Closing Carver High is robbing South Memphis of some history, Johnson writes



AndreIn Memphis’ basketball-crazed city, it has often been noted that the success of University of Memphis Tiger hoops has brought about a sense of unity to what many describe as a segregated city.

For those affiliated with Memphis George Washington Carver High, football seeming has been the trend that has united this South Memphis-based institution.

As early as last year, for instance, those with close ties to Carver High School adopted the notion that suggest the school had virtually nothing on which to hang its hat — a far cry from the glory days in which this institution was deemed arguably one of the finest in the Memphis metropolitan area.

carverBy all accounts, there were no significant achievements and nothing about which to brag, unlike the school’s cross-town rival Booker T. Washington which, to this day, is credited largely for luring President Barack Obama to speak at its 2011 commencement exercises.

Nevertheless, the resurgence of the Cobra football program — one that endured years of futility — essentially has brought about a renewed sense of enthusiasm and splendor to a tradition-rich institution that unfortunately has faced an array of obstacles in recent years.

So much, in fact, that Carver seemingly has been on life support in recent years.

And left for dead.

Barely clinging to a pulse.

And a slight heartbeat.

Still, despite an assortment of hardships and struggles and hurdles on which to clear, those affiliated with Carver weren’t taking defeat lying down. In other words, they sensed that some strategic plan had to be implemented to prevent school officials from permanently closing the doors of an institution that is still an integral part of the South Memphis community.

For starters, a Booster Club has been assembled to devise plans to keep the school functioning, despite its slew of past challenges.

Carver Booster Club President Robert 'Razorback' Jones

Carver Booster Club President Robert ‘Razorback’ Jones

According to a spokesperson for the Booster Club, the group is working in conjunction with other South Memphis-based organizations to keep Carver up and running, groups that are headed by renowned Memphis pastor Ralph White of Bloomfield Baptist Church and the George Washington Carver National Alumni Association.

According to Charles Hayes, a Carver High graduate and booster, there have been in recent years a number of meetings with local and county board members to discuss and formulate an alternative plan to Carver’s proposed closure.

The school reportedly is currently faced with three key options.

Among those: Transform Carver as a designated Innovation Zone (or I-Zone) institution, which would allow the school to receive additional funding through a School Improvement Grant (or SIG) to implement one of four state-approved turnaround models in order to improve student achievement.

Also, Carver could be transitioned into a charter institution. But according to Carver boosters, this option is one they are lobbying to prevent, in large part because according to recent studies, there usually is an increase in academic achievement and student enrollment for approximately two years before the dreaded leveling effect takes place, thus giving way to an academic downward.

Thirdly, the school can cease operations all together, something about which those affiliated with Carver are earnestly trying to prevent. As it stands, one booster acknowledges, the I-Zone option may perhaps be the most reasonable solution as those boosters and alumni members continue to work tireless to prevent the demise of arguably one of South Memphis’ most identifiable establishments.

Thank God for sports which, to Carver’s credit, has been the talk of campus, the talk of South Memphis.

It is because of the resurgence of the football program that Carver is helping make a solid case that it is still very much relevant, let alone very much a part of Memphis history.

Therefore, closing the doors of this institution would undoubtedly be a bigger travesty than, say, the destruction of Libertyland.

A tradition-rich institution that was established in 1957 and is considered one of Memphis’ oldest and most popular public schools, Carver’s current school building has been occupied since the spring of 2000. The gymnasiums, band room, and one corridor of classrooms are the only areas of the original building. In addition, the library occupies most of the building’s third floor. The library, in fact, features twenty-five computers, two adjacent classrooms and a resource room.

A longstanding establishment that traditionally has served grades eight through 12 in the past, Carver currently serves grades nine through 12, a school that customarily provides classes and services for students with homebound requirements and special and behavior disabilities. George Washington Carver High School is a Title I School and generally serves students in the South Memphis area of the city.

Which is to say that shutting the doors of this tradition-rich institution essentially is robbing Memphis of more history, robbing Cobra Nation of its compelling, yet recognizable red and white colors other schools had feared for years, thus robbing South Memphis of something that, quite frankly, residents of that community had come to embrace.

So, please, school officials, do the right thing.

Listen to the students.

Listen to the administrators.

Listen to longtime athletic director and boys basketball coach Stevenson Bratcher.

Listen to the boosters.

Listen to the slew of alumni member from near and afar.

Do whatever it takes to keep Caver High open.

Because given the tireless, resilient efforts exhibited by those with close ties to the school, it’s safe to assume the Bluff City needs this tradition-rich institution.

And vice versa.

Because truth be told, closing Carver High is robbing South Memphis of some history.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

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