Historical Society Highlights a Century of Change in Decatur County Education – The Post-Searchlight

Historical Society Highlights a Century of Change in Decatur County Education

Posted at 09:23 on Wednesday, September 14, 2022

The Decatur County Historical and Genealogical Society met at the Kirbo Center Monday night for their monthly meeting. The speaker for the evening was Suzi Bonifay, retired principal and assistant superintendent of the Decatur County school system. Its evening program, “Education IS History,” chronicled the history of schools in Decatur County over the past 100 years.

For starters, she featured photos for various schools and class photos from the Decatur County community over the decades, dating back to the early 1900s, as well as a teacher contract from the 1920s. Bonifay went on to listed the various legal developments in education over the last century.

“Compulsory attendance actually began in the mid-1850s, but it didn’t become law in Georgia until 1916,” she said. “I guess it’s because of the people who work on the farms. But the law has changed; Initially, when it came into effect, compulsory attendance was 8 to 14 years old. She is now only 6 to 16 years old.

Other changes included the change in transportation, from many students walking to school to students traveling by car or school bus.

Food was another major change. “After the Depression, many families struggled to put food on their tables, and certainly Decatur County families were no exception,” she said. “The National School Lunch Act, which created free, low-cost lunches for low-income families, came into effect in the mid-1940s…One thing that hasn’t changed is that while many children don’t like school meals, the reality is that hungry children don’t learn well.

Other legislation discussed included desegregation, with the ordinance going into effect for Decatur County in 1967, although it took a few years for true desegregation to occur; Title IX was passed in 1972 and the Students with Disabilities Act in 1975. “I know when I was going to school, most kids with disabilities didn’t go to regular public schools,” Bonifay said.

Curriculum and instructional changes included the passage of Title I, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the introduction of Common Core, as well as the rise of homeschooling and charter schools.

After Bonifay wrapped up her program, Historical Society President Roslyn Palmer wrapped up the meeting with several business items, including a request for FOGG grant funding, an update on the museum’s ceiling leak, and a update on upcoming Decatur County Bicentennial festivities. The next Bicentenary meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 27 at 5:30 p.m.

The Historical Society will also not be hosting a dinner-meeting in November, but will instead host a reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the museum on November 14.