“I was here as an eighth-grader at the ribbon-cutting ceremony; I grew up across the street and watched the building come up,” Mann said. “This is home to me.”
And Dean Rusk Middle is still home to Mann. He has taught science at the school for the past 10 years.
“My goal all along was to come back here,” he said. “I still can’t go to the principal’s office without getting nervous, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The school, which has been a part of the education of about 15,000 Cherokee County students, held a ceremony to celebrate its silver anniversary Wednesday evening.
Currently, the school is home to 840 seventh- and eighth-graders and 80 staff members, including 66 teachers.
“While the halls have stayed the same, many, many things have changed over the years,” said Dr. Carla Cohen, assistant superintendent of educational programs, student support and professional development with the Cherokee County School System, during the ceremony.
But the largest change in the school’s 25-year history could be coming.
The school system’s special purpose local option sales tax is up for renewal this year and a continuation of the 1 percent SPLOST could mean a new Dean Rusk Middle School.
“There is talk about us getting a new school if the voters re-approve the SPLOST in November,” Dean Rusk Middle School Principal Adrian Thomason said. “We are at capacity and (if a new school is built) we would be able to house sixth grade students as well.”
SPLOST revenue goes solely to fund the school system’s new construction projects and maintenance for current facilities.
The current SPLOST, which was approved in a 2006 referendum, generated more than $32 million in revenue, according to the school system.
The Cherokee County Board of Education at its Thursday night meeting approved drafting the resolution to put another 5-year SPLOST before voters in November.
Wednesday’s 25th anniversary celebration included comments from all three of Dean Rusk’s prior principals and appearances from the family of the school’s namesake.
Dean Rusk, a native of Cherokee County, served as Secretary of State under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 through 1969.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient also served as an international law professor at the University of Georgia before his death in 1994.
“This is a real thrill for us,” said Rich Rusk, Dean Rusk’s son. “My father was a believer in public schools – he was a product of public schools and we sent us to public schools – he wouldn’t have it any other way. It is an honor to have for us to have this school named after him.”