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Palmer Center evolves: School serves preschool, early education, special education students

June 11th, 2011 10:21 am by Leigh Ann Laube

Palmer Center evolves: School serves preschool, early education, special education students

Jerry Dahill and Ross Kingdon, both long-time members of first, the Palmer Center board of directors, and now the Palmer Foundation, have helped the organization plan for a fully accessible amphitheatre at Darrell's Dream Boundless Playground at Warriors

Ross Kingdon joined the board of directors of the Palmer Center in 1967. His motivation to stay involved until 2011 came, in part, after the birth of a grandson with Down syndrome 20 years ago.

Kingdon will step down from his work with the Palmer Center this week, having seen the center evolve from a private facility established to teach and treat children with what was then termed “crippling disabilities” to a public school as part of Kingsport City Schools.

In 1948, a group of Kingsport families came together to provide facilities and programs for the treatment and schooling of children with crippling disabilities. A year later, a parent council was formed, a building was secured at the Holston Ordnance plant, a director was named and the facility began receiving children. The Palmer Center was named for Col. E. W. Palmer, president of the Kingsport Press and a prominent civic leader who was an active supporter of crippled children.

The Palmer Center remained at the Holston Ordnance site until 1957, when the current building was constructed on what is now the corner of Fort Henry Drive and Midland Street, using funds provided through a special community fund-raising effort conducted by the Community Chest and Easter Seals. The center had a full-time physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist and medical director.

By 1965, Kingsport City Schools and other school systems began to formally contact with the Palmer Center to educate children with disabilities, and the center was serving not only kindergarten through high school students in the Kingsport area, but also from Hawkins and Washington counties in Tennessee, and Washington and Scott counties in Virginia. A good portion of the center’s funding came from those contracts with other cities.

Read the expanded version of this report in the print edition or the enhanced electronic version of the Kingsport Times-News.

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