This article comes from the Jan. 12, 1922 edition of the Waterville Empire Press. It caught my eye for a few reasons.
First, in reading this letter from Mr. Henderson, it struck me that he helped to usher in to Waterville the basic roadmap of education we see today. In schools today we basically see elementary students taught by a primary teacher with only a handful of classes being taught by specialists who focus on a particular style. Meanwhile junior high school and high school are taught by teachers who focus on specific subjects. I never thought about where that particular model of schooling came from, but apparently a century ago that model was cutting edge and implemented in Waterville.
Secondly, I noticed that through some shrewd moves by Mr. Henderson, he set up Waterville School District to begin hiring a PE teacher, an art teacher, and a school nurse. These positions are huge in our town’s school today, so it’s hard to think of a time when those positions would not have existed. Once again, we have Mr. Henderson to thank for helping to bring in essential parts of our modern school experiences.
Finally, I saw a lot of irony in Mr. Henderson announcing he was leaving the school at the beginning of 1922. The new year is associated with new beginnings and opportunities, but here is a story announcing the end of Mr. Henderson’s time with our school district. However, the situation could also be viewed as announcing a new opportunity for a new school administrator to come in and grow the school district even further. With that viewpoint, this announcement fits perfectly with the new year, even back in 1922.
Henderson quits after this year
Copy of letter received by Board of Education at last meeting, Friday evening, January 6,
January 4, 1922
Board of Education
Please be notified, hereby, that I do not wish to have my name considered for reelection to the Superintendency of Waterville schools. I give you notification thus early so that you may have every opportunity to look the field over and fill the position to the very best advantage. I trust that you may be able to secure a man of broad vision, who has had sufficient experience to have developed both a grade and High School viewpoint.
I shall always look back upon my experience in your city with fondest recollections. During the years that we have worked together some of the cardinal improvements in the school have been a complete graduation and classification of the entire school on the basis of equal opportunities for every child to determine his own destiny through his educational advancement to the fullest capacity, providing for the promotion and progress of pupils in their classes according to the work achieved, as a substitute for the old time basis of the time unit. To this end we have prepared and published a detailed course of study. The organization of the school on the modern 6-6 plan, being three years Primary work, three years Intermediate, three years Junior High School and three years Senior High School, has been completed and is in full operation.
The end of this year will be the end of a cycle so that all pupils will be promoted to regular classes and the board may continue the policy of organization now in force or revert to the old style organization as they see fit without any serious inconvenience to the pupils of the school.
The 6-6 plan affords an opportunity for promotion of pupils by subject instead of by grades for all pupils above sixth grade; it also gives an opportunity in a school of this size to completely departmentalized the work of the High School, which of course has been done, giving the pupils the advantage of teachers who devote their entire time to specific subjects. The Manual Training department has been reinstated, the History department has been increased from a two to a three year course, the Science department has been increased from a two to a four year course, and the mathematics department has been increased from a two to a four year course. This places our school and our curriculum in a status equal to the best in the state.
The school year has been increased from nine to nine and one half months which means a clear gain of about fifteen hundred dollars to the district with practically no additional outlays and the policy of establishing relations and communications with the grammar schools over the country has increased our receipts from the non-High School funds about four thousand dollars annually.
The immediate future should witness further improvements of your library, a complete equipment of the gymnasium, and the addition of a regular instructor in music and art and another in physical training, supported possibly by an active health officer or school nurse. With these departments perfected there would be few schools in as good shape as ours.
In withdrawing from your employment, I wish to say that I have been very happy in my associations with the people of this community. Your school is composed of an extraordinary group of students whom to know as I have known them is to love very much.
I wish to sincerely thank the Board of Education, the children of the school and the general public for their very courteous treatment during my administration.
G. W. Henderson