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Tuesday trivia: How much do you know about D-B history?

Rick Wagner • Jan 2, 2018 at 11:17 AM

KINGSPORT — As construction of the Regional Science and Technology Center at Dobyns-Bennett gets underway this month, did you know that things that were valued when the school was built have changed dramatically? And did you know local Presbyterian and Methodist churches once housed high school operations in what became Kingsport?

Wall-to-wall carpeting and a single window per classroom, required by law for fire escape, will be replaced by hard surface flooring and a literal wall of windows in the new addition to D-B, which had a groundbreaking on Dec. 7, 2017, a little more than 50 years after the original building opened.

Here are 10 sections of trivia, starting with five from the 1965 groundbreaking for the modern D-B, provided by Board of Education President Susan Lodal and other sources:

— On April 15, 1965, ground was broken on the site to construct what was to become D-B, referred to at the time as “the new high school for Kingsport.” The cost of the new school was $4.8 million, minus equipment, compared to an estimated $20 million for the new addition.

— The school in late 1960s served bout 2,200 students, about the same number as now. Class size rules and other regulations have changed in a half-century, as have the needs of career technical, science and technology classes. The vocational (career technical) wing was added in 1976, the same year ninth-graders joined grades 10-12 at D-B for the first time in a quarter-century, according to a school system high school history.

— Reports from the time of construction, from a trade publication called The Dixie Contractor, said that “students soon would attend on wall-to-wall carpeting in perhaps one of the largest, most luxurious and indeed unusually designed school buildings South of the Mason-Dixon line.” The school opened in the fall of 1967, which was modern Kingsport’s 50th anniversary. 

— Individuals involved in the original groundbreaking included Kingsport Mayor Dr. Hugh Rule, Board of Education President John Faust and Superintendent Dr. Dana Swick. Those involved in the 2017 groundbreaking included Mayor John Clark, BOE President Lodal and interim Superintendent Dwain Arnold. The principal in 1967 was Elery Lay, a former assistant superintendent who went on to serve as an alderman and mayor; the current principal is Chris Hampton.

— The new school building housed an integrated student body. Blacks in Kingsport had attended Douglass High School from the late 1920s to 1966, according to a school system high school history.

As for more history of education in Kingsport, five highlights are as follows:

— The first time a Kingsport High School was recorded was in 1875-76, with Professor L. Hawkins Copenhaver the first principal at the tuition school in the Fort Robinson area. He served 11 years. Five Sullivan County schools were located in the Kingsport area around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. They were Cedar Grove, Cloud’s Bend, Kingsport Academy (Old Kingsport), Oklahoma and War Path. Oklahoma was the only one in the original 1917 incorporation of modern Kingsport, and it today houses Cora Cox Academy, the system’s alternative school for grades 6-12.

— In 1913, Anna Lee Mitchell was named the new principal of Kingsport High School, which was located on the site of the current First Presbyterian Church.

— Broad Street Methodist Episcopal Church, today First Broad Street United Methodist Church, was founded in January 1917, and the church opened its new building to the crowded school across the street by housing the high school students.

— On March 2, 1917, the Tennessee Legislature approved the charter for the modern city of Kingsport. A little more than two months later, on May 18, the first Board of Education was appointed and oversaw a KCS budget the following school year of $18,000. That compares to the approved 2017-18 budget of more than $86 million, almost 90 percent of which, about $76.4 million, is the General Purpose School Fund.

— Dobyns-Bennett was first organized as a regular standard high school in 1918-19, according to a school system high school history. Before that date, some high school work had been done as advanced work in the elementary schools. The high school was approved by the state Board of Education in 1919 and was accredited by the Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges in 1922. It was renamed Dobyns-Bennett in 1926, with the move to the current Sevier building, to honor the first mayor of the city, J.W. Dobyns, and the first Board of Education chairman, W.M. Bennett.

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