By Curt Yeomans
The Eddie J. White K-8 Academy cheerleading team, in a way, summed up what many people were saying during the school's ribbon-cutting ceremony with a simple statement in a cheer.
"We're headed to the top," the cheerleaders shouted. "Eddie White can't be beat."
The ceremony was technically designed to celebrate the opening of the school, which is the county's first to have elementary and middle school students in the same building. It ended up, however, being a tribute to a man who was a teacher and administrator in the school system for nearly 40 years -- the school's namesake, Eddie J. White.
Approximately 100 people attended the ceremony. Many of them were parents of the school's students, but several old friends of White came as well. The school, which is located at 11808 Panhandle Road, in Lovejoy, will host a "Family Day" celebration today, from 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., which will serve as the school's open house event.
Parents and community members will be able to tour the school during the event.
White taught in the school system in the early 1960's, when the system was still segregated. He worked his way up the administrative ranks to become an assistant superintendent, before retiring in the late 1990's. His lengthy career in education also included a stint on the county's school board, from 2005 to 2008.
"He continues to be a source of knowledge about over 50 years of history of this school system, that came from a turbulent period of time, to its golden age, as I like to put it," said Clayton County Board of Education Member Pamela Adamson, whose district includes the K-8 school. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Adamson introduced White, whom she said she has been friends with for several years.
"After an educator retires, you wonder what else is there for them to do, but Eddie came back to serve on our school board during a crucial time in our district's history," she added. "I could not think of a better person to name this school after."
In additional to Adamson, several other school board members came to the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the event with White, including board members, Charlton Bivins, Jessie Goree, and Mary Baker -- who replaced White, in 2008, as the board's District 6 representative.
Even Superintendent Edmond Heatley, who came to Clayton County last June -- over a year after White left the school board -- acknowledged that the retired educator is well-admired among members of the community. Heatley told students of the K-8 school that he wanted them to come to school on Monday, the first day of the 2010-2011 year, as energized about education as White once did.
"Come Monday, when you enter this building, you're going to have to give the same level of enthusiasm that he did, because I understand he was a fantastic teacher," Heatley said.
And, ever the educator, White said he will be waking up early in the morning on Monday -- as he once did when he was a teacher -- to come to the school and offer a helping hand. "I am going to be right here, welcoming students as they arrive at school for Day one," White exclaimed.
He also joked that he would gladly substitute-teach on Monday, if Principal Clarence Jackson, has any teachers who are sick that day. "I am ready to come in on Monday morning and teach," he said.
During his remarks, White marveled at the "state-of-the-art school," which has four, two-story classroom wings, two gymnasiums, 81 classrooms, a computer room for parents, and a town-hall meeting room. He said the elementary school he attended as a child paled in comparison.
"Several years ago, when I was at [attended] an elementary school, in Fulton County, the school only had four rooms, and five teachers," White said. "There were no bathrooms, and no running water ... When I think back on that school, I think of how interesting it is that we have this beautiful, state-of-the-art building."
Parent Amelia Covington said she liked the fact that White was able to be at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, to help set the tone for the new school that bears his name. Covington's daughter, Lauren, is scheduled to be a sixth-grader at the school this year.
"I thought it was very interesting to have the actual person it was named for here when they cut the ribbon to open it," the mother said. "Based on what I've heard, I think he was a great candidate to name the school after."