The Final Bell: Part Three

A new high school will fall, as Shanks and Havana Northside hope this new school will add diversity to the high school halls.

Don Morris is reminiscing about his childhood days at James A. Shanks High School, while looking through his treasured high-school year book. Morris says when Shanks first opened its doors in 1968 it was a predominately white school, with only a handful of African American students.

The county wanted to integrate schools to bring more blacks over from Carter-Parramore, which was considered the black school, but Morris says some African American students weren't too keen on the idea.

"When it first started I don't think they wanted to come to school where we were at and personally I was looking at it as a viewpoint of I had worked in the tobacco fields in this county and I have been around African American for years anyhow” says Don Morris, a 1969 Shanks graduate.

Though it was easy for Morris to embrace the students, it was a difficult transition for Leola Francis.

"When I came here the school was predominately white school and I became the first black teacher they let teach the white kids on academic subject," she says.

Francis says integration brought on white flight. These days the population at Shanks has now reversed with only a handful of white students. The county is losing its students to surrounding counties, and hopes the new school will entice them to come back.

"We're going to have a fantastic facility, we're going to have great course offerings and I believe in our outstanding teachers and leaders there," says Sterling DuPont, Gadsden County School Superintendent.

For years, schools in Gadsden County have been rated "D" and "F" schools, which played a major role in parents finding other schools for their children. Still, Francis believes the school, and not just the schools.

"I'm tired of the stigma of being on the bottom to me that's says we are strong, that means we are carrying 66 counties on our shoulder, so I want the students really get motivated, but really I want the parents to get involved that's the key," she says.

She says that motivation will help boost the schools’ rating, and that should help change the hue in hallways.

The new school is slated to open its doors on August 11. Havana Northside will host an alumni reunion on May 24 at Havana Northside.

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Or The Final Bell: Part One.