Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

077_McCombs Junior High School


077_McCombs Junior High 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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McCOMBS (Photograph) The curriculum is extensive in the fine and applied arts areas. Offerings include band, orchestra, chorus and music. The art courses are on a three-year cycle so that a student wanting three years of art may experience different kinds each year. In the shop area there is the world of construction, world of manufacturing, world of communication including experience with printing presses. McCombs is the first and only junior high school in Des Moines to offer an Agri-Business course. (Seventy percent of all business in Iowa is related to agriculture.) A student may choose to take three years of home economics including vocational home economics. The curriculum is career education oriented. McCombs school has been designated for one year as a career education junior high. This is the only junior high in Des Moines with a Career Education Advisory Committee. Members include faculty and parents from McCombs and its feeder elementary schools. The science program, Intermediate Science Education Studies (ISES) is based on the scientific methods of experimentation. In addition the students have courses in environment and Unified Science and Math for Elementary Schools. (USMES). The physical education program for both boys and girls include cross country, soccer, basketball, volley ball, softball, golf, tennis and recreational games. Interest activities serve as the core-curriculum and they are adjusted to the needs and interest of the students. Students with special interest in athletics may use the gym every morning from 7:15 to 8:15. After school there is an intramural program involving home rooms or by signing up for a team. McCombs students also have a wide variety of extra-curricular clubs and activities to choose from including Drama, Photography, Future Homemakers, Future Farmers, and Art Club. These offer many worthwhile and interesting activities and experiences. Service Club, Y-Teens and Pep Club offer opportunities for service to McCombs as well as social activities. 75 Students talented and interested in music are encouraged to try out for Swing Choir and Stage Band or join the chorus. In addition the newspaper staff provides an outlet for creative ability and Student Council an opportunity for participation in the democratic process as well as developing leadership potential. McCombs is a community school where many activities take place during the week after school. In addition to those named above they have recreation for the students and night school for students and adults of the community. There is an on-going Parent Action Group. It has long been a custom in Des Moines to give to a school the name of a person who has made a significant contribution to the fields of education, government, and social organizations. Many of these persons have been nationally known figures as well as community leaders. Newell Devin McCombs is eminently qualified in all categories for this honor. He was a nationally known educator who held positions in Iowa public school systems for thirty- five years, the last nineteen years being with the Des Moines Public Schools as Assistant Superintendent from 1937 to 1941 and Superintendent from 1941 to 1956. Mr. McCombs was born December 13, 1895, in DeSoto, Iowa. He died May 27, 1966 at age seventy, in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he and his wife lived in retirement for ten years. He was graduated from DeSoto High School in 1914 and entered Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa in 1915 where he worked to earn money for his schooling waiting tables and serving as a student instructor in chemistry. He concentrated academically on the areas of physics, chemistry, and economics. He played the cornet and was a member of a quartet that traveled extensively in the midwest during vacations. His education was interrupted after two years when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War I, serving primarily as a special lecturer and instructor of wireless telegraphy (radio) at Harvard University. He returned to Simpson College after discharge from the service in 1919 where he completed two years of schooling in one year, graduating at the top of his class with a B. A. degree in 1920. He spent one year training at an automobile dealership before accepting his first position in education as a high school science instructor in Cherokee, Iowa in 1921. Four years later (1925) he became principal of the high school and one year later (1926) he was appointed as Superintendent of Cherokee Public Schools. He attended summer sessions at the University of California and the University of Iowa, receiving his M.A. degree from the University of Iowa in 1927. He continued graduate work during summers at Northwestern University, Chicago University, and New York University. He served in the capacity of Superintendent of Schools at Cherokee, Iowa until 1936. He then became Superintendent of Schools at Muscatine, Iowa for one year before accepting the position of Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Des Moines, where he completed his career as an educator. In 1943 he received, from Simpson College, the honorary degree of Doctor of Education, and in 1944 he received, from Drake University, an honorary Doctor of Laws . degree. "Mr. Mac" was a man of high ideals and great intellectual ability, a man of many accomplishments, a man of friendly dignity, and a man of quiet courage and strength, the "likes" of whom will not be seen for a long time, if ever.