Earlier this week, I took my youngest son to get his annual school district sports physical at Aaron Cohn Middle School. He was sent down a still-shiny hall, and I was escorted into the still-shiny cafeteria, where "The Avengers" was showing on a giant screen.
A veteran teacher there told me he had jumped at the chance to apply for a faculty position at the school, which just started its second year. It was his last chance for a fresh start, he said.
On Thursday, over at Dorothy Height Elementary School, a bunch of other folks got a fresh start.
"Our kids are making history," Principal Tammy Anderson told Ledger-Enquirer reporter Mark Rice. "That's one of the things I'm going to tell them: They are the first. They are the chosen ones to come to this school and make history."
Never miss a local story.
These chosen ones come from the recently closed Cusseta Road and Muscogee elementary schools, where the majority of students live below the poverty line.
In Muscogee's final year, more than half of its students in grades 3-6 failed the science portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, and it failed to pass the state average in any subject at any grade level.
It also had double-digit declines in passing percentage and ranked last in the city for growth in science (-12%) and social studies (-17%).
At Cusseta Road, where Anderson was principal, students also struggled on the CRCT, surpassing the state average in only one subject at one grade level -- third-grade math.
But under Anderson's leadership, the school showed impressive progress, improving in all five subjects on the CRCT. It ranked No. 1 in Muscogee County for growth in social studies (13%) and in the county's Top 5 for growth in reading, science and language arts.
Now she has a clean slate.
Last year, Richard Green, the principal of Aaron Cohn Middle, was in the same position. On the school's first day, he pointed to its namesake as a source of inspiration. Cohn, the son of Jewish immigrants and a tennis star at the University of Georgia, earned a Bronze Star in World War II, helped liberate a concentration camp, and was the nation's oldest and longest-serving juvenile court judge when he died July 4, 2012, at the age of 96.
In Green's first year at Aaron Cohn, his students scored tops in the county on the CRCT in social studies, and second to Blackmon Road overall.
The school's attendance zone had drawn primarily from the old zone at Midland Middle, where Green was principal for six years.
Meanwhile, Midland Middle, which had sent many of its students to the new school, failed to reach the state average on the CRCT in seventh- and eighth-grade math and science, and ranked last in the city for progress in math and science.
On Thursday, Anderson pointed to her school's namesake, Dorothy Height, as a source of inspiration. The native of a Pennsylvania steel town, Height became an educator and civil rights activist devoted to the issues of unemployment, illiteracy and voter awareness. She died in 2010 at the age of 98.
Anderson has given all her teachers a copy of Height's memoir. Now they have a fresh start, and a clean slate.
That's why on Thursday, when parents and students at Cusseta Road were marveling at the new building, Anderson was talking about making history.
We'll be watching.
Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.