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Posted: December 8, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Palmer-Stone more than a name

The Newton County School System is building a new, massive (1,500 student capacity) elementary school on Ga. Highway 142 and Airport Road. Consequently, Palmer-Stone Elementary School, one of the last in-town schools, will be closed; its students are within the proposed district for the new school. Ficquett Elementary School will transition into the theme school

in the short term, but the mid-range plan is to close that historic in-town school as well.

The Board of Education has made preliminary indications that it favors naming the new school "Palmer-Stone Elementary School." However, it is board policy that new facilities will not be named for individuals unless the individual’s family donated the land or money to build the school. This is without question a "new facility" and, therefore, must adhere to its policy on naming facilities.

Palmer Institute was established formally in 1860 by leaders in the town of Oxford who also were professors at Emory College, now Oxford College of Emory University. The school was named originally for Emory professor James E. Palmer who, along with other faculty and civic leaders, including my great-great grandfather, George W.W. Stone Sr., was among its founders.

In the years following the Civil War, and into the early 1900s, as the public education system took shape, other schools in northern Newton County were consolidated with Palmer Institute. The expanded school was renamed "Palmer-Stone" to honor Harry Harlan Stone, my great-grandfather (son of George Stone Sr.), for his 42 years of leadership as president of the Newton County School Board (1890-1932) and for his contributions to education in the county.

Harry H. Stone was born and raised in the town of Oxford, in a home that is three blocks from the property on which Palmer-Stone now stands and where Palmer Institute was established 150 years ago. Harry H. Stone attended Palmer Institute and then graduated from Emory College, where he served on the faculty as a professor of mathematics (1880-1919). He is buried in Oxford Historical Cemetery, blocks from the school property.

The city of Oxford has indicated that it wants to maintain the current facility for some useful purpose to the community and to retain the Palmer-Stone name. The Oxford City Council passed a formal resolution in November 2010 to oppose use of the name "Palmer-Stone" for the new elementary school. The Oxford Historical Shrine Society passed a similar motion during its meeting in October 2010, as did the City of Oxford Planning Commission.

It is important to reserve the name, "Palmer-Stone," for this historic location. Palmer-Stone is a name inseparably associated with this specific place in the heart of the town of Oxford. The Palmer-Stone site is the place originally chosen by Professor James Palmer, Professor George Stone and other founders on which to build a school to serve the Oxford community. It is a place where the community has gathered for events like pancake suppers and chili suppers, and it is a place where "young scholars" have come to learn for 150 years. It is not simply another school, named for two individuals as an afterthought. Palmer-Stone is a special, historically-significant place in the heart of the town where its founders lived and worked.

We all are deeply saddened to see Palmer-Stone Elementary School close. Perhaps from its ashes a new center of learning will emerge to serve our community.

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