1938: Voters Reject Creation of Rush-Henrietta Central School District

  • Nearly every eligible person in Rush and Henrietta showed up to vote in 1938, when residents were asked to decide whether the two towns would form a new, centralized school district, and move forward with a new building to house them. One of the ideas behind creating a new school system was that it would be better able to meet the needs of all students, providing each child with a standardized learning environment.

    The new district would replace 17 independent, local school houses scattered throughout the Rush and Henrietta countryside. Each building was distinct and unique in its own way. This post includes an image showing the alma mater for Henrietta High School, which was located at the corner of East Henrietta and Lehigh Station roads.

    The vote’s outcome would shape how local children received their education in the years to come. Interest ran high and turnout was incredible. Residents described the crowd as the largest ever witnessed in West Henrietta. “The townsfolk jammed the West Henrietta Grange’s small hall from 3 to 8 p.m. to cast 1,076 votes,” according to the September 10, 1938, edition of the Democrat and Chronicle. “Officials estimated the total voting population of the towns was 1,140, and they believed those not at the polls were out of town. A crowd of 600 filled the hall and overflowed outside until the ballots were counted shortly after the polls closed, and the verdict was greeted by cheers.” 

    When the ballots were counted, the intriguing proposal to unite was rejected by a margin of 653 to 421; two of the ballots were deemed void. The cost of the proposed school, which would have served all local children in grades K-12, was estimated at $330,000. More than half of the expense was to be covered by a grant. Many who voted against its creation cited higher taxes as the reason for their decision. 

    Two weeks before the vote, the Democrat and Chronicle quoted Stephen Warren, a one-time Monroe County district attorney, as saying during a public forum: “You would think our children would be ignoramuses” if the plan was not approved. He expressed concerns about the tax impact of centralization.

    After the vote, children continued to attend classes at what were described at the time as “little red schoolhouses,” apparently without regard to their size or color. The phrase often was used when discussing any sort of independent school building. It would be eight years before another vote was held regarding the potential of centralization.

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