Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tradition of Education

To understand Naperville’s school system in 1913, the year the Chamber of Commerce was founded, we should really go back even further.

Education has always been important to Naperville citizens. Our first settlers arrived in July 1831 and established a school already by September. Twenty-two students were enrolled and a teacher, Lester Peet, was hired to teach them for $12 a month.

In 1870, Naperville set much higher goals and successfully wooed Plainfield College away from that town to become our North Central College.

In 1913, respect for education was a simply  a way of life. Naperville’s high school was accredited by the state and other institutions as “meeting or exceeding standards” to prepare students for college level study.

Ellsworth was the “East” side school while the Naper Academy served as the “West” side school. Ellsworth was named for Lewis, the first school commissioner and for Milton, the director of the district. The median teacher salary in this town of 3,500 residents was $760 a year.

Over one hundred high school students attended classes on the upper floors of the first Ellsworth school building, with younger grades taught below. High schoolers didn’t get their own building until it was opened in 1916 on the site of the current Washington Junior High.

Physical education was required of high school students, but in 1913 they didn’t have a gymnasium. Instead they took phys ed in the barely-two-years-old YMCA building on Washington Street.