12th grade blues

For nearly all of us out there in America, a high school diploma requires graduation from 12th grade.

Twelve grades seems like an arbitrary number.

Into the 1940s, all it took were 11 grades of hassle to earn the tassel. Then Georgia decided to transition.

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Surrency versus State

When Georgia wanted to overhaul its public schools in the 1950s, it unveiled the Minimum Foundation Program.

The program worked for both state and school systems. School systems got much needed money to upgrade and in exchange, the state got systems to agree to its conditions. Conditions were for equalization of white and black facilities, certain acreage and location of schools and if impartial surveys indicated that a school was small and losing population, there was a good chance Georgia would decree it be closed and consolidate with another.

In some cases, this led to a battle. Rural schools, especially high schools, were occasionally hesitant to lose their status. Systems like Washington County and Elbert County/Elberton city were late to start building programs because of wars over small high schools.

Others readily accepted Georgia’s offer of money and agreed to consolidate, but ultimately did not.

Ten years later, Georgia was not happy with the stragglers.

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GIA track champions

As you are probably aware, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) recognizes sports champions of the Georgia Interscholastic Association (GIA), the high school organization for black schools that existed from 1948-70.

The GHSA voted in 2002 to give this recognition to the GIA, a few months after a three-part series by J.C. Clemons and Derrick Mahone in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the league.

Mahone and Clemons listed all the known GIA champions at that time. It was not much of a list as there were not too many resources about the league that had been saved.

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A winning night for Screven County

The Screven County Lady Gamecocks won a basketball game December 27. Screven defeated Portal, 39-23. It was a dominating win for Screven, which was credited by MaxPreps as having a 21-5 halftime advantage.

More importantly for the Lady Gamecocks, it was their first win. Their first win in a long time – February 13, 2013, to be exact. In between these victories were 97 straight losses.

Note: The Sylvania Telephone, in previewing this season November 21, said the Lady Gamecocks had lost 87 straight and their last victory was February 2, 2013. MaxPreps schedules, which seem to be complete for Screven, showed 89 losses headed into the 2017-18 campaign. The schedule for this year indicates Screven lost 10 games this season (99 total) before winning Wednesday. MaxPreps also has a February 13, 2013, game as their last win.

Jan. 28, 2018 addendum: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an article Jan. 23 about Screven County. It seemed to confirm The Sylvania Telephone’s stat of 97 straight losses instead of MaxPreps’ 99.

It is a testament to the coaches and players of Screven County that they continued in the face of adversity, kept playing in spite of odds.

Losing is never easy. The Lady Gamecocks endured much pain for their moment Wednesday and much kudos are merited by head coach Stephanie Davis, and all other coaches who have been in similar situations over the years.

Screven County finished the 2012-13 season with three straight losses, ending a 9-17 season.

The next year, 2013-14, was an 0-20 campaign. The streak nearly ended at nine games, with the Lady Gamecocks falling by just four points to Bryan County. The next year, three losses came by six points or less, including one to Southeast Bulloch by 32-31.

Close calls gave way to pure misery in 2015-16 and 2017-18. In 2015-16, they did not score more than 25 points in any game and were held under 10 points six times. They nearly ended it last year against Harlem, in a January 20 contest determined by eight points.

Fortunately for the Lady Gamecocks, they seem to be coming around. They have lost by a single point three times this year and are holding opponents to 36 points per game.

Fingers are crossed for better days and the Portal victory being the first of many.

Where Screven County stands in history is tough to determine.

Losing streak statistics are understandably not the easiest to find. The National Federation of High Schools does not track this type of record or others of a similar negative nature.

The national girls’ high school basketball losing streak is believed to belong to Wolcott Tech, based out of Torrington, Conn. Wolcott is not a standard public school, rather a tech-based one. Still, they suffered.

When Wolcott defeated Gilbert-Winstead December 18, 2008, it ended a 265-game skid which had begun in 1990. The Hartford Courant noted that none of the players on the current squad had even been born at the time.

Lineville-Clio, an Iowa school, also had a very long streak in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, not even Lineville-Clio, now defunct, was exactly sure of its length.

Former coach Sally Johnson told the Quad-City Times in 2003, “I’m not sure what the streak was, and I was the coach.”

Johnson said it might have been 130-140 games in length. There are discrepancies because no one was sure how or if to count some losses, which came to other schools’ junior varsity teams. Or when Lineville-Clio played by different rules. Iowa was six-on-six at the time and when it ventured to Missouri, that state was playing five-on-five. Some articles have credited the streak at 119 games.

The Quad-City article said Williford (Ark.) has been credited with a 129-game streak which went from 1995-99.

Back in the Peach State, records about strings of losses are difficult to track.

Most information comes from a clue that pops up in an archive here or a yearbook notation there.

In recent years, Cross Keys was credited with a 96-game losing streak that lasted from 2006-10. When the Lady Indians defeated Yeshiva (now part of Atlanta Jewish Academy), 31-28, in November 2010, it was their first victory since defeating Carver of Atlanta on January 28, 2006.

The 97 of Screven County surpassed Cross Keys’ mark, but thankfully the Lady Gamecocks aren’t the state’s longest streak.

As best as is currently known, that mark belongs to North Fulton.

North Fulton fell 107 straight times, from November 28, 1978 to December 2, 1983.

The Bulldogs of Coach Bill Scott ended it with a 36-30 win over Brown High.

“I can get amnesia and never forget this one,” Robin Kelly, one of North Fulton’s players, said to the Atlanta Constitution after the Brown win.

Both schools involved with the end of the streak are now closed. North Fulton combined with Northside of Atlanta in 1991 to form North Atlanta. Brown closed a year later.

Other known Georgia high school girls’ streaks:

– Bacon County entered the 2017-18 season with a 69-game streak. The Lady Red Raiders, which had last defeated Toombs County on January 21, 2014, opened this year by defeating Screven County, 23-22. Screven, of course, had a streak of its own at that time. Bacon has won three games so far this year, already more than in any season since 2012-13.

– The former Sequoyah High (which was located in Doraville), had a 50-game on-court skid that ended in January 1987. Sequoyah had won one other game during the season via forfeit. Sequoyah defeated Lovett, 41-38.

– Oglethorpe County was said to have lost in 62 straight games in a team preview from the start of the 2014-15 season. (Editor’s note: The author saw Oglethorpe in action during the streak and can recall at least two winless campaigns.)

– Westover’s girls had a streak of at least 54 games as of January 16, 1979. It is unknown how much longer it continued.

– The 1976 Lovett High yearbook was quoted as saying, “Excitement reached a peak as the fired-up Lion girls defeated Arlington [Christian] for their first win in three years.” The number of games of the streak is unknown.

In boys’ records:

– Irwin County had a 43-game losing streak that was snapped January 23, 1990 in a 68-59 win over Atkinson County.

– Baker County looks to have also had a long streak, according to MaxPreps records, in recent years. No confirmation has surfaced, however.


Sources: Atlanta Constitution – Dec. 3, 1983, Jan. 28, 1987; Atlanta Journal-Constitution – Dec. 10, 2010; The North Georgia News – Nov. 26, 2014; Albany Herald – Jan. 17, 1979; Tifton Gazette – Jan. 24, 1990; Hartford Courant – Jan. 11, 2009; Quad-City Times – Feb. 4, 2003; The Sylvania Telephone – Nov. 21, 2017.

When supporting integration could get educators fired

The 1950s were a time of upheaval in Georgia.

At the beginning of the decade, community schools were widespread, though there was little money and little to offer students beyond the school being local. Consolidations came to improve standards and with them, plenty of protests about the schools leaving the communities.

By the middle of the decade, many of these debates had subsided, with only a few major ones – Tennille’s objection of losing their high school to Sandersville and Oglethorpe versus Montezuma, for example – still on the table.

But there were other crises.

In 1954, Brown versus Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, was decided. Effectively considered the end of separate but equal racial policies, the battle was just beginning.

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