DeKalb County School District (DCSD)’s Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology celebrated its first semester by holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony and program on Feb. 16.
Fifth graders Tyler Teague and Marcus Parks served as masters of ceremonies for the event, which included remarks from officials as well as performances from students and one teacher.
The school, which welcomed students at the beginning of the spring semester on Jan.5, is the first school in the country to be named after the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama, according to school officials.
“This is truly a wonderful new beginning for our children in the entire Gresham Park, Clifton Springs and Bouldercrest communities,” said Principal Angela Thomas-Bethea. “Here at Obama Elementary, we have the highest expectations for our students and staff. We are so honored to have such a beautiful place to work each day, and we will continue to work diligently to live up to our great name as well as our school’s namesake.”
Fifth-grade student Kori Putmon and fourth-grade student Laura Howard recited Daniel R. Queens’ poem titled “Faith, Hope and Pride: A tribute to Barack Obama,” which celebrated the 44th president’s impact on African culture throughout the world.
Music teacher Vickie Jones led Obama Elementary’s Eagle Ensemble in a rendition of Black Men United’s “You Will Know,” and inspired a standing ovation from attendees. Fellow teacher David Robinson followed with a performance on violin.
DCSD board of education chairman Melvin Johnson compared the story of Obama Elementary to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote.
“Dr. King once said that faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase,” Johnson said. Seven hundred-seventeen days ago, on March 2, 2015, DCSD voted to approve funding for the new school for this community. At the time, we did not know it would become Barack Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology. We did know, however, that the board and the community were taking the first steps, together, in providing something very important and meaningful for the boys and girls in this community.”
Barack H. Obama Magnet School of Technology received its board-approved name change in July 2016. According to Johnson, this, too, was a collaboration between DCSD and the community, led by board member Michael Erwin, parents, community members and students.
In September 2016, funds were approved to make the school’s focus technology.
“This is our flagship school of technology,” Johnson said. “This is our manifestation of our ‘first steps.’ Today, we do not only see a staircase, we see the future for many students who walk through these doors and shape their destiny.”
DCSD superintendent Stephen Green said he hoped students understood the importance of being the first school to be named after Obama. The announcement was met with applause and cheers.
“You can only be first once; you only get one chance to be first,” Green said. “This is the first school named after president Obama in the United States.
I’m excited and proud that we stepped up to the plate… We are going to do the kinds of things and develop the type of technology he stood for. It is an honor and a pleasure to be part of that legacy.”
Board member Vicki Turner said she is honored to have witnessed Obama’s presidency but also seeing a school named after him.
“I say to this school, this is a year of jubilee, I say to these babies, this is a new beginning, and I believe all things are possible if you can just believe,” Turner said. “To the principal, you have our support. Whatever you need to soar as an eagle, you have our support.”
Regional superintendent Ralph Simpson, who represents the school said he believes current students will later look back on the importance of Feb. 16.
“I hope in 10, 15, 20 years that the same children walking the hallways of this school will look back and say ‘I was the first fourth grader at Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet School of Technology,” Simpson said. “I know they will. It’s incumbent upon us to support those who do the work—the teachers and those who support teachers. Keep your hands on us, there’s plenty of great things to come.”
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