J.H. House Elementary celebrates 40 years of education

Built in 1967, J.H. House Elementary School will celebrate its 40th year of education during the 2007-2008 school year. The unveiling of a portrait honoring past principal Joyce Hooper will take place today at the school with all students present.

The grand celebration of 40 years will be on Sunday, Oct. 28, in the school cafeteria from 2 to 5 p.m. The 638 students, their parents and 80-plus staff of J.H. House for 2007 invite all former students, parents, faculty and staff to the event on Sunday to enjoy the spirit of success that is House.

J.H. House Elementary School is the first public school in Rockdale County to be named for a superintendent of schools. The school was named for James Harwell House Jr., who moved to Conyers in 1955 to take the dual position of principal for Rockdale County High School and superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools. Born in 1907, House was the son of a Methodist minister. He earned a bachelor of philosophy degree from Emory University in 1929, a master's degree from Duke University and his 6-year certificate in school administration. He worked above the master's degree level at Columbia University, Florida State University and the University of Georgia. He began his career as a history teacher and coach at Valdosta High School and followed with the position of supervising principal and superintendent of city schools in three other southern locations before coming to Conyers.

He brought with him to Conyers his wife, Sallie, and daughters, Sallie Virginia (Ginger) age 21 and Caroline age 19 - both students at Valdosta State College in Valdosta in 1955. House was active in the community as a member of the Conyers Lions Club, Conyers-Rockdale Community Action Committee and Rockdale County Board of Health. He was a member of the Conyers First United Methodist Church serving on the official board as chairman for two years and secretary four years. He was the church lay leader for two years and Men's Bible Class teacher for seven years - but education for the children was foremost in his heart.

House died of cancer on July 12, 1967, while still under contract as superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools. In August 1967, the J.H. House Elementary School opened and was named and dedicated in his memory.

J.H. House is located in the far northern portion of Rockdale County on Ga. Highway 20. The facility provides the school and community with playground space, a gymnasium, a student-oriented media center, primary and project computer labs, a guidance office, accessible facilities for handicapped, an art room and a music room. In addition, there are 34 classrooms and a school cafeteria which provides breakfast and lunch each day to students, faculty and staff.

Joyce and Robert McCart bought their home adjacent to J.H. House the same year the school was built in 1967 and have quite a history with the school. Three of their four children, Tommy, Tim and Marcia, attended J.H. House Elementary. Their oldest child Michael was a sixth grader in 1967, or he would be a House alumni also.

McCart was vice president of the House PTA its first year and said that she "spent a lot of time at the school while her children attended." Since its beginning in 1967, the McCarts have had three generations attend House Elementary.

"It was great - a good school," said Mrs. McCart. "My children didn't have to get on the road at all, but just walk a short path through some trees from our home, and they were at school."

In the landmark education years of the 1960s, three schools were built - Rockdale County High School, J.H. House Elementary School and C.J. Hicks Elementary School. C.J. Hicks is the only other namesake for a superintendent of schools in this county, built in honor of Clyde Jerome Hicks, a STAR teacher in mathematics, principal of Milstead School, once chairman of the board of education, county school superintendent and industrial relations manager at Callaway Mills in Milstead.

The county schools were desegregated the year C.J. Hicks Elementary was built in 1969 and J.H. House Elementary was two years old. The transition to desegregation in schools in Rockdale County was deemed a model for other school systems because parents, businesses, the community and school officials pulled together to create the best environment for the children.

"Our school has seen great changes which have been influenced by technology and demographics," said SueAnn Jones, a 39-year veteran teacher, with 37 of those at J.H. House.

Fellow veteran teacher Martha Folk taught second grade at J.H. House for 33 years - and has returned after retirement to teach English As a Second Language classes. Elizabeth Collins, a 20-year bookkeeper for J.H. House, said of Folk, "She taught my daughter in second grade. Her love of teaching is obvious - she teaches with her heart and soul."

J.H. House Principal Carolyn Poole describes her school as "a vibrant community of learners - both faculty and students... Every decision made is based on how it impacts student achievement."

Fabulous experienced teachers, like Jones and Folk; administrators like Collins, Poole and Hooper; parents and students like the McCarts, pretty much sum up J.H. House - a school that teaches with soul.

Linda Reynolds is a columnist for the Citizen. She is interested in stories about historical landmarks in Rockdale and Newton counties. If you know of a special story, place or event, e-mail her at linda.reynolds@rockdalecitizen.com or call her at 770-483-7108, ext. 252.