"The Dream Becomes Reality":
The Creation of Homewood-Flossmoor
Community High School
by Benjamin Fleischer
April 15, 1995
Until 1951, Illinois residents either supported local schools through general taxes or parents paid tuition for their students to attend out of district high schools. In 1951, a law was passed requiring all non-high school districts to either build a high school or be annexed to an existing high school. At the time, Rich Township and Bremen Township were non-high school districts. Residents had the choice of annexing either to the Thornton Township high school in Dolton, Illinois or to the Bloom Township high school in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Four sections of Rich Township, most of whose students had been attending Thornton Township high school, tried to annex Thornton, but were unsuccessful. They reluctantly annexed to Bloom. Three years later, at an informal gathering, "Bud" Martin proposed leaving Bloom and creating a new high school in Homewood or Flossmoor. To gauge community support, he called a meeting. 1
"During that meeting the idea was advanced, and received enthusiastically, that the sensible thing to do would be to establish a Homewood-Flossmoor high school district." 2
Issues discussed ranged from: Can Homewood and Flossmoor have a high school; to Have we enough money for all these children; to can we afford it? The answer was "It will be close. Either a new school or bigger schools will raise taxes- but probably not as much as for the new school in the long run." 3
The community needed to know if there was a sufficient base for a new school. Feasibility studies were carried out in 1954. Favorable results led to petitions for a high school. On September 31, 1954, a crowd of 550 residents showed their support for a Homewood-Flossmoor High School by attending a public meeting. George Schustek, chairman of the Citizens for a Homewood-Flossmoor High School, led the meeting. Reporters observed: "three-quarters of those present were in favor of the project, 10 per cent were against the proposition, and 15 per cent were as yet undecided. Schustek said:
"'There is no question now as to the course we must take. We have a directive now and we will proceed with the petitioning.'" 4
One hundred twenty six residents who had attended that meeting took petitions out and tried to acquire 10,000 signatures from two-thirds of the eligible voters. The target date for completing their petition was the date of the Bloom expansion referendum. An attorney for Rich and Bremen high schools explained "that regardless of how the populace voted in the Bloom referendum, a district in the Homewood-Flossmoor area could still be established." On October 15, 1954, the petition to create the high school district was rejected on a technicality. 5
Schustek observed that Bloom would soon grow to over 5,000 students. That could be too large for individual attention. However, too small a school might have fewer educational choices. A Homewood-Flossmoor high school would have 300 to 3000 students, an ideal size. Such a school could be operating by 1957. 6 James McIntyre acknowledged: "What seemed to be only a glimmering hope two weeks ago is fast becoming a reality. The response is in line with that at the public meeting last Thursday." 7
Mrs. Lester Dean wrote to the Star expressing that H-F should not be created because of school size, economic principles, or quality of education, but because "it would make Homewood a better place to live- a better place for our children to grow up." 8 Mrs. Dean spoke for a growing majority.
Opponents of the new school district plan , such as Mrs. Robert Deniston 9 , sent out leaflets urging residents to not sign the petitions. Their reasons as printed on the leaflets were: Bloom is a going concern- and a good one. Bloom's faculty is of high quality, Bloom has an established tax rate, a wide range of courses, and Bloom is already built. 10 Opponents of the new district plan also charged petitioners with having insufficient funds to build a quality high school. Richard D. Irwin, nationally identified in the field of education, a textbook publisher, and a resident of Flossmoor, stated:
"The figures offered us by sponsors of the high school plan are so fantastic that they scarcely deserve serious comment.... [M]any of those circulating petitions admit under questioning that they are not too conversant with the issue. Can we afford to speak and act from our hearts instead of our heads?" 11
Irwin concluded by emphasizing that H-F could have a high school which it cannot operate. Carl Walther challenged, "Where is there land available in any part of the community as a good site for a school?" Mr. Walther cited statistics and concluded that "... it would be necessary to construct an inferior plant without modern school materials for the teaching process." There simply would not be enough money to build a good school. 12
In October 1955, the local Leagues of Women Voters met with school board officials from the surrounding high schools and with citizens active in other organizations. The three school boards agreed to pay for a University of Illinois survey. 13 McConnell, the author of the survey, emphasized that "feasibility" is a current condition and nothing would be gained by waiting two to four years. 14
By 1956, both the Homewood League of Women Voters 15 and the University of Illinois had published reports concluding that a Homewood-Flossmoor high school was feasible and would benefit the community. The University survey stated that the overwhelming reason to create a new district was school size. 16 Laurence Carr, chairman of the citizens' committee for a Homewood-Flossmoor high school, in a letter to the Homewood Board of Trustees suggested that the Board adopt the statement:
"We have considered the proposal for the formation of a Homewood-Flossmoor high school and believe it would be of great advantage to the entire community. We recommend that all citizens sign the petitions to form such a high school district." 17
As residents were being informed and declaring their positions, the role of new residents became critical. Would they side with the uncertainty of a new, albeit local, district or the stability of the current district? The Martin Alderman family moved into the area just before the issue was called to ballot. Mr. Alderman and his wife voted against the creation of a new high school district, because they believed that the Bloom high school was good enough for the area. At the time, Bloom was a very prestigious high school and was part of the reason the family had decided to move into the area. 18
Positions were staked out and made public. Thornton Board opposed detachment. The Holbrook are in district 161 opposed the district. The Rich district took "a favorable attitude toward the proposed new high school." In the Longwood Farms area, a survey done by the Homewood Junior Women's Club showed that 60 out of 148 homes polled favored the new district and only 17 homes opposed it. 19 Representatives of eleven local organizations were asked to talk within their groups of the advantages of the school, to invite speakers, to enlist petitioners, and to adopt Mr. Carr's statement. James McIntyre was appointed to be chairman of the petition committee. 20
February 28, 1957, the Cook County Board of School Trustees "approved the petition for a Homewood-Flossmoor high school district." Noble J. Puffer, the County Superintendent of Schools said the decision reached was a "completely harmonious meeting between the petitioners and representatives of Bloom, Thornton, and Bremen high schools." The only issue left was the division of assets. 21 The new district's goals were to recruit a superintendent and to decide how to finance the school. The Board then set a date for a referendum which would increase the tax rate. Puffer said that interim financing could be provided by drawing up a budget and issuing tax anticipation warrants or by division of cash assets. 22 When School District 233 was created on July 1, 1957, it contained the communities of Homewood, Flossmoor, and parts of Olympia Fields, Chicago Heights, Glenwood, and Hazel Crest. Taxes were diverted from Bloom Township to the new district. 23
Although the high school was approved, the over-all task was still not complete. Success required "not only the most assiduous petitioner for the district, but those who opposed its formation at this time- either on the basis of loyalty... or honest concern over the area's financial capacity to provide comparable facilities." 24 The fledgling district had to avoid costly and far-reaching errors.
As the school-board election approached, five people filed to run in the election. Mr. Claire Hansen had been a resident of Flossmoor for six years; Dr. Robert Marschner had lived in Homewood for sixteen years; Mrs. Robert Inger had lived in Homewood for eight years; George Schustek, Jr. lived in Flossmoor; Charlotte Wolf had lived in Homewood for more than four years; James McIntyre had been a resident of Homewood for ten years; and Dr. Beryl Sprinkel had been a resident of Homewood for five years. 25
Three referenda were proposed to pay for the operation of the new district. The largest expenditure in the budget was $600,000 for tuition for the 1,000 students who initially would attend other area schools. "The situation might be compared to starting any new business venture. [Once] the initial... down payment... is accomplished, yearly operating costs are much lower." 26 Board President Marschner predicted a $2.5 million school with 1,021 students, approximately 200 higher than the U of I survey forecast. 27
The first Superintendent of Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School was Dr. William Woodworth. Dr. Woodworth had already completely planned two high schools and organized a third. "He explained his decision to leave San Jose, California for Homewood-Flossmoor with the remark, 'When I met the school board, I took a liking to them right away. When they showed me the community and outlined the job, I knew it was the place where I wanted to live and the job I wanted to try.'" 28
There was much activity in 1957, moving the dream closer to reality. 1957 saw six referenda passed. 29 Each one was a bitter battle. Opposition came from the Citizens for Better Education at Reasonable cost who believed the petitioners relied too heavily on the University of Illinois report. They were correct that the report was based entirely upon assumptions. Even the Board of Education questioned parts of it. 30 Their opposition "sought to shake the faith of the community in the University of Illinois survey." 31
A rebuttal to the column written by the Citizens Committee for Better Education at Reasonable Cost was printed in February, 1958. It pointed out that the U of I survey "...was made by educational experts from the University, and not by the proponents of the then proposed Homewood-Flossmoor high school or by the present Board of Education." It also pointed to the larger student enrollment as the cause of any inaccurate projections. 32
A March 1, 1958, Board referendum would be critical. To keep the community informed, members of the Board and Dr. Woodworth appeared at ten neighborhood "coffees" and at sixteen meetings with community organizations. They discussed curriculum, guidance, graduation requirements, staff, building plans, and finances in varying detail. 33
"If the bond issue is passed, the money will be added to over $1 million obtained in divisions of assets with Bloom, Thornton, and Bremen high schools." 34 Board members said they "'Believe that the continued understanding and wholehearted support of the community will insure the creation of a fine educational program and high school.'" Dr. Marschner stated that "'Education in the United States has been severely criticized recently.... A lack of interest by the public... is not true of Homewood and Flossmoor, where parents are noted for their interest in education.'" 35
On February 28, 1957, the Cook County Board approved creating a new district. When it came time to buy a site, there was confusion. Some people mistakenly thought that the Board intended to purchase more than one site. 36 Homewood-Flossmoor High School's 80-acre site in Flossmoor, Illinois, was purchased in September of 1957.
Homewood-Flossmoor High School was built between the years 1957 and 1959. Its planned capacity for the first school year was 1,550 students. The school would eventually have the capacity to contain up to 2,500 students upon completion.
Representatives from Homewood-Flossmoor, Bloom, and Thornton met to discuss division of assets. 37 Meanwhile, representatives of the new high school met with the Midwest Administration center to discuss curriculum formulations. 38
When Homewood-Flossmoor High School was created, there were many expectations for it. Homewood-Flossmoor High School was to be a school of excellence. The school was to "advance [students] as far and as fast towards responsible adulthood as individual pupil aptitudes and individual teacher insights will permit." 39 The students would be required to take the following courses for graduation: "English 4 years, Social Sciences 4 years, Physical Education 4 years, Mathematics 2 years, and Science 2 years." 40
Early in the month of August of 1958, ten special advisory committees discussed the development of the curriculum. 41 Much thought went into what initial courses the school would offer. They reflected the view of Homewood-Flossmoor High School that the "ultimate measure of [Homewood-Flossmoor High School's] success will be the extra shares that its graduates contribute to a free society." 42
At first, the Class of 1960 was required to attend H-F. Many students objected and a public hearing was held. Negotiations continued, and the Class of 1960 was allowed to graduate from the township high schools in which they were currently enrolled. 43 (Most students went to H-F anyway, they just wanted a choice.)
During the meeting of the Flossmoor Village Board on May 5, 1958, a petition signed by several citizens requesting that a shopping district not be built near the Homewood-Flossmoor high school was read. The citizens felt that their properties would be devalued if the shopping area was built. However, they only prevailed by asserting dangers to the student body. 44 A buffer area of several residential blocks was requested around the school and granted. 45
Publicity in favor of this critical referendum used by the supporting organizations included distributing brochures, covering the district with a sound truck, and running a telephone campaign. 46 On April 22, 1958, the Homewood Board of Trustees proposed to commend the Homewood Junior Womens' Club on "its civic achievements and activities to date." 47
Sale of the revenue bonds began September 17, 1958. They sold well because of their good rating. The salary plan for 1959-1960 was adopted. It was made very competitive to attract quality teachers to the new district. 48 John Wayne, who has now recently retired, recalls that when he was hired in 1959, the screening process was so rigorous that in addition to the usual requirements and interview, it included IQ exams and psychological testing. 49
Saturday, July 19, 1958, was the date of the ground-breaking ceremony. Mr. McIntyre broke ground with a bulldozer. "The old house that had stood on the school site for an estimated 100 years, and which had fallen into a state of disrepair and decay, was burned..." 50 in the name of progress. Dr. Marschner paraphrased parts of the Gettysburg address regarding the strength that comes from unity before the ground-breaking ceremony. 51 The Board quoted from Emerson that "Progress is the activity of today and the assurance of tomorrow." 52 All present agreed.
In celebration, at Mickelberry's restaurant, the Board members and their spouses presented a "Resolution Registering Appreciation for Meritorious Services" to Dr. Marschner as first President of the Board. 53 The Board members were so proud of their accomplishments that they often observed classes to see the system at work. Parents were invited into the school as well. The new school was a common effort in its creation as well as in its operation. Everyone felt they were "in this together." 54 The hard work and the pride of accomplishment can be summed up by Margaret Kuch's description of the creation of District 233 being "like holding back the birth of a baby, it just had to come." 55 The passage of time has demonstrated that this "birth" was worth all the effort of all those involved.
1 Interview: "Bud" Martin, February 16, 1995.
2"Homewood Flossmoor High School District 233: THE DREAM BECOMES A REALITY" (The Homewood Flossmoor Review, March 7, 1957)
3Invitation to a meeting (September 30, 1954) at Homewood Village Hall.
4"550 Hear Panel at Meeting" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, October 5, 1954)
5Susan F. Wagner, Flossmoor: Then... Now: A History of the Village of Flossmoor: 1851-1974, (Flossmoor, Il.: Flossmoor Historical Society, 1974), 45-47.
7"Reports Ready Response to Petition Drive" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, October 8, 1954)
8Mrs. Lester B. Dean to the editor, "Asserts Views on Bid To Get New High School" in As Our Readers See It... (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, October 5, 1954)
9Interview: Mrs. Robert Deniston, February 7, 1995.
11"Favor Bloom High. School Plan Opponents List Reasons" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, October 5, 1954)
12"Foes Lash High School Plan, Question Ability to Meet Costs" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, October 8, 1954)
14"U of I's McConnell To Speak" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, July 17, 1956)
15"McConnell Discusses Survey" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, July 24, 1956)
16"Homewood Flossmoor High School District 233: THE DREAM BECOMES A REALITY" (Homewood-Flossmoor Review, March 7, 1957)
17"Text of Report on Homewood-Flossmoor High Survey" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, July 10, 1956)
18Letter of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School Committee to the President and members of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Homewood. August 31, 1956.
19Interview: Martin Alderman, December 29, 1994.
20 "Rich May Back H-F High, Bremen District Opposed" (Homewood Flossmoor Star, August 21, 1956)
21"Suggest Four-Point Plan to Enlist H-F High Support" (Homewood Flossmoor Star, August 24, 1956)
22"H-F High School Approved! Board to Be Elected April 13, Becomes Effective By July 1" (Homewood Flossmoor Star, March 21, 1957)
23"Tax Referendum is Likely to Follow Election of Board" (Homewood Flossmoor Star, March 5, 1957)
24Judy Mann, ed., Know Your Town: A Guide to the Villages of Homewood, Flossmoor, and Olympia Fields, (Chicago Heights, Il: Signal Printing Inc., 1979), page
25"The Big Job Lies Ahead" in As We See It (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, March 5, 1957)
26"Others to Enter Race for Board" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, March 8, 1957)
27"High Tuition Costs An Important Factor In H-F Referenda" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, July 4, 1957)
28"Questions on H-F Site, Bonds Delays Referendum Plans" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, July 4, 1957)
29"First Superintendent For H-F High School" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, July 4, 1957)
30"Review Events of 1957 in Homewood and Flossmoor" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, January 3, 1958)
31"Form Committee to Oppose $2.1 Million Bond Proposal" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, February 25, 1958)
32Homewood-Flossmoor High School Board Minutes. Monthly Report of February, 1958.
33"H-F High Board Answers Complaints by Opposition" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, February 28, 1958)
34"Ask for Money To Build" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, February 28, 1958)
35"Close Drive For Vote on Referendum" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, February 28, 1958)
36Homewood-Flossmoor High School board minutes. Fourth Monthly Report, August and September 1957.
37"See Hope for Settlement in High School Asset Division" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, January 3, 1958)
38"U of C Staff May Help Set Up Curriculum" (Homewood-Flossmoor Star, January 3, 1958)
39Guiding Principals [sic] for the Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Homewood-Flossmoor High School board minutes. Adopted by the Board of Education August 6, 1959.
40"Requirements for Graduation" in Homewood-Flossmoor High School board minutes. December 1957.
41Homewood-Flossmoor High School board minutes. Monthly Report for August, 1958.
42Guiding Principals [sic] for the Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Homewood-Flossmoor High School board minutes. Adopted by the Board of Education August 6, 1959.
43Homewood-Flossmoor Board Minutes monthly report, November, 1958.
44Minutes of the Flossmoor Village Board of Trustees. May 5, 1958.
45Homewood Flossmoor High School Board Minutes monthly report. May 1958.
46Homewood-Flossmoor Board Minutes monthly report, October, 1957.
47Homewood Village Hall Board minutes. April 22, 1958.
48Homewood Flossmoor Board Minutes monthly report. September 1958.
49Interview: John Wayne, February 7, 1995.
50Homewood Flossmoor Board Minutes Annual report, 1958.
51Emerson in Board minutes, Annual report for 1958.
52Homewood Flossmoor Board Minutes Annual report, 1958.
53Homewood-Flossmoor Board Minutes monthly report, June, 1958.
54Interview: John Wayne, February 7, 1995.
55Interview: Margaret Kuch, February 8, 1995.