Interesting Stories in the History of Mansfield City Schools

·       Progress

·       The First Schools

·       Forming the School District

·       Expansions

·       Wartime Changes

·       Special Education

·       School Counseling

·       Records

·       Curriculum

·       Mid-Year Promotions and Graduations

·       Business Management

·       School Names

·       Therapy in Education

·       Changing the Elementary Start Date

·       Summer School

·       Why the Tyger Mascot is Spelled Differently

·       Reconstruction of Arlin Field

·       Malabar High School

·       Incidents in Malabar History



            Mansfield City Schools have been in existence for almost 200 years, although not always under this title. The first learning environment, at the turn of the 18th century, was a one-room blockhouse in Mansfield’s square that contained on class. From there, the first school, called the Big Spring School, was built in 1818 at the cost of $200. Towards the end of the 18th century, Mansfield was said to undergo  “big money” era. Town schools such as Carpenter and Hedges were built for around $31,000 each. According to the records kept by Dr. John Bristor, the clerk for Mansfield City Schools at this time, Mansfield owned $93,000 worth of school buildings, had 1850 students, and 28 rooms in all the buildings combined. By the 1960’s, Mansfield had over $13,500,000 worth of buildings, including 19 elementary schools, two junior highs, and one senior high school.


The First Schools

            Records of the 1800’s in Mansfield’s school history are scant. However, most available accounts agree that the first school was taught in a blockhouse on the public square. Miss Eliza Wolf was the teacher, as well as caretaker of the military supplies stored in the blockhouse. This was not a public school. Parents would enter their children and pay tuition. Records do not indicate how long this school was open.

            The second school was held on the east side of the current public square. The teacher was John Mull, a disabled man who sat in the center of his classroom with a whip long enough to reach every student in his hand.

Forming the School District

            By the 1840’s there were several school buildings, but none of them were yet controlled by the town. At a Town Council meeting in 1846 a petition was introduced to split the city into separated school districts. In April of that year the Council drew the corporation limits into Numbers 1, 2, and 3.

            School district No. 1 covered the Big Spring area, No. 2 was the Flint and South Diamond street area, later called Normal School, and No.3 was the Fourth Street and Mulberry area.

            In 1852 the State Codification of school laws went into effect, thus requiring every school district to have a Board of Education. Mansfield elected its first Board of education in 1855, comprised of three members and a Superintendent. The Board members were J.A. Cook, A.L. Grimes, and I. Gass. Alexander Bartlett was the first Superintendent, as well as the first principal of the new high school.



            Following the Civil War, Mansfield’s population grew, and as a result, the Mansfield City Schools found the need to expand. Three new schools were built between 1869 and 1882. In 1882, Bushnell School received an addition, beginning a time period of constant building and renovation. Bushnell School alone had three additions built in 13 years. Four more new buildings or additions were also completed during this time.

            Over the following years the school district increased in size steadily. In 1946 a survey by the Bureau of Educational Research concluded that the city of Mansfield was growing at such a rapid rate that student population would rise 42% in the coming years. The Board of Education asked the school district voters to approve a $2,111,000 bond for the construction of several new elementary schools, including an $80,000 enlargement of the Mansfield Public Library. Six new elementary schools were then built (West Fifth, Brinkerhoff, Carpenter, Prospect, Newman, and Roseland), of which many were already in existence, but in desperate need for a new building. Also, additions were made to Rebecca Grubaugh, Woodland, Creveling, and Hedges.

            The population was increasing at a rapid pace. One example noted of this was the fact that the new Roseland School was designed to open with 14 classrooms, two of which were left empty to be used in the case of future increases. However, on the first day of school in 1949 (the day the school was opened for the first time), every classroom in the building was filled with the maximum number of students, and additions had to be made later to meet the district’s needs.

            In 1945 the Mansfield Athletic Association, a separate incorporation from the schools, began to raise funds for a new football stadium. The new structure was opened in October 1947, and deeded to Mansfield City Schools prior to the dedication. It was named Arlin Field, in honor of H. W. Arlin, president of the Board of Education at that time.

            The population explosion of students did not level off after time, as most population increases do. Instead, Mansfield had to propose another bond issue in 1953 for $4,600,000. This time, however, voters refused to approve the issue. It was resubmitted in 1954 and approved. This time, four new schools were built: Fleming Falls, Ranchwood, Empire, and Stadium. Additions were also made to Hedges, Roseland, Brinkerhoff, and Newman, as well as new music annex to the Senior High School. The gymnasium and cafeteria were also remodeled and enlarged. The Board of Education was also allowed to have its own building for the first time, a house on the Carpenter School grounds.

            More recent changes in downsizing and development have also occurred. In 1989 Malabar High School closed its doors to high school students, and is now used as a middle school. In 1999, Mansfield City Schools passed another levy enabling the construction of a new Senior High School. Taxpayers were reluctant to pass this levy because it involved a property tax increase, and the demolition of many area homes. After several attempts at the polls, and some government assistance due to the terrible condition of the old building, the residents of Mansfield agreed, and the high school is currently under construction.



            Just as the world has felt the effects of war, the city of Mansfield has also. Mansfield City Schools did not change very much during the Civil War, the Spanish American conflict, or World War I. However, during World War II, the first global war, the schools contributed their share of patriotism. Teachers issued gasoline and food ration books, students held regular paper drives, and War Bonds and Stamps were sold at the school buildings.


Special Education

            Sometime during the period between 1907 and 1929 Mansfield City Schools acquired its first Special Education classes. There were three classes: an Orthopedic, or sunshine, class for children with crippling disabilities; a Sigh-Saving class for children with visual impairments; and the Deaf School, a class for children that are hearing impaired. During this same time period the first kindergartens were also introduced, but quickly abandoned, though no reason for the abandonment listed.

            From 1933 to 1935, classes for slow learners were established at Bushnell School. Rooms were designed so that girls could learn housekeeping, sewing, cooking, sewing, weaving, and other home skills. Boys were taught the arts of woodworking, mechanical drawing, printing, and some academic skills. These classes continued until 1945, when the number of slow learning students decreased to five girls and a small number of boys. The records do not account for the girls who left the abandoned Girls Vocational School, but the remaining boys enrolled in John Simpson High School to continue shop and remedial classes.


School Counseling

            The first school psychologist was Dr. W.W. Ankenbrand, who was also superintendent from 1933 to 1935. This was a part-time position, teaching the special classes for half a day in the schools, and investigating and examining students who have severe difficulties the remainder of the day.

            In 1942, a Department of Guidance and Research was established. Five full-time specialists were hired to care for the psychological needs of students in Mansfield City Schools.



            Early records of the city schools were unfortunately lost in a fire that destroyed the property of Henry Hedges, Clerk of the Board of Education, in 1871. A few booklets remained explaining the courses of study offered. A Manual of Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Board of Education and the Public Schools of the City of Mansfield, Ohio, published in 1879, is on file at the Mansfield Public Library.

            Mr. John Bristor, also Clerk of the Board of Education for many years, also kept records on many of the items mentioned in this web site. It is undetermined when Mr. Bristor was Clerk, or what year his records were written in. 


            A Manual of Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Board of Education and the Public Schools of the City of Mansfield, Ohio is on file at the Mansfield Public Library. This book outlines the course of study for the year 1879.

            The Primary Department: Grades 1 and 2, where children learn their alphabet, their first reader, spelling, writing, arithmetic, language, drawing, and music.

            The Secondary Department: Grades 3 and 4, where children learn advanced reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, language, and preparation for geography.

            The Grammar Department: Grade 5, where students read, write, spell, learn more arithmetic, grammar, a mature study of objects, geography, and music.

            The Junior High School: Offered two courses; English, including grammar, algebra, physiology, music, and composition and declamation, and Classical, where Latin was substituted for English grammar.

            The Senior High School: The same two courses offered in Junior High School at an advanced level. Every year in High School each student was required to do an extensive music study also.

            As years passed and times changed, other courses were added. The Commercial course was introduced, and the General course and College Preparation course were added in place of the English and Classical courses. In 1927, the newest course, Vocational, was added to the curriculum for boys only. It included machinery, tool and die making, automotive, and electronics.

Mid-Year Promotions and Graduations

            From 1907 to 1929 the number of high school graduates grew so rapidly that the school system began to hold mid-year promotions and graduations. This eliminated the great difficulty of hundreds of recent graduates look for and competing for jobs in the work force. Boys and girls who were also already 18, and considered adults, would then be able to enter the work force and declare independence, instead of having to stay in school another semester. After twelve years this practice was abandoned, probably due to a decrease in student numbers.


Business Management

            For many years the maintenance and supervision of school grounds was left to a member of the Board of Education, who also served as the Purchasing Agent for the schools. As the system grew and the duties became greater, however, it was found necessary to hire a full-time Business Manager. In 1921, J. B. Moke was employed as the first Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. His duties included purchasing agent, care of school buildings and supplies, and supervision of janitors, matrons, and maintenance employees.


School Names

            General James Hedges donated the second school building ever constructed for Mansfield, on the corner of Fourth Street and Mulberry. Thus we call one of our elementary buildings Hedges.

            Two schools, Western Avenue and Bowman Schools, were both dedicated in 1949, and the names of the schools were both changed. Bowman School became the H.L. Creveling School, in honor of Mr. Creveling, the first principal of Bowman School. Western Avenue became Rebecca Grubaugh School, after a first grade teacher who taught 56 years. Both of these educators were able to be present for the honoring dedication.

            Malabar High School was named for one of Mansfield’s best-known natives, Louis Bromfield. He was a Pulitzer prize-winning author who set one of his writings on the Malabar Coast of Africa, and consequently named his Farm outside of Mansfield Malabar also. The high school was named after the farm to honor Louis Bromfield.

            Arlin Field is named after Harold Arlin. He was the president of the Board of Education from 1933 to 1949. Harold started a campaign to build Mansfield its own stadium because of the overcrowding behind Senior High School, where they originally played. Without Harold Arlin, the Board would not have been able to build the stadium. At the dedication on September 15, 1947, the proposal to name the field Arlin Field passed in a 4-to-1 vote, with Arlin yelling a protesting, “No!” Arlin did not feel he deserved the honor of having the field after him, and he stated in later years that he was so upset at the dedication because it was the only time he can remember when no one would listen to him. The incident embarrassed him, and he clamed that the Board did not have his permission to name the field after him. Harold Arlin died in 1986 at the age of 90.



            In 1951 Mansfield hired its first speech and hearing therapist, William E. Weidner. The need has increased for therapists since then, however. In the 1960s Mansfield employed two more speech and hearing specialists. Now there are numerous therapists involved in the Mansfield City Schools for students with special needs.

Elementary Start Date

            In 1954 the Board of Education found that there were many cases of first grade failures, and concluded that this was due to the children starting school at too early an age. They then set the date for starting first grade at September first, not enrolling any more children whose birthdays came later that September first. There was one exception to the rule, however. If a student was recommended for acceptance by a certified school psychologist or a licensed psychologist in a private practice they were allowed to start before the set date. The Board’s research found that after drawing the line there were remarkably less incidences of failure in first grade.


Summer School

            In the summer of 1957, a class of summertime activities was introduced. This event turned into a summer kindergarten, and was continued the next year also.

            In 1955, the first summer school classes were held for students who wanted to get extra credit for a class or who had failed a class and wished to make up the work. These classes were five days a week for the first six weeks of summer. Later, elementary summer school classes started, with five to six students at a time in each class. These small classes were designed to allow each student to intensely study his or her greatest area of weakness on almost an individual basis. Summer school for elementary schools has not changed very much, with the exception of the size of classes due to large numbers of students needing the individualized attention.


Why the Tyger mascot is Spelled Differently

            Before 1929, Mansfield City School athletes were referred to as “Winners of the M.” The first time it is noted that the Mansfield team called themselves “Tigers” was in the 1929 “Manhigan” yearbook. The 1930 “Manhigan” still called them “Tigers”, but in the 1931 issue of the yearbook they had become “Tygers.”

 For several years, no one knew the reason for the seemingly sudden change.

            In the 1980s, Athletic Director Dick Henry placed notices in the school sports programs asking that if anyone had any background information on the spelling of the Mansfield mascot. Two theories on the origin seemed the most believable.

            William Blake’s famous verse, “The Tyger,” written in 1794, uses this spelling.

                        Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright

                        In the forests of the night,

                        What immortal hand or eye

                        Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Spelling of English words was not yet standardized in the 1790s, and Blake reportedly spelled it the way he thought it should have been. The first theory of the Mansfield claim of “Tyger” reports that a “Manhigan” editor may have wanted to impress his English teacher of his knowledge of English poets, so he used the name to impress once and it stuck.

            The second and more probable theory is that when Mansfield began competing against the Massillon “Tigers”, the spelling was changed to differentiate the two teams.


Reconstruction of Arlin Field

            Arlin Field was built in 1947, but the stadium was crumbling in when the community of Mansfield came to its rescue. They passed a $1.7 million dollar issue to renovate the stadium in 1988. With three million pounds of concrete, 1 ¼ miles of electrical wire, and new 30-foot recreational field lighting the stadium came back to life. The City estimates Arlin Field will serve the community for another 42 years.

Malabar High School

            Malabar High School was built to accommodate the rise in population after World War II. Baby Boomers could no longer be contained in Mansfield’s one Senior High School.

            In November of 1959, the Board of Education announced its intent to acquire 31.2 acres of land on Lexington Avenue, owned by Justine Sterkel, where the new high school would be built. Ms. Sterkel was notified the next week. In February of 1960, Justine Sterkel filed suit against the Board to stop its plans of building a school, because it was her dream to build a Catholic Hospital there. The Courts ruled that Ms. Sterkel could keep her property because it was not found to be part of the Mansfield City School district. Social service agencies and United Telephone Co have since developed this land.

            The School Board chose its second choice, in the South Main-Cook Street area for developing the new High School. They publicized a search for names because a citizen who wrote to the News Journal objected to the new school being called “South High School.” Malabar was selected, and the Mansfield Board of Education changed the name of Senior High School at the same time to Kingwood High School. The School Board eventually went back to the name of Senior High School, and Kingwood High School remained its historical name, because of public outcry over the change.

            Building started, and on September 3, 1963, the new Malabar High School opened its doors to students. Malabar’s students survived a turbulent thirty years, and then it cam to an end. On September 20, 1988 the Mansfield City School Board announced that Malabar would be closing as a High School, after years of talks on high school consolidation. This was brought on because of shrinking enrollment and tight budgets. Despite student demonstration and protest, Malabar High School’s last graduating class was 1989.

Incidents at Malabar High School

            In 1970 a dress code was adopted at Malabar that banned “extreme” clothing and hairstyles. There were not unbuttoned shirts and shorts allowed for boys, and girls were only allowed to wear jeans or slacks that were not threadbare, dirty, or tight.

            In April 1971, fifty black students picketed the school for two days on the selection of an all-black cheerleading squad. Almost all the black students walked out of school at noon in protest. In May the same year, an 18-year-old student in the boy’s locker room attacked teacher Ronald Minard after being asked to leave the gym. The boy was found guilty of assault, and sentenced to 180 days in jail and a $500 fine.

            In March 1973 a handful of Malabar students protested in Mansfield’s Central Park. They were supporting justice and better treatment of Native American Indians.

            In the new school year of 1973 a class was added to Malabar’s courses of study. It was for boys to learn “bachelor survival skills” such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of themselves.

            On October 31, 1974, Malabar was closed for a day in memory of 16-year-old Valarie Catchings, who was found dead in the school’s pool the day before. She had been a student in the last period swimming class and was wearing a swim suit and cap when she drowned. Her parents later filed a $3 million lawsuit against the school for negligence.

            In February 1975, an 18-year-old student threw a heavy vase at the Malablar Principal Thomas Pierson and then assaulted him. The student was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

            On June 3, 1977, the Malabar High School Falconaires, a mixed singing ensemble, performed on the White House lawn during the Carter administration.

            On November 14, 1979, 25 Malabar students picketed the Richland County Administration Building in protest of the 60 American hostages in Iran.

            On November 5, 1980, police broke up a gang fight between black and white students at Malabar, and arrested two students. They confiscated a loaded .22-caliber revolver and three knives.

            On January 18, 1989, hundreds of students demonstrated to keep their school open. This was part of a district reorganization. Malabar is currently used as a middle school.

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