Public School Superintendent +
Following Donald Harrington as superintendent of the Albion Public Schools was George Walkotten, a native ofMuskegon who began his duties here in July 1939 and continued through 1960. Walkotten came from Kalamazoo where he had served as superintendent of schools for three years. Prior to that time he had been a teacher and an athletic director.
During Walkotten’s tenure as superintendent of the Albion Public Schools, the school population grew from 1900 pupils in 1939, to 3,200 in the fall of 1959. The most significant factor contributing to Albion’s growth occurred in 1950, when the Corning Glass Works Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of glass for technical purposes, located here. A special school election cleared the way for Corning to acquire a piece of land owned by the Albion Public Schools (originally a possible site for a new high school) on the southwest corner of N. Clark and E. North Streets.
Under Walkotten’s leadership Albion embarked on the most massive building campaign in its history. The need for seventy-four more school rooms was estimated at the January 20, 1949 school board meeting, and soon plans were made to hold bond issues to finance them.
The first bond issue passed on April 20, 1950 by a vote of 468 to 124, for $350,000 for the erection of an addition to Dalrymple School, and the construction of a new elementary school on the north side of town. Another bond issue was approved on November 10, 1953, by 735 to 217. This helped finance construction of Harrington School and CrowellSchool.
One major development during the Walkotten administration involved a showdown concerning the racially segregated West Ward School in September and October, 1953. The closing of the West Ward School and the turmoil which surrounded it marked one of the major milestones in the history of the Albion Public Schools. It also marked a turning point in local black history.
In addition to the numerous school construction projects, the Albion Public Schools saw numerous curriculum changes during the 1940s and 1950s. An adult education program was instituted in the early 1940s, offering such subjects as homemaking, typing, and citizenship. The apprentice training program, begun in the late 1930s under superintendent Harrington, was expanded. Library facilities in the elementary schools were added, along with the addition of a visual aids program that involved the purchase of films and projectors.
In 1955, the school district was granted a repeal of its special legislative district that had been established in 1885. Thus, the Albion Public Schools became classified as a “Class 3” district. This allowed a change on the board structure which resulted in seven members being elected every four years.
Superintendent Walkotten announced his plans to retire at the end of the 1959-60 school year on January 22, 1960, but died on March 26, 1960, several days after suffering a heart attack. Local educators and community leaders were deprived ofhonoring him at a testimonial dinner that he been scheduled. The schools were closed the afternoon of his funeral, and he was buried at Riverside Cemetery.
Source: Frank Passic. A History of the Albion Public Schools. Albion, Michigan: E. Weil Publishing Services. 1991.