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History and development of Putnam County Schools prior to consolidation

Editor’s note: This is the second of three articles submitted by the Putnam County CUSD #535 School District to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the school district. The articles are written by Gil Tonozzi, Bill Ellena and Joe Massino, all former administrators at Putnam County Schools.

Prior to the consolidation, the Putnam County State’s Attorney explained that small school districts such as ours could be annexed by a larger contiguous school district and thereby take advantage of the additional tax dollars that would become available. Concern and fear ran rampant throughout Putnam County.

Consolidation, which occurred during the 1965-66 school year, was vital to save the tax money and improve education in the county. During the 1965-66 school year, schools in Putnam County would remain as they had been in the past. Starting with 1966-67 school year, schools in Putnam County would consist of one high school in Granville, a grade school and junior high school in Hennepin, a grade school and junior high school in rural McNabb, and a grade school in Granville, Mark and Standard.

The administrative team consisted of Dr. Edward Keen as superintendent, James DeBates, business manager, Leland Amons, high school principal, Simon Satterfield, principal at John Swaney Grade and Junior High School, Gilbert Tonozzi, principal at Hennepin Grade and Junior High School, and William Ellena, principal of Granville, Mark and Standard Grade Schools.

Students adjusted well to the new alignment, and the school district had the tax base to hire the best teachers available. Supportive staff was well-trained and adequate in numbers. Buildings were well kept, and unused money was placed in escrow for future use.

Additional building space was needed to accommodate the number of students enrolled and to add to the existing curriculum. In 1971 a referendum was proposed to build a new high school at the south end of Granville just off Division Street, a new elementary school in Granville just east of the Putnam County High School Building (formerly Hopkins High School), an academic wing at the John Swaney School, as well as additional classroom space at Hennepin. This referendum was defeated.

Shortly thereafter, a second building referendum was held. This referendum was successful. It included a new high school in Granville and an addition added to the elementary school in Granville. Also included was a new west wing to the John Swaney School and additional classrooms to the Hennepin building.

A number of different building configurations ensued. Changes were made at the elementary and junior high schools. Centerville was closed, as were Mark and Standard Grade Schools. Centerville thereafter was reopened as the administrative center of the school district. The junior high schools were reduced from two to one. The board of education then decided to have a referendum to increase tax dollars in the education and building funds. This 1983 referendum was defeated.

Due to the failure of this referendum, cuts in many areas became necessary. These included the closure of one building, the release of one administrator, and the reduction of faculty and staff by approximately 30 percent. All extracurricular activities were abolished. Booster Clubs were formed to assist financially. They provided much assistance in areas such as athletics and music.

The majority of these cuts developed because of a reduction in the corporate personal property tax. Our school district had transpired from prosperity to poverty in a few short years.

In 1987, Hopkins Elementary School reopened as a pre-kindergarten through Grade 3 building. The Hennepin building housed Grades 4, 5 and 6, and one junior high school was located on the John Swaney Campus. The high school remained the same.

In 2004, a tornado destroyed the Hopkins Elementary Building.

In 2006, the board of education voted to construct an addition to the Hennepin building to house elementary students. In 2007, two new board members were seated. The new school board rescinded the decision to build in Hennepin and voted to build a new primary school in Granville. This new school opened in the fall of 2009.

Also, in the early 1990s, Lostant High School deactivated. A number of Lostant High School students have elected to attend Putnam County High School ever since.

Current building configuration: Pre-k through Grade 2 at the primary building in Granville; Grades 3 through 5 at the elementary building in Hennepin; junior high is on the John Swaney Campus; and high school is in Granville.

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