At the turn of the 20th century the city’s new school system was growing exponentially, adding new schools along with restructuring how the system was run.

The new city charter of 1909 required Rome City Schools to change from a Board of Trustees to a Board of Education. This change meant the governing members of the school system would be elected by the people living in the city like they are today.

“It is a source of sincere gratification to the board of trustees that under their stewardship the schools have grown from small beginnings into their present magnificent proportions, and we trust and believe that under the new regime the schools will attain to still higher efficiency and prosperity,” A.F. Cantrell, the last trustee president, wrote in 1910.

The very first board of education elected by the people of Rome in 1910 were W.J. Griffin, who served as board president, R.P. Cox, who served as secretary, E.A. Heard, John T. Wilkerson and J.S. Daniel.

The following year the city voted to sell bonds for $100,000, or an estimated $2.6 million today, for school improvements. With this money the system bought the building and land of Shorter College on East Third Street and East Third Avenue, near First United Methodist Church. The price paid for Shorter College was $71,000, or $1.9 million.

Jumping ahead to the year 1912, Rome High School began offering organized sports for both its male and female students. Football, baseball, basketball and track teams began that year, although football had been played at RHS since 1895, just without the supervision of a coach. B.F. Quigg was the school’s first coach. He also taught Latin at the school.

Under Quigg, Rome High played on Hamilton field which was rented by the system until 1925 when it was purchased from its owners. The high school played football against Darlington, Cedartown, Cartersville and the Marietta Boy Scouts. The field was located on what is now West Third Street and was purchased for $6,000, an estimated $156,457 now. The board voted to change the name of the field to Barron Park to honor W.F. “Willie” Barron, who helped secure the property for the system.

The city of Rome voted for a second time to sell bonds in 1920 to construct a new school. Central Primary — which is still standing and used as the system’s central office today, was built on East Second Street just down from the Neely School. The entire cost of constructing the school and purchasing the land it sits on cost around $75,000 — an estimated $993,062.18 now — and was built to be fireproof.

When the Great Depression hit Rome the cost to run the Rome City Schools system was around $114,488.40 — around $2 million now — however the city set a fixed sum of $103,986.25 — or an estimated $1.9 million — to run the schools. It was decided the salaries of all school personnel of all races were to be cut by 8% for the first five months of the year 1932. Another way the system saved money was by removing the electricity meters on the schools which were not replaced until 1937.

This is Part II of a continuing series looking at the history of Rome City Schools.

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