My turn

Whiting schools have a colorful history and now an 'A' rating

2014-02-20T00:00:00Z Whiting schools have a colorful history and now an 'A' ratingBy Gayle Faulkner Kosalko Times Columnist nwitimes.com
February 20, 2014 12:00 am  • 

It's evidently report card time again. That was always a time of high anxiety if you went to a parochial school.

It was one of the few times that the pastor came into your classroom. He would call each of us up individually, peruse your card, then usually say something encouraging.

The report card I'm referring to, however, is from the Indiana Department of Education's annual accountability of schools. Whiting High School has earned an "A" for the second year in a row.

Unlike the huge school corporations in the area, Whiting is still a small school by comparison and I believe that's one of its best attributes. Every teacher knows every student. As a graduate of WHS, that was one of the things I really enjoyed. Even if you didn't have a teacher for a particular class, they still knew you by name.

Whiting's early education was a favorite topic of one of its former alumni and teacher, the late Alexander Kompier, who wrote a wonderful piece on the history of public education in our city. According to Mr. Kompier, our educational history can be traced back to a one-room schoolhouse at the corner of Atchison Avenue and 115th Street, when our population was a whopping 115.

The first schoolmaster was a long-haired ex-boxer named John Quincy Adams Sparks.

Later, a new school was built near Berry Lake. By 1889, a two-story brick building was built in the wild and wooly Oklahoma district, where Standard Oil now stands. Students could attend all the way up to seventh grade.

When Standard Oil came in, our population grew to 3,983 by 1900 and Standard Oil bought the "Oklahoma" area. So in 1890, a school was built at the corner of Oliver and 119th streets. From reading its history, it was sub-par, to say the least.

At the end of the 19th century, Whiting and East Chicago schools were under one superintendent. Because the number of students was so small, they held graduation ceremonies together at the Todd Opera House. Having no high school, our eight students who wanted a high school education had to go to a neighboring community.

That's when our founding father decided that Whiting's school house should now include a high school program. The school hired two additional teachers, including Miss Margeurite Ascher, who would teach German. They added a science room and recitation rooms. To graduate, you had to earn 32 credit hours, but you could only take four classes a semester.

Interestingly enough, the very first superintendent hired was a woman, Florence B. Homman. Mr. Kompier wrote that while members of the community were in an uproar to have a woman at the helm, it was too late. She had already signed her contract.

Eventually, a kindergarten building was added, as well as a Manual Training School, and Oliver Street boasted a row of buildings dedicated to the education of Whiting's growing population. And that's where you can find our beautiful, 'A' rated high school even today.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. She can be reached at puccini99@aol.com.

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