By Johnny Jackson
Stately violins interrupted an otherwise placid ribbon cutting ceremony at Sequoyah Middle School Thursday morning. Arranged in the school's lobby, young learning-violinists from the school's advanced orchestra class played in the new Sequoyah Middle School opening.
Superintendent Barbara Pulliam, Board of Education member David Ashe, and State Representative Roberta Abdul-Salaam gathered with a small group of school administrators, students, and parents to formally celebrate the opening of the county's newest middle school.
Many participants were equally impressed by Sequoyah students as they were with the new state-of-the-art facilities. Some remarked about the students' demeanor at Sequoyah, saying the students seemed especially "well-mannered, bright and eager."
"The uniforms seem to give them a pride and dignity I've never seen," said Jo Frady, Sequoyah office manager.
The structured dress policy at Sequoyah rings familiar to Assistant Principal Russell Keith, who too works long hours. It is one of a few policies at Sequoyah he believes helps in the education process.
"I know administrative roles," he said. "I think I decided education after a tour in the Army when I was training a group. My job was to protect and serve my country."
In a way, he said, it's still his job. He said he strives to use his military experience to better educate the youth of the world so that they "become smart enough as a world culture to realize that war is not the answer. 'Only the dead have seen the end of war'," Keith said, quoting Plato.
A former Boston Marathoner, he starts his day out with a jog. Then, he heads to work at about five in the morning, only to leave about five in the evening. This is his usual regiment and has been most of his life. He spent 20 years in the Army, before he retired in 1994. Since, he has applied himself to education and the new Sequoyah Middle School.
During the ribbon cutting ceremony, Pulliam thanked the school's staff, students and parents for their work and support of the school in its first days in operation.
"It's been positive," said Choqullia Clark. Clark appeared at the 9 a.m. ceremony with her husband Kenneth in support of their daughter Kenya, who attended Kilpatrick Elementary School last year. "We're here to show our positive support and community involvement."
Asked about the ceremony's symbolism, several participants responded similarly.
"I think it represents another opportunity for students," Abdul-Salaam said. "I have four grandchildren who attend Clayton County schools. So, I have a vested interest in the schools."
Abdul-Salaam said she was hoping for better results in the Capitol in terms of funding for better teacher salaries and school programs, but she said the district has been trying to apply its limited funding wisely.
"We certainly needed the news school. (And) with a new facility comes new ideas," she said, glimpsing at student participants. "Here are the beginnings of professionals."