Monday, July 27, 2009

Family Knows His Guns

Sylvester Knows His Guns, born in [year?]. He is a Northern Cheyenne Indian who succeeded Ralph Redfox at the Center of Indian Ministries and Studies at Concordia.

We need more information about this family.

The Sylvester Knows His Guns family lived in Columbia Avenue House 03 from [year?] to [year?].

Family Potratz

Kevin Potratz, born in [year?]. He works in Concordia University's Computer Science Department.

Janelle Potratz, born in [year?].

Zachary Potratz, born in [year?].

Jacob Potratz, born in [year?].

Jenna Potratz, born in [year?].

Brianna Potratz, born in [year?].

The Potratz family has owned and lived in Columbia Avenue House 03 since 1999.

Family Redfox

Ralph Redfox, born in [year?]. He began as a student at Concordia and then became the coordinator for the Center of Indian Ministries and Studies (CIMS). He is a Northern Cheyenne Indian.

Marcia Redfox, born in [year?].

Childrens' names and birth years?

The Redfox family lived in Columbia Avenue House 03 from 1970 to [year?].

Family Schulz

Marlin Schulz, born in [year?]. Professor of Education at Concordia Teachers College.

Donna Schulz, born in [year?].

We need more information about this family.

The Schulz family lived in Columbia Avenue House 03 from 1968 to 1970.

Family Serck

Leah Serck, born in [year?]. She was a Professor of Education at Concordia.

We need more information about this family.

The Serck family lived in Columbia Avenue House 03 from [year?] to [year?].

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Numbers of LCMS Schools Outside Seward

In my recent posts I wrote pessimistically about the factors that might affect current and future states of religious schools. According to the statistics that the Lutheran Church / Missouri Synod (LCMS) presents on this website, however, Lutheran schools still seem to be prospering in many places. There Synod still has:

988 elementary schools with 120,684 students


108 high schools with 18,867 students.

The "average" LCMS elementary school has nine full-time teachers and 133 students, so St John School is a little larger than this average school. (The "average" LCMS high school has 15 full-time teachers and 216 students.)

The table below, which shows total counts of students per grade, indicates that more students have been enrolling in recent years (or that students drop out as they advance to higher grades):

1st 14,184
2nd 13,514
3rd 13,350
4th 13,041
5th 12,800
6th 12,632
7th 12,193
8th 11,805
9th 4,836
10th 5,000
11th 4,717
12th 4,314

The next table shows the students' ethnicities:

White 82%
Black 7%
Hispanic 5%
Asian 3%
Other 3%

The next table shows the religious affiliations of the students' families:

LCMS operating congregation 39%
Other LCMS congregation 5%
Other Lutheran church 3%
Non-Lutheran church 36%
Un-churched (46,395) 17%

The next tables show average annual cost of education per student:

Elementary Per Student $5,570
High School Per Student $9,034

The next tables detail the funding sources for the schools.

Funding Sources of
Elementary Schools

Congregation Budget 40%
Tuition and Fees 49%
Other 11%

Funding Sources of
High Schools

Congregation Budget 7%
Tuition and Fees 68%
Other 25%

Average Annual Fees
for Elementary Schools

Members $1,960
Non-members $3,250

Average Annual Fees
for High Schools

Members $5,604
Non-members $6,513

The next table shows the enrollments of the largest elementary schools:

St Luke's Lutheran School, Oviedo FL 868
St. John's Lutheran School, Orange CA 826
St. Paul's Lutheran School, Orange CA 804
Hales Corners Lutheran, Hales Corners WI 689
Trinity Lutheran School, Litchfield Park AZ 686
Trinity Lutheran School, Spring TX 667
St. Peter Lutheran, Macomb MI 572
Salem Lutheran School, Tomball TX 555
St. Lorenz Lutheran Frankenmuth MI 532
Grace Lutheran School, Winter Haven FL 530
Salem Lutheran School, Orange CA 530
Shepherd Of The Hills, San Antonio TX 529
Immanuel Lutheran, Macomb MI 527
St John Lutheran School Bakersfield CA 508
West Portal Lutheran School, San Francisco CA 505
Christ Community, Kirkwood MO 501
Trinity, Roselle IL 493
St Michael Lutheran School, Fort Myers FL 492
Good Shepherd Lutheran, Collinsville IL 490
Redeemer Lutheran School, Austin TX 485
St. Peter Lutheran School, Arlington Heights IL 485
Our Savior Lutheran School, Livermore CA 477
Christ Lutheran School & PS, Phoenix AZ 475
Royal Redeemer Lutheran, North Royalton OH 442
Immanuel Lutheran School Saint, Charles MO 441
Concordia Lutheran School, San Antonio TX 435
Trinity Lutheran. Utica MI 425
St John Lutheran School, Ellisville MO 421
St Paul Lutheran School, Lakeland FL 418
Trinity Lutheran School, Hicksville NY 415
Grace Lutheran School, Pocatello ID 414
St Paul Lutheran School, Boca Raton FL 407
Concordia Lutheran School, Fort Wayne IN 409
St. Peter's Lutheran School, Columbus IN 408
Zion Lutheran School, Brighton CO 407
Trinity Lutheran School, Delray Beach FL 393
Trinity Lutheran School, Bloomington IL 391
St Paul Lutheran School, Glen Burnie MD 389
Rochester Central Lutheran, Rochester MN 389
Holy Cross Lutheran Academy, Sanford FL 387
Grace Lutheran School, Escondido CA 386
Lamb of God Lutheran School, Las Vegas NV 384
Trinity Lutheran School, Waconia MN 383
St Paul Lutheran School, Jackson MO 380
Immanuel Lutheran School, Palatine IL 378
Christ Lutheran School, Norfolk NE 375
Abiding Savior Lutheran School, Lake Forest CA 372
Immanuel Lutheran School, Twin Falls ID 371

The next table shows the enrollments of the largest high schools:

Lutheran High School Of Orange County, Orange CA 1318
Milwaukee Lutheran High School, Milwaukee WI 737
Lutheran South Academy, Houston TX 711
Faith Lutheran Jr/Sr High School, Las Vegas NV 707
Concordia Lutheran High School, Fort Wayne IN 682
Lutheran High School, North Macomb MI 628
Lutheran High School South, Saint Louis MO 527
Lutheran High School, West Rocky River OH 461
Baltimore Lutheran School, Baltimore MD 438
Rockford Lutheran High, Rockford IL 430
Walther Lutheran High School, Melrose Park IL 431
Long Island Lutheran, Brookville NY 408
Concordia Academy, Roseville MN 404

The next tables show average salaries:

Average salaries at
Elementary Schools

Administrators with BA $45,662
Administrators with MA $49,376
Full-Time Teachers with BA $30,320
Full-Time Teachers with MA $35,390

Average salaries at
High Schools

Administrators with BA $54,049
Administrators with MA $57,270
Full-Time Teachers with BA $35,683
Full-Time Teachers with MA $36,888

There are many more statistics at the LCMS website.

I was suprised to see how many Lutheran schools with large enrollments still exist. Many of them are located in large cities, but many are located in towns with unfamiliar names. The annual fees for attending LCMS schools average $1,960 but St John School's annual fee is only $1,000. It seems to me from these numbers that St John School does have the potential to increase its enrollment significantly.

I do not intend to research and write any more articles about St John School's enrollment numbers, but if someone has more numbers or explanations to offer, I will post them in this blog.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Demographic Changes and Parochial Schools

This article elaborates from a previous post about the decline of enrollment at St John School. In 1965 and 1966 St John School enrolled its largest first-grade classes -- 56 and 57 students respectively. As those two large classes rose through higher grades, the school's total enrollment reached a peak in 1970 -- 377 students. In 1973 the enrollment rose to 381, but that was because a ninth grade was added to the school.

After the early 1970s, enrollment declined steadily, even though the school had nine grades until 1991.

This fall of school enrollment corresponds to the decline of the USA's fertility rate

Graph of US Fertility Rate. Image taken from

and to the decline of the number of children per family.

Graph of Children per Family in the USA. Image taken from

Now I would like to introduce another demographic change that affected the school's enrollment. The mean age of mothers when they gave birth to their first child rose steadily from 21.4 years in the year 1972 to 25.2 years in the year 2003.

Table showing mean age of mother at first birth. Image taken from

For the sake of simplicity, I am going to talk only about births to married couples.

When a woman gave birth to her first child at age 21, then she had married at about age 19 or 20. She probably lived at home and attended high school until she was about 18. She probably had been confirmed at about age 13. In such cases, there was only a short gap in her experience of living at home with her religious family and then starting her own family. If a parochial school with a kindergarten was available when the first child reached the age of five, then the parents were likely to enroll the child there.

In contrast, when a mother gave birth to her first child at age 25, she normally had lived away from her religious family for several years. Perhaps she attended college away from home for a few years and then worked for a few years and then married at about age 23. The baby was born when the woman was 25, and then reached kindergarten age when the mother was 30. In this case 17 years had passed since the woman was confirmed and about 12 years had passed since she lived with her religious family. It was more likely that the woman's religious loyalties had been stretched to the breaking point and so the parents were less likely to enroll the child in the parochial school.

As a person waits longer to get married, the person is more likely to marry outside the family religion. The spouse is more likely to someone who was met farther away from home -- at college, during military service, while working in another town. If a Lutheran marries, for example, a Catholic, then the decision to enroll their child in a parochial school might cause a serious conflict that can be avoided with a compromise of enrolling the child in a public school.

After parents have enrolled their child in a parochial school, it is relatively easy for them to withdraw that child from the school if they have only one child enrolled. If the parents are dissatisfied with a teacher, or if the child is dissatisfied with a teacher or with with the other students or if there seems to be a learning problem, then the parents might feel few qualms about transfering that one child to another school. If the parents have one or more other children enrolled, though, the parents are more likely to maintain their commitment to the parochial school, so that all their children remain together in that school.

This factor can work in the other direction. Parents with a single child in a public school who experience major dissatisfaction are more likely to transfer the child to a private school. Often, though, this brings children with behavior problems into parochial schools. Parents hope that religious education will reform their criminal children.

All the above factors make it difficult for a parochial school to maintain its enrollments. As enrollments continue to decline year after year, the school gradually suffers various degradations. The building becomes older. Physical improvements are postponed. The staff members become older and more stale, and their salaries and professional opportunities stagnate. Staff members and parents feel more discouraged and demoralized. Textbooks and other materials become older. In general, the school projects an image an atmosphere that is increasingly negative. The school seems to be in a vicious, downward spiral.

In contrast, the town's public schools perhaps have grown within the same demographic circumstances. Perhaps the town's population has grown. Perhaps two public schools have been consolidated into one. Perhaps new facilities have been built. Perhaps the salaries and benefits of the public school's staff members have improved.

In these circumstances, the private school's survival becomes more precarious, and any crisis might become a death blow. Or the school might simply sink into unresolvable financial problems.

If, however, the school has a really excellent staff and if the remaining students continue to excel academically and if financial benefactors continue to donate, then the school can survive the hardest times. St John School's enrollment fell below 170 in the year 1930 and remained below 170 through the 1940s. Then, however, the school rode the demographic and economic boom during the 1950s and 1960s to an enrollment of 377 in the year 1970.

Next post: Some reassuring statistics about the LCMS's schools.

Stuff Christians Like

I like a blog called Stuff Christians Like, written by a guy who calls himself Prodigal Jon. In a humorous, affectionate manner, he points out quirky attitudes and habits of Christians. His website has hundreds of readers, who write hundreds of comments.

Today he happened to post an article on my own current topic -- parents choosing whether to send their children to public or parochial school. Here is an excerpt:

Today, I [Prodigal Jon] thought I'd throw out my favorite stereotypes for public schools, homeschooling and private Christian schools, giggle at them and then move on. Here goes:

Public School Stereotypes

1. If you send your kid to public school they're going to be constantly learning about evolution. Even gym class will have some sort of Darwinian dodgeball kind of game they play. Every class they take will be evolution focused and eventually they will hate the Bible and creation.

2. When they’re not learning about evolution, your kids will be taking sex ed classes that Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner and the satan himself funded.

3. If you send your kid to public school, they will "grow up fast" and walk away from the church.

4. If you send your kid to public school, you can look at it like a mission field because they'll have a chance to witness to so many people.

5. If you send your kid to public school, you’ll have to supplement the Bible they’re not getting during the day with round the clock Bible study at home from the moment school gets out until the second your kids go to sleep at night.

Private Christian School Stereotypes

1. If you send your kid to Private Christian school, they'll study the Bible all day and form a lifelong relationship with Christ that no man can tear asunder.

2. If you send your kid to Private Christian school, they'll eventually go wild if they go to a non Christian college because suddenly they won’t have all the same restrictions they are used to.

3. If you think public school kids are fast, send your kids to a private school where the kids actually have money for the big, serious drugs and have the time and financial freedom to really get crazy.

4. If you send your kids to a private Christian school, you can worry less about family Bible time because that’s the school’s job, not yours.

5. If you send your kid to private Christian school you'll never have to worry about mean kids, or your kids having enough friends or any of the other challenging things that come with being a teenager because everyone at a private Christian school is a Christian and loves one another.

It is worthwhile to read Prodigal John's entire article, which suggests stereotypes also about home schooling. If you look through previous articles on the blog Stuff Christians Like, you will find a lot of amusing and thought-provoking articles.

As I write this, already 168 comments have been added to the article about private and public schools. Here is an interesting example:

I am a product of public school. I never knew anyone who did drugs. I never knew anyone who got pregnant. I never even knew anyone who had sex. Everyone I knew took a full load of AP classes and was in the Math Club. I hung out with my friends: an agnostic, a Hindu, and a Jewish Catholic (dad Jew + mom Catholic + neither parent really caring about religion = confused daughter). All in all I lived a pretty sheltered life when it came to the "big sins".

Church Sunday School was a practice in the "great divide" of schooling. I went to a large church with two Sunday school hours, one corresponding to the contemporary service and one the traditional. All of the private school kids went to the contemporary service and all the public school kids went to the traditional service. Considering contemporary services were made to reach heathen children like us public schoolers, we all thought it was hilarious.

Here is another:

Growing up I attended various Catholic and public schools. Many of my friends attended private Christian schools.

We sent one of our children to a private, non Christian school and the other to a public school. Most of their friends attended private non Christian schools. I taught in a public school.

In my experience any school where parents are involved is a good school. Period. Public, private, Christian or not. Any school where the parents are not involved is not a good school. Period. Public, private, Christian or not. It really is that simple.

And another:

i was homeschooled for kindergarted & 8th grade, private christian school for 1-7th, and public school for high school.

the christian school i went to was really fundamentalist and extreme--no pants for girls, any secular music was from the devil, if you were a cheerleader you had to sign and contract saying that you would not wear pants in public or go to movies...crazy. it was good for early elementary, but by the time i got older all the kids were rebelling and got really mean. the majority of my friends who stayed there ended up on drugs, in homosexual relationships, or pregnant out of wedlock. i got a good base of memorizing scripture and books of the bible, though.

my 8th grade year of homeschool we had a group of other homeschooled teens and would get together for drama class, go do things in the community, was fun and socially rewarding.

high school at a public school was great! my school was actually very conservative and teachers taught creation along w/evolution. my physics prof did a demonstration to prove the existance of God. we had small-ish classes, i made good friends, and led fca.

i had friends who partied and did drugs in high school, but i think so much of it just depends on how you are raised at home. while at our super-strict christian school my parents were careful to remind us not to be legalistic and to explain that we didn't believe all those things. in high school i was level-headed enough to make good choices and surround myself with people with similar values. throughout my adolescence, church was my primary social outlet.

And finally:

We felt like God was telling us to put our kids in public school not so much that THEY could be lights, but because WE could. We have met non-Christian parents who have become very good friends. We know our neighbors (!). We even had a Bible study with one couple who was struggling. All people we met through public school. As our kids have gotten older (high school now), they are learning how to shine in a dark world even more. I'm so proud of them. ....

I am an adjunct professor at a Christian college. Over the years, I've noticed that my students who came out of our local Christian high school were not as academically prepared for the rigors of college work as the students who came from the public high school. After a while I asked a colleague of mine if she had noticed the same thing, and she very quietly whispered to me that, yes, she had.

In my opinion, school is for learning, so if my kids are going to get a sub-par education at a private school, I'm sure as heck going to put them in the public school. I can handle the spiritual part of my kids' education.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Confirmation and Parochial Schools

Let's imagine a town like Seward in the year 1940. Our imaginary town did not have a Lutheran college, a Lutheran high school or a Lutheran elementary school, but did have a rather large Lutheran Church. What was the religious education in our imaginary town in 1940?

Children went to church every Sunday with their families. Everyone in the family wore nice clothes when they went to church. The males, even little boys, wore suits and ties and polished shoes. The females wore pretty dresses and often hats and gloves. After the church service, the children attended Sunday school for an hour. Then the whole family returned home and ate a Sunday meal, which was the best meal of the week.

When the children were in seventh and eighth grades, they attended confirmation classes, taught in the church by the pastor. These classes were a few hours every week, perhaps in the afternoons after school or perhaps on Saturday morning. During those two years those students were expected to attend church services on weekday evenings during Lent. Attending these confirmation classes and Lenten services was a bother, but you usually had a few cousins who were in the same boat, so you couldn't play hookey, because maybe a cousin would snitch.

One consolation in attending confirmation classes and Lenten services was that there were occasional opportunities to socialize with kids of the opposite sex. Seventh and eighth graders are beginning to become interested in sexual situations. Sometimes during confirmation classes the pastor talked about marriage and other sexual issues (topics that were avoided in the public schools). The pre-confirmation kids might form a special choir to sing at the Lenten services, so there would be choir practices. All around these various activities there were opportunities for the boys and girls to banter and flirt in circumstances that celebrated their physical maturation. On the day when they were confirmed, they ceased being boys and girls and became men and women.

After confirmation, much of the control on their religious activities was relaxed. They no longer had to attend confirmation classes. They attended Lenten classes less frequently or not at all. When they attended Sunday services they were allowed to sit away from their parent and with their friends, and then they might play hookey from the post-service Bible classes.

The confirmation experience sufficed, however, to maintain these young people in their religion until they married and had their own children. When they themselves became parents they took their own children to church every Sunday, repeating the pattern.

The interval between confirmation and marriage was about six to eight years. You were confirmed at age 13 and you got married when you were around 19 to 21. During that interval, there were enough church activities to maintain a young-adult seriousness about your religion. Even if your Sunday church attendance slacked off, you attended various weddings and funerals that reminded you about the church's role in a proper life. You belonged to a church softball team or to a church bowling team. You went to church picnics and fund-raising bazaars. You participated in the Walther Leauge. You served as a counselor at a church summer camp. You sang in a youth choir that practiced for and then performed in the Easter and Christmas services.

This system was reinforced by extended families. People married within their religion and had lots of uncles and aunts and cousins. The system resonated with the church seasons, which resonated with the agricultural seasons, which resonated with the town's economy. The system fit with a life cycle in which people married at around age 20 and then gave birth to children within a few years. The system suffered relatively little competition from alternative entertainment for young people.

Now into our imaginary little town we will add a Lutheran elementary school in the year 1941. Then we will jump ahead 25 years to the year 1966. The school's enrollment has grown from zero to about 200. (That was the growth of St John School, which grew from about 152 in 1941 to 362 in 1966.) In 1966, the school's seventh and eighth grades each have about 25 students, totaling about 50 students. Those 50 students now receive their confirmation instruction -- a far better instruction -- in their Lutheran school.

Out of necessity, the old confirmation system continued to exist during those 25 years from 1941 to 1966, but it became impoverished. Those seventh and eighth graders who did not attend the Lutheran school continued to attend confirmation classes at the church, but the classes had fewer students. In general, those remaining children belonged to families that were less informed about, and less committed and engaged in the church congregation and the Lutheran religion.

Furthermore, those remaining children were distracted increasingly by television, by popular culture, and by school athletics and other extra-curricular activities. Still, this old system in which some young people receive confirmation instruction at the Lutheran school while others receive it at church has continued to survive until the present time, but it has become less and less effective in perpetuating religion in the family for those receiving confirmation instruction at church

Other factors that were not present in 1940 now negatively impact the situation. Today, marriages are delayed and fewer people die before old age, so some religious concerns are postponed. The interval between confirmation and parenthood now stretches out to 12 to 15 or more years. During that increased interval, young people drift farther and farther away from their families and what was their religion. More and more frequently, they then marry outside their family religion.

On the other hand, families that want more seriously to perpetuate the religion continue to use the Lutheran elementary school to educate their children much more intensely through confirmation in the eighth grade. This better religious education raises the probability that young people will pair up and eventually will marry within their shared religion, and then will re-activate themselves in the church with their own children.

Unfortunately, many parents decided in recent years to withdraw their children from religious elementary schools and to give their children their religious educations instead at church through the old confirmation system, which does still function, but very ineffectively. Ironically, the religious elementary schools have impoverished that old confirmation system where they have co-existed. Everywhere, however, the old confirmation system has become very ineffective, because it no longer fits into our society well, like it did fit 70 or more years ago.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Deep Reasons for St John's Enrollment Collapse

(Before you read this article, you should read this article about the numbers of students at St John and this article clarifying my attitudes toward Seward's schools.)

Here are the numbers of students who graduated from St John School's eighth grade through the last ten years:

1999 43
2000 36
2001 50
2002 35
2003 30
2004 27
2005 22
2006 27
2007 22
2008 10

The average size of the first three graduation classes (1998, 1999, 200) is 43 students, and the average size of the last three classes (2006, 2007,2008) is 19students.

A major reason for this collapse of enrollment seems to be the significant increase in tuition charges that were introduced in the autumn of 2001. Retired school secretary Bonnie Katt described this tuition increase as follows:

Before 2001, there was an enrollment fee and what we called a capitol-use fee, which was $50 per child per semester. I believe the enrollment fee was around $175 per child per year.

The first year for tuition was the fall semester of 2001, when the first child was $750 and then it was less for the second and third child, and the fourth child was free.

I calculate that before the year 2001 the previous annual cost for one child had been ($50 + $50 + $175 = ) $275. In 2001 and this cost was suddenly raised to $750, which was an annual increase of ($750 - $275 = ) $475. (See here for details about the current tuition, which has risen to $1,000.)

Another major reason for this collapse seems to be the school's principal David Mannigel had sexually abused several students. These accusations were brought to the Church's administration in March 2001, and Mannigel subsequently committed suicide in June 2001. A few months later, similar accusations were presented against teacher Arlen Meyer.

The class that enrolled in the autumn of 2001 when the tuition was raised and after the sexual-abuse accusations became public was the same class that graduated in 2008 with only ten students. It seems therefore that these circumstances caused a significant number of parents not to enroll their children into the school's first grade.

In addition a significant number of parents decided in this and the following years to transfer their children from St John School to Seward Elementary School before they graduated. Probably such transfers were more common when then children were in the lower grades and less common when the children already were relatively close to graduation.

In this article, however, I will argue that those apparent events -- the tuition increase and the abuse scandals -- were superficial causes of the enrollment collapse. These events gave those parents who transfered their children an excuse to do what they already were inclined to do for other, deeper reasons.

The tuition increase, $475 for an entire year, was sudden but reasonable and affordable. There are about 200 school days in a year, so the increase was only about $2.40 per school day. Perhaps parents had difficulty paying the entire tuition in advance and foresaw also that the tuition would be raised even higher in following years, but the economy was extremely good in 2001 (the US economy's real growth rate was 5%), so families were generally confident about future earnings.

Certainly the sexual-abuse accusations were a shock that upset and infuriated parents. However, no family could escape this danger by transfering its children to a different school, because such scandals can happen in any school and do happen in many public schools every year. In addition, parents had good reason to presume or hope that the accusations were exaggerated or false, because the accusations never were tested in a trial.

I am pondering this situation eight years later and from a great distance, so perhaps I misunderstand the feelings and decisions made by parents in those circumstances. It seems to me, however, that parents who really were strongly committed to educating their children in a parochial school would not have felt compelled by these particular events -- the tuition increase and the abuse scandals -- to send their children instead to a public school. Rather, it seems to me that these events significantly affected parents who already had become ambivalent sending their children to parochial school.

I will explain my opinion about deeper currents that already were moving people to send their children to Seward's public schools. I will welcome and present any contrary opinions or evidence that people might send me.

Until 1973, when Concordia High School was closed down, roughly one-third of each class that graduated from St John's eighth grade went to Concordia High School, where they continued a Lutheran religious education, and the other two-thirds of the class transfered to Seward High School, where they began a secular education. This annual split-up of St John's graduating class made some differences among the students more clear than they probably were later, when all the graduates transfered to Seward High School. By the year 2000, more than a quarter century had passed since the last time a graduating class split up so obviously. I will inform or remind my readers about those differences.

My eighth grade class, which graduated from St John School in 1966, had 34 students. Looking at our eighth-grade class in our yearbook, I remember that 12 of us continued to Concordia High School, and the the other 22 transfered to Seward High School.

The twelve who continued to CHS can be divided into three groups.

Six faculty kids: Connie Grabarkewitz, Jim Hardt, Gene Meyer, Bill Schwich, Mike Sylwester and Ken Uhlig.

Four college-manager kids: Sue Curtis (father managed the cafeteria), John Garmatz (father managed public relations), Steve Roettjer (father managed book store and student supplies), and Jane Schlueter (father managed engineering and maintenance).

Two miscellaneous: Rathje (father was a farmer) and Jim Miller (I don't remember what his father did; maybe his father was a college manager too).

All the faculty kids and all the college-manager kids in our eighth grade class continued to Concordia High School. Not one eighth-grade graduate in either of these two categories transfered to Seward High School. (Roy Churchill's mother managed the college cafeteria's kitchen staff, but his father had a job, as I recall, involving the town's cemeteries.)

I think that our class was typical of the St John graduates during the 1960s. I would categorize all children of St John teachers or of Concordia High School teachers as faculty kids, and I would categorize all children whose parents were employed as managers for any of these schools or for the church's congregation as "college-manager" kids.

The 22 students who transfered to Seward High School included several who were children in prominent families. For example, I remember that Robert Pollock's father was the town sheriff and that Dick Rolfsmeier's family owned the town's only car dealership. In general, those 22 could be divided most obviously into the children of town families and the children of farm families.

I can only guess at the reasons why the families of those 22 classmates decided to send their children to St John School for eight years and then to Seward High School for four years. My guesses include the following considerations:

Location: Some families lived very close to St John School, and Seward Elementary School was on the other side of town. While the children were small, the parents wanted the convenience and safety of sending them to the closest school.

Civic pride: Parents who had attended Seward High School or had established themselves in Seward's non-college community wanted their own children to develop similar local ties as young adults.

Cost: I think that the tuition for Concordia High School was rather high. Parents who had been willing to pay the relatively low tuition for the private elementary school did not want to pay much more the private high school.

School size: Seward High School was much larger than Concordia High School, and parents felt that the more varied options and opportunities were more important for their children in high school than in elementary school. For example, a student who wanted to become a mechanic would be able to attend shop classes at Seward High School.

Children's preference: Many of the children would have preferred to attend the public schools already for a long time. While the children were young, it was easier for the parents to over-rule them, but when the chidren reached high-school age, the parents had to comply more with their children's preferences. Keep in mind that most of these children lived relatively far from St John and most of their age peers in their own neighborhoods attended the public schools.

Disenchantment: Some parents and children might have had positive attitudes initially about religious education but then become increasingly disappointed or negative for various reasons during the successive years. These families might have continued through eighth grade by simple inertia or by embarrassment about expressing their negative feelings. They saw the eighth-grade graduation as a socially comfortable opportunity to abandon religious education. In some cases the parents or children might have decided secretly that they no longer believed the Lutheran religion after having been exposed to it for so long.

Misperceptions about CHS: Some parents might have perceived that Concordia High School was an appropriate high school only for young people who had decided to become Lutheran teachers or ministers and that ordinary young people would be misfits there.

I think that the unusual events of the year 2001 caused a lot of families that were not employed by Concordia to act according to the above considerations earlier than eighth-grade graduation. Rather than transfer their children after eighth grade, they transfered them after third or fourth grade or did not even send them to first grade. For those parents, this decision was not so radical, because they would have transfered their children after eighth grade even if the tuition increase and sexual-abuse scandals had not occurred. The transfer simply happened a few years earlier.

I think that in many of these families there always was a disagreement between the two spouses. One spouse insisted that the children attend St John while the other spouse preferred that the children attended Seward's public schools. In many such families the tuition increase and the sexual-abuse scandals simply tipped these arguments enough that the spouse who preferred the public schools now won the argument.

Based on my experience with my own eighth-grade class, I have the impression that about two-thirds of the families had a commitment to religious education that was limited. Even though a Lutheran high school was available, these families decided that a religious education only through eighth grade was enough. Although the high school was more expensive, I think those parents would have paid if their child earnestly wanted to continue in that direction. The children themselves preferred to transfer to Seward High School and the parents agreed or acquiesced. That was the situation in 1966, and I think it was similar after 2000.

In my next articles I will describe what I think are some other deep reasons for the collapse of enrollment at St John School.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Clarification of My Attitude About Seward's Schools

Paul Kolteman wrote:

You made some comments I disagree with. Here is my concern. You are still a Christian and rightfully so in the eyes of the Lord if you went to St. John School, Concordia High School, Concordia College or Seward High School. Last I checked our Lord doesn’t care. There is no difference in education and quality in the programs of public education or Christian Education in many ways OTHER than the ability to integrate Christ into the curriculum. Which is what truly separates Christian education from public schools.

But don’t ever assume that the quality of education from a public school in Seward is inferior, or the fact that you went to Seward High is in any way a “lower class” as this is far from REALITY. I attended St John, and Concordia College and graduated from SHS and feel NO inferior education and take offense to this. Just my thoughts. I had MANY classmates who went to Concordia High School and Many that went to Seward High School. It makes no difference in the Quality of education, other than the ability in a parochial school to teach the religion of choice. Other than that …don’t judge the quality of education at SHS.

I cherish and Love the fact that I was raised in a Christian family in Seward and went to St John and SHS and Concordia College. But don’t feel , my friends that went to Concordia High School in any way were more better equipped for life than me because they went to Concordia High. In fact it is sad of the split back then between SHS and Concordia kids when many had spent 9 years together in grade school and confirmation and were split by going to a different High school. In many cases those differences went on for years. Very sad.

Anyway, not upset…just open minded to know that the LORD doesn’t look at it that way.

I assume that Paul was responding to my recent post where I wrote:

I suppose that yet another factor in the decline of St John's enrollment is that more non-Concordia families in Seward were satisfied to send their children to the public school. I assume that the quality of Seward's public schools have improved steadily. About half of St John's graduating class every year advanced to Seward High School instead of to Concordia High School. As these young people who had attended both St John and Seward High School eventually got married and had their own children, many of these young parents felt more loyalty to Seward's public schools, especially if one of the spouses had not attended St. John.

I suppose also that, even in Seward, the population has become less religious and more secular. The proportion of the population that feels strongly that their children should receive the kind of religious education that St John offers is declining. Many people, even graduates of St John, have come to assume that a religious education is even inferior to a secular education.

When I started writing this blog, I intended it to be a light-hearted, up-beat nostalgic memoir about childhood in Seward, but I was so shocked to learn that St John School's enrollment has fallen to 150 that I have decided to write a few articles pondering the reasons for that decline. I suppose this enrollment drop has been common knowledge for a long time to people who are not separated so far by time and distance from Seward as I am. For me, though, this is a brand-new interest that has preoccupied my thoughts during recent days.

I expect that I probably will state some opinions that might strike some readers as ignorant and arrogant. I will try to be careful about what I write, and I will accept and learn from criticisms.

Before I begin, I want to say that I do not intend to insult anyone. I assume that the people in the town, church, college and school who have dealt with these problems during the 40 years since I left, when I was a teenager, have dealt with them in a professional, dedicated, thoughtful and earnest manner.

In particular, I do not mean to insult the Seward public schools or the people who transfered from St John School to Seward's public schools. In fact, I think that a major reason why those families did transfer their children in that direction was that they perceived that the public schools were at least as good as or even better than St John School.

I do think that St John perhaps was a better school than Seward's public school in the 1960s when I attended. At that time St John had a large number of students who were the children of parents who were teachers or other employees of Concordia Teachers College. I think that kids who grow up in such families received somewhat more exposure to books and to cultural opportunities and that they aspired more to grow up to become teachers and ministers or other professionals. So, I think that, in general, St John School was blessed with students that were more academically experienced and ambitious than the Seward public schools were. I say this opinion only in regard to the 1960s, when St John School was at its maximum size and when Concordia Teachers College was growing and prospering.

That's a mere personal, smug opinion that is not based on any actual knowledge of Seward's public schools and students in the 1960s. I hope nobody thinks this particular opinion of mine is so strong or important that they should feel insulted. The kids who did transfer from St John to Seward High School are much, much more qualified to compare the qualities of the schools and students than I am.

So, I appreciate corrections from people like Paul Kolterman, who do have that broader experience. I do not write about this subject in order to insult or condescend to anyone but rather to express my concerns about St John School.

Paul Kolterman responded:

We live in Norfolk, Nebraska, and we have a Lutheran Day School and High School here. The enrollment has steadily declined for the past 18 years we have been here, at the grade school K-8.

The High School was started about 10 years ago from the bottom up and is doing well here.

The cost of Private education has gone up considerably over the past years and the economy is messed up. This makes it difficult for families to “afford” private Christ centered education. It is truly a sacrifice that parents make to pay tuition when they can send there child to a public school for free. I feel the quality of education at our Lutheran Schools is second to none and more than likely better in the fact that it is Christ centered. But, it still makes it very difficult for many families and congregations to afford a Lutheran School in the congregation and parents the problem of figuring out how to pay the bills and the tuition. Praise the Lord that we have many who help through offerings and donations to keep these Lutheran Schools going.

Not hardly a day goes by that I feel Blessed to have been raised in Seward by Lutheran parents who saw value above education in Lutheran education. Parents who supported St John, Concordia High School, and CTC. Our Father believed in Christian education and instilled this value in us through allowing us to go to a Lutheran school and for some of us college.

It was so important to us that when we moved to Northeast Nebraska we sought out Norfolk and Christ Lutheran for the simple reason it had a Lutheran School for our Children to attend. It was never easy paying tuition, as raising a family is expensive. But the Lord helps you through all this and the sacrifice of sending children to Lutheran School and founding them stronger in Christian education is something of far much more value, that no price tag can touch.

Praise God for all the Lutheran Teachers and Church workers who make this all possible, as a Christ-centered education could not be possible without them!!!

I attended Concordia High School for two years, and then my family moved to Eugene, Oregon, which did not have a Lutheran high school, so I attended my last two years in a public high school.

I would say that the happiest two years of my childhood were my seventh and eighth grades in St John, and then I felt rather miserable during my two years at Concordia High School. The reasons for that latter unhappiness were not educational reasons, but common adolescent reasons -- social awkwardness, school cliques, etc. I therefore felt personally relieved to leave CHS and to transfer to a large public high school in Eugene, where I felt I could start over socially and find a social place in a much larger student body. A public school with 1,000 students offers a lot of educational and social options that a private school with 100 students cannot offer.

So, my own transfer from a parochial to a public school was a positive experience for me, and I sympathize with Seward kids who likewise felt that their own transfer from St John to Seward High School was a positive experience for them.

Now that I have left my adolescent social traumas long behind me and I look back at my two years at CHS, I appreciate the qualities of those two years much more. I am glad that I had those two additional years of religious education. And the education I received in non-religious subjects was excellent.

I remember that the CHS guidance counselor told us once that our school scored very high on standardized tests compared to other schools. As a school we were at something like the 85th percentile. So, the kids who did go from St John to CHS were a relatively smart group. Just saying.

I intend write a couple articles in the next few days sharing my thoughts about the collapse of enrollment at St John school.

Reunion Class of 1963

I received this picture from Gene Meyer, who received it from Alan Meyer (class of 1963), who received it from Phil Heidemann (class of 1963).

Seated in the front row, left to right, are retired teachers Jean Prochnow, Lucinda Bartels, Dolores Mielke and Herb Peter. Standing in the back row are 1963 St John graduates Connie Imig Mulhaney, Marlin Luebbe, Phil Heidemann, Lois Dankert Ourada and Galen Dohrman.

The image is on this Flickr webpage,

where it can be seen in larger sizes by clicking on ALL SIZES above the image.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Numbers of Students of St John School

(This article replaces an article that was posted on this blog on June 29 and which now has been removed.)

For its recent anniversary celebration, St John school published on its website a table listing all students who have graduated since the school was established in 1885. The table lists the graduation year and name of each such student.

The table does not list students who did not graduate. For example, if a student attended first through seventh grade and then left before completing the eighth grade, he is not listed.

For most years, the graduation year was eighth grade, but from 1973 through 1991 the graduation year was ninth grade. In 1991 both the eighth and ninth grades graduated.

Using the table's information, I have approximated the enrollment size of the first grade and of the entire school (not including kindergarten) for each year. I then averaged those approximations for each five-year period. My results are listed in the table below.

Period 1st
1885-1889 9 51
1890-1894 10 72
1895-1899 17 103
1900-1904 15 129
1905-1909 18 129
1910-1914 20 146
1915-1919 23 166
1920-1924 25 190
1925-1929 18 183
1930-1934 22 162
1935-1939 18 161
1940-1944 18 148
1945-1949 21 158
1950-1954 27 185
1955-1959 33 225
1960-1964 43 290
1965-1969 48 368
1970-1974 34 365
1975-1979 32 309
1980-1984 31 289
1985-1989 37 300
1990-1994 39 309
1995-1999 28 286
2000-2004 26 206
2005-2009 19 150

For the individual year 1942, I estimated the number of first graders as 15 students and the number of all students (1st through 8th grades) as 142. That year was the low point of the school's enrollment after 1911. The students who entered first grade in 1942 were born in about 1936, which was the depth of the Great Depression. I suppose that relatively few children were born in Seward in the mid and late 1930s, and those children's families suffered from financial difficulties. Also, the Lutheran Church suffered financial difficulties during the years preceeding 1942.

After 1942, enrollment grew steadily as Seward families had more children, as Seward families became more prosperous, as the Lutheran Church became more prosperous, and as Concordia College hired more faculty, who moved into Seward with their children and who had even more children in Seward.

In 1965 and 1966 the school enrolled its largest first-grade classes -- 56 and 57 students respectively. As those two large classes rose through higher grades, the school's total enrollment reached a peak in 1970 -- 377 students. In 1973 the enrollment rose to 381, but that was because a ninth grade was added to the school.

After the early 1970s, enrollment declined steadily, even though the school had nine grades until 1991.

This fall of school enrollment corresponds to the decline of the USA's fertility rate

Graph of US Fertility Rate. Image taken from

and to the decline of the number of children per family.

Graph of Children per Family in the USA. Image taken from

I suppose that another factor peculiar to St John is related to the fact that a large portion of the students are children of faculty members of Concordia College. I think that a lot of young faculty members joined the faculty during the 1960s (for example, my father) as the college grew and prospered, and young faculty members have young children. During the 1970s those now-older faculty members received tenure and fewer young faculty members were hired.

I suppose that yet another factor in the decline of St John's enrollment is that more non-Concordia families in Seward were satisfied to send their children to the public school. I assume that the quality of Seward's public schools have improved steadily. About half of St John's graduating class every year advanced to Seward High School instead of to Concordia High School. As these young people who had attended both St John and Seward High School eventually got married and had their own children, many of these young parents felt more loyalty to Seward's public schools, especially if one of the spouses had not attended St. John.

I suppose also that, even in Seward, the population has become less religious and more secular. The proportion of the population that feels strongly that their children should receive the kind of religious education that St John offers is declining. Many people, even graduates of St John, have come to assume that a religious education is even inferior to a secular education.

Since the year 2001 the cost of tuition certainly has become a major factor in the further decline of enrollment at St John. Ms. Bonnie Katt, who was the secretary for St John school from 1973 to 2005, described the change of tuition to me as follows:

After the ninth grade was established in 1973 we had an enrollment of around 365 most years. After we dropped the ninth grade it was around 335-345. Tuition was added in 2001 and the enrollment dropped considerably for the next several years. I believe the enrollment is around 150 now.

Before 2001, there was an enrollment fee and what we called a capitol-use fee, which was $50 per child per semester. I believe the enrollment fee was around $175 per child per year.

The first year for tuition was the fall semester of 2001, when the first child was $750 and then it was less for the second and third child, and the fourth child was free.

I think the abuse charges were an excuse [for the enrollment decline], as all allegations of abuse were from students in the 1970s. We sent out a survey in the fall of 2002 or 2003 to the parents of students that were pulled, and only one came back as a safety issue.

Also I think family size is also a factor. In the 1970s and 1980s lots of the college profs had five and six children in their families, and in the l990s the Concordia University faculty was older with grown children and also smaller families.

I am also saddened with the enrollment [decline] because St. John is a very good school with wonderful teachers and staff. I thoroughly enjoyed my years at St. John. Both my daughters graduated from St. John and received a fantastic education. Our oldest is a registered nurse with a masters degree in administration and our youngest is an aeronautical engineer. I truly feel that their early education really gave them the solid foundation.

If the enrollment had fallen to 150 already before the current economic crisis began, then St John school certainly is struggling to survive. I hope that the Missouri Synod and Concordia University will keep in mind that St John School has played an important role in helping the Lutheran Church educate teachers and maintain a parochial school system. I think the Synod and the University should recognize the necessity to subsidize St John School financially so that it can raise its enrollment significantly.

I think also that the people of Seward should recognize that St John School plays an important role for the town, because it plays an important role for the University. I hope that more young families in Seward will decide to enroll their children to St John School, even though this commitment has become more expensive. Parents who send their children to St John School and then to Seward High School will give their children a diverse educational experience in both school systems.

I remind those Seward residents who did attend St John as children that they did receive an excellent education there. We learned the Bible, we learned the history of the Protestant Reformation and we learned about the Lutheran Church -- in addition to the all the standard Reading, Riting and 'Rithmetic that we learned well. Give your own children the same education, and you won't regret it.

Method of Estimating Enrollment

St John School posted a table listing its graduates in a pdf file on this webpage.

The students listed for the school's first years are from lists of young people who were confirmed in the church not from particular school records. The confirmation lists probably do not match the actual students of the school exactly. Probably there more young people who were confirmed than there were who attended the school. There are no records for any confirmations in the years 1897 or 1907. Perhaps nobody was confirmed in those years, or perhaps the confirmation records have been lost.

There are 57 names without graduation years at the end of the table. Ms. Katt explained to me that those were former students who left the school before completing eighth grade but who wanted to be listed in the 1984 yearbook. I did not include any of those names in the following analysis.

The table does not include any graduates for the year 1973, because that was the year when the school added a ninth grade. The students who completed eighth grade in 1973 then attended ninth grade in 1974 and are listed as 1974 graduates.

In 1991 the school removed the ninth grade, so in that year both the eighth grade and the ninth grade graduated from St. John. The table distinguishes between the members of those two classes.

I downloaded the pdf file, copied the entire table, and pasted it into a Word file, where I deleted unnecessary elements to simplify the table. I converted the Word document into a text file, which I imported into Microsoft Access to create a database table.

Each graduate was represented in this Person table by a record that included fields for first name, last name and graduation year. (There are also fields for gender and spouses, but those fields are irrelevant to this discussion.) This table was linked to a related table for each year, which was linked to a related table for each five-year period.

A query was run on the Person table to group and count the persons for each year. Those counts were typed into the Year table, and then a query was run on the Year table to group and average the counts for the five-year periods. The result was the average number of students in the graduating class for each five-year period.

To calculate the size of the entire school's enrollment for each year, I totaled the sizes of that year's graduation class and the sizes of the next seven years' graduation classes. For example, for the year 1966, when I graduated from St John school, the table lists only the students in my eighth grade class; the table does not list students in grades one through seven in 1966.

However, I approximated those other class sizes in 1966 by counting the students in the eigth-grade class of 1967 (i.e. seventh grade in 1966), the eighth grade class of 1968 (i.e. the sixth grade class in 1966), and so forth through the eighth-grade class of 1973 (i.e. the first-grade class of 1966). Those numbers are below (graduation year -- number of students in that graduation year -- grade in 1966):

1966 -- 32 -- 8
1967 -- 41 -- 7
1968 -- 42 -- 6
1969 -- 40 -- 5
1970 -- 45 -- 4
1971 -- 49 -- 3
1972 -- 56 -- 2
1973 -- 57 -- 1 (class of 1974)
Total= 362

(In 1973, the school added a ninth grade, so the class that was in the eighth grade in 1973 did not graduate until 1974. Therefore the table does not include a graduation class of 1973, and I have applied the count of 57 students of the 1974 class to the above calculation.)

Class sizes change from year to year, as some students leave a class and other students join a class, so the size of the first-grade class will change by the time that class becomes the eighth-grade class, but the approximation is quite close.

Because a yearbook was published in 1966, we can check the approximation by counting the number of students pictured in the yearbook. Here are those counts (grade -- count):

8 -- 34
7 -- 43
6 -- 43
5 -- 46
4 -- 49
3 -- 48
2 -- 61
1 -- 47

The sum of the numbers in the second column is 371. The approximation from the previous method was 362, which is a discrepancy of 9 students, which is a 2.4% error from 371.

The table listed 32 students in the class that graduated in 1966, but the 1966 yearbook shows 34 students in that eighth grade. A comparison of the table with the yearbook showed the following discrepancies:

Shirley Erks pictured in eighth grade yearbook, but not listed in 1966 in table

Ann Marie Holtz pictured in eighth grade in yearbook, but not listed in 1966 in table

Dick Rolfsmeier pictured in eighth grade in yearbook, but not listed in 1966 in table

Rodney Wood pictured in eighth grade in yearbook, not not listed in 1966 in table

Ricky Lievert listed in 1966 in table, but not not pictured in eighth grade in yearbook

Stephen Voss listed in 1966 in table, but not pictured in eighth grade in yearbook

There are several possible explanations for those discrepancies. Perhaps some of the students in the yearbook failed to complete the year successfully and so were held back to graduate in a following year. For example, Shirley Erks is listed in the class that graduated in 1967. On the other hand, perhaps a couple of the students in the seventh grade skipped eighth grade and advanced directly to ninth grade and so were listed with the 1966 graduating class. I remember that Stephen Voss was a very intelligent student in the class behind me, and I would not be suprised if he skipped eighth grade. (I don't remember Ricky Lievert at all.)

Other possible explanations for discrepancies between the table and the yearbook might be that there are errors in the table and that some students' pictures were not included in the yearbook. In general, I think that my approximation method is accurate to about a 2.4% error rate.

I coded and ran a computer procedure to apply my approximation method to every year in my data base, thus estimating the school's entire enrollment, for all grades, for each year. These counts were typed into the Year table, and an inquiry was run to accumulate the average for each five-year period.

Much difficulty was caused by the fact that the school had nine grades during the years 1973 to 1991. Therefore to the Person table I added a field that stated the year when each student would have entered first grade. That field was filled by subtracting seven from the graduation year of every student who graduated in eighth grade and subtracting eight from the graduation year of every student who graduated in the ninth grade.

I then re-ran all the above procedures using the first-grade year instead of the graduation year. This time, though, the classes of the previous (not subsequent) seven or eight years were added to estimate the school's entire enrollment, because the base was first grade, not the graduation grade. I think that this adjustment did not raise the error rate significantly above 2.4%

The above method of estimating the school's enrollment did not work after 2001, because there were no longer eight sequential graduating-class counts to total. Therefore the available graduation classes were averaged, and that average was used for each of the other classes so that eight numbers were totaled.

In addition, Ms. Katt told me that the enrollment fell to around 150 after the tuition was raised significantly in the year 2001. Therefore I simply used the number 150 as the average for the five-year period that began in 2005. I divided that 150 by eight to calculate the average size of the first grades for that five-year period.

I will provide a copy of my Access database to anyone who requests it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Paul Kolterman Describes His Fun July 4 in Seward

Paul Kolterman wrote:

I was fortunate enough to get to go home for the weekend to Seward. I left Saturday about 5 a.m. and drove down from Norfolk, Nebraska (about two hours). I made it just in time for the firing of the ANVIL, which kicks off the celebration.

Then I went over to the Civic Center and had Breakfast for $5. One of the St John organizations was sponsoring this Breakfast as a fund raiser.

Then back to the Seward Band Shell for a little entertainment, and I watched the Volunteer Firemen have a water fight. This is a contest where three fireman on each team and they shoot water at a barrel suspended from a cable about 15 feet in the air. It’s fun to watch.

Then I went over to my sister Ellen’s and got ready for the Parade. What a GREAT parade.

Then I went up to my brother Clark's and watched the fireworks. They had a band from about 7 pm until dark and then some parachute-stunt folks (four of them) jumped out of a plane and landed on the baseball diamond to Patriotic music. Then the fireworks lasted about a half hour.

The next morning at 9 am at the “New” Concordia University Gym (Athletic Complex) was the St John Church Service Commemorating the 125th Anniversary of St John Lutheran School. Pastor David Peter was the guest Minister and what a Super Service with Great jubilee. The Sermon started out:

Is it Worth It? Is it worth it to have a Lutheran School? Is it worth it to start one and keep it going????

Then it went on about Blessings and how Blessed we all are that have been touched by this ministry of St John Lutheran School. What a wonderful Service and a wonderful day!!

I am so Glad I went, I will always remember this day. I really enjoyed seeing some of the people I have not seen for a Long time. This Ministry of a School has touched people and lives around the globe and continues to do so!! What an awesome deal.

One thing I always think about when I go home to Seward, is even though it changes (some) and it isn’t exactly the same as it was 30, 40, 50 years ago ... It is very much the same to me. It is really a very unique place and the best town in the State, but then that is just fact not opinion.

Thought you would like my update on this weekend to share with others.


What a True Blessing Indeed. ReJoice. The whole committee for the 125th should be commended for such hard work and planning. What a GREAT DAY!!!

Thanks, Paul. I and many other people wish we could have been there, and I am grateful that you reported your experience and especially that you shared your enthusiasm.

Pastor Peter began his sermon with some hard questions that many people have pondered, and I am sure that he answered them well.

I have been thinking about those same questions as I write my blog. Seward has been the host town for Concordia University, which continues to prepare young adults for careers in education, ministry and social leadership for the Lutheran Church. St John School continues to be a laboratory for that preparation and a model for Lutheran education.

The town of Seward has been good for Concordia, which has been good for St John School. Conversely, St John School has been good for Concordia, which has been good for the town of Seward. I hope that these mutual relationships will continue to develop and adapt.

If anyone else participated in the weekend and feels inspired to write a short article, I will be glad to post it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More Yearbook Pictures Uploaded to Flickr

I have cropped all the individual photos of first-grade and kindergarten pupils from the St John 1965-1966 yearbook and uploaded them to Flickr. The set for the first-graders is here, and the set for the kindergarteners is here.

For example, here is an especially enthusiastic kindergartener, David Streufert.

David Streufert, kindergarten pupil at St John Elementary School in Seward, Nebraska

On each Flickr webpage you can click ALL SIZES above the image to see the image in larger and smaller sizes.

I still need someone to scan the page for the sixth-graders. The yearbook we have has too much writing all over that page.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Singing "Beautiful Savior"

At St John we sometimes sang the hymn Beautiful Savior as a round. The class would be divided into two groups. As soon as the first group finished singing the verse's first three lines, the second group would begin to sing. The two groups would continue singing the verse over and over.

Beautiful Savior,
King of Creation,
Son of God and Son of Man!

Truly I'd love Thee,
Truly I'd serve Thee,
Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.

I don't remember that we ever continued singing all the verses as a continual round, but that would have been super fun.

Fair are the meadows,
Fair are the woodlands,
Robed in flowers of blooming spring;
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer;
He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Fair is the sunshine,
Fair is the moonlight,
Bright the sparkling stars on high;
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer,
Than all the angels in the sky.

Beautiful Savior,
Lord of the nations,
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
Praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine!

Unfortunately, it seems that serious musicians don't consider singing rounds to be a serious method of performing music, although this method involves some serious musical principles.

I searched the Internet to find a performance of Beautiful Savior in rounds, but could not find one. I hope that someone eventually does make and post such a video.

Below is a performance by female soloist Deborah Liv Johnson. Her performance is illustrated by flowers, because the lyrics mention woodlands robed in flowers of blooming spring.

Below is a nice performance by the Harding University Concert Choir. How much more fun the audience would have had, though, if this choir had sung Beautiful Savior as a round and then divided the audience into groups so that they could join in singing the round!

Below is a performance by a male barber-shop quartet, called Vocal Spectrum.

Below is Vance Perry singing the song in four-part harmony by himself.

Vince Perry has a good gimmick by singing the four parts simultaneously by himself, but what a better gimmick he would have if he would sing the hymn as a round!

New Uploads to Flickr

I have uploaded all the individual student photographs of the second-grade students in the 1965-1966 yearbook for St John Elementary School. The Flickr webpage for the set is here. The pictures include my brother Larry Sylwester.

Larry Sylwester, second-grade student at St John Elementary School in Seward, Nebraska

I have uploaded also a lot of various papers related to deliving newspapers in Seward during the 1960s. In our Sylwester family, Steve, Tim, Tricia and I delivered the Lincoln Star, and Steve substituted occasionally for Peter Kolb's Omaha World Herald route. (Tricia delivered to a coed dormitory.) Steve has kept all these items. The collection of Flickr images related to delivering newspapers now has a link in the upper-right margin of this blog.

I will write more about these newspaper-route experiences in future posts.

Thanks to Liesel Sylwester, who scanned and sent me this batch of yearbook images, and to Eva Sylwester, who scanned and sent me all the newspaper-delivery images.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fireworks and Firecrackers

A couple weeks before the Fourth of July, fireworks went on sale in Seward. In our part of town, the main purchase point was a temporary stand across the street from Hands grocery store on Third Street, near the intersection with Moffitt Street. This picture reminds me of the variety of fireworks that were sold at that stand.

Fireworks. Image taken from

I don't think there was any minimum age for buying fireworks. If you were old enough to carry some coins to the stand, then you were old enough to buy whatever fireworks you wanted. Since I earned money from a paper route, I always was able to buy a lot of fireworks.

I loved black snakes. They didn't explode, but they were ugly and left a big mess -- two qualities that I admired. Here is a video clip.

I also loved those little balls you threw down onto the ground to cause an explosion. I forget what they were called. I liked them not only because of the bang but also because they left a black spot on the pavement.

Sparklers were boring if you just waved them around in the dark. Sparklers were good for holding them close to little girls, like my little sister Tricia, to scare them into thinking that you might set them on fire.

I liked ground blooms ...

... and cone fountains.

Here is a website with video clips of various fireworks.

Nebraska prohibited the sale of firecrackers but one of our neighboring states -- Iowa or Kansas -- allowed such sale . Once in a while I heard about some of the older kids would go to that other state and buy some firecrackers and bring them back to Seward.

Steve Roettjer knew how to make cherry bombs, and he made quite a few of them every year.

Steve Roettjer, eighth-grade student at St John Elementary School in Seward, Nebraska

He made them out of jawbreaker candies. First he would buy a lot of legal fireworks and then tear them apart and take out all their gunpowder until he gathered enough for a cherry bomb. Then he would cut a jawbreaker in half, scoop out the gum from the inside, pack it full of the gunpowder, insert a fuse, and then re-assemble the jawbreaker with gum, putty or glue. This adhesive had to dry for a couple days in order to become a strong bond for the re-assembled jawbreaker.

Roettjer blew up his cherry bombs to make loud bangs to scare other kids. If he could explode a cherry bomb near someone who wasn't expecting anything, then that was an optimal accomplishment that would cause a lot of laughs. Maybe there were some incidents when he blew up some object, but I don't remember any such incidents. The explosions were quite powerful.