Mayor Walter E. Washington, several City Council members, school board officials, and residents of far Southeast gathered at the Fletcher-Johnson Educational Center this week to dedicate Region III's newest school and only open space (that is, ungraded) elementary-junior high school complex.
The $10-million facility is equipped with a health center, dental lab, and community center, all for the use of the far N.E.S.E. community, plus a television studio where students produce daily broadcasts of school and community news, according to Neva Williams, the assistant principal.
The school located at 46th Street and Benning Road SE, opened in January 1977 with grades 1 through 6. Last September the seventh gradth was added and eighth graders will come to Fletcher-Johnson this fall for the first time. A total of 1,005 students are registered now.
Williams said that the dedication was held more than a year after the school opened because the "classes were phased in. We wanted to make sure all the equipment was in place before the dedication."
The festivities, presided over by Principal Ellsworth Mitchell, included speeches by the students and musical selections by the band and chorus, including the school song, "Isn't She Lovely."
Mayor Washington presented keys to Fletcher-Johnson to School Board President Conrad Smith and Dr. Andrew E. Jenkins III, assistant superintendent of schools in Region III.
"The quality of education in our community is rising rapidly," the mayor said. "This was an effort by citizens, government and those who wanted to have something better for our chilren.
"We so easily forget from whence we came. As we dedicate and as we stop to talk about buildings and who planned then we ought to think about who they're named for. That heritage is important," Washington said.
Sumner G. Fletcher, a teacher for 49 years and son of the late Evelyn B. Fletcher, for whom the school is named, said, "It is my hope that (the school) will open opportunities for many years to come and that children will come to recognize my mother. It is a great tribute to her to have her named placed on this fabulous building."
Fletcher unveiled a portrait of his mother, who worked in the D.C. public schools for almost half a century, taught demonstration lessons for new teachers in the city schools and for practice teaching students at D.C. Teachers College.
Hortense Johnson, widow of Dr. Philip T. Johnson, for whom the school is also named, said in her speech, that the new school "represents one of (his) greatest interests - the youth of the community."
The late Dr. Johnson, a native of Northeast Washington, was an orthopedist and teacher who was active in civic and community affairs. He served in several offices, including a term as a member of the D.C. Board of Education and chairman of the Urban League's Education Committee.
Dr. Roberta Palmer, deputy to the assistant superintendent of Region III, said that Fletcher-Johson is the only school in the division to serve both elementary and secondary students.
"We face an interesting challenge - to sombine the best features of elementary and secondary schools and focus on the total development of the child," she said.
Originally, the school was planned for the heavily populated intersection of 53rd and D streets SE. Later the Civic Betterment Assosciation learned that the Payne Cementary in that area would be cleared for development, and asked the school board to acquire the land. In 1969, the Committee of 21 was formed to plan the new facility.
David Huie, director of the division of buildings and grounds for the D.C. school system, said that the "availability of land" was the main reason that Fletcher-Johnson was designated as both an elementary and secondary school.
"The city did not want to take land that would displace people or businesses," he said
Joseph Carter, chairman of the Committee of 21, called the dedication of Fletcher-Johnson "the end of the planing. We've received great satisfaction in the completion." Ward 7 school board member Minnie S. Woodson urged residents of the area to dedicate themselves "to supporting the future of this school . . .
It's my desire that Fletcher-Johnson will join other schools in D.C. in coming to an exemplary standard."