Pioneer School History (written for 35th anniversary 2001)
-by Jeff Mason, Arcade Town Historian, Pioneer Class of '66
These early schools were poorly funded and very primitive. The rare student who desired secondary education would have to go out of the area to obtain it until 1863, when the private
The one-room rural schools continued to operate, and students who didn't live within walking distance of a union free school would have to commute by horse or train, or else board with a family in town if they wished to attend high school. As high school became more popular, a brick annex was added to the old Academy building in
During the 1920s,
A 1936 atlas published by the State Education Department showed 62 school buildings operating within or just outside the present Pioneer district. The days of the one- and two-room schoolhouses were numbered,however, due to the invention of the school bus. No longer did students have to live within walking distance of their school, and the state began pushing for rural districts to centralize.
In the summer of 1938, voters in 26 small districts approved the creation of
Two years later, in 1941, several districts to the south voted to form the
The year 1949 brought the end of the union free schools, when Machias was joined with Delevan to create
During this controversial period, the school board hired a new supervising principal named George Crawford in 1954. Late that year, the voters approved building a new K-12 building directly behind the Delevan building. More court fights ensued before construction began, and the new building opened in 1958. The
By the early 1950s, Arcade Central had also become very crowded, so in 1952 the voters approved the construction of a $700,000 elementary addition. This included a cafeteria and 17 classrooms, and once it opened in 1954 it became possible for the district to close most of its remaining one-room schoolhouses. It wasn't long, however, before the
The two supervising principals, Joseph Kemp at
In 1965 the state Legislature passed a law encouraging the process of school district reorganization by offering very generous state incentives in terms of operating and building aid. For awhile, the Franklinville school board also considered becoming a part of a three-way merger. Following the delivery of a financial study, the Delevan-Machias and
Petitions were circulated throughout the two districts asking the commissioner of education to amend the state master plan to list the two districts as a proposed new central district. Once the commissioner granted his approval in the spring, a second round of petitions was signed, asking him to authorize a vote on a proposition to reorganize the districts. On May 16, 1966, he issued a notice calling for a vote on May 31. This gave the two boards just 15 days to prepare for the crucial vote.
District voters were barraged with publicity and other materials promoting the merger, as well as the concerns of people who opposed the loss of local school identity and the creation of a district that might become too large and impersonal. When the votes were counted, the tally of 1,404 to 663 provided a better than two-to-one margin of support.
Before the new district could begin operating on July 1, a school board had to be elected. Sardinia Supervisor Arthur Carlsen presided over a meeting of more than 400 district voters who gathered to form a school board from scratch. A non-controversial voice vote approved the creation of a nine-member board, followed by nominations and voting for terms of varying lengths. An informal gentlemen's agreement had already paved the way for the idea that the board would reflect the geographic diversity of the sprawling district. It was well past midnight by the time the process was complete, but the board members were to find that their new unpaid positions would usually keep them at school board meeting past midnight once a week for the next few years. A few days after their election, the board members elected Verne Goodemote of Chaffee as their first president.
The new district also had to have a district principal before it could come into being. Since
When the merged district came into being on July 1, its only name was the official designation as Yorkshire No.1. The board knew it would be unwise to combine the names of the former districts, since Delevan-Machias already had a hyphenated name, and there was sure to be a controversy over which name should go first. If all three names had been combined, the resulting acronym could have been MAD Central or DAM Central. There was also still the possibility that Franklinville might decide to merge later, so a name had to be chosen that didn't contain the name of any community. District residents were invited to submit their ideas for a name. Since one of the possible sites for a new high school was used for growing beans, one suggestion was to have a Green Bean Central School. Another proposal,
By the middle of the summer, Pioneer was approved as the district's popular name, although it took quite some time before the students in the two high schools thought of themselves as Pioneer, rather than
The school board had already decided before the May 31 vote that the
At first, the State Education Department favored a new high school for grades 9-12, but by the fall of 1966, State Ed was recommending a junior-senior high school for grades 7-12. The
When the district's assistant principal, Mr. Storms, retired in 1967, Eugene Edwards was promoted to assistant principal in charge of business affairs, and Raymond Garlapo, a longtime teacher, succeeded him as the high school principal at
In a split vote in late 1967, the school board decided to use an electric heating system for the new building to take advantage of low electric rates offered by the
Excavation began for the new building in the spring, and the steelwork went up early that summer. Near the end of 1968, a second vote was held after over $100,000 was cut out of the previous proposal. Passage of this pared-down proposal allowed the building to be completed, but without some aspects of site development that had to be postponed.
As the junior-senior high school neared completion, the urgency of the project was brought into focus in May of 1969 when it was announced that St. Pius X School in Delevan would close at the end of the semester. Pioneer had already created several classrooms in the bus garage in Delevan and was using portable classrooms in Arcade, as well as the buildings in Sardinia, Curriers and
To prepare for the opening of the new school, Delevan's Buzz Chaddock was named athletic director, and
Sports teams, musical ensembles and clubs from the two buildings had to be merged into one, and two faculties had to work as one. The first year was certainly not without its difficulties, but they were offset by the spacious classrooms, the large gymnasium, and a swimming pool. Even the pool caused a controversy just before school opened, when it was announced that boys in phys ed classes would swim in the nude. That proposal was soon modified.
A special source of pride for the district was the 1,200-seat auditorium. Former Superintendent Crawford recalled recently that vocal music teacher Jane Titus advocated designing an auditorium large enough to host the Buffalo Philharmonic. That dream has become a reality several times over the years since the opening of the aud and dedication of the building in April 1970.
The presence of a nearly debt-free modern school building and the abundance of jobs in the area led to a much more rapid growth in the district's population than had been projected in 1966. Soon after the opening of the junior-senior high school, it became apparent that another building would be needed. The board had considered this possibility when it selected a building site in 1966-67, and the decision was made to proceed with the concept of a middle school, rather than a traditional junior high school.
Since William O'Connell was the principal in charge of the junior-high grades in
At the district level, Pioneer became a superintendency in 1968, and George Crawford became the first to hold the title of superintendent. Following his retirement in 1972, Dr. Harry Packer held the position during the middle school transition period. Upon Mr. Garlapo's retirement in 1974, Ray Cenni became high school principal until assuming the superintendency at
Pioneer, like many districts, experimented with many elective courses in the early 1970s, but the mid-1970s brought the return of more traditional course requirements. Another major change was the rise of girls' sports at the interscholastic level. A Committee of 44 was formed in 1976 as a result of concerns about drug use and a perceived lack of discipline at the high school. A protracted contract dispute between the board and the teachers' union began that summer, and the following winter the district was criticized for its response to the Blizzard of '77. The school board decided not to renew Dr. Packer's contract that year, and Henry Heslop began his 13-year tenure as district superintendent.
During the Heslop years, the district began using its incentive aid to undertake a program of periodic renovation projects that modernized the physical plants at the two elementary schools and provided for the maintenance and expansion of all four buildings. A particularly trying time for the district came in the mid-1980s, when the state comptroller's office recommended that the district become more aggressive with its investments. This led to a significant loss when the Lion Capital Group failed and the state turned it back on the school districts that had followed the comptroller's advice.
David Kurzawa came to Pioneer in 1981 and became the district's fourth superintendent when Mr. Heslop retired in 1990. Dr. Jeffrey Bowen and Margaret Puzio serve as assistant superintendents. The elementary schools are led by Mr. Medden at Delevan and Kevin Munro, who succeeded Miss Simons at
Nearly all of the 1966 faculty and support staff have retired or left the district, but over 50 members of the current faculty, nearly 90 members of the support staff, and six members of the school board are graduates of Pioneer or its predecessors.
An area in which Pioneer has lived up to its name is technology. At the urging of high school math teacher Gary Bruce, the district began acquiring and using computers in the 1970s. Through grants and other sources of funding, Pioneer has acquired an extensive network of computers and now provides free Internet access to many of the district's residents. Most students at Pioneer today are proficient at using technology that was not dreamed of in 1966. At the same time, however, the district's students and staff are faced with meeting much more rigorous and frequent assessments than in the past.
The auditorium at the high school has been the scene of many musical and dramatic performances that reflect the training provided in all four buildings. Both
The vocational agriculture program at Pioneer has long served as a model for the rest of the state, and teams from the FFA chapter have won numerous district and state championships. Once the high school opened, Spanish was added to the foreign language program, and Advanced Placement courses were instituted at the high school in 1980. The recent suspension of longer student trips in the wake of the September 11 attacks brought to everyone's attention the extensive travel opportunities Pioneer students have had in conjunction with their educational program.
Several thousand students have graduated from Pioneer, and last month the Class of 2014 entered kindergarten. The Golden Anniversary class has now entered school.