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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

1896 to 1904

(-As transcribed from pages 410 - 415)

During the June meeting of 1896 Otis C. Gross was elected city superintendent of schools.  Prof. M. S. Frawley continued to be principal of the high school during his administration.  It is very interesting to note the development which took place during Mr. Gross's administration.  The school census did not change very much.  It was some over 6,000 during all this time.  The enrollment, however, increased from 4,000 to about 4,300.  At that time a large number of pupils who are now attending parochial schools were attending the public schools.  The number of teachers increased from about eighty to about 100.  The total operating expenses increased from about $50,000 to $70,000.  The school enrollment increased more rapidly than the school census, and the average daily attendance a little more rapidly than the enrollment, showing that a somewhat larger percentage of children attended school than at an earlier date.  During the first year of this administration the school census was 5,903 pupils of school age. The enrollment was 3,870.  The average daily attendance was 2,828.  The number of school rooms sixty-eight, number of pupils per room fifty-seven.  Number of grade teachers seventy, special teachers two, salaries of teachers $30,454, and the per capita cost for teaching $7.86.  Several items are especially noteworthy:  the great difference between the average daily attendance and the enrollment, the large number of pupils per room and the low cost of instruction.  In the high school during the same year there were nine teachers, 277 pupils enrolled; average daily attendance 229, number taking English forty-six, number studying German thirty-nine, number taking Latin eighty-two, number of graduates forty-five and the per capita cost of instruction $23.62.  From 1890 to 1900 the average attendance in the high school has much more than doubled.  The increase in the number of teachers did not seem to keep pace with the increase in the number of pupils, and consequently there was a decrease in the per capita cost of instruction from over $25 down to less than $20.  Superintendent Gross in his report of 1903 has the following interesting statements about summer school, physical culture and hand work:

"During the past five years we have had four summer schools conducted for the benefit of the city teachers.  Each has been held in the latter part of August just before the opening of the city schools in September, and has been of two weeks' duration.  These schools have been supported mainly by contributions from the teachers and appropriations from the Board of Education.  Most of the teachers subscribe an amount equal to one day's salary.  The board has appropriated each time $100.  This has usually placed at the disposal of the superintendent an amount somewhat more than $300 for the expenses of the school

"Instructors have been secured who were specialists in their lines of work, and who have represented the best and most modern ideas.  In this way our teachers have been in almost yearly contact with, and under the instruction of, specialists who have come from the centers of educational thought and influence.  This has been one of the most powerful factors tending to improve our schools and to put them into the quite generally progressive and satisfactory condition which characterizes them at present.

"The greatest change which has been effected is a change in the spirit of the schools in the attitude of co-operation between teachers and pupils.  There is more working together with the teacher as leader and adviser, and less separation into disciplinarian and disciplined.  The great disciple of this changed attitude in the schools was the late Col. Francis Parker, who was president of the Cook County Normal for so many years, and who so influenced the teachers who went out from that school that they became workers with, and leaders of, the children.  At each of our summer schools we have had a teacher from the Cook County (now the Chicago) Normal school, and the influence of Colonel Parker has grown among us.  The result is that school life is becoming much more pleasant.  The children are happier, more responsive, more ready to learn, and more open to the helpful and educational influences of school life.

"Neither the teachers nor the Board of Education can afford to be without the instructive, helpful and inspiring effect of these summer schools.  They must be conducted, of course, by the very best instructors obtainable.  Their influence will be awakening, progressive, vivifying and altogether wholesome.

"Three years ago the Board of Education appropriated $100 for purchasing the raw material to be used in constructing physical culture apparatus for use in the school buildings.  The apparatus was made in the manual training rooms and put up in the most accessible places near the pupils, usually in the school halls, sometimes in the school rooms.

"In the primary rooms the teachers were encouraged to allow the pupils to use the apparatus at any time when the regular work seemed to drag or when the children's attention had been kept for a considerable time upon some one thing, or when they became restless and needed some escape for their pent-up activities.

"The amount of such apparatus has been increased from year to year.  At present we have climbing ladders in all of the school buildings, and horizontal bars, parallel bars, punching bags, brownie slides, etc., in many of them.  About a year ago it was decided to put some apparatus on the school grounds as a standing invitation to all pupils who were not busy in school games during the intermissions.  Horizontal bars, parallel bars and large swings have been placed on the play grounds, and we have sets of basketball poles ready to be placed in position this fall.  We are planning to put up giant strides also early in the coming year.

"The constant use of this apparatus in and about the school buildings is having a very marked effect on the school life.  Teachers say that the discipline is becoming easier every year; that the boys who are overflowing with activity are not so troublesome; that the children in general are much happier and more contented.  We believe that there are also very important effects in the line of stronger and more active bodies, better general health, and more normal and teachable minds.  The physical culture apparatus deserves a recognized place as a part of the standard school equipment and should be kept in repair and added to, and when worn out should be replaced just as the school desks are replaced.

"During the past year an attempt has been made to extend the manual training work into the lower grades.  Several lines of hand work were taken up with the teachers at the summer school, and the teachers were encouraged to undertake such work with the pupils.  The Board of Education furnished the necessary material.  Though the work has been entirely voluntary on the part of the teachers, nearly all have attempted something and the results have been very encouraging.  Some of the work has been excellent.  The children like it.  It teaches them to use their hands.  It gives a more practical aspect to all the other school work.  It dignifies labor and aids in impressing the greatest lesson of life, which is that true living consists in true service.

"We would therefore recommend that such work become a regular part of the school course of study, and that for the present the following outline be followed:
"First year - Kindergarten occupations, paper cutting and folding, making of toy furniture, etc.
"Second year - Weaving, raffia braiding, etc.
"Third and Fourth years - Weaving of designs, patterns, garments, etc., making of raffia baskets.
"Fourth and fifth years - Rattan basket weaving, sewing, etc.
"Fifth and sixth years - Rattan work, jack knife work, sewing, etc.
"(The manual work for the seventh and eight grades is already embodied in our course of study for the manual training and cooking departments.)
"It will be seen that the enrollment and average attendance in the high school has more than doubled in the past nine years.  At present the high school is overcrowded.  The assembly room was intended to accommodate 250 pupils, and we have had in the neighborhood of 400 attending during the past year.  The overcrowding has become serious and something will need to be done.  We shall not know what to do with the numbers that will be promoted from the grades next year.  If the board should think of enlarging the present building or of erecting an overflow building or annex it would be well to speak of several different needs which we have felt in the present building and which could be provided for in a new part or annex.

"Among these needs are the following:  A second or overflow assembly room; additional rooms, such as a forge room, a machine shop and a second mechanical drawing room for the manual training department; a set of two or three rooms such as could be provided in the present gymnasium and cooking room for a commercial department; a chemical laboratory; an opportunity to change the cooking room to a lower floor and thus prevent so much climbing of stairs by the seventh and eight grade girls; an opportunity to change the gymnasium to the basement in order to avoid the noise incident to having a gymnasium in one of the upper rooms; closets on the assembly room floor in order to avoid so much stair climbing by the high school girls; an opportunity to change the botany laboratory to a south room on account of needing sunlight for many of the experiments and better light for the microscope work, and an opportunity to change the history and literature class rooms to rooms  provided with reading tables and book shelves or adjacent reference reading rooms for the reading and reference work in connection with those departments.

"If the provisions for room in a new assembly room and in the number of recitation rooms should be sufficiently generous it would provide for future growth and the development of additional departments, such as:  A commercial department, a department for sewing and the domestic arts, a department of music and a department of free hand drawing and art work to be connected with the high school.

"After the high school has reached its present size the addition of a few new departments if properly managed need not increase the cost per pupil of maintaining the high school for the reason that the cost of instructing twenty-five pupils in bookkeeping or forge work or domestic science need not be more expensive than instructing twenty-five in algebra or history or Latin.  During the last semester we have had no less than seven  different algebra classes to accommodate the number taking that subject.  This probably means some 150 pupils taking algebra.  It is safe to say that in this number twenty-five or more would prefer a commercial course to the one they are taking, and it makes no difference to the taxpayer whether the board hire an algebra teacher or a commercial course teacher, providing he be secured for an equal salary.

"The present courses in the high school are better fitted to prepare pupils to enter the professions than for the commercial and industrial occupations.  The attendance on the high school has become so great that only a small percentage of the pupils can expect to enter the professions.  If our schools would be of the greatest value to the greatest number it is necessary to enlarge the scope of the work in the high school and to provide for the needs of the large class of pupils who do not enter the professions, and we would recommend the gradual introduction and enlargement of departments as indicated in the above report."

During Mr. Gross's administration the domestic science department was added to the high school curriculum.  The manual training department was extended and the introduction of special teachers and supervisors were recommended, but this recommendation was not adopted.  The high school courses now consisted of a general science course, the Latin course and a manual training course.  The study of German was both in the general science and Latin courses.

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