Beautiful, well-kept school yards enhance the value of school property, contribute to the use and the comfort and improve the neighborhood, and also exert an influence upon the lives of the boys and girls who attend the school.
People are awakening to the fact that more provision must be made for playgrounds. Schools must give more attention to organized play. The physical development of the child is now considered an important part of its education. No longer can the school assume that its work ends with mental development. It is now the whole child that goes to school. It is the whole child that is to be developed for its highest possibilities. The school ground, under the supervision of the teachers, in all seasons of the year, forms the best possible playground.
The physical welfare of 14,000 children and 366 teachers housed in forty different school buildings demands that the board give attention to this matter.
The act of congress, approved January 28, 1861, admitting Kansas into the Union as a state, under the constitution, provided, among other things, that sections numbered sixteen and thirty-six in every township of public lands in the state, and where either of these sections or any part thereof had been sold or otherwise disposed of, other lands, equivalent thereto and as contiguous as might be, should be granted to the state for the use of schools. But, as all the lands composing Wyandotte county were owned by the Indians under treaties with the United State, before they were surveyed and sectionized, it was not in the power of the government to set aside and donate the sections named for school purposes in this county.
As soon as the state was organized, the legislature passed a law providing for a free school system. This law has been amended to suit the times, and section 271 of the present school law read as follows: "For the purpose of affording the advantage of a free education to the children of the state, the annual school fund shall consist of the annual income from the interest and rents of the perpetual school fund as provided by the constitution of the state, and such sum as will be produced by the annual levy and assessment of one mill upon the dollar valuation of the taxable property of the state; and there is hereby levied and assessed annually the said one mill upon the dollar for the support of the common schools in the state, and the amount so levied and assessed shall be collected in the same manner as other state taxes."
The law further provides (Section 298) that "in all school districts in the state in which there is a good and sufficient school building, a school shall be maintained for a period of not less than four months between the first day of October and the first day of June, in each school year."
As soon as Wyandotte county was organized, its subdivision into school districts was begun and continued as the population increased, and necessity demanded, until it was wholly subdivided. Since the date of organization it has been foremost among the counties of Kansas in the education of its boys and girls. In all the years of its history there has not been a time when the superintendents of schools, intrusted with the direction of educational work, were unmindful of their obligation to permit nothing to stand in the way of educating the children. As evidence of the good record, the people can point with pride to three splendidly equipped county high schools outside of the city of Kansas City, Kansas, and district schools in which are employed the best teaching talent obtainable.
In 1911 Mr. H. G. Randall, who had been superintendent of the county schools four years, upon his retirement from the office, announced the following as representing the Wyandotte county schools exclusive of those in Kansas City, Kansas: Number of public schools, 32; number of teachers, 57; total enrolment in schools, 2,835; number of parochial schools, 7; number of teachers in parochial schools, 27; total enrolment in parochial schools, 1,227; average salary of men teachers in schools with one teacher, $61; average of men teachers in schools with two or more teachers, $76; average salary women teachers in schools with one teacher, $48; average salary of women teachers in schools with two or more teachers, $51; average salary of men teachers in high schools, $117; average salary women teachers in high school, $68; total value of school property, $110,000; total assessed valuation of school districts with two or more teachers, $12,848,525. The total amount paid out for school purposes during the year 1909-10 was $51,652.41.
Rosedale, Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and Chelsea High Schools are operating under the Barnes County High School law and are free to all children in the county.
The superintendents of the Wyandotte county schools since the organization of the county have been: Dr. J. B. Wilborn, Dr. Fred Speck, Benjamin T. Mudge, Michael Hummer, E. T. Heisler, William W. Dickinson, L. C. Trickett, H. C. Whitlock, D. B. Hiatt, T. M. Slosson, Clarence J. Smith, E. F. Taylor, Fannie Reid Shusser, MIelinda Clark, Charles E. Thompson, Henry Mead, H. G. Randall and George W. Phillips.
There are seventeen Catholic parochial schools in Kansas City, Kansas, and seven schools in the county outside of the city. In all of these about 3,000 pupils are enrolled. St. Peter's High School, recently erected, is one of the finest institutions of the kind in the middle West.
Notable among the institutions of the city that contribute to the welfare of its people is the public library of about 20,600 volumes, occupying the magnificent Carnegie building in the old Huron Park adjoining the historic burial ground of the Wyandot Indians. The building itself, erected in 1903 at a cost of $75,000, is a gift of Mr. Andrew Carnegie. It was designed by William W. Rose, erected under his special supervision, and is intended to meet the requirements of the city for many years to come. Yet it is not the building, or its splendid equipment, or its admirable adaptability to library uses, that causes the citizens to point to it with pride. It is the library itself, the books, and their uses, that make it dear to every man and woman and every boy and girl in Kansas City, Kansas.
The library is a monument to a truly great and good woman, Mrs. Sarah A. Richart, whose thirty years of residence in this community were devoted to the educational uplift, and every page in every book on the shelves of the library is an eloquent testimony to the character of this noble woman. Herself a school teacher for many years, Mrs. Richart's active interest in everything pertaining to education in the community left a strong impress on those with whom she came in contact. Always the friend of those in sickness or in trouble, the helpful adviser for the young, with whom she delighted to associate, many good and useful men and women today owe much of the best of themselves to her encouragement and inspiration she imparted to them. Many young teachers also went to her for advice and encouragement, and no one ever did so without receiving practical help in his work. She was for several years a member of the Wyandotte county board of examiners of teachers.
Perhaps it was the interest in education that first turned her attention toward helping build up a public library in Kansas City, Kansas. More than any one person did she sacrifice for its upbuilding. To her ingenuity must be given the credit for a plan whereby the yellow cur, the lean, lank hound, the brindle bull dog, as well as the dainty poodle, could be put to such noble uses as to become an aid to education and literary culture. This happened nearly ten years ago, and this woman - the then president of the Federation of Clubs - evolved the plan.
The story has its humorous side. Perhaps the yellow, whining cur that made night hideous in Oakland, avenue gave the Rubaiyat to the library. The brindle bull pup from Minnesota avenue may have contributed as his mite "Soldiers of Fortune." The Roycroft edition of the poets may have been purchased with the tax money of some Miami avenue dog. It has been said that every dog has his day, so in this instance every dog contributed something to the Public Library. For many months they did thus. The idea of making the dogs pay for the books, originated by Mrs. Richart, spread east, west, north and south. It was something new - the dog license revenue was a new source of income for libraries throughout the length and breadth of the land. Many were the letters received asking for the details of the plan, and many library and school officials took it up and made use of it.
But the plan, when and how it started, and what it accomplished! At this time, as is now the case, the women's clubs of the city were federated together into a central body. The extension of the work of this organization was the subject under discussion. There were two factions, as there is always likely to be, because of opinions and policies, where strong minds are contending. In this case one faction wished to fit up a club room for women The other faction wished to use all the revenues available to build up the library, the nucleus of which had been formed by the efforts of the club women.
When it came to a vote the library faction won. Mrs. Richart was chosen first president of the Federation of Clubs, and since then that organization has stood as the standard of ethical culture in Kansas City, Kansas. The library grew until it was too large an undertaking to be maintained on the slender revenues of the Federation.
"We must have money," Mrs. Richart exclaimed with seriousness at one of the meetings.
The Kansas legislature declined to enact a law under which library revenue could be derived by taxation. Then it was that the howl of the dog suggested itself to this grand good woman.
"This city is overrun with dogs that pay no license," Mrs. Richart told Mayor R. L. Marshman.
The mayor listened intently. The plan appealed to him. He had been having trouble with Bob Green, the negro dog catcher. He wanted to find a way out.
"I will collect the dog tax for one-half of it, and turn the other half into the treasury, " Mrs. Richart suggested.
"What would we call you?" the mayor asked with a puzzled look.
"Call me the official dog enumerator," she replied. "The Federation of Clubs can stand it if their president can."
The day of the dog revenue is past and gone and the old ordinance, which stands on the books today, serves only to remind us of the many noble acts of this woman.
During the latter years of her life Mrs. Richart, always careful in the expenditure of her income, was particularly so in order that she might leave to the library a sum of money sufficient to purchase some of the reference books that were so much needed. This she accomplished and several thousand volumes have been placed on the library shelves, the result of her effort.
Mrs. Richart is specially remembered by those who knew her for her quick sympathies, her sincere enthusiasm, her devotion to the cause of education, her ability to carry out her convictions and her charity for others. There was an atmosphere of earnestness throughout her work. The lesson of this life is for all.
To show other women that a woman may have business ability and yet be gentle, refined and warm-hearted, that she can be accurate, prompt and thorough, and yet think out beyond the thousand details of every-day life, reaching for all the true and beautiful, these are lessons of life and character worthy of study by our noblest girls.
The public library has been a free institution since the completion of the Carnegie building in the spring of 1904 and from the few handsful of volumes at the start many thousands have been added through the gift of Mrs. Richart, Mr. O. D. Burt, the Rev. Clarence W. Backus and others, besides purchases made by the Board of Education. The report of the librarian, Mrs. Sara Judd Greenman, who has been at the head of the institution since it was opened in 1904 as a free circulating library, showed that there were added in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1910, a total of 2,062 volumes in that one year, bringing the total number of volumes in the library to 16,167. In the year that followed, the number of new volumes added exceeded that of the previous year and the total now is about 20,000. More than 10,000 borrowers' cards have been issued and the circulation in one year exceeds 120,000 volumes, while there is no way of determining accurately how many thousands of persons have in any one year made use of the reference department, or how many have visited the reading room which is supplied with nearly one hundred magazines, besides the daily and weekly newspapers, for no record of this patronage is kept.
The library has many uses that make it valuable both as an auxiliary to school work and as a conservator of literature. The circulation department and the reading and reference rooms are open every day except Sundays and legal holidays from 9 A. M. to 9 P. M., and the reading room is open on Sundays from 2 to 5 P. M. No fee of any kind is charged for the use of books, whether for circulation or for reference, the only money collected being a fine of two cents for each day a book is kept over-time and a fair payment for books destroyed or injured. The shelves of the library are entirely open, and the utmost freedom, consistent with the care of the books, is allowed to patrons.
While the fundamental idea of a circulating library is to supply literature for home reading, and in this the library fulfills that mission acceptably, there is also a large demand for reference works. In this the librarian is enabled to broaden the use of the library by supplying information on almost any subject desired. In fact, the whole library is organized for the purpose of reference work, as the shelves are all open and the catalogue conveniently arranged for the patrons. The chief growth in the past year has been in the line of information on technical subjects. An increasing amount of work has been done in looking up subjects for club programs, Material has been prepared for debates in several of the near-by colleges and written requests for lists of references on many varied topics have been received and answered.
The event of greatest importance during the year was the establishing of collections of books in a few of the more remote school buildings. Although this work was not begun until very near the close of the school year, much satisfaction is expressed by the teachers and pupils, and it is expected that a material increase in circulation from this extension work will be shown in the next library report. The need for this work in the schools is very great and opportunity is limited only by ability to supply the demand. The addition of new territory to the city brings new problems in library extension and it seems necessary that collections of books be placed in all remote school buildings for use by the pupils.
The work of the year in the boys' and girls' department is gratifying, The circulation from this department of 31,544 books, or thirty-six per cent of the whole library circulation, is a gain over last year of 2,084 books.
Notwithstanding the fact that the management is constantly adding new books and replacing those worn out, many empty shelves speak eloquently of the use of the library by the boys and girls of the city Afore books are needed for this department. It has been interesting to both parents and children for the library to exhibit on its bulletin boards, in the room devoted to the purpose, the work done by the grade pupils in sewing, drawing and water color.
The children are using more intelligently the reference books in their school work and there are daily calls for help on the many different topics assigned them by their teachers. Some of the teachers are requiring a certain amount of supplementary reading and giving the pupil credit for doing this extra school work, and the library gladly furnishes the books for this outside reading.
The mounted stereopticon pictures are a source of daily interest to the patrons of this room. New subjects are frequently displayed and enjoyed, and it is the wish of the librarian to be able, in the near future, to circulate some of these pictures.
A most interesting branch of the work is the story-hour. The library is fortunate in securing as story-teller for the children, Miss Mary L. Dougherty, a teacher of the Longfellow school, whose work in this line is becoming well known to educators everywhere. The story hour is given in the auditorium of the library, and the attendance has ranged from forty-five, on a stormy day, to two hundred and seventyfive, when Christmas stories were the special attractions.
During the month following the close of the schools the Board of Education arranged for the story-hour in each of the school buildings where special work was being given the children, and the attendance proved that the pupils appreciated this opportunity. The stories told, have been mainly classics, although a very general program is followed because of the varying ages of those attending story-hour. Myths, legends, folk-lore and fairy tales have all been given, and Miss Dougherty succeeds in holding the interest of the very little folks as well as the older children. The story-hour has undoubtedly been instrumental in creating a liking for good reading and interesting children in the library.
The librarian, Mrs. Sara Judd Greenman, is a member of the American Library Association. She is also president of the Kansas Library Association and a member of the Kansas Traveling Libraries Commision. She is assisted by the following, as members of her staff: Mary Neale Mills, children's librarian; Ida Buchan, cataloguer; Allabel Williams, superintendent of circulation; Bessie Seward, desk attendant; and James Fee, custodian.
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