Maine: An Encyclopedia

Topsham Schools Report 1929

Cover Page of Topsham's Annual Report 1929-1930

Cover Page of Topsham’s Annual Report 1929-1930

Annual Report of the Superintending School

Committee and Superintendent of Schools

I herewith submit my second annual report as Superintendent of the Schools of the town of Topsham. This is the twenty-first report since the organization of the Brunswick-Topsham District.

It is designed by a report of this kind to bring to the attention of interested citizens from time to time, the most important phases of our educational progress.

Some of the considerations which influence the activities of the School Department may be grouped as follows, as recognized rights of the school child.

I. Correct physical environment.

a. Comfortable furniture

b. Efficient lighting, heating and ventilating conditions

c. Complete sanitary conditions

d. Liberal play spaces including gymnasium facilities

II. Efficient educational guidance.

a. Progressive, sympathetic, tactful teachers

b. Approved curriculum

c. Cooperative home-school influences

d. Individual encouragement

With physical conditions satisfied, of course it does not need to be said that child progress centers around the teacher as the all important factor in the school organization.

Supervision functions efficiently first of all in the securing of good teachers, second in encouraging good teachers to become better teachers.

Reduced to its lowest terms a good school is assured, given a well lighted, correctly heated and ventilated school room, with even meager equipment, and a good teacher. My favorable judgment of the local teaching force has been expressed sufficiently often to be well understood. That there is chance for improvement no one will attempt to deny—-least of all the teachers themselves. Good teachers are not satisfied with present attainment. While I know we are moving forward educationally, I also know earnest, persistent study on the part of the teachers and superintendent is a first essential to continued progress.

Consideration of some of the most outstanding features of our work follows.


The schools opened in September with four new teachers in the four rural schools, Miss Dorothy Wakely of Clinton accepting the position at Middlesex in place of Miss Fern Pearl who resigned to enter Detroit College. Miss Louise Dunning of Kittery, Maine, was assigned to the position at Alexander made vacant by Miss Ruth Jordan’s transfer to Brunswick. Both Miss Wakely and Miss Dunning are normal graduates, 1929, the former from Farmington, the latter from Gorham. They are doing superior work as first year teachers. Mrs. Nellie Patten a former teacher of several years experience consented to accept the position at the Branch School in her own neighborhood, Mrs. Hennessey after two years there, resigning to teach elsewhere at an increased salary. Mrs. Bernita Jack of Bowdoinham, a teacher of four years successful experience was assigned to the position at Cathance where Miss Maude Hodgkins had taught the year previous with unusual success. On recommendation, Miss Hodgkins was accepted as a member of the Helping Teacher Class at Castine last Summer where she completed a six weeks course, and is now acting as Helping Teacher in the Brunswick system. All of the above schools are making good progress.

In the Fall of 1928, one pupil from Cathance entered the eighth grade at the Village and later in the year one each from Alexander and Middlesex was transferred to the Grammar School. All of them passed the High School requirements and are now making good records in the freshman class. This matter of transferring upper grade pupils from the rural schools to the Village Grammar is most important, especially in all cases where a High School course in contemplated. A year or two in the graded school means far better preparation and often a saving of a year in the elementary course. I am sure parents are more and more appreciating the advantages of this procedure.

Four to six miles out is no slight handicap for the High School student, but the records show that even with this handicap the boys and girls from rural homes are almost invariably present to answer to roll call while too often the name of the near-by individual augments the tardy list.

With comparatively less favorable opportunity for preparation it is common knowledge that the lad from the small rural school, with a determined purpose to win often outstrips his village cousin when they meet in the same classroom, which only illustrates the fundamental truth that faithful application is a first essential.

The one-teacher school, however, is passing. Once parents are convinced that consolidation is to the everlasting advantage of their children, the long time problem is solved.


The Village Grammar and Heights Schools continue with no change in teachers.

The largest Eighth Grade in the history of the Grammar School was graduated in June, and now 28 are enrolled as first year students in Brunswick High School.

The favorable record of Topsham boys and girls in the High School is substantial evidence of the fine type of work done by Topsham teachers.


In January we reluctantly accepted the resignation of Mrs. Helen Porter, Principal of Pejepscot School, who left to enter Boston University. Mrs. Porter with her two assistants came to Pejepscot in the Fall of 1927. Mrs. Porter’s leadership here has been attended by phenomenal progress in the school. In point of favorable attitude on the part of the pupils, in all my experience, I have not seen a school that surpassed it, few that have equaled it. Invited last fall to he present at a morning assembly, I was surprised on arrival to find a group of mothers who had come in to enjoy the early program. It is no insignificant influence that brings parents voluntarily to school at 9 a.m. Mrs. Porter is a superior teacher and I predict for her a brilliant future.

Not able to secure a teacher for the upper grades taught by Mrs. Porter, it was decided to transfer Miss Roundy to this place, and I am glad to say she is beginning her work as Principal with promising success.

After extensive searching we were fortunately able to secure a teacher of successful experience to take Miss Roundy’s place, Miss Hazel Stuart of Waterville. The best of reports come to me regarding her work.


There is no better measure of the school’s success than to inquire if the pupils are forming good reading habits. Here is the best possible connection between home and school—the basis of cooperation. In the elementary grades there is little if any “home work” required, but something is seriously amiss if the boys and girls in the intermediate grades and above are not inspired to much reading “on the side”—reading for information and enjoyment. The wide individual differences that are so generally apparent on the part of children of the same age and grade, without question are a reflection in no small degree of the varying home attitude as to this important matter. The child without “home-reading” background begins his school life tremendously handicapped, and progress is usually comparatively slow and halting.

I am pleased to say that the teachers in general are awake to their responsibility in this important phase of our work. I believe it cannot be successfully refuted that our school children are reading more and better books as a direct result of school guidance.


The somewhat lower per cent of attendance the past year is explained on the ground of the small pox scare during the fall term of 1928 and the epidemic of influenza early in the winter term following. On the whole, I am satisfied that there is comparatively little inexcusable absence from school. For the most part absences are caused by illness and extreme weather conditions.

On the other hand, the statistics show a decided gain in respect to tardiness, Village for the year 155, Pejepscot 143, rural 82, as compared with 216, 526 and 160 respectively, the previous year. Here and there may be found a good school with a long tardy list, but without exception such school would he greatly improved were punctuality one of its leading characteristics.

Turning back over the school reports of previous years it is interesting to note that the importance of regular and punctual attendance has frequently been earnestly stressed. Here, of course, is where cooperation on the part of the home begins. It follows, “as the night the day,” that slackness in the matter of attendance results in failing in school work. The youngster frequently absent and tardy is the mental straggler, sure to fall behind, requiring an extra year or more to complete the course. It cannot he too strenuously emphasized that every extra year in the elementary school costs the tax payer an extra $55., in the High School, $75. It costs the individual one, two, or even three years. Dilly-dallying attendance is shockingly expensive not alone financially, but worst of all expensive in terms of man power material. We hear much about the mounting cost of education. We should be more concerned about the high cost of non-education—the cost entailed by the laggard along the way. The educational derelict who is such because of failure to take advantage of this high priced machinery, is the saddest story of all.


Today finds a total of 12 pupils, who by double promotion gained a grade during the year 1928-1929, which means that the total cost of educating these children has been reduced 12 x $55 (approximate cost per pupil)

equals $660. “Quite as important, however,” says a prominent Maine superintendent, “as the savings of the city’s money are the ambition and interest awakened in the pupils accelerated, who feel that they are getting ahead and are spurred on to greater effort by the challenge of broader and more exacting type of work and by richer educational opportunities more suited to their abilities.”

Without further discussion here of this important phase of school work, I would suggest to those who are especially interested that they turn to my last year’s report, pages 91-95, where is pointed out the fundamental elements governing the child’s school progress. It is well established that flexibility in classification along the elementary course is the only sound procedure.

It should be understood, however, that no irregular promotions are made without the approval of parents directly interested. Neither is such irregular advancement encouraged by the Superintendent without hearty approval of the teachers involved.


Elsewhere in this report may he found “Teachers’ Statistics, Education and Training in Service.” This table reflects very definitely the professional attitude of Tops-ham’s teaching staff. The ever increasing demands upon the teacher that she “keep up with the times.” calls for continued study, and more and more school systems are setting minimum requirements in this respect. Not only shall a prospective grade teacher possess a normal school diploma and the candidate for a high school position a college diploma, but the teacher in service is encouraged to take advantage of the many opportunities for professional study at more or less regular intervals. Many places recognize special work of this kind through increased compensation, either bonus or permanent salary increase. One city in Maine has a regulation whereby any teacher can automatically increase her salary indefinitely by earned points at summer school. In our own state five summer courses are maintained for elementary teachers and also courses more especially for secondary teachers at two of the colleges. A third of all the teachers in the state attend these schools annually, and this is only a slight indication of what is transpiring the country over. One famous school alone accommodates not less than 15,000 “teachers in service” during its summer session.

It should he borne in mind that such professional activity means no slight increase in the teacher’s expense account in both time and money. In consideration of the somewhat low salary scale the local authorities hesitate to establish any definite requirements as to periodic summer school work.

The teacher, however, who maintains a high professional standard will outline for herself a program of advancement through summer school, correspondence courses, or definite home study that will make her alive to all that is best in the ever changing panorama of educational procedure. Any other attitude means individual mental stagnation,—sure inhibition of whatever laudable aspirations that they have been entertained.

The teacher with the wide awake searching student mind is the leadership demanded in every school room. Correct professional attitude is the mainspring that determines teacher progress.


As Superintendent I am glad that the “No School Signal” has been dispensed with. But I feel that parents should be reminded from time to time as to the regulation that governs the administration of the schools in relation to severe weather conditions. Unquestionably there are days when young children should not risk their health to attend school, nor should older children living at long distances. When such conditions occur, it is counted a “No School Day.” The absence is marked excusable and does not count against the individual. IN ALL SUCH CASES THE RESPONSIBILITY RESTS WITH PARENTS.


When the officials of this company were consulted as to possible playground accommodations in the rear of the Pejepscot school building, the Superintendent was informed that the entire field was at the disposal of the school, with no fence requirements. The very much alive Parent-Teachers’ Association should be given credit for bringing about the conference that resulted so happily. All those interested greatly appreciate such generous community spirit.


Encouraged by Mrs. Cone’s interest in the undertaking, last year for the first time in recent years, a public speaking contest was carried out on the part of the pupils of Grades VII. and VIII. This line of work is most important and it is our purpose to stress it more emphatically throughout the system. Mrs. Cone’s interest took the form of establishing a prize fund in memory of her late husband who was also much interested in this activity. A second contest is in preparation and will take place early in the spring term.

Prizes awarded, speaking contest, spring term, 1929:

First Prize, $5.00 Owen Sprague

Second Prize, $2.50 Murton Small

Third Prize, Book Irene Olsen

History Medal awarded by the D.A.R. for excellence in composition.

Walter Nugler.


It was found necessary to repair the roof of the grammar school building. For lasting qualities it was agreed that metal roofing was superior and accordingly the contract was given Mr. R. 0. Hyde, who is a thoroughly experienced workman in this line. Mr. Hyde is now in process of installing snow stops on the four sides of the roof to protect the children on the playground.

A 100-foot strip of substantial wire fence was constructed on the grammar school lot. Also enough fence has been purchased for the lot on the Heights, which will be put in place early in the spring.

The front steps of the grammar school have been reset, the pillars and railing repaired, also the fire escape thoroughly overhauled and greatly strengthened.

These somewhat extensive repairs have caused the account to be overdrawn, but the demand for the outlay in every particular was imperative. Since the overdraft is practically covered by the funds received for the sale of the old Topsham Heights building, no one interested will fail to be reconciled.

A fine large heater has been installed in the Manual Training Shop. We were fortunately able to purchase at half wholesale price a good-as-new furnace, discarded by the First Parish Church because of the installation of a new steam plant. This fills a long felt want.

As to repairs, three of the four rural buildings need early attention. If it cannot all be done this summer, I should suggest that the Middlesex building be thoroughly overhauled. Its present condition is not a good advertisement for the town. At comparatively little expense both Alexander and Branch can be made fairly presentable. Every rural school should be provided with a woodshed sufficiently large to house a year’s supply of fuel. Cost, approximately, $125 each. I hope to see one built at Middlesex this summer.


What will help most? Intelligent parent-cooperation will help most. It would not seem too much to desire parents to meet the teachers of their children at least once during the school year, if not face to face, by telephone, and drop an encouraging word. If dissatisfied, offer kindly constructive criticism. In any case, make the friendly contact. The teachers deserve such recognition.

I am always glad to hear both sides. A better understanding is sure to result from a discussion of any important matters pertaining to educational affairs. A cordial invitation is extended to the interested public to gain first-hand knowledge of what is transpiring in the school room.

On the pages immediately following may be found the reports of the several departments in the organization. Much credit is due the respective leaders for whatever success is attained.

I greatly appreciate the hearty support I am receiving in the performance of my duties from school officials, teachers, and the public.

Respectfully submitted,


Superintendent of Schools.




Superintending School Committee.


Belle J. Warren, Supervisor

In presenting this report for the current school year, I will say that we are now using the Music Education Series in both Topsham and Pejepscot in all grades, and the progress of the pupils is very pleasing. In fact we are proud of the “three-part” work.

It so happens this year that we have no voices low enough for the bass part, but some very good voices in our tenor sections.

We have not done anything for the public in Topsham with the exception of the evening session, Education Week, but the Pejepscot school has cooperated with the Parent-Teachers’ Association in giving entertainments.

We were very sorry to lose Mrs. Porter, as her teaching was exceptional, but Miss Anna Tomko and Mrs. Fitz have taken charge of the work and are doing splendidly.

Altogether we feel that it has been a profitable year.


Donald Lewis, Teacher

In accordance with your request, I am sending you information concerning the special work in Instrumental Music in the grammar schools at Topsham Village and Pejepscot. The four year orchestra course at Brunswick High School necessitates an organized preparatory orchestra in the grades. With this in mind the Superintendent of Schools, and the School Board granted the privilege of grammar school pupils taking one fifteen-minute private lesson per week, on school time. Tops-ham, in so doing, was the first community in Maine to grant such a privilege, although throughout the Middle West the instrumental lesson and rehearsal has been widely recognized as an integral part of the school curriculum. In Topsham this work has been carried on by a qualified instructor, authorized by the School Board and Superintendent to teach in the system. The lessons are financed by the individual pupils, and given in a location near the school building. No expense is incurred by the town.

A fifteen-minute fifty-cent lesson consists of a recitation covering the previous assignment, an intensive explanation of the new assignment, and the clarification of any points about which the pupil may not be clear. Its success or failure lies in the pupil’s ability or inability to carry out for himself, away from the teacher, the points stressed at the lesson. Nine out of ten can successfully do this.

The school system sanctions this course in order that any given pupil may have an opportunity to acquire a technique sufficient to enable him to participate with ease in instrumental ensembles. Instrumental ensemble work has an educational value that is scarcely appreciated as yet. A few of the inevitable benefits which accrue from participation in this work are: the development of coordination of mind and muscle, the development of self assurance, and the aesthetic development which comes through an intimate connection with art, in the actual part the individual plays in creating an artistic whole.

Seven pupils in Pejepscot and sixteen in Topsham are enrolled in this course. Rehearsals of the ensemble class are held every Friday after school in the Topsham grammar school. The first lessons were given November 1, 1929, and the first ensemble practice was held January 31, 1930.

It is hoped that a concert may be given before the close of school to purchase chairs and other needed material.

The instructor would welcome any visitors to see the work as it is actually carried out, either at the individual lessons or the orchestra rehearsal.

The Pejepscot unit consists of one oboe, one ‘cello, two trumpets, three violins; the Topsham unit, two clarinets, two trumpets, one trombone, one saxophone, one drum, nine violins, and piano (in the orchestra).


Helen L. Varney, Supervisor

The teaching of drawing in Topsham is a pleasant task, because there is an interest in and enthusiasm for the work on the part of the pupils, the teachers are cooperative, and the subject, as we take it, helps to bind the other subjects together, which is stimulating. This last statement seems to be quite true when we view an exhibit of school work.

A very wholesome atmosphere pervades a room where a class is drawing; everyone works busily, each “on his own,” doing his best, and praise goes ungrudgingly to work that is better than his. This attitude of appreciation for another’s efforts is well worth noticing, and under such conditions discipline is reduced to a minimum.

That classes are well in band was proved last year when the committee generously allowed me a leave of absence for ten weeks. The teachers cooperated finely in carrying out plans which I made for them, and I am glad of the opportunity to commend them publicly for carrying on so that our work did not suffer.

I appreciate very much the spirit and attitude of all with whom I work, both teachers and students, for these things make for joy in teaching.


Winnifred Brehaut, Teacher

The following is a report of the work of the Seventh and Eighth Grades in the Home Economics Department during the year 1929-1930:

The same time arrangement which was recommended by the state department was followed this year. The schedule allows two one-hundred-fifty minute periods a week per pupil for class room work.

To meet the demand for an outline of work for courses in Home Economics, and to make the content more uniform throughout the state, a course of study was prepared by a group of teacher trainers and teachers in cooperation with Miss Florence L. Jenkins, State Supervisor of Home Economics in the State Department of Education. This course includes a study of foods in relation to health, their composition, their use in the body, selection and buying, their preparation, the planning and serving of meals, the preservation and storage of foods; a study of clothing problems from every angle, including the selection and purchase and care of ready made articles, construction of articles and garments, laundering, textile production, and designing of garments.

Every Thursday and Friday morning, from 9.00 to 11.30 a class of ten girls from the Eighth Grade of Tops-ham grammar school and five girls from the Eighth grade of Pejepscot grammar school meet at the domestic science building. The procedure of the day’s program is as near as possible like the daily program carried on in the home. Each girl takes a general part as well as performing especially assigned duties each class day.

This program will continue until February 1, 1930. The final examination in the course will be the preparation and serving of a formal dinner to the members of the superintending school committee.

At the end of the course the same time arrangement on Thursday and Friday mornings will be devoted to the Seventh Grade Sewing Class.

In the fall an exhibition of the canned goods and sewing done throughout the year is held at Topsham Fair and the premium money is used to purchased small articles of equipment needed in the laboratory.

A limited interpretation has in the past been placed upon home economics education, and it has been thought of as cooking and sewing. The course of study now being used in the classes includes a wealth of additional material which is needed in bringing girls to a fuller realization of their responsibility in making better homes.


Charles G. Wheeler, Teacher

The workshop has turned out about the usual amount of work for the School Department this year.

On the public evenings held at the high school a collection of articles made at odd times was exhibited. Part of these were made by Topsham pupils and enough of them have been sold, with a little money from other sources, to buy a new band saw for the Topsham shop to take the place of a machine which was worn out.

Although our equipment lacks many desirable things and we often have to resort to primitive expedients, (which is sometimes a good thing in these days), the boys continue to turn out a quantity and variety of products many times greater than in shops of the formal or overcrowded type. This means many more problems solved, more experiences gone through, more observation of what others do, more development of each pupil, which is what we are after. The attitude of the boys shows that they appreciate this.


Thomas H. Riley, Jr., Director

In making my annual report as director of school banking I am pleased to say that the total amount deposited in the, schools of Topsham kept up the average of recent years in spite of the heavy falling off of deposits in all classes of banks during the wave of speculation which swept the country this past year. Even the accounts of children were not exempt from the speculative mania, many parents having dreams that by using the money of their boys and girls in the stock market it would be possible to double or triple the amount without much trouble.

The total amount deposited during the year ending February 1st, was $1,166.75, which is within $50 of the deposits of the year previous.

Approximately 90 per cent of the children enrolled in the public schools of Topsham maintained school savings accounts during the past year, four schools having a 100 per cent enrollment.

The interest of both teachers and pupils in school savings has continued and it is interesting to note that in four of the schools the bookkeeping of the pupil tellers has been without error for the year.


For the year 1930-1931

Common Schools . . . . . . . $11,000 00

High School Tuition . . . . 5,500 00

Repairs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,200 00

Insurance . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400 00

Textbooks and Supplies . 1,000 00

Industries Education . . . . 800 00

Superintendence . . . . . . . . 1,000 00

Use of Library . . . . . . . . . . 100 00

_________ $21,000 00

Total appropriations, 1926-1927 $22.000 00

Total appropriations, 1927-1928 20,925 00

Total appropriations, 1928-1929 19,700 00

Total appropriations, 1929-1930 18,900 00

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