Eudora always has had its share of teachers. Lorna Haney, for example, taught ceramic painting to children and adults, Jan (Broers) Bailey taught dance in the 1980s, a karate school flourished in the 1990s, and Deborah Becker, Donna Oleson, Arlene Kindle, and others taught exercise and aerobics classes in recent years. Several preschools have operated in the Eudora area, too, including the one held by Verna Terrell for more than 20 years until 1974 in her basement at 930 Birch. Gloria Jacob taught the Maple Street Pre-School, 1305 Maple, which began in 1973. Her first graduating class was: Melissa Broers, Darrin Fry, Robert Bryant, Jamie Spitzli, Randy Brooks, Sherrie Speer, Bobby Gabriel, Mathew Beem, and Ronnie Wineinger. Monica Durkin started Bright Beginnings preschool in 1992, followed by Ann (Grosdidier) Kazmaier, and other preschool instructors.
As for multi-grade schools, Eudora’s first school was the Wakarusa Methodist Mission where Abraham Still taught Shawnee Indians from 1851 to 1854. After he left, a private subscription school in Eudora was said to have started in 1858. People paid to send their children to the school, a common practice of the times. A Mr. C. Smith taught at the school.
Although area one-room schools, the Catholic school, and Hesper Academy started at various dates, the public school system in Eudora began on April 21, 1860, when the Eudora City Council voted to build a 20-foot by 30-foot, two-room frame school with a steeple at a cost of $410.19. On May 21, 1860, the Council accepted the gift from Paschal Fish of lot in 1863 as the school site, but never built a school there.
The school at Sixth Street and Main Street (said to have been moved to Seventh Street and Main Street ) opened for the fall term with F. Schowarte, also a city employee, as the teacher. In 1866, a 24-foot by 40-foot, two-story stone school between Seventh Street and Sixth Street on the east side of Church Street was built for $5,700 with H.C. Speer and Miss C. Whitcomb as teachers. The 1903 flood destroyed this school.
One early principal was Joseph McCoy. Born in Coshocton County, Ohio, January 30, 1831, McCoy graduated from the Normal Academy at West Bedford, Ohio. He taught in various Ohio locations until 1876 before teaching three sessions in Peabody, Kansas, and serving as principal of the public school in Parkville, Missouri, before coming to Eudora to be school principal, according to the History of the State of Kansas.
A school taught by Miss P. Hill also was built for black students, but its location remains unknown. However, the 1873 Douglas County Atlas map indicates a school was at Tenth Street and Maple Street, which may have been the school. This school was in Eudora as early as 1865, according to an account of the time.
A small brick addition was built in 1881 south of the stone building on Church Street for the third and fourth grades. Not long after, Turner Hall, which was across from the stone building, was bought for use as the first grade classroom taught by Alma Griffith. The Eudora school system held classes in the building from 1894 until 1908. Also during this time, private instruction continued. For instance, P. F. Heiser came over from Lawrence in the 1880s to give German lessons Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Hedwig Sunderegger also taught German school in the 1890s for three summer months; tuition was $2.25.
In 1898, the first year that records are available, 227 children attended school in Eudora. Four teachers taught the school’s black and white students. In 1902, high school level classes were offered for the 11 high school students. Subjects taught included English, physics, algebra, bookkeeping, drawing, and geography.
Both the stone and brick building were razed in 1903 to make way for a $11, 500, six-room, two-story, brick grade school with belfry at 626 Church Street that was used until 1951. The primary grades attended classes in three rooms on its first floor. In three of the upstairs rooms, one on the north and two on the south, high school classes were held. The fourth room, on the west, served as the school library and equipment room. The basement housed the bathrooms and play area for days when the weather would not permit the students to go outside. Outside, students played basketball. By 1904, when the red brick schoolhouse was completed, five teachers overseen by principal O.J. Lane taught the 189 students (including 15 high school students). According to the October 24, 1918 Eudora Weekly News, it took five elections to raise bonds to build the school.
For a list of graduates beginning in 1906, see Eudora High School Graduates.
By 1905, students, 29 of whom attended high school, numbered 231. Mattie (Catlin) Kindred remembered that the fifth and sixth grade teacher of the time wore the same dress all winter. Eudora High School had its first high school graduation that year for students in the Fuller Building. Graduating students included members of the Gabriel, Schopper, Shellack, Seiwald, Sommer, Ziesenis, Durr, Everley, Eder, Hadl, Lothholz, Trefz, Wichman, and Wilson families.
An autograph book dating to 1908 and 1909 that presumably belonged to Ella (Reber) Gerstenberger and now to Janet (Sommer) Campbell had the following schoolmate wishes for Ella:
June 6, 1908
Dear friend, Some write for money, some write for fame, I write simply, to sign my name. Your friend and schoolmate, Frederick Smith.
Dear Sister, When the clouds are dark and dreary, think of Charles Gerstenberger and be weary. Yours truly, L. L.
Dear Ella, Walking through life sequestered seems, with a loving heart as pure as gold, may your days be always sunny, and may your children see you grow very old, Aunt Mary Reber.
Dear Sister, A favorite has no friends.” “Gray.” Your sister, Maggie L. S. Reber.
Dear Friend, Never look backward, but onward. Your friend and schoolmate, Douglas Harris.
Dear Cousin, When on this page a chance to look, think of me and close the book. Your cousin, Gideon Neis.
Dear Ella, Drop a pearl in memories casket for a friend. Your friend and schoolmate, Roy Harris.
My dear Ella, May your joys be as deep as the ocean, and your sorrow as light as its foam. Is the wish of your teacher, Mabel Beard
Dear cousin, When ? and rock divide us, and you no more I see, just take a pen a paper, and write a line to me. Your cousin, Clarence.
My dearest Ella, The rose is red, the violet is blue, you love me, and I’ll love you. Your friend and schoolmate, Francis “Jack” G. Hughes
Dear Ella, Friendship is a silken tie, which binds two friends together, and if we never break this tie, we will be friends forever. Your friend and schoolmate, Charles Gerstenberger
Dear Ella, We grow like what we think of, so let us think of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Your friend and schoolmate, Lillie Smith.
Dear Ella, Let it be thy constant care through earthly job and Sorrow, by watchfulness and constant prayer, each this day and tomorrow. To be prepared why Christ shall come, his heaven to make thy final home. Your friend and schoolmate, Arthur Ott.
Beautiful thoughts make a beautiful soul, a beautiful soul makes a beautiful face. Henry Eisele
Friend Ella, However we be, it seems to me, ‘tis only noble to be good. Kind hearts are more than coronets and simple faith than Norman flood. “Tennyson.” Your friend, Lila Thoren
“Dear Ella;” Don’t forget the E.H.S. kids, and the good times we had, because you are going to leave us soon. Is the wish of your true friend and schoolmate. Marie Robinson
Friend Ella: Ready to go, ready to wait, ready a gap to fill; ready for service small or great, ready to do His will. “Phillips Brooks.” Chas. Kelly. EHS.
The 1910 count of school-aged children showed: “white” girls (93), “colored” girls (20); “white” boys (109); and “colored” boys (22). Charles Kelly served as principal for the high school in 1916, and Ida L. Coffin was the grade school principal.
Some students from the country boarded in town. For example, the 1986-razed Westerhouse home on the north side of Seventh Street in the alley between Elm Street and Locust Street from 1909 to 1916 was used by Gussie Ziesenis for a millinery shop, according to Frank Page’s remembrances, and it also was a rooming house up to 1918 for girls.
Voters turned down a bond to build onto the school, a move that caused a Eudora Township rural high school district to be created and a bond passed to construct a new high school building. In 1918, the land was bought from the Meinke family at Tenth Street and Main Street to build a three-story high school building with an auditorium and a small gymnasium.
A few years later, land between Tenth Street and Eleventh Street in the area between Elm Street and Locust Street was bought for use as an athletic field and later named Kerr Field after the principal who served from 1942 to 1966. Also that year, in February, he school board decided to have school on Saturdays for the remainder of the school year. The decision was made so students could cut three weeks from the school year to begin their summer farm work. Construction prevented the school from opening on time, so the school held classes at the Lothholz Opera House.
Margaret (Colman) Wulfkukle, who taught for five years starting in the year 1937, said that she, like teachers of that era, had to sign a stating that she would not marry during employment. A high school student that same year could study English, algebra, practical math, Latin 1, clothing, or industrial arts as a freshman; English, music appreciation, geometry, agriculture, modern history, foods, Latin II, and industrial arts as a sophomore; English, American government, sociology, typewriting, bookkeeping, biology, physiology, advanced home economics, psychology, and industrial arts as a junior; and American history, biology, typewriting II, and speech as a senior.
The school in Weaver closed in 1938 causing Eudora schools to have 104 high school students, 91 grade school students, and 25 parochial school students. Belleview, Hesper, and some Evening Star students also came when their school consolidated with Eudora in 1948.
At one Eudora Area Historical Society meeting, teachers reminisced. For example, in the mornings, grade school students lined up and marched into the classrooms while Lauretta Gerstenberger played away on a large piano and Madge Hill, a teacher, marked time to the music. Once, a teacher was discovered smoking in the basement and fired from her job, said Janice (Guenther) Colman. In 1946, grade school teachers were Mary Richards, Marguerite Miller, Grace Kerr, Mary Weidensaul, Betty Fertig and Roberta Nottingham.
When Sunflower Ordinance Works employees swelled Eudora, the 1903 school’s lunch room had to be used as a classroom. Seats owerflowed into aisles, and 60 first graders in 1944 attended school in the Eudora Methodist Church half a day. The second grade class used the church for the other half of the day. In 1949, first graders attended school in the then Victory Theater between Elm Street and Main Street on the north side of Seventh Street .
In 1951, a consolidated grade school was built on the north side of the high school and connected to it by a mutual gymnasium with stage and lunch room. Five years later the grade school had four more rooms added and used a trailer for extra classroom space. An annex was added in 1959 for science classes and home economic classes. During this time, the 1903 school was condemned; new owners converted the former red brick grade school into a multi-housing unit and removed the belfry and second story.
Nottingham Elementary, built in 1965 at Fifteenth Street and Elm Street for $175,000, was named after teacher Roberta Nottingham, seen her in two photographs, including one with her 1953 class. She taught primarily first grade for 43 years, including the years 1942 to 1967 in Eudora. Nottingham returned to the school each year after her retirement to celebrate her January 20 birthday, and, on March 9, 1966 was quoted in the Eudora Enterprise: “Every day I try to take time to find something that each child has done better or give him some word of encouragement.”
The school, under the direction of Tom Jerome (1967-1999), incorporated an open classroom concept for levels kindergarten through third grade and originally had eight classrooms, a central library area, and district administration offices. A 1975 addition created space for students from third to sixth grade. As of 2003, it returned to levels kindergarten through third grade. Through the years, it, too, has expanded in size. For example, the Eudora Board of Education approved a base bid of $667,000 for a four-room addition at Nottingham Elementary School in 1996. The went to Kelley and Dahlstrom Construction. With miscellaneous fees and renovation work on the library, the total cost of the project was estimated at $784,000.
At the combined middle and high school, a new metal building for a woodworking class was erected in 1970. A football field with track facilities replaced Kerr Field as the site for football games in 1976 and student enrollment reached 836 that same year.
In 1990, the secondary school principal, Charlie Watts, reported to the school board that the south wall was "bulging and cracking." Board members voted to have a structural engineer inspect the building. In his report, the engineer said the building was going into a "failure mode" and that the lime-based mortar used to hold the bricks together had turned powdery and crumbled, allowing water to enter. The water rusted the steel lintels around the window, causing them to twist.
The fire marshal ordered the district to suspend use of the building. Three hundred people gathered to hear the report and a fire marshal’s letter. To make up for the space loss, Kan-Build of Osage City set up three modular, 66-foot by 29-foot units in the parking lot for classroom use.
The Information Group for USD 491 formed to explore building renovation before building the facility proposed by the school board. The PRIDE (Patrons Responsible in Developing Education) also formed to support the building of a new high school. Petitions and hearings failed to halt the demolition of the original high school in July 1991. The school district kept 2,000 bricks, keystones reading "High School" and "1918," and the flagpole.
Construction began in 1993 for the $5.3 million, 84,000 square foot facility to house 350 high school students. Mohan Construction from Topeka built the school, which was to be expanded if student enrollment increased, and also built the Eudora West Elementary school near Fourteenth Street and Winchester Road, financed from the district’s capital outlay fund. In 2009, West housed the district's preschool and all-day kindergarten programs for one year. School administrative offices were moved to this location in 2013 from the former "bus barn" location on Tenth Street.
Built too small to hold the incoming students, the high school, school board members said, needed to be replaced and convinced voters in 2002 to approve the construction of a $16 million building north of the 1993 school, which became a school for students from sixth to eighth grade in 2003. The shifting of the grades prompted the third grade classrooms to be located in West Elementary, also.
Not long after the vote to build a new high school, the school board took back its offer to sell the 10th Street school to the city after the city council had launched an $18,000 study evaluating the site. Although parts of the school facility at Tenth Street and Main Street, the school board said, would be for community use; in 2003, the school had a contract to use other space for vocational educational in culinary skills, health care, and auto collision repair, and called the Eudora Community Learning Center. In 2005, the school board announced it wanted to sell the site to build a bus depot by the Eudora High School. However, the school's clear title to that land was clouded by city interest in the property. To clear the title, the school traded its interest in land where the swimming pool and tennis courts stood and $50,000 from the city for clear title to the 10th Street property.
National Certification Education Statistics figures from the 2003-2003 school year showed 70 teachers; five aides; two libraries; 11 district administrators; four school administrators; 1,199 students; and four schools. In 2006, all-day kindergarten replaced the school's half day kindergarten program. In 2007, USD had 88 teachers and 1,400 students in all grades. It also proposed a $45 million bond for school expansion. In 2005, citizens protested new stadium construction with a petition, and USD 491 announced it planned to sell the Tenth Street site for funds to build a bus depot by Eudora High School. Partial city ownership clouded the Tenth Street site title prompting the school to trade its interest in land where the pool is for $50,000 from the city and clear title to the Tenth Street property.
In 2007, USD 491, which had its office on the southeast corner of Tenth Street and Elm Street and had 1,400 students, proposed a $45 million bond for a sports stadium, elementary school, and building expansions. A record voter turnout passed the bond issue with voters sout of K-10 Highway in strong support. The district bought 47 acres on east Tenth Street to build the $27 million elementary school for first through fifth grades. Eudora Elementary School, 801 W. 10 th St., was built to hold up to a thousand students and opened in August 2009.
Extracurricular programs have changed and grown throughout the years. Examples include the senior trip to Kirkwood Lodge in Osage Beach, Missouri; prom and parent-sponsored “after prom” party with Bonnie Neis and Bruce Neis; Homecoming Parade; Halloween parade to the nursing home from Nottingham; adopt-a-grandparent program that began in 1979 and links third-grade students with nursing home residents; Exchange City trip in fifth grade; the sixth-grade DARE: To Keep Kids Off Drugs, introduced in 1988 by Gregory Dahlem; the school play; and eighth grade graduation.
The teachers and administration, too, regularly change but grow in numbers. Some stay with the system for decades such as Joe Hanna, a high school math teacher who moved to Texas in 2004, or Charlie Watts, a Eudora High School graduate, who began his 28-year Eudora school career as a sixth grade teacher and ended it as the high school principal. One, who was with the Eudora school system for decades is Larry McPherson, a former Eudora biology teacher and athletic director. As a driver’s education teacher since 1963, he spends his summers teaching students over age 14 to drive. In a 1980s news article, he was quoted as saying: “I’ve had a lot of close calls. So many, I could write a book. I grab hold of the wheel a lot.”
Several parent organizations support the school such as the Booster Club and Cardinal 12th Man Club started by Bruce Kracl and Tom Stein at the beginning of the 2001 EHS football season to provide the football team with pre-game meals and away game meals. It also provides an end-of-the-season scrapbook chronicling the season and tailgate parties. with pre-game meals. It also provides an end-of-the-season scrapbook chronicling the season and away game bus ride meals.
Copyright 2014. Higgins, Cindy. Where the Wakarusa Meets the Kaw: The History of Eudora, Kansas. Eudora, KS: Author.