Roslyn School District Centennial 2004

  • Raising the Flag for a Second 100 Years
    December 1, 2004

    The bell in the Roslyn clock tower rang 10 times at 10:30am on December 1, 2004 - once for each decade of the last 100 years - to open a special flag-raising ceremony in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Roslyn school district.

    Flagpole Students, parents and other residents joined staff members and school officials to dedicate a new flagpole, located between Roslyn High School and the Administration Building in view of the high school's athletic fields.

    Interim Superintendent of Schools David J. Helme presided over the ceremony, which featured kindergarten and first grade students from the Heights School leading everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Middle School Chorale singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs. High school student leaders represented their student body.

    School Board President Stanley Stern spoke about the meaning of the district's anniversary, and Barry Edelson, the district's Director of Community Relations, provided an historical perspective (see next story).

    Prominently on display was the original charter of the Roslyn Union Free School District, signed on December 1, 1904. It will remain on permanent display in the Board Room.

    The day started with heavy rain and wind, and the ceremony began in the lower gymnasium of the high school. But by 11:00, with perhaps appropriate symbolism, the rain had stopped and everyone in attendance stepped outside to observe the raising of the flag and sing an impromptu "happy birthday". The dedicatory flag, which had flown over the U.S. Capitol, was donated to the district by Mr. Helme.

    Later in the day, the sun emerged from behind dark clouds and shone brightly on the new flag, outstretched in the wind, as a permanent symbol of both the rich history of the Roslyn schools and the beginning of a new century in our district.

    Observing the District's Centennial

    At the flagpole dedication ceremony, Roslyn High School, December 1, 2004

    Had we stood on this spot 100 years ago today, what would we have seen? Nothing that we observe now was here on December 1, 1904. Surrounding us would have been the fields and woods of the Mackay Estate, the center of which was the mansion called Harbor Hill, which stood on top of the hill that rises on the other side of Harbor Hill Road. The clock tower whose bell chimed a few minutes ago was not even 10 years old.

    There were schools in Roslyn prior to 1904, even as early as the first half of the 19th century. These small "common schools" provided a very basic elementary education. In 1853, the State of New York passed a law enabling one or more common schools to form a Union Free School District and offer a secondary program. The first school board convened here in 1864, but another 40 years would pass before Roslyn established a high school and created the entity we know today as the Roslyn School District. It is that extraordinary event which is memorialized in the charter signed on this date in 1904, and which we are marking today.

    Before 1904, any child in Roslyn looking to earn even a high school diploma, let alone advance as far as college with the help of a free public education, had to go elsewhere. Those who could not afford to pay tuition or travel to another school had to make do with the few years of school that were available here.

    But in the years leading up to 1904, someone, or a group of people, in Roslyn decided they could offer something more. This was a community that already evidently valued public education. Roslyn Centennial Logo It had built a number of school buildings, including a second Village School in 1898 on Old Northern Boulevard, on the site of an earlier school of the same name which had been destroyed by fire the year before. That school started its life as a grammar school and, after 1904, housed our first high school classes. Like its predecessor, that building also burned down, in 1927. When one school was reduced to ashes, another was built immediately to replace it. Once it began, public education was never left unattended.

    A school represents an idea; a school district symbolizes a larger vision. In 1907, that vision reached a culmination as the very first two students graduated from Roslyn High School. We know their names: William A. Hickson and Marian Tubby. Ms. Tubby's father served as a Board trustee for at least 20 years, and we find his name on the charter of the school district. Four of Mr. Hickson's children later also were Roslyn graduates.

    In the district's first 20 years, 119 students graduated from Roslyn High School. Since then, more than 15,000 students have earned a Roslyn High School diploma. We don't know exactly how many attended college, nor what career paths they have all followed; but we do know that the vast majority of them have made a great deal of the opportunity provided to them. We also know that a great many still have strong connections to their community.

    Needless to say, much has changed in Roslyn in 100 years. In 1904, the schools were segregated. According to Roy Moger's history, Roslyn Then and Now, this practice was, thankfully, ended around 1917: later than it should have been, though sooner than in much of the rest of the nation. Mr. Moger himself was an alumnus – Class of 1925 – and, later, a teacher here. Roslyn's first high school building opened in that same year of 1925, on land donated by Clarence Mackay. The first Mrs. Mackay, Katherine, had taken a great interest in the community, and was on the school board from 1905-1910. The records show that women voted in school elections at least as early as the first years of the 20th century — a generation before women were granted suffrage throughout the United States.

    Roslyn has experienced extraordinary periods of growth. Enrollment peaked at nearly 4,500 in 1967. Schools have been opened, and expanded, and expanded again. Others were closed, as demographic patterns shifted through the years. Since the early 1990s, the trend has been steadily upwards yet again: the echoes of history in a new century. For all the changes, the vision that generated the Roslyn Union Free School District remains constant.

    The following is an excerpt from a handwritten composition in the Bryant Library's local history collection. Though there is no name on it, it seems to have come from the scrapbook of Marian Tubby, one of our first graduates, and may have been written by her:

    "In 1904, after much controversy and hard work, the high school program was started in our local Roslyn school...
     "In 1907 (June 24th) the first class to graduate from the local High School held its Commencement Exercises....The fact that the school was graduating students with qualifications for college entrance was very gratifying to both the teachers and board. Many wondered then how the village ever succeeded in getting along without a full-fledged high school for so many years. Now...many pupils who could not afford to go out of town for higher learning, could get the best training right at home...
     "With this wonderful opportunity for advancement, there was great rejoicing. The rapid growth of the High School has proved that the efforts of those in favor of higher learning in Roslyn were not in vain."

    A sentiment shared, no doubt, by many thousands who have followed in her footsteps and by all of us today. We still recognize a high school diploma as an extraordinary gift, and we celebrate it with great ceremony. In so doing, we honor the memory of all who came before us, and proclaim that our efforts on behalf of our children are never in vain.

    Barry Edelson, Director of Community Relations

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    The logo for the district centennial was designed by Roslyn High School students Shana Ditkowitch, Jason Oh and Andrew Werner of the Class of 2005.