Phoenix School

By Andy Pouncey
July 20, 2006

The City of Germantown has a number of public and private schools to choose from. Do you often ride by one of the schools that do not carry the name of the City or a nearby major street, and wonder what they teach there?

One of these that piqued my curiosity is The Phoenix School. The Phoenix School began serving students in Memphis and the surrounding area from its location at Park Place Mall in 1993. It is an independent, non-profit, non-discriminatory, co-educational day school.

It is designed to help students with learning disabilities in grades 4 through 12 achieve their academic potential by providing individualized educational programs. They offer the courses needed to get a student to college, and their students are required to take the Gateway Exam.

The school uses an arts-based curriculum designed to enhance creativity as well as work with basic deficiencies. This approach combines knowledge, imagination, and cognitive skills.

They have faculty and space for up to 35 students at a student-teacher ratio of 8:1. The Phoenix School carefully tailors its activities and programs to meet the needs of each individual student.

The Phoenix School was opened by Director Peggy Morris, Beth O’Neil, and Dale Gunn.

One year after it opened, it moved to 2320 South Germantown Road in the Old Germantown District, across from Germantown United Methodist Church. Of interest is that this had been the home of Dr. and Mrs. Eugene “Sonny” H. McGehee, Jr. and his family. “Sonny” was a veterinarian, and as a child, participated in the soapbox derby on Poplar.

In 1996, Ann Graham became a partner joining the founding members and, in 1997, they achieved their accreditation with the State of Tennessee.

They have outgrown their space at 2320 and are moving due south to 2404 Arthur Road, across from the Germantown Presbyterian Church. Same street – different name, same side of the street, the structure is located across from a church, and guess what else. 2404 Arthur was the next home of Dr. and Mrs. Eugene “Sonny” H. McGehee, Jr., and his family.

In March 1962, Press-Scimitar Staff Writer Kay Pittman wrote: “New McGehee Home Dream Come True”. In September of 1954, Mrs. McGehee was stricken by polio, just four years after the couple was married. Within five years she had made a gallant comeback and was named Polio Mother of the Year. From her wheelchair, she said she was looking forward to getting a specially equipped kitchen.

Instead of a kitchen, Mrs. McGehee got a whole new house custom-designed for her at 2404 Arthur. Described as a contemporary unit, it was designed by McGehee and Nicholson. David McGehee was not only the architect but also Dr. McGehee’s brother. Much research and consultation with wheelchair makers, universities, and the McGehees went into the design.

All doors were three feet or wider, and all entrances were ramped and covered for protection from the weather. The U-shaped plan of the kitchen area offered a minimum of wheeling in order to reach the main work and storage area where every inch of base cabinet space was available for reaching from a wheelchair. There was space for the wheelchair to roll beneath the counter by the refrigerator for putting away groceries, and making among other things, school lunches. Despite the earlier addition of these features and more, Shelby County Code Enforcement has required additional handicapped accessibility features to bring the home up to today’s standard as a school.

The Phoenix School opened the new school year at 2404 Arthur on August 9th, 2006, and will return to focus on its goals which include helping students to achieve their academic potential while inspiring them to achieve their maximum creative potential.

Among their creative endeavors again this year will be the design and construction of nutcrackers. They intend to continue to share with others in the festive spirit found in Germantown during the holidays.