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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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KCKS Public School System, 1819-1961
by Nellie McGuinn
Copyright USD 500, Feb 1966

Return to Previous Section 1890

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1891

The failure of two banks in the summer of 1891 was the forerunner of a depression or hard times in Kansas City.  The funds of the Board of Education had been spent on necessary improvements, but schools were crowded beyond the point of placing additional children in rooms.  Citizens complained of vandalism by hoodlums who collected back of Central School and annoyed the girls.  They proposed cleaning out Huron Place and digging out the rubbish to make room for trees and shrubs.  Then the vandals infecting the city would be barred by ordinance.  As for those who wanted to tear down the old school, times were too hard to consider that.

1892 Priest of Pallas Parade - Rooftop view  - Knight Templars marching north along Main Street at 10thBy 1891 almost fifty years had passed since the coming of the Wyandottes.  [Annotation:  Variant Spellings - Wendat, Guyandot, Guyandotte, Ouendat, Wyandot, Wyandott, Wyandotte - Huron and the Wyandot are the same people.]  The papers carried stories of the deaths of many pioneers, among them that of Mrs. Lucy B. Armstrong.  Accidents continued on the railways in the city.  The Priests of Pallas parades and festivities drew hundreds to Kansas City, Missouri.  Trains were overcrowded and accidents terrible and frequent.  Tuberculosis continued to take the lives of young people.  Wooden blocks used for paving were "full of germs and causing typhoid among the people," said one resident of the city.

Misses Chandler and Rees instructed private classes in "crayon and pastille" at their rooms at 542 Minnesota Avenue.  The high school commencement of 1890 featured "orations by the mile" by thirteen graduates.  One, a Mildred Barnes, was "Queen of the Evening" according to one reporter.  Professor James Canfield from the university addressed the class.  Indignation grew over music in the schools.  Wrote one citizen, "The board found a fellow at Ottawa who was willing to go to Boston for a month to study music and to devote one day every two weeks in blowing his bugle, and to be paid and to devote one day every two weeks in blowing his bugle, and to be paid $100 a month.  If there are any more poor devils at Ottawa for Kickapoo they wish to quarter on this city, it would be cheaper to send them to the poor farm."

The Kansas City board, with other boards of education in the state, wanted a special law for first class cities to issue bonds.  The Finance Committee tried to get money temporarily, so that schools could continue until the end of the year.  The Wyandotte National Bank said in February, 1891, that it would pick up warrants to $10,000 for January, 1891, provided it remained the depository of funds during the time it carried the warrants.  C. W. Trickett, the cashier, offered to find a company in the East that would carry the balance.

The board planned to send a committee to the legislature to ask for a "Refunding Bill" to relieve the school debt.  The school fund was growing smaller.  Patrons demanded a change in management to weed out incompetent teachers drawing high salaries.  Some teachers, they knew, were working hard and earning their money honestly.  The board had to borrow to meet the next payroll.

The committee sent to Topeka to lobby for the bill wanted to clear a way of issue $40,000 in bonds.  Then school would go on.  The cynics hoped the committee would fail, for success would mean more spending.  They advised the board to close the schools when it got beyond legal powers to get out of debt.

On February 13, 1891, the board sent a resolution to the Senate protesting against a House measure to shorten the terms for which six board members had been elected.  The board would be reduced from twelve to six.  Such a bill would apply only to Kansas City, Kansas, but it was introduced without the knowledge of the Kansas City board.  Political and personal reasons, the board felt, were behind the movement.  The bill also required a vote of the people to issue bonds.  The colored people at the same time were trying to get legislation passed so they could attend white schools.

The Greystone building for the colored children was named Garrison for William Lloyd Garrison of abolition fame.  I. D. Wilson, selling the 1889 bonds, was unable to deliver them.  The board offered to pay attorney's fees when Wilson was sued.  Snedden and Parshall were awarded money due them, and the board paid the bill and costs.

By March, 1891, there were 5021 children belonging with an attendance of 4782.  Long School had entirely too many children for twelve teachers.  The superintendent reported 2206 tardies and called upon teachers, principals and students to unite in sentiment favoring regularity and punctuality.  Through efforts of teachers and pupils twenty flags had been procured, but no money was available to provide places to fly them.

The board forbade pupils collecting on the grounds or near the schools more than thirty minutes before the opening.  Such practice was considered "not good physically or morally."  Music had made a good start.  Principals were told that no pupils were to be excused from music lessons.  The city played host to the Northeast Teachers' Association in early March.  A. A. A. Hanks, high school teacher, introduced chemistry in his classes, but had no apparatus or chemicals.  He needed $20 for equipment.

District Number 9 asked for the return of equipment such as seats, desks, blackboard and tables from old Oakland.  The superintendent had to get an accurate count and locate the articles.  Former Superintendent Ferguson held warrants he was unable to cash.  The Wyandotte Savings Bank made several loans to the board.

The school library, lodged in Central School, was moved to the "Gray" house at Seventh and Ann.  The books formerly controlled by the Wyandotte Library Association and later part of the Public School Library were brought to the office.  Others were donated.  A total of 241 books, mostly educational and scientific, formed the nucleus of the library in the board-room building.  A fee of 25 cents was charged for summer use.

Superintendent Olin talked to the board in may, 1891, of his concern over the large number of upper grade boys leaving school to go to work.  Another group left "out of weariness or listlessness."  Young, inexperienced teachers needed help, he felt.  They had little or no professional training, and the tendency of routine grade work was "toward grooves and not toward board information on principals and best methods of teaching."  Olin told the board about institutes conducted in Kansas City, Missouri, Cincinnati and several cities in Kansas.  The board authorized a two-weeks' institute before the beginning of school.

Examination of teachers and issuing of certificates brought problems.  A fee of one dollar was set for certificates.  The subjects of drawing and natural philosophy were removed from assistants' tests and transferred to principals' examinations.  Teachers who communicated with one another during examinations forfeited their certificates.  Nobody but the committee was to examine papers until the certificates were issued.

The board ruled against the use of rooms for private school.  Only the county superintendent would be permitted to hold classes in vacation. 

A week before school closed in 1891, on May 22, schools had "Open Day."  Parents were invited to visit and to inspect the children's work.  One interested person wondered if one parents in a hundred had ever entered a school since his or her own school days.  Kicking and complaining would be reduced if every parent went once a month to visit.  The high school entertained visitors with music, elocution, and a botany exhibit.  Mr. Mead, the principal, welcomed the parents.  Central presented a program.

The American School Journal honored J. H. Gadd in June, 1891.  A story, with his picture, told of his three terms as board member and his second as president.  The article praised Mr. Gadd for his fairness and detachment from party politics.

Mr. Shields, a councilman, informed the board that an attorney had said if he city refused to make certain improvements on Huron Place, the site would revert to the heirs of the original owners.  The board over the years had expressed willingness to work with the city on clearing the grounds, but it had jurisdiction only over the part where the school stood.

The board voted to replace all furniture taken from Oakland School.  In settling affairs with District 7, Kansas City had to pay court fees and return all property taken from the school building at Ninth and Quindaro.  Hackney, the architect in the early years of the consolidation, collected a final payment of $97 in June.  Armstrong had four rooms instead of two and was ready for equipment.

Superintendent Olin requested that all rooms be numbered in the various schools according to some definite and uniform system.  His plans for Institute waited on the board's decision as to the opening date for school.  The board was sorry to lose one of its members.  Captain J. P. Northrup, who resigned, and extended gratitude to him for H. his conscientious service.  A week or two later he died.  Friends referred to him as a "prudent counselor," and praised his nobility of character.  He suffered from physical infirmities, but held unswervingly to faithful attendance to duty.

The board wondered about a contract with the clerk and superintendent.  The city attorney ruled that no contact was necessary.  Their tenure, he said, was at the pleasure of the board.  Employment would be little more permanent if there was a contract, for a contract would enable one board to force a superintendent on the next board whether it wanted him or not.  The contract read one year, while the law said only nine months for school.  The attorney feared it might lead to litigation if an agreement were made for a definite time.

Before he left the board, Captain Northrup had advised economy in expenditures.  The Committee on Public Affairs, recently organized, disapproved of the board's plans for a hot water heating plant for Long School.  The water company complained that the bank refused to cash a warrant without 4% discount.  The board paid the water company for the discount.  L. G. Ferguson had money due for construction work.

Through July and early August, teachers worked on examinations and committees labored over salary schedules.  On August 20, most business of the board was laid aside.  No opening date was set.  The board appointed a committee to confer with the superintendent and teachers.  The bad news was broken to the staff and the public on August 22, 1891.  The board would be unable under the new law to maintain schools during the rest of the year 1891.  The superintendent would drop Institute plans and all board employees faced a vacation without pay until January 1, 1891.

School patrons blamed different groups for the difficulty.  Some accused the Taxpayers' Leagues, others the legislature and the new laws.  Many were quick to say the board had made poor use of the last year's funds and that Teachers' money had been dished out for campaign services.  The Citizens Group wanted to audit the books.  Everybody had a solution for the school problem.

The city attorney advised the board to close the schools until January 1, 1892, but advised consultation with the attorney general first.  A meeting of parents could be called, he said, and the situation explained to them.  The suggestion of the board that it offer a double salary for three months during 1892 was called a deliberate evasion of the law.

At a meeting of principals and teachers, the school personnel offered to open the schools on September 18, 1891, and to run them until January 1 without compensation from the board.  Arvin S. Olin, superintendent, was appointed chairman.  Mr. E. Pearson, Armourdale School principal at the time, helped to draft the resolution.  An executive committee performed the duties of a school board.  Students would be admitted for a fee.  High school pupils would pay $2.00, seventh and eighth graders $1.00, and others 75 cents a month.

Teachers had signed contracts for the year and few other jobs were available.  Although their salaries would be drastically cut, a little money would be better than none.  They paid for chalk, pencils and other equipment.  Salaries for janitors and their own carfare came from wages that were, on the average less than $20 a month.  About half the school enrollment, including the children of board members, attended the subscription schools.  Mr. Olin, after completing organization work, left for the East to enroll in Clark University.

The Executive Committee for those three and one-half months was composed of these school people:

Arvin S. Olin Frank Colvin
J. C. Mason G. L. Harrison
W. H. McKean J. J. Bass
W. A. Morriston J. J. Lewis
J. J. Maxwell M. E. Pearson

The board expressed its appreciation of the teachers' action in a resolution passed on August 24, 1891.  Members of the board, they said, regarded with the greatest admiration and acknowledged with sincerest thanks the loyal, self-sacrificing, and unanimous action of said teachers to open and continue the schools from September 14, 1891 to January 1, 1892, free of charge to the board.  They resolved further that the action taken at the meeting on Saturday, August 22, "will be remembered with full appreciation by this board and that it will gladly do what can be lawfully done to aid in efforts and mitigate the severity of the case."

The board instructed the electric light and the water companies to terminate their services until January.  However, Colonel R. M. James of the Kansas City, Kansas Water Company offered to furnish water free to the schools until the board was able to pay.  When Wood School teachers no longer could pay a janitor, Miss Wuest took charge of the keys.

Teachers, in December, signed contracts for five and one-half months.  The public was reminded by the newspaper of the quality of the services given by the subscription schools in comparison with the small amount paid each month.  [Annotation:  Subscription schools are those where the student had to pay to attend.]  The schools closed on December 17 and reopened on January 4, 1892.  At that time the floating indebtedness of the board amounted to $29,000.

Next Section   1892

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