TURN-AROUND, THEN INSTABILITY
In April 1976, Dr. John A. Lander,
Lander acted quickly. He reorganized the staff into five departments. He formed a parents association, established a child study team, created a recruitment committee, cleaned up the campus and requested alumni support.
In 1977 Edith Feld, now retired, was the Assistant to the President. Joseph Devlin, now President of the College, was the Head of the Department of English. Changes continued into 1977. There were only 285 students at the beginning of the year and for the first time in years the number increased to 294 before the year was over. In August the Orphan’s Court granted permission to admit "functional orphans," defined as those boys who did not receive adequate care from their natural parents because of separation, divorce, desertion, disability, or any other reason. This change caused a significant increase in applications.
Lander continued to change the educational curriculum. He introduced new text books, established a track system of progress, and reemphasized English, Mathematics, and Social Studies. The upper class students, specializing in business courses were assigned to work in the various College offices. A discipline code was developed and implemented. Dress codes were enforced, vandalism eliminated, and pride in the school was instilled. Health screening was improved. Improvements to the facility continued. In 1977, it cost $4.1 million to operate the College, an average of $14,350 per student. He continued to make progress although resignation of house parents was still a major problem, possibly due to the living conditions. Turnover of teachers declined. Education improvements continued to be made. The summer program was expanded to include tutorial help for students who were struggling or failing in school. Some students were being trained in media applications, learning to use video and photographic equipment and produce training films. The Compensatory Student Work Program, pay for work, was in effect but continuous participation depended on the student's reliability, academic achievement, and behavior. The Social Service Representative met frequently with the Parents Association, providing an interface between the parents and the school. The school was finally taking advantage of the Government entitlement programs. Under Title I, $70,340 was obtained for remedial reading and math, and for arts and crafts instruction and supplies. Under Title IV, $665 was obtained for audio visual supplies. Act 89 provided a speech therapist. Act 90 provided $1,207 for instructional material, and Act 195 provided $4,709 worth of textbooks. Total enrollment increased from 294 to 326. Of the 105 admitted, 73 were functional orphans.
Lander's achievements were disrupted in 1979, by staff strikes that delayed the
opening of the fall semester. Students
were directed to stay home until the strike was resolved. The College did not open until October 8th. Student turnover was another significant
problem with most leaving before graduating.
More were leaving then entering.
Unfortunately, in 1979, Board member John W. Pinnel, an Alumnus and a
strong supporter of the school, died.
Since his death, until 1992, no
In 1980, Lander reported that the Elementary School students were demonstrating significant improvement in their reading and math ability. Sixteen Elementary students had an I.Q. greater than 125 and they were being given special attention. Students throughout the college were improving and Lander made these comments; "Students are now dressed and groomed more appropriately than in recent years, students are more responsive when spoken to or corrected; more civil in their relationship with peers and adults; more responsible in fulfilling their daily obligations; more outgoing; more serious about their academic work; and more interested in the welfare of the school community."
In 1981 the
mechanical school was renovated.
Mechanical Instructions were still benefiting the College in that the
Carpentry Shop students made cabinets for the College, the Machine Shop
produced items for the Maintenance Department, the Print Shop did all the
printing for the College and Alumni, and the Automobile Shop performed
maintenance for the College vehicles.
Nearly one third of the boys were involved with the Scouting program.
Nine boys canoed 108 miles down the
major event occurred in 1982. Until
then, the "male" provision of the Will was unchallenged. However, in the 1970-1980 period,
women's rights movements were influencing people. The court was ruling "all men"
clubs and organizations to be illegal.
Rather than wait for the Will to be challenged, then spend considerable
funds in a useless defense, the Board decided to petition the court to permit
acceptance of girls. On September 3, the
was again interrupted in 1982 when teachers struck again. A five-month strike occurred, the third
strike in as many years. It began on the
first day of school in September and lasted until February of the following
year. Teaching salaries were
approximately $7,000 less than the public school system and about $4,000 less
than private school teachers. The strike
disrupted the students, especially when they were told, in September, to stay
home and enroll in their local schools.
Finally, a court injunction forced the teachers back to work on
had to start again rebuilding the confidence of the staff and students. Greater emphasis was given to academic
achievement and minimum standards of achievement were designated. The music program was expanded. Many new instruments were purchased including
several pianos and the older pianos were restored to good condition. Twenty-five students were taking piano
lessons. A Computer Department and a
central computing system were established.
major event was the reestablishment of the Middle School. Many changes had been made to the educational
curriculum and the results were encouraging. Computers became an integral part
of education at every level. The
Standard Achievement Test scores for reading, English, and mathematics,
revealed significant improvement in student progress. Public speaking courses and foreign language
college preparatory courses were offered.
The music program had expanded and over 200 students were either
involved with the band or choir or taking music lessons. The High School gym
was converted into music suites.
Instructions were also given in automobile, machine, print, wood shops
and drafting. The
In 1985, for the first time in many years, there were more applicants than available spaces. For a change, the school had the opportunity to select only those most qualified. Sixty-six girls were in classes 1 through 5. The graduation class did well with 93% going on to college. Students were being held to a higher standard of expectation. Computer usage was increasing with each term. Girard teams won championships in wrestling, track, soccer and cross-country. The Compensatory Student Work Program was still in effect and those who were eligible to participate could work 10 hours per week and earning $2 an hour. The students worked in the kitchen, various offices and the resident buildings. Bordeaux Hall was completely renovated. The cost of maintaining each child was $16,135. Although 79 new students were selected, 61 other students were asked to leave and their parents removed another 24.
In 1986 renovation of the Chapel organ was completed and the console was mounted on a lift to rise from the choir pit. Girls had reached the Middle School level, requiring further facility changes and so far no significant problem were encountered in the mixing of sexes in class and other functions. There where 82 females students. The SAT Test results indicated that nearly all of the students scored above the national norm. The average number of students declined to 525. All but one of the 77 new students were functional orphans.
Dr. John A. Lander retired in the summer of 1987. He succeeded in halting the decay in the facility and the decline of the College as an educational institution. He should be credited with having saved the Stephen Girard legacy. He inherited a school that had been damaged by questionable decisions and administration. He presided during a period of teacher turmoil. He administered the school through historical changes like the acceptance of functional orphans and girls. He guided $15 million of renovations to a facility that had badly deteriorated. Dr. Lander's contribution was outstanding.
was replaced in July 1987 by Dr. Don P. Sheldon, who showed great promise of
becoming a good president but after only two years he resigned to become
superintendent of the
Sheldon’s President’s Report for the year reflects why he left so abruptly
after only two years. He reported that
“More and more students, we find, are coming to us from homes where drugs
and/or alcohol dependency is evident, or where parents are recovering from use
of these drugs.” Student discipline was
a growing problem. The Health Department
indicated that providing health care for girls and boys was becoming a
challenging job. It cautioned about the
increased use of drugs by the younger generation, problems related to
transmission of sexual diseases, the fear of Aids, and child neglect and abuse
at home. The report stated that caring
for girls was completely different then boys in that one had to be specially
trained to deal with possible pregnancies, abortions and sexually transmitted
disease. Then too, the medical
profession was becoming concerned about lawsuits and liability.
The value of Vocational Training was being questioned. Student morale and school spirit were a major concern. Incentive programs were implemented whereby good behavior and conformance were rewarded with off-campus trips and dining with the staff. “Coupons” were awarded to students who did something special and each week drawings were held to pick students for special recognition.
1989, Dr. Howard Maxwell, a 1948
In 1991, there were 532 students in the college and the cost of operating it was $12.6 million or $23,687 per student. Eighty-five functional orphans were admitted and 93 were separated of which 75 were at the request of the College. A new High School head was selected, a position frequently changing. The College joined the Penn-Jersey League and became a member of the National Association of Independent Schools. Allen Hall was reopened as a dorm for girls and security was a major problem. High School students were still permitted to leave each weekend but had to return Sunday evenings. To improve security, ID photos were issued to all the staff and students. The outside wall of Founder’s Hall was repaired. The Architectural drawings were returned from the Pennsylvania Historical Society.
Dr. Maxwell’s term as President lasted only until 1992, when the Board eliminated the President's position, supposedly for economic reasons, and appointed Joseph T. Devlin, former director of education, to serve as Head of the School. The College was again subjected to a major staff reductions and another reorganization all to save money. Budget constraints were placed on all line items. Elementary pre-first grade and remedial positions were eliminated as were several teaching positions. The Middle School principle position was eliminated. Cut backs occurred in house staff and the positions of Senior Housemaster were abolished.
One of the first actions of Mr. Devlin was to consolidated instruction and residential departments. The College adopted James P. Comer’s model for educating poor urban children, a program developed at Yale. The number of students was 499 and the cost per student was $24,725.  By years end the cost of operation was down to $10 million. While the College was cutting costs dramatically the estate’s value rose to $210 million.
In 1995 there
were 802 applicants for admission. Ninety-four students were accepted that year
of which 51were boys and 43 girls.
Eighteen were over 12 years old.
Girls now represented 49 % of the students. Recruitment and screening processes were
modified. Interviews were required of
all candidates and consideration was given to bringing potential high school
students for an overnight stay before acceptance. More economical changes were implemented in
1995. The summer program was eliminated
To help assure success, the Board of Directors of City Trusts created a Board of Managers of Girard College to assist in the governance of the school. This managerial group consisted of Board members, Head of School, alumni, educators, community leaders, and parents.
the Board finally selected another
this system was not uncommon. I recently wrote a book on
Since no President’s Reports or Head of School report was apparently published I obtained this and the following information from the Board’s Report on file at the Philadelphia Main Library. It is impossible from the available record to determine whether the reorganization plans were Devlin’s or Board directed.
Some of that money could have been used to prevent the decay that is occurring on the third floor of Founder’s Hall.
examined the yearly Board reports it is interesting to note how often the
President of the College, now President has reported "a year of
transition." The college is having
one now, probably the second since 1992 when Joseph Devlin became the Head of
School. In 1990, Dr. Maxwell reported a
"year of transition." In 1987,
Dr. Sheldon attempted a transition but left before he finished. Between 1976 and 1987, John Lander had
several changes in educational direction.
In 1974, Emil Zarella had a transition to correct most of the things
 From a letter to the Alumni from Joseph T. Devlin, Head of School, published in the Steel and Garnet, Aug/Oct 1996.
 Cermele was appointed Chairman of the Board of Managers.