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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

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1921

In January, 1921, Mr. Pearson declared a "Quiet Zone" in the schools when outside activities, with the exception of basketball, would be suspended.  He divided the year into three periods.  The first included everything to divert attention from school work, as did the third.  The middle period, he said, should be devoted to "digging."

Under Red Cross direction, the nurses were examining 17,687 children in the schools and finding them the healthiest in history.  Scouting in the United States celebrated its eleventh birthday, but only Everett in this city had a troop.  Two hundred educators from the Council of Administration at the January meeting invited at their own expense a similar number of legislators to a banquet at which school needs were discussed.

At matinee programs given for starving European children, Kansas City vocalists led children in singing patriotic songs in the various theaters. In the only class of the kind in the city, Lillian Bohl and Bertha Walker directed foreign children at Riverview in molding clay dishes and renovating others.  Janette McKellar organized 39 grade school track meets at three fields, Heathwood (10th & Parallel), Junior High, and Peet Brothers ball grounds.

Cost of graduation outfits bothered club women.  Some suggested that robes be worn.  When Mr. Pearson was questioned, he replied that most families had to buy spring outfits for their daughters and probably did not object to spending a little extra for graduation.  Five physical education classes of girls held a May fete on May 1 at Huron Park.  A big display of articles made in sewing classes was held at H. J. Perry Motors building at Eighth and Minnesota.

At a moonlight picnic given in June by a labor organization, entertainment was a "wireless" concert by an orchestra many miles away.  Members paid an admission fee if they went into a tent to see how the wireless operated.  The librarian in the children's room put a stereoscope and one hundred views on display, and children lined up to enjoy them.

Mr. Pearson said in June that he and Mrs. Pearson, with delegates Anna Randles and Jo Boring, would drive to Des Moines for the NEA Convention if it did not rain.  Otherwise he would to by train.  The party got twelve miles from Kansas City when the motor was "sun-struck."  While Mr. Pearson "doctored," the passengers carried water.  When the engine revived, it was too weak to go on.  Everyone returned, ate supper at a local cafeteria, and started out the next day by train.

Children rode a "kid wagon" from Queen's Garden, the station west of Indian Springs on Reidy Road, to Parker, one and one-half miles away.  The board paid the driver to pick up pupils living on the "Queen's Highway."  Colored people from a church near Everett School wondered about a picture show at 1412 North 5th.  The board thought it too close to the school.

The Kansan noted that three Elizabeth Millers taught in the schools.  The music supervisor was known as "Music" Miller, the principal at Chelsea as "Chelsea" Miller, and at Cooper, as "Cooper" Miller.  Other Millers were Roberta, Emilie, Sirpora, Leila, and Mabel.  Doris Wilson and Gertrude Young at the office said Millers were born with teaching talent:

M erit
I nterest
L oyalty
L ove
E fficiency
R esolution

The annual teachers' banquet was held on May 7 at the Chamber of Commerce with 275 in attendance.  Guests were seated according to the states in which they were born.  Twenty-three states and England were represented.  In a talk after dinner, Mr. Pearson told his listeners not too take things too seriously, that a one-time incorrigible he knew was now in Congress.

The tablet purchased by club women and school children to honor Mrs. Sarah Richart was placed on the library wall.  It bore the inscription:

In Memory of
Sarah Ann Richart
May 8, 1833
January 13, 1901
She Devoted to this Library the Latter Years of Her life
Bequeathing to It Her Entire Estate.
This tablet is placed by the Club Women and the
Children of the Public Schools of this City.

It was announced in the spring of 1921 that the comfort station at Sixth and Minnesota would be moved to Huron Square.  The Council of Clubs opposed the move.  Mrs. M. I. Armstrong, Wyandot descendant, said it would be impossible to move the bodies.  There were few markers, for a violent smallpox epidemic in the early forties had caused many deaths.  Bodies were wrapped in sheets and blankets and placed, several in a grave, with ceremonies.

The comfort station occupied part of the old street car tunnel on Sixth Street from Armstrong to State.  It had become a loafing place, and when asphalt paving was planned for replacement of cobblestones on Sixth Street, the city decided to move it.  Wyandot descendants opposed placing the station under the cemetery on street level.

Health Education was stressed in 1921.  Some schools purchased scales for measuring and weighing.  Every sixth child was known to be underweight, and milk was being served in twenty schools.  Opposition in the legislature to hiring of school nurses would remove them from the schools and Dr. Gloyne said it would be an expensive move.  In June the PTA wondered what the schools would do when the Red Cross support was withdrawn in the fall.  School conditions had improved, but improvements were needed.  W. A. Seymour said they could not be completed overnight, and the board had first to consider areas where there was no school at all.

Other cities, it was claimed, hired nurses as "teachers of sanitation and hygiene."  The board referred the matter to Attorney J. P. Fox, but decided such procedure was an evasion of the law.  Nurses Gladys Nicholson and Hazel Drake were sent to France and Russia b the Red Cross.  On July 15, board members decided to hire four nurses to begin work on January 1, 1922, under Board of Education jurisdiction rather than under the Health Board.  A Rosedale nurse would be provided by the Red Cross.

During the spring and summer of 1921, the board dealt with matters pertaining to finances and the schools.  A. J. Stanley, legislator and member of the board, presented a bill to the legislature to put the schools on a cash basis, and it passed on March 10.  The fiscal year would begin on January 1.  Bonds would be issued for the first half of 1922.

On the almost two-million dollar program, Whittier was to come first.  The children, housed in portables, would occupy the building in the fall of 1921.  The high school needed shops, laboratories and gyms.  The Central City Club wanted a new high erected at 18th and Central.  Mr. Pearson told the board that children were graduating in the city, who had never been in a standard room.  Too many makeshift classrooms were in use.  He spoke also of the need for a junior college.

The "No-Name" building at 14th and Armstrong had to be vacated for the athletic field, and a site was chosen in late summer on the northeast corner of 14th and Tauromee (Grandview).  The new Chelsea School was planned.  The main entrance for the faculty and distinguished visitors would be on 25th Street.  Children would use doors on Wood and Virginia.  Chelsea was the first public school to have a bathroom included in the plans.

People asking directions to get to Oakland School were given a start and told to keep on until the reached a building that looked like a summer resort.  That would be Oakland.  Patrons became impatient for the new school to be erected at 22nd and Ridge.  Kerr wanted to leave its location near three cemeteries and to move to a nearby ridge.  Phillips had to be relocated.  Parker was almost a country school, two blocks from a paved street or sidewalks at 33rd and Haskell.

The contract for the Dunbar addition was awarded on June 16, and property at 23rd and 24th Streets on Minnesota Avenue was purchased for $20,000.  Addition playground space for John J. Ingalls and John Fiske was obtained.  Lewis School, taken in from the county, had one room added in August at the Monroe and Lawrence building.  Primary children went to school at 29th and Lawrence.  Two rooms were provided for Phillips at
Fifth and Miami.  Residents near 22nd and Steele objected to sending their children to Rosedale, three miles away, when Argentine was only one-half mile distant.

Business and professional men looked at the wall at Whittier, erected by he board at small cost.  Contractors asserted the board would have saved money by advertising for bids instead of undertaking to do the work.  Local contractors were hired in April for the plumbing and wiring.  Whittier was the first school to have kindergarten conveniences provided for in the original plans. Demands increased that Whittier be finished, as the children were "farmed" out in nine portables.  John A. Woulf said it would be ready by September 12. 

A site at 36th and Washington was selected for the new Kerr building.  Patrons asked the board for an auditorium and gymnasium and space to provide hot lunches for children.  In June, Rose and Peterson drew plans for a seven-room school with bath and shower in the nurse's room.

The PTA's of the city wanted a junior college.  Grant Landrey, board member, hoped the city could establish a municipal college like the one in Cincinnati.  The board talked of an arrangement with Kansas City University, although the law set limits on the amount of money which could be paid to a secular institution.  In August, the board decided that the building program must come first and plans for a junior college were dropped.

Greystone patrons accused the board in March, 1921, of lack of consideration for their interests, when old Greystone was condemned and a new site chosen for Melville and Greystone.  Children would have to walk over two miles to a new school.  The City Planning Commission and board members had promised to meet with the parents, but failed to appear.  Both Greystone and Melville wanted the school.  The latter was chosen because it seemed close to the center of the school population.  County Superintendent Charles E. Thompson in November got out an injunction on behalf of Melville patrons against a school on Turkey Creek.  The site "was better for mountain goats than for children," it was asserted.  In October the Melville site was listed as the 1000 block of the Industrial Addition, Lots 8-20, and the west half of 21.  The colored school was at 22nd and Douglass.

When a child dashed into the street after a ball and was killed by a car, John J. Ingalls wanted a larger playground.  Complaints about a basement room were answered when the board found the room only three feet below the playground level.  The kindergarten remained for half-day classes, but the Mexican children were removed.

Work on Whittier stopped in December, three months after the date set for its completion, because costs had exceeded the estimates.  Then on December 19, R. B. Smith, former board member was arrested and accused of accepting $500 from the widow of E. N. Mullen, as payment for inducing the board to buy her property for the Whittier site.  The board was said to have paid almost double the price that realtors had previously demanded.  Workmen who had gone unpaid for work and materials were to to bring suit to collect their money.  After January 1, 1922, $10,000 would be available and Whittier could be finished.

W. W. Thomas reported a fourth of the schools up to standard in teaching muscular movement in penmanship.  The deaf school enrollment had increased to fourteen.  Eight deaf children were about all one teacher could handle and a helper was needed.  After a proposal to close the room was made, the board ordered another year of operation under Miss Keturah Stevens.  Hope was given up for a state kindergarten bill to pass, but Kansas City planned seven new kindergartens in addition to the sixteen already in operation.

In March, gardens were declared to be a "side dish" to regular subjects in the future, and no more seeds would be sold in the schools.  Many children continued their activity in home gardens.  The Normal raining Department was likened to a little college, with Miss Lucy McCoy as housemother to the nine students who enrolled out of a class of 275 graduates.

At Park, "Save-the-Tree" Club members picked bagworms from trees, and counted and burned them.  The campaign extended to other schools.  When complaints were made of the bagworms in Huron Park, Mr. Thomas said it was the city's responsibility to remove them.  He would care for those that fell on the sidewalk.

The high school at Ninth and Minnesota held its first PTA meeting on March 24, 1921.  Two hundred patrons elected Henry E. Dean (or Mrs. Henry Dean?) president.  S. J. Kelly, dean of the School of Education at the University, and Hattie Moore Mitchell of the Teachers College at Pittsburg were speakers.

H. C. Kuntz organized a "Santa Claus" orchestra among neighborhood children of John Fiske School and entertained groups with a mixture of tin noise-makers and a few instruments.  F. L. Schlagle, Argentine High School Principal, directed that three grade schools there form orchestras.  Miss Bessie Miller announced in October a Music Memory contest to be held later in the school year.

Ralph Ward, high school teacher, represented Kansas City teachers in Topeka, working for the state pension bill.  National Camp Fire honors were awarded Myrtle (Frances?) Woolley, Horace Mann teacher, for her song, "Heart's Desire."   Miss Rose McIlwain, principal for 15 years at John F. Ingalls, died in February.  [Annotation:  This should have read John J. Ingalls.]  Miss Elizabeth Flagg left in the summer of 1921 to teach in a government in the Philippines.  When Dudley Buck, New York music teacher, taught in the K. U. summer session, he chose Miss Bessie Miller to teach the public school music course under his direction.

M. E. Pearson, H. P. Shepherd, and C. T. Rice were the only teachers in the city honored by membership, limited to sixty, in the Schoolmasters Club.  A well-known high school teacher, Miss Ella Woodyard, became research assistance for Dr. Horace Thorndike of Columbia University.  Harry Miller, former high school principal, in 1921 was head of the University High School at Madison, Wisconsin.  Principal C. T. Rice was elected president of the group of 15,000 members who made up the Department of Secondary Education, and Miss Minnie Oliverson was elected secretary.

H. P. Shepherd left the junior high school in July to become principal of the high school a Lincoln, Nebraska.  He was replaced by W. F. Shaw, superintendent at Alma.  Miss Elizabeth Miller, principal at Cooper, become known for her Americanization work among the fifteen races and nationalities represented at the school.  She visited Ellis Island when vacationing in New York to see conditions among arriving immigrants.  To her 150 pupils at Cooper, she was thought of as the "Goddess of Liberty."

Principal F. L. Schlagle planned a grand review of high school work on April 6, 1921.  The idea of showing a class work to parents was original with the Argentine High School.  Only seven absences at the evening session were reported.  Mr. Schlagle was pleased with the attendance of 800 visitors, and newspapers hailed the demonstration as unique in the state and maybe in America.  The Argentine Athletic Field was dedicated on June 17.  Students, when questioned, replied that the community "pep" was due to the influence of their high school principal. 

Although the night school continued to serve the working people of the town, the superintendent said that services might be curtailed because of lack of funds.  Wilbur Weston and J. W. Perry praised the public speaking class which they had attended for three years.  Men in milling work declared that Kansas City was the only place in the world where they could take a course and not leave their business.  On May 9, one hundred, including members of the board and city officials, attended a dinner for millers who had gone to night classes.

Rosedale schools reported in February that they wee running smoothly.  The boards met in joint session in March.  When Mr. Pearson visited the Rosedale schools, he promised them drawing, music and athletics after annexation.  August 1 was the date set.  Kansas Citians promised to honor election of teachers by the Rosedale board.  There was $18,000 in the treasury on March 29.  Kansas Citians wondered about spelling Maccochaque, as various spellings appeared in records, such as Mack-a-jack, Mah-ko-chick, and Mackie-Jack.

A. P. Vaughn was the superintendent of Rosedale schools.  After annexation he would be named as district supervisor.  By July 14, it seemed that the annexation would not take place on August 1.  The Kansas City board, supposedly in charge, was placed in a peculiar position, and asked if Rosedale could care for its own schools.  The teachers of both cities met together at the September convocation, thinking that consolidation would be soon.

Two bills concerning the board were proposed in Topeka.  One called for a three-member board, the other for one from each ward, eight in all.  The PTA wanted a woman on the board.  At a state meeting a woman member of the Wichita board of education spoke.  Women in the audience called out, "How did you do it?"  "Lobbying," she shouted back.

A. J. Stanley and C. L. Brokaw recommended W. E. Barnhart for the board, saying that with over a million dollars to spend the board needed a good businessman.  Muncie asked to send its children living near the city to Kerr School.  Directors were hurt and indignant when the request was denied, saying that children who could have filled empty seats in city schools were denied the privilege of attending any school.

Mr. Pearson promised in March, 1921, that soon scientific classification rather than general conclusions would revolutionize the system of grading in the next few years.  Tests were being arranged for children.  In August the board hired an efficiency expert, Russell Lawson Wise, to organize the schools on a scientific basis.  Mr. Wise had attended the University of Wisconsin and had a degree from Chicago University.  At twenty-five he already had been principal of a North Dakota high school and head of the Missouri School for the Blind.  He was an authority on tests and measurements.  Before long teachers were introduced to medians, bell curves, and intelligence graphs.

The Bankers Association asked permission in September to lecture in the schools to correct erroneous impressions and prejudice against bankers.  The superintendent and the board wondered if such a move might open the way to other groups.  Speakers finally were granted the privilege of talking for one-half hour per month to grades above the seventh.

The Kansan brought Dr. Emmett D. Angell to Kansas City, September 19-24, to teach children to play.  Miss Janette McKellar and Coach Corsault set up the program for the inventor of "Sneezy Games" for children.  He could handle a group of 100 at a time.  After his visit, cage ball, played with a ball twenty-two inches in diameter, became popular.  Miss Janette McKellar, play supervisor, wondered what people said when she boarded a streetcar, carrying two balls in addition to other equipment, as she made her rounds of the schools.

The library served groups in all parts of the city.  Argentine and Ingalls in Armourdale had branches.  Reading rooms were furnished books at Peet Brothers, Proctor and Gamble, Armour's and Bethel Center.  When space at the main library was needed, Mrs. Greenman designed a mezzanine between the first and second floors for use as a cataloguing room.

The board refused permission to Evangelist L. K. Peacock to speak in the high school.  Billy Sunday, nationally known evangelist, wrote a letter of protest to Mr. Barnhart.  The latter replied that he would oppose Mr. Sunday's "somersaults" in a school, that such actions were not religious in nature.  Sunday answered that only unbelievers would oppose evangelism.

The Ministerial Alliance wanted a plan set up for a church school which could be held in the buildings before or after classes.  Trained teachers would be hired at public school pay.  School authorities in 1921 were not quite ready to commit themselves on the establishment of church schools.

In May, Mr. Pearson talked to the board of the advantages of visual education and said it definitely would be included in teaching methods.  He was not quite ready to recommend it yet as it seemed too time-consuming.  When he attended the movies, he added, he could scarcely find a seat.  Children seemed to be acquiring their visual education there.  The National Council on Visual Education appointed the superintendent to the advisory board the following July.

Usual small matters came before the board or concerned the schools.  Librarians blamed the motor car's popularity for lack of reading by the public.  The junior high classified its students by scientific tests and sent the brighter students through in two years instead of three.  Domester science classes there instructed the girls in the best ways of doing the family wash.  Mr. Pearson asked high school teachers to be less formal in class and to call students by their first names.

School closed on November 1 for the American Legion parade in Missouri, part of the national convention there.  World War I heroes, led by Colonel Ruby D. Garrett, paid a surprise visit to the high school on October 31.  The first death from smallpox in three years occurred in the fall and health authorities feared an epidemic.  Stowe and Douglass won the music memory contest in December.  Too many Armourdale children quit school after the sixth grade and efforts were made to give them increased early training.

Caves, movies, home folks, and "dew" feet (bare feet) were listed as causes of truancy among the boys.  The women's clubs went on record as being opposed to movies in which women were seen smoking.  At Christmas time the schools celebrated in a traditional manner, for the first time in three years, owing to the war, influenza, and coal shortage in previous years.  Schools planned in December for a big May pageant at the athletic field.

G. C. Brink, Argentine typing instructor, offered all expenses paid to anyone outside the city who won a first place at the contest held at the high school.  He was at no expense, for all awards went to his classes.  Leopold Shopmaker brought honors to the Kansas City High School with state prizes in music.  A former Rosedale student, John Leroy Marshall, designed the Rosedale Arch as a memorial to service man from the district.  He was a graduate of Kansas University and had studied architecture in France.

The NEA sent Miss Sally Hill to boost the NEA and the Des Moines convention.  As Kansas City had 100% membership, her services here were not needed.  The convention in July resolved that all teachers must be American citizens and must take an oath of allegiance.  Charles Williams, NEA President, in August asked Superintendent Pearson for ideas for the 1922 convention.  Grace Sisson, a visitor from Syracuse, studied the local system and declared it to be more progressive than those in the East.

The old bell from Carnival Park, now the high school athletic field, was found in July in a bargain lumber yard at Tenth and State.  Someone discovered that a farm near Lawrence owned by Jess Willard had once been owned by "Laurie" of Little Women fame.  A cherry desk, used by Mr. Pearson for five years at the old Wood School, was taken to the shop for refinishing and restored to him in 921.  As principal, he was the only person at the school to have a desk; teachers were lucky to own a table.  After the desk survived the 1903 flood, school children named it "Old Faithful."

The year ended in turmoil and near disaster for board members.  On October 16, a Kansan reporter wrote that the board paid over $5,000 to A. I. Roosa, owner of the Kansas Printing Company, for a job worth about $3,000.  A few days later the Kansan reported that bonds were printed at a price well over $3,000 when other printers would have charged only a few hundred dollars.  David Friedman, board member, was said to have approved the charges.

County officials threatened a probe, and the board demanded $2,500 back from Roosa.  Grant Landrey and A. J Stanley said the price had seemed high, but they supposed the Franklin Printing Book had set the price.  They had no inkling of an overcharge.  When J. P. Fox, the board's attorney, asked Roosa for a refund, he said he would think about it.  A. J. Stanley asked for an investigation and said that purchases of over $150 should be by bid  Roosa said he would appear before the board.

The Kansan brought up another matter on October 25.  A Topping Survey of school property was $6,000 above normal cost, it alleged.  Roosa, after demanding a hearing, failed to show up and said he would wait until the "proper time."  When he appeared, he had a lawyer with him and a stenographer, and asked what the board wanted with him.  He demanded a charge in writing.  Roosa was the Kansas City, Kansas representative of Topping.  He wanted the board to sue.

Stanley and Barnhart, who had opposed the survey, wanted the Chamber of Commerce to investigate board affairs.  This Friedman opposed, saying the board had an auditor, and that the Chamber would not be fair.  E. A. Enright and L. S. Harvey called on Attorney General Richard Hopkins and his assistant, C. B. Griffith, to help them.

Attorney Fox said he must have specific charges against Roosa before he could file suit.  W. E. Barnhart replied that the board had demanded, not requested.  Later he saw the necessity for being more exact, but he felt that the school board was a smoke screen for the city hall.  The city hall announced that it welcomed an investigation.  Frank Grimes and R. B. Smith, board members, assured he Carpenters' Union that they had nothing to do with an irregularities of the board.

Fox delayed the Roosa suit, saying that only a letter, not a contract, could be found for the printing job.  Roosa engaged Redmond Brennan, attorney for a packing house union, to represent him.  On November 20, the Kansan announced that Mr. Friedman had approved thirty-one orders from the J. H. Tschudy Hardwood Lumber Company without bid or competition.  Materials were price, it was asserted, over the current market prices.  Houses purchased at Irving, Douglass, and the athletic field were sold and insufficient records kept of the transactions.  W. A. Seymour and John Woulf could find no record concerning the house on the athletic field, they said.

The Central Labor Union wondered if Mr. Pearson opposed unions when no children were in the parade on November 11, Armistice Day.  He replied that the union's demand for a full holiday had scattered the children too much for teachers to assemble them for a parade.

The Kansan made fresh accusations.  Quantities of school cleaning articles had been purchased in excess of needs from the Opie Brush Company.  Attorney General Hopkins appointed C. W. Trickett, who had smashed a liquor ring, to represent the state in the probe.  Roosa was arrested and made bond on November 27.  A school bond sale, set for December 5, was stopped by Trickett.

On December 5, before an ouster could be filed, the board resigned.  It was announced that the Chamber of Commerce would be consulted before a new board was appointed by the governor and the attorney general.  W. E. Barnhart and A. J. Stanley resigned first, saying they were tired of constant harassment and count not go on.

The meeting on December 5 surprised Harvey Enright and the Chamber of Commerce.  As a resignation of each member was announced, the remainder of the board elected a successor.  They were as follows:

W. E. Barnhart - William Blodgett
Frank Graves - C. W. Green
David Friedman - Lee Judy
R. B. Smith - Harriet Kirby
A. J. Stanley - J. L. Beggs
Grant S. Landrey - R. B. Grimes

Dr. Grimes refused election, saying that a former mayor, a commissioner and other politicians had no place on the board.  W. R. Honnell was elected in his place.

George A. Widder was appointed to W. A. Seymour's place as clerk, and Lawrence E. Browne succeeded John A. Woulf.  After Attorney J. P. Fox resigned, J. O. Emerson was elected.  Purchasing Agent Biscomb was let go.  C. W. Green was elected president and J. L. Beggs, vice-president of the new board.

Protests over the manner of election arose.  A mass meeting was held at the Chamber of Commerce.  C. W. Trickett denied having anything to do with the naming of the members of he new board and said it was the only legal way to do it.  He blamed the attorney general who, he said, had four members in mind before the election.

December 19, R. B. Smith of the old board was arrested and accused of receiving $500 for the Whittier purchase.  When Roosa was ordered to appear in court on December 30, his lawyer said he was ill, and also that Judge W. E. Carson would not give him a fair trial.  He made bond for $500.

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