Girls Preparatory School

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Girls Preparatory School
205 Island Ave., 37405
Chattanooga, Tennessee
United States
Type Private all-female secondary
Motto Respect, Responsibility, Discovery, Intelligence
Established 1906 (1906)
Founder Tommie Payne Duffy, Eula Lee Jarnagin, and Grace McCallie
Headmaster Dr. Autumn Graves
Grades 6–12
Gender Female
Enrollment Roughly 600
Color(s) Black and blue
Mascot Bruiser
Nickname GPS
Rival The Baylor School
Yearbook Kaleidoscope

Girls Preparatory School, often called simply GPS, is an all-female college preparatory school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States. It was founded in 1906 by Grace McCallie, Tommie Payne Duffy, and Eula Lea Jarnagin. Its brother school, The McCallie School, had been founded a year earlier by McCallie's brothers.


In 1906, Duffy and Jarnagin, two public school teachers, asked the city school board to provide a fourth year of high school studies, including modern language and a lab science, so that girls, as well as boys, would apply for college. When their request was denied, they decided to create an independent school to prepare girls for higher education and convinced their friend Grace McCallie to join them. The school opened on September 12, 1906, in a four-room schoolhouse at 106 Oak Street.

The school house had been McCallie's home. The three founders used all of their money, $300, to equip and launch the school. In twelve weeks they converted the house to a school. The ground floor contained rooms with second hand desks. There was an alcove library and cloakroom.

The school accommodated the 45 students who enrolled for the first day of classes on September 12, 1906. Each girl paid $80 tuition per year and at the end of the first year one of the students was accepted to and enrolled in Randolph-Macon Woman's College. In 1915 the school relocated to a larger brick building on Palmetto street.[1] Their next move was in 1947 when it moved to its current home on Island Avenue, with fourteen class rooms, a study hall, library and dining hall.[2] Since the move the campus has been added on to and revitalized, adding a separate middle school and high school, an 800-seat theatre, and a new student center.

Girls Preparatory School celebrated its 100th anniversary during the 2005-2006 school year.[3]


Middle School (grades 6-8) From 6th grade the girls take a computer class twice a week to develop technological, communication, and problem-solving skills. In the 7th grade, they learn French, Spanish, Latin, or Mandarin Chinese, and in the 8th grade, each student purchases a laptop for school use. In the past, IBM tablets were the laptops of choice; however the school switched to MacBook Airs in 2011.[4]

Upper School (grades 9-12) The Upper School offers 18 Advanced Placement courses, ranging from AP Latin Horace to AP Comparative Government & Politics. Students consistently score higher than the national and state average for males and females in every subject offered; in 2010-11, 80% of the sophomores through seniors taking the exams scored three or higher on the five point scale, and in the senior class of 2011, 70% were enrolled in at least one AP course.

Class sizes are small, with the student-teacher ratio being 9:1. Each grade consists of 80-110 girls. The school boasts National Merit Scholars, perfect SAT scores, and millions offered in scholarship money per year. Graduates of GPS attend colleges every year, including Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Columbia University, New York University (NYU), United States Military Academy (USMA), Yale University, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Brandeis University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), and Vanderbilt University.


GPS has many traditions that mark different points in the school year, with many being community service involvements. Each year a week long festival is planned by an elected committee of students, known as Robin Hood. In the festival, any school recognized club or team is able to open a booth and sell a craft or food for a charity of their choice along with booths run by the committee itself which benefits the over all goal of that years Robin Hood. In the past the main goal has been to gift Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission To Promote Peace... One School At A Time and the founder of Central Asia Institute, with the money to endow a girls' school in Pakistan.[5] Another year it was to help assist our own here in Chattanooga with a contribution to Chattanooga Girl's Leadership Academy, an all girls college preparatory charter school focusing on STEM education, the first public single gender school in Tennessee.[6]

Another newer tradition is the garden the environmental science class, a junior and senior science elective course, cultivates. The crops grown in the garden are chosen and raised by the students as well as harvested and taken to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.[7][8]

While most traditions are school wide some revolve around or are only pertinent to certain grades. One such tradition is that of May Day. A pageant that is a cross between the old traditions of a May Day from the Renaissance and a debutante pageant. The seniors are presented in colorful dresses, one by one, before the court is introduced. The last girl presented is the May Queen, who is nominated by the senior class and then chosen by the whole student body and faculty based upon her personality and embodiment of a true GPS girl. After the class is introduced they sit above the lawn the festivities are held on and watch as different grades dance along with music chosen to match that year's theme. The last dance is the May Pole ceremony, where the sophomores wrap three traditional May poles for the queen to walk under, ending the ceremony.[citation needed]

Another tradition is that of senior Chapel Talks. Each senior has the option to give a three to seven -minute talk about a subject of their choice to their peers during chapel, also called assembly. The talks used to be a mandatory part of a girl's senior year but have since been deemed optional.[citation needed]

By far the biggest and most celebrated tradition is that of Cat/Rat, a pairing of a senior with a new sixth grader. In this tradition the senior, Cat, is the first friend and mentor to the sixth grader, Rat. They have several parties and celebrations in which both the seniors and sixth graders get a chance to show each other love and appreciation as each guides the other through whatever they may be facing.[citation needed]

There are many other traditions, such as a long-standing partnership with Habitat for Humanity,[9] as well as leadership summer camps. The newest summer camp is not a camp at all. Called Mad, Bad, Dangerous, it is instead a week long think tank allowing girls and women entrepreneurs from around Chattanooga to seek knowledge and support from local and national professionals. This year will be its second year.[10]

Community interactions[edit]

There has been a history of tension among Girls Preparatory School and the surrounding North Chattanooga neighborhood in which GPS is situated. Largely, this is due to GPS parents and students driving through the residential neighborhood to reach the school. For years, neighbors have complained to GPS, the police, and the appropriate councilperson about excessive speeding, passing attempts and weaving, and tailgating by parents and students driving to GPS. Despite these documented complaints, the concerns of neighborhood residents have not been resolved, and tension unfortunately continues to exist between GPS and many residents of the surrounding neighborhood.[citation needed]

Notable alumnae[edit]

  • Carman Barnes, writer
  • Rachel Boston, actress
  • Tracy Seretean, Academy Award winning filmmaker
  • Andrea Saul, Republican Party operative
  • Teresa Lawrence Phillips, First female NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball coach
  • Mai Belle Hurley, first female member of the Chattanooga City Council
  • Lisa Hendy, recipient of the Harry Yount Award of the National Park Service
  • Amy Edgar Sklansky, Author and Editor
  • Judge Marie Williams, first woman appointed judge of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Tennessee
  • Ashley Averett, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft


External links[edit]