Arundel High School Originally, the school was the Anne Arundel Academy, a prestigious one-room private school founded in 1854. That institution became Arundel High School in 1926.The current school building was built in 1949 and first occupied in 1950, with additions in 1966, 1985, and 2006.
Anne Arundel Academy
Marker location 1594 Milersville Rd on site of old Millersville Elem School.
Site of private high school for boys and girls. Its aim: "To create a love for labor, honesty, and a high moral life." Phil Moore Leakin, founder and first principal, taught in rented log house, later in one-story school erected at a cost of $600. Original stockholders included W.H. Baldwin, H.H. Brown, Owen Cecil. R.I. Duvall, B.E. Gantt and B.D. Hall. In 1924 turstees gave 10-acre campus, equipment, library, and $6,000 to Anne Arundel County for public high school here.
Early 19th Century
Unlike many of its rivals, which are clearly products of the late twentieth century, Arundel High School boasts a rich history whose inception predates the Civil War. According to legend, an “alert, ambitious, and earnest”* young teacher named Phil Moore Leakin gazed out the window of Primary School 12 and envisioned a school that would far exceed the capabilities of the tiny one-room building that stood less than two miles from here.
Finding it difficult to meet the needs of the older pupils while giving adequate attention to beginners, he knew that he could not accomplish the task by himself and sought the aid of the community. With the support of some of the prominent members of the Millersville and Gambrills communities, he gained the approval of the county government to pursue his dream; then, in March of 1856, the school opened, and Mr. Leakin became principal of the Academy. By 1859, the Academy had its own seal and motto (“Knowledge is power”) and was recognized as “an institution for advanced learning.” Its more than twenty students, having passed rigorous entrance exams, were given the opportunity to explore such diverse subjects as Latin, Greek, philosophy, chemistry, and mathematics.
The Civil War
As the war turned county residents’ minds to other matters, attendance dropped, as did funding for the school. Then, following the war, Mr. Leakin resigned, and the school faced an uncertain future as a series of teachers and principals came and left. Although, in the years that followed, the school acquired an additional ten acres and added more buildings to serve as dormitories, its growth was quickly halted when fire destroyed the main building. Nevertheless, the Board convinced Mr. Leakin to resume his position in 1873, and his dream was rekindled. Before his death ten years later, the Academy had begun to burgeon. Community leaders donated money for an annex; Board members purchased a nearby farm; and boys’ and girls’ dormitories housed the promising students who had secured scholarships to attend the school.
*All quotations are taken from a pamphlet entitled “The History of Arundel High School,” which was compiled during Mr. Kenneth Catlin’s term as principal. The writers are not listed.
The Academy Expands
By the turn of the century, the school’s property had expanded to more than 70 acres; new buildings were purchased and renovated; the grounds included football and baseball fields, a track, tennis courts, etc; and the teaching staff had grown to four. While some young people explored rhetoric and music, others studied agriculture. As the curriculum expanded, a number of women teachers joined the staff. Many of the students were able to earn part of their board by working either at the school or on its farm. The Academy loomed large in Anne Arundel County.
Once again, though, its future was threatened. As war broke out, funding was stopped. Then, fire destroyed the classrooms. In order to rebuild and continue, administrators were forced to raise tuition. Mr. Leakin’s vision did not die, though. Instead, by 1922, the Board of Education of Anne Arundel County became responsible for providing tuition for students, and it purchased land for the construction of a high school in this prospering area. By “establishing an agricultural department in accordance with the Smith-Hughes Law,” the school, now under the control of the county, qualified for governmental aid. Three years later, the era of the Academy drew to a close, as the first graduating class of Arundel High School crossed the stage.
The Birth of Arundel High School
When the 1924-1925 school year began, the new Anne Arundel Academy High School, which stood in the area next to the present Millersville Elementary School, opened its doors to nearly 50 students. Eighth graders in the area paid $3 per month to ride the bus with younger students to Millersville Grammar School; from there they walked a half mile to their school. Others from as far away as Annapolis rode the train to Arundel Station in Odenton and walked from there. Though they came from a broad range of neighborhoods, the young scholars soon forged a bond, and they voted to name their new institution Arundel High School.
Arundel’s first four years have been called her “glory years.” Under the leadership of Principal Sidney H. Fadely, “a very capable and talented person who instilled in students a love of learning, a fierce competitive spirit, and the meaning of fair play,” the school made a name for itself. With limited equipment but a spirit of excitement, the teachers—many of whom had just completed college—taught courses, coached teams, supervised clubs, and showed a willingness to do whatever was needed, “whether it was riding a tractor, hunting eggs, or running a cafeteria.” While many students performed plays, sang in the Glee Club, or played in the orchestra, others participated in the Home Economics Club, debated, or worked on the school’s first newspaper, The Arundel Tattler. They also held dances and shows, worked at community fairs and suppers, and participated in county and state field days. The school’s rich agricultural program also spawned interest in raising poultry, hosting egg-laying contests, participating in local and national 4-H Club contests, planting crops, and learning to maintain farm equipment. From its earliest days, Arundel fostered a love of athletics. While boys joined the football or baseball team, played tennis, or ran track, girls participated in volleyball, field ball, and run-and-catch relay. Soon the school was boasting county and state championships in both boys’ and girls’ athletics.
The Depression and World War II
Following the stock market crash of 1929, the school faced some difficult moments but never lost its spirit. Though many activities were discontinued, the athletic program still stood strong, with the boys playing soccer and baseball and the girls field ball and volleyball. When gas rationing during the war years caused county-wide competitions to be eliminated, various classes competed against each other. The school began to offer a “pre-induction course” for future recruits in the armed services. Then a new physical fitness program began in connection with victory activities, and the members of the vocational agriculture class planted victory gardens “to supplement the needs of the cafeteria.” Arundel’s competitive spirit showed when “three of the students took first places in the State Traffic Slogan Contest, the 4-H Rural Electrification County Contest, and the Victory Leadership State Contest.” One of the school’s most active organizations at this time was the Future Farmers Association, whose mission was to help young people in this fertile farming community not only gain the skills necessary to be successful farmers, but develop their leadership skills and become responsible citizens.
The Post World War II Era
Once the war ended, the members of the Arundel community could resume participation in many of the activities they had once enjoyed, as well as some new ones. Soccer, baseball, field ball, and volleyball continued, and students also played ping-pong and formed a basketball team. From the Halloween and Valentine to Hillbilly and Cowboy dances to the more formal Senior Prom, young people loved to join together for music and fun. The Home Economics program and the Future Farmers Association continued to groom winners for the local, state and national fairs and 4-H competitions. In this time of technological advancement, Arundel also began to offer a driver training course in 1948.
As the end of the decade drew near, the students and staff of Arundel High School could look back on its years as a public school with a sense of pride and accomplishment, as the school stood on the brink of tremendous growth and change. In a quarter of a century it had grown “from an enrollment of about fifty in 1924 to approximately one hundred fifty in 1950, from a graduating class of eight . . . to about forty . . ., from a faculty of four to one of eight.”
The Fifties and Sixties
At the dawn of the new decade, the “new” Arundel High School was born. Combining the students of the Millersville Arundel with those of Odenton Junior High, which was then housed in the Fort Meade Army barracks, this building opened its doors for the first time. (The two-story building, featuring a number of modern classrooms, an auditorium, and a basement bomb-shelter, is now “F-Hall.”) In its first year, Mrs. Mabel H. Parker became principal, and she remained in that position for fourteen years. A historian notes that “to the hundreds of young people who attended the ‘New Arundel’ during its first decade, Mrs. Parker was Arundel High. The years of transition and challenge were met with her poise, professionalism, and vigor.”
Located in a very rural setting, the school at first placed a great deal of importance on agriculture; its largest club was the Future Farmers of America, and the school owned its own livestock. Sensing the future growth of the area and the change to a more suburban community, however, Mrs. Parker was instrumental in altering the curriculum, which eventually phased out the agricultural courses.
As Mrs. Parker and County School Board members had predicted, the area’s population quickly expanded, and during this time Arundel experienced a problem that was to resurface repeatedly through the rest of the twentieth century: overcrowding. In 1956, the seventh graders had to be placed in Ridgeway Elementary, and three years later both seventh and eighth grades were moved to the army barracks.
When Mrs. Parker left her position to become Director of Secondary Education for half of the county schools, Mr. James Dunagan took her place. Prior to his principalship, he had served as teacher, coach of the state champion basketball team, vice principal, and supervisor of instruction; thus, he had a vast knowledge of and love for Arundel. He encouraged student involvement in both academic and extra-curricular activities, and many students were eager to meet the challenge. During this time, the sports program expanded, and many clubs and organizations began to emerge. Such groups as the Quill and Scroll, the Math and Science Club, and the American Field Service afforded students the opportunity to explore their interests outside the classroom. When the “It’s Academic” program came to television in 1960, some of Arundel’s students competed for scholarships. Then, in 1967, the school began a program where students with interests in the medical field could expand their knowledge by working at a local hospital as part of their education.
The Arundel Spirit grew as students made Archibald of Arundel the “Wildcats’” mascot, attended sock hops after basketball games, held bonfires and pep rallies before Homecoming, crowned Miss Arundel, and hosted spring carnivals. In the early 1960’s the annual Junior-Senior Prom, held in the cafeteria, capped off the year. Then, in 1968, the school held the first out of school Prom at Laurel International Race Course and Club House.
During Mr. Dunagan’s tenure, the lower grades moved to the new Arundel Junior High, leaving only tenth through twelfth grade here. Continued growth, however, led to further overcrowding, which necessitated the building of an addition. In 1964 and 1965, the sophomores joined the lower grades at the junior high. Then, in 1966, with the addition completed, the tenth grade returned, and the school also gained five ninth grade classes.
In the years that followed, staff and students realized the true meaning of the word “flexibility,” for scheduling changed repeatedly. The 1970-71 school year featured “staggered starts” to alleviate some of the crowding; under that plan, juniors and seniors started school earlier than the sophomores. Then, when the population grew too large for that design to work, “split sessions” became necessary. For the first couple of years, juniors and seniors attended the early shift, and sophomores were forced to attend school from noon to 5 p.m. Then, sensing that the isolation of the sophomores was not an ideal situation, the administration voted to divide the school geographically, allowing all three grades to attend at the same time. This arrangement continued through 1976, with the Class of ‘76 becoming the only one whose students experienced split sessions for their entire high school stay. Finally, by the second semester of the 1976-77 school year, students and staff of the afternoon shift transferred to the newly opened Meade High, allowing Arundel to return to a normal day. In less than two years, however, the population topped 2000, and school officials wondered if double sessions loomed once more in the future.
Despite the struggle for space, Arundel’s spirit did not lag, and the school adopted some innovative programs during the 1970’s. The curriculum expanded, and under the leadership of Principal Edward Konick, the school became the first in the county to utilize the college type “arena scheduling.” It was also selected as a Teacher Education Center; working in conjunction with the University of Maryland, it allowed many college students to complete their training as prospective educators. Participation in clubs and sports continued to grow, and the school garnered many trophies and awards.
With continued growth and expansion of the surrounding neighborhoods, the 1980’s brought further concerns about space. Under the leadership of a new principal, Mr. Kenneth Nichols, the school population grew to almost 2100 by 1982. After modifying some classrooms, shifting offices and storage areas, and developing unused space, school officials knew that something more drastic must occur to alleviate the situation. Thus, in 1982, the ninth grade students returned to the junior high school, offering a little relief. Parents and other community members soon became involved in planning for the future of the school, and they formed a group entitled Committee to Renovate Arundel Senior High. Led by Principal Nichols, this group of parents, students, faculty, and community leaders fought to “attain a long held dream of renovation and expansion” in order to prevent the possibility of double sessions in the future. The members of CRASH devised a plan that would allow students to continue to attend classes at Arundel during the two to three year period of construction.
By the fall of 1984, CRASH had secured $7.8 million for the project, and the renovations began. For the first year, both students and teachers were given eight minutes passing time between classes, during which they trudged from the junior high to the high school and back. The following year the plan was modified to allow teachers to remain at one school or the other, while students continued to travel between the two facilities. As the learning process continued, construction workers redesigned some classrooms and teacher work areas, lowered ceilings, replaced light fixtures, installed carpet, removed windows and replaced others, improved the “ventilation system,” revamped the auditorium, and built a new gymnasium which became known as the “finest athletic facility in the county.” While the construction crews remained on the site, Mr. Nichols “wondered if the community had come to believe the three R’s stood for renovation, relocation, and repair.” In the final year of the process, the school once again changed principals, as Mr. Nichols left to become principal of nearby Annapolis Senior High School, and Mr. Kenneth W. Catlin transferred from there to Arundel. Finally, as the 1987-88 school year began, staff and students were united under one roof with “room to expand and spread out . . . settle in, . . . and get ready for the next decade.”
The Nineties and Turn of the Century
With the end of the century just over the horizon, the administration feared that the current drop in enrollment might necessitate cuts in staffing and course offerings; thus, they immediately began to make plans to bring the freshmen back. Nevertheless, demographers’ predictions of a surge in the population of West County led them to wait until the early 1990’s to act on their plans. Then, filled almost to capacity once more, the school continued its tradition of innovation and pursuit of excellence. Through the medium of interactive cable television, Arundel students could take classes with peers from sister schools in the county. With the completion of a new baseball field, the introduction of night football games, and the establishment of a state-of-the-art curriculum, the Physical Education Department led the high school to recognition as a Maryland Demonstration School. Many times through the 1990’s, the baseball and basketball teams took county championships. While the Drama Club placed first almost every year in the county and state competitions, the Forensics Team brought home first place trophies in debate and oral interpretation. The Spectrum, the school’s newspaper, earned several International First Place awards from Quill and Scroll and Medalist awards from Columbia Scholastic Press Association, and it was named the Best High School Paper in the State of Maryland in 1991. Similarly, the Concert, Marching, and Jazz Band, along with the choir and orchestra, scored superior ratings and brought home many trophies from competitions both in and out of state. To recognize service, participation in extra-curricular activities, and academic excellence, a committee of adults and students established the Merit Letter Award.
While this last decade of the century brought many changes in leadership, each principal seemed to share the vision of his or her predecessor. Principal Catlin, a former history teacher, urged students and staff to form a committee to search the archives and create a pamphlet detailing the school’s long history. Then, when he retired in 1992, Ms. Midgie Sledge stepped in and led the way into the world of technology. As changes in the county curriculum reflected advances in technology, she was instrumental in securing equipment and setting up staff training for a computer lab. Following her retirement in 1996, Mr. William T. Myers took the reins and helped the school establish a Character Education Program. As an extension of this program and as a means of encouraging pride in self and school, he coined the slogan “The Arundel Way,” and Wildcat pride continued to swell. In the 2000-2001 school year, Mr. Myers began to lead the way toward smaller learning communities or “academies,” a movement which Mr. Nathaniel Gibson strongly supported when he was named principal for the coming year.
The Dream Lives On
Today, as visitors enter the lobby of Arundel High, they may glance up and notice the school seal inscribed with the Latin words Mihi cura futuri, “My care is for the future.” Although we do not know who penned those words many years ago, perhaps it was a young teacher who looked up from his desk in the “new Arundel” one bright spring day, glanced out the window, felt a gentle breeze blowing by, and heard the
echo of another young man who had dreamed a similar dream long ago.
CREDIT: THE ARUNDEL HIGH ACCREDITATION FOR GROWTH HISTORY COMMITTEE
PHOTOGRAPHIC GROWTH OF ARUNDEL HIGH
THANKS TO BARBARA (TAYLOR) ESCAVAGE FOR GATHERING THE HISTORY INFORMATION