by Dr. Pelham K. Mead III (c)2012 Xlibris publishers
A lot of my past students and colleagues find it difficult to believe the stories in the novel, The Junior High. Well they are all true and that is why I had to change the names of the teachers, administrators and students and even the name of the school from Kakiat JHS to Cucamonga JHS.
Kakiat JHS opened in 1960 after a flood of people moved out of New York City following the long drawn out Teacher Strikes in New York City in the late 1950’s. In 1956 the Tappan Zee bridge connecting Westchester, NY to Rockland, NY opened the door for people to move to the country. Spring Valley as a town was booming in those days and a third Junior high and second high school had to be built to get off of half-time sessions.
When September 1960 came about the building was not ready. The seats in the auditorium had not come yet and five classrooms on the second floor were not finished.
Despite this, the Superintendent paid off the building inspector from Rockland to allow the building to open and take in 600 students. The situation was so bad that teacher had to try and teach while hammers and electric saws were screeching the the background. It was an impossible situation that lasted for four months until the classrooms were finished and the chairs installed in the auditorium. It is amazing none of the student were hurt from the piles of construction surrounding the school.
The East Ramapo Central School district had a Personnel Director who started off as the Superintendent’s personal secretary. She had an affair with Supt. Colton in the 1960’s and he reward her with the Personal Directors position. When Colton retired she started a romance with the new Superintendent too. She was there for over 30 years sleeping her way to the top without a college education.
The East Ramapo Central School district had a major problem in addition to it’s 9,000 public school students, the district was also responsible for 10,000 Yeshiva (private Jewish schools) and 1,000 Catholic school students. The State of New York ignored the private school numbers when giving East Ramapo financial support for public school students. Private school students were not counted for State funding.
Kakiat JHS grew from 600 in 1960 to 900 in 1967 ns 1500 in 1975. The halls were so crowded in 1975 that students were bumping into one another. Physical Education classes had 80 to 100 students at one time. In 1972 the Federal Title 9 law provided girls equal sports education and PE. This meant a major change in the school district curriculum. Nerf balls of foam were used instead of leather footballs and soccer balls . Field Hockey and wrestling were dropped because they could not be taught coed.
In the early 1960’s until 1972 the boys in PE classes were given a bar of soap and a clean towel to shower and get clean. It was required at the time. After 1972, Civil rights became an issue and students sued over having to wear a gym uniform and won. Shorts and a t-shirt were acceptable instead and showers were no longer required. Gym locks used to be loaned out for the year. They too were discontinued and the students had to buy their own locks. Male Physical Education teachers could now teach coed classes of boys and girls and likewise, female Physical Education could not teach coed classes of boys and girls. In the long run Female teachers lost jobs because they lost their seniority in many schools. The federal title 9 law had positive and negative effects.
The Physical Education curriculum in 1967 consisted of all major sports, Football, Basketball. Wrestling, Volleyball, Weight-lifting, and Track and field, and Softball. Gymnastics was an obstacle course. French foil fencing rusted in the closets because none of the PE teachers knew how to teach it. Lacrosse did not exist, nor did Outdoor sand volleyball or hardball or archery. Archer was taught for a short while when the teachers were brave enough to try. Golf wasn’t taught until the 1980’s. Basically, the Physical Education curriculum was back in the dark ages.
Technology did not exist in the 1960’s, 1970’s or until the late 1980’s with APPLE.
In the 1960’s fake bomb scared and student walkouts wasting hundreds of hours of teaching time. Teacher strikes were threatened every four years when the contracts expired. Many times the Board of Education almost forced a strike but back of at the last minute. The District even stole away the Teacher Chief Negotiator to use his skills agains the Teacher Union. Principals had to negotiate on their own.
Teaching and schooling was all about money and politics. Money was wasted on many stupid projects which were eventually cancelled. The District TV station downstairs from Kakiat was closed. The Multi-media center for the district was eventually closed. Librarians were asked to become Multi-media people and load out movie cameras. It wasn’t until 1988 that Technology moved the school forward with APPLE computers.
In the first twenty years the faculty were close together and worked together. Later on factions developed and the Teacher Union ran the informal show at Kakiat JHS. Everyone was done out of fear in those days. No one was happy.
School librarians were forced to become Multi-media people.