MCS celebrates long, notable history

English teacher Gordon Matthews teaches at what was then Westwood Junior High in an undated photo posted to the Facebook group If You Grew Up or Ever Lived in Manchester You Remember….

Manchester City Schools may be the smallest district of the three in the county, yet its history shows a tradition of quality education.

According to a story in the July 8, 1976 bicentennial edition of the Manchester Times, the district formed shortly after the city’s incorporation in 1905. Then, only 1,200 people lived in the city, at the time of that story, Manchester City Schools’ enrollment was 1,366. Today that number is 1,495.

Taylor Street School, later becoming Westwood Junior High, had two classrooms, a small cafeteria and a heating plant. It served 52 children in the first and second grades that first year.

Owing to the period of growth around the 1960s, the building was expanded by two classrooms in 1957 and three in 1959. There was a remodel in 1961, five classes and an auditorium/gym.

In the fall of 1962, the school changed to Westwood Junior High. In 1967, Westwood Elementary School was opened. 

The other elementary school, now College Street Elementary School, saw a name change from Manchester City School during a 1972 renovation that included a new wing with a library, office and some additional classrooms. The site was once home to a two-story Manchester Male and Female College, which opened in 1867.

Like other schools across the south, Manchester was segregated and the system operated Rosenwald and later the Riverview School for African American students until 1965. One teacher from the city and one from the county was supplied to Rosenwald.

At the time of the bicentennial edition, the district was headed by the Board of Education, then selected by the city board of Mayor and Aldermen. In 1961, the board was expanded from three to five members.

Earlier in the district’s history, a superintendent of schools headed the day-to-day operation; now a director of schools performs that job. Early terms for superintendents were one year, then two. Currently, the contract for Director of Schools, is at the discretion of the board, but most often the person is offered a four year contract.    

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