Private Schools First in Area

 

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News in March 1963
 
Private Schools First in Area
By WILLIAM L. SANDERS
 
     Before the advent of Ohio’s public school system, 68 Daytonians contributed funds to establish the Dayton Academy, a school for boys.  Incorporated Feb. 15, 1808, the organization built a two-story brick structure on the west side of St. Clair Street between Second and Third.  The site was donated by Daniel C. Cooper.
     The first principal, Gideon McMillan, was a proponent of the Lancasterian system of education imported from Europe.  Basically, it was a monitorial method.  Pupils of excellent deportment and outstanding scholarship aided the teachers.
     With the help of the monitors, a teacher, acting as general supervisor, might control and instruct as many as 500 pupils.  Pupils were to be governed by their sense of honor.  This system of “mutual instruction” failed here as it did in other places.
     Trustees apparently did not rely on the pupils’ sense of honor outside the classrooms.  In 1821, they adopted this resolution: “Any scholar attending the Lancasterian school who may be found playing ball on the Sabbath, or resorting to the woods or commons on that day for sport, shall forfeit any badge of merit he may have obtained and 25 cents; and, if the offense appears serious, he shall be further degraded as the tutor shall think proper and necessary.  This resolution shall be read in school every Friday previous to the dismissal of the scholars.”
     THE ACADEMYprincipal who made the deepest impression on early Dayton education was E. E. Barney, a graduate of Union college in Schenectady, N.Y.  He was named principal in 1834, following construction of a new building at the southwest corner of Fourth and Wilkinson Streets.  However, there had been two principals between the McMillan and Barney regimes—Capt. John McMullin and James H. Mitchell.  It was Mitchell, a Yale graduate, who knocked out the Lancasterian system.
     Barney procured the best apparatus available for the Laboratories, and introduced field trips to familiarize students with the botany and geology of the Dayton area.
     In 1838, when a public meeting was called to establish public schools, Barney heartily supported the proposal.  He retired from the academy in 1839 to enter business.  By 1850, Dayton’s public schools had pulled the rug from under the academy and the trustees deeded the property to the Board of Education.
     A private school for girls, the Cooper Female Seminary, opened in October, 1845, on West First Street, between Wilkinson and Perry, the site now occupied by the Westminster Presbyterian church.  It was named in honor of Daniel C. Cooper whose daughter gave the land to the seminary corporation.
     The seminary, over a 40-year period, provided the kind of education found only in the East during that era.  The curriculum featured literature, art, music, composition, history and the classics.
     THE FIRST principal was E. E. Barney, former head of the Dayton academy who had attained business success in the city.  Until 1849, when again he withdrew from educational work to form the Barney & Smith Car Works.  Barney directed the seminary.
     By reason of his strong personality and high level of culture, he was able to win high standing for the school locally and in the southern half of the state.  The atmosphere of the school was one of refinement and old-time culture.  However, growth in public education lessened the need for a private school for girls.  The seminary closed in 1886.
     The Moraine Park school, opened July 1, 1917, with Dr. Frank D. Slutz as principal, had the support of Dr. Arthur E. Morgan, Edward A. Deeds, Charles F. Kettering, Orville Wright, George Smith and F. O. Clements.
     Organized as a school for boys, grades six to 10 inclusive, Moraine Park was expanded the following fall to include an elementary division, open to both boys and girls.  In 1919, the curriculum ranged from kindergarten to college entrance, with the full course open to boys and girls alike.  The original enrolment of 33 grew to 216 at the peak.
     The school sought to unite learning and activity.  The fundamental emphases included health, choice of ideals, expression of thought, forming of opinions, discovery of truth, laws, facts and their interpretation, practice of loyalty, observance of generosity, choice of a vocation and use of leisure time.
     THE SCHOOL programs and curricular subjects were regarded as so many tools.  The pupil’s interests and needs had priority.
     Moraine Park was based on a curriculum envisaged by a University of Colorado group of which Dr. Slutz was a member.  To inculcate a desire for learning in an atmosphere of freedom was the general objective.  Although the school closed after 10 years, some of its pioneering is reflected in current public school guidance procedures.
     Dr. Slutz continued to influence education by serving as a lecturer and counselor in all parts of the nation until his death in December, 1956.
     There have been, of course, other private ventures in education here.  The latest is the Marti school, opened at 5885 Munger Road in September, 1956.
     Founded by Dr. Fritz Marti and his wife, this institution emphasizes language study.  Dr. Marti views the teacher as the link between children and subject matter.
     SAYS HE, “I believe in lots of texts.  There’s no evidence that work hurts pupils.  I don’t believe in making ‘softies’ of kids.  Here they have to work.
     Mrs. Marti tells her pupils: “You don’t like to do this.  So what?  Life isn’t all doing what you want to do.  Sometimes you have to do tedious things so you can go on to interesting ones.”
     Before turning to philosophy and education, Dr. Marti was an engineer in his native Switzerland.  Prior to her marriage, Mrs. Marti was a music teacher in Washington, D. C.