Garden Home School by Don Dunbar, Principal 1968-1974

Don Dunbar, Arley Boyce

Don Dunbar, Arley Boyce

I came to Garden Home School as principal in the fall of 1968 and served for six years in that capacity. My previous experience in the Beaverton School District was three years as Principal at Hazeldale Elementary School. That assignment followed two years as Head Teacher at McKinley Elementary School. McKinley was a six room school at that time, 1963-1965. After leaving Garden Home I was assigned to open two new elementary schools, first at Kinnaman and then Elmonica.

Former: Prior to my service in Beaverton I had been Superintendent-Principal of two small districts, first at Fruitdale School near La Grande, Oregon for two years, and nine years in the Knox Butte District which bordered  Albany, Oregon.  Beaverton Superintendent Dr. Tom Woods was responsible for my coming to the district and being assigned as head teacher at McKinley Elementary School. He told me that his only concern was that I would be sharing responsibility for leadership at McKinley School with Darrell Wilson who was principal of both McKinley and Bonny Slope Schools. The concern was that we might have conflicts because of our administrative experiences. He need not have worried. Darrell and I became lifelong friends.

Garden Home: It is difficult to summarize in a few paragraphs the wonderful six years I spent at Garden Home. I will note a few topics. Never did I have a school with a more talented group of parents as a resource pool. Strong community leadership existed and continues to this day. When volunteers were needed the response was often oversubscribed.

P.T.A. A year or two before I came to the school there was a parental divide over continuing with the more formally organized PTA (Parent Teacher Association) which was affiliated with the state and national organizations or become a stand- alone Parent Faculty Group (PFG). The PTA survived but only by one or two votes. Hard feelings were harbored by a small number of the PTA leadership. One officer wanted me to accept only volunteers who were PTA members. That of course is not the way a school should operate. It took some soothing but the situation was quickly resolved so that all parents were welcome to serve. The PTA would in two or three years give way to a less formal Parent Faculty Group.

Path, traffic light:  The parent group by whatever name carried out many activities with community impact. A major project was underway when I came to Garden Home. This project was the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle pathway on the north side of Garden Home Road leading from the school toward SW 92cd Ave. The trek to school became much safer for children as well as for other pedestrian use in the neighborhood.  Soon afterward the group took up the cause of securing installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Oleson and Garden Home Roads. After numerous vehicle counts and related data traffic authorities admitted a case had been made and installation of the traffic signals soon followed.

The PFG sponsored a weekly lunch at the school for senior citizens of the area. I believe it was the only district school to conduct such an activity at the time. The present community library is the result of local leadership following closure of the school in 1982.

During my time the school had eighteen classrooms, all in use and with average or above class sizes. A portable classroom was set up in the parking lot near the kitchen and was used for several years. A curtain was hung across the center of one classroom and two classes used the space while the portable unit was being prepared for use.

School bus:  Garden Home was an independent district prior to reorganization with other schools and becoming part of the combined Beaverton District No.48J in 1960. One of the stories I heard happened at an earlier date before reorganization and concerned a Garden Home School Board meeting. The subject was the need for a new school bus and whether the district could afford it. There was said to be marked disagreement among constituents and finally district resident Lew Russell said he would buy one and he did! I have been in and around schools where gifts were given but no one ever bought a school bus! The district had a limited tax base and it may well have been seen as too much of an added burden for some taxpayers.

Several anecdotes come to mind when I think back to my time at Garden Home. One parent directed her youngster to check teachers’ desks to see if National Geographic Magazines were evident. She wanted to make sure evolution theory was not being taught. I recall the same parent later being alarmed by illustrations in an English textbook. The author attempted to teach a concept by adding cartoons to help make a point. The person was convinced that the illustrations were meant to undermine relations between parent and child. It was difficult to understand her point.

Solving problems: A problem existed with proper distribution of forced air to rooms in the 1967 classroom addition. This was the fall of 1968. Several maintenance people had checked the unit located in the attic over the new rooms, but the problem persisted. One week-end I decided to climb up and take a look. When looking around I noticed a pulley belt that appeared unused partially obscured under some materials. Part of the equipment seemed to be missing a belt. Sure enough, problem solved. I never learned the story of the missing belt, how long it had been unused, or why no one had observed an apparent problem.

Local School Committee: When the school reorganization legislation was enacted in the late 1950’s school districts could include a three person Local School Committee (LSC) at each school site. The Beaverton District chose to do so. Three citizens, usually parents, were elected for rotating terms. The committees had limited statutory powers but served as a sounding board and advisory group to the school principal. Committee meetings were held monthly during the school year and open to the public.

I found working with local school committees during my twenty-five years in the district to be one of my most satisfying educational experiences. These small group meetings provided a setting where it was possible to know the members more as individuals. Review of school policies and curriculum was encouraged. Garden Home committee members serving toward my last years at the school included Polly Herman, James Belknap, Patricia James, and Dr. M. Roberts Grover.

The preceding comments are related to areas other than staff and students. Both groups merit attention on their own. Many fine classroom teachers and specialists served at Garden Home School. My years at the school were before the introduction of extra attention given to Talented and Gifted children. If such a program were in place Garden Home would have supplied ample numbers from its student body for that kind of recognition and instruction.

By Don Dunbar, Principal 1968 -1974, November 2012

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7 Responses to Garden Home School by Don Dunbar, Principal 1968-1974

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  6. Ken Mattson says:

    I began my teaching career at Garden Home in the Fall of 1968 with Don Dunbar as my Principal. I was all of 22, only 10 years older than my 6th Graders. I was lucky to have Don as my boss. He guided me through my new career and gave me some educational and life experiences that I am grateful for.
    I loved Garden Home. It was still a real community school. Years later as the GH History project came along, I found old Garden Home family names of kids I had worked with. I had also gone to Beaverton High School with several Garden Home alums and even taught the younger sister of a classmate. I only worked two school years at the school because Uncle Sam had other ideas after the first draft lottery. Coming home from Army National Guard basic training at Ft. Ord, the district transferred me to another building. However memories including the first Outdoor Schools for 6th Graders at Trout Creek and Camp Yamhill still stick with me. I believe the first Earth Day was celebrated while we were at Yamhill. How perfect. During my first year teaching that I learned the hard way to NEVER let kids bob for apples out of a big galvanized washtub in the middle of the classroom. The biggest kid slipped while his head was in the water and ended up under water up to his waist. My first class was 32 students, my second 22. At first I kept looking fir the missing ones that year.
    I haven’t been back to the building, but after this pandemic is fixed, I think I’d like to see ol Room 17.
    Ken Mattson

    • gardenhomehistoryproject says:

      Great stories, Mr. Mattson. Thanks for sharing! I’m sure Principal Dunbar will enjoy reading your comment.

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