Students, teachers celebrate Jonesboro High's 40th

By Michael Davis

Virginia Rodgers Hasty remembers her years at Jonesboro High School as the most rewarding experience of her life. Known by her students as Ms. Rodgers, she taught there from the time the school opened in 1963 until she retired in 1992.

Seeing some of her former students Saturday, Hasty reminisced about the early days of Clayton County's first high school.

"It was a wonderful career," she said. "We had a young faculty and we just had a good time."

Created in the late 1800s, Jonesboro High School has had many homes in the area, but celebrated its 40th year on Mt. Zion Boulevard Saturday.

Hasty and scores of other Jonesboro High School faculty and students, past and present, filled the school's halls to remember the good times they shared at the school.

"What was exciting was when we had been here so long we were teaching the second generation," said Joyce Barr Sorrell, then known just as Ms. Barr.

"I taught my optometrist and my dentist," she said, remembering the 30 years she spent as a teacher at the school.

Saturday's celebration included an open house with video displays of decades of yearbooks and an hour-long ceremony to honor the school and some of its former faculty.

Principal Ross Iddings presented a plaque to the family of former Assistant Principal Billy Ray Cain, who died last year.

"He spoke to me about the history of Jonesboro High School," said Iddings. "And how to work within the community."

Former Principal Fred Smith also shared some memories with the crowd gathered at Saturday's event.

Starting as the school's assistant principal at the time it opened, Smith spent 27 years there before retiring in 1993.

"Through the years we had a lot of good teachers and a lot of them stayed on a long time," he said. "I hope the next 40 years will be even better than the last 40."

True to form, Smith couldn't help but joke with some of his friends gathered Saturday.

"You know, the older you get, the farther you had to walk to school," he said. "And the steeper the hill gets coming both ways."

Throughout the open house Saturday, former students mingled in the halls and classrooms with their teachers, remembering when they were a bit younger and sometimes got called to the office.

At the request of his sister, Vaneta Viars Gibbs, Iddings called Rick Viars to the office just for old time's sake.

Known around campus for his tendency to rough-house, Viars, a 1968 graduate, remembers the principal often ending his afternoon addresses to the student body with, "Oh by the way, Rick Viars and Buck Arrington, come to the office."

Terry Hicks, also a 1968 graduate, welcomed the chance to reminisce about his time as a basketball player for the school.

"I just went into the gym and stood there thinking about how much time I had spent there," he said.

Hicks' wife, Paula, said she and her friends often barely escaped punishment for leaving campus without permission.

"Mr. Cain used to watch us sneak out to lunch, but he never busted us," she said.

The school also received two proclamations Saturday, one from the City of Jonesboro and one from the Clayton County Board of Commissioners.

Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day declared Friday, Jonesboro High's homecoming, and Saturday, the day of the 40th anniversary celebration, as "Jonesboro High School days in the City of Jonesboro."

County Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer also declared Saturday as "Jonesboro High School Day" with a proclamation from Commission Chairman Crandle Bray.