Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

082_Douglass Learning Center


082_Douglass Learning Center


This is a page from the collection "Bicentennial Reflections: History of Des Moines Public Schools, 1876-1976" by Dr. Robert R. Denny, published by the Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, Iowa in 1976.

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80 The library was opened in 1956. The school district allowed $1500 and two released periods for a librarian. There is now a full-time qualified librarian and 8,500 volumes. A full-time nurse is on duty all day. Team Teaching and individualized instrcution have become integral parts of the program at Wilson. The school paper, THE CHANTICLEER, has been instrumental through the years in forming a strong school spirit. The seventies have seen Wilson continue to grow — to the extent that it was necessary to add a portable classroom in the fall of 1974. Much of the continued growth has been the result of new housing, the Pleasant Hill area at the eastern edge of the District. A new open space elementary school, Pleasant Hill, has been constructed. To accommodate the increase in enrollment, the number of periods in the day have been extended from six to seven. Also, curriculum offerings have been increased so as to provide twenty-one electives at the ninth grade level, sixteen at the eighth and eleven at the seventh grade level. Pilot projects in career education and learning disabilities also became a part of the Wilson scene in the seventies. Both programs have been highly successful and, when coupled .with the upcoming expansion of Special Education, greatly enhance the services rendered to students. In 1975-76 school year marks the golden anniversary of Woodrow Wilson Junior High School. That it ranks among the leaders in Iowa is a fitting tribute, not only to its name sake, but to the thousands who have passed through its stately portals. Woodrow Wilson principals have been: 1925 - 1954 Everett Davis 1954 - 1959 Raymond Bishop 1959 - 1962 Walter Beasley 1962 - 1966 Wendell Webb DOUGLASS LEARNING CENTER Housed at YMCA Building 2nd and Locust HISTORY OF THE FREDERICK DOUGLASS LEARNING CENTER During the 1969-70 school year the unrest of junior high students, especially in the inner-city schools, became apparent. With this situation, a tentative plan was formulated to develop an alternative school to house these junior high students. A suitable location was found in the vacant St. Ambrose School building located at Fifth and Ascension. Richard E. Peters was named to direct the school. Before a program could be developed, spring arrived and there was unrest once again in the junior high schools. In order to show good faith to the teachers of these schools, the District moved swiftly. With no formal plan at hand, the school opened its doors on April 27, 1970. The school was named the "Parallel School" and generally followed the pattern of the other Junior High Schools in the District. 1967 - 1968 Don Blackman 1968 - 1972 Rolland Brownell 1972 - Richard Tuller The student body was composed of those students that were generally unruly in their Home Schools. At the close of the school year, one hundred thirty-eight students had been assigned to the "Parallel School." It had been a trying ordeal for the students, five staff members and the District. It did however fulfill its main purpose, to remove disruptive students from their Junior High School, there-by showing the teachers of Des Moines that the District understood their teaching problems. During the summer that followed, a committee worked on a philosophy and curriculum for the school. It was at one of these meetings that the idea of changing the name from "Parallel" to Frederick Douglass Learning Center was suggested. The thought was to name the school after a renowned black person, due to the fact that 90% of the student body was black. Frederick Douglass was chosen because of his anti-slavery belief. In history he was referred to as the nation's most renowned abolitionist. With a new name chosen, the next steps were to work on objectives, curriculum, a home and staff. The first year the use of Behavior Modification was successful. The students apparently accepted this approach, but by November the money allocated for the token system was depleted so other mehods in the realm of Behavior Modication were used. The 1971-72 school year brought two changes: New Horizon's, a work experience program was introduced to the students and Behavior Modification was dropped. The 1972-73 school year brought more changes: a secretary was added to the staff, an educational aide was lost, and a waiting list developed. The list of 20-25 students stayed somewhat constant during the school year. Even though the school was designed for fifty students this number rose to sixty students during the school year, because of the large number on the waiting list. The 1973-74 school year continued about the same as the previous year. Enrollment remained at sixty for the school year, and the waiting list remained about the same too. The Douglass Learning Center added an assistant director. The 1974-75 school year showed the greatest growth since the Center's beginning in 1970. A Learning Disabilities teacher, a Resource Teacher of Emotionally Disturbed Children, a Science teacher and a part time Nurse, have given strength and support to the educational program at the Douglass Learning Center. With additional staff came an increase in the number of students served from sixty to eighty. Even though the number of students allowed to attend the Douglass Learning Center increased, the waiting list increased too, from 20-25 to 30-35. Apparently the services provided by the Douglass Learning Center are being accepted by the various Junior High schools in the District.