Related story: Community says farewell to Fair Street
When I moved to Gainesville for the first time, when I was 10 years old, I heard about the exciting marching band and football teams at the all-black Fair Street School.
However, since schools in Gainesville were not integrated until my final year of high school in 1969-70, I never attended or knew very much about the school.
It was in 1986, after teaching out of state and in another Georgia school setting, that I was hired as a teacher at Fair Street. From the very start, Fair Street was a different experience.
I learned that it is a symbol of hope from earlier generations for their children to become educated and have opportunities that were denied to them. This culture of high expectations, determination, perseverance and intense pride has carried forward through the years.
The original Fair Street School trophy case containing the awards earned in the early years were there to remind us of the legacy. Those who worked successfully at Fair Street, for even a short while, realized the responsibility we had to serve the children and the community.
After teaching there for 10 years, and leaving for five, I returned as principal in 2001. During these years, the alumni and community shared the archives - the photographs, the old letter jackets, the yearbooks - as well as the stories.
I learned about the community: Miss Marie's Sweet Shop, the girls championship basketball team, the state champion football teams, the graduation trips to Washington, D.C., and May Day Courts. The alumni shared generously of their time on special events with our students and faculty.
In 2003, Fair Street converted from a grade 4-5 school to a prekindergarten-5 school. Part of that process was the selection of a magnet theme program that would make each school unique. When I shared with then-Superintendent Dr. (Steven) Ballowe that we wanted to become an International Baccalaureate World School, he looked at me silently for 30 seconds, and I could read his mind.
He knew how difficult it was to meet the standards of this prestigious and rigorous program and he was worried that the task might prove too difficult. However, for those of us who lived the Fair Street culture and legacy, we never doubted that we could do it.
In February of 2007, the alumni, faculty parents, community, students and former students shared a celebration of our authorization as an IB World School.
Fair Street is so much more than bricks and mortar; it is all about meeting the challenge with hope, love, caring and persistence. All of those things will remain and move forward!
Merrianne Dyer, Gainesville City Schools superintendent