Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

028_Cattell and Cowles School


028_Cattell and Cowles School


This is a page from the collection "Bicentennial Reflections: History of Des Moines Public Schools, 1876-1976" by Dr. Robert R. Denny, published by the Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, Iowa in 1976.

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26 In 1858 he was elected auditor of Iowa. In regard to his election, the State Register says: "It was a fortunate thing for Iowa that a man of his Roman simplicity, Spartan courage and inflexible honesty that arose above every temptation was in that position at that particular time." He introduced improvements into the manner of conducting monetary transactions of the state as well as in the system of bookkeeping. During his incumbency, which covered the entire civil war era, the expenditures were very heavy and the work greater than ever before. Twice he was re-elected to the office. While a member of the General Assembly, Jonathan Cattell and other State House officials and citizens sponsored a school at East Ninth and Des Moines Streets. It was a community later served by Bryant School. Though built and supported by private contributions, there was no intention of making it a private school. When two colored children were admitted, the wealthiest contributor withdrew his children as well as his contributions. Mr. Cattell and others doubled their payments and the school went on. He was one of the first men in Des Moines to support minority groups by insisting on equal educational opportunity for all. After his retirement, Mr. Cattell remained a resident of the city and for a short time was out of political life. In 1866 he was nominated by the Republicans of Polk County as their representative in the State Senate. He served two terms and again retired from public office. However in 1885 he was appointed by Governor Sherman as auditor of the state, to fill out a term. Physically Mr. Cattell resembled Abraham Lincoln. In 1967, the School District began purchasing, for future needs, the properties north of the present school grounds - north to Tiffin between East 12th and East 13th. All but one property has been purchased. To support and enrich a strong basic skills program, the following areas are noted: 1. A phonetic approach to reading continues to be used in the primary grades. 2. A career education program, integrated with the curriculum areas, was implemented. 3. There has been emphasis on the use of supplementary materials and instructional media materials and equipment. The auditorium is being converted to a media center. 4. There has been assistance from resource and support personnel. The most recent programs have been in the areas of reading and learning disabilities. 5. Cooperative planning and teaching to meet the needs of individuals. To enhance the "Community School" concept, the following areas have been utilized: 1. School-Community Council 2. Classes for children and adults through the district's Community Education Department. 3. Recreation program sponsored by the City Parks and Recreation Department. 4. Working relationship with Grandview College. 5. Involvement of community in the Career Education Program. In the mid-1970's Cattell had a departmentalized primary unit with a grade 4-6 modified six-unit program for the older students. COWLES SCHOOL 64th and College Grades K-6 Site—9.3 acres This building was named in honor of Florence Call Cowles, wife of Gardner Cowles, Sr., and mother of Gardner Cowles, Jr. owner of the Des Moines Register & Tribune, LOOK magazine, and KRNT radio and television stations. The primary wing of kindergarten, six primary rooms and an all-purpose room was opened September, 1958 with 200 pupils. The wing of ten classrooms, art room, library, and gymnasium was opened in September, 1961. The total cost for both wings was $622,483. Grades kindergarten through third filled the building from 1958 until 1961 when grades four through six were included. In 1963 some 250 pupils from the Debra Heights area were bussed to Cowles and remained there until June, 1965 when Samuelson was opened. Cowles School was one of the original suburban buildings to be a receiving school under the Equal Education Opportunity volunteer transfer program. Black students from the inner-city schools of Moulton and Nash had elected to attend Cowles instead of their local attendance unit. In the mid-1970's this building also has two learning disabilities satellite groups as well as a special assistance for the visually impaired students. In addition to the regular educational program the director of library services has his office in this building along with two rooms used by the cataloging division of the school system. Yet another room is used by the music education division to store and circulate the music to all elementary and secondary schools. Cowles also houses the elementary consultants and the student teaching supervisor from the University of Northern Iowa. Beginning in Sept. 1975, Cowles and Elmwood will be paired and share the same principal. Progress of Cowles School during the 1970's. Community and parental involvement have been emphasized in recent years. An average of 50 parents volunteer their services weekly to help individual students, do clerical work, operate the "open" library, and be of assistance where needed. Over 100 parents volunteer to assist during the annual Cowles Track Meet; an extravaganza that features both track and field events. Community education classes are offered for both parents and students. From 6 to 8 courses are offered each session to meet the requested desires of the community. Career Education was implemented as part of the curriculum in 1973. Students in grades K-6 have been involved in various career related projects and have interviewed most parents regarding their chosen profession. Music education is an integral part of the regular school curriculum with over 70% of all 4-6 grade students involved with private or group lessons.