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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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

Return to Previous Section 1915


In May, 1916, the worst measles epidemic in the history of the schools was reported.  The high school, free from childhood diseases, presented a pageant at City Park that was described as the best ever given by local talent.    Map of City Park location in 2004 - Kansas City, KS 66102-4511      In the cast of "The King's Poet," were 250 students under the direction of Miss Lela Douthart and Miss Lucy T. Dougherty, high school instructors. Professor F. A. Carlson directed the music.  Two senior students, Edith Roles and Dollie Naylor, compiled scenes from five Shakespearean plays.

An old English tavern was erected in the park at a location that formed a natural amphitheater.  The spectators, at a 35 cents admission price, sat on cushions.  The pageant, costing $500, was said to have been one of the largest events ever attempted by a high school in Kansas.  Horace Mann eighth graders, not to be outdone by the high school, gave sketches from different plays by Shakespeare at their graduating exercise.

The war continued in Europe, but had little impact locally except in the rising price of paper and "junk."  These so-called "War Aids" were collected in 1916 by Chelsea School.  Three hundred homes contributed twice a week until the school had earned $50 for a new set of books.  Trouble in Mexico sent the boys from Fort Riley to the Border in July, 1916.

Mrs. George Stine and her Wyandotte Boys Club fought the cigarette habit.  The Federation of Clubs, grade, Sumner, and high school met on May 2.  The Sumner Booker T. Washington Club announced a membership of 125.  The white schools had almost 800 members, all dedicated to the discontinuance of the use of tobacco.  A big clean-up was planned for May 23, when cigar and cigarette stubs would be collected and burned.

Other cities inquired about Mrs. Stine's work with the boys.  Professor W. A. McKeever of the State Welfare Department endorsed the movement.  Stubs and cigarette advertisements were burned in the bonfire on June 7, and Dr. W. S. Ferguson awarded Edward Stine a prize for the best letter about the evils of smoking.  The boys hoped to win a prize of $100 to be given by a Eureka, Kansas, man, John A. Edwards, for the best work done by a club.  On September 28, Frances Willard Day, the boys sang, "The Cigarette Must Go"

PTA groups were active.  The Federation of PTA Associations circulated petitions asking for more rigid movie censorship when they learned that promoters were trying to get the Kansas law repealed.  Mrs. Poindexter at Longfellow served a luncheon to the Longfellow teachers, using lettuce and radishes from the school garden.  Mrs. George Van Cleve was school garden chairman there.  Mothers at Franklin made their school grounds the best equipped in the city when they matched Dr. Clopper's gift of $400 for playground apparatus.     Map of Clopper Field location in 2004 - Kansas City, KS 66106    

An interscholastic meet sent high school boys to Lawrence in May, 1916.  Students exhibited their work at the high school to 1500 patrons early in May.  In the auditorium a musical program was given, interrupted by fifteen minutes of darkness.  Students filled the time by giving class yells and singing school songs.  Gladys Elliot, physical education instructor, left to teach at the university in 1916, after a summer of studying dancing in New York.

High school boys published their yearly yellow paper, "Straight Dope," for the seventh time.  Readers decided it had no mission any more with its stale news and jokes.  W. A. Bailey was referred to as a popular principal.  In September, after a student "shirt-tail" parade, the alumni "Old Stars" defeated the high school football team.  The university coach and Mayor Green attended the game at Heathwood Park [10th & Parallel].  Students hoped to impress the board with their need for an athletic field.

The Wyandotte Bar Association went on record in May, 1916, saying that it wanted all governing groups under one board.  Money would be saved by uniting school, city and county units.  The board sent a letter of protest to the State Superintendent of Insurance when rates were increased for the high school.  Board employees held a picnic at City Park in May.  Horace Mann received a banner for winning over representatives from ten other schools in field and track events at the outing.

Teachers founded a Benefit Association on February 15, 1916.  The "Holmes Story-Tellers' League,"  under the direction of Mrs. E. A. Holmes, attracted elementary teachers.  They became part of a national organization and gained skill with practice in their own classrooms.  Dr. George D. Strayer, prominent educator, lectured to the student body in September.

Miss Lela Douthart, head of the English department at the high school and also president of the History Club in the city, was honored by the club at the home of Mrs. Robert Neale.   Four volumes of Masterpieces of Art were presented her in appreciation for her work.

The Kansan listened to and published complaints of teachers.   In May, it said 35 had told of how the large, systematic, and progressive plans of Superintendent Pearson had been "picket at, whittled at, and obstructed" by the petty and jealous notions of supervisors.  It said the supervisors seemed to be paid to exhibit authority, and not to make school work effective.  One who had been absent for three weeks, it was asserted, had directly countermanded orders given by Mr. Pearson.

The promotion of free textbooks came up in September.  The backers of the plan accused the city of operating under an "archaic system, in vogue in the backwoods of Indian days."  Public schools were free, they said, only to the point that pupils could buy their own books or go without.  The school board could raise money to buy a $36,000 athletic field but refused to furnish books.  Women's clubs of the city joined in the demand.

The night school, opening in October, attracted nationwide attention.  The United States Naturalization Examiner came to the city to interview I. B. Morgan about the operation of citizenship classes.  The university sent instructors for teachers and others who desired college credit and merchants offered prizes to night school students who excelled in their work.

The one-room portable at 14th and Armstrong was officially known as Lowell Annex, although it was eight blocks from the larger school.  Mrs. Stella Goodwin, teacher of the first grade there, referred to the small building as "James Whitcomb Riley School" and hoped that it would be named for the children's poet.  In 1917 another portable was added.  Miss Esther taught the second grade there until a new school was built in the district.  The portables later were used for lockers at the athletic field on the old Carnival Park grounds at 14th and Armstrong.

At Prescott, Miss Keturah Stevens, under the board's direction, opened a room for deaf children.  Ten were in the first class.  Three teachers began instruction in six grades in the new four-room Frances Willard School.  Only eleven vacancies had to be filled when school closed in 1916.

Two events of importance to the school system and the city, and closely related to each other, occurred.  The new junior high was the location of a city-wide exhibit and series of programs in observance of Education Week, beginning on May 9, 1916.  Different groups from supervising principals' districts entertained visitors in the afternoons and evenings.  C. H. Nowlin, former high school teacher and in 1916 vice-principal of Northeast High School in Kansas City, Missouri, addressed the Mercantile Club as part of the Education Week celebration.

The daily Kansan found much to praise in the exhibit and urged everyone to see what the schools were doing.  Mr. Peterson said the teachers had done a great amount of work and he wanted the taxpayers to see it.  Central School eighth graders made furniture and decorations for a room.  Mr. Pearson praised young Joe Radotinsky for his illustrated hand-painted book of poems.  Morse and Emerson girls dressed dolls in the fashion of Evangeline.  Needlework, drawings, furniture, charts, and a phonograph made by a Sumner senior made up part of the exhibition.

Central Junior High School, sometimes referred to as the Whittier Junior High School or just "the junior high school" in records of 1916, opened in September with an enrollment of 800. Whittier children who were to have shared the building with the junior high students, found themselves housed before long in portables clustered about the main building. H. P. Shepherd from Atchison was appointed the first principal, and F. L. Schlagle, former Kerr School principal, was named assistant.

Dr. R. L. Lyman in an article in the School Review , March, 1928, wrote on "The Junior High of Kansas City, Kansas." He called Central Junior a pioneer intermediate school of Kansas and spoke of its need as a "holding" institution. In an industrial city, he said, the population tended toward student mortality. Under Mr. Pearson's unbroken continuity of school leadership, the school system was "admirably conceived and excellently managed." The first junior high school represented the best junior high practice in a state and was a tribute to the board and superintendent.

Next Section   1917

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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