History of Shades Valley High School
Shades Valley High School is a a four-year public high school located in the Birmingham suburb of Irondale. Part of the Jefferson County School System, it was established in Fall 1949 on Hermosa Drive near Homewood as a replacement for Shades Cahaba High School. It was moved to its present location on Old Leeds Road in Irondale in the fall of 1996. Shades Valley High School had it's origins at Shades Cahaba High School in Homewood which is still in use today as Shades Cahaba Middle School, part of the Homewood School System. Many students in the Class of 1965 attended Shades Cahaba Elementary when it was part of the Jefferson County School System.
Around 1916, Will Franke and William Acton led a successful campaign convincing the Jefferson County Board of Education that a high school was needed south of Birmingham. With the board's permission, the Shades Valley School District was formed and the residents passed a three-mill tax in 1916 to build a new high school. County school officials selected ten acres costing $3,000 at the intersection of Montgomery Highway and the juncture of Oxmoor and Old Montevallo Roads as the site for the school. Construction of the three-wing, brick building began in 1919 and cost $52,000.
School officials sponsored a naming contest for the school. Although the submitter's name has been lost, the winning entry was Shades Cahaba High School. The school, Jefferson County's first consolidated high school, opened to 156 students on September 19, 1920 with four grades and five teachers. As the new high school opened, elementary school students from nearby Union Hill Methodist Episcopal School moved into a wooden, two-room building on the high school's property, just east of it. By the late 1920s, both schools were called Shades Cahaba.
The school's first principal, James M. Ward, oversaw the school's growth for its first 23 years. He was assisted by the Shades Cahaba School Improvement Association, which formed in October 1920 and later became the school's Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Electricity was not run to the school until its second year. In 1922, an unfinished, unpainted, wood-frame building was built behind the school to serve as both lunchroom and wood shop. The first class graduated in 1923. The first addition, to help relieve overcrowding, was made in the summer of 1926 and a second, including a new lunchroom, was made in the summer of 1927. The additions also allowed the 3rd through 6th grade students to be moved to the main building. In 1928, the two schools were placed under the same administration, although it was grades 7th through 12th that were considered the high school. By 1932, the school had expanded to 22 teachers, plus an associate principal.
Shades Cahaba had an active sports program featuring boys' and girls' basketball teams and boys' football and baseball teams, all known as the Mountaineers, or "Mounties" for short. Shades Cahaba was the first Alabama high school to have an athletic field featuring lighting, speakers, and an electronic scoreboard. The yearbook was the Shades-Cahaba Owl and the school newspaper, known as "The Owlet," was published as part of the Shades Valley Times. The yearbook and newspaper were both named for a 900-pound, cast-concrete owl perched atop the middle gable of the building, above the northern entrance facing Hollywood Boulevard.
In 1936, because of the Great Depression, Jefferson County Schools decided to close their schools early. Homewood provided funds to keep Shades Cahaba, Edgewood Elementary, and Rosedale Schools open nine months a year. Shades Cahaba was the only high school in Alabama to keep its Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools accreditation throughout the Depression.
After the neglect of the Depression, the school was completely repaired and repainted in the 1940s. A central heating system and fluorescent lights were also installed. Funds for the overhaul came from both the county and Homewood with additional assistance from local civic groups. While improvements were made to the existing facility, the student population topped 1,000 by the mid-forties and the citizens of Homewood began demanding a new school to handle the overcrowding. The county school board, with the promise of financial assistance from Homewood and newly incorporated Mountain Brook, finally agreed. However, they declared the name of the new school would be Shades Valley High School. Many students and graduates of Shades Cahaba objected to not carrying the name of the existing school to the new one. The Homewood City Council and several civic groups also passed resolutions requesting the name be continued, but the county refused. Shades Valley did, however, continue the team name of the Mountaineers when it opened in 1949. At that point, Shades Cahaba became strictly an elementary school.
The Homewood City Council, concerned about growth of the city and its effect on the student population at Shades Cahaba High School, formed a special school committee in 1942 to let the Jefferson County Board of Education know that "proper consideration" had not been given to the needs of the area. The committee's report, issued in spring 1943, called for the construction of a new high school, which the city offered to help finance construction of. Jefferson County Superintendent John E. Bryan, did not respond favorably at first, but eventually caved as citizens' demands increased.
A joint venture between the county schools, Homewood, and newly incorporated Mountain Brook was suggested and, in 1945, a study by the Bureau of Educational Research at the University of Alabama found it feasable. In May 1947, both cities' citizens voted for a five-mill tax to support their schools, with two mills going toward the purchase of land and support of a new high school. The county school board purchased 40 acres in the Sweetwater Park Survey between Birmingham and Homewood and adjacent to Lane Park for the new school, approximately 1/2 mile from Shades Cahaba. Van Keuren & Davis designed the new school and Daniel Construction won the project bid at $2.1 million, significantly more than the original construction estimate of half a million dollars. Frank Peake, formerly principal of Hewitt-Trussville High School, was named principal of the new school. Nineteen faculty members from Shades Cahaba transferred.
When the county school board announced that the school was to be named Shades Valley instead of maintaining the Shades Cahaba name, many citizens of Homewood were outraged. Shades Cahaba was to be maintained as the elementary school's name, which would continue in the old high school's building, although Shades Valley would continue the use of the Mountaineers (or Mounties) athletic teams' names. 1,600 students and graduates of Shades Cahaba signed a petition over the new name and the Homewood City Council, Shades Valley Exchange Club, and Shades Valley Athletic Association all presented resolutions to the school board requesting the Shades Cahaba name be used, but the school board stayed with Shades Valley.
From the 1953 Tower: SVHS under construction in 1949 and later in 1953.
The new school, although not completed, opened to students on September 12, 1949. Only the west wing, containing the offices, library, and ten classrooms, was finished at the time. Additional classes met in the library, school buses, and the hallways, while the band and graphic arts department continued to meet at Shades Cahaba. Construction continued while classes met and the school was completed, finishing with the auditorium, just prior to graduation. The formal dedication took place May 25, 1950.
Frank A. Peake, the former principal at Hewitt-Trussvile High School, was Shades Valley's first principal and served with distinction until retiring in the 1970's. Under his leadership, Shades Valley attained national recognition as one of the leading high schools in the South. He later earned an LLD degree from Howard College and was known from then on as Dr. Peake. Most of the high school faculty at Shades Cahaba transferred to Shades Valley and served there for many years.
SVHS as it looked for many years with mature trees.
Shades Valley was designed to house 1,500 students. Initial enrollment in 1949 was 870. By 1955 it was up to 1,456 and then 1,701 in 1956. However, in 1959, Mountain Brook formed its own school system. Initially, students were allowed to continue attending Shades Valley for a fee while Mountain Brook constructed its own high school. Despite Mountain Brook students leaving, by 1967 enrollment reached 2,000. In 1970, Homewood also formed an independent school system, operating under a similar arrangement of allowing students to attend Shades Valley while Homewood High School was built.
In 1994, the Jefferson County School Board voted to acquire land for a new site for Shades Valley High School. The new, 42-acre site was located in Irondale, almost eight miles from the school's original location. A groundbreaking ceremony was held October 18, 1994 at the new site and the new school building opened to students on August 14, 1996.
The new SVHS in Irondale as it looks in 2013.
[Image courtesy Virginia Kelser Jones '64 / virginiajonesphotography.com]
The Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School is located on the same campus. Dabbs Technical Academy is located several miles away on a different campus. The school's academies include business, theater, and technical. Because of the draw from the county, SVHS/JCIB serves a diverse student body population. SVHS/JCIB serves ninth grade through twelfth grade and had an enrollment of 1182 students in the 2006-2007 school year. The administration consists of a principal and five assistant principals, one who primarily serves at JCIB.
- Dr. Frank Peake (1949–1970)
- Royce G. Creel (1970-1978)
- Dr. T. Lundy Clements (1978–1990)
- Richard Lazenby - (1990–1997)
- Janice Dennis (1997–2001)
- Kay Lindsey (2001–2003)
- Jane Baker (2003– 2011)
- Mary Beth Blankenship (2011 - 2016)
- Dr. Antjuan Marsh (2016 - 2019)
- Mr. Taki Sarhaan (July 2019 - present)
Dear Shades Valley, we do love thee,
Give thee honor, trust, and praise.
And for thee our spirits heighten,
While our loyalty we raise.
Onward Valley, to more glory,
We are with thee all the way.
Please bestow thy richest blessing,
Over us throughout our days.
*Tune - The "official" name of the German National Anthem is Das Lied der Deutschen, or simply, Das Deutschlandlied.
The music is taken from the String Quartet in C major (the Kaiser-Quartet), Op. 76,3 of Joseph Haydn, composed in 1797.
I'm Mountie born, born,
Mountie bred, bred.
And when I die
I'm Mountie dead.
So it's rah rah Shades Valley, Valley!
Rah rah Shades Valley, Valley!
Rah rah Shades Valley, red and black!
The red and black will wave on high.
We'll win this game tonight or die!
So it's rah rah Shades Valley, Valley!
Rah rah Shades Valley, Valley!
Rah rah Shades Valley, red and black!
*Music courtesy of University of North Carolina.
"I'm A Tar Heel Born" as written by William Starr Myers class of 1897