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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  25 - The Public Schools of Eau Claire


by W. H. Schulz


1890 to 1896

(-As transcribed from pages 407 - 410)

The remainder of the educational history of the public schools of the city of Eau Claire will be grouped under the administration of the different city superintendents.  Since each one of these administrators aimed to carry out a policy and system of administration, this history will be better understood if presented in that way.  Little endeavor will be made to relate anything more than the events as they occurred and the facts as they are found.  During January, 1890, the question of teachers' salaries became a burning question.  Some of the salaries of the teachers were raised for the remainder of the year.  Some advances were allowed to some of the teachers for the rest of that school year.  It seems that the matter of school attendance required regulation.  Therefore the board passed the following resolution:
"Resolved, By the Board of Education of the School District of Eau Claire, that Rockwell Best, E. O. Waterbury, Edward Carroll, James Glynn, John Farrell and Stephen Skinner are hereby appointed as officers provided for in section 8 of chapter 519 of the laws of 1889, and such officers are hereby directed to take any truant child found on the streets, alleys or other public places during school hours to such school conveniently located to the home of such child as may be designated and requested by such parents, provided that such school is not prohibited by any rule or order of the board."
During the early period of this administration many rules and regulations of various kinds seem to have been adopted.  Teachers were required to report tardiness to principals.  Teachers were required to take a record of the temperature of their rooms four times a day.  Committees of the Board of Education making reports were required to return petitions, resolutions, accounts or other papers containing the subject matter referred to them to the secretary of the Board of Education.  During this year the board passed a resolution requesting the common council to call a special election of the voters of the city of Eau Claire to vote upon the question of issuing bonds to the sum of $40,000 for the purpose of constructing a central high school.  The question of increasing teachers' wages seems to have been discussed a great deal during the remainder of the school year.  Commissioner Ellis introduced a resolution revising the present curriculum of the several schools of the city.  This resolution was adopted and it was later carried out by the city superintendent of schools.  The course of study which had been in use up to this time was almost verbatim the same as that used in the city of Milwaukee.  This course of study had been prepared by W. E. Anderson, superintendent of schools of Milwaukee.  While there were many good features about this course, it did not fit the city of Eau Claire as well as it should, and therefore a revision of this course was ordered.  The course of study adopted for the high school was the same as that recommended by the state superintendent of public instruction. At the meeting of June 21 Prof. J. K. McGregor was elected city superintendent of schools and Prof. M. S. Frawley was elected principal of the Central High school. The high school principal was given four assistants to do teaching work in the high school. Mr. Swearigen was elected as the head of the manual training department.

In September of this year the special committee on school curriculum made its report. The committee on high schools in writing recommended its adoption as reported by Superintendent McGregor and Professors Frawley and Swearigen.  The course was ordered printed and went into operation at this time.  It was during this year that upon petition of the W. C. T. U. first action was taken in introducing temperance instruction books into the schools.  During a meeting on October 27 a petition signed by the pupils of the high school asking for one session per day was received by the Board of Education.  Action on this petition was postponed until the wishes of their parents could be ascertained.  During the meeting on October 28 the question was brought up again and the school day was fixed to begin at 8:30 a.m. and to close at 1:30 p.m. until this order should be rescinded by the Board of Education.  This was the first adoption of the one session plan for the high school.  During the May meeting of 1891 proposed rules and regulations for the promotion of pupils in the grades and in the high school were presented by Superintendent McGregor.  These rules provided for exemption from examination in case a pupil had an examination record of ninety per cent or over in the branches pursued.  The promotion standing of eighty per cent for the high school was then adopted.  During the meeting of July 9 a special committee appointed by the Board of Education to prepare the necessary papers for making a loan of $40,000 from the trust fund of the state for the erection of the Central High school was presented and adopted unanimously.  In addition to this the board at a subsequent meeting made a loan of an additional $20,000, to be used in part for building and furnishing the new high school.  During the meeting of September 22 the Board of Education accepted the bid of Edward Siscron for building the high school. This was a very important act, because it resulted in the final establishment of the Central High school for the city of Eau Claire, which was destined to grow into one of the largest schools of its kind in the state of Wisconsin.  Action was then taken to abolish the one session plan in the high school and to return again to the two session plan.  This plan did, however, not prove entirely satisfactory.  The supporters of the one session plan kept on urging a return to that plan.  A great deal of time was devoted to the discussion of this subject at many of the meetings of the Board of Education.  The new high school building was completed during 1892.  It was open for school purposes after promotion during 1893.  The building was well furnished with the appliances of the times, and in every respect this building was regarded as one of the best buildings of the kind in the state at that time.  It was during 1893 that a new provision of the laws of the state of Wisconsin, requiring that the entrance doors on school buildings should swing outward, was put into operation.

The course of study in vogue during this time was rather general in its nature.  For instance, in the first grade there were only a few statements made as to what was to be done in reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, drawing, oral lessons and object teaching and physical exercises, followed in each case by a few sentences on the matter of methods.  Some of the instructions were very good, for instance under physical exercises, recreation and health we find the following statement:  The prime object of these exercises is health.  Discipline is secondary.  Cheerfulness and merriment may be allowed and encouraged as far as compatible with the real purpose of the exercises.  Teach the children plays, and so far as practicable attend the exercises during recess.  Study the best means of ventilating the room.  The work of arithmetic was always much more fully outlined than that in other subjects.  The work in drawing was exceedingly formal and did not mean much more than copying.  This was the day of object teaching.  Object lessons were a regular feature of the weekly program.  Much of this work was excellent, though much of it was too formal to be really interesting, and for that reason in the course of time it lost its value in effectiveness.  There were two courses in the high school.  One the English-German course and the other the English-Latin course.  Both of these were four-year courses. It might be said that the first year's work in the high school, with the exception of bookkeeping and Latin, was grammar grade work.  By this it is not meant that this work was unprofitable, but just simply to indicate the aim of the course of study for that time.  Algebra was a second year study and there are many good authorities at the present time who think it is better to begin the work in this subject during that year.  Physical geography was a third year study and botany a fourth year study.  The subjects of physics was only a half course where now in most schools it is a one year course and in some schools a two year course. 

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