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End of an Era Nears at Avondale High School

Former football powerhouse set to close for good May 20, placement of trophies and memorabilia in question

Former Avondale Blue Devil Floyd Burdett likes to reminisce about the good ‘ol days from time to time.

When Avondale High School was the big game every opposing football team had marked on its calendar and when the caravan of rabid Blue Devils fans following their team to a road game stretched a mile or so down the highway.

“Wherever we’d go, we’d fill the stadium with Avondale people,” said Burdett, an Avondale High School volunteer and longtime Touch Down Club supporter of the football program.

“There’d be about six to eight buses with the players, band and cheerleaders and about 500 cars trailing right behind them. It was impressive to watch," he said.

Similar scenes routinely played out throughout the football team’s impressive run of success during the 1960s and ‘70s. However, the school’s fortunes – both athletic and academic - had fallen precipitously by the advent of the 1990s.

This rapid decline likely made it easier this spring for the DeKalb County School System to select Avondale High as one of two local schools to close next week in a controversial cost-saving measure. The other is Avondale Middle.

The closings are part of an overall redistricting plan that is expected to save DeKalb County Schools more than $12 million.

Built in 1954, Avondale High School will shutter its doors for good to students following the last day of school on May 20. It’s unclear at this point how or if the school will ever be used again.

Part of the school will remain open, however.  magnet program will continue operating as planned.

However, the fate of Avondale High's many athletic trophies and memorabilia still remains unclear. City officials will meet next month with county school board officials to determine their fate, said Avondale Estates Mayor Pro Tem David Milliron.

Three possibilities emerged from a recent meeting to discuss the matter. Under one scenario, the trophies and memorabilia would be moved to the nearby , where residents could always come visit them during normal business hours.

Another possibility under consideration would entail moving the trophies and memorabilia to the private Avondale Community Club. The final option would be to leave the trophies and memorabilia locked in a trophy case at their current location.

Milliron was already leaning towards the City Hall option.

“It’s an appropriate place and we have the space,” he said, “but, ultimately, that decision is going to be made by the school board.”

Neither Avondale High School principal Tasharah Wilson, nor athletics director Michael Ireland, chose to comment.

The finality of it all has left alums like Burnett and Bobby Burgess to lament the end of an era.

“It’s pretty sad,” said Burgess, a 1969 graduate and former varsity football player who helped head up the school’s soon-to-disband Touchdown Club.

A state powerhouse in just about every sport in its heyday, Avondale was especially strong in football, winning more than 300 games since 1957. The school boasts 11 region championships and three state titles (1958, 1963 and 1976), according to its athletic website.

The Blue Devils, who once rode an impressive 22-game winning streak over the 1963 and ’64 seasons, have produced five players who went on to the NFL and 69 All-State selections, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association website.

“Years ago, when you’d go up there,” Burgess said, “you knew you were going to get your [butt] beat.”

The once-proud program, however, had fallen on hard times in the 22 years since it last won a region crown in 1989. Avondale has enjoyed just one winning record since then, enduring four winless campaigns and even a dubious 24-game losing skid over the course of the 2002-05 seasons. The Blue Devils finished with a disappointing 2-8 mark this past fall under first-year coach Byron McCall.

McCall had succeeded Mike Carson to become the school’s 10th head football coach since 1989.

Nevertheless, nine players from the 2009 team that went 6-5 received full scholarships to various colleges, said Burgess.

“I know the spirit and pride run deep,” Milliron said. “Anytime you have a school slated to be closed, it is tough, it is emotional.”

Floyd Burdett May 16, 2011 at 09:21 PM
FIRST of all... you spelled my name WRONG! (o: My name is Floyd BurDett, not BurNett... I think the best Reasonable choice is to place the trophies and awards at the Avondale Estates City Hall. If they are left at the "abandoned building" current location, they will be easy targets of THEFT/Vandalism. If they are 'warehoused' at some School Board storage space, they will likely end up "Lost or Misplaced" as have similar items from other previously closed Schools in DeKalb County. I am sure there will be several Alumni who are willing to help with the moving, and with setting up the new displays. --- Floyd BURDETT --- Class of 1970 ps.--- My Family had a Student at Avondale High School, EVERY YEAR, from the Fall of 1962 until the Spring of 1984!
Floyd Burdett May 16, 2011 at 09:24 PM
I would also like for them to move some of the other "memorabilia", such as the Large "Winged A" from the front of the Gym, and the "Alma Mater" and "School Fight Song" from the interior gym walls, and some of the available helmets and uniforms from various Sports Teams (Football, Basketball, Baseball, etc.) and groups such as the Band, Drill Teams, Cheerleaders and any other organizations, that might be available. Also, any photographs and Yearbooks and other items from the school offices, that might be of interest to Alumni and visitors, in the future. Any of these type items that are not transferred NOW will be LOST to our FUTURE access. They will become boxes of "items in the attic" at some unknown location, or just thrown away, and lost forever... --- Floyd Burdett ---
Floyd Burdett May 16, 2011 at 09:26 PM
AVONDALE is the oldest high school in DeKalb County, and there are untold numbers of memories, lessons, and relationships that took place on that campus, and events related to that once proud place. Those memories will live on in our minds and hearts, and will continue to bring benefit to this World---through the INFLUENCE of the people who went out from there and have touched the entire World! Some have been Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors, who have served to Protect PEACE in our Land. (Some gave even their own lives for you and me to live in Peace!) MANY have gone on to become Teachers and Counselors and Administrators in Public and Private Education, to teach our children! Some have become Professional Athletes, and MANY took advantage of their sports abilities and/or academic achievements to get their college educations in order to go forth in a variety of careers . MOST have gone on to become loving and caring PARENTS and have raised their children with the same attitudes of WINNING, achieving, and the will to do what is needed to succeed, and not give up. --- Floyd Burdett ---
eve Ramsey May 16, 2011 at 10:01 PM
Please leave the awards with the Avondale City Hall! Eve VanValkenburg Ramsey Class of 1979
Rory Sharrock May 17, 2011 at 02:12 PM
The change was made to correct the spelling error in your last name.
Cheryl Stephenson May 18, 2011 at 03:42 PM
I can't beieve that the people of Avondale Estates are letting this happen. Ok, I attended a rival school back then - Towers. But I grew up in Avondale/Decatur. I am outraged, not that it matters. My father attended Avondale High School and was a member of the first football team back in the 50s'. Yes, this is 2011, but Avondale High School and the Flying A are commnity legacies. It would be a detriment to the community. Can they close Towers instead?
Ken Chapman May 24, 2011 at 01:50 AM
I served as the Band Director at Avondale for six years - 1979 - 1985...Those were some of the best years of my life. The Band won hundreds of trophies, we participated in wonderful musicals and brought joy to many. There were precious students who - still, to this day - hold a special place in my heart. The Band Boosters were the best and I am a better person because of all the students, fellow teachers, and parents who enriched my life during those glory years. God bless each of you who can proudly marched in the Avondale High School Marching Blue Devil Band! Ken Chapman
Brandon Keeler November 15, 2011 at 03:26 AM
I was previlaged to be a coach this past year at Avondale High School. Though, a wide receivers coach, and was only on the sidelines for one year. I really enjoyed my team. Avondale was a big team back then. I'd go to places in Alabama, and would mention the school, and they'd know about Avondale! Coach MaCall is a terrific man and a great coach. I will miss working with him! Brandon Keeler. Wide-Receivers Coach, Avondale High School 2010. GO BLUE DEVILS FOR LIFE!!!
byron moss March 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM
everyday everychild college bound
Penelope Randolph April 30, 2012 at 10:05 PM
At the Avondale Community Club. Most of the members graduated from Avondale High School and either had something to do with the trophies and memorabilia or knows someone who did. Second choice would be Avondale City Hall-also quite appropriate. Not only was Avondale a football powerhouse, it was academically as well. In my graduating class we had 6 National Merit Scholarship winners-1966! DeKalb County was a top 10 school system in the nation and Avondale was at the top of DeKalb County!!
Jeriah Forte September 12, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Not cool at all. I did'nt attend the school, but my brothers did. My younger brother Jordan Forte broke the scoring record for basketball in Avondale's last year..
Scott Jackson February 01, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Man, I will never forget Avondale High School even though I went to Druid Hills C/O 87. They had some really good basketball teams from 83-87. Football was always Good! It was almost impossible to WIN in DEATH VALLEY(Avondale Stadium).

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