SIKESTON, Mo - Joe Karnes described his first day at Scott County Central High School as chaotic. "The first few days were really rough," recalled Karnes, who was a member of the high school's first graduating class in 1960. When the new high school opened in fall 1959, it merged Morley High School, which was home to the Bears, and Vanduser, home of the Yellow Jackets. "They took the two rivals and put them together. It would be like putting Bell City and Scott Central together today," said Karnes, who attended Vanduser High School. The first graduating class had different class rings because students had ordered them from their respective schools their junior years. The class didn't have a yearbook because there wasn't enough time to organize one, Karnes said. "It was different," Karnes said. "I had classmates I didn't even know." If there was one highlight, it was the students were involved in choosing the school's new mascot - the Braves - and school colors - black and orange. "By the end of the year, [the situation] was a whole lot better. We had a good graduation and a graduation party," Karnes said. To commemorate the 50-year milestone, the basketball homecoming set for Friday is themed around the anniversary. "Last year when we did homecoming, we noticed that 2010 will be the anniversary of the first graduating class," said Dee Cookson, who is a high school teacher and co-sponsor of the History Club. Members of the 1960 class will be honored at halftime of the homecoming basketball game. They'll receive certificates of appreciation and commemorative T-shirts. Also all past Scott County Central basketball players, cheerleaders, managers and homecoming queens will be recognized during the homecoming ceremony, Cookson said. Cookson said History Club students will create a display of the 50 years of the high school, highlighting valedictorians and salutatorians as well as other alumni and milestones. "We want to highlight the changes, styles and fads over the years," Cookson said. Activities are still in the planning stages and organizers are open to any celebration ideas from the community Cookson said. Margaret Jackson, who worked as the superintendent's secretary from the high school opening until her retirement in 1998, said she saw many changes in the district over the years. "At the time, there wasn't an early childhood center or the programs they have now. And they did not have as many computers as they do now," Jackson said. The elementary building opened in 1973, and additions were made up until the early 1990s when the high school was also completely renovated. In 2005, a junior high wing was added as well as the Ronnie Cookson Gymnasium, which was named in honor of the boys’ basketball coach. The school also worked through the integration in the school system, Jackson said. "We had a real organized method. They integrated the 12th grade first and then the 10th and 11th and down into the freshman class. It was a slow integration. Worked fine with the school district. We were blessed," she said. Another change has been the drop in student population. The high school's first class graduated 40 students while the class of 2009 had 25 graduates. "We won a lot of state championships [a combined 20 state titles for girls and boys basketball], which was always exciting for the children and faculty when that came along. There were a lot of programs that we had that benefited the students, too," Jackson said. Superintendent Alvin McFerren agreed. "There's more to Scott Central than athletics," McFerren said. During the 200-2001 school year, the district was accredited with academic distinction. It has produced doctors and lawyers form the school as well. McFerren said the school produces well rounded and prepared students for college or the work force.
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