In the 1940's the Knoxville City School System served the city's high school students in three schools - Knoxville High School, Rule High School, and Stair Technical High School. The majority of these students attended Knoxville High, a facility that was greatly in need of renovation if it was to continue housing 2,000 plus students. In lieu of this expenditure, the school board and the city council voted to build a new high school in each geographical area of the city.
Thomas N. Johnston, principal of Stair Tech, was to become the principal of the new school in the north area. After the blueprints were drawn Mr. Johnston carried them in the trunk of his car as he toured the North Knoxville neighborhood looking for the perfect building site. He finally chose land at the corner of Broadway and Woodland Avenue in the Scott Park community which the city of Knoxville then purchased from three families who jointly owned it.
On March 5, 1949 the site was the scene of the groundbreaking ceremony that launched the building of Knoxville's first comprehensive high school - a school with both an academic and vocational curriculum. The school was to be named Fulton High School in recognition of Weston Miller Fulton, a noted inventor and industrialist. Several of Mr. Fulton's original blueprints are on display at the school, as well as his oil portrait which was given to the school by the Fulton family.
Construction was begun on Fulton High School in the Spring of 1949 by Foster & Creighto Contractors, and was to be completed for the opening of school in 1951 at a cost of $1.5 million. September 1951 arrived and students filled the halls - only to be confronted with building materials stacked around and the workers who were finishing up the project.
Thomas N. Johnston served as principal from 1951 to 1955, and the faculty, composed of 49 members laid the foundation of academic excellence that continues today at Fulton. The faculty also served as advisors to the first senior class as it selected the school mascot -The Falcons - proposed by Rose Butler Sanders, reasoning that falcons are birds that are "strong fliers that soar high into the sky". The school colors chosen were maroon and white. The school newspaper was named The Falcon Quill, and the first yearbook named The Falcon.
Opening a new school was exciting! Most of the students had attended Christenberry Junior High School and were happy to be back in a community school. The challenge of establishing traditions that could be carried on by future generations required thought and creativity which early classes clearly demonstrated. If these same people were to visit the school today, they would experience deja vu – seeing a school that is once again showing the Falcon tradition with a renovation cost exceeding $18 million.
The new facility is serving to enhance Fulton’s already strong academic and technical programs. In a slogan contest in the late ‘60s, the winning entry was “Enter to learn; go forth to serve”. This is the motto of Fulton High School, and it exemplifies the lives of many, many Fulton graduates who are scattered across the United States and around the world.
Fulton High School Today
During the early 2000's, it was evident that standards and rigor in education were quickly changing and the "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) Act of 2001 was implemented. Due to faltering graduation rates at Fulton, as well as other deficiencies with regard to NCLB standards, educators were forced to make drastic changes. In 2007 Fulton High School was divided into five "Small Learning Communities" (SLC's). The two "lower houses" were formed specifically for freshman and sophomores and were names in honor of two species of falcons - Merlin and Peregrine. The three "upper houses" (School of Skilled Professions, School of Health Sciences, and School of Communications) are occupied by juniors and seniors. The upper SLC's were set up to allow students to choose an SLC based on interests as they relate to furthering their education or career. Each SLC has its own principal, guidance counselor and student advocate, ensuring that students are given as much individual attention as possible. Students also wear different colored shirts, which are exclusive to their SLC population.
Among all the renovations and changes, the sole purpose for Fulton High School educators and community members has remained the same; empower and educate our students so that they may "Enter to Learn; Go Forth to Serve".