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A Handbook of The Winchester Public Schools (The Handley Schools)

The only endowed public school system in the United States

John Handley Foundation, Winchester, Virginia

[Note: This document is undated, but appears to date from the 1930s.]

Neatness And Comfort

R. Gray Williams, President
M. M. Lynch, Vice-President
Harry F. Byrd T. R. Cather
C. Vernon Eddy, Secretary
T. J. Cooper
H. D. Fuller
H. B. McCormac
John L. Sloat
A. M. Baker, Treasurer

Winchester School Board

John M. Steck, President
Hunter H. McGuire, Vice-President
William G. Hardy, Clerk
Stewart Bell
J. Fred Goss
W. M. Lupton
Warren Rice
Howard Shockley
W. R. Talbot

School Administrative Officers

H. S. Duffey, Superintendent
G. R. Quarles, High School Principal
Miss Bessie L. Corkey, Elementary Grade Principal
Mrs. Edna Eighmey Petrescu, Primary Grade Principal

The Handley School Building

The Legend

As one goes about Winchester visiting many points, there stands out like a fair castle land the Handley School Building, and the story of Judge John Handley, and his bequest to Winchester savors just as strongly of the legendary.

Nothing was heard from this letter for months, until the Winchester gentleman received a large package containing plan and specifications for the establishment of the Equity Improvement Company, a project which proposed the erection of a hotel, factories and homes and which involved quite and industrial development. The stock in this company was to be sold at a low par and on the partial-payment plan so that every citizen might have a part. Gradually dissension arose among the directors and the scheme failed after the purchase of large parcels of land and the erection of a hotel. Judge Handley lost considerable money in the project, but his faith in the community never faltered, and after his death the following provision was found in his will.

“All the rest and residue of my estate I give, devise, and bequeath to the City of Winchester to be accumulated for the period of twenty years. The income arising from said residue estate to be expended and laid out in said city by the erection of school houses for the education of the poor.”

When the money was received, Winchester had grown until it had a population of nearly ten thousand, but, even, with that gain in size, it was thought that the sum of nearly two million dollars would erect a building which the city could not afford to maintain, so a friendly suit resulted in a court construction of the will, setting aside as an endowment fund $1,200,000.00, the balance to be used for building. The grounds consisting of seventy-two acres, were a part of the bequest.

The Handley School, as it now stands and with the grounds being developed from year to year, represents an expenditure of nearly a million dollars and is housing the junior and senior high schools and grades four, five and six of the elementary department. It was the original plan to include all of the white children under a single roof, but an increase of seventy percent in the school population has necessitated the retention of the old school plant for primary grades and the addition of at least one more building.

It may be interesting to some to know that the endowment is not administered by the School Board, but by the Handley Board of Trustees, created by an act of the Legislature of the state as a fiduciary body, and it has borne well in trust, for not a single dollar of principal nor interest has ever been lost through bad investment or otherwise.

The building was erected in 1922-23, and of which Mr. W. R. McCornack of Cleveland, Ohio was the architect, is of the one-story plan, colonial brick, 535 feet long, and 180 feet deep. It is distinctly of the colonial type, as the illustrations show, and the architect has followed as a motif the buildings of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia, designed by Thomas Jefferson. It stands on a promontory which makes it visible some distance away on many of the approaches to the city and affords from its portico a magnificent view of the Blue Ridge mountains and the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley for many miles, a view which is calculated to develop the esthetic sense of the children. Situated immediately in front of the building is the stadium with its athletic field surrounded by a quarter-mile running track.

The Handley School grounds have become the center of many activities. The Annual Shenandoah Valley Apple Blossom Festival, which is Winchester’s most notable celebration, is held each spring about May first and draws to the community more than a hundred thousand visitors. Practically all of the events of the festival, except the parades, are held on these grounds and the enormity of the entire performance may hardly be appreciated except by those who have been present. It is of metropolitan rather than small town proportions and the Handley School organization furnishes all of the pageantry.

The building itself supplies a long-felt need for a community center. The auditorium with its seating capacity of sixteen hundred, and fully equipped stage, the gymnasium, and the indoor play court, with its regulation concrete tennis court, afford excellent facilities for community entertainment and recreation, and the appreciation of the citizens is evidenced by the fact that these features are in constant use after school hours.

Without giving the details of dimensions and briefly enumerating the contents, in addition to those already mentioned, the administrative section includes superintendent’s business office, superintendent’s private office, school board meeting room, educational research room, men’s rest room, ladies’ rest room, principal’s business office, high school principal’s private office, elementary grade principal’s private office, school store, clinic and dispensary, and ample storage rooms.

In the instructional unit there are thirty-six classrooms, all with side and overhead lighting, equipped throughout with moveable furniture scaled to sizes. Most of the rooms have outside exits and are equipped with artificial heating devices for drying damp clothes of the youngsters in wet weather. There are also a cafeteria, study hall, library, nature study court, special classrooms, and laboratories for music, science, domestic science and the industrial departments, piano practice rooms, and a large, well designed and equipped room for the class for mentally deficient children. An art gallery and museum, 20 feet by 150 feet, has been provided and already there are on exhibition copies of many of the masterpieces of art, busts of Virginia heroes, and relics intimately associated with the historical past of the community.

Many large cities would consider themselves fortunate to have Winchester’s physical equipment for educational purposes, and, therefore, the pride of this small Virginia city in its achievement is pardonable and not in any sense inordinate conceit.

It may also be said that Winchester Public Schools are entitled to some distinction educationally. Under the rating given by the State Board of Education, this system has been rated first of all of the cities of the state, irrespective of size, over a period of the last five or six years. The personnel of the teaching force is of high calibre and an effort is made to keep the salary schedule upon a basis in proportion to living costs. Reasonably small instructional ratios are maintained, that of pupil-teacher being thirty-three to one, teacher-supervisor fourteen to one, and teacher- principal eighteen to one. Care is take to provide teachers with adequate instructional apparatus and supplies. Modern pedagogical procedure is followed and every effort exerted to make all conditions conducive to a liberal educational return. Recent surveys and the application of standard measurements indicate that excellent results are being gotten.

The Handley Library was also bequeathed to the city and endowed by Judge Handley and is the free public library of Winchester. The building is of Indiana limestone and is located at the corner of Braddock and Piccadilly streets in the heart of the city opposite the U.S. Post Office.

There are 20,000 volumes on open shelves with a circulation in excess of 65,000 in 1929. Twenty daily newspapers and nearly a hundred magazines are currently received and on file. The collection of reference books is complete and comprehensive, and there are special collections of Virginia and Civil War history.

The Library heartily cooperates with the Handley School in all phases of its work and together they comprise an educational unit for all the people of Winchester, child and adult alike.

It is probable, in the final analysis, that the most distinctive feature of this small Virginia city is that it has an endowed public school system and has shown that an endowed public school system is as practicable as an endowed institution of higher education. Winchester is already the beneficiary of three endowments, the John Kerr Building Fund, the Handley Foundation, and the Lucien Lupton Horticultural Endowment, and there are two more in which the schools will share in later years. The feeling the General Education Board was the city would be pauperized, but such has not been the result, for in the comparatively short time the Foundations has been in operation the city has quadrupled in its appropriation and for the first time in its history has voted a bond issue for schools.

When the Handley Fund became available to the Winchester Schools only a comparatively small appropriation was being made from the city’s income and there was an impression in the community that the citizens would be relieved, by the endowment, of any future taxation for schools. Of course, one realizes immediately that nothing could be more disastrous from the standpoint of local interest, aside from the necessity for additional funds as the school system grew and it has grown even beyond the expectations of those most intimately associated with the project. So it has been the policy of the administration to carry on a campaign of publicity through the years which would acquaint the people generally with the accomplishments and needs of the schools and, thereby, a favorable sentiment has been established and when any request for increase has been made the public in general and the legislation in particular have realized that there is reason in the request and not once in the past six or seven years has there been a lack of cooperation between the City Council and the School Board.

For the benefit of those interested in public school publicity, the two most effective principles applied in Winchester have been (1) get the patrons and friends into the schools, while in session, just as often as possible, and (2) get the teachers into the homes of the patrons at least once every year. The night session held each fall for grades 6 to 12, inclusive, always draws to the Handly Building more than twelve hundred patrons and friends, and these people distribute themselves in the class rooms for the bona fide recitations. The general reaction each year has been decidedly favorable and the attendance continually grows. Every school system has something to sell to the public and in Winchester the results indicate that the salesmanship has been effective.

Judging by this city’s experience, a community not only will not be pauperized, but, upon the contrary, will rise up in a unanimity of support to send on to even greater achievements the educational possibilities offered the children. It is not impossible that the time may come when Winchester will be recognized as the pioneer in demonstrating that an endowed public school system is productive of most excellent results.