Progress is being made on William E. Dimorier’s biography. As I was organizing my notes the other day, I came across an article in The American City, from 1917, which describes an interesting approach to recruiting for high school after eighth-grade graduation. The campaign approach works on more than elections, it seems. In addition, I can envision many applications for this methodology that go beyond education. Most of all, though, it is just one of the many ways that William E. Dimorier invested himself for the benefit of the students in the Erie School District.
An article, “Campaigning for High School Attendance,” which appeared in The American City in 1917 (pg. 363), mentions Dimorier and the principal of Erie High School at the time, John C. Diehl. There is no author listed, which is odd, because most articles in this publication are attributed so. It seems that the author might have been local, though, because an image of Erie’s East High School appears at the top of the article’s first page.
The article asserts that merely giving speeches at eighth-grade graduations were not sufficient in encouraging students to continue on to high school. The approach described in the article is that of a campaign, appealing from several angles and even involving personal canvassing by grammar-school principals.
The article then features the Erie School District, at the time under the jurisdiction of Superintendent I. B. Bush, which was grappling with the problem of attendance and had taken the campaign approach, with remarkable success.
The campaign in the Erie School District began months before graduation, before students had made up their minds about their academic futures. Superintendent Bush visited the eighth-grade classrooms about a month before the school year ended, telling them of the value of education and inviting them to a meeting at the high school. At that meeting, the children would sing songs that had been taught to all the eighth graders in multiple grammar schools, presentations were made, and cards were distributed to the students asking them to sign up for high school.
After graduation, anyone who passed eighth grade and hadn’t filled out a card was sent another, and if there was still no response, they received a letter from the superintendent urging them to attend high school and telling them that they would not be able to compete in the business world without a high-school diploma.
For those who still hadn’t see the light by September, Bush sent a second letter, which included the statement, “The average income of the high school graduate in the United States is $1,000 per year. The average income of those who have not gone beyond the eighth grade is $450 per year.
Peer pressure was employed with the campaign approach, too. This is when Dimorier is mentioned. “On February 29 of last year a High School Booster Week was promoted by Prof. John C. Diehl, Principal of the High School, and Mr. W. E. Dimorier, head of the English Department. During this week, upper classmen visited the eighth grade rooms and told the pupils about the courses offered in the High School and insisted upon their taking advantage of the opportunities offered there.”
Citing results of the campaign approach, the article states that when the grammar-school principals visited 44 students’ homes, they found that three had moved from the city, 21 students (almost half) were working, six were too ill to attend school, nine were attending other secondary schools, and five were at home helping their parents with household duties. One can only think that for most of these children, the repeated attempts to get them to high school played on their consciences.
Overall, the campaign approach resulted in record increases in enrollment than had ever been seen in the Erie School District. The unnamed author of the article closes with, “Do not these facts offer a wealth of suggestion to school officials?”