A Short History of Wellington C. Mepham High School
This report was prepared by James F. Mulcahy, attorney for the Central High School District No. 3, and submitted to the Board of Education on August 29, 1936, a year before students first entered the school.
The establishment of a central high school district comprising districts adjoining the village of Freeport on the East had been discussed at various times prior to 1934 by leading citizens in the communities of Merrick, North Merrick, Bellmore, and North Bellmore, as the best means of educating high school students in these villages, who, upon graduating from the respective district schools, would enroll in the high schools of Freeport, Baldwin, Rockville Centre, and Hempstead. The leader in these discussions, and the one most enthusiastic for such a district, was Wellington C. Mepham, District Superintendent of Schools of the First District of the County of Nassau. Mr. Mepham had been associated with the schools of the town of Hempstead, all of which this community was a part, for more than 25 years and was regarded by everyone has an outstanding authority in school matters and school administration. His opinion was that the students of our community would be best served by the establishment of a central high school districts and the erection of a central high school therein, particularly in view of the fact that the high schools in the adjoining districts were rapidly becoming filled to capacity with their own students, and each year it was becoming more difficult for non-resident students to enroll therein.
The main difficulty to overcome in order to establish a central high school district was the community pride of each village. It was well recognized that a high school would be a distinct asset to any village and each of the communities, which would comprise such a central high school district, believed that in a few years it would become large enough to maintain its own high school independent of any other community.
(1) in 1930 there were 305 high school students from the proposed central high school district attending other high schools as non-resident students. In the year 1933 729 students were attending those high schools.
(2) the 1934-35 budget of the above mentioned union free school districts provided for some of $47,700 for tuition to high schools, and the further sum of $30,190 for transporting our students to and from said high schools. Thus tuition and transportation for our students amounted to approximately $78,000 per year from which there was no return except the education of our children. This cost, of course, would tend to increase each year with the growth of our community. Even the payment of this large sum did not insure the high school education of our children beyond the current year as these outside high schools could decline to receive our students the following year.
(3) into a central high school district, as proposed, the State Education Department grants state aid in the sum of $50 for each student attending such central high school, plus approximately the sum of $86 per person, which is designated as an "equalization", making a total of $136 per pupil received from the State of New York toward the expense of maintaining such a high school. In a high school of 800 students this state aid would amounted to $108,800. In addition to this state aid the central high school district would save the cost of tuition and transportation to outside high schools.
The proposition to create a central high school district comprising the above mentioned union free school districts was carried by a vote of 712 in favor of the district and 67 in opposition.
The vote by districts was as follows:
On Nov. 1st 1934, Hon. Frank P. Graves, Commissioner of Education, State of New York, executed an order establishing the district and officially designating it as "Central High School District No. 3 of the Town of Hempstead, County of Nassau", comprising Union Free School Districts Numbers 4, 7, 25 and 29 of the Town of Hempstead, County of Nassau. He further directed that the Board of Education of such district shall consist of eight members, two from each of the four union free school boards of education comprising the central high school district.
The district, as established, has an area of 14½ square miles, and assessed valuation of $25,394,842 and a population of approximately 15,000.
The members of the respective union free school boards of education appointed by their boards to sit on the high school Board of Education were as follows:
The organization meeting of the Central High School District Board of Education was held in the schoolhouse of District No. 4 on the 3rd day of December 1934 at which meeting there were present the members of the boards of education of each of the union free school district comprising the high school district, District Superintendent, Wellington C. Mepham and George S. Johnson and James F. Mulcahy who had acted as counsel in connection with the legal matters incident to the establishment of the high school district, and William S. Christie, Sr, who had acted as secretary at all preliminary meetings.
The following officers of the board were elected:
The Board of Education began its work immediately and the matter of first consideration was to make arrangements for the students who would enter high school in September 1935, as it was considered unlikely that a high school building could be completed at that time. The Board of Education of District No. 7 (Bellmore) generously offered the use of the former grade school on Bellmore Avenue as a temporary high school until the new building could be erected. This offer was gratefully accepted and work began immediately to renovate it for a temporary high school.
Sites for the new high school were considered as well as the appointment of an architect and the visiting of various high schools in order to obtain the best possible ideas and building construction.
A name for the new high school was a problem for the board and it was finally agreed that the students in the elementary schools of the district should be requested to submit a name and a prize was to be offered to the student who submitted the accepted name. The proposed names were received by the board on Feb. 4, 1935 with a short letter indicating the writer's reason for the name offered. An examination of the names submitted showed a very definite desire to honor District Superintendent Mepham by naming the school for him. All of the teachers in the elementary schools likewise requested the board to so honor Mr. Mepham. It was the unanimous opinion of the board that such an honor was well deserved by Mr. Mepham not only in recognition of the services rendered by him in the establishment of this high school district, but more particularly as an evidence of appreciation of his work and ability as an educator in our community for a period of 25 years. Accordingly the new high school will bear the name "Wellington C. Mepham Central High School."
The prize was awarded to Ms. Joanne Oberkirch, 18 Lincoln Boulevard, Merrick, (District No. 25).
On March 20, 1935, the board engaged to Mr. Frederic P. Wiedersum of Valley Stream, New York, as the architect with instructions to prepare preliminary plans for the high school building. Mr. Wiedersum began his work at once and in less than 30 days presented a proposed plan for what was accepted by the board.
On April 15,1935 the Board of Education authorized the call of a special district meeting of the qualified voters of the district on the 14th day of May 1935, at the Bellmore school, to vote upon the proposition to purchase a site of 21.0156 acres on the North side of Camp Avenue, North Bellmore, from Frederick Schneider, et al, at a cost of $49,800 and to erect thereon a high school building at a cost of $810,200 and to issue bonds of the district for such purpose. Click on image to read the proposal. (346KB).
The voters of the district authorized the purchase of the above site by a vote of 526 in favor and 67 opposed. The building proposition was approved by a vote of 458 in favor and 109 opposed.
At this meeting there was considerable discussion with reference to applying to the Federal government for a loan or loan and grant for the construction of the building. Upon a vote on such a resolution, the resolution to apply for Federal aid was defaulted by a vote of 324 against it and 87 in its favor. Subsequently litigation was started to force the Board of Education to apply for Federal aid and the matter was heard before Deputy Commissioner Cole of the State Education Department. He finally recommended that the board make such application, and accordingly on July 31, 1935 application was made for a grant to the Federal government. The board awaited action on the application until October, 1935, and no action being taken thereon by the Federal authorities up to that time, the board withdrew the application. This action on the part of the board brought about additional litigation and those opposed to the policy of the Board of Education to proceed to erect a high school as quickly as possible, sought to remove the entire Board from office. This matter was also heard before Deputy Commissioner Cole, who after hearing counsel thereon dismissed the appeal.
In the meantime the board had acquired title to this site through the issuance of certificates of indebtedness and on July 1, 1935 received the deed for the high school sites.
The first term of the high school opened in September, 1935, with Principal Sandford H. Calhoun in charge, and an enrollment of 235 students, all of whom were first-year students
The administration officers of the high school were saddened by the sudden death of District Clerk William S. Christy, Sr. On November 18, 1935, and his thorough and careful work on behalf of the district was made a matter of record in the minutes of the board. It is the unanimous opinion of the board that a suitable memorial to him be arranged for in the new high school, but the form of such memorial has not yet been determined.
On Dec. 10, 1935, Mrs. Sylvia W. Troncoso of Merrick, was appointed as District Clerk for the unexpired term of Mr. Christy.
On these December 15, 1935 the State Education Department announced the approval of the plans and on the same day proposals were received from various contractors for the construction of the high school. The board also authorized the sale of $860,000 school district bonds, bids to be received by the board on Jan. 8, 1936.
On Dec. 20, 1935 the contracts for the erection of the high school were awarded as follows:
GENERAL CONTRACT: William Kennedy Construction Co., Inc., 215 Montague Street, Brooklyn, New York, $496,607.
ELECTRICAL CONTRACT: T. Frederick Jackson, 25 West 43rd Street, New York, $48,280.
PLUMBING CONTRACT: Smith & Loughran, Freeport, New York, $30,945
HEATING CONTRACT: Pierce Sloan Co. Inc, Huntington New York, $89,790
On Jan. 8, 1935, the firms of C. Allyn & Co. Inc, W. B. Rollins & Sons, Inc. and B. J. Van Ingen & Co. inc. were awarded the $860,000 school district bonds for the sum of $865,676 with interest at 3.5 percent per annum.
Immediately after awarding of the bonds the members of the board, the architect, and attorneys journeyed to this site and the honor of breaking ground for the new high school was awarded to Mr. Wellington C. Mepham. Other members of the board assisted Mr. Mepham to make a small hole, in fact a very small hole, in the frozen ground over which a few months later would be raised a beautiful, modern, and well-equipped high school.
The question of school colors was left to the student body to decide and on Jan. 28, 1935 Mr. Calhoun informed the Board that garnet and gray had been selected. The board thereupon designated colors of garnet and gray as the official colors of Wellington C. Mepham Central High School.
On February 14, 1936 the Board of Regents admitted our high school to the University of the State of New York.
A Parent-Teachers Association was organized on May 25, 1936 with 77 charter members. Mr. Calhoun was elected its first president.
While the high school has been handicapped in its work during the past school year by reason of the inadequacy of its present temporary quarters, its work has been very successful due to the efforts of Mr. Calhoun and the members of his faculty, who have worked wholeheartedly to make the best record possible.
The following data from the final report of Principal Calhoun reflects the results of the efforts of the faculty:
Classes for the September, 1936, term will again be held in the temporary high school but it is earnestly hoped that the midyear term of February, 1937, will find the students of Wellington C. Mepham Central High School in the new building, with all the advantages of a fine faculty, up-to-date equipment, and beautiful surroundings to aid them in building an educational foundation to which in later years they will be able to look back upon with much pleasure and satisfaction.