The Story of Gillette Elementary School
After Rush-Henrietta residents approved the acquisition of 15 gifted acres of land in 1955, district leaders turned their attention toward building a new school on the site. The timing was crucial, as the student population was accelerating at a rate no one predicted.
The potential building was called The Suburban Heights School. After the untimely death of one of the district’s earliest leaders, William Gillette, a different name was selected. Gillette, the first president of the Rush-Henrietta Central School District, was 48 when he died in 1956.
In February 1957, soon after children were welcomed to campus, the building officially was named William J. Gillette Elementary School. The K-6 school served more than 700 students and already operated at full capacity upon opening its doors. Kenneth Fishell served as the first principal of the school, which cost $940,000 to construct.
A public dedication was held November 10, 1957. Gillette was lauded for his leadership during the district’s formative years. The following day, the Democrat and Chronicle offered an account of the ceremony: “William M. Thompson, board president, told about 300 parents and children in the school auditorium that Mr. Gillette ‘dedicated himself to furtherance of education’ and ‘worked long and hard, even to the detriment of his own health,’ for the benefit of the school children.”
Gillette Elementary served our community well for several decades. However, in 1980, the Board of Education voted to close the school; the change was effective the following year. The difficult decision was made as a result of declining student enrollment throughout the district. It was a challenging time for many people, including students, who were reassigned to Crane, Sherman, and Winslow elementary schools.
The building eventually was sold. Gillette Elementary School is known today as Holy Childhood. That organization continues the legacy of Rush-Henrietta’s first elementary school by serving local children.
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