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Clayton Schools eyeing archives to recall district's past

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Pieces of the history of Clayton County's schools are boxed-up in buildings all over the county.

Boxes of old yearbooks and photographs, dating back to when Ernest Stroud was the assistant superintendent to J.E. Edmonds, are among the historical papers.

Eddie White, now a member of the Board of Education, is captured as the principal of the old Fountain Junior High School. Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan was found in one picture sporting the latest styles of the late 1970's, and early 1980's, when she was a teacher at Babb Middle School.

There are plans on the drawing board, though, which could bring all of these pieces of the school system's history together in one location at an archives or museum.

Officials in the school system are in the early stages of looking at renovating White Annex, at 155 Smith St., in Jonesboro, into an archives and museum devoted to the history of the school district.

"We have no centralized place to house the artifacts of this school system, and the things which I think would be of interest to people who currently live in the county, or might move here in the future," said White, one of the co-planners for the archival project.

The White Annex would need to double in size to accommodate the archives or museum, said Ronnie Watts, the school system's director of construction. The building is currently 3,500 square feet. Some of its features, would be a replica of a 1950's classroom, and a meeting room capable of hosting up to 40 people.

"I envision it being a place where people can come to Clayton County and learn about the history of this school system," White said. "I also see school groups being able to visit and learn the history of this area as well."

Watts, White, and other people involved in the project, have not determined a cost for the renovation. Watts said he's just now beginning to create a budget for the project. He said he is trying to see if there are state or federal grants to help cover the renovations.

White doesn't believe the school system will have any problems getting additional items from the school system's past. He said he's spoken with several members of the Clayton County Retired Teachers Association, and they have offered to donate their memorabilia to the proposed archives center.

"There are many of us 'old-timers' who would gladly give our items to this particular center, if requested," White said.

The White Annex was chosen because it was the home of one of Clayton County's earliest all-black schools during segregation. It later became personnel offices for the school system until the district opened the Central Administration Complex at 1058 Fifth Ave., in 2002. The technology department moved into the building at that time, but moved to a new facility in June of this year.

"What better a place to do this, than where some of the school system's history took place," Watts said.