Monday, November 1, 2010

Public Education in Hudson

Since property owners recently paid their fair share of the Hudson City School District's $44 million annual budget, it seems an appropriate time to consider how it all began some 170 years ago. The public schools in Hudson were preceded by the Lancaster School, established by the Lancaster Society in 1817. The school was supported by contributions from religious societies and the Common Council and was free only to some of the students--the number depending on the financial condition of the Lancaster Society that year. The Lancaster School was located on the southwest corner of Fourth and State streets, in a building constructed on a lot provided by the Common Council. This account of the beginning of public schools in Hudson is from Anna Bradbury's History of the City of Hudson (1908)

The Lancaster School was sustained until 1841, when the Trustees conveyed their property to the Common Council and the public schools were organized.

The city was divided into three districts, sites were selected for school-houses in the upper and lower districts, and the Lancaster building was occupied as number two, or the middle district school.

The act of the Legislature incorporating the free schools provided for three superintendents, and the first persons appointed by the Council were Oliver Bronson, Josiah W. Fairfield and Cyrus Curtiss, who were "authorized to purchase the sites, and have suitable buildings erected."

The High School was organized in 1879 and was followed by the organization of the Board of Education in 1881.

Application having been made in 1884 the Hudson High School was recognized as the Academical department, and received under the visitation of the Regents of the State of New York. In the same year a single School Superintendent was substituted for the three previously appointed, and William P. Snyder was the first, who occupied the position.

Provision was made for the High School in 1887 by the erection of the building on the corner of Sixth and State streets, now used for the Grammar School. This proving insufficient, in 1889, the Trustees of the Hudson Academy offered the city the free use of the Academy, which had been closed for three years, and also made all necessary repairs. 

The Common Council gladly accepted this means of temporary relief, and the High School was placed in possession on October 14, 1890, with ceremonies befitting the occasion. In the winter of 1892-3 "A special act of the Legislature empowered the Board of Education to build a High School building, commensurate with the increasing necessities of the educational system of Hudson." 

The centrally located site of the old Lancaster structure was used for this purpose, and ample, and convenient accommodations were provided, at a cost of 34,000 dollars, to which may be added the sum of 9,456.22 expended for a new heater, during the year 1908.

A simple and attractive building was erected in 1902 for the use of the Third or lower district, called the Allen street school, which brings the amount invested in school buildings up to 90,000 dollars. The number enrolled in all grades is 1,350. Thirty-seven teachers are employed, and total disbursement for year ending on August 1, 1908, was $37,849.86. . . .

The effort to beautify the grounds surrounding the Public School buildings, which was begun in 1898-9, was highly commendable, and has resulted in making them not only an ornament to the city, but must also exert a refining influence upon the children. The power of environment cannot well be overestimated, and the addition of pictures within the rooms, to the beautiful flowers growing without, cannot fail to produce a most beneficial effect on the esthetic development of youth.

It will readily be seen that the average child in this city possesses all the needful opportunities for obtaining a thorough education. With a competent superintendent, a corps of faithful, well trained teachers, and the watchful services of the ubiquitous truant officer, it is difficult to see how an average child can escape. But it has been aptly said "you can lead a young man to the University, but you cannot make him think!" 

In simple justice to the noble men and women, who have devoted the best years of their lives to the Public Schools of Hudson, it should be said that both schools and teachers, have always ranked with the best in the state, in places of this size. Many of our teachers have risen to high positions as educators, notably Edward P. Waterbury, who was at the time of his death, and for many years previously, the President of the State Normal School at Albany. . . .

Happy is it for Hudson that she felt and responded to the grand wave of educational progress, which during the past twenty-five years has swept over our land. It argues hopefully for her future development in every respect, and on the highest lines.

NOTE: The public schools of the City of Hudson were consolidated with eleven schools in the surrounding area to form the Hudson City School District in 1966.

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