History by Bernard Chandler
Trustee District Leadership
The Board of Trustees took their role very seriously and made every effort to conduct the district's affairs in a business-like manner. The minutes are meticulously detailed to show the time and place of the meeting, the presiding chairman and the motions that were made, seconded and their disposition. The date, time and place of the next meeting were also given. The minutes were signed by the chairman and secretary treasurer. The author knows all of the ratepayers who were trustees, chairmen and secretary-treasurers and is aware that many of them had only an elementary education, but they worked very hard to set a good example.
The one-room country school district had a three-member board and a secretary treasurer. The trustees were initially elected by secret ballot at an annual general meeting. They served for a three-year term while the chairman was selected by the three-member board for a period of one year. Subsequent trustees elections took place at an annual meeting or a special meeting of the board. The minutes show the time the meeting was opened for nominations and the time when they were closed. Apparently during the open time period, meeting participants were permitted to ask other ratepayers if they would stand for nomination. Nominations were followed by voting by secret ballot, the ballots were counted and the winner was declared.
The ratepayers that served as trustees, chairmen of the board and secretary treasurer are contained in the list below. Usually the secretary treasurer was a member of the board, but on four occasions the secretary treasurer was a non-trustee. They were Nina Prentice, Chas. Owens, teacher, Betty Doull and the inspector, F.S. Lucas who also served as secretary treasurer. The trustees serving most often as chairman were Sigurd Sundberg, Clarence Chandler and Katie Kattler. They provided a steadying leadership for the board during the 1935-56 time period covered by this book.
Tony Bourget(C) || Elmer Nystrom(S-T) |
H.W. Clark (S-T) || Hilda Perry(C)|
Clarence Chandler(C) || John Sokolowski|
Ed Bunz || Mike Sokolowski|
Clarence Cota || Sigurd Sundberg(C)|
Sam Gugins(C) (S-T) || Non-Trustees as Secretary-Treasurer|
Chas. Hemrick(C) || Nina Prentice|
Wm. Joss || Chas. Owens|
Katie Kattler (C)(S-T) || Betty Doull|
Alfred Mitchell || F.S. Lucas(was also the School Inspector)|
C - also served as chairman of the board || S-T also served as Secretary-Treasurer|
The board of trustees had extensive powers over taxation including setting property assessments, setting the annual tax rate, sending out tax notices, demanding land tax assessments for non-resident students and setting tuition fees for residents' children that didn't own land. The tuition fees incidentally were set at a daily rate payable in advance; once for 7 "" cents and the other for 8 cents per day.
Betty Doull, who boarded at Kattler's, could go to the board meeting since they were held on Saturday. Her assessment of the meetings: "Usually, they went quite smoothly, but occasionally there were lengthy and heated discussions! Local school boards were completely responsible for the operation of the schools in those days".
Unfortunately they could not set teachers' salaries. Those salaries were set by the Department of Education for three classes of teachers: 1st Class had completed grade 11, 2nd Class had completed grade 10 while the 3rd Class had completed grade 9 and each of the three classes received a few months of teacher training. Since there was a serious shortage of teachers from 1935 to 1956, partly caused by the war, the department increased salary levels very rapidly in hopes of attracting more teachers into the profession.
The salary for1st Class teachers were increased from $350 per annum in 1936 to $700 in 1941 and $900 in 1943. This represents a total salary increase of 157% in five years or 31% per year.
To fund these salary levels the department gave boards a teacher grant of 50% of the salary of a 1st Class teacher. Trustees were expected to make up the shortfall through local taxation, but the board struggled to do so because of the low land assessment resulting from poor land in the area. An example of the assessment of Mr. Chandler's quarter section was $944 in 1935.
The Arden Leigh trustees used every means possible to meet salary obligations. They employed 2nd and 3rd Class teachers where possible since they were cheaper. They also made partial payments on salaries with promissory notes, sometimes with interest for the balance or with a draw on the next government teacher grant. They also negotiated with teachers to pay them less than the salary level. With these delayed commitments the board was not only paying the current teachers, but some previous teachers at the same time. Apparently they always met their obligations since there were no reports of disgruntled teachers showing up in the minutes.
One teacher's reaction to her salary level is as follows: "My salary was $70 a month, the minimum in teachers' salaries. I felt rich. Out of that I paid Mrs. Clark $18 a month for room and board. With the rest that year I was able to buy a complete wardrobe of clothes, including a gorgeous $55 silver fox fur piece (which I still have), Christmas gifts for my family and students, and a bicycle for myself, as well as save enough money to go to Summer School." (Idamay Standish)
While growing up, I had always wanted a bicycle, but never had one. Buying one was one of my first priorities. It cost $49 from Eaton's Catalogue. I used to take it to school and let the kids learn to ride on it. Three years later, when I got married, I sold it. I heard that one of the Cook boys bought it. (Idamay Standish)
The larger school unit which came into effect in 1945 resolved the board's problem of paying teachers' salaries. The unit had a larger tax base because of better farm land with a higher assessment which made more funding available. The larger school unit did not, however, solve the chronic teacher shortage.
Another government attempt at resolving the teacher shortage was a six-week normal school training course. Any grade 12 graduate taking this course would be given a job if they wanted it. The hope was that it would attract returning veterans and those previously employed in the war effort. My brother-in-law to be, Everett Gerrard, took the offer; his reaction: Around "October 15th, 1946 I found myself facing a class of pupils at Arden Leigh School"""and hopelessly unprepared for the job. Our normal school training was too short to be of much practical use as they were unprepared to teach a short course on teaching". (Everett Gerrard).
During the early 1950's the teacher shortage was still evident. In 1953-54 no qualified teacher could be found for Arden Leigh. A study supervisor, Muriel Plaskan, was employed. Her job was to supervise the students' program of correspondence courses. Although the supervisor was paid less, the teaching process was not much different. In fact with the use of correspondence courses there was likely more structure and so more complete programs could be given to students.
On June 8th, 1954 I graduated as a qualified teacher from Saskatoon Teachers' College in its first year of operation. Prior to that these institutions were called Normal Schools - which was true of similar institutions in the four western provinces. They were called normal schools not because you had to be normal to enroll or that they developed you into a normal human being, but because the graduating teachers were qualified to teach students to attain particular standards or norms.
Jobs were plentiful after I graduated, so I didn't immediately start to look for a position. Soon, though, I was contacted by the school unit sub-division trustee for my home area. He wondered if I would be interested in an arrangement whereby I would transport the children from my home school, Arden Leigh, east to Stove Creek School some seven miles away and teach the students from both schools there. Arden Leigh had only eleven students initially while Stove Creek had a similar number so it was possible and practical to combine them rather than trying to hire two teachers during a severe teacher shortage.
After considering the proposal for a short time, I let Mr. Galbraith know that I was interested enough to begin to explore the details. To do this he picked me up one day and we paid a visit to H.S. Nadurak, the school unit secretary-treasurer, who was the real power in the Sturgis School Unit. The most significant detail for me was the amount that I would be paid. According to the salary schedule my pay, as a teacher was $156.75 monthly while the stipend for transporting the students was set at $7.50 per day or $157 per month. For this arrangement where I drove fourteen miles round trip per day I would be paid almost as much as a teacher's salary. Needless to say, I accepted the contract which is attached as Appendix A.
To accomplish this contract I immediately went out and purchased a three-year old 1951 Mercury panel truck and prior to the beginning of school I got my driver's license! Imagine no driving experience and having the responsibility of transporting eleven children, three being my younger sisters and one brother.
The School Bus and Brother Cliff
Purchasing gas from Henry
Rachkewich for 38 ¢ per
gallon or 8.4¢ per litre
friend, Fred Buglas,with my brand new GMC bus
To fit eleven children in this van I built a set of three wooden benches attached together so the children could sit reasonably comfortably facing forward. One legal requirement was that I had to have SCHOOL BUS signs displayed, front and back. These signs and the benches could all be removed when I wanted to use the vehicle privately.
Quite often when I was bringing the children home at night, I would pick up my pre-school sister, Susie, and she would go for a ride to the end of the route and return to home. Unfortunately on the second day of Saskatchewan's November safe driving week, I hit some loose snow and cleared out the bridge railing as well as the under carriage of my school bus. The kids got an unscheduled week's holiday while the bus was being repaired and Susie and I have had something to reminisce about ever since!!
Usually all went well with transporting the children unless it rained since the road was not gravelled. Driving on a clay road was very treacherous until others using the road made ruts and then you just followed the ruts at 10-15 miles per hour, like driving a train. Since there was no municipal snow plowing, my brother, George, built a wooden snow plow mounted on the front of a tractor. He and I would plough the route at night, hoping that it would still be clear the morning.
A standard practice of the board for filling the janitor's position as well as purchasing the yearly firewood supply was to let them out for tender. The result of this tendering process was that costs were kept down and all ratepayers were given the opportunity to be considered. Furthermore instead of using scarce cash for these goods and services, ratepayers' were permitted to reduce their tax bills by the owed amount. Thus, saving cash for items requiring it. For a few years after the school first opened, my grandfather was usually awarded the janitor's position mostly because he had other skills, namely plastering skills, which were also required in the new school building.
At one point the board divided the janitor's position into morning and afternoon shifts. The going rate for the morning for lighting the fire was 10 cents per day and the same for sweeping in the afternoon. This provided some young people in the district an opportunity to earn some money.
My brother, George, was awarded the tender for the janitor job in 1947. He spent the $54 he received to purchase a bicycle from the Eaton's catalogue which provided our family with many fun hours learning to ride a bike.
With my siblings, Cliff
My friend, Ervin Nystrom's account of being a janitor showed his ingenuity: "The year I remember the best at Arden Leigh was when Mom was janitor and I used to do the work for her. I would be the first one to school in the morning and the last one home at night. It was kind of fun, though because I could get out of some chores at home. I remember one cold winter morning I was a little late getting the fire started and it was still only about +25 F when it was time for the kids to start arriving. There was a big thermometer hanging on the back wall and the teacher would check that as soon as she walked into the school. I was a little scared of a talking to that morning so I got the idea if I could raise the temperature on the thermometer nobody would believe it was as cold as it felt. I lit a match and held it under the bulb of the thermometer, boy the mercury started climbing in a hurry, in a matter of seconds it blew right out the top. Well, at least no one could prove how cold it was in the school that morning! A lot of people wondered what happened to the thermometer, but I don't think I ever told anyone." (Ervin Nystrom)
The annual supply of firewood was also tendered. The tender specified the number of cords (usually ten), whether it was fire killed dry poplar or green poplar, and when it had to be delivered to the school grounds so it could dry before the next school year. The board did a very good job of allocating the yearly tenders so that as many ratepayers as possible could have their taxes reduced by the amount paid for this task.
The general procedure for getting this wood out would be to go out in the woods to an appropriate patch of trees, cut them down and haul them full length to their yard. To cut them into appropriate lengths, 3 or 4 feet, most people used a swede saw, but some, including my family, used a stationary one-horse power engine and a circular saw, whereas Nystroms used a chainsaw, the only one in the district. After it was bucked up, the green poplar was split, but the fire killed poplar didn't need splitting. It was then ready to be hauled and piled on the school grounds. The going price in 1935 was $1.50 and in 1952 was $4.50 per cord.
The procedure of tendering helped the ratepayers pay their taxes and contributed to keep the district financially solvent by retaining cash for items requiring a cash payment. Other school districts in the province that didn't have the luxury of trees or that went on a cash payment only basis didn't fair as well financially.
The school board also had an active role in student attendance and discipline. To carry out the attendance role the board employed an attendance officer for $5 per year, payable through reduced taxes. The teacher kept attendance records and at the end of the month the teacher sent FORM "B" "TEACHER'S MONTHLY REPORT TO LOCAL ATTENDANCE OFFICER" (see below) which noted all students attending less than 80% of the time.
It was the attendance officer's job to visit the family to verify the reasons for the child's absence and encourage some improvement. There, of course, was no texting, no emails and no phone calls, just a knock on the door. Nobody wanted to do this job. It wasn't a way of ingratiating yourself to your neighbours. Most of the time the job fell to my Dad because he was a leader who was committed to the value of education and saw the importance of regular attendance.
Ratepayers accepted the necessity of these attendance rules. So much so that the father in one family applied to the board in advance to have his eldest daughter stay home to help when her mother was sick in the hospital.
The board also acted in the case of the behaviour of two fifteen year olds by reviewing their behavior and accepting their withdrawal from school because they were over the compulsory age of 15.
The board always held an annual meeting of ratepayers which was usually well attended. Parent interest was always at a high level. The reports were usually received as read, but I am sure that there was plenty of lively discussion on the inspector's report on trustee and school operation, teacher performance and the auditor's financial report.
The plan to purchase the school site from George Sokolowski, my Grandpa, was unfair to him because of the board's procrastination and their final decision. Grandpa agreed to the school being built on the southwest corner of his homestead with the board agreeing to reimburse him later. The process of getting title to the land didn't begin until February 10, 1936 after the school had been built. The board passed a motion directing " the chairman (my Dad) to procure title to the site from Mr. George Sokolowski (my grandpa) as soon as can be arranged". According to the minutes the dimensions of the school site weren't measured by the board until April 17, 1937. The two-acre plot was finally approved for payment at the same meeting, but by this time the quarter section had been sold to H.(Harry)W. Clark. who insisted that he receive the payment.
Community use of the school was a source of friction between the trustees and the community. The community wanted the school to be a community centre where they could have dances and other entertainment. The board, on the other hand, were concerned about the consumption of alcohol and the damage that could be done to the school property. Although the teacher and trustees could sponsor dances to raise funds for school purposes, the trustees were reluctant to accord the same privilege to the public. Finally an attempted resolution of the matter by trustee Sundberg was proposed which said that a community member could sponsor a dance if they had the support of two trustees and paid a deposit of $5(about $90 in today's money). This plan lasted only until it was reversed at the next board meeting, but there appeared to be sufficient dances sponsored by the teacher and the trustee to stave off outright community hostility.
One teacher recalls the dances at Arden Leigh: "I remember going to all the dances in Arden Leigh School when the most popular song was "You are My Sunshine"! How so many Woodstone, Hazel Bloom, and Arden Leigh people crowded into that little school, and where there was room to dance, I'll never know. I remember that the admission price was "men 25¢ and ladies take lunch". That winter we cleared enough at the dances to buy crockery coffee cups. At our dance to earn money for the Christmas Concert, a smart alec turned up with a $20 bill to pay his 25¢ admittance. I heard later that he had pulled that trick at all the dances as the door committees could never make change. However, I fooled him for I had my purse with me and could make change. I meanly gave him as much small silver as I could in his $19.75 change. Was he furious. He left after 15 minutes. (He wasn't an Arden Leigh man)." (Idamay Standish).
The outstanding dance music was provided by one of the parents, Mansell Hunt, on the fiddle (violin) with his daughters, Inez or Hazel, on the guitar. For $2 total they played until dawn.
Common dances were old time waltz, two-step, polka, schottishe, butterfly and square dance if a set of 4 couples was interested and a caller was available. The format set by the band for the dances was to play three dances in a row of the same kind, eg., three polkas then three two-steps. Three or four fast dances were usually followed by a waltz, a slow dance.
The custom was to wait until the music started, then the gentlemen asked the ladies to dance or if the men were reluctant or slow, a lady would ask a lady. Never would a man ask a man! At the end of a set of three dances, the gentleman would thank the lady for the dance, accompany her back to her seat and wait for the next dance. However, if the couple had a liking for each other, rather than ending their dance at the first set of three, they would continue to dance during other sets.
If the dance floor got sticky, it was liberally sprinkled with corn starch to improve its 'danceability'.
An interesting board decision related to some health data. There were blackboards on the north and west walls which meant that the students sat in their desks facing north. Thus the light from the east windows came in over the students' right shoulder which for some reason was a no-no ---light is supposed to come over your left shoulder. The board dealt with this oversight by putting a partition across the room about eight feet from the south wall and moving the blackboards from the north wall to the partition. Students could then face south with the light coming over their left shoulder. This not only resolved the "light" problem, but created a very useful and much-needed cloak room.
Another big decision by the school board was about a yardstick, a straight edge device used to draw lines on the blackboard. The board had ordered a yardstick from Moyer School Supplies, but when it arrived, it was 39.4 inches long. They couldn't understand why a yardstick would be this long, but it seems Moyer School Supplies was about thirty years ahead of the metric change over! To solve the problem so that students wouldn"""t grow up thinking a yard was 39.4 inches, they simply sawed it off at 36 inches.
When the province was contemplating the formation of larger school units in 1939, a questionnaire was sent out to districts to get ratepayers""" reaction. While the minutes do not give the questions, the answers to the three questions supported the change by 27%, 28% and 36%. Clearly the Arden Leigh School District did not support the move to centralize schools. Nevertheless, in 1945 the Saskatchewan government reorganized all schools in the province into larger and more efficient administrative groups which were called school units. Arden Leigh became a part of the Sturgis School Unit #45 with the office in Sturgis, a town approximately thirty miles to the southeast. The schools in the towns of Lintlaw, Okla, Hazel Dell, Ketchen, Preeceville, Sturgis and Endeavour as well as all of the rural one-room schools became a part of this larger school unit.
The school unit made significant changes to improve the educational program at Arden Leigh. A travelling library was organized that visited schools every two weeks, supplying students with much needed books. Also a travelling audio-visual program was established to enrich the school"""s program with educational films and filmstrips. Of course, the audio-visual equipment had to be accompanied by a gas-powered generator. Sometimes the films were also shown in the evening to parents who, at the time, would have had only a battery-operated radio for receiving outside information and entertainment. In 1947 an exciting benefit was received by the school. A truck arrived one day, certainly a surprise to the students and my guess to the teacher as well, laden with about 25 student tables and chairs. They were beautiful, manufactured out of maple wood and nicely finished. Prior to this our desks were very clunky hand-made from spruce planks.
Even though the Arden Leigh trustees had received these very significant benefits as well as financial stability, they passed a number of motions to retain the one-room school. At various times the trustees made a request to the school unit to build a new Arden Leigh School, or move in a new school, or put a new interior finish in the existing school. The trustees were obviously convinced that they could do a better job of educating their children than the larger school unit.
There was good quality control in these country schools. First, the board of trustees was certainly in tune with student discipline and standards of behaviour of both students and teachers. If there were concerns in these areas, the trustees took action. For example, in March, 1946 the teacher, Jake Woykin, was fired for drinking beer at a school dance. The board must have been nervous about this decision because the page in the minutes which details this dismissal was cut out !
The teacher that replaced Mr. Woykin was Larry Zbitinew. He was an outstanding teacher, a master of challenging his students followed by an abundance of praise when they when they succeeded. I thrived on his tutelage and skipped an couple of grades, but more importantly dedicated myself, starting in Grade 3 to also becoming a teacher.
Incidentially Mr. Zbitinew rose to the top of his profession by ending his career as Superintendent of Schools in the Wadena School Unit.
Secondly, there were provincial school inspectors who arrived unannounced and put students through their paces. Students were often asked to read passages from textbooks or sent to the board and given questions in arithmetic. The outcomes of these activities were discussed with the teacher. Lastly student learning was monitored by compulsory provincial grade 8 examinations.
The trustees always kept the welfare of the school children and the """little ones""" in mind. For Christmas they always set aside a specific amount of money for a bag of treats for every child that were distributed by Santa Claus at the Christmas concert. For the end-of"""the-year picnic money was provided for various race winners as well as all kids were given 10 cents to spend in the booth. The picnic was held either on the school grounds, at the Stove Creek store or at the picnic grounds (a cleared spot in the bush) about a quarter of a mile west of Stove Creek store. The booth was a four-sided structure built of lumber, open on the front with a counter and a roof of green poplar saplings for shade. The sight of the shimmering leaves and the smell of fresh cut wood was a great background for the distribution of candy treats, pop and free ice cream.
Stove Creek Store,
originally Valley View Store, an important place for end of the year
picnics and Sunday softball games