McFadden School is the first school named for a woman in Rutherford County. In the early 1920s, Miss Elvie McFadden was a servant to the impoverished community of Westvue. Working as a social worker, she dedicated her life to serving needy children and promoting education. Before her death in 1925, a county school board chairman promised to build a school in her honor. In 1927, the Elvie McFadden School opened with Madge Manson as the school’s principal. The school was built to accommodate 150 students and reached capacity within two weeks of opening. In the fall of 1928, a fire started in the flue in the back of the auditorium and destroyed the auditorium and two classrooms. The classrooms and auditorium were rebuilt. In 1932, a small stove in the first grade room overheated and the entire school burned. East End School was used for the rest of 1932 and the 1932-1933 school year. While the school was being rebuilt, class was held at the Burr James brick dwelling on South Church Street. Principals were Madge Manson (1927-1930), Baxter Hobgood (1930-1931), Martha W. Neely (1931-1932), Thomas Holden (1932-1934), and J.E. Brandon (1934-1935).
The new McFadden School was built on the same site at 211 Bridge Avenue at a cost of $25,000. The new structure had 13 classrooms, an auditorium, cafeteria, library, home economics and manual arts departments. Fire struck again in 1935 that damaged four classrooms. The enrollment required 13 teachers. Dr. J.E. Waller and Dr. Charles Lewis, professors at MTCS, volunteered their time to improve the school. Mrs. G.E. Lowe and Mrs. W.B. Carnahan wrote “Hail to Thee, McFadden,” the Alma Mater. Principals were George Sharpe (1935-1936) and Homer Pittard (1936-1946).
On Sunday, January 26, 1939, a fire believed to be the work or an arsonist completely destroyed the school. After the fire there was no building for the 405 children. All but the eighth grade students took a prolonged vacation. The eighth grade students used a room on the second floor of the courthouse with Mr. Pittard as their teacher. Fifteen eighth grade students received diplomas. After the Crichlow School completed its term the other seven grades from McFadden used that building for six weeks. The County Court let a bid of $35,000 for another building to be started in May. Country singer Roy Acuff was scheduled to do a show in McFadden’s auditorium. Because of the fire, the show was held at the Training School gymnasium.
The new McFadden School was built on the same site as the previous two schools. This building was erected along the same architectural plans as its predecessor but with improvements. There were sixteen classrooms, four of which were made from the space in the basement. Also, the basement was the cafeteria which consisted of a large kitchen, dining room, and two large pantries. On the main floor were classrooms, a principal’s office, and a combination gymnasium and auditorium with a capacity of five hundred people. The library was in the rear of the gym. On the third floor were classrooms. In 1955, a new wing was added with eleven classrooms and a modern cafeteria. Principals were Homer Pittard (1936-1949), James D. Brandon (1946), Robert Jones (1946-1949), Henry Adams (1949-1953), Frank Fuson (1953-1954), Fowler Todd (1954-1955), Jesse Wiser (1955-1963), Joe Messick (1963-1966), W.H. Owen (1966-1967), and Don Johnson (1967-1991).
In 1965, the school board approved and built a new gymnasium. The existing gymnasium was converted into the school’s library. In 1978, a new wing was constructed due to the increasing enrollment of students. The new wing included two large classrooms, eight regular classrooms, a bathroom, and a science lab.
In the 1999-2000 school year, the McFadden School became McFadden School of Excellence. The school became Rutherford County’s first academic magnet program. McFadden converted from a K-8 school to a K-5 school when Central Magnet School opened. Ms. Paula Barnes served as Principal from 1991-2005. Dr. Clark Blair has served as principal since 2005.