Commentary: Will funding issues force schools, community to take a step backward?

The Superintendent’s Annual Report to the Community from Dr. Jeremy Raley, published in October, was an impressive document.

Dr. Raley says,“We believe that great communities come from great schools.” The report features accomplishments of students statewide and nationally. Individual students have volunteered in many ways helping the community, students have achieved perfect scores on SAT and ACT, some student achievement is shown in music performance, art competition, technology, athletics, agriculture and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America.

Dr. Raley features faculty accomplishments, distinctions and goals. Food service, maintenance services are praised. Employees include 10 nurses, 16 guidance counselors, seven psychologists/social workers, nine librarians, six job coaches and 113 paraprofessionals, two family services and English language learners staff for the seven different languages spoken in the schools.

There are 501 teachers and 6,130 students. Some students get postgraduate help. There were 463 graduates this year — that is over 95 percent of the class with 76 percent going on to college. Five percent joined the military and 19 percent have jobs No mention is made of the challenges faced with campus security or the cost involved.

In 1950, Woodstock High School introduced the first eighth grade ever. African-American students were sent to Winchester, physically and intellectually challenged students went to Lynchburg or Staunton, pregnant girls dropped out, trouble makers were expelled, kids with problems dropped out. Popular policeman Johnny Keller never set foot on campus. There was no nurse. There was no guidance counselor.

There was no county library, no county hospital, and no public park and pool. There was fuzzy TV, no computers, no community college and no community health clinic. Interstate 81 did not exist.There were no hotels.

Graduates entered the military, studied nursing in hospitals in Harrisonburg and Winchester, Palmers Business School, Madison College and sometimes went far afield. Graduating classes ranged between 35 and 45. Drop-out rates today are very low, lower than the state average and dropping. Drop-outs in 1950 concerned then Superintendent Birchell Hilton.There were no services for sick children.

School lunch cost 25 cents. No special diets were offered. One lunch was kale, hominy, sloppy Joe, milk, and ice cream.

The unforgettable Derwood Myers taught shop and agriculture, Catherine Bauserman taught a world class home economics class. “Reverend” Backman taught math, Margaret Grabill taught English, Miss Mary Wenger taught Latin.

Principal David Jones opened school on Saturdays for some extra help.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church organist Mary Bair Bowman directed the chorus, Mr. Gene Morlan orchestrated music all over the county, producing amazing results. Hunting season and harvest left some empty seats at school.
Nobody smoked on campus. Nobody worried about about crime or drug abuse. There was talk about moonshine.

Today the old Woodstock High School is the Government Building. Central High School is one of 13 buildings in the school system. Central High School is named a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School.

Stonewall Jackson High School got ranked in the top 25 percent of the high schools in a U..S News and World Report/Education publication.

Today the local government denied about $1 million dollars requested by the school system. The federal government contribution to the school system dropped by more than $700,000. What will Dr. Raley report next year? What happens to our community?

Dr. Eloise Clymer Haun is a Woodstock resident.