“Back in 1912 when this school first started, there were no cell phones, no lightrail, no TV, no refrigerators, no iPods. Everything was different,” said former Principal Dr. Carol Grasz, a special guest at the 100th anniversary celebration of John M. Bailey School No. 12, held in late May. “But one thing that is the same in 1912 and in 2012 is the dedication of teachers who prepare students to move on into the world.”
Dr. Grasz, who served as principal of the school for 17 years, was known for her ability to keep the staff up to date by holding regular meetings and often giving needed gifts to classroom teachers.
In the good old days before the 1980s, Bailey School did not serve lunches. Kids walked home each day, then returned, one of those odd facts students highlighted on May 24 when they gathered to celebrate with a slide show and a variety of student skits.
“This school played an intricate role in the development of the City of Bayonne,” said Mayor Mark Smith, who joined the celebration and observed the students’ presentations of important events in the school’s long history. “While we’re here to celebrate the last 100 years, I look forwards to embarking on the next hundred,” Smith said. “This is a part of that special place I always refer to as the Gem of Hudson County: Bayonne.”
Time capsules and dated events
The May 24 event was the culmination of a series of events throughout the year starting back in September with the display of a student time capsule, which was locked and placed on display in the hallway by the main office. The time capsule contained photographs, news clippings, student’s artwork, poetry, and essays.
A time capsule created by third grade students in 1985 could not be recovered because it had been buried in front of the school where the concrete base of a marquee had been placed since then.
During the school year the students worked on new artwork, pictures, essays and letters to be put into a new time capsule to be opened in another 25 years. All classes also participated in a door or bulletin board decorating contest focusing on the 100-year theme. Mrs. Velvet Rodas’ class won the contest.
As a culmination of the centennial year, the students and teachers also wrote skits, made videos, and practiced to put on a huge production. The skits were written about the school’s past and great moments in history, and the play included music from the choir and orchestra and participation from all grade levels.
Students also came armed with numerous facts about the history, such as recalling that the 75th anniversary of the school had featured one of the first eighth grade graduates from the school and that a man named Ed Mayo had won gold mental at the school’s first track and field meet in 1960. The school’s first principal was Francis P. Gleason, but the school was named after Principal John M. Bailey, a former military police officer who did not support the forming of a parent teacher organization, feeling he could take care of all school business himself.
They recalled some events such as the “duck and cover” nuclear weapon drills students had to conduct in the basement during the 1950s, and how the boys’ basketball team won the city championship in 1952, again in 1988, and in 2009.
When a Cabbage Patch Kid was offered as a raffle prize in 1984, it had to be delivered with a police escort because there was such a high demand for it at the time.
“This school played an intricate role in the development of the City of Bayonne.” – Mayor Mark Smith
Dignitaries from the Board of Education and the City of Bayonne, former faculty, alumni, parents, and members of the community were present, including Mayor Smith, Dr. Grasz, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Patricia L. McGeehan, Assistant Superintendent and former principal Robert Craig.
Students volunteered for production positions as set designer, stage crew, video crew and actors. Mrs. Kathy Rapcienski, former teacher at Bailey, could not get over how well the children worked and how proud they were to be part of the production.
The skits covered the long history of the school, starting with one on “Groundbreaking 2010,” then “Third Grade Classroom 1915,” “Silent Move,” “Gym Class, 1930s,” “There’s No Place Like…,” “Slideshow 1950 -1970” with musical performances by students as Elvis and the Beatles, “Library/Study Hall, 1960s,” “Slide Show: 1970-1990” with musical performance of “The Rose” and dancer performances to “Hey Mickey,” and finally “Slideshow: 1990 to Present” with a heroes tribute.
The show concluded with a Time Capsule Assembly and a skit on the school of the future. The closing act of the play was a musical performance accompanied by Vincent Downes on the piano. With the help of their teachers, Mrs. Farley, Mrs. Meyers, and Mrs. Hickey, the third graders sang “100 Years to Live” using sign language.
One of the parents who attended the rehearsal was quoted as saying, “No one will be disappointed with the show. It was almost as good as a Broadway play.”
The play would not have been possible without the help of the Centennial Committee, which included Ms. Patricia Harz, chairperson; Mrs. Enid Doyle, stage crew manager and set designer; Mr. Kristy Martin, dance instructor; Mrs. Melissa Quintana, videographer; Ms. Stefanie Tych; Mrs. Margaret Mondanaro; Ms. Jennifer Walter; Ms. Vera Velli; Mrs. Roseann Pona; and Principal Edward Beales.