Howard Community Leaders Rally Students - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Howard Community Leaders Rally Students

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By David Carroll

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-  Community leaders say Howard School isn't going anywhere without a fight. They're angry over reports the state could take over their school...or even close it.

Attorney Walter Williams, a 1970 Howard alumnus said, "I'm here to tell you, I'm not going to let that happen.  Now it might happen but it will be over my dead body."

Principal Dr. Paul Smith says it's important for students to know that the low graduation numbers cited by the state are a few years out of date. "This year it's a 67 percent rate, and it could go up to 81 percent. It's the highest it's been in decades at Howard."

Speakers also criticized media outlets for negative coverage of Howard.  Students were told not to believe everything they see and hear.  Howard grad Gerald Mason said,  "You're not defined by what you see in the newspaper and the television,  but by what you think about yourselves."

Students admit that being told your school is failing can wear you down.  Senior Joshua King said,  "It kind of makes you feel bad.  People don't know what's inside the walls at Howard, they only get an outside perspective."

Senior David Knowles added,  "I see teachers and students giving a good effort each day. I think the state should give this school and it's administration a couple more years, see how things develop, and then decide what to do."

From Howard's perspective, news of a potential state takeover couldn't come at a worse time. Students are gearing up for achievement tests and the exams that decide who will graduate. How does it affect morale?  According to District 4 School Board member George Ricks,  "It could bring morale down, but it's actually brought them together.  The teachers have really united behind this school and its leaders."

Principal Smith says the students can fight back...not with their fists, but with their minds. "I'm determined as leader of this school, we will succeed," he said. 

Hamilton County Superintendent Dr. Jim Scales has said that Dr. Smith has his full support, and he will negotiate with state education officials to keep the principal on the job.

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