By Carla Caldwell
Forty years ago, Elliott Galloway gazed upon piles of trash and a decaying vacant building and saw The Galloway School.
He took note of the broken windows and peeling paint, but what he envisioned was a special school where students would be drawn to learn rather than pushed and where individuality would be encouraged and celebrated.
Galloway saw what the building could be, school officials say, much like he looked at children and saw what they could achieve. The structure was the Haven Home almshouse built by Fulton County in 1910 to shelter war veterans and the poor. Galloway contacted county officials who agreed to a five-year lease and provided a $36,000 loan to help get the school started.
The structure sat on 1,000 acres that today makes up much of Buckhead’s Chastain Park. Galloway and a team of volunteers repaired the building and the school opened a short time later, on Sept. 3, 1969, with 350 students. Another 1, 500 filled a waiting list, but Galloway kept enrollment down to ensure small classes.
Today, 700 students ages 3 through grades 12 attend The Galloway School at 215 W. Wieuca Road in northwest Atlanta. Classes still are kept small, and there continues to be lengthy waiting lists.
To commemorate the school’s founding 40 years ago this school year (2009-2010), and to celebrate the vision of Elliott Galloway, who died in 2008, The Galloway School will on May 1 host a community celebration. The event, which beings at 12:30 p.m., includes the unveiling of a sculpture of school founder Galloway and the premier of an exhibition and walking tour that chronicles the school’s history.
The event will culminate with a service project to benefit the Fulton County Court-Appointed Special Advocate Association, live music and student performances.
The sculpture, created by Atlanta artist Martin Dawe of CherryLion Studios, includes a life-size statue of Elliott Galloway sitting on a log and reading to a student. Other large logs form a circular seating area. The sculpture illustrates Elliott Galloway’s emphasis on the relationship between teacher and student and is being placed in front of the old columned building that so long ago caught Elliott Galloway’s eye. The installation will serve as an outdoor classroom and student gathering spot.
The exhibition and walking tour — “Inspiring What is Possible. Forty Years and Counting ” — includes
photos and artifacts collected through the school’s history. A highlight is a stop in Elliott Galloway’s book-filled office. Even though Galloway retired in 1990, he was in his office most days until just before he died, said Erin Crews, a communications coordinator for The Galloway School.
Galloway’s son, Jeff, who after his father’s death took many of his personal items home, is returning several things for the exhibition. Among items visitors will see is Elliott Galloway’s old and much-used typewriter, said Crews. Visitors familiar with Galloway’s office will recognize the stacks of books that lined his office and influenced his educational philosophy. A plaque reminds visitors to “Ask for what you want, enjoy what you have, work on the difference.”
The exhibit also includes a photo of The Galloway School’s first and only football team. The team played the school’s first year, but due to the sport’s high cost, the team was disbanded after only one year to ensure resources to fund two teachers per classroom.
A photo from the school’s opening day in 1969 shows Elliott Galloway standing on the front steps with students. There is also a photo of Elliott Galloway carrying the torch during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Galloway parent Marge Crittenden, who worked for 28 years putting exhibitions together at the High Museum, is helping prepare the school exhibit.
“So many things have happened at this school and continue to happen,” Crittenden said. “The exhibit is a presentation of that story.”
Part of that story is The Galloway School’s tradition of a frills-free graduation, which again reflects the founder’s vision. There are no caps and gowns. No formal speakers.
Each graduate places a single flower of their choice in a large vase. The bouquet, exhibit materials explain, represents the unique qualities of each individual coming together to form a community.
The 40th Anniversary Community Celebration is scheduled for May 1 from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Free parking is available along Chastain Park.
For more information about the event, please go to: gallowayschool.org/40th, or call the school at 404-252-8389.