By Patrick Yost
Lt. Gen. Gen. William Caldwell, president, Georgia Military College and Madison City Council Member Ed Latham, who also serves on the Madison Downtown Development Authority, (DDA) both signed a historic “Pearl-Burney” agreement Monday morning that cleared the way for the college to begin utilizing space at the former Morgan County Middle School.
The agreement, according to Madison City Planner Monica Callahan, will create five classrooms, an office and other space for the growing GMC campus in Madison. Callahan said the college would not leave its existing site on Main Street but, with the agreement, enhance its offerings at its “Pearl-Burney Annex.”
“What a historic moment is this,” said Madison Mayor Fred Perriman, a Pearl High School alumni, at the signing. “These are the doors I walked through 50 years ago.”
Perriman said the creation of the Pearl-Burney Annex would enhance both the neighborhood around the school and Madison students. “This facility will now still give students a chance to elevate themselves with higher education,” he said.
Perriman also credited Dr. James Woodard, superintendent, Morgan County Charter School System with making good on a promise that the facility would be re-purposed after the construction of a new Morgan County Middle School on College Avenue. “You made a vow to this community to keep this community vibrant,” he said.
The Pearl-Burney School was the African-American high school for Morgan County students during segregation and was officially closed at the end of this year’s school calendar.
Madison City Council Member Carrie Peters-Reid said the signing marked the convergence of a partnership between the city of Madison through its DDA and GMC. “This is a great asset to our community,” she said. “If we look around, we have so many other communities that have schools that are boarded up and abandoned. That was a big concern for me and I am thankful that is not the case here. This (agreement) has and always will respect the historical relevance of the Pearl-Burney school.
Leigh Aldhizer, campus director, GMC Madison, said the agreement will allow the college to grow its Madison footprint. Currently, she said, there are approximately 200 students utilizing GMC in Madison to further their college education. The agreement, she said, “will double our capacity.”
GMC President Caldwell said the agreement fit the college’s needs. “We look forward to being a part of this community,” he said.
Aldhizer said classrooms are currently being prepared and the school expects to admit students to the facility at the beginning of its fall term on Aug. 3.
The official name of the complex, according to a press release issued by GMC, will be the GMC-Madison Campus Pearl-Burney Annex.