Schools bear names of beloved administratorsBy NIKKI ROWELL,
A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but when it comes to local schools, the names hold the utmost importance.
Ann Smith Elementary and Rosa Scott High are both Madison County School District campuses named for former administrators.
Ann E. Smith Elementary was originally founded as Ridgeland Elementary School in 1963. The name was later changed in 2001 to honor longtime teacher and administrator Ann Smith.
Smith was, and still is, admired by fellow administrators and teachers throughout her time with the school district.
Smith served as principal from 1969 to 1991. She was born and raised in Canton. She was a 1949 graduate of Mississippi State College for Women. She later earned her Masters in elementary Education at Mississippi College.
She began her career by teaching third grade in Vicksburg.
Mike Kent, a former Madison County School District superintendent, said his first interaction with Smith came when he was the principal at the high school and she served as principal at Ridgeland Elementary.
“I was a rookie administrator, and she was a veteran,” he said. “This was at the beginning of population boom in Ridgeland. Many were enrolling their children at Ridgeland Elementary. It was because of the level of expertise and the climate that Ms. Smith demanded down there at the school. She and I worked together until she retired in ‘98. I became superintendent in 2000.”
Kent said the name change was an effort to honor Smith’s work and legacy.
“She leaves behind a legacy of literally thousands of students who came through her school,” Kent said. “Teachers hold her in the highest esteem. There are just dozens of former teachers who will go on and on about her and what a great leader she was.”
The experience Kent received through working with Smith is what stands out to him the most throughout his years working with her.
“For me, it was a great experience because I learned so much,” he said. “Her level of preparation, her level of expectation. That notion of climate, what should parents expect when they arrive at school. It helped me.”
“The rest of us were trying to figure out what she was doing,” he added. “Obviously, we had to emulate what she was doing. She walked on water as far as education was concerned in Madison County.”
Kent said that when she spoke up in meetings of the administration, whatever she said was what they did.
“In principals’ meetings, we would be discussing a topic, and she would speak up and whatever she said, that’s what we were going to do,” he said. “Often times, to the chagrin of the high school principal and the middle school principal. The results spoke for themselves. She just had a great product down there. The parents knew it. We were trying to do what she was doing.”
Kent believes Smith’s legacy of excellence lives on at the school today.
“I think it carries over into the schools today,” he said. “Ms. Ann was very active until just recently. She still attended events at the school.”
He attributes the fact that he was named superintendent to Smith.
“It was because of the Ann Smith seal of approval,” he said. “When I ran for superintendent in ‘99, her endorsement meant more to my success than anything else. When she put her seal on it, that went a long way.”
Ann Smith Elementary currently enrolls approximately 760 students from kindergarten through second grade.
Rosa Scott High was named after Rosa Allie Lee Scott, who was born in 1874 and raised in Madison. She is a former principal and founder of the Madison-Rosenwald School, which is now known as Rosa Scott.
She and her husband Charlie had three children, Maggie, Ester and Charlie. All three of her children became school teachers.
None of her family members live in the area now.
She attended Jackson College, which is now Jackson State University, from 1886 to 1890. She then attended Fisk University in Nashville.
Scott led a community effort to raise funds to match Julius Rosenwald grant funds to build a school in Madison.
In 1919, a five-acre plot was bought by the Madison Separate School District for $225 from Ollie and Ruth O. Jones.
In the early 1920s, the Madison-Rosenwald School was built on the site of the present-day Rosa Scott School.
According to former teacher Josephine Powell, the school was built to accommodate four teachers with grades one through eight. At the time, it was an all-black school.
Scott died on May 12, 1938, on the day of Madison-Rosenwald’s commencement exercises at 64 years old. She is buried on the campus.
Johnny Russell and a group of other alums visit the campus bi-annually to host a memorial at the gravesite and catch up with former classmates.
When the new school was built in 1959, it was named after Scott.
As the ninth-grade campus of Madison Central High School, Rosa Scott School has a total enrollment of 469 students.
According to the school’s website, in addition to a strong college-preparatory curriculum, Rosa Scott offers the following extracurricular activities: six sports, band, choir, dance, JROTC and over 20 clubs.