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Stillwell proposed as new name for Clayton’s 10th high school

JONESBORO — Officials are recommending Clayton County’s newest high school be named after a well-known pioneer in fine arts education.

The name up for consideration is the Martha Ellen Stillwell School of the Arts.

Clayton County Public Schools Fine Arts Director Monika Wiley presented the proposal to the school board during Monday’s work session. She said a community survey was available for two weeks returning its strongest support for Stillwell.

Wiley read from a brief biography of the woman many laud as the heart and soul of arts programming in the district.

Stillwell was a graduate of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., before continuing her studies at the Memphis College of Music, the West Minister Choir College in New Jersey and the University of Georgia, where she received a master’s degree and education specialist degree. But her career began in church ministry as minister of music at First Baptist Church in Elizabeth City, N.C.

“In 1965, she redirected her path to work with children through the Clayton County School System, first as a third-grade teacher, then elementary music, and finally in 1968 the first coordinator of fine arts, where she held this position for 27 years until her retirement in 1995,” said Wiley.

Wiley said Stillwell originated the now-internationally renowned Spivey Hall Children’s Choir. She also was named the 1990 Georgia Music Educator of the Year.

She received the Distinguished Alumna of the Year Award from Union University in 1995, the year the district opened the Martha Ellen Stillwell Art Gallery at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center.

“Martha Ellen was heavily involved in church work even during the 30 years of work in Clayton County,” said Wiley. “Teaching adult Sunday school classes and studying the Bible was a special love for Martha Ellen. She taught 25 years in three different churches.”

School board Chairwoman Pam Adamson sang the praises of the retired educator.

“She’s a legend,” said Adamson. “She really is. She is the reason we have fine arts in the elementary school and the middle school and the high school.”

Wiley said individuals and organizations throughout the county submitted potential names for the school, the district’s 10th. The facilities are expect to open officially in January.