LURA AUGUSTA WHITE was born in 1871, lived on Center Road, and died in 1956. Her best friends called her Gussie.
She started assisting in school classrooms when she was 20 years old, earning $9 per week. She usually taught the youngest children and usually had more than 30 students in her class. She often more than 40 students at a time with wall to wall desks, no corner rug for reading stories together, no area for blocks or learning games, etc. For her art lessons, one year she was given three boxes of crayons and two packages of drawing paper for her whole class to share for the entire school year.
For many years, Miss White taught at the Church Street School. This was located past the War Memorial Building, at the end of the street.
Many immigrants from Poland, Lithuania, Russia, and Canada had come to work in the factories in Shirley Village and in 1904, only four children of American parentage were in the lowest primary class, so a sub-primary class was begun to teach English to 4 ½ year-olds and to introduce them to the use of school tools.
In 1913, at the Church Street School, Miss White was teaching a first grade class, and three penmanship lessons per week to all the other classes in her building, while serving as principal.
By 1918, Miss White’s salary had risen to $650 per year. At this time, only single women could be teachers and there was a constant turnover of staff who were seeking better paying jobs.
After World War I ended and the country was in a period of growth, by 1927, Miss White’s salary had nearly doubled to $1,250.
Early 20th century classrooms did not have the wealth of materials seen in modern day classrooms. It was in 1928 when American flags were purchased to be hung in every Shirley classroom. They have been hanging in classrooms every since.
When the depression hit and the school budget needed to be cut, in 1932, the teachers voluntarily contributed 10% of their salaries to the cost of running the schools. Art and physical education were taught by volunteers for one fall term.
In 1937, students moved into a new building on Lancaster Road, constructed with funding help from the WPA. Miss White served as associate principal, in charge of the first floor which held grades 1-4, and Miss McNiff was principal of the second floor, over grades 5-8.
When a teacher was absent, she had to pay for her own substitute, but in 1939, a new provision allowed teachers up to one week of absences due to illness without their pay being docked.
In 1941, after 50 years of teaching, Miss White retired. At the retirement ceremony held in her honor, The Lancaster Road School was renamed the Lura A. White School.