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History of The Bright School


In 1913 Miss Mary Bright, a teacher in the Chattanooga schools, rented a small house on McCallie Avenue and started The Bright School. She and her assistant, Miss Kate Thomas, enrolled 35 children the first year in grades kindergarten through six. The following year they moved to a larger house on McCallie Avenue that was nearer town. Every year the enrollment increased, and in six years, Miss Bright had employed a teacher for each grade. From the beginning, Miss Bright was a strong advocate for developing the whole person; in the early years of the school, subjects like art, music, and manual training were added to the curriculum. She was also a strong believer in a nurturing, child-centered environment. In describing her goals for the school, Miss Bright stated:

"It has emphasized the importance of a sympathetic understanding of the individual child. It has endeavored to make the school a happy place to which the children will gladly come. The school has always sought to give the children freedom of action and to encourage initiative in work, play, and the conduct of school affairs."


Continued increase in enrollment required several moves. In the eleventh year, early in 1924, Mr. George Patten went to Miss Bright with a generous offer of $25,000 so that she could invest in a permanent home for the school. With these funds, the new building was designed by noted architect R.H. Hunt and was constructed on Fort Wood Street. At the same time, it was decided that the school should be incorporated and a Board of Trustees established. Mr. Patten served as the first president of the board. The Fort Wood location was the home of the school for nearly 40 years. In 1963, Bright School was relocated in a new building designed by Gordon L. Smith, Sr., on 55 acres in the Riverview area. Here the school grew to an enrollment of 377 children, from kindergarten through sixth grade. Over the years, the school complemented its outstanding academic offerings with the addition of a comprehensive physical education program, a pre-school for four-year-olds, and a Spanish program. The library houses 15,261 volumes.

The last major building expansion, the Early Childhood Center, was completed in 2001. The building, accessed via a covered walkway, features a sports courtyard, six spacious prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms, and a 2,000 sq. feet multipurpose room. Bright School continues today to grow and prosper in accordance with founder Mary G. Bright's vision. It truly is "a happy place to which the children gladly come."

Want to know more?

In 2013, the school celebrated its centennial. To read stories about the school's history written by John Shearer '72, visit these pages on

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3