School to be dedicated in honor of Clayton educator

By Trina Trice

On 93 Valley Hill Road in Riverdale stands a school that bears the name of a former educator that helped shape the Clayton County school system.

Construction on Alfretta Harper Elementary School was completed more than a year ago and the school has been open for business for the 2002-2003 school year.

Upon entering the school, which still looks brand new, a glass display case gives students, staff and visitors a glimpse into the past of a pioneering woman.

Displayed among shelves of dolls are old pictures of Alfretta Allen Harper after whom the elementary school was named. Harper was a 40-year education veteran and one of the county's first black educators.

Harper was born in 1910 in Milledgeville and was educated in the Atlanta City public school system. Harper graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Clark College. A master's degree from Atlanta University soon followed.

Harper Elementary School Assistant Principal Delores DeWalt has done research on Harper's life and will present some of her findings in a speech at a dedication ceremony at the school Sunday.

What stands out the most for DeWalt about Harper was her unfettered dedication to educating students and fellow teachers, DeWalt said.

Harper "did not drive, she was known to walk from house to house to check on students who were absent from school or to let parents know about students' academic progress," DeWalt said.

Veteran educator and acting Principal of Haynie Elementary School Eddie White first met Harper when he began teaching at the Fountain School in 1961.

"She was a teacher's teacher," White said. "She had been a legend in the school system" before he began working at Fountain. "She was a master teacher, a motivator, she gave unselfishly of herself to the boys and girls of this county. She was a mother figure. She was just a super lady."

Harper was the first president of the Arnold Fountain Professional Club, a networking group for black educators in Clayton County.

The group formed in 1979 several years after the integration of the county's schools, White said.

"Because of the respect teachers had for" Harper, "she was chosen for president," White said.

White seceded Harper as president of the Arnold Fountain Professional Club in 1984. He currently holds that same title.

Harper died in 1985.

At the dedication ceremony, White intends to relate stories about Harper with the song "Precious Memories" in mind. The song was a favorite of Harper's.

"I'm going to talk about the precious memories I had of her," White said. "She helped shape and mold the lives of children, she was full of life and enjoyed all people. I don't know anyone who didn't like Alfretta Allen Harper."