School daze of 1967

Tracking the changes in education
School daze of 1967
Photo by Corey Coyle

Jan. 1, 1967: School-age youth do $761 in damages to Orchard Ridge school, with another 67 cases of school vandalism coming by May.

Jan. 9, 1967: Board of Education ends a lengthy negotiation stalemate by reversing itself and approving a contract with Madison Teachers, Inc. that keeps teachers among the lowest-paid in the area but establishes the union’s right to compulsory arbitration of grievances. The economics remain as settled last summer: raises of $300-$325 and a starting salary of $5,500 this fall, with similar raises in 68-69, subject to the union’s right to reopen based on inflation. Board also approves $408,265 in contracts for an athletic facility and grandstand at James Madison Memorial High School, which veteran board member Arthur “Dynie” Mansfield, UW ’29, extols as a year-round multi-sport complex to be available for public use. Deviating from its standard practice, the board lets Mrs. Roberta Leidner, 201 Lathrop St., representing the Capital Community Citizens, raise questions about the proposal. “A citizen can’t just stand up and ask to be heard,” superintendent Robert Gilberts says, but the board lets Leidner speak before overriding her concerns and agreeing with Mansfield, the legendary university athlete then in his 30th year as the Badger baseball coach. Mansfield, a 1998-inductee in the UW Sports Hall of Fame, advocates forcefully for the facility, which was named in his honor after his death in 1985.

Feb. 16, 1967: West High School Student Senate votes that students should not be required to say the pledge of allegiance or stand while others are doing so, as is currently required daily at Memorial High School.

Feb. 20, 1967: A commission of the National Institute of Mental Health selects Madison’s pupil services division–116 professionals serving about 2,500 handicapped students–as one of the 20 best programs in the country.

March 16, 1967: Supt. Gilberts upholds the decision by La Follette High principal August Vander Muelen to prevent Mark Greenside, UW ’67, 119 W. Gorham St., from serving as an unpaid student-teacher because he won’t shave his goatee, which Gilberts said “would not have a desirable effect on students.” Greenside, who must perform student-teaching to obtain his license, accepts an offer from the Verona schools.

April 4, 1967: Former State Rep. Mrs. Ruth Doyle, a project assistant for the dean of student affairs and wife of federal judge James E. Doyle, is easily re-elected to her second three-year term on the Board of Education. Herbert Marcus, a former Capital Times reporter now doing publicity for the CUNA Mutual Insurance Society whom Mayor Festge appointed to the board last October when attorney Richard Cates resigned, also wins a full-term. Voters also approve by better than 2-1 bond issues of $1.6 million for sewers and $1.45 million for streets.

April 21, 1967: Supt. Gilberts, who succeeded the venerable Philip Falk in January, 1962, accepts appointment as the Superintendent of the Denver Public School system.

May 10, 1967: Decrying the lack of sidewalks and easy access to dangerous train tracks, a new South Madison group, Bram Addition Bus Committee, petitions the board to review its transportation policies and provide bus service to Franklin School, the school with the greatest number of black pupils. The board, which at one time had not provided any bus service for the school, last winter did transport children K-3, but only until spring vacation.

July 5, 1967: Board of Education votes 4-3 to name West High School principal Douglas S. Ritchie, 41, superintendent. Mrs. Doyle, who cast the only vote against Ritchie’s appointment as principal in 1964, leads the opposition, saying Madison is too big to be a starter district for a new superintendent. Ritchie has a generally successful 13-year administration, during which the school system becomes a Unified School District with broad budget authority, builds several new schools, and changes from a junior high to middle school system. In 2001, two decades after retiring, Ritchie helps found the fundraising Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools. He died in 2015.

Aug. 7, 1967: Sup. Ritchie tells school board he wants a “cosmopolitan staff embracing all nationalities and races,” but that there is a “shortage of Negroes in the professions and a lack of applicants.”

Aug. 31, 1967: Five Madison teachers are arrested for unauthorized use of the Dane county Fairgrounds–handing out anti-war leaflets at a teacher convention outside the new Dane County Memorial Coliseum. They are quickly released on order of Dist. Atty. James Boll, who said the ordinance was unconstitutional, and that Ritchie said the distribution was okay.

Sept. 7, 1967: Classes start for 32,968 pupils in 54 schools, but not in overcrowded classrooms at eight schools, where additions didn’t open in time because of the two-month building trades strike in spring. Delays at the far west John Muir Elementary School forced the board to rent classroom space for 157 pupils in the parochial St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, until January, 1968.

Oct. 16, 1967: City Attorney Edwin Conrad informs the Board of Education it has “a total absence of discretion” to allow religious groups to use school facilities, ending long-standing practice of allowing fundraising and other events sponsored by religious groups and their affiliated organizations.

Dec. 18, 1967: A federally mandated survey shows that only 13 of Madison’s 1,623 instructional staff are Negro and 16 of the 54 schools have no Negro pupils. Of the 512 Negro pupils enrolled in the 39 other schools, Franklin (101), Central High (50), Marquette elementary (49), and Lincoln Junior High (48) have the highest population.

Dec. 21, 1967: The Area Board of Vocational, Technical and Adult Education, Dist. 4, approves Madison’s Vocational, Technical and Adult School changing its name to the Madison Area Technical College, effective January 23, 1968. The state Vocational School Board had earlier rejected the school’s first choice, “Madison Community College.”

VERBATIM: “This trend toward arrogance and defiance of authority is supposedly a manifestation of the times. While we often rationalize that this element is a small minority, it appears that this group is increasing in number and in intensity. The most alarming feature of this is parental attitude which actually borders on approval of irresponsible behavior.” – School Supt. Ritchie writing to principals and teachers on Nov. 7, urging them to take “immediate steps” against “defiant troublemakers.”

By the numbers

First day of enrollment in 1967: 32,968 students in 54 schools
High School Graduation
West: 677
East: 512
La Follette: 339
Central: 271

The new high school–or not

In 1966, voters had approved by a margin of 2-1 to a $26.5 bond issue which included funds to open a new east side high school in 1969. Things didn’t quite work out as planned–especially for a powerful board member and the lame-duck superintendent.

Atty. Albert J. Mc Ginnis, former chair of the Madison Redevelopment Authority, who lost to mayor Henry Reynolds in 1963, chaired the board’s site selection committee for the new school. He picked a site on the Sprecher farm on Milwaukee St., adjacent to Kennedy elementary school–which just happened to be within the Heritage Heights plat that he had developed before his election to the board in 1965, and still owned. North side Alds. Kopp and Smith, who want the school in Warner Park, howl, accusing McGinnis of an obvious conflict of interest. Later that month, more than 350 people pack a school board public hearing, calling for a Warner Park site.

On April 28, his last day before resigning to assume his duties in Denver, superintendent Gilberts recommends to the board that it buy the parcel McGinnis has identified on Milwaukee St. But three days later, in a stunning and costly rebuke of its administration, the board votes 4-3 against building any new far East Side high school at all, endorsing instead a new junior high at La Follette High School, and a similar one at Kennedy “as needed.” Among the likely repercussions: when Central HS closes in 1969, all south side students now at Central will go to West–which cannot accommodate them.

Return to 15 web extras about the summer of 1967 here.