A History of Forest Hill School
Dedicated to the Memory of Shellie M. Bailey 1899 - 2001
Principal of Forest Hill, 1934 - 1967
No one knew why or for how long Forest Hill had been called "Forest Hill". All that was remembered was a small frame one-room school building sitting among the oak trees on the site of the current building. Some remembered a previous building. One very elderly man that had spoken one time with Mr. Shellie M. Bailey (the principal during 1934-1967), said he attended a one room log school with a dirt floor and a fireplace for heat in the late 1850's. He said his father told him later that he helped build the school out of logs cut on the site. Tuition was $1.50 per month and he estimated about a dozen children were enrolled. The teacher's salary was paid from the tuition. Teachers would beat on the building with a stick to call children in from recess. So it seems there were at least three small one or two room buildings on this site. All of them got water from a cistern, possibly the same cistern. All were believed to have been built by the people of the community with their own hands and with little or no cost. No one knew when the county or state started helping support the schools. It probably was around 1880.
In 1913, several "substantial Forest Hill men" rode muleback over the area served by five schools and sold the people on consolidating them into one school at Forest Hill. One of these schools was on Robinson Road across from where Provine now stands. Another was on the southeast corner of Terry and McDowell Roads. A bond issue for $8,000 was voted to build a two story frame building with five classrooms down stairs and an auditorium upstairs on the three acre section of land.
Forest Hill was selected to be the center of one of the first consolidated schools in Mississippi. This was the beginning of many firsts for Forest Hill. A new building was built on the site of the old Central Building and was called the Forest Hill Consolidated School. The two-story frame building was painted red and was considered to be "ultra modern" in every sense. One teacher was employed to teach twenty-five pupils reading, writing arithmetic and a "smattering" of grammar in grades one through twelve. The students sat on handmade benches and warmed themselves by a "pot-bellied" wood stove. When the time came to recite their lessons, the young people would come to the "recitation bench. The school had a concrete basement under the entire building. Home Economics was taught in this basement - the first in the state.
Look for updates here soon to include old photos of Forest Hill.
During an M. E. A. meeting in Jackson in 1916, fifty five superintendents and principals came out in buggies and surreys to see what a Home Economics department looked like. The teacher with the help of her students gave them a good meal. They were impressed so favorably that most of them went back home and started Home Economics in, their schools. As many as five wagons brought children to this school. The routes were long and the roads were unpaved and not even graveled. One wagon from the Alta Woods area solved its cold weather problem with a wood burning small stove. They cut a hole in the top of the tarpaulin for the stovepipe. This particular wagon often had difficulty getting up Forest Hill, and the students would get off and push the wagon along the muddy, rut-filled road. Citizens of the area requested that the Board of Supervisors do something about this continuing problem.
The supervisors graveled what is now known as Raymond Road in the state, one of the first "rock roads".
innovations gradually changed the school. In 1916 the State Department
of Education was inspecting the schools of Hinds County and gave Forest
Hill a score of 96. This was the highest score of any school in the county.
In their report they mentioned the Home Ec. Department and the excellent
wagon barn. There are pictures of this barn as well as the two story frame
building that served well from 1914 to 1930. In 1929, the people of Forest
Hill voted a bond $30,000 to build a new building. This building issue
had eight classrooms and an auditorium and served the community well for
Shellie M. Bailey (1899 - 2001) first came to Forest Hill, in the summer of 1934. In 1939, four classrooms were added, and a cafeteria underneath was built to the east end of this building. Later that same year, the "old gym," was added with a $2,400 bond issue, and the coliseum was started. The school boasted twenty-six regular teachers and four special teachers, including a band director, a music teacher and two piano teachers. The reason for all these building programs was the unprecedented growth in the enrollment. Dairy farms were being converted into sub divisions and people were moving into houses as fast as they could be built. In 1934, there were 210 pupils. By 1942, it had risen to over 400. The shop was built in 1946. In 1949, a new auditorium and 16 classrooms for elementary children were built. The cafeteria was built in 1950, and the Home Economics addition came in 1956. In 1959 (notice these 9's), the Eva Ferguson building was built. In 1960 a "new gym" was built and later officially became the "Shellie M. Bailey Coliseum. The Forest Hill people held the record of never voting against a school bond issue. The Forest Hill community voted seven issues by 90% or better. One bond issue had three votes against it. These three votes were from the old Men's Home which was located in the extreme southwestern corner of the district at that time.
Under Mr. Bailey's guidance, Forest Hill was accredited by the State Accreditation Commission and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Forest Hill attained a well-rounded school program of academic excellence, a strong athletic program, a top-rated band and many outstanding clubs under his leadership. Mr. Bailey passed away in January, 2001, shortlly after breaking his hip. These pages are dedicated to his memory.
On July 1, 1967, Mr. Joe Walker began his duties as principal of Forest Hill. Serving as his assistant was Mrs. Eva Ferguson. At this time the enrollment was approximately 1,300 students in grades one through twelve. During Mr. Walker's principalship, Forest Hill faced many challenges and accomplished many things that have helped make it an excellent school. Two of the major issues that were dealt with during this time were school desegregation and annexation of the Forest Hill area into the city of Jackson. During the late sixties "the crossover" of teachers and students began. Mrs. La Pearl Myrick was the first black teacher at Forest Hill. In January of 1970 this school, along with many other public schools in Mississippi, completed desegregation. Also, during the 1969-70 school year, the band building was built and the elementary school was dissolved. These students moved to Woodville Heights and Timberlawn schools. Annexation of the Forest Hill area by the city of Jackson was met with opposition by community citizens. The city of Jackson expanded its city limits twice, and three elementary schools were built (to hold 1,800 students) to relieve some of the crowded student conditions at Forest Hill. In spite of this, there were still over 1,700 students at Forest Hill. At one time, there were three church busses and a Hinds Junior College bus used to supplement the 13 busses. At times children were put in three churches. The old Forest Hill Methodist Church was purchased and converted it into three classrooms. There was one section of sixth graders in the Forest Hill Masonic Banquet room at one time. Cooperation was 100% from everybody. Barrack buildings were brought from Camp Van Dorn and four classrooms and a band room used. At one time the shop was partitioned into 5 classrooms and an A section was put on the stage, with a section in each of the two rooms on either side the stage, and three sections on the main gym floor.
After five years of court battles, the city annexed the area, and in 1977-78 Forest Hill School became a part of the Jackson Public School system. During the 1978-79 school sessions, Forest Hill School became Forest Hill High School and the junior high portion became nonexistent. Prior to the move into the Jackson Public School system, Mrs. Ferguson retired. Mr. John Ladner and Mr. Charley Harris became the new assistant principals The school adjusted to a new school system and faced run-down buildings and overcrowded conditions. However, the school continued to excel in all areas, producing numerous National Merit semifinalists, and winning state championships awards in many extracurricular areas.
In 1981 Mr. Walker retired, and Dr. John McCarty took over as principal. Dr. McCarty was a member of the district's instructional council and governance liaison committee, and was instrumental in promoting shared governance and other educational innovations at Forest Hill. As a part of the national accountability education, the Common Body of Knowledge (CBOK) movement was implemented locally and was tied to an instructional management system that included standardized testing and computerized collection of test data. While Dr. McCarty was principal, two bond issues that would have alleviated the deplorable conditions of the physical plant at Forest Hill failed. Just as the community was about to give up hope of ever having a new building, the state legislature allowed school districts a one-time opportunity to raise millage for building purposes. As the money became available, plans for a new school at Forest Hill became imminent. The architectural firm hired to design the new school was Cook, Douglass and Farr with Mr. Dave Lemmons as the chief architect. Dunn Construction Company was chosen as general contractor for the job. In 1984, Dr. McCarty was appointed assistant superintendent for high schools, and Dr. Ennis Proctor became principal of Forest Hill. Even though Forest Hill was in a constant state of flux because of sweeping educational reforms statewide and tremendous changes involved in preparing for on-site construction of a new -building, Dr. Proctor made instruction a priority in his administration. Under his strong leadership and with the support of Assistant Principals John Ladner and Will Revies, the curriculum has been upgraded to challenge the best students, while meeting the needs of all of the students.
Forest Hill was first in the state among the large schools on the Functional Literacy Exam in 1988 and was second in 1989. Careful planning had to be done to insure that instruction was not disrupted during the construction of the new building. The ground breaking was held in 1987, and the central building was razed the following summer. Students returned in the fall to find twenty-one portable classrooms installed on the driving range. Forest Hill was dubbed "Portable High" by a rival school, a name that stuck until moving day in 1989. On April 3, 1989, classes were held for the first time in the ultra-modern eleven-million-dollar complex. The 200,000 square foot building houses an auditorium with state-of -the art sound and lighting equipment. A special computer room offers pupils the chance to develop skills in this continually escalating field. All classrooms, which are 800 square feet offer pupils and teachers a pleasant atmosphere easily conducive to learning. One of the strengths of Forest Hill has been its ability adapt to change while holding on to traditions that make it special as it has since the turn of the century when a one-room school graced the "hill."