Southport Central School

100 Years of Island Education

Researched and Written by:

Sarah A. Sherman Alumna 1975 - 1984

Cozy Harbor Press P.O. box 385

Southport, ME 04576

Phone: 207- 633-7161

The Town of Southport was incorporated in 1842. Since that time there have been a total of seven schools on the island. In 1904, the McKindley School was built as the town's two - year high school. It was located on the property where Cecil Pearce built his last home adjacent to the Hendrick's Hill Museum. Grammar school students attended a separate building on the same hill. In 1927, the building was moved and became the town's first firehouse when Southport Fire Department was formed.

School enrollment for the fall of 1904 was 85, which fluctuated as high as 92 students by the Spring of 1905. Ages 4- 21 were welcome, since many children had to work seasonally or go fishing on schooners to help families make ends meet. They could only go to school for part of the year, thus the extended ages of the school's pupils. The cost to run the school in 1904 was 1233.05. Town teachers earned an average of $160.00 a year and some doubled as school janitor, which earned them the extra sum of $ 6.00 per year.

Superintendent of Schools S. W. Clarke remarked, "It requires more than teachers to educate children; it requires the hearty, earnest, and sympathetic co-operation of parents as well. Without this, many of the best efforts of teachers are put forth in vain. Parents should have at least as much interest in the education of their children as teachers have. No doubt many parents imagine they're doing their full duty simply by sending their children to school This is really a small part of their duty; they should keep constantly before their minds the many and great advantages of education, and should encourage them in every way possible to put forth their best efforts. It is only in this way that children can be made to understand the true value of education.

After all the methods have been expiated and everybody has had his way, we have been obliged to recognize the old truth, that the acquisition of education means hard and persistent work. It has never been acquired in any other way, nor will it ever be."

In 1914, the school budget increased to $3284.64 and it was noted in the town report that some students opted to go to high school off- island. Linwood Pierce attended Lincoln Academy in Newcastle, and Ernest and Lucy Thompson went to Boothbay Harbor to get a four- year high school education versus two years here on the island.

Superintendent of School James B. Perkins remarked, "Last year the teachers in the common schools were paid nine dollars per week, but this year it was possible to obtain teachers residing out of town who had suitable qualifications at this salary, hence it became necessary to pay these teachers ten dollars a week.

The greatest obstacle to the maintenance of a good school system in the town of Southport is the small number of pupils of school age in attendance upon the school. At present time, the enrollment is as follows:

High School - 8

Eight Grade - 10

West Side - 22

East Side - 12

Newagen - 11

The West Side School is in the best condition of any of the three common schools and the attendance at this school should cause no uneasiness . The conditions at the East Side School and Newagen schools, however, present a very different and difficult problem."

By 1924, the school budget had reached an all-time high of $4038.74. Enrollment was 39, and Miss Ethelyn Pinkham was hired to teach seven pupils at the Newagen School during the spring term. When she accepted a teaching position elsewhere, Miss S. Elizabeth Gray took over in the fall. Shortly thereafter, a family with three children in the school moved away and it was decided by the superintending school committee to close the school and transfer the students and teacher to the West Southport School for the remainder of the year. Violet Smith was hired in 1931 as principal and teacher, and Walter Alley owned and operated the town's first school bus. Lawrence Boyd later took over the position from him.

In 1934, school enrollment was up to 73 and the school budget was $6012.59. Teachers' weekly wages were as follows:

Edith Giles - $18.90 - East Side School

Olive Patton - $14.00 - West Side Primary

Violet Smith - $19.80 - West Side Grammar

Grace Orne - $15.00 - Newagen

Superintendent of Schools Harold B. Clifford's entry in the 1934 town report was exceptional.. It read in part as follows, "In difficult times like the present, most aspects of current life are being questioned and the school is no exception. Some believe that all school expenses should be met by parents. Others claim the high school should only be for those who are brilliant in scholarship. There are two reasons why the education of children is of concern to all of us.

First, the success of our government depends upon the character of our citizens and at present we have no substitute for schools in the development of citizenship. We all gain if we live in a community or state where people are intelligent and upright. We all lose is we reside among the ignorant and corrupt.

Second, educated people average to have a considerably higher income than do those who have been deprived of schooling. They are the people who are able to have summer cottages built, yachts constructed, who patronize the merchants and who provide much of the employment. We all gain by living in a country in which the people are capable, and schooling is the best way we have today to develop abilities.

I feel that the decline in the authority in the home, the automobile, and many of our amusements are making serious character hazards for our young people. Our schools must strengthen their service to children rather than weaken it."

Prior to 1939, the Southport bridge was in poor condition and was waiting to be rebuilt. If the island's children were going to an event in town or at the high school, they had to get off the bus on the Southport side, then the bus would proceed over the bridge and pick them up.

In 1944, there was a teacher shortage in the state of Maine. Many schools were closed and others were taught by substitute teachers. Superintendent Harold Clifford maintained, "Southport's success is due to three factors: improved salaries, a good supply of local teachers, and the island never discriminates against married women if they are capable.

Donald Brewer remembers attending three different schools on the island in his youth. He said if he went to visit his Grandmother and Grandfather Alley, who lived on the eat side of the island, and it got to be late, he'd sleep there. Next morning, he would attend class at the Lincoln School, then resume his studies on the West Side school the following day. At one point, the sub- primary, first through fourth grade, was bussed to the school in Newagen. and he recalls going there for a while. then he finished his schooling in the upper grades at Southport Central School.

Over the next ten years, Violet Smith's salary increased to $1170.00 a year and it was noted in the town report that she "stepped up" the one-hot-dish-at-noon project to a full meal for children. The school budget was $ 9307.82 and enrollment was 52.

In 1947, the schoolhouse was moved to its present location and was renamed Southport Central School, as it became a consolidation of the island's schools. On the same day a funeral for my grandfather, Earl P raft. Sr., was held at the Methodist Church. Because the school was blocking the road, the funeral procession had to be re- routed down to Newagen and back up the west side of the island to get to Union Cemetery for the burial service.

In 1954, Superintendent Clifford reported. "Miss Frances Plumstead is working under serious crowded conditions. Mrs. Violet Smith's problem is how to adequately prepare pupils in grade 7 and 8 for high school while managing five grades," The school budget peaked at $15,052.16 and enrollment was 67.

In 1955, an addition was built onto the back of the school. By this time there were 67 students enrolled and they were divided into three classrooms. Emolyn Smith Pratt was hired in 1956 to teach 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, and Cliff Buck owned and oersted the town's school bus.

When the two-year high school at Boothbay Center closed, Cliff was hired as Principal of Boothbay Harborr High School. He couldn't drive the bus too, so his nephew, Stuart Thompson took over the position. He later bought the bus from Cliff for $8000.00, and continued on as the island's bus driver for the next 30 years. His wife, Jean Thompson, was hired as a substitute teacher for Jean Niemi in 1959, and ended up substituting at Southport Central School for 20 years.

By 1964, the school budget was $48,094.08 and it supported 54 students. Superintendent Frank E. Dorr reported, "The lunch program has been well managed by Mrs. Rand, but continues to run into a deficit each year. This is partly due to fewer money saving government surplus commodities, increased food costs, and to the fact that is a small lunch program. An increase in the cost of school lunches to 30cents would produce a little over$300.00 per year in added income. This would erase the overdraft next year and enable the town to reduce the appropriation for the lunch program in succeeding years."

Violet Smith retired in 1968, at the age of 70, after 37 years of dedicated service to island children. In 1974, Robert Irvine served as principal and teacher of 6th, 7th and 8th grades. Mrs. Emolyn Pratt taught 3rd, 4th and 5th and Mrs. Kathleen Johnson taught 1st and 2nd. Due to the large kindergarten class and the overcrowded room situation, Mrs. Jane Cross was employed to teach kindergarten and Mrs. Lydia Elliott continued her duties as teachers aid.

A school science fair was held each year, the 8th grade put on dances, and there was a Memorial Day concert around the flag pole. Christmas concerts were held at the Southport Town Hall each year and Saint Nick always made an appearance with a present for each of the school's children.

It was considered a home run if you hit a baseball into the school pond from home plate, and some of the 'big boys" could really smack the ball, hitting it over the pond and onto the roof of the store's barn across the street. Keep in mind there was usually only one ball, so a "home run" ended the game until the ball floated ashore. After lunch, students were permitted to walk over to the store and make a purchase out of the old glass candy case at Climo's Island Store. The school budget was $97,193.69 and enrollment was 68.

In 1975, Harold Seavey built a wooden ramp and tried to jump the school pond with his bicycle. It was in homage to his idol Evil Knievel, and that day will live in island infamy. I was in kindergarten at the time, and I remember the whole school was let out to watch. Townspeople left their work and homes to attend the event. Harold made two jump attempts, urged on by the cheers and encouragement of his neighbors, and was the hero of the kindergarten for the rest of the school year.

Emolyn Pratt retired in 1977, after 21 years of education island children in the 3R's, reading writing, arithmetic -- and let's not forget music! I can still see that foot tapping, keeping time with the beat.

In 1984, Superintendent David A. Hopkins reported, "The school will be going under a self-evaluation program which will address all of the school. It is a means for involving the total school community in determining educational needs, in setting priorities, and improving public understanding of the school goals and services." The school budget was increased to $245,459,57 and enrollment was 47.

The 8th grade class decided it didn't want to go on the tradition trip to Boston at the end of the school year. Instead, they set their sights on Washington D. C. A series of creative fundraisers were held, and they earned enough money to go in the spring.

The class consisted of Kelly Huskins, Lydia Fugitt, Teddy Dowling, Arthur Cushing, Steven Simmons, Angel Norris, Lisa Swett, and Sarah Sherman. Principal John Lunt, teacher Jane Cross, and mother Debbie Simmons were the chaperones.

It was the first time many of the children had ever flown on an airplane and the trip created a lot of excitement. Mrs. Cross' mother, who lived in nearly Virginia, let the students camp out at her house to save money. Highlights of the trip included visiting the Smithsonian Institute and seeing the Fonz's leather jacket, Archie Bunker's chair,and the swamp from M.A.S.H. We touched a rock from the moon at the Air and Space Museum, toured the F.B.I. building, the Lincoln Memorial, the bureau of Engraving and Printing, The National Zoo, and the Vietnam Memorial.

In 1986, the town made the decision to send Southport's 7th and 8th graders to Boothbay Region Elementary School, in an effort to give the children broader educational and athletic opportunities. It was a controversial decision at the time because it meant the town would have to give up total control of the students curriculum as Southport residents cannot serve on a Boothbay Harbor school board.

In 1993, a second addition was built by island parents. It was originally used as a kindergarten classroom, and now is the music and Spanish room. In 1994, the school budget was $497,671.00 and enrollment was 55. There were many improvements to the school that year including a new furnace, new carpet and new blacktop in the front driveway. Between 1995 and 2003, the 6th grade students raised money and went on class trips to New York City, Washington D. C., Boston and Quebec.

In 2004, the school currently serves 34 students and the school budget is #711,475.00. Scott Alley, Nicole Tibbetts, Wyatt Colby, Robert Cronk, And Sophie Stark the school's 6th graders, competed at the University of Maine at Orono in a national robotics competition and won the Teamwork Award.

The school chorus performed at St. Andrew's Village, Wyatt Colby place 2nd in the Lincoln County Spelling Bee, and the school went on a whale watch in the fall and traveled to the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland in the spring. Susan Domeyer, Kathy Tibbetts, and Bruce White serve on the school committee and have successfully brought the school into its 100th year.

Currently, Kathy Johson, who was my 1st and 2nd grade teacher, has eight Kindergarten students. She will retire at the end of the school year having taught Southport students for 34 years. Misty Marston, with 27 years of service, has the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades, and Julia Denney has the 4th, 5th and 6th grades with the assistance of Lisa Clarke.

Chake Higginson teaches art, Barbara Prose is our music teacher, Marcus Hutchins instructs the band, Julie Mason teaches Spanish, and Julie Mitchell teaches reading skills. Linda Brewer and Ann Roche assist the children at the library every week, and volunteers Mary Merrill, Stan Brower, Sharmon Provan and Andrea Hutchins help the children with reading and language arts weekly.

Eileen Higgins serves as Administrative Assistant and keyboarding teacher and Ramona Gaudette, who has a remarkable 46 years of service, heads up the school cafeteria. Tancy Mitchell, Connie Colby, and Leslie Berne have also helped prepare meals when Ramona had to be away.

Bruce and Georgette Lewis maintain the school, and Bruce also drives the bus. Bobbie Wallingford and the Southport Island Association offer services throughout the year, creating costumes for school concerts, and maintaining a scholarship for Southport students who pursue a college education. Rich Curley is our Principal and Eileen King serves as Superintendent of Schools.

As Southport Central School enters its 100th year of operation, its present enrollment is 34 students, K-6th grade. As we hear music from the school band, see colorful artwork line the hallways, and watch the children play baseball on the ball field, it becomes apparent that this little school has stood the test of time and continues to be the heart and soul of our island community. Here's to the next 100 year!