Students join the battle for Germantown High's future with march and rally
January 3, 2013By Meg Frankowski for NewsWorks
Video by Kevin Cook for NewsWorks
"I think for [superintendent] Dr. [William] Hite to come in and make an assessment without knowing the neighborhood, the community, is wrong. He's here to serve the kids. He should get to know them. I think a lot of the times, the good things that happen at the school don't get publicity."
-- Douglass Tolbert, Germantown High School Class of '73 graduate and alumni association member
"One! Two! Three! Save the G!"
That chant was heard along Germantown Avenue on Wednesday afternoon as roughly 40 students, parents, alumni and supporters gathered to rally against a school-district proposal to close Germantown High after the 2012-13 school year.
Members of the "Save Germantown High School Coalition," who have rallied on several occasions since the announcement, hope their efforts lead the district to change its mind.
Kenneth Greene, a long-time GHS assistant football coach, said he joined the coalition because he believes in what the school has accomplished since opening in 1914.
"The saddest part about this is that it's happening to our students. This school is a part of our Northwest community," said Greene, "I'm upset. I feel there is an attack on public education."
March from GHS to middle of Germantown
The group marched around the intersection of Germantown and Chelten avenues while handing out flyers to locals to inform them of the closing announcement.
"I believe if the community sees us out here, we can start to invigorate the community," said Chauncey Ivey, a junior ROTC instructor who has been with the school for 13 years.
"This is about the kids, they're number one," Ivey continued. "They care about this school and it's made a difference to them."
Proud grads share concerns
Desma Reed-Johnson, a Class of '72 grad and alumni associate board member, focused on spreading word that GHS produces talented graduates every year.
"I'm a proud graduate of Germantown. I've went on to receive both bachelor and masters degrees, and now work in the business sector," said Reed-Johnson. "There are three things that make up a community: School, church and home. And, we need our school."
Paul "Smiley" Thomas, from the Class of '01, cited fond memories of playing on the GHS football and basketball teams, as well as being a student-council member.
"The thing that bothers me the most is that the district didn't have their debates with the people," said Thomas. "Why not have an open discussion with the community? We're the ones it affects."
Thomas said that many GHS students work part-time at local shops. Because of that, he is concerned about how a closure would affect area business.
"When I was in school, I had friends that worked at the barber shop, the food store, the clothing store," said Thomas. "I'd go after school and get my haircut by my friend. With this, that type of community will phase out, and I don't want to see that happen."
Douglass Tolbert, a 1973 graduate and alumni association member, concurred with Thomas. He said he thinks that decisions are being made without an eye to the neighborhood's future.
"I think for [superintendent] Dr. [William] Hite to come in and make an assessment without knowing the neighborhood, the community, is wrong," Tolbert said. "He's here to serve the kids. He should get to know them. I think a lot of the times, the good things that happen at the school don't get publicity."
Hoping for the best
One of those good things was viewed firsthand by Sam Stanton, program manager at the Travis Manion Foundation, a community service organization with ties to the school.
Stanton was inspired to participate, in part, because GHS students have volunteered more than 1,700 hours "to serve their community in the spirit of America's Fallen Heroes."
"These students have went above and beyond in volunteering," said Stanton, who has worked with GHS for two years. "This school has showed a spirit for community service. I'm here today because I really love and believe in this school."
Jonathan Quiñones, a GHS senior, was hoping the coalition will make an impact for students in the lower grades.
"We're here today to be heard," said Quiñones. "Hopefully, Dr. Hite will hear us."