History of the School

It was on February 16, 1866, the first Board of School Directors was elected. Prior to the organization of this board, the schools were under the direction and jurisdiction of West Mahanoy Township.

The first School Board of the borough was organized May 15, 1866, and consisted of six directors, who were: Nathan Longenberger, P. J. Ferguson, John Tobin, J. P. Hoffman, Martin Scanlan, William Ploppert. At that time the borough had but two wards—East and West—Main Street being the dividing line.

Mr. Longenberger was the first president of the board and Mr. Ferguson was the first secretary and treasurer. Mr. Scanlan was collector of taxes at that time.

The first Board, after its organization, found itself surrounded with difficulties. The building that stood on the site of the present structure at the corner of Lloyd and West streets, was owned by the West Mahanoy Township School District. When the Shenandoah independent district was created, the township authorities closed the building and refused to surrender possession unless they received $2,000 for the property. The board refused to pay and a lawsuit followed. Counsel was employed in the person of John W. Ryan, Esq., but the case never came to trial. The township agreed to settle for $500. Later the secretary received an opinion from the State Superintendent to the effect that the board could take possession of the building and the township authorities could not interfere. The settlement with the township had already been effected and the matter was dropped. The first school term was for nine months.

On Dec. 3, 1870, the School Board petitioned the Legislature for permission to issue $15,000 of 8% bonds, and on April 10, 1871, purchased two lots on the southwest corner of Centre and West Streets for $1200.

In 1872 they decided to erect the building on the site purchased, and on Feb. 18, 1873, the building was opened and relieved crowded conditions of the Lloyd Street school.

On July 2, 1874, the first superintendent, Prof. G. W. Bartch, was elected for a term of nine months at a salary of $1,000. Prof. Bartch was re-elected April 20, 1875, for a term of three years, at a salary of $1500 per year.

On Sept. 2, 1875, drawing was introduced as a branch of study in the schools. On November 20, 1875, the superintendent was given power to examine, promote, and make all necessary changes. The School Board of 1876 was organized June 7, with an increased membership, the borough having been divided into five wards. On July 6, 1876, the board appointed the first regular committees. Vocal music was introduced as a branch of study, March 7, 1877. On April 3, 1879, the board purchased two lots on North Main Street and decided to build a high school. The contract was awarded to J. H. Mears for $5,490. The building was equipped with steam heat, water, gas and a stage for commencement exercises.

The first class graduated from the Shenandoah High School in May 1879. The Shenandoah Public Library was established on Jan. 15, 1880, and was used only by teachers as a reference library. On March 31, 1881, it was thrown open to the public for the first time.

On May 4, 1884, Professor Bartch refused to accept another term as superintendent of the public schools and was succeeded by Prof. L. A. Freeman. May 6, 1885, the old brown schoolhouse on West Lloyd St. was torn down and bids were received for the erection of a two story twelve-room building on Lloyd St. At the same time, another building was erected on Union Street. The two buildings cost $13,500. They were completed Nov. 16, 1885. A part of the framework of the old brown schoolhouse was used in constructing the Union St. building.

The teachers for the term of 1885 were: Wm. Cctther, Ray Fowler, Bridget Burns, Ida Koib, Annie Roxby, Lizzie McKernan, Annie Dean, Ellen Golden, Minnie Kimmel, Annie McGurl, Clara Cline, Annie Coogan, Mary Wasley, Jenriie Goho, Annie Mansell, Elizct F. Finnerty, Mary Lafferty, M. F. Albert, Amelia Schoener,Elizabeth O'Connell, Annie Kimmel, Robena Glover, Maggie Cavanaugh, Mary Wolley, Lizzie Lawbr, Estelle Kerm, Mahala Fairchild, Anna Dengler, Laura Hoskins, Lydia Eisenhower, W. N. Ehrhart, Principal.

The first public high school graduating exercises were held in Ferguson's Opera House, May 1, 1885. In January 1886 a school building in Turkey Run was constructed. In 1888 the school board elected 44 teachers for that term and each succeeding year the number of teachers was increased.

In 1890, an addition was built to the Turkey Run schoolhouse. On Jan. 16, 1893, fire destroyed part of the upper story of the high school building. The cost of repairing the damage was $960, all covered by insurance. May 2, 1893, Prof. M.P. Whitaker was elected superintendent of the schools of the borough for three years. At about this time it was decided to build a six room building on West St. at the rear of the Centre St. building which was done at a cost of about $16,000. In 1893 Mr. Ehrhart resigned the principalship of the High School and Mr. J. W. Cooper was elected to succeed him. Under the act of May 18, 1893, the School Board furnished all textbooks and supplies to the pupils, free of charge for the first time, and has continued doing so since.

In 1897 J. W. Cooper was elected superintendent of the schools and was re-elected at the close of every term until he died. He was succeeded in 1927 by Supt. A.J. Ratchford. There were 121 teachers in 1934; 41 in the high schools and 80 in the elementary schools.

Aug. 19, 1927, A. I. Ratchford was elected superintendent to continue to carry on the good work of Supt. J.W. Cooper. Through the endeavors of Supt. Ratchford, the Washington Grammar School was converted into the present Jr. High School; Girls and Boys Bands in the Cooper High School, Lincoln & Jefferson Schools were organized; also a Fife Drum and Bugle Corps in the grade schools was organized in a splendid manner. Field days and Health Queen Pageants have occupied a prominent place on the school calendar, as well as Patron's Day when parents meet teachers and work of the students is displayed and school problems discussed.

Memorial Park is a tribute to the foresight and energy of Supt. Ratchford who did much to complete this recreational field for the children of Shenandoah.

Following the retirement of Mr. Ratchford in June 1951, Mr. Charles I. Stauffer was elected superintendant. During five years of dedicated public service to the schools of Shenandoah, Mr. Stauffer re-organized the school curriculum to provide enriched courses of study with emphasis on reading and library development.

By forming a guidance department, he helped hundreds of boys and girls to plan a successful career. He broadened the guidance work by scheduling biennial career conferences.

As part of a school improvement plan, Mr. Stauffer directed the schools through a State Evaluation and followed this successful examination with an evaluation by the Commission on Secondary Schools, Middle Atlantic States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. As a result, the J.W. Cooper School received an eminently satisfactory evaluation and was placed on the list of accredited high schools.

In June 1956, Mr. Stauffer resigned to accept the position of supervising principal of the West Reading Public Schools.

In the fall of 1956, Mr. Thomas Quigley, assistant principal of the I. W. Cooper High School was elected superintendent and served until 1958.

John J. Downey was elected superintendent in 1958 and continues in this position at present time.

An excellent system of public and parochial schools has been maintained in the borough. There were ten public schools, the J.W. Cooper High School, Junior High School, Jefferson School, Lincoln School, the Old White St. School, which is now used as an annex of the J.W. Cooper High School, Washington Street School, Jardin St. School, Union Street School, Turkey Run School and the Woodrow Wilson School. There are four parochial schools: the Annunciation, St. Casimir's, St. Stanislaus and the Holy Family. A free public library and a commercial library are available and well patronized.