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Decision Day – September 15, 1981

February 10, 2014

The school board set the date for the bond issue vote for the improvements at the three small outlying schools, Moran, Wilson, and Kelly. Now our committee asked me to go to work and get it passed. The school board member’s statement to us was clear. ” We put it on the ballot. Now you pass it.” It was obvious that there would be no help from the ruling body responsible for the education of our county children. In fact one school board member added, “Be sure to tell the public we have two empty classrooms in town.” I sure would do that. One room was in the basement of the Jackson Elementary which would not pass the fire code, and the other was in the
Middle School. Tuesday, September 15, 1981 would decide it all. I decided to do more the ever before on any vote to get this one passed. First the ground work. Raise money for publicity, design a 8 1/2 X 11 brochure answering the main questions people might have regarding this request for tax money, meet with all district teachers, staff, custodians, bus drivers, and everyone on the school district payroll, meet with the editors of both newspapers requesting their editorial endorsements, write a script using it to create a slide show that we would present to any group, service clubs,, PTA, Cowbells, etc.
The timing of the vote seemed excellent, happening two weeks after the start of a new school year. Weather should not be a factor, although you never know about that in Jackson Hole. I was just starting to work on the script for the slide show when after talking about the campaign with a wonderful neighbor, Karly made a wonderful offer. He offered to take me up in his single engine Cessna and fly me over the valley so I could get arial views of all three schools. I told him it was a fantastic idea, and we made plans for the flight. Karly was a native of Jackson Hole and a very successful business man and a great friend. I knew now I a great chance for success. Next blog, The All Out Campaign.

Pass it.

January 26, 2014

Thirty three years later those words still ring in my ears.  I can still see the school board member sitting on the stage of the gym at Wilson School in 1981 saying that we put the bond issue on the ballot now you pass it.  My first reaction was that here was the seven member board of education responsible for providing for the education of all the children in the Teton County Public Schools, and they were dodging their responsibility to take the leadership in providing the funds necessary for providing proper facilities in the small rural schools.  Then I realized that this would prove to be a great asset.  Parents and teachers of the children needing the help would be the best source for the securing a yes vote, certainly not the school board that had to be forced to put the issue on the ballot.  I had worked on three levies for funds for the Grand Rapids Michigan Schools all of which passed.  I worked many hours to help pass a tax levy for the Teton County schools which squeaked by in 1978 by 44 votes.  I had helped pass a mill levy for operations for the Teton County schools.  This one would be the one closest to my heart.  This one would be for the children I taught every day along with the children in Moran and Wilson.  I would leave no detail out from all I learned in the five previous campaigns.  As I write this, I am looking at a simple brochure on the table next to my computer.  It is just a sheet of eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper folded into thirds.  On the cover are the smiling faces of 12 children from Moran, Wilson, and Kelly.  Above their pictures are the words Make A.   Difference for me and my friends in Jackson Hole. Beneath their pictures it says Vote Sept. 15.  Inside the brochure are ten questions with the answers regarding the bond issue.  The last question and answer covered the issue of cost that for the average home owner would be $12 per year or about 24 cents a week.  Among the questions and answers inside the brochure were seventeen more pictures of children’s smiling faces.  Now armed with a wonderful brochure we were ready to begin the campaign.  You will hear about our efforts and the surprising results ned time.

Now We are Three

January 18, 2014


After the meeting in at the Visitor Center in Moose, the leadership representing Wilson, Moran, and Kelly schools put our plan into action.  Each school had building improvement needs and the message was given to the superintendent of schools outlining each school’s plan for up grades and additions.  The whole package would require only a relatively small property tax increase that county voters would be asked to approve.  All three schools reported that they received a cool reception for their request from the superintendent, but he agreed to present all three requests to the school board.  We all ask him to make it one package requiring only one special election.  We all agreed to accept the voters’ decision be it yes or no.  Knowing we did not now where the superintendent stood on the issue, we were ready for anything.  After a few months of waiting, we were informed that the three schools’ requests would  be decided on by the school board at its next meeting.  We would be there even though the meeting was scheduled at Alta Elementary School in Alta, Wyoming.  This meant we would have to travel over a mountain pass into Idaho, north to Driggs, Idaho, then left and east to Alta School, a round trip of over a hundred miles.  The night of the meeting 14 of us squeezed into two Suburbans and headed over Teton Pass.  A few others drove their own vehicles.  When we arrived at the meeting and were handed a printed agenda, we discovered that we were last on the list of business items he board would take up.  We were ready. We were patient.  We were focussed.  It was fairly late when our turn came.  Each school made its presentation.  The parents representing each small school did an impressive job of describing the needs of there school.  Each parent told the board they wanted to be treated as one with the other two schools and believed the county voters would prefer one vote at one special election.  Each parent said they would accept the voters decision with no regrets should the request for an increase in taxes be turned down.  Judging by the body language of the board members, thought things went very well. It did go well.  The school board voted to have the school superintendent proceed with the projects and come up with a price tag for all three. The late night ride over the mountain pass included lots of conversation about what had happened at the board meeting and what we might expect next.  We all realized our trip to Alta was critical to the success of our efforts on behalf of the children in all three schools.  We waited some months for the next step by the school district.  It took place at the Wilson School.  The school board sat on the stage of the gym.  There were no empty seats.  Wilson, Moran, and Kelly School parents jammed the seating and some had to stand.  It was great news hat night.  All three requests were to be put on special election ballot as one issue.  The school board voted agreeing to proceed. A loud cheer and tremendous applauded willed the gym. When the excitement died down, a school board member looked down at the audience and said, “We put your requests on the ballot, now you pass it.”   I may be wrong, but as she spoke I was sure she was looking at me.  After all this all started with Kelly School and a radio interview that had a far reaching impact.  I left the meeting ready to go to work on the special election.  Be ready the results would be record breaking. 

Two Great Phone Calls

January 16, 2014

Being called on the carpet for my interview with Dave Young at KSGT Radio and told that two school board members wanted me reined in and silenced, made me more determined than ever to be the voice for the children at Kelly School.  I could not and would not be silenced.  As I started to plan my next move, I received the first great phone call.  The call came from a parent who had two children in Wilson Elementary School.  He was an officer in the Wilson School PTA and a well known citizen of Teton County.  He sad he would like to meet with me to talk about the need for an addition to Kelly School.  When we met, he said he would like to join me and help out.  He said Wilson School was in need of a small addition and together we could speak with a stronger voice.  I told him it was a wonderful idea and that he made my day.  When he had a chance to talk with the Wilson School PTA leadership, he said he would call me and we could plan to meet.  Now I was really excited.  I would be part of a team.  Our combined voice would carry much more weight.  Two days later I received a second amazing call.  It came from a parent with children in Moran Elementary School.  It was a same kind of call I received from Wilson School.  Moran School parents wanted to join Kelly School parents since Moran School needed a small addition.  I let this caller know that now we were three small outlying schools ready to join in helping each other improve each school building to better serve our children.  After this second call, I knew we needed a meeting of leadership from all three schools to make our plan of attack.  I let the Kelly School parent leaders know the latest developments.  A Kelly parent who was an administrator for Grand Teton National Park in Moose, Wyoming suggested leaders from all three schools meet at the Grand Teton Visitor Center after hours.  We could meet, discuss the needs of each school, plan our next steps, then leave and from that time on speak with just one voice.  We did not announce the meeting.  We all knew we were part of a team nd that success depended on absolute unity among us. We left the meeting motivated and ready plow ahead.  As it ended up the plowing would not be easy with a superintendent who in subtle ways tried to block our efforts.  We were ready and regardless of obstacles thrown in our way, we would not give up.  Stay with us for the next steps. 

1980 A Year to Take a Stand for Kelly School Children

January 8, 2014

As we moved into the new of 1980, we realized more and more that we lacked the space we needed to have a well rounded experience equal to that of every other child in the Teton County Schools.  Two toilet seats for over thirty people with a plunger next to each one were certainly inadequate.  Stacking desks three high to create a small space for PE, was a poor excuse for a gym.  There was no kitchen, no refrigerator, no stove, only one tiny closet in each room meaning storage space was sorely missing.  So what to do?  We needed to make the needs known for the sake of our present student body and for future students attending a kelly School.  In May we would make our first move.  A school board meeting would be held in Kelly School as the board held monthly meetings in a different school each month.  We stacked the desks in Mrs. T’s room and put up folding chairs for the public attending.  The meeting convened with the school’s windows sprinkled with ash from the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18.  As Kelly School teachers, we were on the agenda to make a few comments about our work with our students.  During my part, I mentioned all the shortcomings of the school facilities.  I left nothing out.  I recommenced a bond issue be put 0n the ballot to raise tax money for a much needed addition for Kelly School that would include a gym, kitchen, and two additional rest rooms.  There was only one response from only one of the seven board members.  The board member said that the county parks and recreation board had given the Alta Elementary School $40,000 to help them improve their gym.  The board member said I should see if they would give some money for a gym at Kelly School.  I could not believe what I had just heard.  The responsibility for Kelly School belonged to the seven school board members sitting in front of the audience in one of their schools. The county recreation board was not responsible for doing the school board’s work.  After the meeting ended, we went home dismayed by the school board’s unwillingness to give our problem a proper hearing.  I immediately started planning our next move.  We decided to take action that would result in a positive outcome for our students.  Next blog describes an explosive confrontation with school board and superintendent.  t would require digging in and not backing down.





Our First Year – 19791980

January 6, 2014

We were underway for our first of many great years at Kelly School.  We were called Mrs. T and Mr. T.  Mrs. T had the upstairs room with a beautiful view of the Grand  Teton Mountains  and had 17 students, grades three through six.  I had the lower room with 12 students, grades Kindergarten, first and second.  Before coming to teach at Kelly School, Mrs. T insisted on having the older children.  I agreed realizing I would be taking on a critical responsibility, that of helping five, six, and seven year olds get off to a sold start as they began an eduction that would mean so much in living a wonderful life.  We soon found out that having a tiny two room school meant we were on duty every minute  the only exception being when special teachers came each once a week for art, music, and PE classes with each of our rooms.  The fall weather was great with no rain to make the dirt playground a sea of mud.  Soon the children had the dirt packed solid with all he games we enjoyed.  Come December there was enough snow to start building our ice rink.  I used my truck to roll over the snow trying to pack it down before applying the water.  A garden hose and my sorrel boots made it possible for me to saturate the snow, stomp with my boots one step at a time.  It took about three hours to cover the dirt with wet snow.  The next day I had a hard surface of rough porous ice  After 32 hours of work, most of it after supper each night and a weekend, the ice rink was ready for its first skaters.  Every noon hour the children pulled on her skates and headed for the ice.  They gained  skills quickly and soon many could even skate backwards.  Christmas time was celebrated with a wonderful program the children put on for their parents and grandparents.  Mrs. T’s desks were stacked high against the east wall of her room.  Folding chairs were set up.  What a wonderful night it was.   Applause was most enthusiastic.  Every child’s family was there including many grandparents.  The Kelly School spirit was for real.  The new year, 1980, would hold its own surprises for us.  Check back for the next chapter in our Kelly School saga.


January 2, 2014

Surgery to replace a 17 year old artificial hip should have resulted in a few days in the hospital, return home, and recover in a few weeks.  Instead while removing the old metal  hip the femur shattered creating the need for 14 units of blood, the rebuilding of the femur with the help of a stainless steel rod, a week in ICU, three days in the hospital, followed by three weeks of rehab in our Living Center.  The physical therapy is on going and walking is assisted by a cane.  I am ready to continue the blog about our adventures as the two teachers at Kelly School.  We were the only school with no gym in a location where winters are long and cold.  Our plan included creative ways to take advantage of every possible way to provide rest activities for the children in our care.  The playground was ready for kickball, capture the flag, softball, soccer, and other team games.  With the long winter coming we planned to have an ice skating rink, I made bird houses to sell using the money to buy children’s cross country skis, poles, and boots, some of the money went for plastic sleds for the hill just west of the school building, and I planned to stack all the desks in my basement room along the east wall so my room would be our “gym” where we could have mats for gymnastics and exercise.  Needless to say we had our work cut out for us.  School began the day after Labor Day with a flag raising on our flag pole that was a lodgepole log fastened to our buck rail fence in center field.  29 boys and girls, two teachers, a teacher’s aide, and several parents stood at attention as the flag was raised followed by the reciting of the Pledge.  This was followed by brief remarks of welcome and a sharing of our plans for a great year at Kelly School.  Finally we had a simple standard of conduct we would expect from each boy and girl, respect everyone at our school and always work hard.  With the opening ceremonies over we all walked into our rooms for the first day together.  Now as teachers we set high standards for ourselves to do everything possible to help each child reach their full potential.  It would be a great year.  Stay logged in for more.  Little did we know what we were in for in our tiny school.

Kelly School – A Neighbor’s Call

October 3, 2013

Our great neighbor knew we were working on getting Kelly School ready for opening day the Tuesday after Labor Day.  I had no sooner finished all the raking of dirt and our neighbor, Bill called.  He said they were getting new carpeting and did I want the carpeting that they were replacing.  He said it was in very good condition with very little wear.  Without a second’s hesitation, I said, “You bet!”  The carpeting would go in the lower room where I would have the K-2 children.  It was a nice gold color and short shag.  It would make the room much more cozy and improve the sound.  When I loaded it into my pick up truck and arrived at Kelly School I found out it covered almost all the room and needed no cutting.  My next project to improve the interior of both rooms would get a big boost from one thousand seven hundred miles away.  It happened on our annual trip to visit friends and relatives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Mrs. T as the children would call Bobbi had a nephew whose father owned a large discount store similar to today’s Target Stores.  Ross’ father was remodeling his store and installing new counters and shelving.  When we visited the store to see what was being done, I noticed large stacks of used 5/8 inch plywood along one wall.  A question popped into my mind.  I asked Ross’ dad what was going to happen to the plywood used on the old shelving.  He said it was going to be hauled to the landfill and probably burned.  I mentioned the need for just that kind of wood to use to build book shelves and study carrels along two walls at Kelly School.  His immediate response, “Help yourself to all you want.”  I showered him with thank you after thank you.  On our way back to Jackson Hole our little Chevy pick up truck was loaded down with plywood for Kelly School.  Our school district was operating on an austerity budget and had no money to put into improvements for Kelly School.  Back at Kelly School the third week in August, I had just enough time left to build shelves and study carrels along the west wall in each of our rooms.  When I finished the building of the shelves and study carrels, I had a very small supply of plywood left over.  With all the work done and summer ending, Mrs. T and I began making plans to create ways to have great physical activities even though we had no gymnasium.  You’ll learn about our plans soon.  Regards, Mr. T

Kelly School – Play Area Takes Shape

October 2, 2013

The belly dump trucks left huge piles of beautiful rich black topsoil leaving me the challenging of trying to spread it over the entire area we would use for lots of sports.  An offer of help came immediately.  One of the Kelly School parents owned a backhoe and spent three hours moving the dirt over the play area.  It saved me hours of shovel and wheelbarrow work.  I was grateful  for this help.  Now all I had to do was rake the dirt so it would cover the ground smoothly and as evenly as possible.  The backhoe had left lots of ruts and tire tracks making the racking pretty tough.  I started in the Northeast corner and worked my way to the Southeast corner covering a strip the length of my rake.  I needed the shovel to break up lumps and grooves in the dirt spread by the backhoe.  One strip done and I walked to the Northeast corner to do the next strip always liking to work left to right.  I followed the same routine for two raking five to eight hours each day.  I was almost to the end and was only two strips from the blacktop and the end of the raking when a  ” It could only happen in Kelly , Wyoming episode took place”.   A woman came cutting across the playground on her way home.  She stopped to ask me if I had seen Betty.  She said Betty was her pet raven.  I said I hadn’t.  She said if I saw Betty I should tell her to go home, and Betty would understand.  As I chuckled to myself, I told her I would be happy to tell Betty to head for home.  After several more hours of work, I noticed a car pull up next to the school.  The car had a California license.  The driver came up to ask for directions to the Gros Ventre Slide area, a popular geological feature above Kelly.  I proceeded to tell him he turned off the main road too soon and started to give him the route to his destination.  In the middle of my explanation a raven flew over us and came down on the dirt only five feet away.  The tourist was startled, but I wasn’t.  I went down on one knee and called out, “Betty, come here”.  Betty flew up onto my extended arm.  I’m sure she was thinking I had a treat for her.  I looked Betty in the eye and said, “Betty, your master said she wants you to come home.  Betty, go home,” I shouted. Betty launched herself into the air and headed south toward the residential area of Kelly, Wyoming.  Without a word, I rose to my feet and finished letting the stunned tourist know how to get to the Gros Ventre Slide.  He was utterly speechless as he walked down to his car with a story I’m sure he would be sharing for some time to come.  The raking was finally finished the first part of August.  No time to plant grass seed and no money to buy sod.  We would play on good old fashion dirt.  Grass seed would be spread in 1980.  Now my attention turned to doing what I could to improve the interior of the two classrooms before school started the day after Labor Day.  I would get two more surprises which would help me with the interior work.  Will be back with the next chapter soon.

Kelly School – Sadly Neglected

September 30, 2013

We have the summer to make good things happen for the children in our care at Kelly School.  With a slab of blacktop, a swing set. and two monkey bars for a playground with no place for soccer, kickball, softball, and capture the flag, we knew play space would be sorely inadequate for our 29 students.  The sagebrush and rocks had to go.  Topsoil would be  needed and eventually grass seed.  With no gym we would definitely need outdoor play space for recess and PE.  The day after school closed, and I left my classroom at the middle school, loaded up my shovel, pick, and wheelbarrow and headed for Kelly School. The superintendent had no intention of keeping his promise to the Kelly School parents to build a wonderful playground for their children.  I would not let it happen.  I decided to spend the summer creating a great playing field for all types of games.  Day after day I dug up rocks and sagebrush and wheelbarrowed it off the site.  Everyday I could see progress being made.  As I worked, I realized I would need lots of topsoil to cover the rough surface containing gravel and small rocks.  While working one day  I heard on the radio work had begun on a Motel 6 to be built just south of town.  I had gotten to know the folks who owned Clark’s Ready Mix and Excavation.  They had the contract to clear the land and build the foundation for the motel.  I went in to see Lew Clark, one of the partners at Clark’s Ready Mix.  He and his wife helped me make contacts during the campaign for the bond issue for the new high school.  I asked Lew what he planned to do with the topsoil they were removing from the motel site.  He said, “Do you want it for the Kelly School playground?”  I told him I would love to have it but had no money to buy it.  He asked me if belly dump trucks could get up on the playground.  I told him they sure could.  He told me the topsoil was mine for Kelly School and there would be no charge.  He made my day.  I had to step up the removal of rock and sagebrush to be ready for huge dump trucks.  I did the removal just in time and will never forget the arrival of the huge belly dumps and watched them drive up the bank west of our two room school, open their bellies and deposit the rich black dirt.  Now my challenge was to rake out the dirt to cover the play area making it as level as possible.  I would get some surprise help to move the tall piles of dirt.  Stay tuned for that surprise and more help from as far away as 1700 miles.