History of Caleb Greenwood School

Opening Day, September 1950Caleb Greenwood K-8 School, 2000

Caleb Greenwood Elementary School, in the River Park neighborhood, opened its doors to sixty students on September 10, 1950. The name Caleb Greenwood was given to the school by the Board of Education and was so named to honor one of the early men in California history. Caleb Greenwood was best known for leading the first wagon train over the Sierra, the Stevens-Townsend-Murphy party, and for his heroic part in guiding the rescue of the Donner Party.

Mrs. Ethel Penny, principal, and two teachers; Mrs. Eleanor Marks, and Mrs. Daisy Goulart, welcomed the students on the first day. Mrs. Betty Kennedy joined the staff one week later. Principal Penny also taught and did office clerk duties. The building wasn’t finished when school opened, but construction continued. There were no windows, doorknobs, bells, clocks, bookcases, shelves, or blackboards. The asphalt tile wasn’t laid. It took six or eight weeks to finish it. Mr. Gillenwaters was the first custodian and Miss Barbara Backer served as a part-time clerk.

Six sixth grade students were the first class to graduate from Caleb Greenwood. They were Ronald Jones, Penny Edwards, Elaine Morris, Timmy Buckendorf, Bennett Cookson, and Diana Chatham. Thirteen Kindergarten students began their education at Caleb Greenwood that year.

Caleb Greenwood PTA was chartered on February 19, 1951 with fifteen members. Mrs. William Ballew served as the first president. Typical meetings began with cub scouts leading the flag salute, an inspirational thought, and always included a guest speaker. Chairmanships in the ’50’s included Character Education, Civil Defense, and Men Membership. The first carnival was in June of 1951. It was traditionally accompanied by a bike parade.

Principal Penny served until 1959. During her tenure at Caleb Greenwood, significant growth occurred. By 1952, enrollment had increased to 357 students, the staff had expanded to ten teachers, including a full time office clerk, and the PTA had grown from fifteen to 287 members. One class had to be taught in the enclosed hallway. Two new wings of classrooms were constructed in March of 1953. A new portable classroom was brought on site in 1954. Due to the combined efforts of PTA Recreation Chair Mrs. Hyde, the Orchard Terrace-River Park Improvement Association, and the River Park Garden Club, the recreation area behind the school was landscaped in 1955. 65 trees were planted in and around the school yard. The multi-purpose room was constructed in 1957 and cafeteria food became available that fall.

THE 60’s: The 1960 ’s brought more changes. Mrs. Penny retired after nine years of serving Caleb Greenwood. Mr. Kenneth Hoffman took over the leadership of the school in the fall of 1959. The PTA minutes show that Dr. Charles F. Howard spoke on “The New Math” and sex education films were reviewed by parents. PTA dues rose from .50 to $1.00. Music programs grew. Fashion shows featuring hand sewn garments became a standard fund raiser for the school. 160 students from the Oak Park area were added to our student population in the fall of 1966. Principal Hoffman was succeeded by Mr. Charles P. Thompson in 1967 and in 1968, Mr. Frank McNamara, a former teacher at the school, began his long tenure as principal at Caleb Greenwood.

THE 70’s: The 1970’s saw the retirement of two of Caleb Greenwood’s original staff members. Mrs. Betty Kennedy taught first grade at Caleb for 22 years. Lucille Folks served as our school secretary for 23 years. Current 8th grade teacher, Mr. Tim Margetich, joined the staff as a 5th grade teacher in the 1970/71 school year. Brotherhood Days were instituted as a multi-cultural event. Title IX was enacted. Science Fairs and Western Days became part of the program. PTA volunteers staffed the library to enable book check out for students. The Aurally Handicapped program was transferred to Caleb in 1975 and new portables were brought on site to house the program. Stop signs were posted at Shepard and Camellia Avenues. Sixth grade students began the tradition of visiting Sly Park. Spaghetti dinners became part of the traditional fund raisers. New curtains for the stage were purchased by the PTA in 1977. Violence on TV became an issue for the national PTA.

THE 80’s: After 17 years as principal, Frank McNamara left Caleb Greenwood in 1985. School was canceled one day due to flood concerns in 1986 Miss Linda Sain served as principal until the fall of 1987 when Principal Mrs. Sandra Green, began her leadership. The Holiday Breakfast joined our list of traditional events. Red Ribbon Week was instituted. The first jogathan and pumpkin patch was held in the 84/85 school year.

THE 90’s: In the 90’s, the Young Author program became part of our Open House celebration, and the Science Circus took the place of science fairs. The ball wall was constructed with jogathan funds. Soggy ground in the spring of 1995 led to the loss of several trees. With financial help from the River Park Garden Club, replacements trees were planted along Carlson and Camellia that fall. With much discussion and the dedicated work of volunteers who believed strongly in providing an alternative to the traditional middle school, Caleb Greenwood School became a K-8 school, adding a 7th grade class in 1993-94. The first group of eighth graders graduated in 1995. The first air conditioning was added to Room 8 in 1995. Gradually, over the next five years, all rooms became air conditioned with the notable exception of the cafeteria. Volunteers — parents, staff, neighbors and CSUS students, helped wire the school for internet access on Net Day. The kindergarten playground and the corner playground were replaced to meet safety codes. The exterior of the school was painted in 1998. $5000 in donations paid for paint and supplies; staff, neighbors, and parents volunteered to do the prep work. The River Park Neighborhood Association donated half of the amount needed, the River Park Mother’s Club also made a generous donation.

THE YEAR 2000: Current enrollment for the 2000/01 school year is about 580 students, there are 44 staff members and PTA membership is at 270. More changes are in store for our school. A new staff parking lot at the back corner of the school off Camellia and Betty Way has recently been completed. Two new wings of classrooms have replaced temporary buildings Rooms 13-17 and A1-6. Classrooms have been renovated with updated wiring, new flooring, lighting, paint, windows, doors and new white boards. Bathroom fixtures and tiling were replaced. Small finishing touches were still being done, but the school was ready for students’ return on September 8, 2000.

THE FUTURE: Caleb Greenwood School can be expected to continue to provide a quality, caring education for its students. The 50th Anniversary tile memory wall fund-raiser was targeted to help provide funds for an additional playground. A large community sign board and curtains for the stage have recently been added. The school enters its next 50 years with an energetic staff and students, supportive parents and community, and a newly renovated campus. The future looks bright indeed!