Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences renames facilities after longtime coach and conductor

Gary Wilkes conducts a youth orchestra in April 2016.

CSAS Renaming Committee

› Jim Boles, principal› Tiffanie Robinson, school board member› Julia Gaines, assistant principal› Carmen Veller, assistant principal› Zach Wyatt, parent› Amy Freeman, faculty› Jeff Covington, community member› Karen Long, parent

photo CSAS basketball coach Mark Dragoo shouts to players during a game on Dec. 7, 2018.

Thanks to the efforts of its senior class, the orchestra room and basketball court at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences soon will bear new names.

The Hamilton County school board recently approved the renaming of the orchestra room at CSAS in honor of long-time orchestra teacher and conductor Gary Wilkes and the basketball court after legendary basketball coach Mark Dragoo.

"Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words about two gentlemen who have done some amazing things, not only for our school but for the entire district and community," said CSAS Principal Jim Boles at Thursday's school board meeting. "Together, these two gentlemen have 79 years of teaching under their belts, which I think is pretty amazing."

Two petitions circulated in support of the name changes collectively gathered more than 150 signatures in favor of the efforts and were presented to the board Thursday.

The move to rename the orchestra room was part of this year's senior class gift to Wilkes, said recent graduate Chase Egli.

"Every year, we have a senior gift for Mr. Wilkes that we have to come up with," Egli said of the tradition. "We had multiple ideas and this was one of them."

Egli's classmate, Lauren Tolbert, said students hoped to name the room in honor of him because of how much he cares about his students.

"He's such a passionate teacher who cares for his students and their development both as young musicians and young adults," she said.

Both educators' contributions to the school are significant, Boles said.

"Dragoo has such a culture with our program, it comes beyond the court," he said.

Former members of both the boys and girls basketball teams still feel like they are part of Dragoo's family, often spending Thanksgiving or Christmas at his home, Boles said.

Dragoo said Thursday's honor was really praising the kids.

"When you have something like this, it's really honoring all the students over the years," he said.

Dragoo has hit significant milestones with CSAS over the years, including a 77 district game winning streak from 2005-2011, 10 district championship wins, nine state regional tournament wins, two state tournament appearances and two state runner-up awards.

School board Chairman Joe Wingate, of District 7, said it was fitting that the basketball court would bear Dragoo's name.

"I know that the many times you've swept that floor, now you'll get to read your name on it," Wingate said.

Wilkes, who has taught at five different schools in Hamilton County, also has served as conductor of the Chattanooga Youth Symphony, the highest level of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera's Youth Orchestra program.

Some of his former students now play for world-class orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Dallas Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Wilkes said of all the schools he has taught at, CSAS is the pinnacle of education in the state of Tennessee.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.