Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A History Lesson

The New Paltz Middle School was built in 1930 to house the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades that were formerly educated on the Normal School campus, now SUNY New Paltz.

When the state alerted the village that it would have to take over the last three years of high school education there was considerable debate about where the school should be built and how much it should cost.

August 1929, Millard Dubois, quoted in the New Paltz Independent, the school should "not be far from the center of the village".

November 1929, Bryun Hasbrouck, quoted in the New Paltz Independent, on the topic of the debate about the school, urges the paper and the district to "make clear a subject that has probably been hazy in the minds of many people."

January 1930, in an editorial in the New Paltz Independent, a cry to move forward with the school, "Because New Paltz voters are far too self-respecting to commit the foolish errors made by so many towns when this kind of decision has to be made, frequently holding up a needed program for years, adding thousands of unnecessary expense."

January 1930, Elting Harp quoted in the New Paltz Independent, notes in response to opposition to the project, "It is seldom, if ever, in an election that involves the spending of money that some people do not say the price is too high."

February 1930, reported in the New Paltz Independent, on the New Paltz Lumber Company's donation of athletic fields, "The deed conveying title is to contain a reversionary clause to the effect that if said tract ceases to be used as an athletic field, recreation center or playground in connection with educational purposes, it shall revert to the New Paltz Lumber Company, it's successor or assigns."

April 1930, reported in the New Paltz Independent, the state played an active role in site selection and building design and would pay a quarter of the estimated $190,000 to build the school. Further, in an editorial response to attacks on the district and board, "...the board has worked with painstaking care to meet the requirements of Albany and at the same time conserved our taxpayers' money... No stone has been left unturned."

May 1930, the New Paltz Independent reports: Voters accept the $190,000 plan with 154 for and 108 against. One anti-voter is quoted, "What is the use of a fine building if people are too poor to send their children to school"? A supporter is quoted, "If we vote it down, the extra trouble will make it cost just as much in the end."

August 1930, the New Paltz Independent reports: actual bids came in lower than expected, three firms from Kingston were selected, for a total cost of about $160,000. (Note, even in the Depression era, the state did pay its share.)

October 1930, in his building dedication speech, Superintendent Gillette: "I have attempted to indicate briefly, that, according to recorded experiences of the past, our generation will be called upon to make a contribution to the world's educational progress and young men and women whom this building will serve, will strive to contribute their share."

All research cited here was conducted at the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection, Elting Library. All direct quotes appeared in the New Paltz Independent.

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