"What a day," Signal Mountain Middle/High School Principal Eddie Gravitte exclaimed as the Signal Mountain community gathered to celebrate the opening of the new mountain school.
It was a community ready to cheer, clap and whistle and over 400 people gathered for the open house did just that. The celebration was held in the new school auditorium and each of the seven speakers was greeted with appreciation and standing ovations.
"What a dream you have here and a great place to learn. This shows what you can do with $40 million," said Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey. "The opportunity is here, but the question is what do you do with it. Do you take it to the next level."
To the children in the audience he said, "Come to this school to learn. The jobs coming to our community require an education. The opportunity is here to be the very best school and be a model for all the others. The building is completed. Now the work begins."
In introducing the speaker following him, Mr. Ramsey said "Without Richard Casavant, we wouldn't be here today."
The dream of a high school on the mountain has been around for half a century, several speakers noted, but the push that has resulted in the new school began about 10 years ago, according to Mr. Casavant, who has been a Hamilton County commissioner representing Signal Mountain during that time.
"It's been a few years, but the day we have waited for has come," Mr. Casavant said. "The school is more than a place for education, it is the center of the community."
"Today is a great day in Hamilton County," said Hamilton County Superintendent of Schools Jim Scales. "The dreams and aspirations of many people had a vision of what could take place. This building is made of brick and mortar, but it is people who will make it a great school, an anchor in the community. You have a fantastic school here and the people in the community will work to make it so. The principal (Eddie Gravitte) is the key"
Chip Baker, a member of the Hamilton County Board of Education, was lauded by the others as among those instrumental in gaining the school. His remarks were brief.
"Today is our celebration," he said. "Hamilton County is better because of you. Everyone has had an impact."
"It is hard not to be emotional today," said Mr. Gravitte, who choked up several times as he spoke. "Fifteen years ago I was hired to teach eighth grade history and coach at Signal Mountain Middle School. My dream was to some day be principal of a high school on the mountain. My dream has become reality."
After being appointed as principal, Mr. Gravitte has spent the past year working with everyone to create the new school. "The past year has been the highlight of my career, a school that is caring and committed to education. I hope I've been a small part in making this dream a reality."