In 1990, I graduated from Germantown High School by some odd fate within days of the graduation at Collierville High School of one of my closest friends and colleagues, Ken Mears. Those twenty-five years ago, Germantown's graduating class was 616 - Collierville's was 246. Those twenty-five years ago, there was no Houston High School. We weren't aware of any threat of school merger. There wasn't a need to battle for municipal self-determination. There were simply Dragons and Red Devils.
In 1996, I returned to my alma mater to teach and to coach. As it were, so did Coach Mears. We got to know one another in that way - friendly rivals. What had changed by that time was the building of Houston High School which almost perfectly separated Collierville and Germantown. The old rivalries with which I grew up either faded quickly or had already faded, and though I learned in 2003 when I transferred to Collierville that CHS saw Germantown as an arch rival, I have to admit that we never really reciprocated that feeling. We were too much involved with an ire that ran much deeper - an enemy within our own midsts. Our biggest rival - our only real focus - was in our own town. Collierville understands the rivalry with Houston, but what it can never understand - and hopefully never will understand - is what it’s like to have a town truly divided between two competing schools. There was not just rivalry between Houston and Germantown; there was something much deeper. Something more like resentment.
Houston was newer. Houston was prettier. Houston had on-campus facilities that the geography of our campus couldn’t allow. And we resented it. We as a faculty. We as coaches. We as a scholastic community - students, parents, all. We believed that Houston was given preferential treatment that Germantown High didn’t receive. In reality, it probably didn’t, but we all know how dangerous perception can be. At no time has this been more evident than in the divisiveness of the last eighteen months following the separation from Shelby County Schools as Germantown battled internally - those dedicated to Houston, those dedicated to Germantown. And what was gained in all of that? More importantly, who was lost in all of that?
I can recall epic nights some fifteen years ago at Farmington Elementary where echoed chants of “Our name, our town, GERMANTOWN!” must have shaken the surrounding houses, and I can recall the irony that the school which housed our home soccer field actually fed Houston High School’s student body. Even then, the namesake school was becoming an interloper in its own town. All that time, while Collierville was making a name for itself, Germantown High was fighting to hold on to everything associated with its name but losing ground.
Coach Mears and I talk often about what Collierville and Germantown were and what they’ve become in these last twenty-five years. We aren’t the only two faculty members at CHS with a background as former rivals. We aren’t the only two faculty members who recognize how much CHS has changed. We aren’t the only two faculty members on campus who fear the possibility of becoming rivals with friends and colleagues. Again.
We aren’t the only two who know this decision really isn’t about us.
This year CHS will graduate twice as many seniors as it did those twenty-five years ago, and in the coming years our graduating classes may well crest seven hundred. Those students deserve the chance to be together, to join together at a single school rather than to separate at the beginning of their most formative years. Those students deserve the certainty that on Friday night there’s only one game in town. Those students deserve the full loyalties and talents of teachers and administrators focused on a single goal within a single community rather than competing within that community for space, sponsorship and support. Those students deserve the right to feel at home in their own town.
One town. One school. One town. One team. Everyone a Dragon. #buildtheville
Collierville High School