School Houses Of McDowell

Block Number: 154


When Interim Superintendent Mark Garrett first came to McDowell County to serve our school system, he was intrigued by the many picturesque quilt blocks adding charming accents to the various buildings in and around his new surroundings. Soon he discovered that one by one over the past few years the county’s schools were displaying quilt blocks of their own. Mark mulled with the idea that one day the Central Office of McDowell Schools should host a block also, and was instrumental in doing just that. A pattern emerged that is designed to include and support all twelve schools as well as represent the entire school system including financial, instructional, maintenance and supplies.

The Central Office, located in the middle of downtown Marion, embodies a partnership between the schools. The block is intended to not just be “the buildings”, but to encompass all of McDowell County’s education facilities and its extensions. The block “School Houses of McDowell” embodies the County’s twelve schools and goes beyond to include Head Start, School Bus Garage, Child Nutrition Department, Maintenance Department, Exceptional Children’s program, Technology Department and the Accelerated Learning Center.

The first Marion City School Offices were located in the old City Hall where Charlie Mae Holland Mace, Administrative Assistant to the Board of Education, began her employment in 1961. They later moved to the upper level of the building beside the current Central Office (now the office of Dr. David DuBose). Eventually, as additional space was available, the Marion City School Central Office and the McDowell County Schools Office were situated together at the present location.

The original section of the current Central Office was built while James E. Johnson was Superintendent, around 1965. It housed five offices, a board room and an audio visual department on the upper level. Still employed by Central Office today, Charlie Mae Holland Mace recalls when the lower level of the building was completed and the young ladies enrolled in the Cosmetology Department were bused in from the county high schools to the Central Office location for their course work, often practicing on the staff.

In July, 1968 the merger of the McDowell County Schools and Marion City Schools was approved and work began on the current McDowell High School. Culver R. Dale was Superintendent and James E. Johnson Assistant Superintendent of the newly merged school system. The first graduating class was in 1973 and Mr. Johnson became the second Superintendent when Mr. Dale left the system for a State department position.

When McDowell High School was completed the Cosmetology Department moved to their new location and the lower level was renovated for office space and a larger Board Room to accommodate the merger of the two school systems. Beginning in 1999, under the leadership of Dr. David Ricketts, a new Administrative wing, consisting of six offices and a conference room on the upper level and a Board Room on the lower level, was added to the original building. The new wing was completed in 2000 under the direction of Dr. Sherron Crawford.

The McDowell County Schools Central Office employs approximately twenty-five personnel and has around a $55million dollar budget, depending on economic circumstances. The entire county staff includes up to 1,000 dedicated employees, serving over 6,500 students. The Office’s Board Room serves as the meeting place for the Board of Education the third Monday of each month. The public is invited to attend the open meetings to ask questions or address a comment on items on or off the agenda. The nine elected members are from separate Districts and serve a staggered four-year term. They set and meet goals to improve and strengthen McDowell County’s instructional programs and manage the system’s day to day operation.

The all-inclusive “School Houses of McDowell” is a six foot by six foot block installed Wednesday, January 15, 2013 by Trail volunteers Mike Lucas and Alan Scholl. The schoolhouse pattern is an old and much-loved design that first appeared in the late 19th Century during the Westward Movement, one of the largest migrations of people in our nation’s history. The pioneers spent months preparing for their trip and as men saw to the wagons, animals, weapons and farm equipment, the women packed necessities, salted meats, dried fruits and corn and sewed.

It was suggested that each family have enough bedding so that every person would have at least two to three quilts for use along the way, and also for when they arrived at their destination. The settlers were migrating west for a better life and part of that better life was education. The schoolhouse was often one of the first public buildings constructed in many communities, thus the schoolhouse pattern (often associated with the church pattern) was a popular one. There are several variations, but most feature a side view of the building with outlines of windowpanes and doors.

Block No. 154 depicts twelve school houses in the traditional pattern with a school bell in the eave of each and completes the “trail” representing the McDowell County school system. The houses are portrayed in a circular pattern, running alphabetically by school name and displaying its colors from the top clockwise. A twelve-pointed star is featured in the center of the block, each point radiating to one of the school models. The brightly colored, sizable block is difficult to miss on the Central Office at 334 South Main Street.

The Certificate of Authenticity was presented to officials Terry Frank, Bob Brackett, School Board members; Brian Oliver, Executive Director for Administration; Amy Moomaw, School Board member; Mark Garrett, Interim Superintendent; Charlie Mae Holland Mace, Administrative Assistant to the Board (holding Certificate); and Suzanne Ramply, Director of Finance. (photo sequence)

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