In 1970, Dr. Norman Harper wanted to create a school based on the idea that “of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.”
And as Presbyterian Day School celebrates its 50th year this week, many graduating classes have come and gone, but the minister’s vision still defines the school’s ethos.
From the prayer led by Principal Millie Morson each morning to the vaunted Christmas show put on every winter, Presbyterian Day School is a place where faith and education are one and the same.
“We disciplined biblically, we taught biblically,” remembers Ruby Anne Kincaid, parent and former sixth grade teacher. Another former teacher, Meri Falls, recalls bringing faith into the math class. When a student asked “who invented numbers?” she responded “God did,” to which the student responded, “I guess I like ‘em.”
The school started from “humble beginnings,” says Nancy Vincent, former teacher and president of the patron society. Over the years, the school has grown in many ways. The building has expanded and so has the range of classes offered. Students now have two days of PE, a day each of art, music, computer, writing and science.
The neighborhood has also changed. Former student Sissy Alderson used to walk or ride her bike to PDS. Now, most students are driven to school by their parents from surrounding areas, even as far as Batesville.
When asked how they manage to keep true to the original mission, Principal Morson’s answer is “godly teachers.” Every teacher at PDS is certified and almost every classroom has an assistant teacher who is also certified.
A Mississippi native, Morson herself has worked across the south, teaching in Atlanta, Florida and Houston before arriving in Clarksdale to raise her four children. When it was time for her youngest to enter the first grade, the school asked if she would like to teach. That year, she and her child shared their first day of school at PDS.
The relationship between the church and the school is integral. First Presbyterian Church provides funds, space, chapel and many other services for the students. In the future, some community members hope to see the school build its own gym and expand the science program.
In the meantime, the PDS community will continue to enjoy its many traditions including the field day, Hot Dog Hoedown and the graduation luncheon.
This year is a special milestone but it is also marked by the unique challenge of COVID-19. Temperatures are taken before entering the building. Teachers give instructions through colorful fabric masks and do their best to smile with their eyes. Nevertheless, in the playground during one of PDS’ two daily recess periods, kids still play unperturbed.