School and community an old tradition
Written and Researched by Ruth Ann Montgomery
Evansville’s community-school cooperation and interaction has been the focus of study and discussion
over the past few months. The importance of this relationship has been demonstrated in the Evansville
community from the beginning of the area’s settlement in 1839.
According to Alice E. Smith’s “The History of Wisconsin From Exploration to Statehood”, this was typical
of the Wisconsin’s early settlers. Many of Wisconsin’s pioneers believed that public education would
help each person lead a fuller life.
The first arrivals in the Evansville area were third and fourth generation Yankees who had been
educated in public schools and knew the benefits of a formal education. These Yankee settlers dreamt
of filling their new land with the same institutions that were found in the east, the schools, churches,
singing schools, missionary societies and governing bodies. The new settlers actively participated in the
organization and governing of the newly formed civic and religious groups.
Parents wanted their children to attain positions of status in business, church and government, and they
believed that education was the key to success. Pioneers, by necessity, were also thrifty and it was
common in new settlements to build a schoolhouse that would serve many purposes.
The first settlers came to what is today known as Union Township in the summer of 1839 and the first to
arrive were men. The land seekers were primarily from New England, New York, and Ohio who had
pioneered in the area of La Porte, Indiana and northern Illinois. When the land and taxes in these areas
became too expensive for their tastes, they moved into the Wisconsin Territory.
Before they brought their families into the newly opened territory, the men wanted to make sure they
could make a living on the land. Once the decision was made and the land was theirs, the new settlers
spread the news that northwestern Rock County, with its rich prairie, ample water supply and small
forests of oak for building, was indeed a good place to call home.
By 1840, there were 14 families living in the area and 21 children of school age. The people who
headed Evansville’s pioneer families were described “men of enterprise, intelligence and morality”.
As though to demonstrate the importance of education, the settlers, after building their own simple log
cabins, decided to build a school. The school was so fundamental to their hopes for a new community
that the first settlers built a log schoolhouse, before there were churches, a village hall, or any
The first school in northwestern Rock County was built on the Higday property 2 miles northwest of
Evansville in 1840. Two years later, Evansville’s first log schoolhouse was built just north of the
intersection of Main and Madison Streets, near what is today Pete’s Inn.
The construction of the school was in itself a community event. One the day Evansville’s first school was
to be built, men arrived with axes, saws, and willing hands. Although, the women are not mentioned in
the early accounts of the school building, no doubt, they arrived with food and beverages to sustain the
men through the long labor of the day. Children would have accompanied their parents and played or
helped with the construction.
Each family was asked to bring timber that was already hewn and “good solid oak shingles” for the roof.
The school was built facing the east. It took two days work to complete the building. The logs were put
in place one day and on the next scheduled workday the shingles were placed on the roof. To furnish
the building, the men cut logs in half and pegs were driven in at angles to make seats for the students.
A heavy wood hinged door was made and a box stove was placed in the center of the building for heat.
The new school was intended for community use. The building served as a town hall, singing school,
writing school, public hall for community events, and a church.
The builders furnished a pulpit and since most of the early settlers were Methodists, they used the
school as a church for five years. The Baptists organized in 1844, the second congregation in the area,
and they also used the log school as a meeting place. At least one account said that the school could
accommodate a crowd of 125 people.
Levi Leonard was hired as the first teacher. Elizabeth Clark, a member of the first class, wrote a paper
in 1908, recalling her the first day. “Our family sent my sister, a child of five, and I who had reached the
mature age of three and one-half years. It was no misplaced confidence that was felt in the teacher,
and Mr. Leonard soon proved himself a capable instructor and a true friend of every boy and girl in the
“When the rap-rap-rap called the school to order and the little ones were told to come to the front, there
were tears and tremblings. When the grave faced teacher asked a little girl if she knew the name of the
first letter of the alphabet he held before her, she looked straight into his eyes and cried out, ‘Oh! Mr.
Leonard, I can see little girls in your eyes!’ An audible smile went round the room. The grave face of
the teacher relaxed, tears ceased to fall and soon every little one had told his name and all he knew of
Mrs. Clark also recalled that the school had sunny windows, a white floor, basswood benches and writing
desks hinged to the wall. According to Elizabeth Clark, the teachers were young men and women,
without much formal training, who “knew nothing of Psychology and Pedagogy as correlated sciences;
had done no practice work in a model class room, under the watchful eye of a ‘critic’ teacher’, but
realized the pressing need there was for some one to teach the little ones and gave them their best.
“All honor to those pioneer teachers. No one can tell how far the circles of influence have reached that
were started in those rude school-rooms by enthusiastic teachers.”
In 1848 there were 74 children between the ages of 4 and 20 in the Evansville school district. There
was a winter and summer session and the school board set aside one third of the school money for the
summer school and two thirds for the winter school.
Each student was to bring one cord of wood, two feet long to the log schoolhouse. Anyone who did not
bring wood was charged seventy-five cents.
By the time the 1850 census was taken, there were five schools in Union township with a total of 161
students. The 1842 log schoolhouse no longer served the educational needs of the community and was
replaced in 1851. The new school was built on the site of today’s Evansville City Hall. A copy of the
contract for the building of the first frame schoolhouse is kept at the Wisconsin State Historical Society
library, among the papers of Dr. John M. Evans.
Evansville’s school board did not have to hire an architect as the State of Wisconsin had established
standards for public school buildings and had ready-made plans for builders to follow.
The contract for Evansville’s second schoolhouse is dated April 1851. The written agreement directs
the Preston brothers, Cyrus and Lorenzo, to “build a school house within the next six months according
to Plan Two as laid down by school law” is signed by Jacob West, clerk of the District and John A.
Griffith, school board treasurer.
The building was to have a good stone foundation, settled in the ground six inches and raised two feet
above the ground. The Prestons were to build a frame building, “all to be of fine lumber”, twenty feet
wide and forty feet long,
The new two-room school was to have a large room, 24 by 20 feet, with six windows. The smaller room
was to be 14 by 20 feet and have four windows. The hall between the rooms was to be 14 by 20 feet.
The state directives for schoolhouses also included specifications for furnishings. According to
Evansville’s contract, Cyrus and Lorenzo Preston were also required to furnish the school with desks
“according to the plan in school law two” and to paint the building outside and in with two coats of paint.
The Prestons were to receive $600 for their work. An additional tax of $45 was raised to pay for stoves,
outhouses and other incidental expenses.
Byron Winston, recalled in his memoirs, his days in the school built by the Prestons. “The desks were
arranged in four rows, two rows on the boys side and the same on the girls side. At recess we all went
out to play. There was a fine grove of trees across the road from the schoolhouse and I remember the
older pupils had a swing hung in a large oak tree.
As with the first log school, this one story, two-room school was also designated for community events as
well as school classrooms. Although information about its use during the eighteen years the building
served as a classroom are scanty.
Public schools also received state aid and the Evansville school district received $413 in 1855 to
support educational activities. The two-room school in Evansville was divided into two sections, “the
higher department” and the “juvenile department”.
The Board hired L. T. Palmer and Miss Henrietta Hume to teach in the school in 1855. Hume taught for
four months and received $25 per month. Miss Hume taught younger children for a term of one week,
or more as the district might ask. Hume received two dollars and seventy-five cents per week.
By 1860, there were ten public schools operating in Union Township. Evansville had one public school
with 2 teachers and 139 pupils. All of the other one-room schools in the township had one teacher.
District enrollment in schools outside Evansville varied from 34 to 80 pupils.
Two other schools also operated in the Evansville area. The Evansville Seminary, a private school
operated by the Methodists and a second public school on what is today North Fourth Street, called
“The Grove School”.
It is rare to find the names of the teachers in these schools. They were generally young women who
had little formal training, with the exception of teachers’ institutes that were held in the spring and fall of
each year. Speakers from the State Normal School, the State Superintendent of Schools and other
prominent educators were invited to lecture at the institutes that were sponsored by the Rock County
Superintendent of Schools.
In 1861, the schoolhouse was used as a recruiting center for volunteers entering the Civil War. A report
in the April 28, 1861, Janesville Gazette told of “short and pithy” speeches given by Major Kelley, Rev.
Mr. Tilton, E. W. Blake, Rev. Mr. Starr and Mr. Gladding” to encourage young men to join the Union
The district designated $500 to enlarge and repair the school buildings in 1863. The school board also
agreed to charge two dollars per term for non-resident students. The 1863 annual school board
minutes also confirm the community use of the building. The board minutes record that the school
should be open for town meetings, religious meetings, singing schools and war meetings.
Articles in the Evansville Citizen also confirm that the community groups had access to the school
facilities. The Baptist congregation reported to their area association in 1867 that they had been
meeting in schoolhouses for worship. They were making plans to build a church of their own.
Evansville’s newspaper, “The Citizen”, gave a rare glimpse of the organization of the public school in its
November 27, 1867 issue. The winter term of the school year had just begun.
“The District School commenced in this village last Monday morning under the instruction of Miss Anna
Jones for the higher department and Miss Erista Osborn, of the Juvenile.” Miss Jones, a more
experienced teacher than Miss Osborn, had already taught at the school for three terms and was “much
respected” by her students.
By the late 1860s, citizens were encouraging the school board to unite the two schools, the Grove
School, and the public school on South Madison Street. The editor of the Evansville Review, Isaac
Hoxie, was a great promoter of the consolidation of the two public schools and in the January 29, 1868
issue of the Evansville Review he wrote:
“A petition has been in circulation, the past week, among the taxable inhabitants of the two school
districts embraced mostly within this village, to present to the Board of Supervisors, asking for a
consolidation of separate interests. The districts as they have been, and now exist, are formed by a line
running nearly midway of the village, and at either end are two rookeries, that in common parlance,
called school houses. It is a shame that the districts have been suffered to remain in this condition so
long as they have, and the move which is being now made to unite them, is entitled to the greatest
consideration. We cannot see how any voter, having the good reputation of the place in view, and the
social and moral advantages attendant thereto, can for a moment question the propriety of such a
move. When the two districts are once united a respectable house can be erected at a point that will
accommodate both districts nearly as well as what either do now, and be an honor and an ornament to
the place, without drawing heavily upon the tax payers either. The idea that such an arrangement will
work an injury to the Seminary is all sophistry.”
The public demand was for a new building that would house a new educational system, the graded
school. In larger cities, schools were divided into at least four grades, with the higher grade, usually
taught by the Principal as a preparation class for those who wanted to go to college. The higher grade
has usually been the domain of the private schools, such as the Evansville Seminary.
In 1868, the local school board decided to build a new school that could adapt to this modern system of
education. Again, the community was involved in making preparations for the new school.
Peter F. Spencer, was said to have donated the three acres of land on South First Street, as the site for
the building. The Evasnville School Board paid Spencer $100, a low price for this prime residential
land. A Mr. Nettleton, an architect from Janesville, was hired to design the school. The plans for the
new building were put on display in the local general store of Winston and Bennett. Contractors were
asked to bid on the project, but apparently, there were not sufficient bids to begin the project by the
required date and in September, 1869, the board extended the time for bids to be received.
Evansville’s school board hired Cooksville’s architect-builder, Benjamin S. Hoxie, to build the six-room
structure. The work began in July 1969 and Hoxie was paid monthly as the construction progressed.
The wood frame structure was covered with white Edgerton brick.
Both of the former schools were sold. The building on North Fourth Street brought $125 and was
remodeled into a residence. The schoolhouse on South Madison Street was sold to the Village of
Evansville for $800. The school also took out a loan from the State of Wisconsin for $10,000 and
another from Second National Bank of Chicago for $1947.33 to cover the cost of the new structure.
A reporter for the Janesville Gazette wrote about the new building soon after it was finished. “If the
citizens of Evansville are proud of their school it is no matter of surprise. It is a frame building, brick clad
and ample in accommodations. It contains six large and well furnished school rooms, with ante rooms
and apparel rooms adjacent.”
The school had been built for growth and only four of the six classrooms were needed when the building
was first occupied in 1869. The teaching staff was increased and to three teachers and a principal. Mr.
S. S. Gard, the principal, served as both an administrator and a teacher for the higher grades.
The new graded school built in 1869 made no provisions for community use. Only student desks and
furniture for the teacher were provided, there was no special seating for school or community event.
The school had been built without an auditorium, recreational facilities, or special meeting rooms.
Instead, the community provided the space for large gatherings. With the exception of the annual
school board meeting, the school’s special events were held in churches and public halls.
The school board met once a year in July, unless petitioned for special meetings. The annual meeting
was held in the school and those attending sat in the student desks. Most annual meetings consisted of
financial reports from the Board’s treasurer and a report from the principal.
At the first annual meeting of the graded school board of District No. 6 of the town of Union, the board
presented a financial statement covering the term from July 1869 to July 22, 1870. The reported
included bills for building the school and paying teacher’s salaries, and maintenance, and a statement of
receipts. The treasurer reported total expenses of $19,544.91, including the construction of the school.
The expenses for the following year were to be much less. Those present approved a budget of
$1,425 that included $1,200 for teacher’s salaries, $225 for the janitor, wood, and the school board
clerk’s salary. There were also provisions for repayment of the loans for building the school.
The school was divided into four grade levels, the Grammar Department, First Intermediate Department,
The Second Intermediate Department, and the Primary. Each year, the school board hired the principal
and at least three teachers. The principal taught the Grammar Department, or those headed to college
and the rest of the faculty taught the other students. For the information of parents, children, and the
general public, the slate of educators was published in the local newspaper. Evansville was fortunate to
find teachers who were generally well prepared for their teaching assignments.
The school board always chose a man to serve as the principal. He was usually someone with previous
experience in teaching and administration. In the early years, the principals stayed for one school year.
Gard left in the spring of 1870 and was replaced by Mrs. Green. H. B. Coe replaced Green in 1871.
A. L. Burnham became principal in the fall of 1872 and stayed at that post for five years. The board
generally selected women to serve as the rest of the faculty.
School boards were instructed by the state and the Rock County Superintendent of Schools to take
great care in the selection of teachers. The board was told to hire teachers from a list of those who had
successfully passed an oral and written examination that tested their ability to teach and to discipline.
The Rock County Superintendent of Schools administered the test and issued certificates of completion
to the successful candidates. The teachers were given examinations in mathematics, geography,
spelling, and history. School board members and the public were invited to attend the examinations so
that they could select the best teachers for their schools.
Each fall a two-day examination period was held. The Rock County Superintendent usually scheduled
exams to be held in villages and cities throughout the county to make it convenient for potential teachers
and school board members.
In addition to the yearly examinations, the teachers were also to attend a teachers’ institute. These
were organized by the county superintendent of schools and featured prominent educators from the
University of Wisconsin and the normal school at Whitewater.
Several of the institutes were held in Evansville, some at the school and some at the Methodist Church.
Residents were asked to open their homes to those coming from a distance, as the teachers had to stay
for several days and most could not afford hotel accommodations. Notices were placed in the local
paper asking for volunteers: “all persons who are willing to entertain teachers during the session will
state how many they can provide for and at what rates.”
Sessions included “Economy of Time in Schools”, “Blackboard exercises, singing, and writing on a given
topic”. Topics of teacher’s welfare also were addressed at the institutes. At one institute held in
Evansville in the spring of 1870, there was much discussion about the inequity of pay between women
and men in the teaching profession. The teachers attending the institute proposed a resolution: “ That
Lady Teachers in general do exercise as good a faculty in the government of schools as Gentlemen
Teachers and should receive as high wages.” The resolution was endorsed by the Rock County
Superintendent of Schools, John W. West, and an Evansville school teacher, Orrisa Taggart.
The school building was remodeled in the summer of 1874. A partition in the south room was removed
to make a large hall that could accommodate 100 students. It also gave Mr. Burnham, the school
principal, a better view of the classrooms. The Evansville Review, August 26, 1874, said, “By this
improvement the Principal is enable to have a more direct supervision of a much larger number of pupils.
Late summer preparation for classes included re-slating the black board and having the stoves and
pipes “blacked.” In late summer 1874, a 400 pound bell, made by the Jones company was put in the
tower of the school.
Very few of the graded school students pursued a college education. In the 1860s, students who
intended to go on to school attended the Evansville Seminary, a private school that was a college
preparatory institution. When this private school went out of business in the 1870s, there was an effort
to make the Evansville Graded School meet the requirements for high school graduation.
Many people considered a high school education a luxury. There was great debate about whether
taxpayers should furnish students with the courses required for a high school diploma. By 1875, the
University of Wisconsin required that graded school graduates have courses in physiology, natural
philosophy, botany and German. The Evansville Graded School offered none of these courses.
In the spring of 1876, A. L. Burnham resigned as principal of the school and Prof. A. R. Sprague was
hired to replace him. Just as the fall 1876 the school term was underway, 35 petitioners asked for a
special school board meeting and recommended that the board reorganize the grammar school into a
high school. The board agreed to take on the additional courses required and the first class of the
Evansville High School was scheduled to graduate in 1879.
County Superintendent J. W. West, also visited the school during the fall term of 1876 and praised the
new administrator, Prof. Sprague and his faculty. “Prof. Sprague’s teaching deserves the highest
commendation. He has succeeded in completely eradicating whispering. One of the principal features
of the school is a thoroughness of work. This is the aim and design of the teachers of all departments.
Evansville may well feel proud of her fine school building, her corps of excellent teachers and her
facilities for educating the children and youth of her place.”
Superintendent West did request that the school purchase more equipment to support the curriculum.
When Burnham left his post in the spring of 1876, he told the board that the only equipment at the
school as a gyroscope and an outline map of Wisconsin.
The school did not have a library and did not supply textbooks to students. A local bookstore sold texts
and occasionally provided a rental library.
In 1878, the State Superintendent of Schools was Edward Searing. (Searing was at one time a teacher
at a “select school” in the village of Union and at Milton College. He still holds a place of honor in the
local public library. A sculpture of Searing’s head is on a shelf in the northeast corner of the library. )
Searing ordered public schools to establish a library and open it to the public as well. When Evansville
followed the order that very same year, it was the beginning of a long-term school and community
The school board appropriated $100 for the establishment and maintenance of the library and
appointed local bookstore owner, James R. West as the librarian. The library was open to students and
the public on Tuesday and Friday evenings. The library had been furnished with 106 books, and the
catalog was printed as list in the local newspaper. The listed included Ivanhoe, The Little Lame Prince,
English Literature, Coleridge’s Poetical Works, Plutarch’s Lives, and a five volume set on the Life of
Students and the public were allowed to checkout just one book at a time and the book could be kept for
two weeks. Fines were levied for overdue books and for books that were damaged.
For forty years, this school-public library was maintained until Evansville built its first public library in
1908. Several times the books were moved out of the school, generally for the convenience of the
board-appointed librarian. Sometimes the books were kept in stores, at other times, the YMCA rooms,
or once, in rented rooms in the Episcopal rectory. The cost of maintaining the library was borne by the
school board until 1898, when the City of Evansville also contributed to its support. Students sometimes
held ice cream socials, musical and dramatic performances, gymnastics, and other fund raising events
to help purchase books for the library.
There seemed to be constant progress with the public school in the 1870s. Under A. R. Sprague’s
administration, the curriculum was improved to allow students to graduate for the first time in 1879.
Since there was no auditorium in the public school, the graduation ceremonies were held in the
Methodist Church. According to the Evansville Review report of the event, “every nook and corner” was
filled with an “expectant, smiling audience.” Many were family members and friends of the graduates,
but there were also community members who wanted to honor the young people for their achievement.
The graduates were John M. Clifford, Cora H. Hunt, Wayland Axtell, Fannie Porter, Conrad M.
Conradson, Frank W. Holt, Leander Hoskins, and Herbert D. Mills. Each had to give an oration.
Leander Hoskins, who later graduated from the University of Wisconsin and taught applied mathematics
at Stanford University, spoke on “The Educational Value of Science.” Others chose topics about
famous people or such topics as liberty and “Opportunities Make the Man.”
The community was proud of its young men and women who were receiving the diplomas and headed
out into the world. Many considered the graduation ceremony and the community’s participation in the
program as a means to set a good example to younger students. “They see the parade, hear the
applause, and a longing takes possession for the day to come when they shall be the center of
attraction in a similar scene,” said one observer who attended the ceremony.
The same year that the first graduates left the Evansville High School, Prof. A. R. Sprague also
resigned. He was replaced in the fall of 1879 with Prof. C. M. Merriman. There were 71 students
registered in the high school, 72 in the Grammar Department, 72 in the Intermediate Department and
102 in the Primary department.
The school had been so successful that there were more students coming into the classes. It became
necessary to increase the faculty to five people and an assistant was hired to help Merriman with the
older students. In July 1879, the board announced that L. H. Bushnell was Merriman’s Assistant. Miss
Mary McCoy taught the Grammar Department; Miss Mamie Howe, the intermediate students; and Miss
Fannie Cook, the primary grade.
Merriman’s administration was once again examined by the County Superintendent of Schools, John W.
West and was found to be an excellent principal. The other teachers were also observed in their
classrooms by Superintendent West and praised for their work. Merriman made sure that the report was
published in the Evansville Review so that the community could be assured that the school was in good
Superintendent West also recommended that parents and other members of the community visit the
school and reinforce the good work the teachers and principal were performing. “Visit your teachers,
giving them words of encouragement; cooperate and sympathize with them; inquire after the welfare of
your children; sustain the teacher in all that is right and reasonable, and required obedience on the part
of your children,” West wrote in his report.
In 1880, the Evansville High School received a high honor from the University of Wisconsin. The
University had established an accreditation system and Evansville was accredited in two areas, the
sciences and modern classical. The local high school was one of four high schools in the state to be
accredited in two areas. The others were Milwaukee, Madison and Beloit.
The accreditation meant that Evansville High School graduates would no longer have to take a test to
enter the University of Wisconsin in the sciences or modern classical. The local principal felt this was a
great advantage, since most of the last semester of school was spent in preparing students to take the
examinations at the University. “Now the graduating class, freed from the anxiety and fear of this
examination, can direct their whole energies to the term’s work and the exercises of graduation,” Prof.
Merriman declared in announcing the school’s success.
Although the school reported 60 students in the high school, the number of students who graduated
each year ranged from four to twelve, with 1881 having the largest class graduated in the 1880s.
The school reputation for providing a good education attracted students from outside the village and
caused some anxiety amount community members. These students paid tuition to go to Evansville High
School but the rumor spread among the townspeople that “foreign scholars” were causing overcrowding
at the school and taking a seat in the school that should be reserved for local boys and girls.
Professor Merriman issued a statement in September 1880 to reassure local taxpayers that there was
room for any Evansville student who wanted an education. Merriman told his critics that there were 39
desks in the high school room and most of the desks would seat two students. Since there were only 53
students enrolled, there was still space for any scholars that wanted to attend, according to the
Merriman and other principals had used the local newspapers to inform the community about students
who had outstanding achievements. Having their names printed in the local newspaper rewarded those
with good attendance records. Students with high academic standing were also listed. Graduates of the
high school who had achieved success in college were also praised in the Evansville Review.
New state and federal laws sometimes encouraged more community involvement in the schools. In
1885, through the efforts of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the Wisconsin State
Legislature passed a law requiring all schools to instruct students about the “effects of stimulants and
narcotics upon the human system.” Teachers who wanted to qualify to teach the course were required
to pass an exam.
Evansville’s WCTU organization was especially strong and their lobbying efforts were directed at the
Evansville School Board. The WCTU intended to bring the full force of its efforts and persuaded two
hundred and fifty people to attend the annual school board meeting in July 1885. The crowd wanted to
persuade the board to uphold the law and offer instruction about stimulants and narcotics as required
by the new law. Without hesitation, the school board approved the new course of instruction.
Throughout the 1880s, the Evansville community was also growing at a rapid rate. New homes were
being built and more families were moving into the area. By 1883, there were 362 students registered in
the school and only 37 of these were from outside the village limits. There were so many enrolled in the
primary grade in 1883, that some of the students were promoted into the next higher grade. This
growth pattern continued through the decade and caused such overcrowding that the community began
to look at the possibility of building a new school.
A decade of record-breaking residential building and population growth in the 1880s created the need
for new classrooms. The issue of building another schoolhouse was brought before the citizens in the
spring of 1890.
As with any major expenditure of taxpayers’ money, the community offered their opinions about the need
for more school classrooms. To ease the crowded classrooms, many temporary solutions were
attempted. The pros and cons of various solutions were the topic of heated discussions by the citizens
of Evansville from 1890 until a new school was built in 1897.
The graded school, built in 1869, on South First Street was used for all grades, including high school.
As the curriculum changed, the classes were divided into more grade levels than the school had been
built to accommodate.
In March 1890, the school board announced a special meeting to decide if a new schoolhouse should
be built. A community committee was chosen and given the directive to report to the board with a
solution to the overcrowded school.
It was not the most auspicious time to ask taxpayers for more funding for schools. Evansville citizens
had just voted to build a city hall and the prospect of spending money for a school building was
unsettling to some.
The voters at the July 1890 annual meeting of the school district were asked to consider purchasing
land to build a new school. The citizens’ committee of citizens gave a verbal report to the board. The
committee asked the board to build a new elementary school on the eastside of Evansville. The
committee further recommended that the cost of the new school not exceed $1,000.
After the citizen’s proposal was made, there were several taxpayers who challenged the
recommendation. Those opposing the new school argued that a building on the eastside was a waste of
the taxpayer's money. The school would serve only 60 students and the opposition further estimated
that the money allocated would not cover the cost of the land and a building.
Women played an important role in the school board’s decision-making process. In the 1880s,
Wisconsin granted women the right to vote at school board meetings. Although they were not allowed to
vote in any other elections and none held offices on the school board, women attended and voted at
school board elections and meetings.
When the school board met in July 1890, the majority of those in attendance were women and they were
very vocal in expression their ideas about public education. The Evansville Tribune reporter attended
the meeting and published his view of the proceedings in the next week's paper. "After considerable
sparring by those both in favor and against said improvement, a vote was taken and the motion to build
a second school on the eastside with an appropriation for $1000 for that purpose, passed, with 42 for,
and 38 against the motion."
Some of those attending the board meeting wanted an addition made to the existing building and
improvements made to the heating system. Allen S. Baker, school board clerk, read a lengthy proposal
asking that a loan of $7,000 be obtained to build an addition to the south side of the present school and
remove the steam heating system and install coal stoves. The motion was defeated.
There were other matters to consider besides the building of a new school. Should the students be
issued free textbooks? The majority voted against the proposal and students continued to buy their own
Yet another issue was the community library. There was no longer space in the school for the library
and it had been moved to the store of W. T. Hoxie. When Hoxie sold his business to John Blass, the
school board agreed that the books should remain in Blass’ store.
Although the money had been approved for a second school, no land had been purchased and no site
was proposed. However, the board searched for a location and the following April, proposed a piece of
vacant land on Cemetery Street, 14 rods (231 feet) north of the Main Street intersection.
Women were again in the majority at this special board meeting held in April 1891. They voiced the
opinion that the Cemetery Street site was unacceptable. The citizens turned down the purchase of the
land on Cemetery Street by a vote of 74 against and 56 for. A newspaper reporter noted that the
women who cast their ballots were about equally divided on the issue.
By the spring of 1891, there were 355 students enrolled in the five classrooms, First Primary, Second
Primary, Intermediate, Grammar, and High School. The elementary school age children in the two
primary sections had a total of 146 students. There were not enough seats in the Grammar room to
accommodate the 67 students expected to enroll in the fall of 1891.
The problem of crowded conditions did not go away, despite the reluctance of citizens to approve a
building project. At the annual meeting in July 1891, school principal, L. E. Gettle, gave statistics about
the growth of the student population.
Gettle explained that there was crowding in the high school and in the next lower level, the Grammar
“The Grammar room has only 56 seats which must be made to accommodate 67 pupils next year, ” he
told the board. “It is absolutely necessary that more school room should be furnished, if all the children
are to enjoy equal school privileges, as they have an undoubted legal right to do.”
Although the voters would not accept the proposed land purchase and new elementary school, the
money was appropriated for an addition to the First Street school. Gettle’s pleas for more classroom
space were heeded.
At the annual meeting in 1891, the school board voted to make a two-story addition on the south side of
the First Street school. Following the approval of the addition, Board members Allen Baker and Alonzo
C. Gray went to Janesville to look at schools and get ideas for the design of the Evansville project.
After approving plans, the board advertised for bids on the addition in the August issues of the local
newspapers. The bid proposal gave the dimensions of the two-story addition as 34 feet east and west
and 35 feet north and south. There was to be a basement, the same depth as the old building.
Local carpenter-builder, William Libby received the contract with his bid of $2,500 for the entire project.
The local newspaper editors approved the hiring of a local contractor for the project. William Libby was
a man who could be trusted to do a good job on the project. "Mr. Libby goes to work at once," the
Evansville Review announced in its September 15, 1891 issue.
By November 189l, the walls of the addition were built and a tin roof was put on by local hardware
merchant and sheet metal worker, F. A. Baker. The two new classrooms were completed and the board
was able to install the furnishings in April 1892. Miss Mabel Snashall was hired as a new teacher but the
school was still crowded. The addition proved to be only a temporary solution.
Changes were taking place in the operation of the school. With the additional room, came new
separation of classes. By the spring of 1892, the Grammar department had been divided into two
grades,, including the sixth and seventh grades. Eleven students graduated from the school at the
There were 464 pupils in the Evansville school district, according to the census report given to the
school board in July 1892. In addition to the large number of students, school resources were also
strained by the increased need for broadening the curriculum.
There were some who thought the public schools should concentrate on the 3 r's, reading, writing and
arithmetic. The Evansville Review editor chided the critics. “Thoughtless people often criticize the
manner in which the schools are conducted, and thus do great injustice to the teachers and no little
injury to the cause of education.”
To demonstrate their scholastic achievements, teachers and pupils found many creative ways to bring
the classroom before the public. “Entertainments” that included musical and dramatic programs were
presented at the Magee Theater. Some of these programs were fundraisers to earn money to purchase
pianos or other equipment for the school that was not supplied with taxpayer’s money. Others programs
were given by the high school seniors to demonstrate their speaking and writing skills. These programs
were generally well attended by parents and friends of the students.
A high school band was formed in the summer of 1894, under the leadership of Elmer Libby. The band
performed at ice cream socials and other community activities in the summer. Since the leader was an
adult volunteer, the musical program was dependent on Libby’s willingness to keep the program going.
There is no mention of a high school band for several years after the summer of 1894.
The community also enjoyed the new sports programs at the high school. Football and track teams
were organized under L. E. Gettles’ administration. Many of the events were held at the “Driving Park”,
a horse racing track that was later used as the Evansville Fair Grounds and eventually became the site
of the Evansville High School. The games and track events pitted Evansville’s team against opponents
from neighboring cities and villages and brought many spectators from the community, as well as the
In the fall of 1895, there was a change in the school’s administration. E. E. DeCou was hired to replace
L. E. Gettle. Professor Gettle became the State Librarian and moved to Madison. DeCou also faced
the challenges of finding enough classrooms for the enrolled pupils.
DeCou also faced the challenge of finding space for classrooms. By the beginning of the school year in
September 1895, the school board had to rent rooms in a vacant store building in the business district.
The board moved the first primary department of the school into the rented space. Fifty-five students
were enrolled in Mae Johnson's classroom in the old store building in the business district on West Main
Blackboards, desks, and new seats were added to the building owned by Benjamin and Isaac Hoxie.
The walls were papered in light wallpaper. The building also housed the school library. The Enterprise
reported, "The room is not so large as it should be, but will accommodate Miss Johnson's department
quite comfortable until the district may build better hence."
The school principal, E. E. DeCou did not find the rented room arrangement acceptable and when he
gave his annual report at the annual meeting of the school board in 1895, DeCou recommended the
board build a new high school. The board took no action and continued to rent space in vacant store
buildings. Despite the removal of classes from the building, the school was still crowded.
Perhaps frustrated by the lack of cooperation in getting more classrooms, DeCou did not stay long.
When the school year started in 1896, Evansville had a new principal, H. F. Kling. The new school
leader was an educator who believed in the reforms of the day. Kling persuaded the school board to
expand the curriculum and include a wider variety of cultural, physical and mental activities in the
Kling encouraged teachers to take students out of their classrooms and given them field experience
whenever possible. Geography classes were held in stone quarries and at mill races, so that students
could see rock formations and the affects of water and weathering.
H. F. Kling also persuaded the board to hire an art teacher, as a start to adding more depth to the
classes offered at the school. In September 1896, Lelia Dow was hired as the school’s first art teacher.
Miss Dow was a part-time employee and only came to school on Tuesdays. During her scheduled time,
she was expected to instruct students in all of the classrooms and was allowed one-half hour for each
session with a class. Miss Dow taught the Prangs system of drawing to her young students.
Music was also introduced into the curriculum in 1896. The new subject emphasized singing. However,
some of the teachers were inexperienced at teaching music and a new teacher, Cora Morgan, was hired
to teach singing for a few hours each week.
Principal H. F. Kling pressured the board to put even more emphasis on new areas of the curriculum
and recommended that athletics, music and art be supported by a full-time staff member. An orchestra
was started in February 1897.
Kling was convinced that in addition to their academic courses, students needed athletic programs that
were organized, supervised, and supported by adults. He took an active role in the student’s athletic
instruction and coached football, baseball and track. He also helped organize a bicycle club that
included both boys and girls.
The principal also believed that teachers should continue their education. Kling required that the
teachers attend teacher’s institutes and also provided classes at the school. He convinced the Board to
close school so that teachers could attend institutes at Whitewater Normal School. He encouraged his
staff to attend programs to make them better educators.
Kling also took an active part in community activities. He served as a teacher in the Methodist Church
Sunday School and he and his wife often entertained in their home.
In 1896, the school was so crowded that the school board began to look for alternative classrooms.
There were 85 students enrolled in the high school classes and 278 enrolled in grades 1 through 8.
The largest class was the first grade with 55 pupils and the smallest was the senior class with 17 pupils.
"In spite of the fact that the two primary grades have been removed from the High School building, the
rooms are still full," the school officials told the Evansville Review in September 1896.
The basement of the school was remodeled into classrooms. Physics and botany classes were held in
the new rooms where laboratory equipment was set up so the students could do experiments. To
alleviate crowding, Principal Kling, who taught high school physics, divided the class into three sections,
one before school, one after school and one during lunch.
The board continued to rent space in the store on West Main Street owned by Isaac and Benjamin
Hoxie. This situation may have continued for several more years had it not been for a fire that
destroyed many of the buildings on the south side of West Main Street in the fall of 1896. The fire also
consumed the space the school had rented for classrooms.
When the Hoxie building burned to the ground in what Evansville citizen's called the Great Fire, the
school district leased the Episcopal rectory at 20 South First Street. Nearly 100 elementary school
students attended classes in the rectory.
When the lease on the Episcopal Rectory expired, the church did not renew the school's rental
agreement. This forced the school district to once again consider building a new school. There was
limited classroom space and an antiquated heating system churning into the mix of decisions to be made
by Evansville citizens. Then another unexpected emergency brought the project once again into sharp
In January 1897, the pupils were given a week's vacation when the defective boiler quit working and
there was no heat in the building. Then, from January to June, the enrollment increased from 354
students to 406 students. The increased attendance put even more pressure on the school board to
ask the voters for money to build.
Although there were eleven teachers hired, there were not enough to cover all of the classes. Members
of the senior class were put in charge of one classroom for one period of each day, according to the
school report in January 1897.
There was also an increase in the extra curricular activities at the school. Sports programs in
basketball, football, track and baseball were organized under the leadership of the principal H. F. Kling.
There were also debating teams and an orchestra.
The principal, H. F. Kling, undoubtedly with the school boards approval, began a campaign for a new
school through the local newspapers. He listed seven reasons that the community needed a new
school. The first and greatest need was because the present building could hold only 70% of the
Kling noted that renting classrooms was expensive and the vacant store space was not built as
classrooms, so the rented rooms provided poor accommodations. The principal also noted that moving
classrooms into temporary space was disruptive.
In a March 13, 1897 edition of the Evansville Review, Kling presented a solution to the problems. By this
time, the school board had already hired an architect to design a building.
The architectural firm of Chandler and Park from Racine prepared a plan for a two-story building to be
used as a high school. There were three classrooms on the first floor designed for the intermediate
grades and the second floor was devoted to high school classes.
The 1869 building would continue to be used for the primary grades. Kling and the school board felt
this would solve the crowded classroom situation for a number of years.
In March 1897, the school board had called a special meeting of the high school district, which included
the towns of Union, Magnolia and City of Evansville. Citizens were asked to approve a loan of $8,000 to
build a new school.
Kling took every opportunity to speak to groups about the need for a new school. At a high school
banquet organized by the juniors in honor of the senior class in early April 1897, the Board of
Education, teachers and high school students gathered. Kling spoke to the group about the proposal
for the new high school building.
There was as much controversy over the site for the new school as there had been during the 1890
fiasco. Marilla Andrews, editor of the Badger newspaper, favored two small schools, one on the
eastside and one on the west. The smaller schools would house the elementary school students and
the school on South First Street would be used for the intermediate and high school classes. She
offered this as a cheaper solution than building a new high school. However, the high school option on
the land already owned by the school district was the most popular solution.
To get the new building program underway, Clerk of the school district, Perry C. Wilder called a special
meeting for the 22nd day of March 1897 in the City Hall. The purpose of the meeting was to vote on a
loan of $8,000 to build a new school building. The voters approved the board's plans to move ahead
with the building and ask for bids for the construction of the new high school.
Believing that the issue was settled, the school board went ahead with the building plans.
Advertisements were placed in each of the local newspapers asking for bids on the building. The
contractor's bids for the new high school were due to the school board by June 5, 1897.
The board again called a special school meeting in early June 1897 to approve the bids and an
increase to $10,000 in funding, $8,000 for the new building and $2,000 for a heating system.
The meeting was scheduled to be held in the city hall auditorium but the could not accommodate the
crowd of more than 200 people that gathered to vote on the new building. The meeting was moved to
the Magee Theater.
Dr. John M. Evans opened the meeting and the first order of business was to elect a chairman. Frank
Crow was chosen to act as chairman of the meeting. There were several voters who wanted to disrupt
the meeting and a squabble erupted about whether previous meetings were legal and whether the
voters at the March meeting had actually approved a new building.
When order was restored, the board decided to once again consider the questions proposed at the
March meeting. A new vote was taken to determine if a loan should be obtained and a new building
School principal H. F. Kling used his persuasive voice to tell the crowd about the need for the new
school. Kling explained that if a new school was not built, the district would have to rent space and
provide equipment for classes in some other building in the community.
After Kling's talk, school board member Perry C. Wilder presented a resolution authorizing the school
board to borrow money and build a new building. The votes were cast and 120 favored the levy for the
school and 87 voted against the levy. After the first vote a number of people left the meeting.
The remaining voters considered a second question on whether to spend an additional $2,000 for a
heating and ventilating system for the school. This expenditure was approved by a 116 to 46 vote.
The voters also decided that the site for the new school was to be on the southeast corner of the school
grounds near the first school so that no additional property needed to be purchased.
The Bank of Evansville purchased the school bonds and construction began almost immediately, based
on the Chandler and Park drawing. J. G. Chandler was listed as the principal architect. By July 6, less
than a month after the voters approved the expenditure, the stonework for the new school was
A drawing in the June 29, 1897 issue of the Tribune described the building. "It will be a very imposing,
handsome structure, covering a space of ground 63 x 66 feet, with walls about 43 feet high, including
Contracts for the new school were awarded to William Libby and R. R. Hankinson for $8,848. The
contract for the heating system went to a Chicago firm for $1,350. The new heating and ventilating
system was the Smead system.
Other workmen hired for the building project were J. W. Blanchard, carpenter and Isaac Brink, mason,
for the stonework and the brick of the new building. The lumber was purchased from a local lumberyard,
N. C. Foster Lumber Company.
Since the new school was not completed by the time classes began in the fall of 1897, the high school
classes were held in the assembly room and in the firemen's room in the basement floor of the City Hall.
In allowing the school to use the rooms, the City Council required that all equipment, cleaning and
heating of the rooms be charged to the school.
The public-school library was moved to the Adam's block on South Madison Street. Eighty-nine
"carefully selected new books" were added to the collection in November 1897. Mrs. Amelia Wilder was
hired to be the librarian with part of her salary paid by the city and part by the school board.
Although the school was to be completed by November, there were delays in the construction and it was
not ready for occupancy until January. After eight years of controversy, the new school was finally in
The building was dedicated in January 1898 and 500 people attended the ceremony. William Libby,
general contractor for the building, presented the keys to Perry C. Wilder, chairman of the school
The primary grades continued to use the old school building. With older children in the new building,
the school board and administrators believed the 1869 building could accommodate many more
students. The new high school was designed for an expanded curriculum and had space to house the
The first class to graduate from the new school included eighteen students. It was the largest
graduation class in the history of the school. Since the new school did not have space for all of the
graduates’ friends and relatives, the ceremonies continued to be held in the city’s largest community
hall, the Magee Theater.
Though the school building had been the most pressing issue for many years, there were other
controversies at annual school board meetings. A new state law required that the school board and
voters decide on the question of free textbooks at each annual school district meeting. Enterprise and
Tribune newspaper editor, C. A. Libby and others spoke in favor of the expenditure every year when the
expenditure was brought before the board. However, a majority of the voters always turned down the
request to pay for students’ books.
At the annual meeting in 1898, the school board did make a concession and agreed to act as the
booksellers and purchase a set of books for each student. The school board knew some parents would
not be able to pay for the books at the time school began. By advancing the money for the textbooks,
the students would have a complete set of books on the first day of school. This arrangement allowed
all students to begin studies at the same time while giving parents a chance to pay for the books after
In 1899, the number of members serving on the school board was changed from three to seven. The
number was determined by state law and the size of the community served. Some suggested that the
board should consist of one man and one woman from each of the city’s three wards and a chairman,
elected at large from the city. The first seven-member board was chosen in just this way. O. S.
Shepard and Mary Coleman represented the first ward; Perry Wilder, Rev. M. C. Miner, and A. S. Baker,
the second ward; and Mrs. J. W. Morgan and Mrs. Theodore F. Stair, the third ward.
Over the next few years, with the exception of the school textbook question, there was very little
opposition to school district funding requests. The greatest expansion occurred in classroom offerings
and extracurricular activities and the newly organized alumni association supported many of these
One major change was in the management of the school-public library. In the 1899 a new public library
board was appointed by the City Council and management of the library was taken away from the school
board. However the school did continue to support the library financially, along with the city council and
private donations. The new library board agreed to keep the books in the school library, but to work
diligently to build a new structure as soon as possible. The library was advertised as the “Free Public
Two new curriculum areas were added in 1900. At the annual meeting, the citizens voted to add a
kindergarten and girl’s athletic programs. The total budget for school purposes had risen to $8,800 and
the new programs appeared to be costly, nearly five percent of the school district budget. However, the
citizens were willing to pay the bill. Despite their willingest to spend money on the new programs, the
majority of voters at the meeting followed past voting practices and opposed free textbooks.
Psychology, biology, and physics were added to the high school curriculum. When the physics class
studied sound, one of the students brought in the family graphaphone. The machine allowed the
students to perform sound experiments.
At the turn of the century, the Evansville High School also started public speaking and debate
programs. Local students competed against contestants from their own school at a public contest held
at the Magee Theater. The winners went on to regional meets to compete against other area schools.
Regional winners went to Madison for the state declamation contest.
Evansville athletes competed against teams in the Rock County Athletic Association in the early 1900s.
Winners in track events went on to compete in district and state championships. Local football teams
played against Madison, Fort Atkinson, Janesville, Beloit, and other larger schools in the area. The
Evansville High School teams held their own against schools with larger enrollment.
The diversity of classes, recreation, and other extracurricular activities had increased dramatically under
the administration of Professor H. F. Kling. When he accepted an offer from the Chicago Board of
Education in December 1903, many Evansville students and parents regretted the loss. Kling was given
several farewell banquets by athletes and other community members who appreciated his work in
Before leaving for his new post, Kling helped his successor, Prof. Arthur Sholtz, a former principal at the
Stoughton schools, get acquainted with the Evansville school system. Sholtz was familiar to many
Evansville Civil War veterans as he had been the featured speaker at Memorial Day services.
Arthur Sholtz continued the commitment to improve the offerings at high school. Classes in chemistry,
German, and Latin were added and several clubs were started to encourage study of various subjects.
English clubs and science clubs joined the lengthening list of after-school activities offered by the school.
Athletics, music programs, debates and public performances brought the school and community
together. Evansville citizens seemed to appreciate the programs and when school events were held, the
fans filled the Magee Theater and the grandstand at the Evansville fairgrounds to watch Evansville
students demonstrate the skills taught in the public schools.
A typical school year in the early 1900s began with the annual board meeting held in the early part of
July. In 1905, the meeting included the perennial question of “free textbooks” and voters decided that
the school board would not provide them. This question was considered at each annual meeting, well
into the 1920s, with the same result. The answer from voters was loud and clear: “No free textbooks.”
The vote against free text books did not mean that taxpayers were not willing to support school
programs they thought were important. Voters did not hesitate to add new classes to the curriculum,
when school principals requested them. In July 1905, the voters agreed to cooking and sewing classes
for girls and woodworking and use of tools classes for boys.
The approval of the slate of teachers and election of School Board members was also on the agenda of
each annual meeting. The principal generally presented the names of teachers for the next school year
and gained immediate board approval.
Board members were always chosen from the voters attending the annual meeting and since there were
staggering member terms, only two or three were elected each year. Rarely was there controversy
about who should serve on the school board.
Teachers were required to attend the Rock County Teachers Institute in August in order to receive a
valid teaching certificate for the school year. The three day-programs of the late 1800s had been
extended to two-week session, followed by three days of tests to determine whether a teaching
certificate would be granted.
While many neighboring communities began their school year the first week in September, Evansville’s
classes did not begin until the second Monday in September. The Rock County Fair was held in
Evansville during the first week and since many children and their parents wanted to attend the
festivities, school began the following week.
The “Educational” department was a new attraction at the 1905 fair. Teachers prepared exhibits of
students’ drawings and the local newspaper, The Badger, urged parents to attend the exhibit to see the
“excellence of the work that was certainly of a very high order.”
The Badger editor, Marilla Andrews, also urged local residents to praise the local school. “Bear in mind
our schools offer one of the strongest attractions we have and never forget to speak a good word for
When classes began, each of the four weekly papers, the Badger, the Enterprise, the Tribune, and the
Evansville Review published a list of teachers. By 1905, the listed included a kindergarten teacher, a
teacher for each of the eight grades, with class sizes ranging from 43 to 20 students, and four high
school teachers, with classes of from 34 to 16 students each. The only classroom with an assistant was
In 1899, the Wisconsin legislature had established teacher training schools, known as Normal Schools,
and throughout the early 1900s the state and counties established Normal schools with one and two
year programs. Most teachers in the Evansville schools had attended colleges or Normal Schools and
had several more years of training than teachers hired in the late 1800s. The rate for teachers in the
early 1900s was $40 a month. This pay scale included teachers with a college degree and a few years
of experience. Only two teachers were paid $45 a month and the kindergarten assistant received $15
Class sizes varied. The senior class was always the smallest, since many students dropped out of
school before entering their senior year. State law required that children aged 4 to 14 attend school but
many students reached the eighth grade or the early years of high school by the age of 14 and left
school to work or marry.
A few weeks after classes began, the football team began to practice for its round of games with other
schools. Rev. E. A. Ralph, a local minister, was the coach for the 1905 season. Whether the season
was a success or failure, the football team was feted with a banquet when the season ended. Boys and
girls representing the different classes gave toasts to the team and the team presented their coach with
a watch fob, “as a mark of respect and appreciation for his generous advice through the games.”
The school principal, A. H. Sholtz, who enjoyed sports, but was not as active in coaching as his
predecessor, Kling, had his own talents to share with the community. In the fall of 1905, Sholtz began a
series of lectures, and invited public school students, students from the Evansville Seminary and the
public to hear him speak. Since the high school had no auditorium, the lectures were held in local
churches or the Magee theater.
Students were given several days vacation while teachers and the principal attended the fall teacher’s
conference. Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations also gave students a break from their studies. If
the weather was cold enough, the school grounds were flooded and ice skaters could be seen enjoying
this winter sport.
Nearly every year, in the month of January, school was cancelled for several days, or sometimes weeks
because of infectious diseases. Small pox, diphtheria, mumps, measles and influenza were prevalent
among students in the first month of each year. Because of the large gatherings at the holiday season,
January was the most likely time for diseases to reach epidemic proportions. In the 1905-6 school year,
the Christmas vacation lasted a week longer than expected and classes did not begin until the 8th of
After the delayed beginning of the new term, the high school students were introduced to new classes in
English history, algebra, arithmetic, and history of the constitution. Class trips were also part of the
curriculum and since there was excellent train service between Evansville and neighboring cities, there
was great opportunity for students and teachers to take field trips.
The high school science teacher, Mr. Clark, took his chemistry class to visit the Janesville high school
chemistry lab and the sugar beet factory located in Janesville. Clark also organized a science club to
encourage students’ interest in science outside of the classroom.
For sports enthusiasts, the early months of the year were devoted to basketball practice. Evansville
players competed against school in Rockford, Beloit, Freeport, and Janesville. Since the school did not
have a gymnasium, the home games for the Evansville team were played at the YMCA gymnasium in the
old Grange Store building (currently home to the Night Owl).
In March 1905, Evansville had won the Silver Cup given to the winner of the annual basketball
tournament. The Evansville High School team lost the treasured trophy to the Rockford team at the
annual contest in March 1906.
Another early winter community activity was held each February. Evansville hosted the Farmers’
Institute, an educational program for farmers to learn about new agricultural practices from University of
Wisconsin-Extension specialists and other experts. The program generally included entertainment by
local high school students. Musicians and orators were invited to perform at the Farmer’s Institute.
February activities in the grade school classroom included the celebration of the birthdays of George
Washington and Abraham Lincoln with appropriate “patriotic exercises”. Parents and friends were often
invited into the classroom for the festivities.
The Rock County Superintendent of Schools paid his annual visit to the schools in late February 1906.
Superintendent Charles Hemmingway inspected both the grade school and the high school and offered
recommendations for improvement. The Superintendent always found the Evansville school in
compliance with regulations and approved the educational practices in the school.
As spring approached, there were new activities in the high school. The principal, Arthur H. Scholtz,
encouraged boys and girls to join debate teams and participate in declamatory contests. For debates,
there were separate teams for boys and girls and this was a frequent point of controversy.
One of the debate questions which seemed to appear annually was whether boys and girls could
compete on the same debate team, the girls team always argued the affirmative and the boys, the
negative. Other debate questions were whether schools should be co-educational, whether rifle
practice should be held in the schools, or if “reformed spelling” should be adopted.
The high school debate teams competed against Madison high school teams
However, all students were encouraged to develop individual speeches for the forensics contest. A local
contest was held at the Magee Theater and judges were two local pastors, Rev. Ralph and Rev. Harlan,
and a local businessman, M. J. Fisher. The winners in 1906 were Erwin Meyers, first place; Amy
Richardson, second place; Fred Slightam, third place. The first place winner went on to compete at the
regional contest in Whitewater.
A week-long spring vacation occurred in late March or early April, depending on the date of Easter in a
particular year. When classes resumed, a baseball team was organized for the spring contests.
Because of the lack of athletic facilities at the school, the games were played at the Evansville fair
grounds. By early May, the track team began to compete against other schools. Home track events
were also held at the racetrack at the fair grounds.
Another early spring activity was the review of the work of the school principal by the school board. The
principal served under an annual contract and by April, the school board usually made the decision
about whether to renew the agreement. Arthur Scholtz had proven himself an able administrator, an
excellent history and civics teacher, as well as a debate and declamatory coach. At the April 1906
meeting of the board, Scholtz was given a renewal of his contract.
In renewing the principal’s contract, the school board also considered the community’s satisfaction with
the school administration. In its April 19, 1906 issue, the Review reported: “The school work done by
this gentleman is of the highest grade and entirely satisfactory to the members of the school board, as
well as to the patrons of the school. The public is satisfied and pleased to learn that he will continue to
act as principal.”
The first week in May, the entire school body began preparing for graduation ceremonies and the
annual end-of-school entertainment. A special music teacher from Madison was hired to prepare the
high school chorus for its part in the graduation ceremony. Grade and high school teachers began
preparing their students for the program to be held at the Magee Theater. A separate program was
held at the school for the kindergarten pupils.
Most classes had a picnic during the last week of May or early June to celebrate the end of school and
the beginning of the summer vacation. However, it was the graduation activities that took center stage
at the end of May and beginning of June. Three days of activities were held, including Class Day when
the class prophecy and the class will were read. The prophecy told what was expected of each
graduate in the future, and the will designated the passing of talents and good wishes to the
An admission fee of 10 cents was charged to help cover the cost of the graduation class. Forty-nine
dollars were taken in as receipts. Students were offered the opportunity to purchase class pins, sterling
silver spoons with an image of the high school engraved into the bowl, and other novelties to
commemorate their graduation.
The alumni organization gave a banquet for the graduates and a Baccalaureate service was held at a
local church. The religious services were considered an important activity for graduating seniors and
their families and there was no question as to whether they were appropriate for a public school.
Thirty students graduated in 1906, the largest graduating class in the history of the school. The Magee
Theater was filled to overflowing for the graduation ceremony which was held on a Thursday evening in
early June. A few of the students gave speeches, the school choir and a sextette performed musical
numbers and two students presented a piano duet. The graduates received their diplomas and the
school year ended.
Over the next few years there were several changes in the school district. Principal Sholtz resigned and
was replaced by Frank J. Lowth. Sholtz and a previous principal, Gettle, who were both recognized for
their public speaking ability, were elected to serve in the Wisconsin State Legislature after leaving their
posts at the school,
Many of the students began doing public service work in the community. When the public library
opened in 1908, the school closed for several days so that the public library books and other equipment
could be moved to the new public library. Public school students carried the books the two blocks.
Students also took part in a “clean-up” day at the school. Activities included washing walls, raking the
school yard and other janitorial work.
In 1909, the high school was accredited by the North Central Association of College and Secondary
Schools for the first time. The accreditation meant that the school had met the high standards required
by the North Central inspection and local graduates would be admitted to colleges in Wisconsin and
other states where the high school’s North Central was accepted as a requirement.
That same year, the school board also was challenged for placing its funds in a bank that did not offer
enough interest on the money. The voters at the annual meeting decided to elect a banker to the post
of school board treasurer and chose J. P. Porter, cashier of the Grange Bank in Evansville. Porter
satisfied the wishes of the electors and maintained the post for a number of years.
Parents took a more organized approach to community-school relationships in the fall of 1909. Several
women formed a Mothers Club for the “mutual self-improvement of mothers by the study and discussion
of mothers’ problems.” The group met monthly in the school and offered babysitting services for
mothers during the programs.
The mothers, with teachers as their guides, studied nutrition, schoolroom activities, teaching children
good habits, and the “opportunities for moral training in the schools.” The Mothers used a magazine
called “The Mother’s Magazine as a resource for their studies .
The Mothers also recommended turning the schools into clubhouses for children. There were similar
programs in Philadelphia where the city paid the expenses and the teachers volunteered their time to
supervise. Former principal Sholtz introduced a bill in the state legislature to allow schools in rural
communities to serve as meeting places for public gathers.
However, the school board had little time or money to start new programs and instead focused its
attention on solutions for overcrowding, outdated heating and sewage systems at the First Street
schools. By the end of the decade, the two buildings at the First Street site were filled to capacity and
once again there was a call for building a school on the east side of Evansville.
Proponents of the east side school noted the dangerous conditions near the railroad tracks where
children from the east side crossed in order to get to school. Eastsiders also told the school board that
52 children could be taken out of the school buildings on South First Street if the new school was built.
The board also had to deal with changes in the school leadership. F. J. Lowth resigned in March of
1911 to accept the position of principal of the Rock County Teachers Training School in Janesville. The
Board seemed to have an easy time choosing his successor, F. J. Waddell, a science teacher in the
Evansville high school.
Waddell told the school board that his goal was to have every pupil who left the Evansville schools
prepared for life’s many activities. In one of his first presentations to the board, Waddell stressed
preparing students for college and also for business, homemaking, and other work.
Waddell noted that less than 50% of the public school pupils went to college. He also believed that
schools should teach students to be physically fit, instruct students in good citizenship and as well as
provide courses to prepare every student for his life’s work.
“Everyone cannot be doctors, lawyers, preachers, or teachers and are crying out for equal opportunities
at the hand of the public school. If it be true then that the public demands a new kind of service from the
graduates of our public school it is for the school and school patrons to broaden their courses and
modernize their methods,” Waddell said.
While Waddell was stressing a broader curriculum, a University professor at Madison complained that
freshmen entering college needed more preparation in some basic courses. Many did not know
geography. The professor said that most students took a course in geography in the early years of
grammar school, then did not study the subject again until they reached college. “The pupil goes out
from his school life with a deplorably meager fund of geographical knowledge,” Prof. R. H. Whitbeck was
quoted as saying.
In addition to improving the curriculum, Waddell also helped the board meet the challenges of increasing
enrollment. By July 1911 there were 530 students in the city schools. The oldest building was in use as
a grade school and the 1896 building served as the high school. State inspectors had visited the
buildings and called the sanitary conditions deplorable. The “water closets” were not sanitary. Odors
were so bad that some classes had to be dismissed and ventilation in both buildings was bad. There
were also poor heating and ventilation systems in both buildings. The overcrowding aggravated these
Even though Waddell had reported that a state sanitary inspector had said the schools were not safe,
voters at the annual meetings continued to vote against a new building.
At the 1912 annual meeting three plans for buildings were presented. They ranged in price from
$28,000 to $50,000. Voters rejected all three plans.
By 1914, the schools’ building problems could not be delayed. A new heating plant was built and a new
furnace installed. A new sanitary sewer system, connecting the school to the city sewer system was also
installed in the buildings.
In 1912, the school board had approved a domestic science department and a new home economics
room was remodeled in the old grade school building. Some of the walls were moved in the high school
building to make larger rooms to accommodate the increased enrollment. The first classes in Domestic
Science were taught in the fall of 1914, with Miss Annette Maxwell, teacher.
The board had also approved agriculture and manual training in 1912. However, there was no space in
the building for the classes and so the classes were not added until after the new high school was built
By 1917, the school was still short of classroom space and the school board hired Roy Gavey to build
temporary buildings for more classroom space. These were finished by the start of the 1917-18 school
The crowded conditions at the elementary school just prior to and during World War I were temporarily
handled by renting rooms in the City Hall and building temporary classrooms. Although the school
board realized the crowded conditions, it did not bring the matter of building a new school before the
voters until after the war ended.
At the 1919 annual meeting, the school board was given permission to confer with architects and have
plans drawn for a new building. However, almost immediately there was competition for taxpayer’s
dollars as 394 citizens had signed petitions for the restoration of Lake Leota. The City Council, acting
on the wishes of the petitioners voted to sell bonds for the project at their July 1919 meeting.
Despite the City Council vote, the school board proceeded with its plans for construction of a new
building. One of the first considerations was the purchase of land as the school did not own enough
land to accommodate three buildings.
The voters were asked to approve the purchase of the Gibbs’ property. The price was $1,400, which
included a house that had to be removed. Some wanted the owner to remove the house, but this idea
was so unpopular that no vote was taken and the house and property were not purchased.
The following year, at the July 1920 annual meeting, the school approved the purpose of the Minnie
Leader property, just south of the high school building. In September 1920, the school asked for bids
on the house. W. F. Biglow purchased the house and had it moved to a lot of Second Street. The site
was readied for the new school that would be built directly south of the 1896 high school building.
The final vote for funding the building of the new school was also taken at the July 1920 annual
meeting. There were 212 votes cast, with the majority in favor of the new building plans as presented by
the architects. One hundred twenty-five voted in favor of the building and 87 voted against.
The voters approved funding for the new building at $115,000. The loans were to be repaid in fifteen
years, at a rate to begin at $6,500 and decreasing each year as the interest decreased.
One of the attractions for many voters was the new gymnasium. The recreational facility was to have a
regulation basketball court, 70 x 44, and a stage at the north end of the room. Lockers and dressing
rooms for both boys and girls were to be located near the stage.
The floor of the gymnasium could be filled with chairs, with a seating capacity of 400. According to the
plan, the school would no longer need to rent local theaters because it would be possible to hold plays,
musical events, lectures, graduation, and sports events in the new gym.
Although the approval for building was in place, the school board could not get contractors to present
bids. Wartime prices for building materials and labor were still in place and contractors did not expected
the inflated prices to be lifted until April 15, 1921.
When the contracts for the new building were approved in April 1921, J. P.Cullen of Janesville was the
lowest bidder. The project began immediately, as the work was to be completed by January 1, 1922.
The school board issued a construction progress report in August. The board’s report printed in the
Evansville Review told readers that Contractor Cullen was making rapid progress on the new grade
school building and was expected to finish the project and have it ready for furniture and fixtures by
The project was completed on time and the Review called it a “splendid building”. The reporter praised
the spirit of the local taxpayers for having the “nerve, despite wartime prices of material and labor to
building the school and cheerfully accept the burden of increased taxation it would bring every taxpayer
in the district.” The reporter called the building “one of the finest grade buildings in Southern
The architects had designed a T-shaped building with the gymnasium forming the leg of the T on the
west side of the building. There were two floors in the main part of the building and a half-basement.
The two-story portion of the building housed eight classrooms, four on the second floor for grades 5-8
and four on the first floor for grades 1-4. A nurse’s office and other offices were located in the
basement. The building would accommodate 320 pupils and was “modern in every respect”.
The second floor of the building also had the office of the grade school principal and the school library.
The administrative room with clocks and a teacher’s rest room were also located on the second floor.
The architects had designed wide corridors and stair landings with plenty of room to prevent crowding
and jams when students were moving through the school. There were also public and private phones
in the corridors.
The gym was equipped for basketball, volleyball and indoor baseball. There was a balcony surrounding
three sides of the gymnasium for viewing activities on the floor. The community athletic clubs were
allowed to use the new gymnasium, when it was not in use by school sports groups.
As earlier schools had poor heating and ventilations systems, the new school was designed with
improvements to these systems. A second boiler was installed in the heating plant just west of the new
school and the high school. “The whole building has both direct and indirect ventilation. A large fan
draws the pure air from the outside across a system of hot air pipes which heat it before it passes on its
way through the building, so that there is no danger of there being a cold draft anywhere in the
There were ten toilets and locker rooms with a separate ventilating system. The entire electrical and
ventilating apparatus was controlled from one room. This made it easier for the janitor or other school
personnel to trace any trouble in the mechanics of the building operation.
The architects and school board had also planned for future increases in enrollment and the heating
and plumbing systems were designed for expansion. The Review reporter noted: “all the ventilation,
drain and steam pipes have been laid with a capacity one-third larger than the present building calls
for.” The steam radiators were fitted with stubs so that the heating and plumbing system could be
extended to additions that might be built in the future.
The building was opened for sports events before the furniture arrived, as the furnishings for the new
building were not purchased until January 1922. The furniture manufacturers were expected to drop
their prices at that time. The dedication of the building was delayed twice before the chairs and lights
The dedication of the building was held in February 1922 and more than 300 people attended. The Girl’
s Glee Club led the audience in singing “America” and State Superintendent of Schools, John Callahan,
was the featured speaker. J. P. Cullen formally presented the Board of Education with the keys to the
Once the new school was occupied, classrooms in the 1869 grade school and 1897 high school were
also rearranged. The English room was moved from the second floor of the high school to the
basement and the science laboratory that had previously been in the basement of the high school
building was moved into the 1869 building.
When the school was finished, there was an immediate call for it to be used by the entire community.
One speaker at the Evansville Women’s Literary Club in January 1922, told her audience: “This building
should be used not just six hours a day, five days of the week during the school year, but be available
as a social center for the benefit of the entire community and should be the rallying place of a great
The speaker told the Literary Club that the Wisconsin legislature had passed a law that required all
school buildings to be lighted and heated free of charge for “recreational and educational purposes”.
She also told the women that the University of Wisconsin-Extension was also promoting the use of
school buildings for community use by providing consultants to help communities develop social
Because of the new facilities there was a dramatic increase in drama, music, sports and social activities,
over the next decade. By 1922, when the first high school annual was issued, the school organizations
included boys and girls glee clubs organized with the music teacher Miss Ula; a commercial club
organized by the business teacher, Mr. Bannister; a Triple K Club devoted to the prevention note writing
and the use of slang in school; and the Hi-Y club, an after-school sports and Bible study group
associated with the YMCA.
The high school band was organized in 1923 with Eugene Ballard as President; Ronald Jones, Vice
President; Guinevere Hubbard, secretary; and Gordon Baker, treasurer. The band played concerts
throughout the summer, both to improve their playing and to provide entertainment for the townspeople.
The band also performed for club meetings, local churches, and country school play days.
While the community enjoyed the benefits of having a new round of activities for teenagers, they were
also asked to provide funding for school projects. The first school annual, The Flaming Arrow,
highlighted the events of the 1921-22 school year. The students sought the support of the community
in publishing the book. Local businessmen advertised in the book, to help students pay for the
The community also participated in school fundraisers for equipment. In the mid-1920s, the school
wanted to purchase a movie projector and the community was asked to help purchase this new
equipment for the school. The Lion’s Club and other organizations used the equipment, with the
assistance of school personnel.
The Mother’s Club that had been active in the schools since 1910 became the Parent-Teacher
Association. The focus of this group during the 1920s was the health of students. In 1923, the Rock
County school nurse had examined school children in Evansville and found that “78% of the children
had health problems that required medical, dental or sanitation attention.”
The nurse found that children had cavities in their teeth, eye problems, throat and ear infections,
swollen glands and goiters. She also noted that some children were coming to school “habitually dirty
and were not doing good school work”. The county school nurse further speculated that the children
with poor health habits were costing the school money, because sickly students often had to repeat
grades, increasing the cost of their education.
Protecting the health of children soon became a community project. In 1928, the Evansville City Council
agreed to pay half of the school nurse’s salary and the Parent Teacher Association agreed to pay the
other half. Florence Spicer was hired as the first city school nurse. In 1929, Spicer resigned and Grace
Connors succeeded her.
It was the responsibility of the nurse to help protect children against contagious diseases by providing
vaccination clinics, doing home visits to sick children, examining preschoolers and babies. The nurse
also offered parents advice on preventive measures to stop epidemics. She also worked with the
Wisconsin Anti-Tuberculosis Association to bring chest clinics to the city.
Local doctors also attended school board meetings and made suggestions for better health services. In
1924, Dr. C. M. Smith, the public health officer, suggested the school start providing iodine tablets, twice
a day, for a two-week period during each school year. Dr. Smith explained that this had been successful
in other parts of the United States in preventing goiters in children.
A dental program was first offered in 1926. Several local dentists, including Dr. Ames, Dr. Denison and
Dr. Cain donated their time to give students examinations. The dentists also offered to give free dental
care to children whose parents could not afford to pay.
The improved health conditions had a marked effect on the number of days school was in session. In
1919, the school closed for several days in January 1919 because of the flu epidemic. Throughout the
1920s, with the improved health measures promoted by the school nurse and doctors, Evansville
schools did not shut down due to epidemics.
In addition to promoting good community health habits, the schools also began teaching students about
thrift. Saving money was considered a virtue and students were encouraged in their classrooms and by
local banks to open savings accounts and purchase saving stamps. Students learned money
management, as well as a bit of history, as Benjamin Franklin served as a model for those desiring to
be thrifty. Grade school students studied the man and his witting sayings during the annual “thrift week”.
E. O. Evans, superintendent during the early 1920s, resigned in 1927 to take a position with the Monroe
School District. Throughout the summer months of 1927, the school board took applications and
interviewed candidates for Superintendent of the Evansville Schools. Four candidates were selected for
the final interviews and the school board selected J. P. Mann of Hillsboro as Dr. Evans’ successor.
August 18, 1927, Evansville Review
Communication between the school and community was enhanced by newspaper coverage. The
community began receiving more up-to-date news about school events in the 1920s. To keep parents
and others informed, the Evansville Review offered the schools a weekly column called “Evansville Hi-
The school used the column as a device to teach newspaper reporting and editing. Each year an editor-
in-chief, assistant editors, and reporters were chosen to write articles for each grade, athletics, and
special events. The column sometimes had original poems or essays by students.
In addition to the student work, the Evansville Review devoted much of the newspaper space to school
activities, including the academic, social and sports events. Football, basketball, and baseball games
were reported as front-page stories. Junior proms, class plays and graduation articles also made the
front page, indicating the importance of these events to community members.
Evansville’s school population continued to grow and the school board was faced with providing quality
education, while tax levies were decreased during most of the 1920s. The decade started with a levy of
$36,000, increased to $55,000 during 1921 when the new grade school was built, then declined
annually until 1929 when the tax levy was $35,000.
The enrollment in the Evansville public schools continued to increase, though the school tax levies
declined. By September 1931, there were 252 enrolled in the high school. “Schools crowded beyond
capacity” was the banner headline of the September 10, 1931 issue of the Evansville Review.
Voters and the school board had extensive discussions about the crowded conditions of the 1897 high
school, but delayed any decision. Many of the citizens of Evansville were feeling the affects of the Great
Local businesses were cutting the hours of their employees and holding or lowering wages. The railroad
and a few local employers fired workers. Some were desperate for work and when contractors
advertised for men to work on the largest public works project of the year, the viaduct, there were more
applicants than jobs.
Though enrollments had increased, the school district had to find ways to reduce spending to
accommodate the financial instability of the local economy and the hard times experienced by local
taxpayers. At the annual meeting in July 1931, the board proposed a tax levy of $33,000, the lowest in
There were a few additional sources of income to supplement the local taxes. The school board
anticipated receiving $19,100 from state and county taxes, Magnolia and Union township taxes, tuition
for non-resident students, the state school aid fund and other sources, making the total budget for the
Only a few people attended at the annual meeting in July 1931 to vote on the tax levy and school
budget. Since the school board was already making budget cuts, there was no radical change of heart
on the part of the taxpayer when it came time to vote for free textbooks for students. The voters
rejected the expenditure by a vote of eighteen to five vote.
Curriculum changes were often the result of pressure from the community. Speakers at local
organizations often focused on new ideas for educating children and most well informed people where
pleased that the teaching of just the “three r’s”, reading ‘riting and ‘rithmetic had been supplemented by
new courses in biology, typing, and physical education.
Some were looking for even greater enhancement to the courses offered by the Evansville public
schools. In the fall of 1931, the local businessmen’s club, the Men’s Community Club, invited Louis C.
Sassman of the Department of Public Instruction, to talk to them about an agricultural vocational course
for high school boys.
Though the high school was already overcrowded, the men were intrigued by the idea that a new
vocational program would keep many of the farm boys in school. The speaker and many of the men
listening knew that many of the boys became drop-outs after the eighth grade.
Sassman stressed that because of the agricultural program, many young men had been encouraged to
stay in school and were able to increase their knowledge of new practices in agriculture, making the
family farm become more economically viable. Although new ideas often took several years to
implement, often at meetings such as this the seeds were planted for a new direction to Evansville’s high
However, the introduction of new classes had to be weighed against the ability of local taxpayers to fund
school programs. When the annual meeting was held in July 1932, the school budget was once again
reduced. The band and orchestra program were dropped and the elementary school principal’s position
was combined with the superintendent’s. The teaching staff was reduced by ?
The Evansville School Board and citizens had every reason to worry about costs. The Evansville
Review headlines told the abbreviated version of the concerns of those living through the Great
Depression: “People are uneasy all over the country,” and “Chevrolet Plant Ordered closed: Janesville
plant to be closed soon”.
At the tourist camp at Lake Leota park people from all over the United States were spending a day or
two at the camp. Their cars were loaded with their families and household goods were tied to the roof,
so that they could set up housekeeping wherever they could find work. Many were almost out of money,
but had to keep moving in order to find jobs.
The Evansville school staff also saw the affects of unemployment and reduced work opportunities to
families with school-aged children. Some could not afford clothing or the small fees for milk. Acting as
an unofficial social service agency, the school nurse asked for the community to show their generosity
toward those children in need.
A plea for winter clothing went out to the people of Evansville from the school nurse, Mary Stam. “Many
children between the ages of 6 and 12 are badly in need of rubbers, galoshes, and other winter
clothing. Those wising to donated have been requested to leave the clothing in Miss Stam’s office
located in the grade school building.”
For several years, the school had offered students “milk lunches”, that were half-pints of milk for a few
cents. When the first physical exams of students were performed by the school nurse in the 1920s, she
had found students suffering from mal-nutrition and lower than normal body weight. After the “milk
lunch” program was started, subsequent school physical examination programs had revealed that the
weights of public school children had increased considerably over a short period of time.
The school nutrition program was a success. However, as the Depression continued, the school nurse
realized that some students could not afford the few pennies each day to purchase the milk. She called
for some public-spirited citizen to purchase the milk for the needy students.
During the Depression, Miss Stam also took on the role of social worker and arranged for Christmas
food baskets and used toys to be distributed to more than 100 families with school-aged children.
Community organizations and businesses, including the Woman’s Relief Corp, the Wisconsin Petroleum
Company, and the Magee Theater also contributed towards the relief baskets.
However, in March 1933, there were a number of citizens who wanted to decrease their tax burden and
even the school nurses’ post was threatened. A petition was circulated to abolish the city nurse.
Since 1928, the school nurse had been provided at no cost to the school, through funding from the City
of Evansville and the Parent Teachers Association. Both the City and the school had benefited by a
decrease in epidemics and improved health of children. The school nurse had offered clinics for early
intervention and prevention of disease; home visits to sick children; immunizations; preschool and
prenatal clinics; and chest clinics for the prevention and detection of tuberculosis.
When the City Council and local citizens debated the issue and could not agree on a solution, the matter
was put before the voters at the April 1933 general election. The Evansville Review, local doctors, the
school superintendent and other prominent businessmen in the community supported the retention of
the nurse’s office.
Eighty women from the Women’s Literary Club, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Parent
Teachers Association, and the Afternoon Club held a mass meeting to support keeping the city and
school nurse. At their March 1933 meeting, the Lion’s Club also endorsed the nurse’s office. Their
wishes were granted by a vote 595 to 193.
Classroom teachers also were forced to economize and be creative with their lesson plans. The home
economics teacher, Adena Haberkorn, taught her students to make skirts, blouses and dresses from old
Beginning with the 1931 graduation program, the school also rented robes for graduates to wear at all
three commencement exercises, the Baccalaureate service, class day and commencement. Many
graduates could not afford new clothing and the robes provided a uniform appearance for each student,
without regard to their family’s financial situation.
There seemed to be no end in sight to the drastic measures the school board took as the Depression
deepened. To reduce the tax levy, the board decided that the teachers would take a 17 to 24 percent
cut in pay for the 1931-32 school year. In light of the staff salary reductions, the school superintendent,
J. P. Mann also accepted a 15 percent salary cut.
The budget cuts continued each year. By the beginning of the 1933-34 school year the budget had
been reduced from $54,500 to $43,980. As the local tax levy, state aid, and other sources of income
declined, the largest cuts to the local budget were made in teacher’s salaries. The total salaries paid to
teachers had gone from a high of $29,600 in 1920 to $25,600, thirteen years later.
Cuts to the school budget also meant that the cost to educate each student had dropped. From 1927 to
1932, the cost per pupil was reduced from $111 to $94. Class sizes became larger and some programs
were reduced or cut completely.
When further reductions in the tax levy were proposed in 1933-34, the board recommended dropping
the band and orchestra program. No funds were budgeted for these programs. “The budget provides
only for the minimum school requirements.” The Evansville Review noted in announcing the budget
cuts. The vote to pass the budget was a unanimous decision of those attending the annual school
When school opened in September 1933, there were 625 students registered and only 21 teachers on
the staff. It was the largest enrollment in the history of the school and it was well understood that the
high school was overcrowded. Because of the Depression no action could be taken to build a larger
High school enrollment increased slightly in the fall of 1933. There were 255 pupils, with 55 in the senior
class and seventy-five in the freshman class. The enrollment exceeded the capacity of the high school
building by 50 students. Approximately 45 of the high school students were from the rural areas and
more expected to register after the harvest season was ended. The grade school had 325 pupils, with
an additional 45 students in the kindergarten class.
All of the instructors at the high school had bachelor’s degrees and many in the grade school also had
four-year degrees. There were no married women on the staff and each grade had only one teacher.
With reduced funds for operating the school, there was an even greater need for the community to
support school programs. There is ample evidence of school/community cooperation throughout the
In sports, music and drama, health and safety, the Evansville community offered financial support for
school projects. Funds for the music program were reinstated due to parental pressure and Russell L.
Moberly was hired to come to Evansville one day a week to teach band and orchestra. Moberly was
studying for his Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin and the job provided him with extra
income to support his education.
The band, under Moberly’s direction, made its first appearance at a February 1934 basketball game.
The orchestra performed for the high school operetta in the spring.
Within a few months, a Parents’ Music Association was formed and the needed funds for the music
program were assured. The following year, Moberly was hired for two days a week and the chorus and
glee clubs were added to his course load.
Some new programs came from the ingenuity of the school staff. In February 1934, the home
economics teacher introduced a hot lunch program. The lunches provided a teaching tool for her
students and a nutritious meal for students. Soup, hot cocoa, and casseroles were prepared in home
economics classes by the boys and girls cooking classes.
Students paid fifty cents a month for the hot lunch. Parents and other community members helped
reduce the cost of the program by providing food from their gardens. If students brought food or garden
produce from home, the cost of the meals was reduced or free. During the first few weeks, the program
served more than 50 students.
Another community organization helped support a new safety program in the mid-1930s. When the
American Automobile Association contacted the American Legion about the school safety patrol
program, the Legion members immediately took on the responsibility of the safety patrol in the 1934-35
The school also received unexpected financial assistance to maintain its buildings. Federal grant
programs were offered to communities. The funds were used to hire unemployed men to work on
projects in public buildings, parks and other recreational areas.
Evansville’s CWA grant provided the school with the means to keep maintenance costs down. During
the summer of 1934, a public works program known as the CWA (Civil Works Authority) used $5,533 to
pay workers to make furniture for classrooms, paint walls, varnish desks and landscape the school
The1930s was a decade of changing attitudes about education and preparing young people for the
workplace. In his July 1933 report to the Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools J. P. Mann said
there were three areas of importance for board members to consider: instruction, maintenance of the
buildings and grounds, and finance.
The annual report expressed Mann’s frustration with the four years of a depressed economy that had
cut earning power of millions of workers and the government seemed unable to cope with the number of
people who required government aid and services. Mann was hopeful that the answers to some of
society’s problems rested with the education system.
“There is evidence now that social change is necessary in school work to meet the changing social
needs of its students,” Mann was quoted as saying. Many high school graduates were having difficulty
finding work and only a few could afford to attend colleges and Mann’s report showed his concern that
many would be idle and their idleness would lead to anti-social behavior.
Mann worried that the graduates who did not find work or attend school would be tempted to engage in
“illegal and unsocial activities.” According to Mann, if the high school graduates could not find work and
could not afford to go to school, “Mental keenness will disappear, ambition will leave, and a philosophy
of life will come to them that whispers thoughts that the world owes them a living,” Mann told the Board.
He recommended several changes to the school curriculum to improve social conditions and the
opportunities for high school graduates. The first was that the public school help its graduates by
offering post-graduate courses. Mann had taught a post-graduate course in Social Psychology and he
recommended that the Board expand the curriculum beyond this one course so that those who could not
attend college or did not find work could return to school. He suggested the Board consider offering
night classes in English, commercial subjects, psychology and other subjects that would interest recent
graduates and other adults.
Mann also recommended giving students aptitude tests and career counseling so that they would seek
goals that were appropriate for their knowledge and skills. He felt that too many parents pushed their
children into mathematics and sciences classes that were geared towards degrees in engineering or
medicine, even if the student did not have skills in those areas.
Colleges and universities were beginning to use aptitude test to predict student success and Mann
believed that public schools could also use standardized to individualize student instruction. Evansville
schools first used the standardized tests in 1933. The tests were given to students in the third grade
and above and Mann believed the first results had clearly demonstrated the need for individualized
instruction in the classroom.
Mann said that when the senior class took the test, there was a nine-year range in the reading ability of
individuals in the class. He predicted that by using the tests to counsel students to take courses that
were in line with their abilities, there would also be a savings to taxpayers. “Failure of students has cost
the taxpayers of school districts much money merely because those students were directed into courses
where they showed neither interest or talent,” Mann said.
In addition to improving the curriculum and individualizing instruction, Mann also told the board that it
was important to maintain and improve the school buildings. The Board had discussed plans to replace
the 65 year-old graded school building, but the debt for the 1921 school was still costing taxpayers over
$8,000 each year.
Adding the cost of a new school when the school budget had to be kept as low as possible was out of
the question. The board was willing to support some small repairs to the buildings and they continued to
benefit from the federal grant programs to employee men who were out of work. The maintenance
budget for the school year included painting and repairing steps and foundations. In his report to the
Board, Mann praised their attempts to “give the greatest efficiency at the most economical cost.”
At the beginning of the 1934-35 school year, J. P. Mann resigned as superintendent of the Evansville
public schools and accepted a similar position in South Milwaukee. John C. McKenna, the new
superintendent started a few weeks later.
The job of leading the community through the last years of the Depression and into its next building
project was in McKenna’s hands. He found the school “well organized, capably manned by an efficient
corps of teachers, and running along smoothly.”
Although the school and community could not add space to their existing buildings, the students and
school staff managed to organize activities than at any time in the past. Ruth Campbell, the home
economics teacher, was placed in charge of many of the dances, and parties, and other social activities
for the 1934-35 school year.
From the time school began in the fall until graduation in the spring, there were club, sports, and social
activities for students. There were also PTA, Band Parent, and Alumni programs throughout the school
The most visible activities for students and community members were the Freshman Reception, that
included an initiation of freshmen into the student body, with stunts, races, and refreshments. Sports
fans enjoyed the ball games, especially if Coach O’Neil had a winning team. The entire student body
joined the athletes for Homecoming activities that included a parade, snake dance, a bonfire, football
game and dance.
Winter brought basketball, forensics, debate teams, the all school play, concerts, and dances. The
1934-35 class officers had planned a masquerade dance, a circus dance, George Washington party
and a “jinx” dance. The All-Class play for 1934 was “Sweet Sixteen, under the direction of Irene Schultz,
the history teacher.
Parent organizations were also active. PTA meetings included a mock classroom, speakers and plans
for the Christmas Seal sale that benefited the pre-school health clinics. The music parent’s organization
also held fundraisers and new band uniforms were purchased in January 1936.
Students also held fundraisers. The entire student body held a fundraiser to purchase a new radio for
the school. Students were also sent door-to-door to collected phonograph records that could be played
over the schools public address system. “Music appreciation” would be enhanced by this new collection
One of the oldest issues before the community was free textbooks. Voters had rejected the free
textbooks for so many years that it seemed unbelievable that during the midst of the Great Depression
they would finally approve paying for books. At the 1937 annual school board meeting, voters approved
the free texts by a vote of 36 to 24. However, after hearing that the cost of the texts was $1,500, some
of the voters asked for reconsideration, but failed to get a majority to approve another vote.
For the first time, free textbooks for Evansville’s public school students. A small fee was collected at the
beginning of the year to cover any damage that might happen to books during the year. Students
received a refund, if the books were turned in with no damage.
At the same meeting, voters told the School Board that they wanted a new high school built. An informal
vote showed that 50 voters attending the meeting approved a new school, 5 were against building.
Based on this, the board set aside $2,500 for a reserve building fund.
The Evansville community was most in need of a new school and the community needed more than
candy and Christmas seal sales to fund a new high school. The 1921 grade school debt was paid in the
spring of 1936, and although the need for a new high school had been evident for a number of years,
voters did not approve the funding until the summer of 1938.
The oldest of the three school buildings had been evaluated by the State Department of Public
Instruction and found to be in poor condition. Sanitary and light deficiencies, as well as fire hazards
were noted in the State inspector’s report. The building had no toilets. The attic was a fire hazard and
there was only one set of stairs to the second floor. There was little natural light and insufficient
The heating system in both the buildings used for high school classes was also antiquated. The
radiators were attached to the ceilings of the rooms and in the winter, the floors were cold. The
kindergarten room was located in the basement of the 1869 building and school officials felt it was
especially important to have warm floors in this room, as kindergarteners spent much of their time sitting
on the floor.
The floors of the 1897 building did not meet current building codes for weight loads. There were also
fire hazards from open wiring and, narrow stairways. To add to the discomfort of students and teachers,
there were small classrooms with poor ventilation. The Department of Public Instruction inspector
reported that the high school buildings also needed lockers and other storage areas for students to
keep their books and lunches.
When the board decided to bring a new school before the voters at a special election held July 8, 1938,
voters, it was another historic occasion. It was the first time that there had been a referendum for a
school building and the first time that federal money was sought for a school building.
State tax laws placed a ceiling of 5% of the assessed valuation of the city that could be raised for school
building purposes. Voters were asked to approve a referendum of $122,500 to build a new high school,
the maximum amount allowed. An application for Federal funds would cover the additional cost of the
auditorium and gymnasium as these would exceed the 5% ceiling.
Prior to the referendum vote, the Evansville Review had lengthy articles explaining the inadequacies of
the old buildings and the need for a new high school and renovations to the 1921 grade school. The
paper also printed a sketch of the proposed school.
The architectural firm of Law, Law and Potter from Madison had drawn preliminary plans for the new
high school. The plans called for tearing down the 1897 high school building. The new building
included classrooms, a shop and agricultural room, an auditorium with a stage and a seating capacity of
400, a gymnasium, shower and locker rooms, a music room, lunch room, basement storage, and a new
Referendum supporters noted that a federal grant had been written that would cover $99,818 or 45
percent of the expected cost of $200,000. If the grant was not obtained, the auditorium and gymnasium
would be eliminated from the plans.
The taxpayers were advised that an additional $3.60 per thousand of assessed valuation would be
added to their tax bills for a 15-year period of time. If the federal grant was obtained, the cost would be
Superintendent McKenna argued for the passage of the referendum. “Building costs at the present time
are very favorable in that prices on steel, brick, cement, lumber and other building materials are low.
Wages for carpenters, masons, and other skilled workers have been decreased, and common laborers
are receiving much less than back in 1921 when the grade building was constructed,” McKenna said.
Low interest rates were also an incentive to build.
Referendum supporters also noted that Evansville was one of the few schools in the area that did not
offer shop and agricultural courses. Over half of the Evansville high school students came from farms
and these courses had been proposed for several years. Because of cost and lack of space, they had
never been added to the curriculum.
The voters overwhelmingly approved the new school, even though the Federal money had not been
assured. Only 433 of the 1,225 eligible voters went to the election polls but those who did approved the
new school by a vote of 288 to 145.
The School Board did not act on the new building immediately, but waited several months for notification
that the federal grant had been approved. McKenna and board president, A. C. Holmes made trips to
Chicago to confer with Public Works Administration (PWA) officials about the federal grant. The Board
also received support from Senator F. Ryan Duffy. J. C. McKenna and the board remained active in
revising the plans to meet school and community needs.
There was a plea from the community to expand the size of the auditorium from 347 to 500 seats on the
main floor and an additional 200 on the balcony and to enlarge the stage. To keep the costs down, the
Board approved a revision in the plans so that the gymnasium and stage in the 1921 grade school
building could be converted into an auditorium.
The federal grant was awarded and a notice went into the newspapers to ask for construction bids to be
opened on December 23, 1938, with the construction to start by December 29, 1938. The construction
start date was a requirement for the PWA grant.
When the bids were opened, J. P. Cullen and Son of Janesville, contractors for the 1921 graded school
was awarded the project. The Cullen bid was $143,516, just $133 lower than T. S. Willis of Janesville.
The electrical contract went to C. T. Havey of Madison at $10,085; plumbing to J. E. Robertson of
Wauwatosa at $8,780 and heating and ventilating to John Ahern of Fond du Lac for $21,310. This
brought the total construction cost to $183,691, lower than expected. The board agreed to use the
additional funds for furnishings and improvements to the systems.
School classrooms were moved to the City Hall, the library and the Congregational Church so that
construction could begin immediately. All of the old equipment was removed from the 1897 high school
building so that it could be razed and the foundation for the new school excavated.
The old school was demolished and the foundation for the new building was completed in March 1939.
The contractors built a temporary office and tool shed on the grounds. The steel cross beams,
plumbing and sewer pipes were in place by April. A crew of 25 men was working in the spring and the
number doubled in June with 50 men working a 40-hour week. The employment was a great boon to
The 1939 Junior Prom was one of the last school events to be held in the 1921 gymnasium. The school’
s spring vacation was eliminated so that school could finish a week early and the commencement
exercises were held in the Magee Theater.
The contractors believed that the additional week in the summer would allow them to demolish the 1860s
building and complete the construction of the new high school by the September 15th deadline.
A kindergarten was added to the southwest corner of the 1921 grade school building. The new school
included a shop, agricultural classrooms, a gymnasium, library, as well as classrooms. A home
economics room and lunch rooms were planned for the basement of the new building.
The rooms were ready for the installation of windows and the 3-coat plastering of the interior walls in mid-
July. The building continued on schedule through the summer.
The gymnasium was built of concrete blocks with brick facing on the exterior. A concrete base was
poured for the floor and hardwood flooring was installed as the finished surface. The interior walls were
glazed tile to a height of six and one-half feet, with glass blocks near the ceiling of the north and east
sides for natural lighting. The roofs of the building were poured gypsum, a fireproof substance similar to
School was delayed for a week in September 1939 so that the builders could put the finishing touches
on the classrooms. Additional time was required to complete the installation of the heating system. The
window shades, electric bell system and acoustical borders were completed in early September.
Classes began on Monday September 25, 1939 and the new gymnasium was officially dedicated on
December 12, 1939 at the Evansville Blue’s basketball teams first home game. Rolland Barnum, one of
Evansville star basketball plays from the 1920s, had played on the first team to use the 1921
gymnasium. Barnum was one of the official referees for the first game to be played in the new gym.
Evansville won the game against Madison’s Wisconsin High by a score of 40 to 34.
When the new school building project was complete, the only remaining part of the razed 1860s and
1890s school buildings was the old school bell. The bell had been purchased for $200 and had called
many hundreds of students to class. It was saved from the scrap iron heap through the efforts of Harry
Workers Progress Administration (WPA) crews built a bell tower at the city park and placed the rescued
bell in the stone tower. It was intended that the bell would be rung to summon people to concerts in the
park and other community activities.
For the first time in a decade, the school opened without the blaring headlines that there was
overcrowding in the high school. A dedication and open house was held on Sunday, January 21, 1940
to celebrate the new school, the kindergarten addition, and auditorium remodeling. A crowd, estimated
at nearly 600 people, attended the ceremonies in the new auditorium and then toured the two school
Teachers were on hand to explain the new science, agricultural, and shop rooms and equipment. New
birch desks, purchased from the Thelfore Engineering Company in Waukegan, Illinois were installed in
the new classrooms. As recommended by the state inspectors, new lockers had been installed. By the
time of the open house, students had already decorated the inside doors of their lockers with
photographs of movie stars and sports figures.
The high school band, under the direction of their music director Ralph James opened the dedication.
All of the living former school superintendents were on hand, including E. O. Evans, J. P. Mann and John
F. Waddell. The architectural firm of Law, Law, and Potter was represented by E. J. Law. The general
contractor, J. P. Cullen and Son, sent Mark Cullen and Attorney Joseph Arbanas attended from the PWA
office in Chicago.
E. G. Doudna, the secretary of the Board of Regents of the State Teacher’s colleges, gave the main
speech at the ceremonies. Doudna noted the changing responsibilities of high school administration,
board members, and teachers. “One out of every four or five high school graduates goes to college,”
Doudna said. “High schools, therefore, have to be reorganized on the basis of providing all activities for
those whose education ends in the high school. This is why we are building gymnasiums and making
other accommodations for extra-curricular activities.”
As soon as the new building and additions were completed, school officials offered the new facilities for
community use. A few days after the dedication ceremony, the Lion’s Club held a charity ball in the high
school gymnasium and a few months later the PTA used the gym for their annual hobby show.
The auditorium was used for Armistice Day services. The Tri-County Stamp Club, a group of 30 area
philatelists met in one of the school classrooms. The Evansville Choral Union held their Easter Cantata
in the new high school auditorium.
The Great Depression defined the decade of the 1930s and in the 1940s World War II became the
defining factor. In May, the class of 1940 was the first to hold graduation ceremonies in the new
auditorium. There were 26 young men in the class and twenty enlisted or were drafted into the U. S.
military to serve during the Second World War.
The first draft for military duty was called in late October 1940, although the United States was not at
war. The first draft included men between the ages of 21 and 35 and many Evansville High School
alumni were in the first round of 480 registrants. The first draft was for one year of military service. By
1943, the age for the draft dropped to 17.
The October 1940 draft was the beginning of the call for military service that drew many away from
Evansville. Many of the young men who were not old enough to join the service longed for the time
when they were of age. When the age of draftees dropped to 17, it became harder to keep young men
When school opened in September for the 1940-41 year, there were 577 pupils enrolled. The high
school had 260 students and 317 were enrolled in grade school and kindergarten. Classrooms in the
grade school averaged 34 pupils per teacher.
The elementary school experienced growth in the early 1940s and the high school registration dropped.
The first grade was so large that it had to be divided into two sections. However, the senior class was
smaller than the previous year. Although it was still not the usual practice to hire married women as
teachers, the school district hired Mrs. Elsie Libby to substitute in one of the first grade classrooms for a
few weeks until a permanent teacher could be found. Creating two sections of first grade forced the
eighth grade out of the elementary school building and into the new high school.
As J. P. Mann had predicted in the mid-1930s, more students began to choose classes that would
prepare them for the workforce, rather than for college. When the 1940-41 school year began there
was an increased enrollment in the commercial classes. Administrators reasoned that this was because
so many graduates were having problems finding jobs and they wanted more vocational training. The
new industrial arts and agriculture programs were also very popular. Enrollment declined in college
preparation courses in languages, physics and advance mathematics and English.
There had never been ample space on the school grounds to support the outdoor sports activities and
for many years the high school football games had been played on the fields of the old fair grounds.
By 1940, there was increased mobilization of National Guard military units and several of these units
used the fair grounds for camping as they traveled to training camps. The military trucks used to carry
men and equipment damaged the high school playing fields. To accommodate the military units, school
officials changed the location of playing field to the park and they eventually hoped to install electric
lights on the fields.
There were many ways that the community was involved with school programs and continued use school
facilities during the 1940s. In 1941, a new federal program loaned toys to Evansville children. This was
a Rock County WPA project that established toy loan centers at five locations in the county. A basement
room in the grade school building was devoted to the toy lending program.
Several high school students went door-to-door in the community asking for used toys for the new
Evansville toy lending library. If the toys were broken, they would be repaired by WPA workers in
Janesville and returned to Evansville. When the toy-lending program opened in January 1941, 221
students registered for cards that would allow them to borrow toys.
The Evansville Review Cooking School was also moved from the Magee Theater to the Evansville high
school auditorium for the first time in January 1942. Ethel Marsden, a noted speaker on food
preparation presented the program to more than 500 housewives. High school girls from the home
economics classes assisted with the demonstrations.
Shortly after the successful cooking program was held, the school board voted to charge a fee to use
school facilities. A fee schedule for renting the auditorium, gymnasium, lunchroom, and classrooms was
printed in the local newspaper. Any group wanting to use the school facilities had to fill out a rental
form. The board did allow some groups to use the school without paying a fee. The 1942 Farmers
Institute was the first to be granted an exemption.
By early 1942, Evansville citizens, like the rest of the nation, were increasing their participation in the
war effort. Several special civil defense and rationing programs were planned and School
Superintendent, J. C. McKenna was the assistant Chairman of the City Defense Council. Because of his
involvement with the program, many of the workshops and registrations for the defense programs were
based at the school.
McKenna was in charge of issuing gasoline ration tickets to Evansville residents and the registration was
held at the school. The gasoline rationing program was one of the first defense programs to be initiated
and other rationing programs for sugar, tires and other products followed. In the fall of 1942, gas
rationing made getting to school functions difficult and students were advised to stay away from out-of-
town football games to conserve fuel.
The school was also used as a site for local fund raising programs to support the country’s defense and
military needs. The high school gymnasium was the scene for one of the first of the fundraisers.
In early 1942, Evansville businessmen sponsored a basketball game between the Globe Trotters and
the City of David Bearded Aces. The proceeds were to go into a fund started by Wisconsin residents to
raise funds to build an airplane named the Badger Bomber. Later fund drives supported the USO, an
organization that entertained soldiers and provided recreational facilities near military camps.
There were several ways that school children were asked to participate in the war effort. Many of the
children had participated in the savings programs offered in the 1930s. When the war started, the
children were asked to purchase war bonds. The stamps for the bonds were purchased for as little as
10 cents and accumulated towards the purchase of a $25 war bond.
Evansville school children also wrote letters to local servicemen in military camps in the United States.
The freshman English instructor, Miss Helen Stowell, placed a large map of the United States on the
bulletin board in her class and indicated the location of the camps where Evansville servicemen were
stationed. In March 1942, nearly 80 letters were sent from the freshman class to area servicemen.
Evansville schools closed in early May in 1942, as a way to conserve resources for the war. That year,
the baseball program was cancelled because many of the other area schools were closing as early as
When Superintendent McKenna gave his annual report to the school board in July 1942, he noted the
ways that the war had changed the operation of the public school. The teaching of geography had once
again taken on new meaning because of the vast geographic area covered by the war.
The new military also demanded more mathematics and science and the school superintendent
recommended adding more of these courses to the requirements for graduation. McKenna also
suggested that students should have some work experience as part of the school curriculum.
McKenna also noted that the school grounds had been expanded by the purchase of more land for
playground purposes. During the 1941-42 school year, new fencing was installed around the school
property and a new curb was built in front of the schools to allow angle parking of cars. Since many
students and teachers drove their own cars to school, there was a lack of parking space near the school.
When school opened in the fall of 1942, there were more changes to school programs. Civil defense
instruction in first aid was offered in the high school lunchroom. The classes were open to adults and
The Civil Defense organization also offered classes in fire fighting as the community expected that
several of their regular fire fighters would be called into the military. In October and November 1942,
Fire Chief Leslie Giles taught classes in the high school gymnasium for men and women who would help
fight fires in the community.
There was a desperate need for metal used in manufacturing war machinery for the United States
military. Communities throughout the United States began to hold scrap metal collection drives. In
Evansville, school pupils were invited to take part in scrap metal drives.
Citizens were asked to check their junk piles, garages, cellars and attics for scrap metal. The adult
volunteers and school children went door-to-door asking for rusty pipes, broken bed springs, broken air
guns, tin cans, and other scrap metal that could be used in the war effort.
Superintendent McKenna again spear-headed this program for school-age children and Dr. J. W. Ames
served as chairman for the program. During the first drive more than 150 tons of metal was collected.
The program continued throughout the war.
The shortages of materials was an ongoing problems in the early 1940s. When school opened in the
fall of 1943, parents and school officials were again warned that because of the shortage of rubber for
tires and rationing of gasoline, high school students should only attend those ball games that were
played at home. A full schedule of ball games was planned for football, basketball and baseball.
Some school-community organizations functioned with little change during the war. Evansville’s PTA
was active supporting school and public health programs. The organization expanded its fundraisers
with city-wide neighborhood card parties held in the homes of PTA members. Women were invited to
attend for a fee of 25 cents. A variety of card games were played and even those who did not play
cards were invited to participate by bringing their sewing or knitting.
The card party and other fundraisers helped pay for school health programs, pre-school health clinics,
summer playground programs at the city park, and supplemental funding for the Music Parent’s
Association. The PTA also sponsored school assembly programs
For many years, the PTA had sponsored fund drives and health clinics to prevent tuberculosis. In the
early 1940s, the city and school nurse, warned parents that another disease, polio, or infantile paralysis,
was a threat to children. The nurse suggested children be kept away from crowds, or any family
member who developed a respiratory infection.
The PTA and the school faculty also supported a curfew imposed by the Evansville City Council. The
curfew was implemented to control vandalism and aimless roaming of the streets by young people.
Young people, under the age of 17 , were to be off the streets by 11 p.m.
The school and community made every attempt to keep the young people of Evansville engaged in
activities that would promote health, citizenship, and skills. J. C. McKenna had noted in a report to the
school board that these activities were particularly needed during the war.
“During these times of unrest and confusion most communities are being faced with problems and
situations exaggerated by the war. The same unrest which we note in adult life is manifesting itself in
the youth of America.” McKenna further said, that many “students of high school age and upper grade
level are trying to find outlets for this unrest by aimlessly roaming the streets at night.”
McKenna said in his annual report that class attendance during the 1943-44 school year had been
“irregular”. Absenteeism and tardiness were in part due to lack of parental supervision. Fathers were
away at war and mothers were often preoccupied by household management details.
McKenna also noted that the students’ classroom work was suffering and that the students were
demonstrating a careless attitude at home, in the community and in school. “The teachers of our
schools urge that parents cooperate in bringing about regular attendance of all pupils. Parents are
urged to check on attendance more closely. With the close cooperation of the parents in this matter a
great deal of good can be accomplished,” McKenna stated.
McKenna suggested the school not wait for parental cooperation. The Board agreed and hired Floyd
Roberts, a local police officer, as the truant officer for the school district.
The Evansville public school provided many extra-curricular activities for students. The school offered,
sports, drama, music and other recreational activities and the games, wrestling matches, plays and
concerts were well supported by parents and other adults in the community.
School athletic director Coach George O’Neil also ran the summer recreational program at the city park.
The park program was funded by the City and local businesses and was intended for students of all
ages. O’Neil emphasized that adult supervision was available for all summer recreational activities.
The activities included baseball games, ping-pong, shuffleboard, tennis, croquet, card games, checkers,
and treasure hunts, O’Neil also organized twice-weekly dances for teenagers and offered free swimming
lessons at Lake Leota.
The local band director also ran a summer concert program. William H. Keyes served as the school
band director in 1944 and 1945. In the summer, Keyes was paid by the city to direct the community
band. Concerts were played at the bandstand built atop the ice skating warming house on the south
side of the lake. Anyone who wanted to play and did not have an instrument could borrow one from the
During the school year, Keyes also brought the high school band members and community musicians
together for special performances. When the annual Charity Ball was held at the high school
gymnasium in April 1944, community members joined high school band members and played a brief
concert preceding the dance. Community member Howard Bruce played drums; Charles Hazlett played
bass horn; and Carroll Bly played cornet.
A series of grade school basketball games for boys was supported by local businesses, including the
Rex Theater, Evansville Review, Conners Station, Finnane’s Grocery, Knights of Pythias, the Lion’s Club
and Kaltenborn Studios. The teams were coached by O’Neil and proved to be excellent training for
future high school athletes.
Activities for teenagers improved in December 1944, with the opening of a new recreational facility at 19
East Main Street. The new clubroom was known as the “Rec” and was organized by city and school
officials, as well as students. J. C. McKenna served as the chairman of the recreation department
The city council provided funding for the “Rec” and several students served as a student governing
body for the new facility. Phil Collins was chairman of the student organization.
While school and community officials tried to keep the lives of students as normal as possible, the World
War II conflict was still a daily reality. Many children had fathers, uncles, brothers and other relatives
serving in the armed forces.
Even the government asked children to be part of the conservation efforts the government imposed
during the war. The nation had shortages of paper, tin, fats and other materials and children were asked
to take part in projects to salvage materials that could be used to produce military machinery and
In 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower asked for the cooperation of all Americans in salvage collection,
including children. Eisenhower told citizens that manufacturers were experimenting with a new rocket
propellant that was made with nitroglycerine, a chemical that could be produced from kitchen fats.
Housewives and children were asked to help save this important product. “Every boy and girl can have
a part in the crusade to increase the amount of salvage material,” an Evansville Review reporter wrote.
The school served as a collection point for tin cans and other salvage materials. The grades held
contests and competed with one another in the number of items collected.
By the fall of 1944, students and teachers saw daily reminders of the war in the school. Many Evansville
alumni were serving in the war and the class of 1944 presented the school with an honor roll for service
men and women who had attended the Evansville schools. The board was 3-½ ft long by 2-½ ft wide
and was hung on a wall near the entrance to the high school.
The names of all former students from the school who were serving in the military were listed
alphabetically on the six-panel board. By February 1945, there were 208 names listed. Gold stars,
indicating the former student had made the supreme sacrifice during the war, highlighted eight names.
Many students were already hoping for peace. In the spring of 1945 the end of the war seemed near
and some of the classes began preparing for a V-Day (Victory Day) program to celebrate the end of the
war in Europe.
Superintendent McKenna was well aware of the effects of the war on the student body of the schools.
The high school had a depleted population due to the war and the attractive work opportunities for high
school age students.
The need for workers and soldiers had reduced the student population considerably.
Manufacturing companies were advertising for boys as young as 16 to work and several were tempted
to leave school to join the work force. Students also left school before graduation to join the armed
forces. Most branches of the service were taking enlisted men as young as 17.
Work on the farm and lack of transportation due to shortages of gasoline, rubber for tires, and metal for
automobiles also caused some rural young people to leave high school early. “In the high school our
enrollment has decreased noticeably since the war began,” McKenna explained in his annual report in
July 1945. “Since last September, thirty of our students have left high school.”
Several of the young men who had left school were requesting that they be allowed to return and
complete their education. For some, being in the military and in the work force had made them realize
the value of an education and some wanted to return to school and complete their education.
Some even mentioned that they wanted to improve their attendance and grades. “I have on my desk a
letter written by one of our graduates now serving in the army in the Philippines whose high school
record was not indicative of his ability. He wants to go on to college and is afraid his grades were not
high enough for admission,” McKenna told the school board.
The superintendent said he had received at least ten letters from servicemen who wanted to return to
school. McKenna recommended that returning military men be “given every help and consideration
possible that they may continue and finish their education.”
Teacher turnover had also been high because of the attractive salaries paid by manufacturers during
the war and the enlistment of some teachers into the military. There were acute shortages in
instructors for the industrial arts and agriculture classes, normally taught by men. The industrial arts
program was dropped in Evansville because it was impossible to find an instructor. Because of the
shortages, many school districts had increased their salaries to become more competitive.
In addition to the problems of finding an adequate number of teachers, McKenna also noted that the
graduation requirements had been changed so that students were required to take courses in four
academic fields, including English, Social Studies, Science and Mathematics. Spanish had been added
as a language during the war and German was dropped because the language was so unpopular.
The shortage of teachers continued after the war ended in August 1945. This happened at the same
time that the student population in the elementary school was beginning to cause crowding problems in
the grade school.
No one anticipated a need for additional class rooms, as it had been less than five years since the
Evansville high school building program was completed. By the fall of 1946, McKenna was expecting
some elementary classes would have more than forty pupils and he considered that “entirely too many
for one teacher.” “It is generally agreed that when the enrollment passes thirty the quality of instruction
decreases,” McKenna told the school board at their annual meeting in July 1946.
The increased enrollment meant that additional space had to be found and the eighth grade was moved
into the high school building. McKenna said that all available space in the elementary school built in
1921 was now in use for the first seven grades and kindergarten.
While the increase in the elementary enrollment created space needs, McKenna also worried that the
school system was losing high school students. McKenna believed that other school systems were
offering more services to rural students and recruiting some students that had formerly attended
Neighboring schools also offered bus service. Albany, Brooklyn, Oregon, Stoughton, Edgerton and
Orfordville each owned at least one school bus to transport students. The districts to the north and west
of Evansville threatened to extend their routes into areas that had students attending Evansville’s high
The Evansville school board and J. C. McKenna decided to establish a bus route so that other districts
would not take students away from the Evansville schools. The superintendent recommended that the
school board purchase a school bus and pay for the transportation of rural students to the city school.
Bus service had been provided to some rural students. William Bone, owner and operator of the Leota
School, a private school for girls, also owned a school bus. The Evansville School District hired Bone to
transport twenty-six rural high school and grade school students.
At a special meeting held on March 21, 1947 voters of the district listened to the arguments for a new
bus. Then the motion was made to spend $4,000 from the building reserve fund to purchase a school
bus. The purchase was approved by a 39 to 19 vote.
The bus was purchased in the summer of 1947 and was in use for the 1947-48 school year. Sixty-five
students were transported by bus into the Evansville Schools during the first year of operation.
Other factors contributed to the growth in the school population. By 1947, there was a rapid increase in
the birth rate in Rock County. This was the beginning of what is today called the “Baby Boomer”
There was also a nation-wide trend toward consolidation of schools. At the local level, McKenna
anticipated that some rural schools would close because of low enrollments and he believed that those
school districts would ask to be attached to the Evansville public school. “If more rural schools close
and send their pupils here, as is being advocated, the problem will become more acute in the next two
years,” McKenna told the school board in July 1947.
The superintendent noted that the high school, built in 1939, could accommodate an additional one
hundred pupils. However, the 1921 grade school was already filled to capacity and was experiencing
Because of the availability of high school space, McKenna recommended that the school board consider
creating a union free high school by consolidating some of the surrounding farm area into the school
district. With the tuition based enrollment of rural high school students, there was competition between
area high schools. Some schools were offering transportation and other incentives in order to get
The proposed new union free high school had both advantages and some drawbacks. Evansville public
schools would lose some tuition by including the farm area. However, the school district would gain a
better tax base and the cost of operating the school would be less of a financial burden on city
McKenna told the school board he would begin a study of the union free high school by looking at
programs of this type that were already operating in Mt. Horeb and other nearby communities. “It may
be that such a plan will not be accepted by the voters of the area involved but I believe it is worth a trial,”
The union free high school remained a subject of discussion for several years after McKenna first
proposed the idea in 1947. This concept provided that rural areas surrounding a city school district
could be included in the tax base for operating the high school. Rural students from the high school tax
district were then exempt from tuition charges.
The Evansville school board hoped to attract students from within a five to eight mile radius of Evansville
and increase the high school student enrollment. State initiatives to consolidate rural schools also had
an effect on the grade school population.
The school purchased one bus and hired William Bone to drive another bus route for the 1948 school
year. Rural school districts paid $2 per pupil. The difficulty was to get people living in the rural areas to
agree to pay taxes, rather than tuition, to the school district.
McKenna and the school board agreed that offering special classes to attract rural youth was one way
to encourage farm families to agree to support a union free high school. In July 1948, the school board
announced that Clarence Grundahl had been hired to teach. “This year Evansville high school will offer
to the rural students a full course in vocational agriculture.”
Grundahl proposed that the agricultural classes would be beneficial to the family farming operation as
well as the students. Each farm would get a complete soil test and dairy herds would be studied. The
course would included growing crops, control of insects and disease, preserving forage crops, and the
use of feeds for livestock. The four-year dairy course would emphasize herd improvement and milk
testing. Agriculture students would also learn farm management.
The new agriculture classes also led students to organize a Future Farmers of America chapter in
Evansville. Grundahl also planned to have classes for young men, up to twenty-seven years of age,
who were already engaged in farming and organized a farm veterans organization.
Another new organization that attracted both rural and city students was organized by the home
economics instructor, Mary Swanson. In December 1948, a chapter of the Future Homemakers of
America was formed. “The purpose of the organization is to give the girls an understanding of the
importance of the home in national life”, Mrs. Swanson explained.
When school opened in September 1948, there were twenty-four teachers and the number would
continue to increase as student enrollment grew. In 1948, nine teachers were hired for grades
kindergarten through eighth. The high school staff included Marjorie Stelter, the new coach for the girls
physical education program; Dan Kissel, the industrial arts teacher; and Grundahl.
Coach and physical education teacher Mel Erickson had replaced the popular coach George O’Neil in
1946. Erickson continued as the head of the boys’ program in physical education after Stelter was hired
to teach the girls’ classes. Stelter stayed only one year and in 1949 Eleanor Coenen took her place.
When school opened in September 1949, one additional teacher was hired, for a total of twenty-five
teachers. The September 1, 1949 issue of the Evansville Review listed the names of the teachers.
Mrs. S. J. Rivers taught kindergarten and grade school music. There were two first grade classes taught
by Mildred Branson and Barbara Albright. Lynette Howard taught second grade; Mrs. E. B. Libby, third
grade. Ruth Hale, fourth grade; Helen McNally, fifth grade; Gladys Petersen, sixth grade; Mrs. R. E.
Reckord, seventh grade; Mrs. Chris Nelson, eighth grade, and Lillie Hanson, principal and remedial
At the high school, David Demichei, a graduate of the State Teachers College at Whitewater was hired
as football coach. He told the Review reporter that he expected to extend the football program to
include boys in the seventh and eighth grade. Demichei had also been hired to teach commercial
Other high school staff included Ruth Birkenmayer, English and library; E. M. Cannelin, music; Eleanor
Coenen, girls’ physical education; Mel Erickson, boys’ physical education and basketball coach; Ruth
Greene, English and Latin; C. S. Grundahl, agriculture; William Hinze, social science and English;
Bernard Kennedy, biology and history; Daniel Kissel, industrial arts; Mrs. Charles Moss, mathematics
and guidance; Evelyn Sizer, science; and Mary E. Swanson, home economics. Mrs. Jennie Paulson
served as school secretary.
Consolidation of rural schools into the Evansville school district continued to stress the schools’ already
crowded classrooms. Because of the increased birth rate in the late 1940s, the elementary school was
In 1949, the board recommended setting the age limit of kindergarten enrollees at five years old by
October 1, rather than December 31 and the following year to require that first graders be six years old
by October 1. Although the reason given for advancing the enrollment age was that children would be
more mature when they entered school, the ruling also allowed a smaller enrollment, at least during the
first year. Kindergarten classes had been averaging over 40 pupils and the 1949 class was expected to
be about 30.
The shortage of classrooms in the elementary grades in 1949 was handled by remodeling two small
storage rooms and the nurses office in the basement of the 1921 school, making one classroom out of
the three smaller rooms. The seventh and eighth grades were moved into the high school. “Since we
do not have any other space available in the school this is our only solution,” McKenna told taxpayers at
the annual meeting.
The following year, McKenna explained to the school board and nearly 200 taxpayers who attended the
1950 annual meeting that the tax levy needed to be increased in order to hire more teachers, since the
enrollment was also increasing. Twenty-nine teachers were needed, according to McKenna.
The 1921 school was remodeled once more with two basement rooms enlarged to create another
classroom. The school also rented rooms from the Masonic Temple for the 1950-51 school year in
order to have enough space for the growing elementary enrollment. Two second grade sections were
moved to the Masonic Temple.
The 1950 kindergarten class was divided into two sections with a total enrolment of 48 students. The
rest of the classes had from 41 to 57 students in each grade, with the first grade being the largest and
the fourth grade the smallest in size.
Mrs. Rivers, who had taught both kindergarten and music, could now devote all of her time to
kindergarten classes. A full time music teacher, Mrs. Jeraldine Gordee, was hired for the 1950-51
Consolidation of rural districts was also on the horizon. The state had established county school
committees to study and make recommendations to make the rural districts more efficient. Some were
overcrowded, while others had too few enrolled.
The Rock County school committee held hearings in the Evansville school auditorium in June 1950 and
presented plans for the reorganization of schools. The plan included seven district schools in Rock
County, Evansville, Orfordville, Edgerton, Milton, Janesville, Beloit and Clinton.
The school committee said the plan would have the following advantages. First, the high schools would
have sufficient populations to furnish classes in domestic science, industrial arts, agriculture, music, art,
science and other academic offerings. Seconded, the districts would have equalized tax bases to
support this curriculum. Third, the plan would offer better administration of the schools.
Fourth, the student-teacher ratio would improve. Integrated school districts were permitted to have only
30 pupils in grades kindergarten through grade 3 and 35 in grades 4 through eight. Evansville was
averaging 40 students per grade. Fifth, transportation of students would be improved and sixth, the
schools could hire well-trained faculty.
By 1950, one school district was already sending students to the Evansville schools. Rural district # 10
that included students living south of Evansville and in the Magnolia area had too few students to
operate the school and had petitioned to allow their students to enroll in Evansville. This added to the
crowding. There were so many rural students attending Evansville schools that the school needed to
purchase another bus. The bus routes accommodated 117 students in both the grades and high school
during the 1950-51 school year.
The inspection by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction’s office in the spring of 1951 also
emphasized the need to build new classrooms and suggested making additions or remodeling the
district buildings. The city properties had recently been reassessed and the real estate had been
valued at nearly $6 million. McKenna estimated that the school district could borrow about $265,000 for
building or remodeling.
In addition to the overcrowded conditions, the 1921 building and the heating plant were also in need of
repair. The board considered replacing the coal stoker in the heating plant at their May 1951 meeting,
but delayed any action, though the stoker was worn out. The board however, decided to repair the
stoker and purchase a hot water heater so that the boiler would not have to be used to heat water for
The school buildings required constant maintenance and repair. For many years, during the 1940s,
shortages of materials meant that most of the maintenance was in painting the walls and refinishing the
gymnasium floor. Even after the war, the school board remained very conservative in spending money
to repair and maintain the buildings. As in the past several years, during the summer break of 1951,
very little maintenance was completed on the buildings, with the exception of some painting and other
redecoration of the rooms.
When the 1951-52 school year began, two sections of the first grade were moved into the Masonic
Temple, as the school continued to rent space. A seventh and eight grade combined classroom was
moved back into the grade school, but the eighth grade continued to be housed in the high school
Overcrowding was only one issue that McKenna addressed in his role as superintendent. For the first
time, the 1951-52 teacher’s contracts had a clause requiring teachers to attend a week-long workshop.
The program was yet another requirement the state had given school districts, if they were to be part of
a consolidated district.
McKenna designed a workshop to be held the week before classes began in late August. At the
workshop, Superintendent McKenna covered many school related problems that teachers could
anticipate and included classroom discipline, truancy, grading, school bus laws and the conduct of
children on the buses, and health problems of children.
The superintendent encouraged teachers to learn school policies regarding purchase orders, class
schedules, records and report cards. He wanted teachers to promote parent attendance at school
activities and participation in the PTA. The program also served to acquaint new teachers with the
school system and prepare returning teachers for the year.
By the middle of the school year, McKenna and the school board began the lengthy process of
designing a building proposal to submit for referendum. In February 1952, the board and McKenna
interviewed architects. Then after visiting a number of projects that the firm had designed, the board
chose Weiler and Strang of Madison. The intention was to have the architects design an addition to the
school and a new heating system to replace “the inefficient and costly one-pipe system.”
McKenna pointed out that the school was in excellent financial shape. The debt for the 1939 building
was to be paid by 1955 and there were no other financial obligations that would interfere with borrowing
for building purposes.
However, before much headway could be made on the new building project, McKenna and four board
members found themselves under attack from a group of citizens calling themselves “School Reform
Movement”. The dissidents circulated a petition asking for the resignations of McKenna, and Erma
Miller, Ida Conroy, Lester Patterson and Willard Waeffler.
According to a letter printed in the June 12, 1952 Review, the School Reform Movement members were
concerned about the following: Teachers were shopping downtown, smoking in a neighborhood grocery
store, visiting a beauty parlor and hunting, all during school hours. There were also discipline problems
and McKenna seldom visited classrooms, according to the letter.
School Reformers suggested the school board select a superintendent who could maintain “enlightened
discipline”; recommend high caliber teachers; supervise classroom instruction; businesslike operation of
the school; purchase on competitive bid. They also proposed the election of school board members
The school board gave McKenna a vote of confidence and none of the school board members listed in
the petition resigned. However, the board did agree that there should be an audit of the school financial
records by a professional accountant. McKenna also agreed to tighten discipline at the school and the
board established a policy for handling complaints against teachers and the superintendent.
With the public attack behind them, McKenna and the board turned their attention once again to the
building of new classrooms. In December 1952, Weiler and Strang presented their design of an addition
to the south side of the grade school. The cost for five classrooms, a principal’s office, storage room,
activity room, storage room and replacement of one of the boilers in the 1921 building was set at
$200,000, well within the borrowing power of the school district.
Most people realized that building just five classrooms was a temporary solution, as the community
anticipated additional enrollment, especially in the elementary school. Some questioned the wisdom of
putting an addition onto the First Street school grounds, as the playground area was inadequate for the
size of the student body.
Some citizens suggested that a location in the northwest corner of the city would be a more acceptable
site. Others believed it was too great a distance from the other buildings and would make a long
distance for children on the eastside to walk to school.
The Review suggested that the most satisfactory solution would be for the city to acquire three houses
to the south of the grade building, raze them, and build onto the present grade building. The
newspaper urged people to attend a special meeting, view the plans and make a decision about whether
to build Weiler and Strang’s design.
The 1950s proved to be one of the most divisive periods in the Evansville School District’s history. The
community could not come together and settle on a solution to the overcrowding in the schools.
The problem escalated as the population of Evansville grew from 2531 to 2858, a 12 per cent increase,
between 1950 and 1960. The overcrowding was especially acute in the grade school classes.
Adding to the problem of limited classroom space, elementary students from the surrounding school
districts began to enroll in the city school. This was the beginning of the consolidation predicted by J. C.
McKenna in his 1947 annual report.
When classes began in the fall of 1952, the kindergarten enrollment hit an all-time high of 70 students
and a total enrollment in the grade school of 399 students. Two hundred sixty six students were
enrolled in the high school.
The school board sought a temporary solution by renting space elsewhere in the city. Throughout the
1950s, early elementary classes were held in rooms rented in the Masonic Temple. The State
Department of Public Instruction frowned on the temporary classroom solution, but allowed the local
board time to try to find a resolution.
Eventually the space needs were so great that it was necessary to rent from churches and the public
library, as well as the Masonic Lodge. It was usually the first or second grades that were shifted from
the school building to rented space elsewhere in the city.
In its efforts to create additional classroom space, the school board began deliberations with the voters
on December 16, 1952. The process began with 40 people attending the public meeting in the high
school auditorium and listening to a building plan presented by Alan Strang, a member of the
architectural firm of Weiler and Strang.
Weiler and Strang’s design included five new classrooms, an activity room, office, and girls and boys
restrooms. The rooms were to be added onto the south side of the 1921 grade school building.
The cost of the classrooms was estimated to be $175,000. The architects estimated that the heating
plant for the new addition would cost $25,00 and another $35,000 would be needed to modernize the
heating system in the 1921 grade school building. An additional $8,000 was needed for equipment for
the new building, bringing the cost to $243,000.
Alan Strang also pointed out the need for additional land to the south of the building that needed to be
purchased in order to accommodate new buildings. This was expected to add another $30,000 to the
cost. Excluding the new land, the architects’ plan would increase taxes by $3.85 per thousand and, if
the cost of the additional land was included, the plan would put the school district near its maximum
borrowing power of $268,000.
At the December 1952 meeting, members of the audience questioned Strang about the need for the
activity room and he explained that is was used for physical education and other group activities for
young children. Someone also asked if an additional story could be built onto the 1921 grade school
and Strang replied that the walls and ceilings had not been designed to carry the weight load of another
Weiler and Strang prepared an estimated of costs to reinforce the footings, walls and beams of the
building so that an additional story could be built and determined it would cost an additional twenty-five
to thirty thousand dollars. The land question and the decision to build another story onto the grade
building were citizen concerns that did not go away.
Over the next three years, citizens refused to believe the architectural firm and sought other opinions
about the various construction possibilities. Throughout this period, plans presented by the board met
with opposition at every turn. The board and taxpayers met numerous times and consulted a variety of
experts to answer questions about land purchases and building design.
However, despite the disagreements, the board tried to move forward with building plans. Hopeful that
they could find a resolution, at their March 1953 meeting, the board discussed procedures for a
referendum with local attorney Don Gallagher. The board also appointed Superintendent McKenna and
board member Willard Waeffler to work with the architects and try to find areas in the plan that could be
cut in order to save money.
Before the project could come before the voters, two neighboring school districts asked to consolidate
with the Evansville School district. One, known as the Krause district, was north and west of the city and
the second was District 10, described as a donut shaped area that completely surrounded Evansville
and included students from Union and Magnolia townships.
The District 10 school had been closed for two years and students from that district were already
attending Evansville schools. District 10 was paying tuition to Evansville schools. A new state law said
that districts that had not operated a school for a two-year period had to consolidate with an operating
district. If they did not consolidate, the school board could no longer tax for tuition paid to the school
district the students attended. Many worried that this would make individual parents responsible for the
tuition of their children.
In June 1953, District 10 made a formal application for consolidation with Evansville. Although this would
add land to the Evansville district’s tax base, the consolidation contributed to overcrowding in the
School officials also met with the Krause district representatives and the Albany School District to
determine the division of the Krause School District land between Evansville School District and the
Albany School District. Students from both rural districts were included in the Evansville schools at the
opening of classes in September 1953.
As the space crunch became more acute, the board continued to work with Weiler and Strang, even
though the board could not get permission from the voters to go ahead with the building plans first
presented in December 1952. The delay caused increased tension between the school and community
and there were also increases in costs of space rental and building construction.
Not only was there the additional expense of rental space from the Masonic lodge, but building
construction costs continued to escalate. At each monthly meeting during 1953, the board discussed
building plans. When no progress on new construction was made by the time of the annual meeting in
July 1953, the board agreed to rent three classroom spaces at the Masonic temple, even though the
rooms were considered too small to accommodate the students and there was very little playground
space near the building. Two first grade classes and a combination first and second grade class were
placed in the rented space.
The school board agreed to add new lighting fixtures to the rented classrooms and pay the cost of any
remodeling required by the State Department of Public Instruction. The rent for the rooms was
increased to $350 per month.
Following the school board’s annual meeting in 1953, Morton Batty, president of the Rock County PTA
council, asked the local PTA to support the school board. “The school board in Evansville, or any other
community, can well use the PTA as a direct means of communication with the people. Pledge
yourselves to aid your school board in presenting and understanding the needs and plans for an
expanded school system. Additional school space is as much the parents’ responsibility as it is the
A new buildings and grounds committee was appointed at the annual meeting. Howard Brunsell served
as chairman. Willard Waeffler and Bruce Townsend were also on the committee.
In August 1953, the board called special meeting to consider building plans and invited A. R. Page, an
assistant superintendent from the State Department of Public Instruction, to meet with the board and
interested citizens. At the meeting, the building committee was given approval to confer again with the
architects and make plans to recommend to the citizens.
At their September meeting, the board agreed to offer an option to purchase on the Jacob Spinhirne
property in the 500 block of West Main, bordered by West Main and Fifth Streets. It was the first of
several sites the board considered.
The following month, a special school district meeting was held on October 26 to consider the purchase
of property for building new elementary classrooms. The board and citizens came prepared to discuss a
number of options.
By the time the meeting was called, the citizens were asked presented with three sites in addition to its
own property on First Street. The sites included the Spinhirne property, Ralph Brzezinski property
bordered by Liberty Street and the old Fair Grounds owned by the City of Evansville. Citizens who
attended the meeting had other vacant land they wanted the board to consider.
Prior to the meeting, the Evansville Review published the school board’s list of the advantages and
disadvantages of each site. The size of the sites varied. The Spinhirne property was 7.8 acres, the
Brzezinski property 7.5 acres, and the Fair Grounds, 22 acres.
Brzezinski was asking $1,300 per acre for a total of $9,750, but had also agreed to donate three lots
which he estimated in value at $2,000. Spinhirne wanted a total of $9,360, or $1,200 per acre. The City
was asking $750 an acre, if the school purchased 10 acres, or $500, if the school purchased the entire
parcel of 22 acres.
The Fair Grounds property was listed at $11,000. However, the Fair Grounds required the most site
improvements. There were no streets, water or sewer connections. The water and sewer additions
were expected to cost $5970. No one had estimated the cost for storm sewers. The land was also
considered to be too far from most residential areas of the city and therefore too far for most students to
Most people, including board members could not envision that there was a need for the entire fair
grounds. One board member said that the 22 acres was larger than the school district anticipated it
would need in the foreseeable future.
At the October meeting, the voters cast several ballots. First they voted on the School Board’s
unanimous choice of the Spinhirne property. Voters rejected this 94 to 45. Another vote was cast, this
time considering either the Fair Grounds or the Brzezinski property. Fifty favored the Fair Grounds site
and forty-three voted for the Brzezinski property, 45 were in favor of no site selection. Many voters still
favored using the land already owned by the school.
No decision was reached. However, battle lines had been drawn and the controversy continued for
more than a year. On the fringes were at least two other sites, the Melass property, facing on Lincoln
Street and running south between Longfield and Third Streets (the current St. John’s Lutheran Church
property) and the Jenson property on Liberty Street, adjacent to the school grounds already owned by
Another meeting was called for November 2, 1953 and at this meeting 350 voters were again asked to
consider the properties. After bitter discussion, four ballots were cast and the final decision by the
voters was to build on the land already owned by the district and to try to purchase property from
neighbors of the school. The school board was now left to deal with persuading its neighbors to sell
their homes and property to the district.
Meanwhile, the building and grounds committee worked with the architects to revise the design of the
addition, this time with eight classrooms. The firm of Weiler and Strang presented the board with their
best estimates of the cost of an eight-room addition, including a multi-purpose room, equipment and
landscaping. The estimated cost had risen from $268,000 in 1952 to $285,000 with the present plan
and still no decision had been made as to the location of the building.
There was some good news. Because of increased assessed value, the district’s borrowing power was
now at $294,000. However, the estimate did not consider the cost of purchasing additional land.
The costs were divided into three areas. The classroom addition would be $204,500. Improvements to
heating lighting, storage, remodeling of present grade school and improving the parking lot were
estimated to cost an additional $55,500. The architects fees and contingencies were estimated to be
$25,000, for a total cost of $285,000.
The addition would increase the number of classrooms but it would be a short-term solution. With the
growth in the city and with consolidation, the school board estimated they would need nine new
classrooms within ten years. Some on the board were beginning to realize that their estimates of
student enrollment were very low and the need for classrooms would continue to be a problem.
Board president Don Whitmore explained the need for additional classrooms. “The Board of Education
began its building investigation two years ago. The thought at that time and at a previous public
meeting concerned four to five rooms to meet present needs. Among other things, the last two pre-
school censuses were considered. We are facing a birth rate stabilized at a new high.”
In addition to the high birth rate, the school board was also facing some legal problems. Whitmore
wrote, “We have received notice from the Industrial Commission to discontinue classes in the Temple by
March 1 unless standards impossible to meet in rented property are met.”
Whitmore suggested a new approach to the problem: “1. Select a new site of sufficient size to
accommodate a future high school. 2. Build about six of the future high school classrooms (and
necessary auxiliary facilities like toilets and a heating plant.) 3. Use these classrooms for the immediate
future for primary grades until the school board is in a position to finance the full development of the
future high school plant. 4. Convert the high school part of the present plant to primary use and move
all the primary grades to that location.”
The ideas were prophetic, as the school board did eventually purchase the fair grounds property and
build a new grade school and high school on that site, using the former grade and high school as a
middle school. However, forward-looking Whitmore’s ideas were, the voters did not accept them at the
In January 1954, there was another challenge to a school board and voter decision. The State Attorney
said the site description of the school land that had been given to voters in November was insufficient
and it had not been made clear exactly where on the school property the construction would take
Some voters believed that the new school rooms would be built to the south of the present school
buildings, others believed it would be to the north. Because of the lack of definite location, it was the
State Attorney’s legal opinion that the vote taken would not hold up in court. The board was once again
faced with coming to the voters for a site decision.
The school board was left with no choice but to try to rent the Masonic Temple rooms once again. More
site and construction meetings were held in March 1954 and since there was no decision on the site the
board proceeded with repair and replacement of the mechanical systems in the 1921 grade building.
The board agreed to borrow up to $50,000 dollars to replace the one-pipe heating system in the oldest
building, with a two-pipe system and a new boiler. The lighting system was also to be replaced with
modern, efficient fixtures that cast more light. Remodeling of the basement to make an additional
classroom, smaller restrooms, and other maintenance was also planned.
When the bids for a general contractor, electrician, plumber, and heating contractor were opened in
July, the lowest bids in the four construction areas totaled $60,312.80. The board had to rescind their
agreement to borrow $50,000 and vote to borrow $60,000 for the repairs. The remodeling and
maintenance work was not completed until the fall and additional classrooms were rented as school
began in the fall of 1954.
More site problems were in store for the school board. In the Spring of 1954, the board also
approached the school neighbors, Keith Williams and H. H. Loomis to try to purchase their property.
Both families resisted, especially since there were already sites under consideration that did not require
the purchase of homes and the relocation of families.
The school board backed away from the condemnation and purchase of property and called in two
university professors to recommend a site for the school. After investigating several vacant pieces of
land, their recommendation was to purchase property that had received only slight consideration
previously. This land was to the north and was known as the Eager-Baker property.
Two-hundred people attended the annual meeting in July 1954 and approved the purchase of land the
experts had recommended for a new elementary school. The property was owned by Gertrude Eager
and John Baker, with Garfield at its southern border, the park to the east, and Third Street to the west.
The property today is a residential area along Eager Court. The Eager property was 5.7 acres
purchased at a price of $25,000. John Baker was to be offered $4,000 for a smaller site that would
provide access to the Eager property
Almost immediately there was a protest and petitions circulating to stop the board from completing the
purchase. Many of the protestors were the same people who had opposed McKenna and school board
members on previous issues, the School Reform Movement. “Site Problem Expected To Reach
Showdown Monday”, were the headlines that appeared in the August 12, 1954 issue of the Evansville
Review editor, Will Sumner, Jr. called for the citizens to “calm down”. “Somewhere we must have an end
to this. Our sole aim should be to come out of the meeting with a decision that will be the best possible
not for our pocketbooks, but for our kids and grandkids.”
In late 1954, vocal taxpayers threatened lawsuits against the school district to prevent the acquisition of
the Eager tract of land near the city park. After several months of protests, the school board decided to
avoid further disputes and potential legal problems and reversed its decision.
The board asked Gertrude Eager to return the $25,000 the school had paid for the property. She
agreed to refund the $25,000 and the board returned the deed for the property to Mrs. Eager.
By December 31, 1954, the Eager land acquisition had been reversed, legal suits had been dropped
against the board. This left the school board and school administration
with an already crowded First Street site as the only option for a new school building. “While adults
argue the students suffer,” one observer noted.
Once again, the school board contacted Weiler and Strang to begin planning for new elementary school
classrooms. The architects were asked to present two proposals, one for an eight-room, one-story
building and another for an eight-room, two-story structure.
Joseph Weiler warned the board that a two story structure would cost about 10% more than a single
story building because of the heavier construction required for the second story and the necessity for
stairwells. However, Weiler also noted that a two-story building would take up less of the already scarce
playground and athletic practice field space.
Weiler estimated the additional cost for the heavier construction to be $25,000 and the board decided to
have plans drawn for the less expensive one-story option, estimated to cost $250,000. These estimates
were based on building costs of $1.10 per cubic foot, including heating, contingencies and architects
Weiler and Strang drew plans for an eight-room classroom, one-story building with a multipurpose
room. The design did not include foundations or other construction that would accommodate a second
story. The new grade school was to be built south and west of the 1921 grade building. The plans also
to included alterations to the heating system to connect the new building to the existing boiler room.
Once the architects had preliminary plans, the school district expected to have a referendum at the
1955 spring election. McKenna and the school board prepared a flyer and several news articles about
the building appeared before the election. The information included an explanation of the crowded
conditions, the need to rent space in the Masonic Temple, and the costs of the new building.
The information told voters that the new classrooms were not be a long-term solution. The eight-room
building would provide just enough classrooms for children already in the district. If other schools were
consolidated with Evansville, or if the population increased, there would once again be a shortage of
Voters were also told that when the children born in the late 1940s would enroll in high school by 1960
and the 1939 high school would no longer have enough classroom space.
This was no idle threat on the part of the school board. Evansville’s population increased by 12% from
1950 to 1960 and state laws forced consolidation of rural schools, further increasing the student
population in the Evansville school district. The new elementary building was only a temporary solution
to the districts space needs.
Near the referendum date, a protest group formed and claimed the design of the new building was
incompatible with the existing school buildings. However the referendum passed by a wide margin.
Voters approved the school building referendum by 568 to 148 votes.
The board immediately contacted the architects to prepare detailed plans for construction. There were
few changes to the original drawings prepared in 1955. However, the board did ask that the architects
design the multipurpose room so that it could be converted to two classrooms when it became
necessary. Superintendent McKenna also recommended that board members tour some of the newer
schools to get ideas for the construction.
The board also asked Attorney William Bewick to draft a resolution so that bonds in the amount of
$250,000 could be issued for a period of 15 years. Six bond houses competed in the bidding, with the
Milwaukee Company winning the bid at an interest rate of 2 1/8%.
When the bids were opened, the total cost was set at $224,000. This did not include the cost of
furnishings. Eight general contractors bid on the work, with V & E Construction Company of Galena,
Illinois winning the bid for general contractor. M. J. Thomas received the bid for the heating and
ventilating system. Hyne Plumbing and Heating was the lowest bidder on the plumbing work and Berman
Electric Co. of Madison received the electrical contract.
The work was started in late August 1955. Meanwhile, the school board continued to rent space in the
Masonic Temple at the rate of $350 per month. When school opened in the fall of 1955 there were 779
pupils enrolled, 57 more students than the previous year. The enrollment included 291 students in the
high school and 488 in kindergarten through eighth grades.
Work crews had the building enclosed by November so that interior work could continue through the
cold winter months. Hurricanes in the Eastern states delayed shipments of window glass and limited
availability of some other construction materials. The contractors kept working despite the shortages.
The building was completed in the spring of 1956 and an open house was held for the public in April.
The main entrance, kitchen, storage rooms, offices, storage and toilets were in the center of the building
and the large activity room was on the north end of the building. A corridor divided the eight classrooms
on the south end of the building, with four rooms on each side.
Each of the eight classrooms was designed with a skylight for natural light. Some of the equipment from
the high school kitchen was moved to the new school. Lunches were to be served on collapsible tables
and benches set up in the new activity room.
Only three of the eight classrooms were used during the spring because all of the furniture and
equipment had not arrived. The first classes to use the building were first grade sections taught by
Janet Parr, Mrs. Bill Schuster and Florence Shafer. All eight classrooms were in use by the fall of 1956.
The fact that the new school had only accommodated the students already enrolled was reason for the
school board to continue to anticipate the need for more classrooms, playground area, and parking.
More rural students were coming into the school district and by 1955, there were three school buses in
operation, two owned by the school and one owned by William Bone. At their June 1955 meeting, the
Evansville school board decided to get out of the busing business. The board had asked for bids from
school bus owners in Janesville and Milwaukee, as well as local gas station owner, Art Rasmussen.
The board offered a contract to Art Rasmussen for operation of the school buses and Rasmussen
agreed to purchase the two buses owned by the district. William Bone continued to have a contract with
the school board for the third bus route.
Not only were the rural districts growing, but the city of Evansville continued to grow, as new people
moved into the community. Subdivisions were planned on the Westside of Evansville and the Pruden
building business expanded their operation. This put increasing pressure on the school board to find
room for the increasing school population.
At the annual meeting in July 1956, the board was authorized to take options to purchase on any
property that was available in the city block bordered by First, Highland, Second and Liberty Streets.
Attorney Albert Gill acted as the school’s agent in getting purchase options, and two properties were
immediately offered. The board took a purchase option on both properties for 120 days, but could not
purchase the land without the approval of district voters.
The first was a piece of land 66 feet by 192 feet owned by Myrtle Cole and she offered to sell the
property for $1,750. The land joined the schoolyard. Betsy Jensen owned the second piece of
property. This land was also adjacent to the school and included a house and Jensen’s asking price
Although the Eager land remained vacant for many years, the other property considered for purchase
by the board, Brzenzinski’s property and the Spinhirne land was developed for residences. The growth
of the city was to the west.
The late 1950s also brought an increase in the school population as rural schools began to close. The
board once again studied enrollment and census statistics of the schools that might consolidate with
Evansville. Within two years after building the new school, it was the general consensus of the board
that another building project was needed.
This time, the board recommended that a new high school should be built and in November 1957, they
called a public meeting to discuss the issue. Those attending the meeting agreed that another site
should be found for a building a high school.
While the school board continued to seek a school site, teachers also sought improvements for their
programs. At the annual meeting in July 1957, Evansville’s agriculture faculty and supporters attempted
to get the voters and the school board to approve an addition to the 1939 high school building. For
nearly ten years, the Evansville schools had offered courses to high school students, young adult
farmers, and veterans engaged in agriculture.
Edward Zamrow taught high school agriculture classes and Joseph Polich was the Veteran Vocational
trainer. The adult classes were given twice a year in twelve-week sessions. Zamrow was also the
advisor for the FFA program.
Evansville was one of the few high schools in the state operating a vocational agriculture department
without a shop. Agricultural educators believed that a shop was important to an agriculture program. In
shop classes high school students and adult vocational students could learn to repair farm machinery
and engines. The instructors hope to expand the curriculum to include welding,
The proposed shop building would be one-story and 40 x 100 feet. The shop would include a laboratory
for testing seeds, soils and milk, a small office, classroom, and area to repair machinery. With the
additional space, the old agriculture classroom could be used for an industrial arts classroom and
No decision was made at the annual meeting in 1957. However, the school board did think the plan had
merit and called a special meeting in August to allow the agriculture instructors to present their proposal
Zamrow presented the plan to those attending the meeting, but the voters defeated the proposed
construction 29 to 18. School district voters were not in a mood to spend money. At the same meeting
the board’s proposal to purchase the Betsy Jenson property on Liberty Street was defeated.
Despite the voters’ critical opposition to building projects and land purchases, there continued to be
excellent community participation in school programs throughout the 1950s. Band concerts, sports
programs, and drama presentations were well attended by school personnel, parents and community
The community was also kept informed through newspaper articles. In the late 1950s the Evansville
Review feature article that highlighted academic programs in the school that were preparing students for
their adult careers. The agriculture teachers and students received publicity for participation in the
annual Black & White Holstein breeders show and county and state fair work.
Gene Schultz and his chemistry students were featured in an article published in the February 28, 1957
Review. The science course was intended to give students an “eye to the future” and Schultz
suggested that chemistry students might one day solve the problems of cancer or leukemia.
In the fall of 1957, the Evansville School district also received its first grant for testing classroom
teaching techniques. The program was sponsored by the Fund for the Advancement of Education and
the local physics classes became part of an experimental classroom using films as instructional tools. At
the end of the program, students were tested so that comparisons could be made between the film
program and standard teaching practices.
The school administrators also presented a school bulletin describing the courses offered by the
school. Every teacher submitted information about the curriculum and methods of teaching and Della
Moss arranged and edited the bulletin. Many people expressed an interest in the report and the Review
offered to print the entire bulletin in a series of articles.
By featuring academic programs in the local newspaper, school administrators wanted Evansville
residents to understand the school’s curriculum goals and objectives. The bulletin was published as a
series of articles describing the content of the classes, the placement and I.Q. testing, and the desired
results of teaching in grades kindergarten through high school.
Several new programs were also started during the 1950s to increase community and school
partnerships. An expanded vocational program was offered to out-of-school adults. Partnering with the
Stoughton Vocational Program, the local school offered typing, sewing, photography and other classes
of interest to adults.
The first student exchange program was also started in September 1957. Twenty local high school
students and chaperones spent ten days in New Smyrna Beach, Florida learning about the community
and its schools. The project was sponsored by local citizens and the Chamber of Commerce. The
following spring the Florida students came to Evansville. This program was expanded several years
later to include foreign exchange students.
The first parent-teacher conferences were scheduled in November 1958. The program was organized
by elementary school principal, John Antes. The conferences were promoted through the PTA as a way
to foster better communication between teachers and parents. Teachers could learn more about the
child’s home life, and help parents to understand the school environment.
By the end of the 1950s, many in the community were also concerned about the growth and
consolidations, as school enrollments continued to rise. In 1957, Magnolia Township petitioned the
Evansville school district asking to add the students from the Drew School. However, some of the school’
s students wanted to attend the Orfordville School and the problem was not resolved for several years.
The integration of rural school districts into existing schools was cause for contention as parents and
school administrators often did not agree on what school students should attend.
There were still more than twenty rural schools operating in the Evansville area in the fall of 1957. The
schools included Butts Corners, Union, Tupper, Brown, Pleasant Prairie, Franklin, and Tullar in Union
Township. In Porter Township, Forest Academy, Eagle, Wilder, Lienau, Miller, White Star, Cooksville,
and Stevens schools were in operation. Furseth, Magnolia Center, Drew and Cainville were open in
Magnolia Township. In Center township, the West Center school, Crull, Bog, Brown and Barrett schools
were in session.
By September 1957, 835 students were registered with 296 students in the high school and 539 in the
grades. The high school enrollment was down slightly from the previous year, but this was considered
an aberration and more students were expected. The grade school enrollment had increased by 21
By the fall of 1959, the enrollment in the Evansville schools was expected to reach 900, an increase of
75 pupils over the previous year. More than 600 pupils were in the grade school, with classrooms
divided into two buildings. The need for more classroom and administration space became critical as
administrators predicted that two additional classrooms were needed for the 1960-61 school year and
ten more classrooms would be needed by 1965.
School Superintendent, J. C. McKenna, and board members began to bring the space needs of the
school before the public. At meetings of the P.T.A., the Lion’s Club and other local groups, the school
representatives prepared the public for land purchases and building programs that would be needed for
future growth and consolidation.
At the annual meeting in July 1959, the 21-acre fairgrounds was approved as a new school site by a
vote of 72 to 3. The City of Evansville sold the land to the school district for $25,000.
When the property was first proposed as a school site in 1954, the estimated cost was $11,000.
However, in order to use the site, Third Street and Fourth Streets had to be extended and utilities had to
be brought to the Fairgrounds site. Included in the sale of the property was the agreement that the City
would spend $12,000-13,000 to put in streets, sewer, water and electricity to the grounds. If the costs of
the improvements exceeded $13,000, the school district would be responsible for the additional costs.
At the same meeting where voters approved the purchase of the Fairgrounds, another country school
district asked to be annexed to the Evansville Schools. The Tupper School with 22 students was
approved for consolidation to Evansville. The district’s taxable property had an assessed valuation of
Each time rural districts were added to the Evansville District, the assessed valuation of the district
increased, thus increasing the district’s borrowing power. By 1959, The Evansville School District had
an assessed value of $12,199,000 and bonding power of $605,950.
Having brought the building needs before the community, the school board began the process of
selecting architects. After interviewing several architectural firms, the board selected Waterman, Fuge
and Associates of Fort Atkinson.
The firm agreed to design a new school that could be built in stages and designed a structure to house
the fourth through sixth grades. However, the building could eventually be increased in size, and
converted to a high school. When the conversion was complete, the 1939 high school building would be
used to house grade school students.
Waterman, Fuge and Associates produced drawings of the ten-room, one-story school. The proposed
completed high school was also shown on the plans. Once the architects finished preliminary plans the
board set the amount of the referendum at $315,000. The Board set the date of the school referendum
for February 9, 1960.
To gain community support, the school officials presented the plans to the PTA and also invited rural
school board members to hear the proposals. A citizens’ committee served lunch to the participants.
The board told voters that if the referendum was defeated, the board would need to find space to rent in
the community or cut some classes to half days.
Voters in the 1960s were much more likely to agree to school building projects and the first referendum
of the decade even though only 388 voters appeared at the polls. By a margin of 262 to 126, voters
approved the proposed building plan. The cost of $3.20 per thousand was added to the taxpayer’s bills.
When the Board opened the bids in April 1960, there were thirty-five contractors who wanted to work on
various parts of the project. The general contractor with the winning bid was V&E Construction
Company of Galena, the contractors who had built the grade school in 1965. Witte-Barker of Beloit won
the heating and ventilating contract. D. L. Bradley Co., of Janesville received the plumbing contract and
Westfall and Co., of Janesville got the electrical contract. The low bids totaled $284,641 and did not
include landscaping and site road work.
Until the project was completed, the school once again had to rent space in the Masonic Temple. The
district also rented the basement of the public library for classroom space. Grades 1, 2, and 5 were
housed at the Masonic Temple and grade six in the library basement.
Before the work began, the board made changes to the plans. The architects had recommended
terrazzo floors and board members Clark Prudhon and Ken Ellis tried to persuade Elizabeth Gray, Rev.
John Walker, John Wilde and Robert Turner to vote for the additional $2,182 for the floors. The
terrazzo floor was defeated, even though it would have saved maintenance costs.
The board also split in the same manner over the mosaic panels the architects had designed for the
front of the building. The four board members voting against Prudhon and Ellis wanted plain brick on
the front of the building, saving $1,620. Eventually Prudhon and Ellis were able to persuade the others
to use the panels.
Interior brick work below classroom windows was eliminated, as well as some extra classroom doors and
display cases. The glass wall on the court was changed to single glazing from double, and this saved
nearly $2,000. Other changes included blackboard specifications; a block basement, rather than
poured; block end wall footings; eliminating an air mixer on the heating system; and a change in
electrical light fixtures.
The ten-room building was completed in January 1961 and approximately 175 children moved into the
new school. The move released two rooms in the old grade school building and the rooms were turned
into a library. There was also new space for the music room.
The new school was L-shaped, with a new general purpose room, a teacher’s lounge, and an interior
corridor that as 325 feet long. The board was also planned to use one of the classrooms in the 1961-62
year for the mentally handicapped students enrolled in the school.
In the spring of 1961, one more rural school district asked to be attached to the Evansville Schools. The
White Star School, east of Evansville, was granted permission to become part of the Evansville school
In February 1961, John C. McKenna announced that he would retire at the end of the school year.
McKenna had seen the district through three building projects and several unsuccessful building
McKenna’s term of service as superintendent had been the longest in the school’s history. He had seen
many improvements and a growing student population. School enrollments had grown from 591 in 1934
to 1070 in 1961.
There had also been a number of changes to the curriculum in the twenty-seven years McKenna had
served as superintendent. McKenna was given credit for the additions of art, vocational agriculture,
industrial arts, and a French language program in the elementary school. The music program had also
been expanded with a full time vocal and a full time instrumental teacher.
Joseph M. Zoeller, Jr. was hired to replace McKenna on July 1, 1961. Zoeller was 33 years old and was
a graduate of Lawrence College. He had been the superintendent in Brillion for two years.
In the early 1960s, there was a rapid increase in the school population due to the consolidation of all of
the remaining country schools. In April 1962, three more rural school districts were added to the
Evansville school district. The Butts Corner, the Barrett, and a small portion of the Yahara school
districts were attached in public hearings held at the Yahara school by the County school committees.
Evansville had served these areas for high school purposes for the past several decades on a tuition
basis. The consolidation of these rural schools with the Evansville district raised the equalized valuation
of the district to more than $21,600,000.
Wilder, Forest Academy, Magnolia school districts also attached to Evansville in 1962. Superintendent
Joseph Zoeller reported to the School Board that the population of the school would increase from 1125
pupils in the 1961-62 year to 1484 in the 1962-63 year.
By the following year, nearly all of the country schools had been consolidated into the city schools.
When school opened for the 1963-64 year there were 1,541 pupils registered in grades kindergarten
In 1962, the Waterman-Fuge architectural firm of Forth Atkinson once again presented plans for an
addition to the new high school on the fairgrounds site at a cost of $895,000. The design was the
second phase of the building project on the fairgrounds site.
There were also signs of growth in administrative and teaching positions in the school district. A new
Junior High School principal’s position was created in the spring of 1962 and Miles Armstrong was the
first person appointed to that position. J. C. McKenna, former school superintendent, was hired as the
district’s first business manager.
As the school continued expansion plans, there was another social issue facing the community. The
Civil Defense movement was sweeping the United States and communities and private individuals were
making plans for shelters to protect against enemy bombardments and atomic fall-out.
There was a national call for defense preparations by families and communities. An air defense lookout
post was built on the fairgrounds site and manned by local citizens. Many citizens were stocking food
and water in their basements in preparation and cities and village governments were also organizing
This Civil Defense program created an unusual request from the City of Evansville to the Evansville
School Board. Since the school was to build a large gymnasium attached to the high school, the City
Council asked the School Board to consider building a bomb shelter under the new gym.
Meetings between the City Council and the Evansville School Board were held to determine whether the
construction would take place and who would be responsible for payment of building the bomb shelter.
At the joint meetings, Superintendent Joseph Zoeller also presented the possibility that the federal
government would help with the costs.
The room would be 100 by 120 feet, with a 12 foot ceiling. It would be stocked with emergency food and
medical supplies that would be provided by the federal government. The Board and the Council also
had broader plans for the shelter and agreed that it could be used for a community center or for other
emergencies, including tornados.
The City Council and the School Board agreed to split the cost of the shelter 50-50 with each group
paying $35,000. At the regular April election in 1962, the City asked voters to approve an advisory
referendum for the City’s portion of the cost. The voters defeated the shelter by a vote of 586 to 239.
The School Board was left to pay the architects fees for the design of the shelter that was never built.
The Board did grant the City permission to use the schools on the First Street site as emergency fall-out
Construction of the additional high school classrooms began in the spring of 1962 and was completed in
the fall. However, the construction was approximately two weeks behind schedule and high school
classes were delayed until the classrooms were ready. Classrooms at the new school opened on
September 17, 1962.
By the annual meeting on July 23, 1962, the district included schools in the townships of Center,
Magnolia, Janesville, Porter, and Union in Rock County and the Town of Brooklyn in Green County.
Nearly 100 citizens from the City of Evansville and the annexed school districts attended the annual
meeting. Clark Prudhon, president of the Board of Education, explained the need to purchase
additional land adjacent to the fairground site. The state Department of Public Instruction recommended
that a high school housing 600 pupils have at least 40 acres of land.
The Evansville high school had a population of approximately 400 students in 1962 and the Board
believed that there would soon be 600 students, based on consolidations and community growth. The
Board recommended purchasing up to 6 acres of land, known as the Hagen property, located between
Third and Fourth Street north of the fairgrounds. This property could be purchased for $10,200.
Another property, south of the fairgrounds, was a 10-acre site known as the Grundahl property. This
vacant land was available for $10,000.
The school board also recommended the purchase of a third piece of land, the Christie property,
located south of the First Street school land. The Christie property included a house that would be
moved to make way for playground space. This land was available for $6,570.
The voters agreed to purchase the Hagen property, with the option that some of the land could be
subdivided and sold as building lots. The Christie property was also purchased, but the voters delayed
the purchase of the Grundahl property until after the 1963 annual meeting.
The school was becoming crowded once again. There were 1,541 pupils registered when school
opened in the fall of 1963. It was the first time that more than 1,500 pupils had enrolled in the school.
The kindergarten held the largest class with 139 pupils. There were 136 first graders, 122 second
graders and 118 third graders.
Superintendent Zoeller also reported the following numbers of employees. There were 82 teachers,
administrators, nurses and clerks, 7 cooks and 8 janitors. There were seven bus drivers to transport
the students living outside the city limits.
It was obvious that the school buildings, which dated from 1921 to the most recent high school addition
in 1962, could not accommodate the growing school population. As soon as the High School building
was complete, the school board hired new architects to draw plans for an elementary school on the
For the new grade school, the School Board chose Peters and Martinson Associates of Madison to
design a ten-classroom building, a library, and an all-purpose room at a cost of $268,000, or
approximately $12.50 a square foot. The school was to be built on the northeast corner of the
fairgrounds site and would “accommodate the changing methods of teaching,” according to a Janesville
The single story building included 18,600 square feet. According to the plans, asphalt floor tile,
concrete block walls and ceiling radiant heat were used throughout the building interior.
A lobby, health room, teachers’ room, conference room, storage areas and school office were also
included in the plans. The all-purpose room was to be used for physical education classes. Two of the
classrooms were divided by folding doors, to allow for large group instruction.
A small turnout of school district voters, 344 of the eligible 2,000, approved the building plans at a
December 19, 1963 election. The vote was 236 in favor and 108 against. The new building was
expected to add 68 cents per $1,000 to each taxpayer’s bill. Superintendent Zoeller announced that
bond sales would be completed by January 1964 and construction would begin as soon as possible in
When bids were opened for the new school. Roth Brothers of Mauston were the winning bidders for the
general contractor. Change orders for the new building included folding doors manufacturing by Hough
Manufacturing Company of Janesville for a savings of nearly $5,000 over those proposed by the
The new school opened in the fall of 1964 and was named the Evansville Third Street Elementary
School. Eight of the ten classrooms in the school were used by 215 Fifth and Sixth graders. The early
elementary grades remained at the First Street school built in 1956.
Soon after the new school opened, there was an open house. The open house was held in November
1964 to introduce parents and community members to the new building. The new library was located in
the middle section of the building, adjacent to the classrooms. Teachers demonstrated new science
equipment and the flexibility of the large classroom.
With consolidation of the country schools, the Evansville School District became the owner of the former
schools, including the land and buildings. Some of the country schools were sold within a few months
after consolidation. The Barrett School was sold at public auction in August 1962. Dean George was
the auctioneer. The Forest Academy School was not sold until August 1965 when the school board
approved the sale of the building for $1,500.
The 1960s brought many changes to the Evansville School District and many of the new programs and
services required school and community cooperation. An AFS program started in the early 1960s and
Hugo DePedro from Buenos Aires, Argentina was the first foreign student to attend school under the
DePedro stayed with the Clark Prudhon family for the school year. He remained in the United States to
attend the University of Wisconsin.
Hugo was so impressed with Evansville that his entire family was persuaded to immigrate to the United
States. In April 1965, Juan and Eva DePedro and their daughter, Gladys; arrived in Evansville to make
it their permanent home.
Other changes in the mid-1960s were related to the school professional support staff. The school
district became eligible for several new Federal grants in the 1960s. At the October 1965 meeting of the
Evansville School Board, Superintendent Joseph Zoeller recommended adding ten new programs at the
school, if the federal grants were approved.
Zoeller proposed hiring a student psychologist; hiring a school psychometrist to evaluate and interpret
student’s test scores; hiring a school social workers; hiring another school nurse; and hiring teacher
aids. Zoeller also wanted to develop a central library; purchase of a bookmobile; build a vocational
training center at the new high school; expand teacher in-service training; and lower the teacher-pupil
ratio. With board approval, Zoeller’s proposal was submitted to the state for application for the Federal
Several proposals were made to improve community sports facilities. Since all of the outdoor sports
fields and swimming pool were owned by the City of Evansville and under the control of the Park Board,
there was mutual interest for the School Board and Park Board to work together. There were also
various school and community committees formed to raise funds for youth sports program
In 1965, the School Board appointed Dr. Roger Gray and Clark Prudhon to meet with the City Park
Board to see if the municipal pool could be enclosed for year-round use. The board agreed to pay
$250 for an engineering study for the project. However, the City Park Board waited several months to
put the matter on their agenda and no plans were made to complete the project.
With community support for more athletic activities, 1965 was the first year in many years, that
Evansville offered a competitive tennis program. Because Evansville’s tennis players were
inexperienced in school competitions, the Evansville team played against junior varsity teams from other
schools. Vic Rasmussen, Vic Spanton, Bob Means, Tim Eager, Dennis Brunsell, Ken Nehls, Gary
Parsons, Pete Zoeller and Bob Johnson were listed as team members in the spring of 1965.
A City Park Board summer baseball program, called the “Little Sluggers League had formed under the
leadership of Pat Finnane and H. Seeman. The City agreed to fund the program, if the school would
sponsor the Finnane and Seeman persuaded the school board to sponsor the program. With school
sponsorship, the young athletes could obtain W.I.A.A. insurance, under the same program that school
athletes obtained insurance. In 1965, 14 teams with over 200 young men participated in the Little
Another group of citizens, under the leadership of Dee Losey, held dances and other fund raising
events to earn money to purchase an electric scoreboard for the athletic fields at the City Park. Football
games, baseball games, and other sports events continued to be held at the City Park, since there were
no bleachers or outdoor sports facilities at the new high school.
The School Board allowed the score-board fund raisers to use the high school gym for dances. The
new score-board was purchased in 1966, even though the committee had not raised sufficient funds
through their dances and other activities.
By the late 1960s the score-board committee had been renamed the Sports Boosters. The group
continued to hold their popular “scoreboard dances” to raise money to purchase uniforms for teams and
other sports related equipment. In 1967, the Boosters purchased 55 royal blue blazers for the varsity
and junior varsity athletes.
In what appeared to be a “good neighbor” policy, the school board allowed the Lutheran Church to use
school facilities for a Sunday School. Although the school had often used space in local churches for
school activities, in 1965, St. John’s Lutheran Church was the first church to use classrooms at the
The church had outgrown their space at the corner of Lincoln and Third Streets and the church board
contacted the School Board to ask to rent rooms for Sunday School classes. The board approved the
use of four rooms at the Third Street Elementary School at a fee of $10 per Sunday, with the Church
providing Janitor service.
There were administrative changes at the end of the 1965-66 school year. Superintendent Zoeller left
the Evansville School District and was replaced by John D. Bowser, of Chicago Heights, Illinois. Bowser
was given a three-year contract, and began his work on July 1, 1966. His salary for the 1966-67 year
Bowser had ambitious proposals for the school board, which he presented at their September 1966
meeting. He recommended the school begin planning a five-year building program to include a new
auditorium, a swimming pool and eight to ten classrooms at the Third Street Elementary School.
Even after the country schools had consolidated into the Evansville School District, the school
population continued to increase. Through the 1960s, the community was growing rapidly with
expanding industry and services.
A new industry, Pruden Products had chose Evansville as its home base and young families with
children were moving into the community to work at the Pruden plant. By the late 1960s, the company
employed 200 people. Pruden’s merged with a national company and was renamed, Varco-Pruden and
continued to grow.
Other areas of the Evansville economy were also growing. Many workers employed at the Janesville GM
plant, found Evansville an attractive place to live. In 1968, Mayor Ida Conroy, proposed the building of a
nursing home facility in Evansville.
All of these factors contributed to growth and an increased school population. Bowser’s proposals for
expansion of the elementary school continued to be brought to the attention of the school board and the
As in the past, the Evansville Schools also continued to improve the curriculum, offering classes to
prepare students for college and for work. In 1967, the curriculum was expanded to include secretarial
classes, personal typing, third year German, a full time driver’s education course offered during the
school day, and boys’ home economics classes in the high school and junior high.
In August 1967, the school board agreed to build an industrial arts building at the high school complex.
The general contractor was Smithback Construction Co. of Madison; plumbing contractor, D. L. Bradley,
Co., of Janesville; heating contractor, Master Sheetmetal Shop, Janesville; and electrical contractor
Westphal and Co., of Janesville.
In order to install sewer to the new building it was necessary to get an easement of 500 feet by 7 ½ feet
wide from the Lutheran Church Board. According to the minutes of the August 14, 1967 school board
meeting, the school agreed to pay the entire cost of the sewer laid due south from South Third Street,
and the Lutheran Church agreed to pick up its share of the cost when their property was developed.
The 80 by 192 foot steel and brick structure had two classrooms, one for drafting and another for
agriculture and industrial arts instruction. There were four shops, offices, and storage facilities. The
classes in metal, welding, mechanics and woodworking were moved from the high school to the new
building in early 1968. The business educational program expanded into the former industrial arts
The new building was also used for adult classes as Evansville schools continued to offer continuing
education for adults, as part of their community programs. Evansville schools withdrew from the
Stoughton Vocational Program in 1966 and implemented its own program. There were 99 students
enrolled in the various programs for the 1966-67 year. In additional to vocational courses in office skills,
farming, and home economics, the school planned to offer high school classes for adults so that those
without a high school diploma could complete their education.
Additional land was purchased at the new high school and First Street campus in 1967. Thirty-nine
acres of land was purchased from Clarence Grundahl for $31,863. An additional lot was purchased
from the Halls to add to the First Street campus.
The oldest school building, the 1921 elementary building, was also remodeled. Madison engineers, Rolf
Killingstad and Johnson, had examined the building and found it to be in good condition, with the
exception of lighting and acoustics. They recommended new tiles for the ceiling and carpeting the
concrete floors in the basement classrooms. During the summer of 1968, the board hired Capital
Electrical Company to install new lighting. Sergenians Co. of Madison installed the new carpeting.
In 1968, Bowser asked for a leave of absence to pursue further education. The Board granted the
leave and William Amundson, elementary school principal was named acting Superintendent. David Lee
Kampschroer was named elementary principal.
Amundson continued to keep the school board and the community informed about the crowded
conditions at the elementary and junior high. When school opened in the fall of 1968, there were 66
more pupils enrolled than in the previous year.
”Statistics show a constant growth in enrollment, mostly at the elementary level due to new families
moving into the district,” Amundson told the board at the November 1968 meeting. Amundson was
predicting that the Junior High students would need the three classrooms at the First Street School that
were being used by the 4th Grade.
At the same meeting, the School Board looked at various options to alleviate the crowded conditions.
Four classrooms could be added to the Third Street School at an estimated cost of $85,000. However,
this solution would not provide sufficient space. Adding four classrooms would mean that the fourth
grade would be split between the First Street site and the Third Street School.
Another proposal was to build a separate school with 8 to 10 classrooms. A third proposal was to add
up to ten classrooms to the Third Street Elementary. The new wing had an estimated price tag of
There were several advantages to adding the wing to the Third Street location. The First Street site
housed grades four through 8 and there were crowded classrooms in the three buildings at that
location. As in the past, the playground area at the First Street Site could not accommodate all of the
The Board also looked at other options to relieve the crowded conditions. One option was to increase
the class sizes. Another was to rent space outside the school facilities. A third was to provide double
shifts for the grades that were most crowded. The fourth proposal was to rent or purchase portable
classrooms. The fifth proposal was to go to a quarter system.
The school board had recently started the Tri-mester plan at the high school. Although the new
Trimester plan got of to a rocky start when high school principal, Harry Romano, discovered that a
computer company had not delivered the course schedule until two days before the start of school. This
caused some students to have scheduling problems with their classes.
Despite the rocky start, Romano enthusiastically endorsed computer scheduling and the new Tri-mester
plan. Romano noted that unbalanced class loads could be changed quickly using the new scheduling
and new courses could easily be added to the schedule.
Principal Romano also believed that the new trimester program would improve mental growth, personal
enrichment, and more participation in co-curricular activities. The new system also quickly gained
approval from students and teachers.
The decade of the 1970s began with a disastrous fire in the language lab at the new high school. The
fire occurred on March 17, 1970. High school principal James DiFabio and three students discovered
the fire and the Evansville Fire Department fought the blaze for four hours before it was under control.
The damage to the building was estimated to be between $50,000 and $75,000. Windows in the
language lab were blown out from the heat of the fire. The fire spread into insulation in adjoining room
and hallways. Smoke damage throughout the building forced the administrators to close school for a
day so that smoke could be removed from the building and fire inspectors could try to determine the
cause of the blaze. Custodians and professional cleaners were called in to help with the cleaning.
A special school board meeting was called for March 20 to begin plans for reconstruction.
Superintendent Harry Romano told the board that the damage would be fully covered by insurance.
Dyson Construction, Inc. of Madison was awarded the contract for rebuilding the damaged area.
The March 1970 fire was only a prelude to the decade of destruction, turmoil and political battles for the
Evansville schools. District administrators held short terms and school board positions were hotly
contested as fights over school curriculum, personnel, the trimester system and school building projects
divided the community.
Despite the turmoil, teachers continued to provide a quality education for students as well as many extra-
curricular activities, including school musicals, forensics, and sports activities. These programs offered
stability and cooperation between school and community.
In the spring of 1970, the high school musical production “Dog Patch” entertained audiences that filled
the high school gymnasium. Peter Shaw directed the musical. Richard Krake created the sets; Ray
Baumgardt led the pit band; John Rasmussen provided technical assistance with lighting; and Angela
Wyse accompanied the singing and provided musical expertise.
Local resident, Mrs. Peter Hamacher, who had been active in the community Little Theater productions
for many years wrote a letter to the Evansville Review praising the talent of the high school students and
their advisors. “Mr. Peter Shaw, director of ‘Li’l Abner’, gave us pride, talent, and much laughter. It was
PRIDE in our young people. It was TALENT beyond what is generally expected of high school students
and it was LAUGHTER in the good clean fun of this musical and realization of how very important the
speech, drama and music departments really are in a good high school,” Mrs. Hamacher wrote.
The three departments and the staff continued to work together over the next few years to direct
students in producing school musicals. Flower Drum Song was the musical for 1971 and Fiddler on the
Roof was produced in 1972.
The 1970s were the glory days for Evansville coaches and athletes. Led by a dynamic coaching team,
Evansville high school football, basketball, wrestling, baseball, and track programs were the pride of the
school and community.
Richard Schwartz was named as the first high school athletic director, a post established in 1971.
Richard Muenich coached the track team; Charles Olson, wrestling; Duane Updike, basketball teams.
James Ganoung, an Evansville high school graduate and star athlete was hired in 1971 as the head
Ganoung’s coaching team included Bob Dorn, the offensive backfield coach; Duane Updike, offensive
and defense line coach; Mike Loftus, special teams coach; and Chuck Olson and Dennis Reese,
Although the school programs continued to function well, there was a “maelstrom in the Evansville
school system” according to Janesville Gazette reporter Judi Pier. At a meeting of the board held in
July 1971, seven administrators and teachers resigned when the school board renewed the contract of
elementary school principal Joyce Lebedoff.
The dispute came after Romano recommended that Lebedoff’s contract not be renewed. When the
board did not follow Romano’s advice and retained Lebedoff, Romano, claiming his reputation was at
state, resigned. His wife, Barbara, the school German instructor, junior high principal David
Kampschroer, James DeFabio, high school principal, James Ticknor, assistant principal at the
elementary school and two other teachers submitted their resignations.
Barbara Romano reconsidered her resignation and continued to serve as the advisor for the German
studies. Before the upheaval, her students had planned a six-week trip to Europe. The 27 students
had worked for two years to earn $6,000 for the trip and in September 1971, Barbara Romano and
Peggy Sherman chaperoned the group. Mark Lesandrini, one of the students, recorded the trip with a
movie camera and 35 reels of film.
One board member, Gerald Brunsell also resigned as the dispute continued to upset citizens, teachers,
and board members. Throughout the month of July and August 1971,
the board scrambled to find new teachers and administrators. Within two weeks of the resignations, the
Evansville School Board had looked at 62 applications for superintendent and made a decision. By the
annual meeting in July, the school board had hired Dr. Duane Ahlf to replace Harry Romano as
Superintendent of Schools.
Duane Ahlf had taught in Evansville in 1946 and 1947, serving as the high school commercial and
athletic instructor. He had served as superintendent of schools at Glenwood City and Ripon Wisconsin.
Ahlf also taught at Northern Michigan University in Marquette before returning to Evansville as the
Superintendent. The new superintendent was given a three-year contract and a first-year salary of
By the fall, the two principals were in place. George Knuckles was hired as the high school principal and
John Benson was hired as the junior high principal. Knuckles, a native of Kentucky, had been the
superintendent of schools in Juneau, Wisconsin before accepting the Evansville high school principal’s
With new administrators, the School Board also began to consider returning to the two semester
system. At the board meeting in November 1971, arguments for and against the trimester system were
heard. The parents and teachers who favored the two-hour classes said the trimester system was best
because it allowed “more absorption by students in language learning” and there was more time for
creativity and innovations on the part of the teachers.
Economically, the system allowed better use of building space at lower cost. With the trimester system,
the school had been able to offer mini-courses in wood working, home economics, and agriculture. One
supporter of the system argued that that the trimester system was advantageous to the vocational
program. Since 70% of the students graduating from school went on to work in agriculture or industry,
some believed that the trimester program should be maintained in the vocational curriculum.
Those opposed to the trimester system felt that teachers and students were misusing the classroom
time. There was too much “free time” and some students were not mentally and physically prepared for
longer class periods. Some also believed that poor students were not receiving adequate guidance.
After studying the system and evaluating the effect of the trimester system on recent graduates who had
entered college, the new administrators decided that it was not working. The board agreed that the high
school and the junior high should begin the transition to the two-semester system as quickly as possible.
In addition to looking at the scheduling for classes, the board was also faced with crowded classroom
conditions in the early 1970s. Many residents had expected that the building programs in the 1960s,
including the new high school, the new elementary school at the First Street site and the new Third
Street Elementary school, would meet the needs of the community for many years.
However, by December 1970, the school board struggled with the need for more classrooms and began
considering the best location for an addition. Groups of teachers met to study the need for more
classrooms and make recommendations to the board. The majority of teachers and board members
agreed that the Third Street School was the best location for an addition.
A new plan for eleven additional classrooms and an informational materials center (IMC) was brought to
the board. This would meet the needs for the enrollment that was expected to increase in grades 4, 5
One new administrator also proposed a change in configuration of classrooms to alleviate crowding. In
the spring of 1972, Junior High principal John Benson designed a Middle School that grouped grades 6,
7 and 8 into one building.
When the sixth grade moved out of the Third Street elementary school, the fourth grade was reassigned
from the new First Street School to the Third Street site. There were eleven sections of fourth and fifth
grades, with only nine classrooms, according to Joyce Lebedoff, the Third Street school principal.
One of the rooms in the ten-room school Third Street school was being used as a combined music and
art room. Lebedoff told the board that in the fall of 1972, the elementary school would need at least two
classrooms in the high school. She recommended that the board consider building a two-room addition
to the school to accommodate the fourth and fifth graders in one building.
The School Board and the new administration also dealt with the organization of several unionized units
in the 1970s. The Evansville Education Association (EEA) had been in the process of formation
throughout the 1960s and in the early 1970s received the right to bargain for the benefits and wages for
the teachers employed by the district. The custodians voted to have the Teamsters Union represent
them in bargaining with the Board.
When school opened in the fall of 1971, classes met in five buildings. At the First Street site, the
elementary school, kindergarten through fourth grade met in the new building constructed in the 1960s.
The 1921 and 1939 buildings housed the seventh and eighth graders.
High School classes met at the school on the old fairgrounds site and grades five and six were housed
in the Third Street elementary school. However, the fifth grade was so large that two of the classes
used classroom space at the high school.
John Benson left his principal position in June 1972 to become the superintendent of the Marshall
School District. He was replaced by Richard Steinbach who carried on the plans for the Middle School
configuration of classes.
Overcrowding, classroom organization, labor problems and building maintenance dominated the issues
before school administrators and the community in the 1970s. It was the responsibility of principals and
the superintendent to direct these programs. School administrators at the beginning of the 1972-73
school year included Superintendent Duane Ahlf; high school principal, George Knuckles; Richard
Steinbach, middle school principal; and Joyce Lebedoff, elementary school principal.
At the elementary school level, Lebedoff directed programs using $20,000 in federal funds from the Title
1 program to develop innovative programs to improve reading for elementary students. The most
controversial part of this program was an ungraded approach to classroom organization.
Four paraprofessionals were hired to assist with the Title 1 program and a parent participation program
was initiated. The new program included pre-school classes and emphasis on motor skills and visual
perception, starting in kindergarten.
The ungraded program allowed students of various ages to work together to improve their reading
skills. In promoting the continuation of the program, Lebedoff told a Janesville Gazette correspondent, “I’
m pleased to say we do not have a nonreaders this year in 1st or 2nd grade.”
Elementary librarian, Kelly Sumner, also praised the new program. She reported that students were
flocking into the elementary school library because of the emphasis on improving reading skills.
Throughout the 1970s, educators and government representatives were struggled with new ways to
bring students with special needs out of state institutions and back into their home communities. The
new programs required a shift in the use of money, facilities and personnel.
Although students with special needs made up a small percentage of each student body, area schools
found the new services to be an additional expense. With the support of the State Department of Public
Instruction, school districts joined together to provide programs to meet those needs. Through
cooperative efforts with other school districts and contracts with the area CESA 15 office, Evansville
schools were able to offer more services, including a speech therapist and a school psychologist in the
Evansville schools several days a week.
Although the added expense of providing services locally created much controversy and discussion at
Evansville School Board meetings, state and federal legislation was forcing local districts to address the
special needs programs. The local school board invited Mrs. James Clough, Chairman of the Special
Education Committee for the Rock County Association for Retarded Children to speak at their May 1973
Mr. Clough explained that in the spring of 1973, a new bill was pending before the state legislature
demanding that school districts provided classes for students with special needs. For school districts
that could not establish programs, the bill allowed school districts to cooperate with each other in
establishing classrooms to meet state requirements for education to students with special education
The students could be bused from their home community to schools with special classrooms. “If the bill
passes, Evansville would join in a cooperative effort with 12 other schools and transport handicapped
children to a classroom in the district having the most children with that particular handicap,” a local
Although financing services for special needs students eventually became commonplace, the funding
and inclusion of programs was a stormy controversy for local, state and national educators. However,
the Evansville School Board moved forward with the new programs by hiring Kay Wrchota to teach
students with learning disabilities at the elementary school.
A storm of the natural variety brought more immediate response in the early summer of 1973. Tornado-
like winds hit Evansville on June 16, 1973. There was severe damage to trees and homes and the
schools also were hit.
The storm damaged the high school’s west side, tearing off parts of the gymnasium roof, breaking glass
on the north side of the building and damaging the high school band room. The three-layer roof of the
high school gymnasium was reduced to just the insulation and two exhaust ventilators were ripped off
Water damage was extensive. The exposed gymnasium roof allowed water to seep onto the gymnasium’
s hardwood floor. According to the high school maintenance staff the floor was warped and some areas
of the floor would need to be replaced.
The band room also sustained extensive damage. The 25-foot, cement block west wall of the band room
was cracked in places and bowed out about 6 inches in the top center section. Two small braces held
the wall in place.
Minor damage occurred to some of the school’s landscaping. Russian olive trees and pine trees,
including one in the high school courtyard and at the Third Street elementary school were downed by
the heavy wind. The First Street school site also sustained damage with broken windows.
After an insurance adjuster assessed the damage, repairs began. The entire west wall of the band
room was rebuilt and the gymnasium roof was replaced.
The storm had created substantial maintenance problems, but there were also ongoing repairs made to
the schools in the summer and fall of 1973. New lighting was installed at the Middle School. Seven new
light-weight metal doors were also installed at the Middle School entrances, replacing heavy wooden
doors that were difficult for some students to open.
A new hot water heater and softener were installed at the high school. New chairs and tables were put
in the cafeteria and new locks were installed on all lockers.
The elementary school continued to expand the ungraded approach to reading program to all grade
levels, kindergarten through fifth. A new reading curriculum was also added at the Middle School and all
sixth grade students were required to take a 12-week French course.
The mini-courses that had proven so popular in the early 1970s continued at the Middle School for the
1973-74 school year. The courses were offered each Friday and included gymnastics, ceramics,
bowling, and a woodworking class for girls. Middle School students were also chosen to serve as aides
to teachers in the elementary school classes.
School population pressures were felt most keenly at the elementary school and the Evansville Board of
Education hired the firm of Durrant, Deininger, Dommer, Kramer and Gordon of Watertown to draw
plans for adding classrooms and remodeling existing buildings.
The Board brought an expansion program before the voters in April 1975. The plan included
remodeling and additions to the First Street School and the Third Street Elementary School. The cost of
the expansion and remodeling was $595,000.
Eight new classrooms and a new library were to be added. The library had an updated name, an
Instructional Material Center or IMC, to reflect the inclusion of audio-visual equipment as well as books.
This 12,000 sq. ft. addition was $300,000 of the total cost of the project.
The First Street School auditorium was to be remodeled and the seating area in the balcony was to be
expanded. The board had also discussed plans for a lunch room and music room addition between the
old Grade Building and the 1939 High School, but discarded them before bringing the expansion
proposal before the voters.
The April 1975 referendum was successful and allowed the school board and administrators to proceed
with plans for the addition to the Third Street School, remodeling of the Middle School IMC and the
auditorium. However, a disastrous explosion at the First Street School site forced a change in plans and
the contracts to begin the work were not signed until the spring 1976.
On August 9, 1975, the Evansville fire department responded to an explosion at the First Street
campus. When they arrived, they found the entire north end of the 1956 grade and office building
blown apart. The kitchen and multi-purpose room of the First Street Elementary building were destroyed
and rubble covered the school grounds. Windows in the other school buildings at the First Street site
were blown out and homes in the area received damage from the blast.
Local fire officials determined that a leaking LP gas tanks and an electric spark from an appliance in the
school's kitchen were the cause of the explosion. The firemen were on the scene for 13 hours, securing
the area so that the State First Marshall’s staff could investigate the cause of the blast. The director of
the state Arson Bureau was also called in, but he ruled out arson and the fire experts confirmed that the
LP gas explosion was responsible for the blast.
The disaster forced the school into a situation, it had not faced for several years, having to rent space in
local churches and other community buildings. Superintendent of Schools, George Knuckles, Board
Members and other administrators had only a few days to work out the details of finding alternate sites
and renting classrooms.
Community and school cooperation once more solved the crisis and five area churches agreed to house
the elementary school classes displaced by the explosion. School officials arranged to have furniture
and other materials moved to locations throughout the City so that school could begin in the fall. The
Grange Store owners agreed to allow the school to use their facilities as a central storage area.
As school officials juggled the work of notifying students and parents about new class locations and set
up the temporary classrooms, insurance adjusters were called ii to assess the damage and begin the
process of replacing the classrooms. The repair project took several months and the remodeled space
was not available until July of the following year.
The explosion was a mixed blessing, as school officials decided to scrap the plans for eight rooms at the
Third Street School and expand the addition to 17 new classrooms. This arrangement placed all of the
classes for the Kindergarten through Fourth grade in the same building. The project also included an
Instructional Media Center and an all-purpose room. The planned remodeling of the Middle School was
also delayed until the rebuilding of the damaged building was completed.
The board and school officials determined that the former grade school classrooms destroyed in the
explosion could be remodeled to serve as the district offices, special education facilities and a
lunchroom for the Middle School students remaining at the First Street site.
The project approved by the 1975 spring referendum was delayed for more than a year while the First
Street School building repair and remodeling was completed. At the April 1976 school board meeting,
the bids were finally opened for the Third Street project.
Great Lakes Construction Company of Madison was given the general construction contract for the
Third Street School addition, as well as the remodeling at the Middle School. Oregon Plumbing and
Heating received the bid for the plumbing. John Zinnane Sheet Metal, Inc. of Kenosha was the
successful bidder for the heating and ventilating system and Westphal, Inc of Janesville received the
contract for the electrical work.
The project was bid at a total cost of $91,192.40. The ground breaking for the new elementary school
addition took place in early May 1976 and the expected occupation date was January 1977.
As they began this major construction project, school board members were also asked to expand other
programs and facilities. School athletic director, Jim Ganoung, asked the board to improve the school’s
athletic facilities. Ganoung was especially interested in building a new track.
Ganoung announced at the April 1976 board meeting that he had volunteers interested in helping with
the program. Donations had already been promised and a fund for a new track was established.
Ganoung told the Board he had already received a $500 donation from local excavator, Roger
Thompson, for time and materials to start the new track. In addition he had a commitment of $150 from
the E-Club and $75 from the high school Student Council.
The total cost of the new track was anticipated to be $20,000 and without the facility, the track program
would be in jeopardy. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to run a track program,” Ganoung told the
Board. “Evansville is second from the bottom in its conference in terms of track facilities.”
Ganoung also asked for funds to resurface the tennis area that was located on the high school parking
lot at the northwest corner of the school property. Federal funds could fund about half of the
resurfacing of the parking lot. In a final plea for the funds, Ganoung told the Board, “I don’t think the
district has invested enough money to maintain and improve athletic facilities.”
Faced with other financial needs, the Board would not agree to the $17,000 required to resurface the
school parking lot, even if it meant federal funds could be used to pay a portion of the project. However,
the Board told Ganoung to get estimates to seal cracks and stripe the tennis courts. The track project
was delayed for several years.
At the same meeting, Ganoung asked the board to establish a committee to ensure sexual equality in
school athletics. The school had already established programs for girl’s basketball and volleyball, but
the programs did not have equal funding with the boy’s sports’ programs. Ganoung’s plan called for an
8-member committee to establish guidelines for equally access to school athletic programs for both boys
The reconstruction of the First Street offices continued through the spring and summer and by August
1976, the Middle School Library renovation was nearly complete. However, the addition to the Third
Street School was not finished and school officials were once again forced to use the Church facilities as
In addition to the building programs and calls for improvements in school facilities, the School Board also
faced labor relations problems. The School Board and the local teacher’s union went head to head
several times in the 1970s and the teacher contract negotiations in 1976 proved to be among the most
Although pay increases and fringe benefits were the most frequent conflicts during bargaining sessions,
in the spring of 1976, School Board members also tangled with teachers over a “reasonable time”
clause in the teachers’ contract.
The clause required teachers to be in the school buildings before and after school began. According
to some Board members, forcing teachers to stay beyond the normal school hours would be a
“reasonable work day” and would also encourage parents to confer with teachers.
Some Board members demanded that teachers remain in the school building from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
and used the “reasonable time” clause to enforce their plan. While board members admitted that only a
small number of teachers were abusing the clause, several members of the board insisted that the
clause be strictly enforced for all teachers.
Teacher negotiator, William Hartje objected to the Board’s interpretation of the “reasonable time
clause”. Hartje said, “Teachers work far more than an eight-hour day and it would be ‘unreasonable’ to
make a teacher stay in the building on the rare days he didn’t have to work late.”
Other issues concerning the contract forced the Board and teachers to continue their negotiations
through the summer, fall and into the winter months until they could come to an agreement about wages,
fringe benefits, and reasonable hours. School Board negotiators had agreed to pay 12.2 percent for
retirement benefits; $17.86 a month for a single teacher’s health plan and $49.62 for a family health
The 1976 fall term began, even though teachers and board members had not reached agreement for
wages in the new contract. The groups were $350 apart in their wage plans. The Board members had
proposed $8,750 as a base salary. The teachers proposed $9,100 as a base salary. When no
progress could be made in the negotiations and the negotiation meetings were still being held in
December 1976, School Superintendent George Knuckles contacted state mediators to settle the
Though they could not agree on a contract, teachers and the School Board continued to work together
for school improvements. Curriculum plans were studied by teachers and at the beginning of the fall
term of 1976, the committees gave reports to the Board and school administrators.
Each committee included elementary, middle school and high school teachers and curriculum areas
included physical education, social studies, art, mathematics, and language arts.
Paul Schwenn, Carol Heineman, Gary Grossman, Jeanette Elmer, Kenneth Jaeger and Daryl Fox had
been assigned to examine the school’s physical education program and develop a curriculum for all
grade levels. Schwenn served as the spokesman for the curriculum plan and according to his report to
the school board, the physical education requirements were based on a national standard that was
adapted to meet Evansville school needs.
Mike Loftus presented the social studies curriculum developed by his committee, including Judy
Lambert, Jan Berezowitz, and Robert Bennett. In addition to developing a social studies curriculum, the
plan also addressed needs to improve writing skills. Loftus told the board that although the committee
had developed minimum standards for the social studies program, teachers and students were expected
to exceed the minimum requirements.
An unusual addition to the manual arts and vocational curriculum was a house construction project for
students enrolled in Gary Hoff’s building construction class at the high school. Working with local
building contractors, Hoff and Vocational Coordinator, Richard Schwarz, planned to build a house in the
newly developed area on Higgins Drive.
Local building contractors agreed to give students instruction about the project, and then students
would do the actual construction. Students enrolled in the program included Gary Feldt, Steve Blum,
Randy Shotliff, Rich Heacox, Les Swenson, Eric Hurtley, Dan Whitmore, John Brennan, Mike Hurley,
Connie Helgesen, Scott Farberg, and Marvin Bong.
The local contractors working on the project were Everett and Rolland Probst, general contractors;
Norman Thompson, excavation; Robert Petterson, plumbing and heating; Lewis Peckham, electrical;
Norman Oates, masonry; and Ken Gallman, carpentry.
At the end of the project, the house was to be sold and the proceeds used to start another house, so
that the class could continue. The first house proved to be a success and the program continued.
Shortly after school started in 1976, school board members approved hiring a new Middle School
Principal, Vincent Maloney. Maloney had been with the Edgerton schools since 1967 and had served as
the Edgerton assistant middle school principal since 1970. He described himself as “an avid sportsman
and enjoys golf, basketball, and skiing. “I am impressed with what I have seen so far and am looking
forward to a fine year,” Maloney told the school board.
The Middle School library and media center remodeling was completed for the beginning of the 1976-77
school year. The media center combined books, magazines, films, filmstrips, film projectors, tape
recorders, and opaque projectors into one area. The newly expanded library served as a centralized
storage and distribution area for all the audio-visual equipment used in the Middle School.
Walls had been removed from two rooms and the ceiling had been lowered to give the library and media
center a modern look. A combination workroom and office, a new conference room for students and
faculty, and a reading and research area were designed into the new room. Martha Campbell, Middle
School Librarian, and her assistant, Barbara Haakenson worked with 450 students and 30 faculty
members in the new library and media center.
The Third Street School remodeling project was completed in January 1977 and students returned from
their Christmas break to find their new school ready for classes. Parents and teachers had worked
throughout the vacation period to install desks and other equipment before students returned.
The remodeling and addition to the elementary school included 26,713 square feet, giving the school a
total area of 45,524 square feet, with 17 new classrooms, an Instructional Media Center (IMC) with a pit,
and an all-purpose room. The all-purpose room served as a gymnasium, lunchroom, and assembly
When one remodeling project ended, another was in the planning stages. The 1975 explosion had
caused the school board to focus on rebuilding at the First Street site and the addition of classrooms to
the Third Street Elementary School. The unexpected building project took nearly two years to
complete. As soon as the rebuilding and addition finished, the school board was forced to determine
the fate of its two oldest building.
By the late 1970s, the 1921 building at the First Street site was nearly 60 years old and 1939 building
nearly 40 years old. School facility needs had changed and the student body had increased in size in
the interim. Although, the board had made plans for remodeling the Middle School auditorium, the
remodeling had been delayed because of the more pressing needs caused by the 1975 destruction of
the elementary school classrooms. The only Middle School project completed during this time was the
remodeling of the Middle School IMC.
In 1977, the Evansville School Board revisited the remodeling project at the Middle School and struggled
for several months with the cost for the renovation of the buildings. The board had no problem with
spending money to fix the leaking roofs, high ceilings, tall windows, and old floors. It was the remodeling
of the auditorium that was the heart of the debate.
The remodeling included constructing a two-level corridor to connect the buildings, a new bell and alarm
system, new industrial art and gym lighting, a new 10,000 gallon fuel oil storage tank, and new
classroom seats. For fuel cost savings, windows would be remodeled and the upper ¾ of the long
windows would be covered, in both buildings.
Because of the age of the two buildings, board member Herb Christiansen asked fellow board members
to consider carefully the amount of money to be expended on the building project. Christiansen told the
board that the external walls of the two buildings were sound. He suggested that a partial remodeling
would extend the life-span of the buildings to 20 years, a more extensive remodeling could extend the
life of the buildings up to forty years.
After a few months’ study, the school board approved a $636,000 renovation to the two First Street
school buildings, and architects agreed that would add at least 33 years of life to the two Middle School
Windows would be replaced at a cost of $102,000 and this was expected to produce a decrease in fuel
costs, by $5,830 a year. Board members were especially concerned about the cost of heating the
buildings. Heating costs had risen sharply in the mid-1970s as fuel oil prices nearly doubled.
The link built between the two buildings was expected to cost $48,000. The gymnasium would be
renovated. The band room behind the stage would be opened up and the balcony extended to add 75
seats. The choral department would be relocated to the old kindergarten room.
The auditorium work included a new roof, new carpeting, lighting, and new seating. The board was also
asked to approve the purchase of a portable stage that would enlarge the stage area.
High School music director Ray Baumgardt said that the upgrading of the middle school auditorium
would be worthwhile for smaller groups and he felt that the stage would be used as much as possible by
the music department. However, Baumgardt and drama and speech director, Ted Moskonas, told the
board that the stage would be too small for the school musicals and some concerts that drew well over
1,000 people. Baumgardt and Moskonas suggested that the only way to use the auditorium for school
musicals would be to cut down on the cast size. The heated discussions over the auditorium
remodeling continued for several board meetings and eventually involved the community, as the cost of
the project rose higher than the amount appropriated by the board.
As the plans for the remodeling of the Middle School were finalized, a group of teachers, with John
Willougby as their spokesman, approached the board requesting that a perpetual memorial be
established for J. C. McKenna, the long-time superintendent and business manager of the Evansville
Schools. The school board agreed that the memorial to McKenna was appropriate and named the
Middle School complex, the J. C. McKenna Middle School in memory of his many years of service to the
Evansville School District.
In addition to disagreements over the cost and extent of the remodeling project, the community-school
relationships were strained because of other issues brought before the board in the early months of
1977. Parents and clergymen complained to the school board that school activities interfered with
church and family activities. School policy set aside Sundays and Wednesday evenings as times when
no school activities would be scheduled and the complaints alleged that school activities were being held
in violation of this policy.
School Board president, Nimmer Adamany established a committee of community members and school
staff to study the problem. The school also surveyed parents of middle school and high school pupils to
determine to what extent school activities were interfering with family and church activities. Of the 455
surveys returned, the majority, 84 percent, said that school activities infringed only somewhat or not at
all on parent and church planned activities.
In a more cooperative effort, community members and school staff worked together to purchase
playground equipment for the youngest students. Creative projects were planned to raise funds to
purchase and build playground equipment at the Third Street Elementary School.
The students, parents and staff of the elementary school planned the Evansville Elementary School
Playground Arts and Crafts Fair. The street fair, held in the business district, included clowns, a dunk
tank, bake sale, plant sale, and local artist selling their wares at booths. The event raised over $1,500.
Students and parents also collected Campbell Soup labels and sold spices to earn money for the first
playground equipment built at the school. The project took more than two years to complete.
Another school-community project, was completed in June 1977. The house built by the school’s first
Building Trades Class was put on the market for a minimum bid of $55,000. The school board received
two bids, one from Lester (Bill) May and the other from John D. Meredith. Meredith’s bid of $63,900 was
accepted by the board. The program had netted the school a profit of $7,500 and the proceeds were
used to purchase a 14 x 20 foot spray booth for the industrial arts department.
The industrial arts staff, Richard Schwartz and Gary Hoff, who supervised the house-building project,
asked the school board to approve $40,000 to purchase land and begin a second house. Based on the
success of the first house, the board approved the proposal.
Because there were so many issues coming before the school board, meetings often lasted four hours
or more. Labor relations and contracts dominated many of the meetings.
At the beginning of the 1977-78 school year, the negotiations for salaries and benefits was underway
between the school board and teachers’ representatives. A new bargaining unit representing the
clerical staff was also being formed. Linda Flood, representative for the clerical staff, asked the board
to bargain with the group as an auxiliary bargaining unit of the Evansville Education Association.
The Board denied the request and the clerical personnel petitioned the Wisconsin Employees Relation
Commission (WERC) to allow an election so the unit could be recognized as a bargaining unit. The
petition was allowed and the Evansville Education Auxiliary Association became a bargaining unit for the
clerical staff. The first contract was approved at the school board’s July 10, 1978 meeting.
While the school administrators and school board struggled with financial and labor issues, school
functions continued without interruption. In February 1978, the Evansville High School Jazz Band
received a first at the UW Oshkosh Six-State Jazz Festival. The band director, Ray Baumgardt, resigned
from the program at the end of the school year and was replaced by Ron Grimes.
In the spring of 1978, the Evansville FFA placed fourth out of 257 chapters at the FFA state convention
at Green Lake. Ray Weigand, the group’s advisor said “Our chapter is the best we’ve had since I came
here seven years ago.” Awards were given for community service, safety, leadership and alumni
activities. The club received the “Building Our American Communities Award and was given the
opportunity to go to Kansas City for the FFA National Convention.
After many months of study and discussion, the architects for the remodeling finalized the plans and the
bids for the Middle School project were opened in June 1978. The board and the architects were
surprised by the costs. The bids came in at $100,000 more than the board had budgeted.
Jim Cullen, Inc. of Janesville submitted the lowest general construction bid at $459,500. Henry Pann
Plumbing of Beloit had the lowest plumbing bid at $7,424; Osborn’s Inc. of Beloit gave the lowest heating
bid at $34,200 and Douglas Electric Corporation of Janesville gave the lowest electrical bid at
$134,387. In addition, $50,000 was needed for new classroom furnishings and $50,000 more in fees
The board began to look for ways to cut costs and asked the contractors to hold their bids until the
board could make a decision. Most of the contractors agreed and the board and community members
began to consider cost savings. The auditorium, which to some seemed a frivolous investment was the
target for the most of the controversy that followed.
At the annual meeting in July 1978, community members argued with the board about the cost of adding
and reupholstering the seats. Superintendent George Knuckles told the audience that the projected
cost had risen to $812,611. He blamed the increases on inflation and the delay in starting the project.
Knuckles recommended that the auditorium remodeling be approved because it was a community
asset. It was the only auditorium Evansville had and without the remodeling, it would be used very little.
Rev. Robert Garbrecht moved to give the board an additional $190,000 to complete the remodeling, but
Keith Williams moved to amend the motion to delete $30,000 for the auditorium seat repair. Others
voiced the opinion that the project should be delayed until 1982, so the district could reduce its debt.
After much discussion and a short recess to view the conditions of the auditorium, the citizens voted to
allow the board to borrow an extra $190,000 to complete the remodeling. In the late summer of 1978,
construction crews had moved onto the site and the renovation work began. The remodeling was
expected to be completed by March 15, 1979.
As school began in the 1978-79, there were several changes in staff. Harold “Butch” Beedle, who
replaced long-time social studies teacher, Frances Francis, at the Middle School, was the wrestling
coach and assistant football coach. Charles Bilow, was hired as a new high school math teacher and
freshman football coach. Vicky Lecy was hired as a reading teacher in the Middle School.
The new playground equipment at the elementary school was ready for students when they came to
school. Community volunteers, as well as Evansville Water and Light employees donated time and labor
to erect the $6,400 wood structure.
A new school-community safety program called “Helping Hand” was organized in the fall of 1978. The
purpose of the new program was to make Evansville’s streets safe for children. Parents, churches, and
the Evansville Jaycettes formed a committee to choose volunteers who would display the “Helping Hand”
sign and open their homes to children who were injured, being harassed by other children, or needed
some other form of assistance.
Judy Gitchell headed the “Helping Hand” committee. Other “Helping Hand” committee members were
Chris Maxwell, Karen Hawkins, Marg Brickl, Sharon George, Nancy Krake, Terry Straka, Jan Kraemer
and Betty Hamilton.
In November 1978, the Rock Valley Conference proposed three new girls’ sports programs. School
Board listened to the proposals but found several reasons to deny the new sports into the sports
program. The new sports were girls’ cross country, girls’ freshmen basketball, and girls’ freshman
volleyball competitive programs. The major objections given by board members were the overcrowded
gymnasium facilities and the increased costs for transportation and coaches.
High school principal Michael Wizarde explained to the Board that Evansville had boys’ freshmen teams
competing in the conference. If Evansville High School did not offer the programs, the school district
would be in violation of federal sex discrimination regulations.
In addition to the legal requirements, there was also great interest in more sports programs for girls. In
the summer of 1978, thirteen Evansville girls from the Middle School and High School attended a
basketball camp in Stevens Point.
Despite the increased interest in basketball, the board determined that a freshman girls basketball team
would be the most costly. Another coach would be needed and the freshmen girls’ team would play a
different schedule than the varsity and junior varsity girls’ teams. This would increase transportation
costs and complicate scheduling for practices and competition in the gymnasiums at the Middle School
and High School.
Although the Board could not agree to fund all the programs, they decided to reconsider the options.
They gave the nod to the girls’ cross country program, as this would be the least expensive to operate.
Girls were already competing on the school cross country teams with the boys. The same cross country
coaches could be used for the girls’ team and since the girls’ meets were held with the all-school
competitions, the girls could continue to travel with the boys’ team. The only added expense would be
increased fees for membership in the Rock Valley Conference. By the fall of 1979, the girls’ cross
country team, Leah Heinemann, Lisa Babler, Joanie Blum, Pam Haakenson and Kris Hamilton, were
competing in tournaments. The cross country coach for the boys and girls teams was Gary Hoff
Sports issues continued to dominate Evansville School Board monthly meetings in 1978 and 1979. A
referendum for building a sports complex was defeated in May 1979. The proposal included football,
baseball, track and tennis facilities on the school property.
Football and baseball games were still being played at the city park, as they had been for more than 50
years. However, having the sports facilities on the school grounds would be more convenient to locker
rooms and training areas.
Head coach Bob Berezowitz proposed that another referendum for the $289,000 project be put on the
November 1979 ballot but board members balked at the idea of bringing the project back to the voters.
Berezowitz explained that delaying the project would increase the cost by 10 to 15 percent.
The school board was faced with other financial problems, as school enrollments decreased and state
aid, based on enrollments, also decreased. When school enrollment figures were taken on the third
Friday in September, Evansville’s student numbers declined by 76 students. The board began to
consider reducing the number of staff, as personnel costs were the largest portion of the school budget.