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The Heath Years: 1950's-1966

In the beginning, there were two towns and a chicken farm. Then, in the 1950's, these three seemingly unrelated things joined together, and Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School was born.

The Old Sudbury High School

Before Lincoln-Sudbury came into being, each of the two towns had their own school systems. Sudbury had a two-room school house in North Sudbury, which is now a fire station, and two small school houses in South Sudbury for the lower grades. The Sudbury High School was located on the top floor of the Flynn Building, which presently houses town offices. Lower grades were taught on the first floor. The building did not have an indoor gym; instead, students used the Town Hall which also was used for school assemblies. Each grade, from first to twelfth had one class and one teacher. There was one principal, who was also a teacher, for the entire school system and a three-member school committee. Class sizes were small: only fifteen to twenty students per class. There were fewer than one-hundred students in the Sudbury High School until the early 1950's. Because of the small numbers and the modest school budget, the high school program was limited.

Students took English, math, history, science, Latin or French, and civics, which was taught by Principal Alan Flynn. Home economics and industrial arts did not exist, but there were sewing courses for girls. Physics and chemistry were taught on an alternating year basis only if there was enough interest from the students, and occasionally neither was taught. For sports teams, there were only field hockey, basketball, and soccer; though during the winter, hockey was played at an informal level. Besides sports, students participated in plays. There were few after school activities because most of the students lived on farms and had to do chores after their classes.

Sudbury High School had a family atmosphere about it. According to former student David Bentley, all the students knew the teachers very well. Bentley recalls, "Being a small school had its advantages. Everybody knew each other; there was more of a feeling of unity as a group for that reason."

After graduating from Sudbury High School, students did a variety of things. Approximately half of the students went on to college. Others went on to work in blue-collar jobs, on family farms, or joined the military. Some of the students married right away. Although it provided a good education and many of its graduates went on to become successful, the school was run on a very limited budget. Howard Emmons, who was on the Sudbury School Committee in the 1950's, remembers there was a janitor who was paid as much as the school's principal because the market determined janitorial salaries. No such controls existed for teachers, and as a result they were grossly underpaid.

Beginning in 1948, School Committee members in Sudbury, Wayland, Sherborn, and Lincoln would meet annually to discuss regionalization. Nothing happened as a direct result of these meetings, but as the postwar baby boom began to explode, and the populations of these towns grew, it became clear that a change was needed. Unlike the near-by town of Sudbury, Lincoln did not have its own high school, and its students were sent to private schools, or to high schools in the neighboring towns of Concord and Weston. Lincoln students who attended high school in either Concord or Weston were required to pay tuition, and Lincoln did not have any representation on the school committees of those towns. The residents of Lincoln were not happy with this arrangement, but the population of the town was too small to warrant a separate high school. So, townspeople began to seriously consider the possibility of regionalization. Around 1950, Lincoln asked both Concord and Weston, whose populations were much larger and growing rapidly, to consider regionalizing. Though neither town would agree, both offered Lincoln the opportunity to have one school committee member to represent the students who paid tuition. Lincoln residents were not satisfied with this compromise, so they began to look for another town that also needed a high school.

At about the same time, population growth began to have a great effect on Sudbury as well. Until that time, the school system was so small that a "union" Superintendent was in charge of not only the Sudbury schools, but also those of Wayland, Natick, and Sherborn. Like Wayland, which left the union in the early 1950's because of its increasing population, Sudbury's population also began to outgrow this arrangement and its own educational system. The School Committee began to consider making changes to accommodate the town's growth.

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Working out the Details

And so it came to pass that in the early 1950's Lincoln came together with Sudbury. Both towns were having problems with their current school systems and were looking for a way to change. In addition, the number of students in the two towns was about equal. According to Emmons, "They were an obvious match."

Meetings between the two towns began in 1953. The agenda included deciding on school committee members and determining just how much of the school system should be regionalized. Each town agreed that the committee would be made up of six people, three from each town. There was, however, some disagreement about what should be joined. Sudbury wanted to regionalize the entire school system, from elementary school through high school. Lincoln, on the other hand, wanted only a combined high school. After much debate, it was finally decided that each town would have its own elementary and junior high schools and only the high school would become regionalized. Originally, the superintendent of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School was also to be the superintendent of the Sudbury Schools. This agreement was voted upon by residents of the two towns, and passed easily in Sudbury, 6:1, and overwhelmingly in Lincoln, 20:1. Lincoln-Sudbury became one of the first regional high schools in the state.

The next major issue concerned where the school was to be located. It was decided that it would be in Sudbury, but near Lincoln. Fourteen sites were considered, all of them between Rt. 117 and where the school now stands on Lincoln Road. It is at this point that the chicken farm enters Lincoln Sudbury history.

The land on which the high school now stands was once the home to a commercial chicken farm named "Featherland." It was mostly open land, with a barn, and many chicken coops. What is currently the White House Preschool served as a home to one of the farm workers who would later become the aunt of Richard Brooks, an L-S School Committee member in the late 1970's. The Building Committee decided the farm was the perfect spot for the new school. At first, the chicken farmer refused to sell his land and during discussions, fired his own lawyer and hired another. Finally, after months of negotiations with some very persistent lawyers for the town, he agreed to sell the farm for the appraised value of $28,000. This seemed strange because the Building Committee would have easily agreed to pay as much as $40,000 for the property.

The next step towards the formation of Lincoln-Sudbury was choosing the building design. The architectural firm of Anderson, Beckwith, and Haible was hired, with Lawrence Anderson, a professor at M.I.T., being the principle architect. William Barton and David Johnson, along with two other architects, worked under Anderson on the original design. Frank Heys and Bram Arnold, who would later become heads of the English and science departments respectively, were responsible for the interior details such as the design of the classrooms, laboratory and library furniture. Once designs had been completed, the search for a construction company began. The committee received a number of bids, the lowest being $385,000 and the highest, $425,000. By law, the Building Committee was required to accept the lowest bid even though it was not the one they wanted because the lowest bidder had a reputation for being unreliable and cutting corners. However, the lowest bidder forgot to include the cost of paving the parking lots in the estimate and reneged on the deal when the Building Committee informed him that the cost would have to come from his own pocket. This allowed the committee to accept the next lowest bid from a company which they liked better. Before construction could begin, the fine sand covering the lot had to be removed. As it turned out, the sand was perfect for casting metal motors, and it was bought by General Electric for that purpose.

From the beginning, the School Committee was a supportive and influential force within the school. Made up of men and women who believed in a high standard of excellence, they wanted the children of Lincoln and Sudbury to have the best possible education that the towns could give them. To them, "excellence" was to be achieved by hiring outstanding teachers and supporting them by giving them the freedom to run their classes and the school in the manner they thought best for the students. Among the early school committee members were Ellen DeNormandie Cannon (Lincoln), Howard Emmons (Sudbury), a professor at Harvard University; and Elizabeth Harding, a prominent Sudbury citizen. Later Henry Morgan of Lincoln joined them and developed quite an amiable reputation among the students, teachers, and townspeople.

The next task facing the School Committee was hiring teachers. "They knew that the teachers would have to be excellent, because they would become department heads when the school began to grow," said Emmons. A public meeting was held with the School Committee and the superintendent to discuss information from Wayland, Weston, and Concord about the budget, class size, salaries, and the number of teachers that would be necessary. There was opposition to the prepared budget because it was more than many Sudbury residents were willing to pay. Even though acceptance of the budget wasn't unanimous, the School Committee enjoyed fiscal autonomy and had the power to draw up its own budget knowing that the towns would have to find the needed money. This power was not abused by the committee, but was used to develop the school to its potential.

Patty (Punchard) Bowdoin, a teacher at L-S who was hired in 1964 commented that "they, (the School Committee) went around to the best schools in the country and recruited faculty members." In hiring these people, the School Committee bombarded applicants with tough, unexpected questions. Alec Marshall, math teacher and head of the math department, recalls them asking, "Alec, who the hell do you think you are coming in here thinking you can meet our expectations?" Paul Mitchell, a history teacher and head of the department, remembers the School Committee as being terrifying at his interview. They asked him questions such as "What is it to teach?" and "What makes you think you can teach?" Through these questions, the School Committee was able to hire a self confident, independent, and innovative faculty.

The salaries that were offered, though low by today's standards, allowed the committee to attract excellent faculty. Economics teacher, Dick Johnson's starting salary was $4,000 which made him seek summer work painting houses in order to support himself and his family. Future raises would be based solely on the assessment of the department heads. Every year department heads observed each teacher to determine his or her salary, which depended upon performance. This system was referred to as "merit pay."

It was also decided that all of the teachers from the Sudbury High School would be asked to be teachers at Lincoln-Sudbury. In 1956 when the school opened there were twenty-four teachers on the faculty. According to Miriam Coombs, a faculty member at the time, they were "absolutely fabulous," and created a great balance between age and experience. Bowdoin concurred, "You were in the presence of really fine teachers and you got the sense that you better know what you were doing."

The principal of Sudbury High School, Alan F. Flynn, was not asked to become Lincoln-Sudbury's new principal. Instead, he was hired as a math teacher. Rexford S. Souder was hired as the superintendent of the Sudbury Schools as well as the Regional High School, and Dr. Leslie M. Tourville was hired as the first principal of Lincoln-Sudbury.

The faculty and the School Committee had a close relationship which was much more informal than it is today. They all knew each other and met two or three times a year for dinner. Both the faculty and the School Committee respected the long hours each other put in to make the school a great one.

The parents also had a close relationship with the School Committee and often made suggestions directly to the members. This relationship gave the school a sense of being a group project. Everyone felt they had invested much time and effort into creating an exceptional school. It was "a very healthy situation," recalls Bowdoin. For years, Ruth Buxton, a language teacher and the first woman department head at L-S, wrote a weekly column in the Sudbury Citizen, which was the town paper at the time, about happenings and issues at L-S.

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The Grand Opening

Finally, in September of 1956, the school was ready to open, and the first Lincoln-Sudbury students entered the building. The Junior and Senior classes that year consisted of Sudbury students only, while the Freshman and Sophomore classes were made up of both Sudbury and Lincoln students. These students were already acquainted because the previous year (1955 1956) the 8th grade students from both towns attended the Lincoln middle school, and the 9th grade from Lincoln attended Sudbury High School. Lincoln-Sudbury was further populated by 7th and 8th grade students from Sudbury, while a larger elementary school was being built.

The school, although small, had an exciting sense of newness about it. The entire library was in one classroom, which later became the Language Office and South House, science was taught in the basement under the art and home economics rooms, and there was one small gym. Unlike the old school, the new one was surrounded by beautiful woods. Because students were excited to be in their new surroundings, they respected the school, and there was no significant vandalism until the 1960's. Students felt they had been given the task of making a name for Lincoln-Sudbury in the surrounding communities and for colleges.

That first year, L-S had twenty-four teachers, and a graduating class of 32. The school was so small that everyone could fit into the Little Theater (later renamed "Rogers Theater"). The relationship between the Lincoln and Sudbury students was, on the surface, pleasant. However, Sudbury students felt that the Lincoln students were snobs, and the Lincoln students felt that they had received a superior early education. Looking back, Barry Copp, a former student and math teacher, said, "We were all pretty much snobs at the time." Despite the tension, nothing ever came of it.

During the early years of L-S, the school's only African American students lived in Sudbury. Barry Copp remembers that students tried to be "too nice" to the two black teenagers in his class. When one began dating a white girl from Sudbury, it wasn't accepted, and their relationship was not spoken of openly.

Even though relations between the students were not perfect, most people were happy with the regionalization because it allowed for programs that would not have been possible if the towns had remained separate. Home ec. and business courses were offered. The Lincoln-Sudbury shop department was also especially strong under the school's second superintendent, C. Newton Heath, who himself was an ex-shop teacher from New Hampshire. The sports program was also expanded. Field hockey, basketball, and softball were offered to girls, and soccer, basketball, and baseball were offered to boys. Football, according to Howard W. Emmons, an original L-S school committee member, was intentionally kept out of the sports program because the school committee did not feel that there were enough "robust men" in the school to support a team. Paul Mitchell, a history teacher, remembers the decision as another attempt to maintain a private school atmosphere. "Public schools had football, this, L-S was to be a private school midst public school walls so 'soccer' was the game." The School Committee also made the conscious decision not to have a marching band for the same reason football was excluded.

The first two years of operation were educational ones for everyone. Community members often bypassed the school administration, and went directly to the School Committee with problems, despite the fact that the committee was only supposed to act only as a policy board. After the first year, Souder resigned, and the School Committee had to search for a new superintendent. At this point, C. Newton Heath, fondly known as "Doc Heath," was hired.

Doc Heath was described as being modest, low-key, and sincere. Miriam Coombs remembers Heath as a "pleasant, open personality, but a man hard to understand." The faculty was in awe of him, and his decisions were final. When the faculty asked for five days, instead of three, for February and April vacations, Heath conceded to their requests. He also made it clear that if you didn't like the way the school was run, you could leave. When it came to the everyday matters of running the school, Dr. Tourville was in charge. Heath was both the superintendent of L-S and the Sudbury Schools, so he did not spend all his time at L-S.

Other enduring decisions were made during the school's first two years. Royal blue and white were chosen as the school's colors and the decision to have a yearbook was made halfway through the first year. The foreign exchange program also began, although the Student Exchange Committee was not founded until 1961. L-S students went to France in the summer of 1958 and the first foreign students came to L-S in 1961. Along with the new traditions and events, others came to an end. Sudbury High's traditional senior trip to Washington D.C. and the senior play ended after the first two years.

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Life at Regional

This first era at Lincoln-Sudbury was characterized by both tradition and innovation, by the idea that it was a "public private school." Male teachers were required to wear jackets and ties, while female teachers had to wear skirts below the knee and stockings; they were not permitted to wear pants. Students also had a dress code. Girls were required to wear skirts below the knee and boys were not allowed to wear jeans or have long hair. In addition, teachers were required to lecture from a podium. Teachers, recalls chemistry teacher Ray Martin, had a "friendly but formal" relationship with students. Barry Copp, a student in the early 1960's, remembers that teachers did not talk about their personal lives or beliefs.

According to Martin, the faculty was required to stay in their classrooms until 4:00 p.m. every day to give students extra help. Certain days, teachers were allowed to leave early for school events. Martin remembers that announcements were heard over the loudspeaker granting teachers permission to leave their classrooms and watch school soccer games if they weren't helping students.

The structure of classes was also rather traditional. There were four levels to most classes with "1" designated as the honors level, and "4" being mostly vocational. Each student was placed in one of the levels, from 1-1 to 4-4, and due to the tracking system, it was common for there to be little contact between students of different levels. Bowdoin remembers that the system was "not ideal for the kids who were less able." As one former student said, the students in level 4-4 were often referred to as the "rats" or "marfia." Emmons recalls that the teachers "tried to be tactful and make (the level-four students) feel important."

Students schedules were not flexible nor were they designed by the students. Instead students' classes were determined by the track in which teachers placed them. Each day students met before classes in their homerooms where attendance was taken. The day was divided into 7 periods of 48 minutes, five of which were dedicated to academic subjects which met five days a week. Every student took English, history, science, math, and a language, either French, German, or Latin. Periods were also set aside for gym, and an elective such as home economics or chorus. "The most confusing aspect of the schedule," Martin remembers, "were the three staggered lunch blocks of 20 minutes each, which often met in the middle of other classes."

One of the most popular courses from the late 1950's through the 1980's was a history class known as "Things Russian," taught by Paul Mitchell. Patty Bowdoin remembers little Mitchell disciples walking through the halls of L-S with ties over their shoulders and glasses on all of the time, just like their mentor. Students in the 1-1 track had the honor of being be selected for this course. During the first decade of L-S, a variety of teachers and courses made a large impact. Henry Zabierek was also an influential history teacher. In science, students enjoyed classes with Bram Arnold, Ouida Bailey, and Bob Millet. The most popular English teachers were Miriam Coombs, Martha Pappas, and Howard Sullivan. Students looked forward to math classes taught by Phil Lewis, Alec Marshall, and Terry Miskell. Latin was made enjoyable by Ruth Buxton.

Study halls were mandatory, and "free" blocks did not exist. During study hall periods, students were required to do homework silently in the cafeteria, with an open book in front of them, while supervised by a faculty member. Study hall periods were not popular among students, who were forbidden to socialize, or with faculty who had to make dozens of bored students remain silent and seated for an hour.

While Lincoln-Sudbury had the outward appearance of being a traditional high school, inside the classroom it was a different story. "Freedom amidst the bondage" is how Paul Mitchell remembers the privilege of being able to teach whatever he wanted. Also, "The faculty was supreme" and there were no orders from the top down. Teachers could make their own curriculum, courses, and grading systems. In the math department, the teachers used this freedom to create their own text books; history teachers insisted on using only primary sources in place of text books; English teachers refused to use anthologies; and the science department was known for the wonderful projects that the students were encouraged to create. It was the innovation and creativity of the early teachers that laid the foundation for L-S to become the unique place that it is today.

Discipline was not a big issue during the early years at L-S. Although there was some vandalism in the early 60's and the occasional fight, the biggest problems were smoking and gum chewing. Students caught smoking could be punished with up to five detentions. Holding hands in the hall was also strictly prohibited and would result in a note being sent home to the parents of the delinquent students. These issues were dealt with by Vice-Principal Roger T. Thurston, who was in charge of discipline. Thurston was an ex-military man who did not tolerate misbehavior. Hall passes were required at all times, and students who came to school late were turned in as "tardy" by their teachers.

The physical education program was traditional as well. No electives were offered, and classes were segregated by gender. Students had to wear uniforms. Girls wore jumpers and bloomers, while boys wore school issued shirts and shorts. Students had to take a shower after gym, again, supervised by a teacher. Many students found the shower system to be "humiliating" according to a former student. This was partly due to the fact that the towels were so small. "You had the choice of covering the top or the bottom, not both," the student remembered.

From the beginning, there were a large number of extracurricular activities at L-S. Susan Winter-Frommer, a current teacher and former student, recalls that the "teachers got kids involved" and Bowdoin remembers that "kids were at L-S all day." Clubs ranged from the Baking Club to the Biology Club. There was also a student council and student publications. The school paper was named Tom Tom to go along with the "Warriors," the name of the sports teams. Ninth Notes was the freshman paper, and the Kaleidoscope was the literary magazine. The most popular activities at school were the drama and music programs. At one point, Bob Wentworth, the head of the music department, had over half of the school involved in chorus. During the early years, the L-S drama program centered around winning the Massachusetts High School Drama Festival. The productions of Liliom and Blood Wedding brought L-S first prize. As a result, the program became competitive and exclusive. Frank Heys felt that drama had become too elitist and wanted to get more students involved. Harriet Rogers, the school's second drama director, put this idea into action and kept hundreds of students occupied during and after school. Students were so dedicated to Ms. Rogers' drama program that one year there was even an alumni production.

Student life in the 1950's and the early 1960's revolved around the school. Few kids had after school jobs, and there was never a "hang-out" where everyone went. On weekends, some students went to Boston, or just biked around town. There were few out-of-school parties, and when there was one, it was very "straight." Parental supervision was common at these parties, and drinking was never a big problem. School dances in addition to the prom were popular among students, and many faculty also attended. William J. Edmunds, one of the early band directors, used to play the piano at these dances. The Junior Prom Committee even had the day off from school to decorate the gym. There was also the occasional student teacher hiking trip.

Sports were popular with students. Coach Mary Louise Roberts' field hockey team was excellent, and the boys' soccer team was phenomenal. There were cheerleaders for the soccer team, and it was common for the entire school to attend the games. The boys' basketball team, coached by Paul Volk, attracted a large crowd of dedicated fans during the winter season. Students who attended L-S at the time admit that although many of the girls' sports teams were good, they were mainly ignored. "No one was even aware of the girls' sports. No one went to watch," remembers Barry Copp. The hockey team came into existence when Richard Johnson, a college hockey star, was hired as a business teacher. Once the hockey team was formed, many other teams formed such as lacrosse, track, and cross-country running. L-S even had a riflery team.

During the late 1950's and early 1960's students led seemingly sheltered lives and were fairly inactive when it came to national and global issues. No doubt, students thought about and spoke about issues that they heard of on the news or read about in the paper. However, aside from signing a few petitions, little action was taken. During this time, more emphasis was placed on fitting in, getting into college, and getting married, than on changing the world. Yet, this was not a phenomenon unique to Lincoln Sudbury. The nation was being ravaged by the idea that communists lurked around every corner, and "McCarthyism" did not help in making people want to be politically active. The apparent lack of political activity at Lincoln-Sudbury was due partly to outside pressures. It is difficult not to conform, when the government appears ready to prosecute you if you don't.

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The Times They Are A Changing....

During the early years of L-S, there were few major changes, even though the times and students were changing. There were two additions to the building, one in 1961, and the other in 1966, because of the growing population of Sudbury. Sudbury had been mainly a farming community, but the younger generation began to reject their parents' lifestyle and find their own way. As a result, many families were forced to break up their farms and sell off parts of their land to developers. This made it possible for a large number of middle class families with young children to move into town, and the student population of Sudbury rose. Lincoln, however, was made up of mostly old estates that were not for sale, so its population, mix, and numbers did not change dramatically.

Along with the rejection of their parents' way of life, teenagers also began to get involved with the new ideas sweeping the country in the mid 1960's. Students at L-S would become involved in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the Vietnam Antiwar Movement. Teachers and students would protest and march together, and consequently, student teacher relationships would become much more personal.

When the changes in the country caught up with Lincoln-Sudbury, it became clearer that the structure of the school was no longer as effective as it had once been. Although students still received an excellent education, school policies were somewhat out-of-date and restrictive. The School Committee, administration, and towns decided that change was definitely needed. New faculty needed to be hired, and scheduling policy changes needed to be made; the school needed to be "opened up." The School Committee wanted a new superintendent with the imagination and initiative that would be necessary to make Lincoln-Sudbury the innovative, top-quality institution it had once been. Willard Ruliffson was hired as the person to transform Lincoln-Sudbury.

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· · · 1956 ... Bible and Lord's Prayer recited in class ... Seventh and eighth graders have classes at L-S ... 1957 ... Ninth Notes and Tom Tom begin ... Hall passes required in the corridors ... 1958 ... L-S becomes accredited ... 1959 Cum Laude begins ... 1960 ... First addition begun in June ... 1961 ... First addition opened ... Over fifty perceent of students involved in the music program ... 1963 ... Paul Mitchell featured in Seventeen Magazine ... 1964 ... Bible reading no longer allowed by state law ... 1965 ... The METCO program begins in the Lincoln schools ... Second addition begun in July · · ·

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