Naturally, once more they had a Board of Education of nine members. Shortly after this time it became necessary to add a new addition to the public schools of Allentown. This provided two more rooms, giving more space to better provide for a graded system and to thereby abandon the department system. Then, for at least 15 years we had this setup: the downstairs had one room for the first and second grades, taught by Miss Annie Cafferty; another, for third and fourth grade, taught by Miss Elva Cafferty; and another, for the fifth and sixth grade, taught by Mrs. E. P. Ford, often spoken of as “Miss Libby.” Upstairs was the seventh and eighth grades, taught one room also by Miss Ella M. Newell. The other two rooms were devoted to high school subjects instructed by the “Professor.”
In 1915, vast changes in personnel took place. As stated previously, Mr. Robinson, Mrs. Ford and Miss Newell retired and Mr. F. A. Ebert came in as our new supervising principal. Two teachers were then appointed to teach the high schools subjects and gone forever was the extreme closeness of the pupil-teacher relationship. Also gone was the old system in the high school which practically amounted to tutoring to those who could absorb it, from teaching by that intellectual individual, affectionately known always as “Professor” Robinson. The scholars who had him learned much, but things had to change—higher education could not be just for the few, in a rather heterogeneous fashion.
It is interesting, if a bit unique, to see how our high school gradually came into being. According to Professor Robinson’s “Reminiscences,” high school diplomas were presented to five people in 1891. In 1893 all girls received their diplomas and in 1901, five girls and two boys were graduated. Oddly enough our diploma, accompanied by the principal’s certificate of work done, admitted two to Rutgers, two to Temple and several to the State Normal. Professor Robinson modestly says, “Class A was a very interesting one that year and their work was considerably above the standard grammar grades of that day.” But it was not until 1910 that the school had any official standing as a high school. It was then registered as a two year High School and the graduates were admitted without further examination to the third year in the high schools of Trenton and elsewhere. It must be remembered that no law provided funds for high schools until the late 1890’s. Consequently, these schools were left to local initiative. Few cities of towns in the state could boast of any higher education in the late 1880’s, except possibly Trenton or Newark. However, at the turn of the century, high schools were becoming well organized and definite standards were set up throughout the state.
In contrast, Allentown in 1915 could still only offer the strictly required courses in a mere separate two rooms. The two high school teachers who we had then and until we built our own high school, earnestly equipped the students to enter well qualified and adequately staffed high schools in nearby towns at third year high school level. Those few who journeyed by horse and wagon, train or stage to Trenton, Hightstown or Pemberton often graduated with honors. Most of them made excellent records in these other high schools. Two of these fine teachers, Mrs. Milton H. Probasco and Mrs. Russell Probasco often enjoy recalling the pleasures and the vicissitudes while teaching in the old high school.
According to the Board of Education Minutes of 1917, our elementary school teachers still taught two grades in one room and in the schools elsewhere in then District, one teacher had all grades in one room. The only exception was Imlaystown where the first six grades were taught in one room and the seventh and eighth were in another. The total salary list of all teachers in the District that year was $8, 395. Mr. Ebert’s salary was $1,200. At that time, it was noted that the Board favored a school year of 200 days and that each teaching day should be six hours long.
In 1918 German was abolished as a subject. Also reflecting the events of the time, a note on the February 8, 1921 election ballot stated that “women citizens, twenty-one years of age or above by virtue of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, may vote.”
At this time a doctor was paid for regular medical inspection of the pupils and there were visits by the County School Nurse. A somewhat humorous note was that the State demanded that the Board hire a truant officer. It was felt by the authorities that a supervising principal must have more pressing matters to attend to.
In 1922 we found the first discussion of the great need for a new high school. Many more students kept availing themselves of a third and fourth year high school education. Since we did not provide this opportunity, the Board was required by State law to pay these transportation costs. Several years before this, County Superintendent Charles J. Strahan had stated at a Board meeting that these tuition costs were becoming far too exorbitant and that our setup was impracticable. Also, the rest of the school was much overcrowded. Besides, the State was requesting that each elementary teacher teach one grade per room. After much consideration, land on High Street opposite the Presbyterian Church was bought of Albert Nelson and a new high school was ready for occupancy by September, 1924. It was built at a cost of $60,000 voted upon by the voters in October, 1923 and an additional sum of $18,000 in order to complete it was voted upon in a special election in December, 1923.
Now at last, each grade could have a separate room in the old elementary school and two rooms in the high school building would be devoted to a departmentalized system for the seventh and eighth grades. Besides these upper rooms, there were four rooms for high school subjects, a library which also served as a room for the Board meetings, the principal’s office, large well-equipped science room, auditorium with a stage (serving other times as a gymnasium), furnace room, lavatories, and a manual training room.
For the first school year in the new building, we find the following arrangement: Henry Kauffman, taught science and history; Mrs. Milton H. Probasco, English and French; Miss Louise Hinkle, mathematics and Latin; Miss Elizabeth Cruickshank, commercial subjects. In the grammar school part, Miss Alva Hendrickson taught English, reading and spelling and Mrs. Addie Ford Yard taught history, geography and arithmetic.
It was a real landmark in our town’s history to have our own four year high school. With plenty of space, good facilities and State requirements met, at long last, our school affairs ran smoothly. We had become a receiving district for Washington, Plumstead and Millstone Townships and for a short time, Jackson. With the increase in pupil population, it was possible to offer a wider range of courses. A note in the Board Minutes states that our three courses of study known as classical, modern language and commercial were State approved.
In 1930 a new school building was erected in Imlaystown and 1933 saw the resignation of Mr. Ebert, a dedicated, oftentimes austere and always parsimonious individual. Then Mr. E. S. Bailey was appointed as our new supervising principal with a salary of $2,000. Soon afterward, Cream Ridge school closed and its students were transported to Allentown. A quote from the minutes said, “this was recommended from the economical as well as the educational viewpoint.” The other district schools were finally closed, too, Hornerstown being the last to do so.
Obviously, with these added students, our elementary school was becoming greatly overcrowded. Besides this, the State department rated the building as being less than 50 per cent efficient and that to receive future state aid, the conditions would have to be remedied.
The high school, too, was filled to maximum capacity. But the number of students could become an advantage. The school population made it possible to think of offering new and necessary courses best fitted for the district. More space was needed for the agricultural department, a fairly recent course at the time, and the room and equipment of the commercial department was inadequate. The auditorium could not handle all the students at one sitting and the gymnasium would serve many community needs and would provide much needed recreation.
The Board of Education and Supervising Principal were well aware of these pertinent needs. Fortunately, a way to remedy this suddenly became possible when it was learned that they might take advantage of P. W. A. grant. They felt it imperative that the voters act immediately. A special election, therefore was held on October 12, 1935 and a unanimous vote cast in favor of erecting an addition to the then present high school building by means of government grant and the issuance of bonds for $98,000. In the October 17, 1935 issue of the Allentown Messenger, Mr. E. S. Bailey publicly thanked the citizens for “this voluntary expression of active interest in the public education and in the welfare of the children.”
When all was ready for occupancy in September 1936, the school also opened its doors to fifty children of Jersey Homesteads, the Federal Government’s $1,800,000 cooperative village which was being built in Millstone Township near Hightstown. This Bureau, which would make payment for the children’s schooling and transportation had officially asked the high school to accept the pupils from this project. Since we had for some time received pupils from this Township, the Board decided to accept this additional group. That year thirty attended our grade school and twenty the new high school. Later, when the colony became incorporated as a borough, paying state and county taxes, they provided their own elementary school. However, their pupils continued on in our high school until the early 1950’s when that community decided they preferred to send their children to the Hightstown High School.
From 1936 until the present day, the files of the Board of Education are kept in legible form and may be perused by anyone. The reports are voluminous, so only the significant facts will be noted here.
Mr. Bailey retired in 1949. Following him was Charles L. Worth, 1949-1952. The State, at this time, changed the title of the head administrator of a school system to Superintendent of Schools. Our first, with this title, was Charles S. Whilden, 1952-56 and followed by Gordon G. Poinsett who was our able and genial head from 1956 until his sudden and tragic death in October 1960. From then until July 1, 1961, Howard W. Stoneback, high school principal, acted in this capacity. William F. White has been our Superintendent of Schools from July 1961 to the present time.
Besides those teachers already mentioned in this summary, there are others who served the school system with dedication over a period of many years. They are: Miss Elva N. Cafferty, Miss Alfreda Newell, Mrs. Addie Ford Yard, Miss Lucretia Meirs and Mr. and Mrs. William R. Hendrickson, all now deceased. Listed below are those who, in most recent years, have taught in our schools for thirty years or over. Miss Elsie Smires has the longest record, with 46 years. She is followed by Mrs. Verna Johnson, 39 years; Earl L. Freyberger, 38 years; Miss Anna Pipple, 38 years; Miss Mary Hutchinson, 35 years; Howard W. Stoneback taught here 12 years and then has been the high school principal for 22 years; Warren Kauffman, 31 years; and Miss Helen Pipple, 30 years. Our teachers have been many, and most of them remembered by their students, but because of the vastness of their number, other vital historical data must be related. (to be continued)
Like all school districts in the nation, Upper Freehold has been forced to deal with the largest pupil enrollment in history. This came as a result of the accelerated birth rate at the time of World War II. As early as 1951, the Board knew the Township was in for trouble if new provision not made rapidly for classrooms. A team for four men was appointed to disseminate this information to the taxpayers. They spoke at all public meetings, such as Grange, Lions and church organizations.
This proved to be the wrong approach, as the people felt their facts were slanted and only turned a deaf ear to their efforts. This was borne out in the election that followed on February 10, 1953 when the proposal for a nine room elementary school with a new cafeteria at the cost of $335,000 was voted down.
After housing some classes in the Sunday School rooms of two local churches for some time, the taxpayers finally voted to erect a building and in May, 1956 an elementary school was completed and dedicated to Elvey S. Bailey on September 18, 1956. The former Supervising Principal had the foresight to encourage the Board of Education to build an addition to the school in 1936 and saw our school system through the difficult years of the Depression and War years.
The Bailey Elementary School has ten rooms, two of which are kindergarten which are extra large to meet state requirements of space and facilities. There are also a principal’s office and lavatories, but no cafeteria.
But shortly afterwards, this important facet of our system was rectified. The gymnasium of the old elementary school and the light court adjacent to it were combined into one room. This became a modern cafeteria and kitchen and at other times was used as an all-purpose room. Before this, the students had eaten in the library at lunch time. This not only caused a crowded situation, but also kept the library from functioning properly.
An important thing occurred at this time—the standing of our school system—was settled. There had been a move on foot from Mr. Bailey’s time to have the high school accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. This is always a great undertaking for a school and involves much extra preliminary work on the part of all the entire school staff, including the Board, administration, and professional and non-professional people. In February, 1958, after a lengthy self-evaluation, the visiting committee of about twelve members representing the Association, spent several days inspecting, studying and analyzing everything. As a result of this, on January 1, 1959 we were put on the accredited list of the Middle States Association.
From 1956 on, the Board and the thinking citizens of the community were acutely aware of the crying need for a new high school. A Citizens Advisory Committee was formed. They presented to the taxpayers at several highly spirited meetings the needs of the again overcrowded school system. It was hoped they could explain in an unprejudiced way that double sessions, which have always been known to inadequately provide schooling, were at hand if a new high school were not built. Because of our obligation to the sending districts, the Board thought it essential to keep the high school intact as long as possible. Thus, any double sessioning or inconvenience because of rented rooms in the outlying districts, would have to be borne by the grade school group. So, additional space for elementary purposes did have to be rented from Washington and Millstone Townships. This all entailed extra transportation costs which were not reimbursable by the State. And for several years, the Board had to resort to double sessions in the lower elementary grades.
During this seven-year period, several elections were held to rectify this serious situation. The first attempt was to regionalize with the three sending districts. This met with a disastrous defeat on October 6, 1959. The next attempt was to go it alone as a consolidated district. This, too, was rejected on May 15, 1961. Finally accepted by the voters was the plan to change the present consolidated to a regional which meant an additional third of a million dollars in state aid. This election, December 20, 1962, was agreed to mainly because it was a compromise. The borough people wanted the new school and the township voters wanted a more equitable distribution of the operating costs which the regional setup could assure.
The name of the school to be built was to be retained as the Allentown High School but the title of the Board of Education was changed to Upper Freehold Regional School District. This positive vote also meant that this school is still on the State approved list of high schools since our situation would be remedied within a year and, likewise, that it is in the accredited group, sanctioned by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
The new high school was completed and ready for occupancy in September, 1964. All of its facilities have been sorely needed for some time. It has 31 classrooms, an auditorium with seating capacity for 802 people, a double gymnasium with 880 capacity, and cafeteria for 450. The core of the building is large enough for 1200 pupils and at the present time well able to take care of the 770 children. It is all on one floor, has an adequate and well equipped library, and the required number of lavatories and offices. As previously stated, it has cost $1,400,000. Now the buildings completed in 1924, 1930, 1936 and 1956 may be used entirely for kindergarten and the first eight grades.
The 1964 school now falls into the category of a medium sized (500-1000 pupils) public high school. It is big enough to allow the offering of a large number of courses and most team sports and yet not so large as to make a fairly close relationship between teachers and pupils impossible. Even the reserved or backward pupil does not become “lost’ in this size school and his personality has a chance to become developed. Actually, the students have always had a high respect and wholesome regard for both the teachers and administration. “Good professional ethics in the personnel and the fact that students respect their school and are loyal to it” were observations made by evaluating team of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. The school has been conscientious in its efforts to provide the best service possible to the area which it serves. The consistently fine records of the alumni attest to this.
Upper Freehold Regional School District has done well the task of providing institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge” as James Monroe, one of the Nation’s Founding Fathers, exhorted our forebears to do. Our community is well equipped now to prepare its young people for a tomorrow in which only a knowledgeable citizenry can possible survive.