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FEBRUARY 26, 2017

taxes and build a new public

school in 1895.”

Almost concurrent with

that: “The Chautauqua move-

ment that swept across the

nation during the 1880s em-

braced cultural entertainment

and promoted literacy and

the arts and brought nation-

ally known speakers, preach-

ers, professors and vocalists

to Georgetown,” Dr. Farney


“Southwestern University

participated in the Chautau-

qua program by providing

teacher training in the form

of Summer Normal courses

taught by various university

professors including those

from Southwestern Universi-

ty. The association established

between Southwestern Uni-

versity and the public school

teachers helped elevate the

community opinion of public

school teacher qualification

and facilitated the shift from

the private schools to the

public school system within


As with physics, though, for

every action there can be an

equal and opposite reaction.

In speaking with the



Dr. Farney said there were

those who decried the public

school model as a “humbug,”

a “cheat” and a “curse.”

“At first, they had big push-

back against compulsory at-

tendance (required by the Tex-

as Constitution of 1869),” Dr.

Farney said.

“The children belonged to

the parents and they needed

them to get in the crops.”

Yet the trickle, as Dr. Far-

ney describes it, was building

momentum and becoming a


“As timewent on, theydevel-

oped standard curriculum,”

she said.

“Teachers had to be trained.

That moved people away from

home schools and public edu-

cation was seen as superior.”

The Georgetown school dis-

trict as it is known today was

created in 1917.

“In 1917, Senate Bill 225 cre-

ated Georgetown Independent

School District,” said GISD

spokesperson SuzanneMarch-


“Due to the overcrowding of

the City of Georgetown public

schools and the inadequacy of

funds, the Senate suspended

its rule requiring bills to be

read on three separate days

before passage.”

As we shall see, that would

not be the last time George-

town would need the Legisla-

ture’s help during a time of

financial crisis.

Responding to needs

From the 1880s until the

onset of World War I, George-

town’s public school system

was starting to grow up, Dr.

Farney said.

“Schools went from being

called a ‘curse’ to the premier

education in town,”Dr. Farney


“That changed in just 40


Dr. Farney said that during

her four years of research, she

was impressedbyhowGeorge-

town public schools adapted

themselves to whatever the

community’s—or the nation’s

—needs might be.

“In World War I, all our sol-

diers were not fit,” she said.

“We started physical edu-

cation in our public schools.

Schools responded to needs.”

Likewise, she said, home

economics classes were a pub-

lic school response to theGreat

Depression of the 1930s.

Dr. Farney said Georgetown

studentswere among those na-

tionwide who collected peach

pits during World War I. The

peach pits were part of a for-

mula used to make activated

charcoal in the gas masks sol-

diers wore.

Specific to Georgetown and

Williamson County was the

school district’s involvement

in ending the rat epidemic of

the 1920s. At that time, George-

town was home to about 3,000

residents and the county’s

total population was about


“The rats consumed much

of the crops and caused finan-

cial problems for farmers,” Dr.

Farney wrote.

“Students brought rat tails

to the school for the teacher to

count and receivedamonetary

prize of $25 from the county

agriculture agent for collect-

ing the most rat tails. Teach-

ers kept a tally of how many

rat tails each child collected,

andagrand total forher class.”

As reported by the


, the

1920-21 campaign resulted in

the extermination of more

than 77,000 rats countywide.

“Other animals plagued

GISD as well,” Dr. Farney


“Teachers complained

about cattle overrunning their


Georgetown students also

did their part during World

War II—participating inscrap

metal and paper drives, aswell

as the Junior Red Cross.

“The schools have always

met theneeds of the communi-

ty; with the curriculum, with

the war efforts, in every way,”

Dr. Farney said.

“They are an integral part

of the community and in

many ways the heart of the


Georgetown integrates

In 1986, during a breakfast

gathering that included newly

electedMayor JimColbert and

all the city’s past mayors who

were still living, the question

was posed: What’s the best

thing that ever happened in


Some said it was construc-

tion of Interstate 35. Others

cited the damming of the San

Gabriel River, a flood control

measure that created Lake


But formerMayor Rawleigh

Elliott answered with one

word: “Integration.”

In 1947, Georgetown closed

the “Mexican School” and

integrated Mexican-Ameri-

can students with their white


The integration of blacks

did not occur until 1966, 12

years after the U.S. Supreme

Court issued a unanimous

ruling — in Brown v. Board of

Education of Topeka (Kansas)

— that establishing separate

schools, based on race, violat-

ed the Constitution’s guaran-

tee of equal protection under

the law.

As Dr. Farney wrote: “GISD

acquiesced to the federal rul-

ing and fully integrated its

schools only after the govern-

ment threatened to withhold

funding from segregated

districts and the (1964) Civil

Rights Act had passed.”

But Dr. Farney said some

groundwork for integration

had already been laid.

“Integration went smoothly

here,” she said.

“I think what paved the way

for that was students at South-

western, working with the

Methodist church, brought col-

ored children — as they were

called then — over and taught

them piano, taught them mu-


Crisis unites community

Former Superintendent

JackFrost recalled that he and

his business manager, Jerry

Graham, came to their respec-

tive jobs just days apart in Au-

gust 1969. Financially speak-

ing, they inherited a mess.

“Therewasn’t anymoney in

the bank for the teachers,” Mr.

Frost said.

“The teachers’ checks

bounced. The teachers didn’t

get paid until November. They

didn’t complain.”

When asked how the school

district had gone broke, Mr.

Frost said it happened the

same way it happens with

most people and institutions:

“They spentmoney theydidn’t


“Mr. Frost and I like to take


ixty-two years

of my life have been

spent inside GISD

schools. And I

loved every minute

of that time.”

Paula Doerfler

Retired counselor and teacher




Everybody worked

together. It reflected

the spirit of

the town.”

Jack Frost

Superintendent (1969-88)

Georgetown students collected peach pits, rat tails to solve problems

Continued from 3

The Georgetown High School class of 1897.

Courtesy photo

The Georgetown High School class of 1939.

Courtesy photo

Continued on 5