The Johnson_Ward Auditorium at South Miami Middle Community School (SMMCS) was packed with eager students awaiting the parting of the red velvet curtains on stage. The din of their conversation carried across the room as they reacted to a power point presentation of student’s art work selections. Happy puppy dogs, gardens with flowers in full bloom, and compelling stark images of symbolized raw emotion filled the LCD screen; most of which would have fit in nicely in a Wynwood Art Walk display. The re-dedication ceremony of the auditorium on the morning of June 6 was hosted by the SMMCS Center for the Arts Magnet Program. The jazz band, chorus, dance troupe, theater performers, orchestra, and television broadcast team all presented selections to enthusiastic cheers from the students and VIP guests gathered together to honor the legacy of Enid Johnson (now Enid Pinkney)and Richard Ward.
In 1991 the brand new auditorium was dedicated to assistant principals Johnson and Ward who worked together for 21 years at the middle school to increase enrollment, nurture the recently desegregated school population, and reach out to the community to support their efforts.
“There have never been two assistant principals in the country that were able to work together as well as they did for over 20 years,” said SMMCS Principal Evonne Alvarez during her opening remarks. “It is important to note that at the time schools had just been desegregated. Thanks to their work in the community and support of community members, there were never any racial incidents.”
Principal Alvarez also explained that the efforts of their administration in 1987 effectively dealt with the drop in student enrollment to less than 600 by launching the magnet program that continues to flourish today.
“The magnet program today is here as a result of their efforts,” said Alvarez. “So we re-dedicate the auditorium in their honor after several upgrades. Our enrollment is over 1000 students each year so thank you Ms. Pinkney and Mr. Ward. We have honored you each with a plaque that will go up in the auditorium and forever memorialize your contribution. Students can now remember and acknowledge you for many years to come.”
Renovations to the sound and lighting system, new risers, fresh paint and new televisions were all part of the recent auditorium upgrades. During her thank you speech, Pinkney said “You are still carrying on that great tradition of being the best school in Miami-Dade County and we are very proud of you.” Ward echoed her remarks and added, “You all have heard of America’s Got Talent. Well I’m here to tell you South Miami Middle School has got talent.”
Ward and Pinkney agreed that the secret to their success was based on open communication and trust. “We communicated feelings about various situations so we could resolve them. As we did that students could sense that they also had a place to go where someone was concerned and would listen to them,” said Pinkney.
She added that the celebration of culture was also essential to their success during the turbulent times. “We worked on showing students respect for their heritage and themselves and it worked. Bringing in gospel songs from church and other cultural traditions made them feel at home. Most schools nowadays are cutting out arts pro- grams but that is the soul of the school. These programs need to be sustained and grow to pass on to the next generation. It’s not about the FCAT.”