History

Most would say the Sayre Area School District is small. Its history, however, is another story. This paper will show how the school district began and how it has progressed through the years. Along the way, it will also detail interesting facts, people, and events.

Early on, the land now encompassed by the district was simply forest. Eventually, it was settled and much of it became farmland. When the owners began selling this land, buildings and towns began to form (Bishop 2).

One of these towns was Milltown, which held the first few school buildings. The earliest was in a corner of a cemetery named The Rest located on the corner of Bradford and Hoover (Coston 10). Dr. Amos Prentice, who was also the doctor for the community, taught its classes (Coston 10). Next, there was also a log structure that served as a schoolhouse near Spring’s Corners (Coston 10). After it burned down in 1808, a replacement was constructed at the “corner of Shepard and Cayuta streets” (House, “District History” 1).

Then, as the area became increasingly developed, Jacob Riel donated the area of what is now the intersection of Keystone Avenue and Lincoln Street as the grounds for a small schoolhouse (Coston 10). Sayre was then known as “Pine Plains”, and the school was aptly dedicated as the “School of the Plains” (House, “District History” 1). Three teachers working here received salaries between twenty-five and thirty dollars in 1882 (House, untitled notes 1).

Eventually, Sayre itself began to form. Its name comes from an incident involving Howard Elmer, the man later accredited for founding Sayre, and a party of men he took up on a hillside overlooking the area (Bishop 3). One of the men was Robert H. Sayre, the “president of the Pennsylvania & New York Canal and Railroad Company and superintendent of the Lehigh Valley” Railroad (Bishop 3). “He exclaimed, ‘What a magnificent location for a great city!'” and in return, Elmer said, “If that is your opinion, Mr. Sayre, we will build a town and call it by your name” (Bishop 3). Elmer had already formed a company with James Fritcher, R. A. Elmer, and Charles Anthony, and had purchased some land (Bishop 2). Soon, approximately 1872, Keystone, Lehigh, Packer, and Thomas Avenues, along with Desmond, Hayden, and Lockhart streets, “were laid out” (Bishop 2).

The town’s progress was now charging ahead much like the trains it was essentially made for, and the schools were not left out. In 1875, a one-room schoolhouse went up on Lockhart Street on the current site of the First Citizens National Bank (House, “District History” 1). The previously mentioned company, now called the Sayre Land Company, donated the land (Coston 10). “Countess Wolcott, who had previously taught at the Pine Plains School, was the first teacher” (Coston 10). Then, two years later in 1877, there were thirty-three students in the school district (House, “District History” 1).

Meanwhile, the Athens School District still controlled Sayre’s school district (Coston 10). It was not until February 28, 1882 that Sayre officially became an independent school district (House, “District History” 1). Six directors were elected who would go on to plan the new school district (House, untitled notes 1). The first year came and the district had 266 students spread over four schools, a rather tight situation (House, untitled notes 1). The school term lasted eight months with E. B. McKee as the first principal, who earned $750 (House, untitled notes 1). Sayre’s first graduating class, made up of three women, came five years later in 1887 (House, “District History” 1).

Then, in 1891, Sayre and its school district underwent many changes. First, Sayre officially became a borough (Coston 10). Second, the Milltown school became part of the school district (Coston 10). Next, the district’s main building, which is now part of the New Park Hotel, was moved to Elmer Avenue (House, “District History” 1). Lastly, a new high school replaced the one room schoolhouse occupying the plot that is now First Citizens National Bank (Coston 10). It cost $30,000 with an addition costing $12,000 coming six years later in 1897 (House, “District History” 1). This building “later became the Central School” (House, “District History” 1).

J. G. Anderson served as superintendent from 1893 to 1894, and Irving F. Stetler took over for him until 1907 (Snyder 2). Next was L. E. DeLaney until 1933 (Snyder 2). During this first term, the school district was transformed. Most notably, when two two-room, portable school buildings purchased in 1916 would no longer suffice, the present high school building was built for $500,000 (Coston 10). After Horace H. Beach had his turn from 1933 to 1938, DeLaney had a second term which lasted until 1946 (Snyder 2). DeLaney’s successor when commenting about DeLaney said, “a very capable man, a very genial fellow with a good sense of humor. He recited poetry and enjoyed fishing” (Coston 10).

DeLaney’s successor H. Austin Snyder was also very influential to the school district. According to himself, his “most important achievement” was bringing together Sayre, South Waverly, Athens Township, and Litchfield Township all into one school district (Coston 10). This was named “Sayre Area Joint High School and Sayre Area Schools” and was signed February 7, 1951 (Snyder 2). A previous agreement had been signed November 14, 1950 (Snyder 2). Before this, the school district was named “Sayre Borough Schools” (Snyder 2). Also, there were four elementary schools at the time: Fourth Ward, Elmer Avenue, East Side, and Milltown (Coston 10). It was thought that the East Side and Milltown schools were cut off from the rest, so Snyder organized a May Day program that brought everyone together (Coston 10).

However, this agreement would not last. New legislation was passed by the state, forcing the school district to reorganize (Snyder 3). July 1, 1966 marked the first day of the “Sayre Area School District” (Snyder 3). It included Kindergarten through twelfth grade, and had nine board members from the area it now served: Sayre Borough, South Waverly Borough, and Litchfield Township (Snyder 3).

By this time, the high school was beginning to show its age. On July 15, 1967 a renovation and addition was approved and issued (Snyder 1). Thirty-one classrooms and the auditorium were renovated or altered (Snyder 1). Eighteen new classrooms, a gym, a cafeteria, a planetarium, science laboratories, an art room, a wood shop, an electric shop, a metal shop, parking areas, and a practice field were added (Snyder 1). The total cost of the renovations was $4,510,000 (Snyder 2).

Before Snyder retired in 1974, two more schools were built (Coston 10). First, a new Litchfield Elementary School was constructed on Cotton Hollow Road in 1967 (Drake 9). It originally served kindergarten though sixth grade (Drake 9). Second, “H. Austin Snyder Elementary School was constructed and dedicated November 18, 1973” in his honor (House, “District History” 2). Snyder said, “It took me a long time to be able to say ‘the H. Austin Snyder School’ […] It certainly is a great honor. It’s unusual. I never anticipated one (a namesake) would happen here” (Coston 10). Snyder Elementary now serves kindergarten through sixth grade, with a “Ready 4” program being added recently. Also, Litchfield fifth and sixth graders are now sent to Snyder.

Finally, Dr. Alan F. Jones was the next superintendent (House, “District History” 1). Paul E. Kelley then took over from 1982 to 1992 (House, “District History” 1). Dr. Donald M. Houck began as superintendent on 1992 to 2004(House, “District History” 1). The current superintendent Dean Hosterman began after him.

Works Cited

Bishop, J. W. (1918). “A Short History of Sayre.”
Coston, Clara. (1991. January 25). “Sayre school district independent since 1882.” Evening Times. Section II. p.10.
House, Phyllis. (2002. February 14). “District History.”
—. Untitled notes.
Snyder, H. Austin. (1972. April 26). “History of the High School.”
Drake, Dolores. (1996. March 2). “Litchfield now … and then.” Evening Times. p.9.

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