04/06/09 — Edgewood started as a mission to help local special needs students

View Archive

Edgewood started as a mission to help local special needs students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 6, 2009 1:46 PM

Phyllis Edgerton is the self-described historian of Edgewood School, where she first came as a college student in 1977 and went on to work as a preschool teacher.

When it was founded in 1967, Edgewood was housed at First Presbyterian Church and called a "developmental school for retarded children," she said.

"The goal was to help the retarded child improve physically, socially, emotionally and to increase their skills, awareness, independence and ability to adjust to family and society life."

The school has always provided services for children before there was even funding for that, she said, and has flourished as the needs have grown.

Principal Tasha Adams said not a week goes by that she doesn't get a call from parents asking if their child can attend the school.

"It's something special when we have parents that say they want to come to our school because they have heard of what we do," she said. "They have lived up to this long tradition of what was put in place."

Larry Livengood is credited with being the "visionary" behind the school, enlisting a community of volunteers in September 1967, Mrs. Adams said. They shared a concern about the limited availability of services for children with special needs. The school's first class included 10 students.

Funds from the Mental Health Association and Church Women United helped during the early years, when 150 volunteers served 25 students. Parents paid a nominal fee for the half-day school.

In 1972, a three-year federal grant allowed them to hire a full-time director, special ed teacher and other staff. It was renamed the Community Development School and housed at Greenleaf School.

With another federal grant a year later, in 1973, the school moved to Walnut Street School as part of Wayne County Public Schools and Goldsboro City Schools. It relocated to its present site in 1983-84.

Unlike other schools that may have booster clubs and support of its surrounding community, Edgewood relies heavily on grants and donations. Likewise, fundraising efforts don't necessarily net thousands of dollars.

Fortunately, Mrs. Adams said, generosity abounds in other ways.

When students have passed away, contributions have been made by family and other supporters. The child of a foster grandparent who volunteered at the school for years recently donated $5,000 in honor of his mother, Mrs. Adams said, "because she loved it so much."

"We also got a $10,000 check from a man because of someone he met who talked often about Edgewood," she said. "So we have been blessed in this time of economic strife."