January 15, 2011 10:26:00 PM
Birney Imes - [email protected]
The first thing you notice walking in is the blue under the portico. It''s a Southern thing. You paint the ceilings of your porch blue to keep the wasps and dirt daubers away. When I mentioned it, someone said the color was called "haint" blue because it keeps bad spirits away.
The ceiling in question is in the entranceway to the new Columbus Middle School. Seeing that detail, that small flourish puts you on notice that the building you''re entering is not another cookie-cutter school. After more than two years in the making, the newest crown jewel of the Columbus public schools opens for business on Wednesday.
Thursday afternoon I was among the hundreds of enthusiastic parents, students and townspeople who turned out to walk the halls and marvel at the realization of one man''s vision. That man, of course, is Columbus Schools Superintendent Del Phillips, who since taking the job in 2007, has been an avatar of constant change.
It''s been a marvelous thing to watch: closing and combining schools, initiating five magnet schools, implementing the International Baccalaureate program, passing a bond issue with almost 80 percent approval, and then this new Middle School, there on a hill, beautiful, stately even.
Like spokes on a bicycle, five halls radiate out from a rotunda crowned with words that echo the International Baccalaureate philosophy: Thinkers, Communicators, Inquirers, Risk Takers. To the left is the athletic wing with a sparkling gym and a food court that looks like something you would see in a big city shopping mall. Each grade -- sixth through eighth -- has its own spoke and to the right is the fine arts wing with a dance studio and auditorium, dramatic in all black.
There are no lockers, no need for them. Each student has two sets of books, one that stays in the classroom, the other at home. No more back-bending book bags for these kids.
Bobby Harper, Scott Murrah and I got roped into being guinea pigs for a demonstration of the Promethean Board, an interactive teaching aid in which students, each with their own controller, respond to visual puzzles on an oversize screen. With this wireless technology, class work becomes an interactive video game. Students are excited, say teachers. Spending a few minutes with the boards, it''s easy to see why.
Jamie Davidson''s library is beautiful. A sprinkling of new books sit atop a reception area flanked by long rows of maple bookshelves. Above the checkout desk in bold letters is a Harry Truman quote: "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." The furnishings for the library, like the entire school, are stylish, modern and modular. And get this, it''s all carpeted. Everywhere -- the halls, classrooms and library. Let everybody say wow.
Like everyone else, I''m anxious to see what effect this new, $19 million school, with all its elegance and gee-whiz technology, will have on students'' performance and behavior.
This facility speaks volumes about our community; it radiates an unmistakable message of hope and optimism. But, as we all know, it''s going to take more than a new building.
Early Friday morning I had coffee with friends at Beans and Cream. While we talked, a father and his elementary school age daughter came in and sat at a nearby table. As I held forth on the new school, one of my pals stopped me in mid sentence and pointed to the father and daughter -- they were going over her homework. "That," said my friend, "that''s what it''s all about."
As they rose to go, someone at our table called to the little girl, "Bet you''re going to make an A on that test."
"We hope so," the father replied.
Someone at our house reads the classifieds for entertainment value. Taped to one of our kitchen cabinets is an ad that reads, "Deaf cat needs quiet home." Saturday morning I called the number with the ad to see if there had been a response. No answer. Guess no one heard the phone.
Birney Imes is the publisher of The Commercial Dispatch. E-mail him at [email protected]
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.