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CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF ROCORI

 

Earlier in the year, I have shared some information about the early years of the ROCORI School District.  As we continue to move through the 50th year of ROCORI’s history, there is a lot we can learn from the very early part of ROCORI’s organization.

 

ROCORI AREA SCHOOLS—EARLY HISTORY

Much of the early history of the district was captured by the first superintendent of schools, William J. Virant.  He gathered a lot of information in a book called, ROCORI Area Schools:  Early History.  The book was published in December, 1997.

I find the book to contain some fascinating bits of history about the conditions in the 1960s and the events that led to the formation of the ROCORI Schools.

 

INTRODUCTION

The first few pages of the book briefly review the history of education in the United States.  A favorite quotation of mine, which provides much of the reason for public schools, is cited at the outset.  Virant quoted Thomas Jefferson who said, “For a Democracy to survive, it requires an educated populace.”

Recently, we reviewed the pressures and issues related to organizing the ROCORI School District and the first year of operation.  In the last article, we reviewed information about the decision to close St. Boniface which, in essence, completed the path for ROCORI’s operations as a public school.  The information from Bill Virant offers insight into the organizational efforts.

 

SECOND YEAR

“Upon receipt of the notice (by St. Boniface to close the High School), School District No. 750 Board took action to delay the start of classes until September 16 to allow time to:  register 175 more students from St. Boniface, hire teachers, re-arrange schedules, re-do bus routes.

“Principals Hough and Martinson were up to the task along with two capable secretaries, Lydia Keul and Joanne Rausch, and classes began on September 16.

“Since ROCORI High School was still under construction, School District No. 750 rented St. Boniface High School for the 1968-69 school year for grades 7-12.  John Clark School and Richmond Elementary School were K-6 elementary schools and St. Nicholas grades 1-6.

 

CONTINUED OPERATIONS

“(The) ROCORI High School (building) was completed for the start of the 1969-70 school year; a Grand Opening Open House was held on October 26, 1969.  St. Nicholas Grade School was closed and the Cold Spring Elementary School was organized with Principal Demuth in charge and occupied the St. Boniface High School building along with the St. Boniface Grade School.

“Gary Haberman was hired for the principalship at Richmond and William Goede for a like position at John Clark School.

“Independent School District No. 750 was now in place encompassing a geographical area of approximately 150 square miles, 2700 students in public schools, and three Cathoilic parochial schools—St. Boniface, Sts. Peter and Paul, and Holy Cross.

“All the persons mentioned in this brief history played important roles in the formation of the ROCORI Area Schools, also the not-to-be forgotten residents and teachers, cooks, custodians, clerical, and bus owners who lent their energy and support.”

 

REFLECTIONS

The last part of the book, ROCORI Area Schools:  Early History, includes reflections and memories from a number of the people who played a part of that early history!  Comments were offered by Jerome Kollmann, Joe Willenbring and Fred Stein, members of the original School Board.  Bill Virant added his own personal reflections.

Principal Merel Hough offered insights on the experiences along with Ellen Wahlstrom.  Hough was ROCORI’s first Principal and Wahlstrom was a remedial Reading teacher. 

Comments from Mary Anne Daniels and Matthew Walz were included as members of the first graduating class.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

With the efforts of many people, the ROCORI School District was organized and became an official public school district in the state of Minnesota.  There was a lot of hard work, lobbying, and political strategy exerted to develop the ROCORI Schools and the first two years offered a great deal of challenges in getting staff, providing space, and ensuring the organizational structure.

I am expecting to include one additional article on ROCORI’s fifty years!  The reflective comments at the end Virant’s history book offer some good insight and I have been offered some information from an interview with J Nic Demuth conducted this school year.  It is fun to consider the thoughts of those who were involved in the foundations of the district!