McGuffey school is dedicated
By Harold Gwin
The McGuffey Historical Society will provide a series of programs for the school.
YOUNGSTOWN — “I was crying,” said Shirley Eckley of Hubbard. “I just know how much this meant to my mother. She was very, very proud of that legacy. I wish she could have been here.”
That legacy is the historical contribution to this area and education around the world by William Holmes McGuffey, noted as “America’s Schoolmaster” for his “Eclectic Readers” published in the 1800s.
McGuffey was Eckley’s great-great-great-uncle on her mother’s side.
What made her cry was the dedication ceremony Friday of Youngstown’s West Elementary School as the William Holmes McGuffey Elementary School, a change spearheaded by the last remaining chapter of the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society, which asked the school board to name one of its buildings after the famed educator who grew up in Coitsville.
“There can be no greater honor to my great-great-great-uncle,” said Eckley, a retired Hubbard school teacher who was chosen to represent the McGuffey family at the ceremony on the lawn of the school at 310 S. Schenley Ave. Nine McGuffey descendants representing several generations attended.
The event was in front of the new school sign, which reads, “William Holmes McGuffey Elementary School.”
In addition to being a teacher, ordained minister and college president, McGuffey was “a teacher’s teacher” who worked to improve the quality of teacher education, Eckley said.
“Thank you for keeping his name and his legacy alive for generations,” she said.
A highlight of the program was a presentation by the second-grade class of teacher Becky Butcher. The class did a study of McGuffey and created a historical time line of his life and successes. Members of the class read excerpts of the time line during the ceremony.
Youngstown has a rich legacy, and as it reinvents itself for a new age, it’s important not to forget that history, said Dr. Wendy Webb, superintendent of schools.
A library science major in college, Webb said it was always important to her to see that the McGuffey Readers were preserved.
Shelley Murray, city school board president, said the local McGuffey Historical Society offered an educational partnership as part of the name change, proposing to share its resources with the school.
That started Friday, said Richard Scarsella, president of the society and a city school teacher.
He said the society’s storyteller, Dr. Regina Rees, assistant professor in the Beeghly College of Education at Youngstown State University, conducted a program Friday afternoon for the school’s first-, second- and third-graders.
That’s the first of many programs that will be offered, he said, adding that a full calendar of programs and activities will be developed.
“We are officially adopting the William Holmes McGuffey Elementary School,” Scarsella said.
Former state Sen. Harry Meshel, himself a product of a former McGuffey school in Youngstown, also spoke, telling the pupils that they should work on getting the school to give each of them a complete set of McGuffey Readers.
With a new name comes a new school motto: “William Holmes McGuffey Elementary School, Where History Makes Education Soar.”