After 125 years, Rock Hill schools celebrate past, present and future

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comNovember 20, 2013 

Kids across Rock Hill got a special treat at lunch on Wednesday – birthday cake to celebrate 125 years of public education in the city.

On Wednesday evening, administrators and people with ties to the history of Rock Hill schools gathered in the Cyber Cafe at the Flexible Learning Center, the old Castle Heights Middle School, to hear stories, eat cupcakes and view the painted timeline that traces the history of the district.

Teachers should get the credit for shaping Rock Hill schools into what they are today, said former school board chairwoman Jane Peeples.

“There’s one thing that never changes,” she said, “that is that teachers are the ones who make the magic happen.”

She shared a document that listed “expectations for teachers” in 1915, including rules that teachers couldn’t get married or be in the company of men, couldn’t wear bright colors, and couldn’t leave the city limits without permission from the school board chairman.

School board member Walter Brown is a lifelong Rock Hill resident who graduated from Rock Hill High School in 1953. He recalled a time when recess would last more than an hour because the principal was out playing baseball with students, and when students would get to go home if it was raining because the dirt roads would get too muddy for school buses.

Samuel Foster Sr. said he had been pleased to be part of “125 years of solving social problems.”

Foster was the last principal of Emmett Scott High School, which was the high school for black students before integration in the 1970-71 school year. He was the first principal of the newly integrated Northwestern High School, working there until 1977.

He later was an assistant superintendent and served in the S.C. House for 12 years.

“Let us remember that education is the key to progress,” he said. “I happen to be one of those who never believed in separate but equal.”

As the celebration drew to a close, school board chairman Jim Vining invited everyone to look at the timeline and to think about today’s elementary school students who will be in their seats for the 175th birthday of Rock Hill public schools, and consider what legacy was being left for them.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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