By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The enrollment has increased.
Several Tipton-Rosemark Academy traditions have stayed in place but with a new twist. And the look of the campus has grown tremendously since 2006.
Through it all one consistent face has been the guiding force for the development and rise of TRA in the past decade – Head of Schools John Scott.
As he prepares to retire from the post and hand the reigns over to Stephen Steiner, Scott took a moment to reflect on this tenure in Rosemark.
Scott inherited the position from Geddes Self officially on July 1, 2006.
“I was retiring from the State of Tennessee,” Scott recalled. “I just had a three-year stint there as assistant commissioner. I was happy to come home and happy to have the opportunity to remain in education. More than anything else, I was happy to be back working with kids.”
Adding the 12 years at TRA, Scott tallied 46 years in the education field. Once he arrived to the small private school on the border of Shelby and Tipton County, Scott got with the Board, parents and students to figure the direction he needed to take the school.
“I really didn’t anticipate for being here for 12 years,” he acknowledged. “I anticipated it being four to maybe six years. But things just worked out for me.
“God blessed me with being able to be here,” Scott continued. “We had several things going on to develop the school more. So one year led to the next, one contract led to a next. That’s how we got here 12 years.”
From day one his goal was to grow the school, bring 21st Century concepts the everyday activities for the students and maintain the spiritual foundation of TRA.
“I have to go all the way back to 2006,” he said. “The people who brought me in, I set down and talked with them to ask them, ‘What would you like to see?’ One of the things at the top of their list, they would like to see the school be able to build a new high school.
“They already had some preliminary planning, long term wise to do some things with the school plant,” Scott added. “One of the things was sitting down with an architect to build a new high school.”
Scott’s early days featured early childhood classes in portables. The elementary school needed expansion, while a new high school was the main plan.
“It was not a day-to-day operational about the school,” Scott noted. “It was a lot of things going on around here. But they needed to know how to have a school day, every day for 175 to 180 days.
“You need to think about what the school culture is like,” he continued. “My main goal has always been to make sure the culture of the school is wholesome in both the spiritual aspect but also in the educational aspect. Keep that blend all the time.”
To build a bond his new school home, Scott got to know the families, attend extra-curricular events regularly and incorporate his loved ones into the TRA culture.
Scott and his wife Jeannie were regulars in their chairs on the baseline of a basketball game or the end zone of football games. They could be spotted behind home plate at either baseball or softball.
His daughter Ashley Curtis enrolled her son Blaine at TRA were he became an All-State standout in baseball.
Scott shares stories about his grandson feats on the field. He will even chat about his son Zac Scott and other relatives from their hometown like Hunter and Whitney Scott.
“We’re a school, not a church,” he clarified. “There are things we can’t totally focus on. Same since we were a Christian school, so the education that is being received here needs to be supported by the philosophy of Christianity. And we try to do that every day.
“I believe in the 12 years, we have greatly enhanced the academic program with current curriculum adoptions,” Scott added. “One of the big impacts was of course the One-on-One Initiative back in 2008 when we started on it. With supplemental programs, that support the school both extra-curriculumwise and child developmentwise. Athletics, arts and the enhancement of those entering our programs has made a big difference.”
Every high school student at the small, rural school that is family-oriented has a laptop to enhance the curriculum.
The current student body uses this technology in a building less than a decade old.
“The Board members did not want to build a new high school building because they just wanted to have a new building,” Scott said. “They wanted to build a new high school building so the school could have the foundation to grow.
“The present site of that old building, which was a culturally a great facility for the community and the school, just wasn’t adequate to do that,” he continued. “The infrastructure wasn’t there to do it. They wanted to plan a new site. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to that.”
Still the centerpiece of the TRA campus is the façade of the original school.
“So when we planned it out, the project of the new high school and adding on to the elementary school we tried to take all of that in,” Scott recalled. “The purpose of all of that was to put the school in the position to have all the programs and for the kids to experience a full comprehensive preparatory education.”
Scott and his team secured the money for the $6 million project. Building the new high school was coming on the heels of the middle school completion in 2000 and the birth of the Paul Barrett Sportsplex in 2004.
“The next thing was the infrastructure of the school needed to be certified,” Scott said. “Not only certified but have qualified teachers. Not that they didn’t have them, it was really difficult to get all those people in place.
“Over a process about three years we were able to start putting together a pretty strong staff,” he added. “We loss some pretty good people out of that. Some people decided to move on. We gained some good people who came here and made a pretty big impact on campus.”
By 2010 those teachers had the chance to work with the Apple Corporation’s One-on-One Initiative program. About a year after that lights and other features were added to the Sportsplex for TRA Softball, Baseball, Soccer and Football.
With so much new around the campus, Scott had a task of preserving an important piece of Rosemark tradition.
“The old gym and old high school building were scheduled to be torn down in the long range plans that were made before I got here,” he recalled. “They were scheduled to be torn down then. Then we decided to utilize that facility and see what we could do about that.
“In a matter of weeks were able to come up with a plan to start the renovation of that old gym into what we have now as the performing arts center,” Scott added. “Which is a huge aspect of what we’re doing right now from 2012.”
National awards for the Fine Arts Department, State championship in softball, record-breaking ACT scores and scholarships for a majority of students is what TRA is doing now.
“It makes me really feel proud for them,” Scott said. “I think it’s all a part of God’s blessings upon this school. I can’t tell you how important this is the school the kids’ development.
“All of that makes me feel like we’re doing it the right way,’ he continued. “The kids are prepared. The kids will be able to grow themselves.”
Scott is proud of the graduation rate of his past students from colleges across the United States.
“I don’t believe TRA is for everybody,” he acknowledged. “But if you want to come out here and make TRA a part of your life, it will greatly enhance your opportunities.”
Scott, a 1968 graduate of Brighton High School, said his opportunities were increased by his parents Johnny James and Myriam Scott. He continued his education at Lambuth for undergraduate and the University of Memphis for his masters.
After a few stops in his career, the past 12 years have been a joy for Scott at TRA.
“God put me in a position to help people be successful for His service,” he said. “All the glory goes to Him. The second part of the glory goes to the staff at the school. They work hard every day to help our kids. We’re a family.
“In a family, not all the time everybody agrees,” Scott added. “In the same sense they’re all going to stick there for you and be there for you. Sometimes they’re going to tell you something that’s not going to make you very happy. It’s probably what you need to hear.”
Scott has received tough love from his TRA family and given some back. He noted it takes a special commitment to attend and work at a private school. In more than a decade of service at TRA, Scott said it was hard to pick just a couple of exceptional memories.
“Oh gosh, there are so many,” he said. “I have given some thoughts to this question. Probably one of the proudest moments or happiest moments was when we were able to move to the One-to-One technology program academically. Extra-curricular I think it’s hard to put a weight on it but being able to save that building over there and utilize it as PAC building.
I would probably say those two things,” Scott continued. “There are so many other great people who have been a part of this. Brad Smiths don’t grow on trees. Johnie Sanfratellos don’t either. They have worked so hard on their facilities not only to make them good but one of the best in the area.”
Scott said countless others have assisted and motivated him over the years.
“Joe Layton is so significant to this school because of his dedication and loyalty,” he noted. “And his leadership has been outstanding since 1988. He’s been here for 30 years. You leave people out who have been so impactful. The leadership here with Alex Hooker and Susan Cranford, those people have been steady and hard working. “And the leadership before them, and there has been an outstanding set of Board members who have supported what we’ve tried to do,”
Scott continued. “But I would say you think about crowning moments for the school, those and our first championship in 2011 in softball. That was a great thing.”
Now it’s time for Scott to step down but the era he led will live on forever at TRA.
“I just hope they know and remember me as somebody who was dedicated to serving the Lord and serving this school with a purpose, a great deal of integrity and great deal of love,” he said. “I hope they remember me to be the person if they came to me with something, I gave them an answer. It wouldn’t always be the answer they wanted.
“At least they respected me for what I stood for,” Scott concluded. “I don’t know how many people like or dislike people, but I share hope they respect my integrity. That means a great deal with me and my family. My Mother and my father both drove that home with me.
By Thomas Sellers Jr.