A small memorial marker rests almost unnoticed next to the Ina Dillard Russell Library on the Georgia College & State University Campus.
Lettered in gold against a dark-brown background, the words are simple, yet remind those who pass of the history of the site and the more than six decades of history left behind by the community.
The marker places what used to be the Peabody Model School, also known to many as the Peabody High School, an educational structure where many from Milledgeville spent their youth learning in a hands-on experience that was unique to the Southeast.
“It was wonderful. We had such valuable experiences. We drew a lot from the student teachers when we were in school,” Francis ‘Deedie Sibley,’ a 1945 alumna of the Peabody High School, said to The Union-Recorder in a February 2007 ceremony placing the historical marker on the GCSU campus.
According to GCSU’s own Web site, Peabody was designed to “help students in the teaching program get experience before they started their first teaching job.”
“Sophomores and juniors in the Normal School (School of Education) observed the classes at Peabody and seniors taught at Peabody for one hour a day. Teaching at Peabody gave students in education 120-150 hours of on the job work experience before they received their teaching certificates,” the site states. “Peabody served as a public school for Baldwin County children beginning in 1891. In 1927 Peabody expanded its services and began operating as Baldwin County’s four year high school. Since education in rural Georgia was not developed in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Peabody also served a boarding school for girls living in rural Georgia.”
One of Peabody High School’s former students was well-known author Flannery O’Connor, who attended the school prior to enrolling in Georgia State College for Women.
“I went to a progressive high school where one did not read unless one wished to,” O’Connor once wrote to a friend.
Faye Johnson is a former student council president and graduate of the Peabody class of 1956.
In February 2007, Johnson expressed her thoughts on having been among the unique number of graduates who experienced the final classes of the high school.
“It was sad not to have the school here anymore,” Johnson said.
The school stood for several more decades prior to the last graduation, according to GCSU’s Web site.
“In the 1970’s the Peabody school began to be phased out. Baldwin County was growing and public schools were being built. The Board of Regents also decided to cut funding for elementary school education. Georgia College no longer depended on a practice school for education students since they began teaching at the Baldwin County Schools. Peabody Child & Family Center continued to exist at Georgia College & State University until the spring of 2000 when, due to system wide budget cuts, the center was unexpectedly closed,” the site states. “Peabody, being one of the first schools of its kind, represents GCSU's original foundation based on a culture of creativity and forward thinking. Peabody's closure ends an era of unique child care and child education associated with GCSU. The loss of the school is
felt by the faculty, staff, students, and the Milledgeville community.”