The message Wade Norton has stressed since he became principal of Smith-Cotton Junior High, housed in the former high school, is “Your School, Our History.”
It is the junior high’s motto, and now can be seen all around the building on a dozen banners affixed to light poles. There are 10 banners along Broadway Boulevard on the front side of the school, and one each on Massachusetts Avenue and 10th Street.
“A lot of people drive by and say, ‘What is that place?’ ” Norton asked. “This was a way to show we are taking pride in the area and in our school. It is one way to let the community see (the building) is still here, still useful.”
The banners went up a couple of weeks ago and were paid for through the school’s activities fund, which includes revenue from sales of Major Saver cards.
Norton has been working on various initiatives to restore historic elements at the school. In August, he told the Democrat: “We want current students to take pride in the building, and those who went here 70 years ago to know it’s still their school.”
On Tuesday, Norton said the goal is to honor Smith-Cotton High School alumni, and let them know “it’s now the junior high but it is still your high school.”
Norton worked with Myrna Ragar, of Ragar Banners, on the design, and Ragar’s company constructed the banners. KCP&L agreed to put up the banners at no cost.
Bryan Bergeson, KCP&L operations supervisor for Sedalia, said the banners “went up quickly; they had everything we needed there.”
“We had to put them on the back side (of the poles) because we didn’t want semis to tear them up,” Bergeson said. “KCP&L is happy to help out with things like that, and I appreciate my guys doing a good job — they look nice.”
Norton said many residents have called the school over the past two weeks to comment on the banners.
“People have called in and said, ‘Wow, those are great,’ ” he said. “The reaction has been all positive.”
“They add a lot to that area,” Bergeson said.
Norton would like to add more to the junior high campus, including a piece that would honor a request made by Sarah Cotton when she donated the land for the school.
In going through old documents, Norton found a hand-written letter from Cotton, the daughter of Sedalia founder Gen. George R. Smith, in which she spelled out certain things she wanted done as part of her donation. She requested the sidewalks in front of the school form a Y, and she wanted the area in front of the school to resemble a park. She also asked that a bust of her father be placed on campus. The first two were done, the third was not.
Norton is hopeful that a local artist will create a bust — “something that would represent George R. Smith,” he said. The creation would not have to be a traditional piece, Norton said, adding that he is hopeful a Smith-Cotton alumnus will rise to the task.
“It would be a centerpiece on campus,” Norton said. “We want to follow through on Sarah Cotton’s request.”