Alma Schrader holding 50th anniversary celebration March 11

Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Alma Schrader Elementary School is celebrating its 50th anniversary May 11. (Fred Lynch)

When Alma Schrader Elementary School was built 50 years ago, builders made a critical mistake while working on the principal's office.

A one-way mirror installed backward put the school's first principal, Vince Raddle, under the watch of sixth-graders in the adjoining classroom, said Rosie Conrad, a sixth-grade student when the school opened.

"We just thought he could see us and we could see him," she said. "Truth is, it was backward."

The mistake was soon corrected, she said.

Former Alma Schrader school teachers Rosie Conrad, left, and Sharon Williams look through photo albums in preparation for the school's 50th anniversary celebration. (Fred Lynch)

The Cape Girardeau School District opened a school near Dennis Scivally Park on Sept. 1, 1959, and throughout the next 50 school years Alma Schrader expanded and evolved.

The school is holding an open house and reception so former students, parents and teachers can share their stories of the school. The 50th anniversary celebration will be at 6:30 p.m. March 11 in the school gym.

Fourth-grade students will perform a musical review covering the decades since the school opened, said principal Ruth Ann Orr. Former PTA officers, administrators and teachers will be honored at the reception.

Conrad went on to teach fifth and sixth grades at the school for 26 years. Among memories of colonial and pioneer days, and walks to the county park, Conrad recalled a disaster drill so Oscar-worthy it gave her "the willies." In 1985, her students participated in a tornado simulation coordinated by Southeast Missouri Hospital and emergency personnel.

Southeast Missourian file Alma Schrader Elementary School as it was in 1959.

"It still makes my stomach turn," she said, recalling the students' performance, which included hiding under desks and being transported to the hospital for treatment. Among the school's stacks of scrapbooks, there are pictures of overturned desks and chairs from the event.

She said she also remembers when lunch came to the school from Franklin Elementary in warming trays. Before the cafeteria was added in 1999, students ate in the gym.

Southeast Missourian file A number of students pose outside the newly-built Alma Schrader Elementary School 50 years ago.

Up until the mid-1990s, each elementary had its own identity, Orr said. Alma Schrader students were once known as wildcats, with red and black as their school colors.

The district named the school after longtime educator Alma Schrader, who was the principal of May Greene school for 34 years. In all, Schrader spent 50 years with the district working as a teacher and principal.

Orr said Schrader was known for her discipline. She heard stories of the principal sending students home for a slip showing or dirty fingernails.

"She really set the bar for excellence," she said.

Schrader died January 1959, nine months before the school opened. In June, the school board voted to name the new school after her.

Since opening, the school has been served by five principals. Roy Glass, the school's second principal, worked at Alma Schrader for 21 years before retiring in 1988.

He said he remembers when the school's enrollment reached 650 students with three sections of kindergarten. The school, now prekindergarten to fourth grade, has an enrollment of about 385. Lowering student-to-teacher ratios has been one of the bigger accomplishments in education, he said.

"I'm glad to see fewer students with more teachers," he said. "I just hope it continues to go in that direction."

At 6 feet 4 inches and 300 pounds, Glass said he had a presence when patrolling the hallways, especially to students sitting outside the classroom door for misbehaving.

"They did not like to see me walk down the hall," he said.

Glass said kindergartners were less intimidated by his stature and enjoyed climbing on him when he visited their classroom.

"They had to tell me stories," he said. "They had to tell me what they did the night before."

Glass said he remembered working with Orr, who taught at the school for five years early in her career. He said many other Alma Schrader teachers moved on to become administrators, including Dr. Sydney Herbst, now the principal at Clippard Elementary.

"We had some hard-working teachers," he said. "We got the job done, and when I say 'we' I mean 'they.'"


Pertinent address:

1360 Randol Cape Girardeau, MO

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