Fitzgerald Schools

Fitzgerald was the name proposed when southwest corner of Warren Township sought to incorporate as a city in the 1950s.

After doing research and asking many people including old timers for over a year it is finally discovered where Fitzgerald got its name. No it was not JFK the president.

In the 1830s the area was forested with big trees and parries and wet areas. Some of these dried up in summer. after farmers moved in they dug ditches to dry the land for crops.

Schools were non existent for most of the history of our area. People could not read or write. Children had to work to survive. They learned survival skills from their parents.

After 1835 some home schools were formed and children taught in local cabins. Some families allowed visiting teachers to sleep in and gave them food in exchange for work and “schooling” their children.

The pioneers were first too busy with just surviving. But as farms developed and farm families were able to support their families they felt the need for basic education. Most residents at that time were not able to read or write. Sometimes they would have others come to their homes to teach their children. Some of the local churches may have been involved with some basic education.

The first known school was s split log school house the farmers built at the corner of Creek Road (Chicago Road) and Ryan roads. This school house was also used for a church for both the Methodist and Baptist groups. This log building also had split log benches. Rather uncomfortable to say the least. Later a newer better building was built to the south on Ryan Road and is still standing. There was also an East School built before 1875 on Chicago Road between Van Dyke and Mound. The South School down on Mound by 12 Mile Road. The Plunkett School was a one room school located at State Road and 10 mile Road. Several local churches ran schools.

The land that The Fitzgerald High school sits on now was part of the Mielke farm.

The following information was discovered thanks to the help of Judy Furgal and Eugene Mandziuk.

Eugene Mandziuk grew up just a block away on Ryan road and attended the schools in the 1930s. He drew a diagram showing this historian the way the buildings sat and the order they were built and gave me additional information much of which is below. (More to be added soon)

In 1894 The Mielke School was constructed. It was located just north of Nine Mile Road on the East side of Ryan. It was a wood frame building with lots of windows. It was nestled between three churches. St Mark started meeting at the USO. St. Mark and St Paul's Lutheran church and Zion church. Ryan Road Baptist church was further Ease on 9 Mile. Across from it was a grazing pasture. Kitty-corner across Ryan was Riding stables.

Per Judy Furgal the district boundaries of School District #7 were set in 1894.

Kids would skate on the creek in the winter. The south west corner of Ryan and 9 mile would flood in early winter and make a huge skating arena. The area was still fairly rural at that time. There was a blind pig further East along creek. Fred Masch owned property across from the school. Ryan had a big ditch on the side of the road. There were several areas of woods in the area. To the West of Ryan and South of 9 Mile was a wooded area with a pond where cattle grazed. This was partly on Weller's farm which had a pond in the woods by where Otis street is now.

There were lots of honey bees and lots of honey harvested. The side roads like Dallas were just dirt so there were times one could not get down a street because it was mud. So mailboxes were all on Ryan.

In 1921 the school was expanded to two rooms to accommodate two groups. [per notes of Judy Furgal (hereafter referred to as JF) who found the researched information in the old district records.]

In 1926 enrollment reached 100 in the fall. [JF]

In 1939 with 408 students the taxpayers voted to change the district from a Primary district to a Graded School District. A board of education and superintendent were required. Zena M Neigebaur a teacher from 1928-1939 was appointed superintendent. [JF]

Corbin was Superintendent but when he died Niegebaur who had been the principal became superintendent.

In 1940 a new building with a basement was begun eventually having six rooms. However there were construction problems and students went to school in the basement for a short time until the rest was added at a later time. This was referred to a high school.

They decided to hold a contest to find a name for the school district. George Memye a gifted student won the contest. His brother was Robert Memye. His choice of name was Fitzgerald after the Michigan Governor Frank D. Fitzgerald who had died in office.

Frank Dwight Fitzgerald (January 27, 1885 - March 16, 1939) was elected as the 34th and 36th Governor of Michigan and was the only Michigan governor to die in office. Fitzgerald defeated Murphy in 1938, and joined John S. Barry as the only two people to serve non-consecutive terms as Governor of Michigan. He died in Grand Ledge at the age of fifty-four, only two and a half months after retaking office. Fitzgerald was the only Michigan governor to die in office and was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Luren Dickenson. Fitzgerald was a member of Freemasons, Eagles, Shriners, Knights of Pythias, Knights of the Maccabees and Odd Fellows. [Wikipedia]

In 1940-41 The High school took the name Fitzgerald high school and the old Fitzgerald school became Neigebaur after the superintendent of schools. The Neigebaur school had several additions in the late 30s, 1940s in 1952 and in the 1980s. No building dedication plaques were installed in the old buildings.

There was a fruit stand where the fire station is now. Across from the Ryan theater was Sam's Sunoco Gas Station. A lot of moonshine was brewed in the area. There were several blind pigs. Some early business people built a few stores on 9 Mile and Ryan. There was a lot of truck farming done here. Crops were potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peaches, apples, Pears, carrots,, cherries, grapes, gooseberries, currents, raspberries.

Where Just For You Flowers is went from field to Wilson's Gas station in the center of the block. It had two pumps. John Adams the old mean hairlip (They say because of his hairlip he was teased a lot as a boy and became very mean) used to haul hoops from Strohs down Ryan to dump in his fields and the area would smell like beer for a while. On the West side of Ryan Maywood hardware and Groceries opened. Soon a Lumberyard behind it opened.

There was a row of stores on the East side of Ryan and a church which were all torn down to build Fitzgerald High School. Those stores included Laucaster's cleaners and Altmans Real Estate.

By 1942 enrollment had increased to 884. Six more rooms were added to Neigebaur and a new two room school Mound Park Elementary was built at Cyman and Toepfer. [JF]

The Ryan Theater was built around 1946. Bear creek ran across Ryan in front of the Ryan Theater.

The early 1940s had enormous population and industrial growth. The area was especially abundant in tool and dye shops. The farms were transformed into industries and the rural setting had become urban. School districts were overwhelmed.

In 1948 Fitzgerald Junior-Senior High School opened Unit A with nine classrooms, a cafeteria, a library and offices. Mrs Neigebaur-perry became the Principal as well as Superintendent. [JF]

In 1950 Earl S. Eidt was hired as superintendent and P.D. Chatterton became the Junior-Senior High School Principal. [JF]

Enrollment reached 1838 by 1951. Unit B was added to the Junior-Senior High School with 16 classrooms and and football and track area. A bond was issued for the building of 50 additional classrooms. [JF]

Fifty Five students became the first class to graduate from Fitzgerald High School in 1951.

In 1953 an addition was opened at Mound Park Elementary and a fourth addition to the Junior-Senior High was begun. Property was purchased for another elementary school. [JF]

In 1954 Mielke School was sold and moved up Ryan Road to make way for an addition to Neigebaur. Additional land was purchased. Fitz High received NCAA Accreditation after only three graduating classes, and was also selected by the University of Michigan as a “Pilot School.” [JF]

By 1955 enrollment had reached 2648. A another large addition to Fitzgerald Junior-Senior High School was opened, including a new library, gym, and cafeteria. [JF]

Schofield Elementary was open in 1955. [JF] Schofield was named after the then superintendent of schools and was built on what had been the Detroit Dump which was a big area which went from Schofield school north and west to Dequindre.

In 1956 enrollment reached 2648 as the SW Warren community continued to grow. P.D. Chatterton became the first Assistant Superintendent. Kenneth K. Kistner was hired as High school principal. [JF]

In 1957 enrollment in September was 3414. The new swimming pool opened. [JF]

In 1958 enrollment reached 3760. There was a groundbreaking for the new Westview elementary school. [JF]

170 seniors graduated in 1959. In September Westview Elementary school was opened. [JF]

Overcrowding lead to the opening of the four room Lefever School in 1960 [JF] Near 8 Mile on Lefever.

Enrollment hit another new high of 4714 in September 1963. [JF]

In 1965 enrollment hit 4959 and the D wing was added to the Junior-senior High School. [JF]

January 22 1967 the auditorium was opened. [JF]

In 1969 a new Power Auto Mechanics building opened and enrollment hit 5647 in September. [JF]

Enrollment reached an all time high of 5709 in 1970. This was probably the peak enrollment for Fitzgerald Schools because it started to decline after 1970. The P. D. Chatterton Junior High School opened in 1970. It was named after the superintendent of schools.

From 1971-1983 little change was made to buildings because of declining enrollment. The Lefever school was closed.

In 1983 a “Commitment to Quality Education Committee” was formed to study what should be done to continue Fitzgerald's fine traditions and to make new ones. [JF]

In 1986 when there were discussions of closing some schools district residents appealed to the Board of Education to put a large millage up for renewal. This passed overwhelmingly. This demonstrated the community commitment to quality education. [JF]

In 1991 Mound Park Elementary remodeled with an addition. Neigebaur remodeled into an Early Childhood Center. [JF]

1992 Dr James Edoff named Superintendent and Jerry Udell Assistant Superintendent. [JF]

1993 Technology reaches all classrooms in the district, plus all new computer labs.” [JF]

In 2002 a new Auto Technology and Pre-engineering Center opened. [JF]

A new Media Center and Communication and performing Arts Center opened at Fitzgerald High School in 2003. [JF]

In 2004 the athletic fields were updated and the old auto shop demolished to make way for future expansion. [JF]

In 2005 a New athletic Field house was built. Cafeteria and kitchen in the High School were expanded. Janette Brill became the sixth Superintendent.

In 2006 a second High School gym was added. The pool was renovated. A new lobby entrance and courtyard was built and parking lots restructured. Geothermal heating and cooling were added to Mound Park and Schofield. 65 of the 179 graduating seniors graduated with Honors. [JF]

Old Westview school demolished and new state of the art new Westview school opened.

As you can see, the innovations and changes continue in this progressive district. As an alumnus, you can be proud to say you graduated from Fitzgerald high School.” [JF]

Again much of the above history was from Judy Furgal a Fitzgerald Board member who was kind enough to share her notes with this historian. As I go thru the records I hope to add on to these.

Fitz stats. The three elementary schools each have about 400 students each with a student to teacher rato of around 21. Mound Park 397, Schofield 394, student to teacher rato 21 Westview 430, student to teacher rato 19, Chatterton 664, student to teacher rato 28 High School 1086 students, student to teacher rato 28. (State average is 21) spending per student $9770. [from]

Above from 1956 yearbook