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Addition By Andrew Pace - Class of 1980


Grady Stadium.

The cafeteria painting is a reminder of the excitement that was felt in the 1950s when Atlanta Public Schoolswere first made co-educational. But, obviously, this new coed, neighborhood high school did not include every high school age child in the neighborhood. Not until 1961 did Grady High School begin racial integration of the student body. At that time the school became one of the first high schools in the state of Georgia to open its doors to black students.

Racial integration at Grady made the news both in the state and the nation as integration proceeded peacefully and smoothly. in 1961, Grady and the other high schools, were integrated from the top down. Two black students entered as Seniors (12th grade), one was a male (Lawrence Jefferson) and one a female (Mary McMullen). The first day of school, the sidewalk and street facing the school building was packed with members of the KKK, George Rockwell's American Natzi Party, Lester Maddox and friends with axe handles and assorteds adults with signs. There were city and state police, FBI, but I do not remember any National Guard members. The white students arriving for class that first day mostly ignored the crowds and the first day of school proceeded with no issues.

White flight did occur as integration proceeded throughout the 1960s and 1970s. But the makeup of Grady's school population stabilized between 1980 and 1985. In the 1990s, Grady's ethnic composition remained close to 70% Black, 29% White, and 1% Other.

The stabilization of the ethnic makeup of Grady coincided with dramatic changes in the administrative leadership of the school. In 1981 Thomas Adger became principal and Kay Earnhardt became the coordinator of the new Communication Magnet.

These two leaders fostered a renaissance at Grady that provided inspiration to the school. They emphasized hiring creative faculty members, providing flexible scheduling for electives, encouraging cooperation between academic departments, creating advanced placement classes, procuring better technology and equipment from the business community, and developing the community's trust in the safety of the school. They made Grady a showcase for student talent through revitalized publications, a debate team, and a school-wide festival of the humanities. They were particularly successful in inspiring teachers and students to experiment.

Finally, in 1987-88 they led the school through another major renovation of the building. Renovations included adding a theater, air-conditioning the main building and the eighth street wing; installing carpets in most classrooms; replacing windows in the eighth street wing; cleaning the facade; installing a closed circuit television system; creating an improved art room; and adding a communications wing with a large darkroom and desktop publishing area.

The theme of the school in the 1980s was "All children can learn." That philosophy was soon apparent because test scores in the 1980s improved throughout the student population. Georgia Basic Skills Test scores, for instance, jumped dramatically from 1987 to 1989. SAT scores from 1986 to 1990 reflected a similar pattern: an average verbal score of 350 in 1986 soared to 422 in 1990. In 1983, Grady staff members began the first forensic program in the school system and Grady students have represented Georgia in national competitions every year since 1988.

Much of what was accomplished in the 1980s was recognized in 1991 when Grady High School was named a School of Excellence for the state of Georgia. The intangible that accounted for much of the turnaround of the 1980s was the school's genuine acceptance of diversity. Grady became known as a school where the racism, sexism, and cultural bias that was still prevalent in the surrounding society were largely excluded. Students were learning well, partly because past stereotypes were not hindering them in their interactions with each other or with their teachers.