By Janet Goetze
for the Hollywood Star News
Beaumont School is entering its second century as supporters plan a celebration and decide how to expand programs for 21st-century students.
Parents recently raised $50,000 – $10,000 more than the goal – through the Beaumont Foundation. Volunteers with the foundation and the Parent-Teacher Association hope to double the $10,000 and make more educational improvements for Beaumont’s 595 students.
Ideas are still being gathered, said principal Harriette Jackson Vimegnon. Teachers have suggested an art studio, French and German classes, a drama class, more technology opportunities and a full-time librarian instead of a half-time position.
When Beaumont Elementary School held its first classes in 1915 in small buildings at Northeast 40th Avenue and Fremont Street, the pupils were in two primary grades. The present building was completed in 1926 for kindergarten through eighth graders. It became a middle school in 1979.
Phil Hunt, now 95, was among the first students in the new building. He compiled early student and neighborhood stories in 1998 for “The Beaumont Profiles.” Each day began, he wrote, with the principal, Mrs. Buchanan, ringing a large hand bell to summon children from the playground.
The Beaumont neighborhood was growing with new houses and businesses in the 1920s, said Hunt, who became an editor at the Oregon Journal and later at The Oregonian. Copies of his book are in the reference sections of the Hollywood, Gregory Heights and Central libraries.
Bonnie Jean Yoder Shrock, who started at the school in 1929, recalled unpaved streets where crosswalks were two large planks laid down at corners. The Beaumont street car began running in 1912, coming up the hill south of the school with the last stop about 1-1/2 blocks south of Fremont on 41st Avenue, Shrock wrote for “Profiles.”
As time went on, two former Beaumont students became nationally famous. Suzanne Burce graduated in 1943 and by fall was becoming movie star Jane Powell. Later, she had television and stage roles. She lives in New York City and Connecticut.
Gordon Fullerton, who graduated from Beaumont in 1949 and Grant High School in 1953, became a NASA astronaut after earning degrees at California Institute of Technology. Later, he was a NASA research pilot. He died in 2013.
For many decades, neighborhood parades were organized around holidays, and a spring field day included maypole dances.
Cathy Neville Castillo, who graduated in 1957, remembers not only the maypole dances but also the bomb drills of the Cold War era, when children knelt in the hallways with arms covering their necks and heads.
On a happier note, she recalled, “We had a school orchestra with violins.”
Today, Beaumont doesn’t have an orchestra but it has three jazz bands, a choir and about 300 students involved in the music program. Some even come as early as 7:30 a.m. to begin practice with teacher Cynthia Plank, who often stays after school, too.
Classes in visual and performing arts faded in past budget cuts but teachers like Donald Rose find ways to include art in their classes.
Rose, who teaches eighth-grade English and American history, asked his students to depict revolution with white paper on a black paper background. Displayed in his classroom are some of the sculptural results: white strips erupting from the background; crumpled white clouds hovering over blackness; jagged, angular shapes rising into the air.
Teachers and parents agree that Beaumont also has strong science and math programs.
Seventh-grade science students of Matthew Moule, for instance, recently built small cars that hover above a track. The secret of the levitation is in magnets, according to Moule.
Beaumont students, who come from Rigler and Alameda elementary schools, are a diverse group with about 40 percent listed as economically disadvantaged. District records show 56.4 percent are Caucasian, 21.1 percent are Hispanic, 10.6 percent are African-American, 7.5 percent are multi-racial and 2.7 percent are Asian.
The diverse enrollment is part of Beaumont’s strength, said Jayme Causey, 24, a former pupil who has returned to the building as a student teacher. His school friends, he said, came from the well-manicured neighborhood along Alameda Ridge as well as more modest homes at the edges of the attendance area.
Middle school students may not realize the advantage of associating with people of different experiences and perspectives, said Causey, Yet, he said, “They are getting such a rich experience here.”
“I hope our students can leave Beaumont being able to communicate with people having different backgrounds and cultures,” the principal said. “I want our students to be problem solvers.”