Northwest Allen County Schools

                                      By Brett Windmiller

 

Excuse me.” (step to the right)

 “Pardon me.” (two steps forward)

Excuse me!”  (one step back and to the right)

The above is a typical venture for a student down a 50 foot hallway in what has become modern day Carroll High School.  Carroll High School has been increasing its enrollment by an average of 90 students per year for the last five years[1].  The increase of students has brought about changes not only to Carroll High School, but to the entire Northwest Allen County School District.  Construction, renovations, and teacher interviews are just a few things that have become common place over the last few years as the influx of children has changed the school district.  The one change that may have had the most impact is the integration of a more urban student into the schools.  This creates a change to the typical rural student that shaped Northwest Allen County Schools for more than 25 years.  In order to truly take a complete look at this topic, a look into how the district was created and how it has grown must be accomplished first.

Northwest Allen County Schools covers Eel River, Lake, and Perry Townships.  These three townships have grown and adjusted over the years to many changes that have come along.  Some of these changes have been sent down by lawmakers and some have come about because of progress.  There are changes that have gone smoothly and some have had to be discussed with hard feelings having been felt over the final decision.

Eel River and Perry Township Schools

Eel River and Perry townships had been running a joint school since 1921.  They consolidated in 1959[2].  Perry Township’s first log schoolhouse was built in

1835[3].  These two townships were easily joined because of the building of Lima road and the location of the city of Huntertown[4].  There was more financial aid available if these two townships worked together.  The actual first school in the townships was taught by a woman by the name of Eliza Parker[5].  She was reimbursed by the residents of the township, whose children attended the school as were most teachers that taught during this time period.  Her pupils included a majority of the best farmers in the area primarily because they could afford to send their children to school.  The typical curriculum of this school was recorded as going beyond the  “reading, writing, and elementary arithmetic” that was typical of that day[6].   A second school was built in 1837 a few miles to the west of the first[7].  Schools began to pop up around the entire state with the passing of the Indiana free school law in the early 1850s[8].  By the time the year 1880 rolled around, the townships had nine public schools in the area with a total of 446 pupils placed in them[9]

Perry Township also began a seminary of higher learning.  Perry Centre Seminary was an institution built in 1856 by three gentlemen who were looking to create more educational opportunities for the people of Perry Township.  It was open for the five years that led up to the beginning of the Civil War.  Once the war began, the students and faculty joined the fight and therefore the building was left to sit through the years of the battles.  When the war was finally over the seminary was never re-started and it was left to sit until it was finally torn down some years later[10].

The years that led up to the turn of the century brought change.  A gentleman by the name of John Malcolm moved to Huntertown in 1868.  He built the Public School of Huntertown in 1890[11].  This was a change to the one room schoolhouse of old as the area was growing and the need for more than one teacher was apparent.  This school later became the house for the Huntertown Fire Department in 1922 when a brand new school was built[12].  This marked the first time that children from both of these townships would go to a shared school.  The school operated under a five member board that had control[13]

The Progressive Era of Education changed how this school was to be built to serve the community.  This school was a much larger building that would serve multiple classrooms where the students would be arranged according to age and ability level.  The way of the one room schoolhouse was no longer feasible[14].   By the year 1952, the school had an enrollment of 730 children with 267 of those found in the grades of 9-12[15].  This building still today serves the Huntertown community and Northwest Allen County School Corporation in the occupation as an elementary school with grades K-5.  Additions have taken place over the years including a gymnasium that the Huntertown High School teams never were able to use because of the consolidation[16]

Over time the Eel River and Perry Townships have changed with the increase of population.  Huntertown began as a community of a few people back after the production of Lima Road.  Plats and town lots were sold in December of 1869 and people began to create this community.  The population has gone from 226 in 1880[17] to 750 people in 1952[18].  Before the reorganization of Allen County, the residents of Eel River and Perry Townships were growing at a combined rate of about 15% per year.  Fort Wayne looked to continue to expand to the north especially with the completion of Interstate 69.  The residents were expecting change[19].

Lake Township Schools

Lake Township’s schools developed later as most rural areas typically did during this time in history[20].  Early settlers to this area recall the first school was thought to have opened in the year of 1844[21].  Other schools were believed to have been built and some classes were actually held in people’s homes, but there are not official records documented at this time to give concrete proof of where these schools were exactly located[22]

As it had an effect on the schools of Eel River-Perry, the Indiana free school law changed the landscape of education for the residents of Lake Township, also.  Money was not readily available at this time, but eight schools were built by 1859.  The total pupils in these schools numbered in the 400s ranging in age from five to 21[23]

Enrollment numbers were a problem as far back as 1859.  Schools No. 7 and No. 8 were not large enough to handle the 150 children that attended them.  It was brought up in front of the trustees that year and a new building was not something that was accepted at first.  When it was brought up a second time the school examiner overruled the trustees and approved school No. 9 that was to be built for $235.  These schools would serve Lake Township sufficiently until the 1920s when the Progressive Era of Education began to take its toll[24].  

In 1920, residents began to take a look at the possibility of building a new consolidated elementary and high school that would serve the entire township community and be centralized on the eastern edge of the town of Arcola[25].  The school’s official opening was in the fall of 1922 and opened with 6 teachers and a principal.  The elementary section included grades one through nine.  The high school section had 36 students and 3 teachers.  The school continued to grow as additions and changes took place to the original building.  During the 46 years of its existence, the high school increased its graduates from the two that it celebrated back in 1924 to a total of 41 in the last year of its existence in 1968[26].  This building is still in existence today and serves the Arcola community and Northwest Allen County School Corporation as an elementary school for grades K-5.

The residents of Lake Township totaled 1,515 in 1950 and increased to 1,872 in only 10 years with little reason in the years ahead for much if any change.  Churches, 4-H clubs, and the Lions Club were typically the centers of action in the community.  The community was one that wanted to stay simple, but it was open to change in how it ran its education system[27].

 

Reasons and Reactions to Consolidation

In 1959, the General Assembly passed the School Reorganization Act that basically was directed at the small township schools found in rural areas to consolidate into larger schools.  These schools had to have at least 1,000 students, new boundaries, decision-making committees, and a tax base that was going to be more equal to what other schools had been receiving.  Township trustees, like the ones found in Lake Township, were going to be replaced by professional administrators[28].

A committee was organized in Allen County to take on this task of reorganization in 1959.  The committee included 10 people who were chosen to make the decision.  At the time, Lake Township and Eel River-Perry Consolidated Schools were only two of eleven other townships and fifteen school corporations in Allen County at the time.  The reasoning for the reorganization of Allen County was something that was apparent as soon as you took a look at the how each corporation was being run.  Some reasons included the fact that most did not offer an education through the 12th grade, some of the buildings received less than acceptable ratings, and the pupil-to-teacher ratio was at approximately 28 to one[29].  The major reason for reorganization related directly to the tax rates and tax valuation per pupil.  These numbers included tax rates that varied from a high of $3.62 per $100.00 assessed valuation to a low of $1.23 per $100.00 assessed valuation[30]

There were many plans that the committee took a look at, but the one they finally agreed upon took the townships of Lake, Perry, and Eel River and consolidated them.  Plan E1 was known as the “doughnut plan” because it left the Fort Wayne Community Schools and the New Haven – Adams Township schools just as they were at that time[31].  This set the stage for the creation of the Northwest Allen County School Corporation to be formed. 

One of the first actions brought about was the consolidation of the two high schools from the townships.  The reasoning for the consolidation of Huntertown High School and Arcola High School was basically economics and efficiency[32].  The new high school would be able to increase the number of offered subject areas and extra-curricular opportunities available for the students.  Examples included the ability to offer subjects in the areas of language, business, social studies, and vocational departments and athletic sports such as baseball[33]

The reactions of the consolidation were mixed in each township.  The positive reactions of both groups revolved around the improvement of the curriculum and the facilities.  No longer did students from Huntertown have to deal with ceiling tiles falling on them or snow blowing in through the windows[34].  The fact that many of them were getting a new school and that there would hopefully be more money to upgrade the present schools would definitely boost moral on the situation.

Three large negatives seemed to surface more than any others.  One entailed the people of Lake Township more than the others. They felt like it made more sense for the residents of Lake Township to join with the system now known as Southwest Allen County Schools mainly because of distance.   This was evident when Carroll High School opened in the fall of 1967.  Students from Arcola were having trouble getting rides to and from extra-curricular activities[35].  A second negative was agreed upon by all of those involved in the consolidation.  This was a point that the fact that the loss of both of the high schools was going to take away their “school pride”[36].  Both Huntertown and Arcola had successful basketball teams that the respective communities did not want to give up.  They still wanted that name sewn on the front of the jersey[37].  The third problem that arose and lasted for years was the fact that each community took a look at the sports teams in a different way.  Many people did not look at “Carroll” on the front, but where each player went to elementary school at.  They also took note if there were “three starters from Huntertown and only two from Arcola”[38].  This obviously caused waves until the late 1990s when the influx of urbanization really began to take shape. 

Northwest Allen County Schools:  Then to Now

Northwest Allen County Schools officially began as a mainly rural school system in 1965.  The original school board members included Mr. Robert Barkley, Mr. Glen Buckmaster, Mr. Fred Dickes, Mr. William Holmes, and Mr. Robert Dunfee.  The first chosen Superintendent was Mr. Robert Mantock and the Assistant Superintendent was Mr. James Mallers[39].  It began with approximately 750 students in its only high school and two elementary schools that would later add to that.  The curriculum included classes such as English, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Foreign Language, Physical Education, Fine Arts, Industrial Arts, Vocational Business, Vocational Home Economics, and Vocational Agriculture[40]

The schools changed as the years went on and there were some particularly important events that really shaped what Northwest Allen County Schools are today.  One of the major developments began to take shape before Carroll High School opened its doors.  The housing addition Pine Valley had its grand opening in 1966[41].  At this time, it was basically the addition for high socioeconomic people to live in.  This was the real first time that there was an influx of an urban influence into the school system. 

The increase in elementary school aged children created the need for an additional school.  Perry Hill School was added in 1972[42] to help alleviate the crowding that was beginning to happen at Huntertown School.  The school housed students from kindergarten through 8th grade.  This caused a problem because the students that mainly attended Perry Hill were from the Pine Valley addition and they were looked upon as being the “rich kids”[43].  The relationship between the communities of Huntertown and Pine Valley was not a nice one.  Sporting events between the two schools would also become heated.  The coaches from both schools did not like each other and would beat the other team as badly as possible every chance they could get[44].

The next large change for the residents of Northwest Allen County Schools was the planned consolidation of their middle school aged children.  This ended up being a lengthy process that was debated over and over at school board meetings.  The idea was to take the children in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades and put them into a junior high school together.  This was necessary because changes in the curriculum were sent down by the state and classroom space was going to be needed to accommodate them[45]

The change to one middle school had three major road blocks it had to overcome before it was eventually approved.  Most people were upset over the fact that taxes were going to be rising.  The opposition also felt that this was not a great time to build a new school with the present interest rates[46].  They wanted to upgrade the Huntertown building, but school board members pointed out that if this were to happen it would have to abide by the 1981 building codes and that would most likely increase the cost of renovation[47].  The second major point argued was where to put this building.   One place was in Huntertown which brought opposition from the Perry Hill people.  This was reversed fairly quickly and the present site of the building was voted for[48].  The third revolved around town pride.  It resembled very closely to the point the residents had when the high school consolidated.  They were going to lose the name ‘Huntertown’ on the front of their sports uniforms.  They were upset that they were losing their last sports identity as a town[49]

When the building finally opened for the first time in the fall of 1984, the parents were still not at ease about the two groups coming together.   Dr. Steve Yager, who was the principal that opened Carroll Middle School, stated that “after a week and a half, you couldn’t tell where each student was from”[50].  They didn’t really care who was from what part of the district and the building’s opening was as smooth as can be expected.

The 1990s brought about changes that were minor in comparison to the battle that existed over the building of Carroll Middle School.  Perry Hill was overflowing with children and it was decided to add a K-2 building behind Perry Hill.  So in 1992, Oak View was opened.  In that same year, Carroll High School went through its first major renovation to accommodate the growth felt there, also[51].  The high school added classrooms, another gymnasium, and locker rooms at this time[52].  This addition also cleared some room for Carroll Middle School as the freshmen were moved back into the high school building[53]

Meanwhile, Dupont Road was exploding with growth during the 1990s.  Businesses such as Scott’s and Kroger Grocery stores were opening at the corner of Coldwater and Dupont Roads[54].  These businesses helped to bring convenience to the area.  No longer did you need to drive in to Fort Wayne’s city limits to do your grocery shopping.  Fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s Restaurant also began to pop up.  These things helped to increase the amount of people willing to move into the district.

At the end of the 1900s,n to Fort Wayne’s city limits to do your grocery shopping.  Fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s Restaurant also began to pop up.  These things helped to increase the amount of people willing to move into the district.

At the end of the 1900s, Northwest Allen County Schools added two more buildings.  Hickory Center Elementary opened its doors on a plot of land just south of the high school in 1998[55].  It helped alleviate some of the growth that was happening with the additions found along Dupont Road near Lima Road.  Hickory Center actually got its name from the only two one room schoolhouses that were still standing in the Perry Township district, Hickory and Center schoolhouses.  It operated as a K-6 building for two years until Maple Creek Middle School was opened in the year 2000. 

The turn of the century brought about one more building to Northwest Allen’s Community.  Maple Creek Middle School was added on land that is located at the corner of Coldwater and Union Chapel Roads.  At this time, the sixth graders were moved into the middle school.  This was something that brought about a little hesitation by the parents, but it also was a smooth transition for these students as they became accustomed to all of the extra activities not offered in the elementary schools.  The next few years did not bring any building additions, but the growth continued. 

Ground was broken in the Spring of 2003 to begin building a “New” Carroll Middle School on a site that is located at the corner of Bethel and Hathaway Roads.  The plans for the school are exactly the same as the ones used for Maple Creek Middle School with some minor upgrades and changes.  For instance, each classroom will have an LCD Projector secured to the ceiling with a screen to project to at the front of the room.  Water drinking fountains were also added at the end of each wing to allow more convenience for the students and faculty.  The official opening of the school will be for the 2004-05 school year. 

Carroll High School opened its doors for the school year 2000-01 to allow 1,314 students in[56].  This included a freshmen class of 357 students.  The increase in students over the next four years led to a total for the 2003-04 school year to be 1522.  According to a study done by Gann-McKibben Demographics, the high school will have a total of 2,105 students enter the building for the 2010-11 school year with a freshmen class of 576 students[57].  As you can see by the number of 9th graders, this will increase for the next year, also.  Gann-McKibben Demographics have been doing studies for Northwest Allen for approximately the last 15 years.  Each of their studies has been thoroughly done and the numbers have been proven to be extremely accurate[58].  With this in mind, the Northwest Allen School Board and Superintendent Dr. Steve Yager know that now is the time to prepare for these numbers. 

The opening of the “New” Carroll Middle School will allow for the present building to help alleviate the overcrowding at Carroll High School.  Present Carroll Middle School will become a freshmen academy for the Fall of 2004.  This will take approximately 450 students out of the high school and place them in their own building[59].   When these changes were agreed upon other ones were added.  It was voted upon that the district would also add two elementary schools (one in 2006 and one in 2008) to the district[60].  These changes would also help to improve classroom numbers at the elementary level.

Oh, how things have changed!  Or have they?

From 1965 until today, Northwest Allen County Schools has gone through tremendous changes.  Today the increase of student population has created a different atmosphere in each of the schools of Northwest Allen County, but one thing is still apparent when you walk the halls:  the small community feel is still thriving.  Administrators, Guidance Counselors and teachers are active in the education of their students.  Parents are volunteering their time in the schools and can be seen helping with activities before school, at lunch time and after school.  Each of Northwest Allen County Schools are trying their best to keep that small school feel[61].  Principals will drop what they are doing to talk to a parent or even give a prospective new family a tour of their building[62]

As far as the actual community is concerned, it has changed in certain areas tremendously.  Each township has had different amounts of changes.  Each one has accepted them differently.

Lake Township has gone through little, if any, change[63].  Many of the same businesses line the streets of Arcola.  Some of the same community leaders are still around and many of the residents have the same surnames that existed back at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Housing additions have recently began to pop up around the town of Arcola and this may have an effect on the town.  Only time will tell.

Perry Township has gone through tremendous changes, but tried to keep the small town feel that is Huntertown.  The residents of Huntertown have worked to keep that small town feel, but the population that lives on the south side of the township are definitely not attached to the town.  They are more apt to do their shopping and living in Fort Wayne and the Pine Valley area.  One reason is location and the other is that many of these people are from the city and are more comfortable there.  There are still some differences felt between the social classes that separate the people in this township.

Eel River Township was fairly left alone at first, but has really exploded here in the last few years.  Large housing additions are popping up and the School Board is taking a look at two or three areas of land to purchase for possible schools[64].  One plot of land is even big enough to house a future second high school for the district.  Dr. Yager believes that this is something that the Northwest Allen County School Board needs to do in order to set-up the future School Boards with the option of a second high school if they believe it is needed[65]

Closing Thoughts

The previous narrative brought about many typical elements that have been found throughout history with rural schools.  It began with the reorganization of the schools in the 1960s and really took off in the 1980s with the example of the building of the “Original” Carroll Junior High School.  At this time in the 1980s, many of the smaller schools were begin consolidated into larger ones[66].  As was the case in Northwest Allen, the major deciding factor in this was economics.  Even though the community wanted to add on to the schools where their children were presently going, the school system eventually voted to create a new school.  The creation of the bigger school did allow for the children to receive a more in-depth education.  Typically the consolidation of a larger school creates more opportunities for the children to have a more subject specific education[67].  Teachers are more specialized and able to cover Physics, Chemistry, or Astronomy instead of just a blanket topic like Science[68].  This was also true at Carroll Junior High School.

The consolidation of Northwest Allen County Schools adds to the argument of problems between social classes can end successfully.  Today you do not see the problems described in many journals and books written about consolidation.  Northwest Allen County Schools are continuing to grow at an alarming pace and the official final verdict of this may not be given until years from now, but the community of Northwest Allen is fighting to keep that small community feel. 

What are your conclusions?

My one major conclusion is that I believe that consolidation has made Northwest Allen County Schools and the community it serves stronger.  The residents have been through many changes, both good and bad, and they have become better for it.  The School Boards and its superintendents have also become stronger and wiser.   The influx of a more urban attitude has brought many new ideas to a community that may have needed them at that time. 

I also felt like this was a tremendous opportunity to really explore the school system that I teach in.  It was very enlightening to see exactly where the school system has come from and the possibilities of where it might go.  I enjoyed the experience. 

What further questions to be explored do you come to about your topic?

I would have liked to have had a chance to interview a few more people that were in the actual consolidation of the school system.  I would be more interested to interview community members that were against the consolidation and the reasoning behind it.  Questions directed to the different superintendents and school board members would also be included.  I would have asked them how much of the decisions were done because of economic reasons and how many of them were done because of political reasons.

What directions for further study would you suggest to be able to write a more inclusive history?

Obviously, this is a topic that is changing as this paper is being written.  One definite direction for future study would be to revisit this in 10 years to see exactly what the next school board decided.  Did they decide to add a second high school and where in fact was it built?  How accurate was the demographers study?  Was there anything new construction that affected the numbers from the demographer?  These would certainly be some questions to get answered.


 

[1] Gann-McKibben Demographics.  05 January 2004, 1.

[2] Allen County School Reorganization Plan (ACSRP) 1959.

[3] Thomas B. Helm, History of Allen County, Indiana. (Chicago:  Kingman Brothers, 1880), 168.

[4] Barbara J. Monroe, History of the Upper Maumee Valley, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2  (Fort Wayne, IN:  B. Monroe), 86.

[5] Helm, 168. 

[6] Ibid., 168.

[7] Ibid., 168.

[8] The Arcola Committee, One Hundred Years with Arcola, 1866-1966.  (Arcola, IN:  The Committee, 1966), 61.

[9] Helm, 168.

[10] Bert J. Griswold, The pictorial history of Fort Wayne, Indiana : a review of two centuries of occupation of the region about the head of the Maumee River.  (Evansville, Ind.: Unigraphic, 1971), 735.

[11] Ibid, 656

[12] Ibid, 656.

[13] ACSRP

[14] Sheryl Underwood, “Huntertown Historical Society Calendar 2001.

[15] Eli Adams, Jr.  “Huntertown,” The News-Sentinel, 2 February 1952, Roto Section.

[16] James Potter, interview with author, Fort Wayne, IN, 26 January 2004.

[17] Upper Maumee Valley, pg. 314

[18] Adams, Jr.

[19] ACSRP

[20] The Arcola Committee, One Hundred Years with Arcola, 1866-1966.  (Arcola, IN:  The Committee, 1966), 61.

[21] Ibid., 61.

[22] Ibid., 61.

[23] Ibid., 63.

[24] The Arcola Committee., 65

[25] Ibid., 67.

[26] Arcola High School History. Pg. 1-2

[27] ASCRP

[28] James H Madison,  The Indiana Way.  (Bloomington and Indianapolis:  Indiana University Press, 1986. 

[29] ACSRP

[30] Ibid.

[31] ASCRP

[32] Potter

[33] Charger ’69 (Huntertown, IN:  Carroll High School), 1969.

[34] Potter

[35] Robert Trahin, interview with author, Fort Wayne, IN, 15 February 2004.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Potter

[38] Ibid.

[39] Charger ’69 (Huntertown, IN:  Carroll High School), 1969

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ashton, Cheryl, “Milestones on the road to development,”  The News-Sentinel, 22 August 2001, Special Section  “Northern Explosion”.

[42] Northwest Allen County Schools.  2004.  Northwest Allen County Schools [online].   Indiana:  Fort Wayne, 2004 [cited 22 February 2004].  Available from World Wide Web:  (http://www.nacs.k12.in.us)

[43] Potter

[44] Ibid.

[45] Dr. Steven L.Yager, interview with author, Fort Wayne, IN, 5 March 2004

[46] Smith, Curt, “Strong Opposition to Northwest Allen Building Program.”  The Journal-Gazette, 31 July 1981:  A1.

[47] Northwest Allen County School Board Minutes.  30 July 1981.

[48] Potter

[49] Ibid.

[50] Yager

[51] Ashton

[52] Potter

[53] Yager

[54] Ashton

[55] Northwest Allen County Schools Website

[56] Gann-McKibben Demographics

[57] Ibid.

[58] Yager

[59] Gann-McKibben Demographics

[60] Yager

[61] Ibid

[62] Yager

[63] Trahin

[64] Yager

[65] Yager

[66] Diane Ravich, “Look What We’ve Accomplished Since WWII.”  Principal, January 1984:  10.

[67] Alan DeYoung and Dan Smith, ”Big School vs. Small School.”  Journal of Rural and Small School.  Winter 1988:  3. 

[68] Ibid 4.