IWCS comes full circle with opening of new middle school

Published 9:34 am Friday, September 12, 2014

by Kenita Bowers

The recent opening of Georgie D. Tyler Middle School in Windsor marks a historic time for Isle of Wight County. From the history and the namesake of the new school comes incredible strides in the progress of equality in public education; progress that is evident in the current leadership of the school division.

Although many students probably cannot fathom what segregated education would be like in their schools today, it was the reality for Georgie D. Tyler.

Tyler, an Isle of Wight native, was directly responsible for the development of better schools for African-American students in the county. In 1912, she received her first teaching job at a one-teacher school with approximately 100 students. The school closed three months later due to poor conditions, but in 1914 she was offered a teaching position at the newly constructed two-teacher school in Windsor.

She taught there for several years before she was appointed as the Jeanes Supervisor for Isle of Wight County. As Jeanes Supervisor, Tyler was tasked with overseeing 27 black schools in the county — many of which were housed in inadequate learning environments. Tyler made it her mission to improve the buildings and with the help of several community groups she found land to construct 15 black schools in the county.

After she retired in 1940, Tyler continued to work in education and was granted a lifetime membership in the State Teachers Association. She lived long enough to see her dream become a reality for African-American students with the integration of Isle of Wight County Schools taking place in 1968. According to her autobiography written in 1955, she truly embraced the Jeanes Supervisor position that often came with criticism in every direction and covered such varying tasks as cutting of a baby’s dress and writing wills.

“…with God’s help, patience, a willingness to serve, recognition of the rights of others, a love for humanity, I was able to go over Isle of Wight County in sunshine and rain for 28 years,” said Tyler in her autobiography.

Today her legacy continues in the school division with the opening of the new middle school proudly named in her honor and an African-American, female superintendent who uses her life’s work as a model for educational leadership.

Dr. [Katrise] Perera firmly believes in preparing all students for educational excellence regardless of race, religion, or economic status. Since joining the school division in 2011, she has used her innovative leadership style to implement a global learning environment that fosters academic success. Under her leadership there has been an expansion of the Dual Enrollment program by 75 percent, the launch of a 1:1 technology plan for 2,000 high school students, and most recently major upgrades to building conditions at all nine schools — an accomplishment that she coincidentally shares in common with her distant predecessor.

“When I first learned of Mrs. Tyler’s work here in the county, I was amazed at how much she was able to accomplish during that time period. I am humbled by the challenges she faced and the sacrifices that she made along the way, which now make it possible for me to be where I am today,” said Perera. “I use her legacy as a reminder of what my purpose is as superintendent and also as motivation to ensure that Isle of Wight County Schools remains a place where all 21st-century learners can receive the same quality of education.”

While the new state-of-the art, 115,000 square-foot school is grandiose in comparison to the original Georgie Tyler School, its name serves as a poignant reminder of the educational history and progress that has been made in this county.

KENITA BOWERS is the coordinator of Community Affairs and Media Relations for Isle of Wight County Schools. She can be contacted at or 365-1612.