Ready For Battle
In the same year that Rock Bridge High School celebrates its first 40 years, another high school throws open its doors for the first time. Named in honor of Muriel Williams Battle, esteemed Columbia educator and champion of desegregation in Columbia Public Schools, Muriel W. Battle High School is leading the charge for how to be a high-tech, thoughtfully designed, secondary school environment.
The 290,000-square-foot facility (not counting the space devoted to athletic facilities), was designed by DLR Group and built by J.E. Dunn Construction Co. of Kansas City. Final cost of the project totals $70 million.
Take a tour behind Battle’s walls and discover what it’s like to learn like a Spartan.
Number of students enrolled:
Summer 2013: 500
Fall 2013: 1,070
Expected for fall 2014: 1,500
Number of teachers:
Summer 2013: 24 with 5 aides
Fall 2013: 90
Number of books:
E-books: more than 3,000
The Battle C.H.A.R.G.E. represents the commitment of the faculty and students at Muriel Williams Battle High School to honoring the legacy of Muriel Williams Battle. Each letter of the C.H.A.R.G.E. represents the beginning of a word associated with core values modeled by the school’s namesake.
Challenge: Be willing to TAKE positive academic RISKS committing daily to SEEK OPPORTUNITIES TO SUCCEED!
Honor: Continue the legacy of Muriel Williams Battle embodied in pursuit of educational personal excellence and empowering others.
Advocate: Encourage and empower self and others toward academic excellence.
Respect: Value self and others. Take pride in the Battle environment. Embrace differences. Respect the right of others to teach and learn by fostering a culture of dignity and respect and using caring communication.
Give: Serve school and community through collaboration and engagement in leadership, service and communication.
Engage: Be accountable and engaged promoting academic excellence. Demonstrate ownership and take pride in our school programs, community and facilities.
Timeline Of Columbia High Schools
The Columbia Public School District was founded in 1872. Here is a timeline of when Columbia’s public high schools opened their doors.
1898: Frederick Douglass High School
1927: Hickman High School
1973: Rock Bridge High School
2013: Muriel W. Battle High School
About Muriel W. Battle
Born on Jan. 23, 1930, in Mobile, Ala., Muriel Williams attended Fisk University in Nashville and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla. Muriel married her teenage sweetheart, Eliot Battle, on June 28, 1950. The couple had four children: Donna, Carolyn, Muriel and Eliot Jr.
The Battle family moved to Columbia in 1956 to teach in the Columbia Public Schools. Muriel began her teaching career at Douglass Elementary School in 1956, and then transferred to West Junior High School in 1961 to teach social studies for the next 30 years. In 1974, she became the social studies chairwoman for West Junior High and then served as assistant principal from 1975 to 1978; she was principal from 1979 to 1991. While at West, Muriel’s motto was “We’re Glad You’re Here.” Muriel went on to become the first female associate superintendent of secondary education for Columbia Public Schools in 1992. She retired in 1996.
Muriel continued her own education while teaching and earned a Master of Arts degree in secondary administration in 1976 from the University of Missouri, a specialist degree in 1980 and a doctorate in general administration in 1983. Muriel also received an honorary doctorate from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, where she served as president of the board of trustees. She also served on the board of trustees for Stephens College.
After retiring, Muriel founded the Battle Group, an education consulting firm that provided strategies and resources to school districts, parent-teacher associations and juvenile justice facilities. She served as the president of the Women’s Network of Columbia from 1994 to 1995, was a past board member of Downtown Columbia Rotary Club, served as an ambassador for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, served on the Columbia College board of trustees, and was a consultant for the U.S. Office of Education.
Muriel also dedicated time and money toward building a Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial along the MKT Trail. She and her husband received the Columbia Chamber of Commerce Citizens of the Year Award in 2000. The Battles were also founding members of the Columbia Public School Foundation.
Muriel Battle died on March 2, 2003, at the age of 73, after a struggle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Remembering Eliot Battle
Eliot Battle and his wife, Muriel, were devoted educators who influenced the lives of generations of Columbia children. Eliot died on June 11, just nine days after attending the dedication of the high school named for his beloved wife.
Eliot’s legacy lives on through the lives he touched during his career as an educator, including more than 30 years with the Columbia Public Schools. From 1966 until his retirement in 1991, Eliot served as director of counseling for the school system and it was during that time that a troubled young man named Carl Kenney came to his attention.
In this essay, Kenney, now an award-winning writer, explains how Eliot Battle’s wise counsel changed the trajectory of his life.
By Carl W. Kenney II
My bloodshot eyes exposed the brewing of smoke in my room. The music of Marvin Gaye banged against the wall as I took one last puff of marijuana before answering the door.
“Come with me,” he ordered after I opened the door. “You’re going with me.”
The unyielding gawk forced my response. I closed the door and followed him. He took me back to the place I avoided because the pain was too deep to stay. He knew my story. Everyone knew. He came to rescue me from myself.
It was months after my sister Crystal died after fighting brain cancer. The pain of her death gripped me so deep that school was too much to imagine. My days in class were boggled with thoughts of her last breath. Memories of running to my room to curse God for taking her away kept my mind off homework and class projects.
Eliot Battle came to take me back. He rescued me from the death lurking to pull me deeper into the world of lost souls. He found me intoxicated with fumes meant to fight the tears. It never helped.
“Come with me.”
Those words comforted the part of me begging to be noticed. I wanted that attention more than the drugs I used to keep my mind off my sister’s last breath. Days had passed with no thoughts of going back. Each day became easier. I wanted to go back; I didn’t know how to take the first step.
“We are here for you,” Mr. Battle said as I sat in his office. I felt tears bubbling from that deep place. I held them back long enough to listen. Each word felt like a promise. Hope began to emerge as he shared the rest.
“We’re changing your class schedule,” he told me. A group of teachers had met to plan my rescue. A room was assigned for me to write. I wrote my story. The words poured onto pages like freedom waiting to scream.
They assigned me to American Culture, a class that combined English and history. I served as a student teacher. I watched. I offered support. More than anything, I healed.
They refused to allow me to fail. All of them loved me through the pain. Each teacher caught me when I was falling. Soon, the steps became easier. The pain was not lessened, but I knew I was not alone.
Fast forward to today: A quick gaze at the long list of unread emails reveals one from the editor of Inside Columbia magazine. I opened it thinking I’d find a friendly reminder to complete my piece on Mr. Battle.
“You may have already heard, but he passed away yesterday following a car accident.” I paused. No! “It’s a devastating loss to this community and all who knew and loved him.”
The tears came too fast to stop. It didn’t matter that I was seated in a public place surrounded by people conducting business.
The thoughts were too many and too deep to stop. Did I ever thank him? Could I ever thank him enough?
Deeper tears welled now. Each came with a special memory. Words appeared on my computer like magic — so many thoughts, too many to count.
Mr. Battle, how can I say “thank you” for saving my life? You refused to allow me to fail. You found me and brought me back. Once you brought me back, you showed me what I couldn’t see.
Mr. Battle, you gave me my words. You found me in the middle of getting high and grappling with the voices in my head. You gave me a new voice. You showed me the power within me, and the words lost under the shadow of pain.
More words and thoughts came to dissolve the tears.
So much has happened since I left Columbia in 1988 to attend graduate school at Duke University. Many accolades are recalled when people mention the Battles. Both are dead now. Eliot and Muriel Battle remind us of the fruit that comes from tending the earth. You can’t just wait for fruit to grow. You have to nurture the land when bad weather comes.
People will remember Mr. Battle as a great teacher and administrator.
I will forever remember him as the man who saved my life.
There’s one way to say “thank you.” Mr. Battle gave me my words.
I’m still writing.