision.

 

"I said, 'Mom, it's $4 million,'" Bush said.

 

Alumni interviewed said they have tried without success to raise the money to save the auditorium.

 

"We have not been able to generate any enthusiasm on the part of the alumni," said alumna Nancy Smith.

 

Parker alumna Mary Elizabeth Barton said the building means a lot to her and to the county.

 

"We don't have a leader who knows what to do to save it," she said.

 

Those close to Parker said there is so much more than just a historic plaque on the front of the building. Decades of etched graffiti mark the backs of the wooden seats like "Dale '83 + Tina '85" and "Juniors 72" and the chipped and marked wood on the stage that is evidence of dozens of stage productions like the 1955 production "Rio Rita," which is one of Barton's outstanding memories.

 

Graduating classes walked across the stage for decades, and one of the school's outstanding senior privileges was sitting in the now off-limits balcony from 1940 until the last graduating class left the school in 1985.

 

In 1986, Parker High became Parker Middle School.

 

The historical plaque is significant, too. It states that the auditorium was built by the depression-era Works Progress Administration in 1938, and was the largest WPA school project in South Carolina. The auditorium cost $50,000 to build in 1938. Now it will cost 90 times as much to renovate.

 

While the measure passed the board's committee of the whole on a voice vote, some of the board members say they still have reservations about demolishing the historic building.

 

"I hope when we gather again Tuesday, some alternative solutions can be presented," said trustee Leola Robinson. The school sits in trustee Roger Meek's district. He said he's been trying to rally support among board members for the building, but hasn't had any luck.

 

"The board is not willing to spend that money," he said. "But nobody else has pitched in, either, not the Parker alumni or anyone else."

 

With nobody stepping forward to save the building, Robinson said she is worried it will be yet another historic Greenville school that will just simply be rolled over like the schools bearing the names Sterling, Gower, Allen, Oscar, Nicholtown, Piedmont, Lincoln, Washington, Duckett and Sullivan.

 

"The future of that auditorium will be decided by the community," Robinson said. "If there is no interest, it will be another historic school to fall by the wayside."

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Greenville, S.C.

 

School board delays action on Parker auditorium

 

 

By Ishmael Tate

STAFF WRITER

 

 

The Greenville County school board voted Tuesday night to continue discussion of alternatives to demolishing the historic Parker Middle Academy auditorium.

 

The committee of the whole previously voted to raze the building after a recommendation from Institutional Resources, which is carrying out a school system building program, estimated that renovating the 68-year-old structure would cost $4.5 million.

 

In addition, razing the structure would free up space for physical education space, said Michael McKinney of Institutional Resources.

 

"We were in sticker shock," said Trustee Debi Bush.

 

More discussion is necessary before a decision is made, she said. Much attention has been given to the Greenville High/Greenville Braves issue and Parker auditorium deserves the same consideration, she said.

 

"I don't think the Parker folks had a chance to speak up," said trustee Ann Sutherlin.

 

She said she was disturbed that Parker community and graduates of the school had not been made aware of alternatives.

Electing to demolish the building could set a dangerous precedent for other historical sites, Sutherlin said.

 

The purpose of putting a building on the registry is to protect it, said Judy Benedict vice chair of Greenville County Historical Commission. "It throws up a red flag," she said.

 

The building is important to the community and its graduates, said Greenville County Historical Commission Chairman Rick Owens.

 

"Sometimes the value of a historical building has to outweigh the cost of renovation," he said.

 

A temporary cooling system could be installed in the auditorium independent of the school could be installed while the district made long term plans for the building, he said.

 

The question, said trustee William Herlong, is whether keeping the auditorium will compromise the educational mission of Parker. "I want to know what the people out there want," he said.

 

Because the likelihood of any group raising $4.5 million necessary is not likely, Chairman Tommie Reece said she was not keen on the idea of taking more time to discuss the issue but did not vote against it.

 

The district does not have the money, said trustee Chuck Saylors.

 

In some cases, historical buildings skirt some of the requirements of modern buildings, but not in the case of an educational building, McKinney said.

 

No final plans for the new school can be made without knowing the final fate of the auditorium, he said.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Greenville, S.C.

 

Sirrine, Parker to close, school board says

 

By Paul Alongi

STAFF WRITER

 

News that Sirrine Elementary and Parker Academy will shut down hit hard Tuesday.

 

"What's going to happen to this area?" asked April Godfrey, a parent and Parker Academy special education teacher. "No more mills. No more schools."

 

Halissa Scurry, 31, said the loss will hurt.

 

"I don't like they are going to close Parker," she said. "I really like the teachers here. My son's teachers really care about the kids. They let me know if he's doing good, or if he's bad."

 

The two schools facing dwindling enrollment under a federally mandated school choice plan will close, the Greenville County school board decided Tuesday.

 

When they shut down, about 478 students will be sent to other schools. The district expects to save $16.5 million by not going through with plans to put up a new building for Sirrine and renovate Parker.

 

"Parents have voted with their feet," schools Superintendent Bill Harner said. "I don't see them, even with a new school, coming back."

 

Harner said he recommended the schools should be closed after seeing a downward trend in enrollments that he blamed on federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

 

Under the law, students can transfer out of high-poverty schools that don't show annual academic progress. Sirrine Elementary and Parker Academy fit that category.

 

A date for closing the schools hasn't been set, and the action still faces a formal vote at the board's regular meeting. That could come on Oct. 7.

 

On Tuesday, the board voted 9-1 to close Sirrine Elementary and 6-3 to close Parker Academy. Joining Robinson in the dissent on the Parker Academy issue were Debi Bush and Ann Sutherlin.

 

Shutting the two schools is expected to have a ripple effect on other schools.

 

Berea Middle and Lakeview Middle will have to be expanded at a cost of $2 million each. League Academy's popular magnet program, which already has a waiting list, will have to reduce its capacity by 30 or 40 to about 120, said district planning director Betty Farley.

 

"That's a problem," trustee William Herlong said.

 

The only board member to cast votes against closing both schools was Leola Robinson, who said she feared a day when all Westside schools would shut down.

 

"We're setting a dangerous precedent," she said. "Are we going to close schools every time parents opt out?"

Harner said that the district is pouring money and highly qualified teachers into troubled Westside schools. Of the 4,000 students that could move under the choice plan, 300 have chosen to do so, he said.

 

"Very few have moved," Harner said.

 

At Sirrine, 147 students, or 45 percent, have exercised their right to transfer. Sixty have left under the school choice plan and 87 by asked the district for a school reassignment.

 

Parker has seen 216 students, or 43 percent, leave for another middle school. That includes 63 who left under the choice plan.

 

Another reason for falling enrollment is that Parker Academy will no longer be the primary middle school for students learning English as a second language. Instead, they will attend schools closer to their homes.

 

When Sirrine Elementary closes, students will go to Bakers Chapel/Greenview, Bethel and Grove elementary schools. Parker Academy students will begin attending Berea, Lakeview and Sevier middle schools.

 

The new Sirrine Elementary and renovated Parker Academy were going to have a capacity of 500 each upon completion in 2005. The expected enrollments were 200 at Sirrine and 300 at Parker.

 

The district expects to save $295,000 a year in operational costs by closing Sirrine Elementary and $640,000 a year by shutting down Parker Academy.

 

But at least one of the schools may not be totally dead just yet.

 

A foundation has been formed by Parker alumni to try to buy the school's auditorium, and perhaps other parts of the school, to preserve some of its history, said Marion Robertson, president of the Parker High School Alumni Association.

 

"We just don't feel like we can let Parker die," he said.

 

Cindy Landrum and Gwendolyn C. Young contributed to this story.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Greenville, S.C.

 

Schools will be left behind

Accountability movement has sealed fate of underperforming schools.

 

Empowered parents exercise choice.

 

Given the choice between a school with a tradition of underachievement and a school with a reputation for stellar academic performance, many parents in the attendance areas of Parker Academy and Sirrine Elementary are making the obvious choice. Increasingly, they are choosing to leave these underperforming schools.

 

And the large number of defections are what prompted Greenville County Schools Superintendent Bill Harner to propose closing both schools. Last week the school board justifiably approved closing Parker and Sirrine based on enrollment projections that make going forward with plans to either remodel or rebuild the schools an unwise use of scarce district resources. Enrollment at both schools is down more than 40 percent, due partly to parents "voting with their feet," as Harner observed.

 

The choice to leave those schools comes courtesy of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, an initiative of President Bush's that has come to define the accountability movement in public education. By most any measure both Parker and Sirrine were annual underachievers. As a consequence, the law gave parents the option of leaving.

 

In one real sense this federal law is working as intended; two underperforming schools will be shut down and those students will start anew at schools with better track records of performance.

 

While it is hard to argue against school choice or argue in favor of consigning a child to a failing school, shuttering Parker and Sirrine raises new questions about the impact this law has on local school districts.

 

Suddenly, Greenville County will have to expand existing schools to accommodate new students. For sure, there are cost savings in the closings. But expanding surrounding schools to accommodate 478 displaced students will require an expense, too. Even more of a consideration than expense is the question of how this mass migration threatens the character of the schools now forced to take on dozens of new students. For some schools, popular programs could become a casualty. For example, District Planning Director Betty Farley says League Academy's magnet program, which has a waiting list, would have to be reduced by 30 or 40 students.

 

And what of the further elimination of Westside and city schools that serve a high-poverty population? Parker will add to the list of such schools that have closed. Again, students who live in poorer sections of the district will be bused away to attend school, a disturbing pattern in those neighborhoods.

 

These closings could portend the elimination of more underperforming schools in Greenville County. The closing of Parker Academy formerly Parker High, then Parker Middle ends an era in Greenville that dates back to 1923, nearly to the beginning of public education in this county.

 

If closing the likes of Parker simply eliminates a concentration of poorly performing students and disburses them among other schools, then nothing will have been accomplished. If this change of scenery results in higher levels of achievement, then closing these schools is well worth it.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Greenville, S.C.

 

Parker is a matter of dreams

 

by Jeanne Brooks

 

If the engineers had cold eyes, who could blame them? They saw an old building. Only that.

 

They saw an antiquated heating system and walls that could use work. They saw fold-up wooden seats more than 60 years old and tall paned windows, a nightmare for energy efficiency.

 

The school district's engineers must have figured the dollars, then closed their notebooks with a sigh.

 

The engineers didn't know the things that had happened there, not really. You would've had to have lived it, or read the old stories, and who reads the old stories, anymore?

 

Who remembers when a school this school, Parker was a kid's chance, hope, future, and pretty much every kid who went there knew it? It was a chance their parents never got.

 

In 1924, according to Weaver of Dreams, a history of the Parker District, Victoria Hunter was a sixth-grade girl whose future was like a grand double door someone had just shoved wide open, and lo and behold, there was this huge lit room beyond.

 

She wrote this: "Before we had Parker High School, nearly every boy and girl thought that his education would end with the sixth grade. Many have already gone to work in the mills ... Now every boy and girl has the privilege of going to school ... As soon as I finish sixth grade, I am going to Parker... I am going to enter into athletics and talk, cheer and fight for Parker."

 

Parker School District was created in 1922 to educate the children of textile mill workers and of adjoining neighborhoods. It was an area of 12 square miles with nine large mills, Weaver of Dreams notes.

 

And the very luckiest thing that could have happened was that the man who was hired to create the district, who dreamed up what it could be, was Lawrence Peter Hollis.

 

L.P. Hollis saw possibility everywhere, and he didn't want to waste one inch of it.

 

He once described his "From the Mountains to the Sea" program to the late Jim McAllister, who wrote for The Greenville News.

The district took children to camp at Blythe Shoals and then to Charleston. "As we went along," Hollis said, "we would stop to see the legislature in action, and we would go speak to the governor.

 

"We'd stop at a turpentine still, and do all kinds of things. And then we'd finally arrive at Folly Beach, and the children from the mill villages would see the ocean for the first time."

 

Hollis brought music and art and basketball and vocational education and, yes, joy to Parker schools and by 1941, he and his schools were so famous that Reader's Digest had an article about them titled, "Mill Town Miracle."

 

Parker High's last graduating class was in 1985. Its successor, Parker Academy, was recently slated to close because of declining enrollment.

 

Bob Ellis, an architect, and Marion Robertson, a retired printer, and a groundswell of other Parker graduates have formed the Parker Foundation to save the old auditorium, built in 1938, during the Great Depression, by the Works Progress Administration.

 

"West Greenville is changing quickly to an artist community," Ellis says.

 

The foundation envisions the auditorium a perfect fit there as a performing arts center for ballets, youth orchestras, drama groups and others without their own stages.

 

The foundation's request of the school board, says Ellis: "Give us six or nine months like you gave Greenville High to save Sirrine Stadium."

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Greenville, S.C.

 

Closing of Parker is the end of an era

 

By Judith Bainbridge

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

 

I did not attend Parker High School.

 

I didn't even live in Greenville during its glory days.

 

But, like everyone else in this county, I know Parker graduates. I have heard their stories and seen their pride in a high school that changed their lives and was a national model of applied education.

 

Now it may close. The school board has decided that there are too few students and too little money to continue maintaining the sprawling (147,676-square-foot) old building. It is an unfortunate decision, given the attachment of so many Greenvillians to the school's tradition and history.

 

And Parker's history is notable.

 

In 1922 Greenville had one high school. Greenville High served students living within the city's boundaries; all others had to pay $5 a month in tuition. Because of their meager wages, more than 25,000 mill village residents, who lived in the "textile crescent" surrounding the western edge of the city, were effectively barred from high school education.

 

Most "mill hill" children had, at best, 21 weeks of schooling for six years. Some textile executives, including former Monaghan president Thomas Parker and Union Bleachery president Richard Arrington, believed in education; others agreed that an educated workforce would improve mills and provide an unrivaled way to retain workers in a highly competitive industry.

 

In 1922 mill executives petitioned the state legislature to create the Parker School District (named not for Thomas Parker, as many think, but for his cousin and former partner, Lewis, who had died in 1916). It ran from Duncan Chapel to Mills Mill and had $9 million dollars in taxable property, making it the richest school district in the state.

 

In 1923 the legislature agreed, and the district's new trustees immediately appointed Lawrence Peter Hollis, director of social welfare for Victor-Monaghan Mills, a man with little experience in education, as its superintendent.

 

Parker began classes before its high school building was erected. The Class of 1924 met in the old City View School while construction of their $150,000 school was underway. J.E. Sirrine & Co. designed it; Morris-McCoy Construction Co. built it.

 

By September 1924, the roof was finished, four 12-ton limestone columns for the front entrance had been hoisted into place, and 500 students were enrolled, 200 of them in the seventh grade.

 

On Nov. 25, 1924, hundreds of visitors attended the school's formal opening, toured the building and admired the 17 classrooms, spacious laboratories for physics, chemistry, domestic science, agriculture and textiles, and the cafeteria and study hall. They applauded demonstrations of mechanical drawing, landscape gardening, textile carding and literary society meetings.

 

They met Principal M.E. Smith, 23 teachers, the music and athletic directors, and Parker District's full-time dentist. Teachers' annual salaries averaged $848.86.

 

In the years that followed, the high school became a model of vocational education because Hollis believed in learning by doing. He thought that the school should fit the student, not the student fit the school. Even before the building was constructed, he had invited Columbia University educational philosopher John Dewey to speak to teachers about "progressive education."

 

And progressive it was. As a result of Hollis' commitment to hands-on education, Parker held the state's first science fair. The school newspaper, published weekly in the Greenville Piedmont, was written and edited by Journalistic Club members. Its debate club won state and regional honors. The Parker orchestra, chorus and glee club performed regularly. Student government, complete with a constitution and student court, began in 1931. Among its presidents were Louise Wykes, Frank Eppes, Rex Carter and Mike Fair.

 

Although Parker had been conceived as a school emphasizing vocational training, including cosmetology, secretarial science and auto mechanics, it had standard college preparatory classes as well. Teachers marveled at the enrollments in French and Latin and were delighted when nearly 50 percent of graduates in the 1920s went on to college.

 

Athletic fields were immediately cleared, and Parker teams began a 60-year tradition as fierce competitors. That first year the football team won three and lost four games, while the basketball team went 16-4. It took 15 years before Parker defeated the Red Raiders of Greenville High in the traditional Thanksgiving football game, but in 1940, Coach Jim Nisbet finally led the purple and gold to victory.

 

Basketball teams reached their zenith between 1944 and 1949, posting a perfect season in 1945 and out-scoring opponents 1,050 to 398. The Parker five won one game 89-8.

 

But it was not clubs, sports or college prep classes that drew visitors from all over the world. The "Mill Village Miracle," as the Readers' Digest termed Parker in 1941, had become the center of the community, the heart of the Westside and a national model of engaged learning. In 1949, Look Magazine named Pete Hollis one of America's 100 finest educators, the only person in the Southeast who made the list.

 

After school consolidation in 1951, Hollis became superintendent emeritus. The only changes at the school were new additions. Expansion was necessary. By 1948, Parker enrolled 1,600 students and was the largest high school in the state.

 

By 1976, the physical plant at Parker rivaled many college campuses. The main building had been enlarged with front and side wings; the old entrance columns had been moved to a new cafeteria and library. It also boasted a separate gymnasium, field house, second classroom building, vocational center and a large auditorium.

 

But its student enrollment fell as mills suffered from off-shore competition and began to lay off workers. As conditions worsened in the early '80s, more families moved away. In 1985, the school district converted Parker High School into a middle school. In 1993 it was saved from closing only by community protest.

 

Once again it is on the chopping block. Its generations of graduates have not forgotten, but beyond the Westside, the heritage and history of the Parker District and its high school do not reverberate. Yet a portion of this community's memory will fade away if we once more demolish our past rather than renovate it for new uses.

 

 

 

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The Carolina Channel

October 14, 2003

 

School Board Votes To Close Sirrine, Parker

 

Trustees: Failing Schools' Shutdown Will Save Districts Millions

 

 

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Greenville School District trustees voted Wednesday to close Sirrine Elementaryand Parker Academy at the end of this school year.

 

Trustees had made preliminary votes to close Sirrine and Parker, two of the districts lowest-rated schools, because of dwindling enrollment. Each of the schools has lost nearly half of its students over the past two years.

 

The schools were labeled "failing" by the state because of low test scores and parents were given the option to transfer their children to other schools.

 

Closing the two schools would save $1 million per year in operating expenses and $17 million of planned spending on construction to replace their aging facilities.

 

Trustee Leola Robinson is the only one of the 12 trustees who previously voted against the closings.

 

The vote at Tuesday's meeting was seven to four in favor of closing the schools.

 

Earlier Tuesday, Robinson spoke on Greenville radio station WJMZ about her opposition to closing the schools.

 

"We've sat back and watched our sweet little children be bused out miles across town while schools in our neighborhoods have continued on a path of decline," Robinson said.

 

Robinson urged parents to come to Tuesday's board to voice their opposition to closing the schools.

 

Board chairwoman Tommie Reece said that the closing is in the best interest of the district, its students and the taxpayers who pay for their education.

 

"What we have to do is look at what is best for the education of children and an effective use of taxpayer money," Reece told News 4.

 

Reece said that efforts to improve the schools have failed and that the schools are now too small and too expensive to continue to operate.

 

As for Beck Academy, enrollment is also declining. The parents of nearly 200 students have transferred their children to other schools.

 

Because of that trend, trustees decided to move Beck from its current home off Pleasantburg Drive to a new site at Roper Mountain Road and Woodruff Road.

 

Some trustees say that the school's current facility is too far away from most of the families in its attendance zone and that hope moving will revive the school.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Greenville, S.C.

 

Greenville Middle parents win fight to stay put

 

By Cindy Landrum

EDUCATION WRITER

 

Greenville Middle students won't have to move to the soon-to-be vacated Parker Middle while their school is renovated, but students at Greenville High will, the school board tentatively decided Tuesday.

 

Moving students to Parker Middle while Greenville Middle was being renovated would have saved the school district $1.1 million.

 

But parents fought the move, saying Parker was too far from their Eastside homes, and they had safety concerns. They were willing to stay on campus and put up with any inconvenience construction would cause.

 

Many Greenville High parents weren't.

 

Having already lived through renovations at two schools, they asked to be moved to Parker during construction this time.

 

"We all lived through the Hughes (Middle) renovation. It was horrific," said Angel Tollison, president-elect of the Greenville High PTSA. "It's better to be removed from construction."

 

Greenville Middle parents are "tentatively happy," said Lezlie Peck, but won't rest easy until final approval is given at the board's April 13 meeting.

 

"This makes perfect sense," she said. "It makes two schools happy."

 

Moving Greenville High students to Parker will save the district $500,000.

 

School trustee William Herlong said it would be "an incredible waste" of money not to use Parker during renovations at one of the schools.

 

Phil Rohr, the district's construction consultant, said despite the $600,000 difference in savings to the district, he recommended moving the high school students to Parker.

 

"When a school wants to go and supports going, there's a better result for students, parents and staff," he said.

Greenville High Principal Ginger Stuart said the faculty unanimously supports the move.

 

"We believe it will be better for the educational process to not have the disruptions construction would cause," she said.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

May 13, 2004

Greenville, S.C.

 

After 65 years, Parker grads will gather to remember

 

Jeanne Brooks

Staff

 

That night, the whole thrilling rest of their lives stretched before them. They were young. The future hummed with mystery and the promise of great adventure.

 

They put on black robes and went down to the athletic field. They were mostly children of textile mill workers and lived in villages just beyond the city limits of Greenville.

 

The program began at 8 p.m.

 

Earline Phillips and Naomi Holder sang in the choir. Kathleen McEvoy spoke. And in due time and with due ceremony, the Parker High School class of 1939 graduated into the world. They were 216 in number.

 

Two girls got married the next day, some remember.

 

Dorothy McMinn, who lived in City View, went off to Anderson College.

 

Mary Friddle lived at 114 Perry Road, Sans Souci. She went to Winthrop.

 

Ruth Bray, who lived in Woodside and was a cheerleader, had known what she was going to do from the time she was 12 and taking care of neighborhood children.

 

"I had about 10 little children with their dolls on the steps one day," she recalls. L.P. Hollis, founder of the Parker School District, happened by and stopped.

 

"He said, 'If you'll go to school at Winthrop College, I'll give you a job when you get back.'"

 

So when she got old enough, she did. And he did.

 

Kathleen McEvoy, who lived in Monaghan, got up the morning after graduation and rode a streetcar to work at the Liberty Life Insurance Co.

 

Herman Hipp, president of the company, had hired her. She remembers he asked, "With your school record, why aren't you going on to college?"

 

Her mother was a widow with four children. The family needed her paycheck.

 

Money was tight for a lot of families. In high school, Earline Phillips dried dishes in the cafeteria to pay for her meals.

 

She sold candy house-to-house, too, learned about buying and selling, and wound up with a career as a buyer for the Belk Simpson Co.

 

She met Harold DuBose at Dreamland Lake when she was 18 and he was 19. He was her first love. They married, and she was Earline DuBose from then on.

 

Through marriage, Ruth Bray became Ruth Blanton.

 

Naomi Holder married classmate Alvin Clark. After World War II broke out, they worked in a shipyard in Newport News. He was drafted.

 

He went to Furman University on the G.I. Bill and finished in three years with honors.

 

Dorothy McMinn dropped out of college to work in a mill office. She married Floyd Thompson. In her 50s, she went back to school, and for 15 years after that, directed a Head Start program.

 

Mary Friddle, whose father made braces for the children at Shriners Hospital, married Fred Grant, who owned a grocery. She worked as a decorator for 42 years.

 

In 1940, Kathleen McEvoy walked across a street in the Poe Mill village to a preacher's house and married W. D. Heaton with his big smile.

 

She wore a flowered dress and a pink coat. Her corsage was yellow roses.

 

Years later, when W.D. died, she took over running the Heaton Insurance Agency.

 

The six women, lifelong friends, are in their 80s now. They're the Reunion Committee.

 

On May 28, the Parker High School Class of 1939 will meet at noon at Denny's on Wade Hampton Boulevard, with plenty of stories to tell, and all the joys and sorrows and surprises life has brought in the 65 years since graduation night.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

May 25, 2004

Greenville, S.C.

 

Greenville High dedicated to history

Students want traditions to make move with them to temporary facility

 

By Cindy Landrum

EDUCATION WRITER

History is a big deal at Greenville High School.

 

And some of that history will be lost next year when students move to the Parker Middle Academy campus, their temporary home during Greenville High's renovation and expansion.

 

That's why the incoming student council members have spent time learning about the school's traditions so they can try to preserve them.

 

"Students need to be aware of what makes Greenville High special," said Penny Beacham, student council advisor.

 

The incoming council toured the school recently and learned about the Wall of Fame which features plaques of alumni such as Herman W. Lay and Charles Towne, who invented the laser.

 

They walked the courtyard, which will be enclosed as the renovated school's commons area. They looked at the sundial and the piece of the Berlin Wall.

 

By knowing the history, which dates back to 1888, students "appreciate the school more," said Cameron Stover, incoming student body president. Student council will make a special effort to maintain the school's traditions -- like Spirit Week -- next year, Stover said.

 

"We may not be here, but particularly for the rising seniors and for the freshmen, we want to do a good job of maintaining the history and traditions of Greenville High School," Beacham said.

 

Greenville High, the county's magnet high school that focuses on academic excellence, is just one of many schools in Greenville that have a special emphasis.

 

There are magnet schools with special programs focused on specific subjects, such as the arts, science and math or foreign languages.

 

The Fine Arts Center is a school for the county's most talented musicians, artists, dancers and actors. The Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, along the banks of the Reedy River in West End, and Greenville has a school climate that's truly unique.

 

Magnet programs began in the county eight years ago with the goal of drawing suburban children to inner-city schools.

It's worked. Some of the schools have perennial waiting lists, while others have slowly built enrollment.

 

Students interested in the International Baccalaureate program can attend Southside High, Beck Middle and Sara Collins Elementary.

 

Schools emphasizing math, science and technology are J.L. Mann High, Hughes Middle Academy and Blythe Elementary Academy.

Blythe Academy has a nationally recognized Spanish and French immersion program.

 

Greenville Middle emphasizes traditional studies.

 

At League Academy, the emphasis is communication arts. Stone Academy is League's elementary school counterpart.

Students from around the state audition for spots in the Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.

 

 

 

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The Greenville News

July 23, 2004

Greenville, S.C.

 

Spirit of Parker lives

 

It had been 20 years since the last game on the Parker High football field,

when the old school's great rival paid a special visit and stirred the memories

 

By Bob Castello

STAFF WRITER

 

Thomas Sherman was at the old Parker High School again Thursday night. This time he wasn't reaching for tickets; he was reaching for memories.

 

With Greenville High School undergoing renovations, the Red Raiders' football team has been working out at Parker this summer. On Thursday, the Raiders took on Woodmont and Hillcrest in a passing league competition, the first competitive football played at Parker since it closed as a high school in 1985.

 

"It's a good thing," Sherman said, "because we should never forget the bridge that brought us across, and there are pleasant memories."

 

Sherman was the assistant principal at Parker from 1977 until its closing in 1985, and he worked the gate for each home game during those years. He said he wouldn't have missed the return of football to the school.

 

Upon hearing about Thursday's event, Sherman called an old friend. William Fleming was the head basketball coach, an assistant football coach and eventually the athletic director at Parker.

 

"This is like home," said Sherman, who watched from the sidelines with Fleming.

 

"Just walking on campus, it brings back a lot of memories, a lot of nostalgia," said Fleming.

 

Likewise, the change of scenery has been special for Greenville High offensive coordinator Jim Sosebee, a Parker graduate and a former player for the Golden Tornadoes.

 

"Going to check my room out ... walking through those halls again ... it's a trip," Sosebee said. "When I was in high school it looked a lot bigger."

 

And the field?

 

"That's where we practiced and played, so that's three years and three summers of getting after it," he said.

 

For 62 years the school was a source of pride for so many. For that reason, Greenville coach Larry Frost said Sept. 10 at Sirrine Stadium will be Parker Golden Tornado Night. The school is inviting all Parker alumni to come to the Raiders' game against Eastside and be recognized.

 

Frost said his parents, both Parker graduates, recently attended their 57th reunion; 78 people attended. There's a group of Parker graduates that meets regularly for breakfast at the Ham House.

 

"They're a very close-knit group," Frost said.

 

Rossi Meadows was there at the end. After four years as an assistant, he became the head football coach during the team's final season.

 

"It was a tough year," Meadows recalled. "Morale was low. Then, the first day of practice we had 12 kids show up. I had to get on the phone and start calling all these guys that had played before."

 

He built the roster up to about 30 players, and the team had a respectable season. The Tornadoes won three games and led several others at halftime. Depth was a problem, Meadows said.

 

"But you know what? It was a great year," Meadows said. "The booster club supported us 100 percent. We had good crowds coming to the ballgames. Everybody rallied around the team. It was a pleasant year. It was not what I was expecting. It was a good experience for me."

 

Meadows, then 26 and the youngest head coach in Class AAA, moved across to Greenville High and became the school's athletic director. He served as an assistant at Greenville, Eastside and, most recently, Riverside.

 

Meadows said in 1985, the idea of a Parker night at Greenville High would not have gone over at all.

 

"When it first happened, when it first closed, that was just a no-no," he said. "Don't even talk about it. The school district didn't want people throwing salt in the wounds of the Parker people.

 

"I think that would have been a great idea back then, to honor the Parker people involved. I commend Larry for doing it."