Sheridan School District has a history that tells the story of how a community grows and consolidates. Its history begins in Petersburg, "just prior to the Civil War with a log cabin situated east of the Platte River where a toll bridge was built [north of present-day U.S. 285, west of present-day Santa Fe Avenue]." (A Historical Sketch of Petersburg School, District 23, document found in Petersburg School cornerstone) Petersburg was colonized by Swedish immigrant Peter Magnes [ also Magnus] and encompassed the area south of[Old] Hampden Avenue to a few blocks south of Kenyon Avenue and west of Santa Fe Drive [to the Platte River] and included the railroad tracks. Magnes, the father of sugar beet farming in Colorado, was a great contributor to civic causes and a major political figure in Arapahoe County in its formative years.
"About 1893 a brick building was erected on land deeded to the district for one dollar by Peter Magnus. In 1909 District 22 was set aside and became district 23. Mr. Hoskins, Joe Brown and Tom Skerritt were the first school board. Among the first students were Sherman and Clarence Brown, Joe, George, Charles, and Mamie Skerritt. Some of the early teachers were Minnie Mae Bell and S. Ella Brown. From the log cabin, the school moved to a frame building (where the Englewood Depot stands today)."
The school had two teachers, Mrs. Francis Miller and Miss Belle Morris. It burned to the ground in the spring of 1926 (Littleton Independent, front page, March 29,1940) and the cornerstone of the new building was laid in October of 1927. (A Historical Sketch of Petersburg School, District 23)
Petersburg School District serviced "the residences that were along what was Natchez Court [and South Santa Fe Avenue]. At that time, Natchez Court came straight off Hampden and went straight south to where it curved into Kenyon, south of the Petersburg school, east to the railroad tracks, little bit further north of Hampden, a little bit south of the area adjacent to Kenyon," says Clark Bond, " 32-year veteran of the Sheridan District and alumnus of Petersburg and Sheridan Union High School. He adds, "the Petersburg school district also encompassed much of that area down on the other side of the Platte in lower Sheridan."
Reminiscing about his school days, Bond remembers that Petersburg only went through the eighth grade and that for "a period of time when students finished up at Petersburg. ..they [Petersburg school board] were constantly trying to work out an arrangement for somebody to take the students after they got out of Petersburg. There was an agreement between Petersburg and Englewood for a long period of time. ..and then around the late 140s Englewood discontinued for whatever reason and would not take Petersburg students after that. For a period of time there was another arrangement IU1d those students went to South High School in Denver. Then I guess it became apparent that that arrangement was not going to last. In fact, I think some may have gone to West High School. It was kind of jumbled relationship, and I think at one time high school kids were being parceled out to whomever would take them.
"In the late '40s, early '50s, they began to feel that
would not be a permanent solution because when I went to Petersburg
in '50 when we continued through the seventh grade they had no
place for us to go, so they added the eighth grade. When I got
out of the eighth grade, they still did not have a place so they
added the ninth grade. When I got out of the ninth grade, they
still did Dot have a place, so they added the tenth. When I got
out of the tenth grade I
don't know where I would have gone, but they had completed the Union High School over here. That was the fall '52, so I was able to come over here."
"That got to be kind of interesting for a period of time, 'Where do we go next?' I could see myself graduating from Petersburg, going through the twelfth grade because they didn't have any place for us to go."
Jim Taylor, a 35-year veteran of the district, mentioned that many of these students also went to Littleton High School in addition to those attending West and South High Schools.
In 1974, they closed Petersburg Elementary school. The reason, says Taylor, is that there were, "terrible conditions for the kids to learn over there, with the trains going by every hour and the traffic sounds." School officials retrieved the materials from the cornerstone and have them on display at the administration offices at Ora Oliver. A decrease in student population due to the loss of residences in the 1965 flood contributed to the decision.
Fort Logan District 75 was built in 1923 and was originally a two story building, like a bi-Ievel house, according to Taylor. "You had to walk up or down when you came in the door. The main floor housed "their gym, their exercise room. It had an old wooden floor in it. The hallway going to the cafeteria was part of that room." This room is now called room five. There's a computer lab up there and a classroom [now].
Judy Kary, the new principal at Fort Logan this year, says "the school's new computer lab fits right in with her philosophy that educators should use modern technology to help students learn." (Englewood Herald, September 9, 1993, pg. 6)
"While the district did not service the fort, which had
its own school, it did offer classes through the eighth grade
and serviced a large area from "the area called Logantown,
east of Lowell, between Lowell and King, including a few houses
on Knox [from Belleview]...clear up to Jewell or Evans,"
says Taylor, who
used to live at the north end of the district near where the Denver Fabric store is now situated. The children, he says, "had to walk, or ride a horse - however the parents could transport them. But it was somewhere in the late '40s that the College View area split off from Fort Logan District.
"College View is the area from Lowell, to Zuni, and from Lowell to Dartmouth. By that time," adds Taylor, "Denver was annexing that area west of Federal, where the Brentwood Shopping Center is. But the break off did not occur until after Denver annexed that portion to the north, the western boundary of College View."
Bond, who retired as principal of Fort Logan in 1993 and was succeeded by Judy Kary, believes that "the original building at Fort Logan probably never had more than five to six classrooms, so you can estimate around 150 kids." Taylor, who also served as principal of Fort Logan, agrees. "They were bursting at the seams when they did that addition in the early '40s, I understand.
"The first addition to relieve the overcrowding was added during "W.W.II," says Taylor, "and the army - the government - paid for most of the addition because they needed a gym and so it became a regulation size gym. It was an exercise area for the troops at Fort Logan Military Post. And then right after the war, they [the school board] got four of the barracks from the Fort.
"Then they put additions on going to the east, what used to be rooms six and seven. Eight, Dorothy Olmstead's room, became an extra large room because it had been a stage. The next two rooms to the north, that would be nine and ten were the auditorium seating for the stage. That's why those steps go down out of Dorothy's room. Then they added the next addition which went kind of to the north off of that east wing."
In 1956 to meet the needs of an ever increasing student population, "they added on the cafeteria at Fort Logan and the two northernmost rooms -that would be eleven and twelve," says Taylor. "And you can still see or used to be able to see where the bolts went into the brick there between Dorothy's fourth grade class and where Ann Willis taught third grade next to her. There was a double set of doors just like there is at the front entrance to that building. It went outside."
In 1950 it became apparent that the arrangements with Littleton, West and South High Schools were not going to meet the needs of the area's students and Sheridan Union School District was formed in 1951. At this time in order to accommodate the large distances the students had to travel, they added a bus system. Martin Marietta growth provided the impetus for further housing construction in the district west of Federal. To meet the needs of this growing district, in 1958 the district built Alice B. Terry Elementary School at Irving and Radcliff. "The first principal was Isabelle Bogart Murphy, followed by Dick Watkins, and then myself," Gordon says.
Jack Gordon came to the district in 1965 as a sixth grade teacher at Petersburg. "My sixth grade class at Petersburg was so small," he says, "that they combined the two classes at Petersburg and transferred me to a sixth grade at Alice Terry," he says.
Alice Bodine Terry, for whom the school is named, was "born in 1899 ...was one of eight children, four boys and four girls. Miss Bodine graduated from West High School. Her greatest desire was to be a teacher." (Hidden Heroine, by Girl Scout Junior Troop II 177, Mountain Shadows, pg. 1) After several stints in one room schools, she came to Fort Logan in 1932. Her first assignment was as a teacher for "a fifth and sixth grade combination."
In 1938 she became principal," saying, "this was the greatest challenge of her life." She was a generous and kind teacher who cared greatly about her charges, bringing "food and clothing to school for the needy students. She personally tutored students who were having difficulty so they could keep up with their class." She served as superintendent "her final year [1960-61]. "She married Grant Terry "in the gymnasium at Fort Logan in May 1947 ...They had no children of their own, but shared their home with an adopted daughter." (Hidden Heroine, pg. 2)
In 1973 the park bordering Alice B. Terry Elementary was named in her honor. "Of these two honors [the school and park]" Mrs. Terry says, "It is such a fine climax to my memories which are very precious and the love for boys and girls and their welfare, and for a better life will always be my greatest wish." (Hidden Heroine, pg 2)
"In 1974," Taylor says "1 became "the principal
of Fort Logan and Ora Oliver but they made Jack Gordon assistant
[as well as personnel director for the district] and assigned
him full-time over at Ora Oliver. He did Oliver and I stayed at
Fort Logan." Gordon says that, he moved between Fort Logan
and Petersburg teaching sixth grade until 1971, "when I became
the coordinator of a special state funded remedial reading project.
I taught remedial reading and was assistant principal at Petersburg
from 1972 until 1974.
"In early 1980 Dick Watkins [then principal of Alice Terry] became ill with lung cancer and I became the principal of both Alice Terry and Ora Oliver, giving up my duties at the administration office."
"I continued as principal of both schools until 1982,
when Jim Cullin became principal of Ora Oliver. I have been principal
of Alice Terry since that time." Around 1959 the district
built Ora Oliver, that section which is now the north end of the
building, on land that the federal government had deeded to the
district. This land includes the site of the current high school,
the park. and the recreation center. According to Taylor, the
crowding was so acute that during construction, Fort Logan was
forced to add a split session for the elementary school while
keeping the junior high on a single track.
In 1966 there was a new peak in student attendance and the now combined Petersburg, Fort Logan and Sheridan districts began to feel crowded again. The short - lived elementary school, Maryville, up on the hill to the west of Federal Blvd. on Girard, provided relief for a few years. But by then the bond issue was passed to build a new high school and the current high school was used as both junior high and high school using a split session.
Taylor, who retired from the district as principal of the middle
school in 1992 and has been a substitute teacher since says, "In
fall '67, they broke the ninth grade off the high school and brought
the seventh and eighth up from Ft. Logan and formed a Junior high
school [in the high school building on Federal Blvd.].
All the sixth graders in the district went to Fort Logan for those five years that we were on split sessions."
Bond remembers the time period from 1967 to 1972 well. "We were on split sessions for five years, and I don't know many schools that ever stayed on split sessions that long a time, but we started split sessions in the fall of 1967 and they didn't open up that new high school until the fall of 1972.
"To this day I think about ...the junior high in the afternoon.
We started school at 12:45 and I recall we got out around 5:45
[The high school day began at 7:30 and ended was dismissed at
12:30]. And never to my knowledge did we have an incident...yet
we had kids out in the dark walking along Federal. I think back
now and it makes me shudder a little bit, but we never had any
that I recall."
The new Sheridan High School opened in 1972 and "they moved the ninth grade back into the high school and brought the sixth grade up from Fort Logan and formed the Middle School," says Bond.
When the high school first opened up, it used many new ideas in educational technology. The second floor of the building utilized open space with the classrooms delineated by moveable partitions The business, math, science, and home economics classrooms were situated around the perimeter. This open space was bisected by teacher offices.
Changes have occurred over the years as technology and research has improved. The second floor has been redefined with permanent rooms that run in two rows down the length of the space, separated by two hallways. A music wing has been added. The district is again experiencing a surge of growth due to 40% of the student population coming from outside the Sheridan School District. There has been District-wide Marketing program to bring in additional students.
Many new programs, under the direction of Principal Ken Bostdorff for the last five years, have contributed to the success of the high school curriculum. One of them is t1le Study Table, where every morning between 7:15 am and 7:50 am students can get help with their school work. Two teachers volunteer to man these tables. This enables students to obtain the needed help to keep them current with their classmates.
A Teen Parent Program has been added. This is for both mothers and fathers. A Day Care has been established at the Pace Warehouse Center. This provides day care for the infant so the parents can continue their studies. This is a co-operative effort between Pace, South Suburban, Rocking Horse Day Care, the City of Sheridan, and the Sheridan School District. The program began 3 years ago with a grant, but is now self sufficient. It has won the Business Community School Award.
Also in its third year is the Mentor Program. The Colorado Alliance of Business, in partnership with the school, funds adults that want to return something to the schools. Fifty young people and mentors are matched up to learn living skills, receiving training as well as mature support in this out-of-school project Mentors and Mentees often become friends.
A program in its second year is "Dream your Highest Dream." The question asked is: "In nine years what is your Highest Dream of what you will be doing --professionally or any activities that interest you? What is your highest dream of how you want to be feeling about yourself, life and the world in nine years?"
This project was part of the class Critical Thinking. It relates to the Letter of Intent, a requirement for Sheridan High School graduation that states: 1 the student career intention, 2 plans showing how this goal can be attained, 3 evidence that the student has taken speci1ic steps to pursue their goal.
The project also includes photos and interviews of seniors by Carol Schloegel and was funded by grant monies to Sheridan School District. Each student was allowed to "pose" their photo, taken on School property, and could include musical instruments, science or other background material that related their aspiration. All photos were in black and white. They are posted in groups in the High School building, both on the main floor and on the second floor.
The Academic Wall of Fame Students gives recognition to students that are selected Valedictorian or Salutatorian of their graduating class or have a grade point or 3.9 or over. Photos begin in 1954 when the Sheridan Union High School was formed and continue through 1993 where it will include this year's graduates.
The graduation classes of 1991 and 1992 are also pictured in an area of the quad. Individual color photos of the students are shown, with the officers of the class featured.
The sports trophy cases are filled to overflowing, lining the
halls and extending into the quad, indicating the athletic prowess
of the district's students. The Sheridan Ram and school royal
blue and silver gray colors are proudly featured in the lobby
of the high school and other places throughout the building.
Athletic Wall of Fame
The Athletic Wall of Fame includes photos from 1955 through 1992 and takes up most of the wall outside the theater and includes a photo of Art Wollenweber. Mr. Wollenweber was Sheridan High School Athletic Director 1956-1989, the Founder of the Wall of Fame and the Hall of Fame, showing his true role as a 'Friend of Youth.'
The Hall of Fame will include all other athletes that made All Conference but do not qualify for the Wall of Fame. These will be covered in a book as well as a large board listing names and the year.
Mr. Thomas J. Murphy, Superintendent of Sheridan School District from 1952 unti11973, has been honored with a plaque and photo of which dedicates the building as the Thomas J. Murphy Center.
In the 1980s, the student population began to drop it reached its lowest point in 1988. Bond and Taylor suspect that the lack of rebuilding after the flood of 1965 was a major factor in the drop. The biggest reason for the recent jump in student population has been primarily due to out of district students registering for classes in what their parents perceive to be a first class program.
There have been many changes in the district and the latest made their impact felt in 1992 when changes in the state's fiscal year brought a deficit in funds for the 92-93 school year. Officials met several times with concerned district members to work out ways to soften the impact and keep programs afloat.
Probably the biggest blow to this community was the loss of, the full-time kindergarten, one of only a handful in the state. The district has created the new Sheridan Early Childhood Development Center to handle the five kindergarten classes - two from Alice Terry and three from Fort Logan and the 150 head start children. They have also remodeled Ora Oliver, and Head Start has recently purchased 8 modular building with 3 classrooms, restrooms and a small utility room. The 300 students and additional daycare participants will be directed by Principal Kris Black, long time director of Head Start.
Head Start, a federally funded program, will again work in cooperation with the Sheridan School District. There is a new satellite Head Start at St. James Church, and this year they will be assisting Cherry Creek School District to set up a Head Start Program.
To offset the difficulties the new half day schedule will cause working parents, the district has created "a child care program the other half of the day ...[that will] include some of the same people that the kids would be dealing with in kindergarten," says Bond. They can purchase breakfast, lunch and a snack for the day also. The cook for the 300 plus persons is Betty Brown.
Another change that has softened the budget cuts is the Sheridan Sun, which includes information about the school district, the city, and its residents, and is the replacement for the district's monthly information newsletter. It has produced two issues so far and Superintendent Ken Reiter says that it is much cheaper to put out. It is hand-delivered to every mailing address in Sheridan, plus 500 outside the city.
What's in the future for this little district with such high
standards? If it includes anything like the new Help Center at
Sheridan Middle School, things are going to look up for the students
and their homework puzzled parents. "The Center is open for
30 minutes after the school day ends. It is a volunteer program
for students. 'The students can come in, get help and leave, some
for five minutes and others are there for the full session" says Paul Rochester "A little one-on-one tutoring is all that is needed to help a student get on the right rack on a subject," teacher Eric Allen said.
Terry Luce, another teacher, who staffs the center said that "Sometimes, the student just needs a little extra help on a problem or may come in with an assignment and no clue where to start. We try to get them headed in the right direction and, once they have the idea, most take work home to complete it," (Eng1ewood Herald, November 19, 1992, pg. 6).
Paul Rochester, principal of the middle school since 1992, looks at the 230 member sixth grade class and envisions a high school with a student population of 600, 20 percent higher than the average population in its heyday in the 60s.
Superintendent Reiter agrees from his vantage on the stage at Ora Oliver, which reminds him of his mission in the district; "I remember it's kids we deal with. We have been in a growth pattern for the last 4 years and I would say we have good reason to believe it will continue to the year 2000. It gets to a point where we will have to also consider keeping small to moderate size, because that's what keeps Sheridan good. "
And good means a quality result. Sheridan's mission "came out of a workshop in which we were brainstorming. 'Education, Vision, Tradition, Values,' I really want to stick by that, we need to change certain things, to keep up with the changing world. Obviously our science is leaning more to genetic engineering, the control of disease in the future, the ability to kill cancer, and so forth, understanding the genetic background of humanity, the United Nations, our project as well. We'll see a lot of those kind of things.
"I would like closer ties to Teikyo University. It's a wonderful resource up the street here. One of my dreams is that every child in the Sheridan schools gets exposure to Japanese, from kindergarten through high school. What a powerful tool that would be for them, even if they didn't speak a lot.
"Perhaps their students could attend some tuition-free classes, at Sheridan High School, and in return our students, especially elementary, would learn customs, music and ethnic things, as well as language from the Japanese students. "There is increased growth of the auto shop; we are the only [high school] auto shop in the department that is certified; all the rest are trade schools, universities and colleges. We'll continue growing in that area.
"I would like to make sure that the kids that come out of our school have good skills to go into the work force immediately if they chose, or a good preparation to go to a university, and not have too many lids, I'd rather not have any kids, who are neither ready to go to university or go to work"
Continue to look for creative solutions and high academic and personal standards in these challenging times from Sheridan Schools, After all, the youth of today are tomorrow's leaders, and no one knows that better or cares more about them and their future than the dedicated members of the Sheridan School District, celebrating its second hundred years of success!
A Historical Sketch of Petersburg School, District 23, document found in Petersburg School cornerstone
Englewood Herald, September 9, 1993
Englewood Herald, November 19, 1992
Hidden Heroine, by Girl Scout Junior Troop # 177, Mountain Shadows Neighborhood
Interview with Clark Bond and James Taylor by Bonita Hutcheson and Earl McCoy, July 14, 1993
Interview with Ken Reiter by Bonita Hutcheson, July 22, 1993
Interview with Ken Bostdorff by Bonita Hutcheson, September 9, 1993
From a brief emp1oyment history prepared for the Sheridan Historical
Society by Jack Gordon, September 8, 1993
Copyright © 2002 by the Sheridan Historical Society
All rights reserved