Willard Graff Sets a New Direction
They found the man they wanted close to home. Willard J. Graff was Dean of Students at Southwest Missouri State College. He had also served as a teacher and superintendent in other districts in this area.
Graff was progressive in his educational thinking but saw the meaning of the word differently than did Harry Study. In his first speech to teachers in September of 1952 Graff said:
He was not only an educator but an astute businessman as well and, through conservative fiscal management, Graff built the resources of the district up at the same time he saw that new projects were in place and new buildings built.
Willard Graff's style of management...as most of those who worked under him would testify to...was autocratic. He frightened many but was looked up to by many, students and teachers alike.
His stern demeanor and emphasis on order and good discipline would be remembered by many teachers. Some still talk about his edict that all blinds in a school be at the same height when the building was closed for the day. Others remember his refusal to ease up on the dress code...except in the coldest weather...and allow women teachers and students to wear anything but dresses to school.
Willard Graff took over the reins of the school district at one of the most significant eras in the district's history, a decade of tremendous growth, change and improvement. He was the right man at the right time. (See Timeline.)
One of the most crucial times of the Graff years...but one the district passed with high honors...came in 1954. After hundreds of years of segregation in this country, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled, in Brown v.s. Board of Education, that the states did not have the right to separate black and white children in their public schools.
At that time, all black students in Springfield were attending Lincoln School.
The Board of Education acted swiftly and responsibly to desegregate in three phases. The court decision came in the spring of 1954. When classes started in the fall, all students had a choice of which school they wanted to attend.
Second step was the announcement that the Lincoln School plant would be remodeled and redecorated for use in the fall of 1955 as Eastwood Junior High School. The third step in compliance with the court ruling was the integration of Negro teachers into the schools starting in the fall of 1955.
Not all communities around the country were as quick to desegregate their schools. The speed with which Springfield desegregated and the earnest way the project was carried out gained the district much favorable publicity throughout the country. Superintendent Graff was asked to speak in many communities about the Springfield experience.
A few statistics indicate a little of the character of the Graff era.
In 1960, there were 17,801 students enrolled in 3 senior high schools, 4 junior high schools, and 34 elementary schools. These students were taught by 741 teachers.
Ten years later, there were 25,943 students, an increase of about 45 percent. There were 1205 teachers, an increase of 61 percent. They were housed in 4 senior high schools, 8 junior high schools and 43 elementary schools. These teachers, and 700 support employees, were assisted by approximately 1200 volunteers and students.
During a ten-year period, the teacher-pupil ratio reduced considerably. The school district grew, not only in the number of students and facilities, but also in land area. Springfield...during the Graff years... annexed seven surrounding school districts...Ritter and Sherwood in 1952, Fairview in 1954, Oak Grove and Shady Dell in 1956, Kickapoo and Hickory Hills in 1961 and Pleasant View in 1968.
Assessed valuation of the school district grew from $138,248,827 in 1960 to $221,069,516 in 1970.
Along with the growth there was also an increase in the school district budget to provide the money needed for additional personnel and services. Sound financial management helped provide an increase in available reserves. At the turn of the decade the Springfield schools were in a sound financial situation, unlike some others throughout the country.
In 1960, that budget was $7,012,689. It grew to $17,229,010 ten years later. A large portion of the increases in the operating expenses of the district went for additional personnel and for improving the salaries of personnel.
At the start of the decade, a teacher with a bachelor's degree could start in the Springfield system at a salary of $3,800. By the end of the decade that had increased to $6,250. Other steps on the salary schedules received increases as well.
The improved pay scales brought better teachers into the system and increasingly teachers realized the importance of doing additional course work to improve both their teaching ability and their earning power. The percentage of teachers in the system with a master's degree or higher rose from 39.1 percent to 47.8 percent
The school tax levy, based on assessed property in the district...to meet increasing needs...increased from $2.80 to $3.85 in the ten-year period. During the 1960's, patron support for the schools was strong...as indicated by their approval at the polls. Voters also provided money for needed capital improvements, $13,500,000 in all. The physical changes financed during the decade with bond funds were many.
Willard Graff oversaw rapid growth in facilities. This included construction of the city's second, third and fourth high schools... Parkview, Hillcrest, and Glendale. Two additions were added to Hillcrest and Glendale high schools. Pershing Junior High School was built and had two additions. Two additions were constructed at South Kickapoo Junior High School that was annexed in 1961. Two additions were built at Hickory Hills Junior High School that was annexed in 1961. An addition was constructed at Pleasant View Junior High School, annexed in 1968.
Two additions were built onto the Vocational-Technical School that took over the former Eastwood Junior High School in 1961. On the elementary level, Portland, Holland, Fremont, Weller, Bingham, Twain, Field, Mann, Sequiota, Wilder, Cowden and Pittman elementary schools were built and there were one or more additions built at 27 other elementary schools.
A swimming pool was constructed and an addition built on to the Administrative Service Center. A new Bus Center was acquired.
As populations shifted and needs changed, two former elementary schools were converted to other purposes...Bailey Elementary School into the Educational Services and Supply center and McDaniel School into McDaniel Vocational Extension center.
The approximate valuation of all buildings and equipment in 1970 was about $32,000,000.
These facts and figures tell only a part of the story, however. There were many changes in programs designed to better educate children for the future that may not show up in the statistics.
One of the significant changes in the school system's instructional program during the Graff years was the increased emphasis on vocational-industrial training. New classes better met the needs of both the high school and adult population.
In 1961, the vocational-technical program shifted from Central High School to the Eastwood Junior High School building. David Berryman became the first full-time Director of Vocational Education. The program became so popular that two large additions were quickly added to the building and a third was being prepared.
From vocational-technical training for high school students, the school expended into post-high programs providing two-year training after high school.
It also became involved with adult training in needed skills and worked closely with Springfield industries in helping train their personnel. The training available here was a factor to Springfield's great industrial growth during the decade.
As the 1960's grew to a close, this program expanded into the field of adult education. This included retraining for jobs as well as providing basic education skills. Some facet of the vocational-technical program reached into many lives and households during the decade.
Another program that grew rapidly under Graff's direction was that for children with some type of handicap that might prevent them from benefiting from regular classroom work.
In 1960, about 30 staff members were concerned with the special education program, working with the educable mentally retarded, the orthopedically handicapped and those with speech problems.
The program grew to include services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, the blind and partially sighted and those children with learning disabilities. Remedial reading help was also added.
There were about 87 staff members and some 60 classrooms in the special education program. Afton Bridges became the first full-time Director.
Another thing developed, to help the student with special needs and abilities, was a system of differentiated diplomas. Under this system a student could receive a regular diploma or one of two special diplomas. An honors diploma recognized outstanding work. A limited curriculum diploma indicated that the work done in school was acceptable based on the ability or capacity of the individual.
Another group of children who were served for the first time under new programs during the Graff years was those known as preschoolers: those who were too young to go to first grade.
To better serve them, the district established a system-wide kindergarten program.
At the same time, the school system became one of the first participants in the Project Headstart program of the federal government. The program provided additional prekindergarten experience for those children who needed such experience. As regulations concerning the operation of Headstart changed, the school system found it more advantageous to establish the same kind of prekindergarten program of its own serving the same children.
Money to finance this prekindergarten program came from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The district used the money to provide those extra services needed by students from the economically disadvantaged areas of the district.
Tests of first graders who had gone through the prekindergarten and kindergarten experiences indicated they were doing better than before the programs were established.
Summer school met for the first time on a tuition basis. The program was designed not only to give those who needed it remedial, or make-up work, but also to give those who wanted it enrichment, or additional work. As the 70's approached, the program was expanded.
There was much emphasis on change in the curriculum during the Graff years. In 1960, 93 credit hours of instruction were offered in the high schools. By decade's end, there were close to 170 hours available.
Many areas underwent drastic change...such as instigation of the new math and the investigative approach to science.
Spanish was introduced into the elementary grades and was taught on "Television Classroom" along with science throughout the period.
Other noticeable changes occurred in language arts, physical education and social sciences.
Each year, administrators looked at the curriculum and if changes were needed, faculty committees did the job. In some cases this meant whole new programs, such as the new math. In others, simply revising guidelines or choosing new books. Each year from four to ten curriculum areas were studied.
The process of change continued with the appointment in 1966 of a Curriculum Council composed of representatives from all fields of instruction and all grade levels to advise on curriculum development.
To keep in step with the times, teacher guidelines were prepared on Contributions of the Negro to the American Heritage. Guidelines were available in each grade and in each subject area.
Developed during the period to help with the curriculum was an outstanding Curriculum Resources Center. It provided books and other instructional media materials for teachers to use in the classroom. The Center also provided a reference library for those who wanted additional assistance.
A variety of programs had dual purposes...one of which was to help unburden the classroom teacher so as to improve individualized instruction.
Several of these dealt with young people who would develop into teachers.
A cadet teacher program, allowing high school students interested in the profession to work, but not teach, in the schools was instigated.
The student teacher program, allowing education students from the city's colleges to get practice teaching experience, greatly enlarged.
A teacher's aide program was started for college students who had just started on a college education to become teachers. It allowed them to get some experience in the schools while not actually teaching.
The 60's was the decade of the use of paraprofessionals. The biggest program was the Springfield School Volunteers that was taken over by the school system from community helpers in 1968. Jane Erb, a former teacher and principal, was coordinator of the program and spurred its rapid growth. At the end of the decade, after only a few year's development, there were close to 400 people serving the schools. The volunteers provided a variety of help to the teachers and principals. They assisted with paperwork, gave added attention to those students who needed it, or provided the special skills to enhance the classroom work.
The Parent-Teacher Association continued to grow in numbers and expand its programs.
The volunteer program had a double purpose...it was also invaluable to public relations, bringing hundred of citizens into close contact with their schools.
This decade saw some major changes in the administrative staff setup in the school system. They helped to better carry out the instructional program and to make the administrative operation more functional and more efficient.
A number of recommendations for change in the administrative setup were contained in a report by the Booz, Allen and Hamilton management firm.
Among the recommended changes was a realigned chart of organization dividing the operation into four divisions... instruction, business services, building services and personnel. It also created some new positions to carry out the duties in these divisions.
The report also suggested a long-range plan for the establishment of instructional coordinators and consultants to help with the instructional program.
Most of the recommendations were put into effect by the end of the decade.
During Graff's tenure, special services offered students, such as food services and transportation, grew with the enrollment. Emphasis increased on the use of modern, efficient methods of business operation. As part of this, the district obtained data processing equipment.
Relationships between the school system and its personnel were generally good under Graff. The Springfield Education Association came into being, changing its name from Community Teachers Association.
A committee on professional rights and responsibilities of the National Education Association studied the district at the request of the Springfield Education Association. That committee made recommendations how relations could be improved. The administration followed most of these recommendations.
The establishment of such advisory groups as the Curriculum Council and the Advisory Council of Teachers helped the process of communication and participation greatly.
Emphasis was placed during the Graff administration on the development of more pupil services such as guidance and counseling and health. A number of home school counselors were added to the staff to help solve problems students experienced at both home and at school. Students and parents received psychological help.
To promote good health, all persons working in the classroom, including volunteers and student teachers, were required to have physical examinations to keep the classroom a "well" place. The staff of school nurses increased during the decade to carry the health program into the schools.
Taken singly, most pressures are well-intentioned; many are useful. Taken in mass, they are overwhelming. If unsorted and unrestrained, they could crowd out the curriculum, disperse the student bodies and stuff the buildings with tons of promotional materials, not to mention the greatest danger latent in ungoverned or exploited education pressures--the transposing of the school into an arena of community fights. - Board of Education President E. A. Martin, September, 1960
The Board of Education also found it necessary, during the 60's, to establish a policy on other health matters that were of concern to the schools. They set policy on the use of alcohol, narcotics and tobacco during this time to protect both the student and the educational environment. Curriculum material was developed to deal with these subjects.
The Board also established policies dealing with closed lunch periods, rules on attendance of pregnant students and guidelines on student dress and grooming.
In keeping with the turbulent times, the Board of Education developed a policy dealing with the handling of disturbances and disorders in the schools. Springfield, however, was relatively free of such disturbances and disorders.
Another sign of changes in society was the fact that the Board felt it necessary as the decade ended to establish a security force to assist in protecting both personnel and property.
These were just some of the problems faced during the 60's by Board of Education members who provided outstanding leadership during one the most turbulent periods in the district's history.
It was a time that saw an increasing cooperative effort between the school system and community agencies. The district worked with the Employment Security Division, the Park Board, the Welfare agencies and other groups. This cooperation resulted in a coordination of efforts and purpose.
Members of the school system staff showed their interest in the community in numerous ways. They were consistently among those groups of employees to reach or exceed the goal set for them in the United Fund campaigns. They also donated their time and services to the community through service clubs, churches, and community agencies.
Ultimately, however, the result of adequate buildings, qualified teachers and quality programs must be pupil progress.
Yearly standardized test reports showed that students generally tested at or above the national norms in all those areas tested. Some tests, however, such as language and arithmetic computation did fall slightly below the national norm at times. It was these areas that received added attention.
During the Graff era the number of Merit Scholarship winners increased as did those receiving many other honor scholarships.
Other indications of accomplishments show in the following items:
Just as the decade was ending, Willard Graff made an announcement that would set the stage for the closing of one era and the opening of another. He announced that he would step down as Superintendent in the summer of 1970 after serving in the post since 1952. The Board of Education began the difficult job of finding a replacement for Graff. It would be hard to replace a man who had seen the public schools here through some difficult times and had left them in good physical, financial, and instructional health.
In retrospect, I am proud of our accomplishments. I am proud of the Springfield School System--the standards which have seen achieved--the reputation which it enjoys. all of these have resulted from cooperative efforts. This is a great school system because of the quality of people who serve it and because of the quality of the people it serves - Willard Graff, May, 1970