Memphis' public school system has improved by leaps and bounds over the last two hundred years. When it started, people's homes doubled up as schools. Today, the Memphis School system is the 21st largest school system in the country and the second biggest employer in the city. The over 190 schools function on a budget of over $770 million, with 119,000 students and 16,000 employees.The city's school system was chartered in 1826.
From then until 1848, Memphis schools were privately owned by affluent citizens. The first official Memphis school was taught by a certain Underwood from Alabama. Other schools soon followed suit, taught by clergymen and businessmen in their homes and churches.
Eugene McGivney was perhaps the city's most famous educator. He started a school in the city in 1833 with the experience he brought from Pennsylvania and Ireland.Education was rare among the lower- and middle-class white children, and black children had virtually no chance at learning. In 1848, the first free school, named "Third and Overton" changed this.J.
W. A. Pettit is called the father of the free school system of Memphis.
Through Pettit's authority, Memphis started giving treasury funds to the fledging schools. Pettit, who was the first superintendent, was not paid. It was in 1852 ? the number of schools totaled 13 then ? that a city school tax rate was imposed. A county school tax rate followed two years later. There were four educational wards in the city, with each having a teacher and a rented schoolroom.
Memphis soon began to offer help to schools for black students. Clay Street School was the first recorded public school for black children. It was founded in1873 and officially closed in 1950.The Memphis City School system's oldest running school is Cummings Elementary, which started in 1902 for white students. Klondike Elementary School is the oldest school still in use that was meant primarily for black students. It was erected in the same year as the Cummings Elementary school.
Some of the more famous Memphis High schools are Messick (founded in 1908); Central (1911); Treadwell (1915); South Side (1922); Humes (1925); Booker T. Washington (1926); Technical (1928); Manassas (1927); and Hamilton (1942).
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By: Jennifer Bailey