- Grand Island Central School District
Veronica E. Connor Middle School Celebrates 50th Anniversary
Sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Veronica E. Connor Middle School on Grand Island learned what school was like 50 years ago, as the building celebrated its "golden" anniversary on Monday, Sept. 17. Opened in the 1968-69 school year as Grand Island Middle School, it became known as Veronica E. Connor Middle School in December of 1996, named after Miss Connor, the popular superintendent who was instrumental in moving the Grand Island schools from one-room school houses to larger schools. At its opening, the middle school housed 1,000 students in grades 7 and 8.
In the Sept. 17 anniversary program developed to highlight the history and culture of 1968, as well as 1993 when the school celebrated its 25th anniversary, middle school retirees, staff and students reflected on the past. They learned that the teachers and students of long ago are not that much different than today's teachers and students.
"In watching the recording from the 25th anniversary celebration, then principal Mrs. Agnes Becker describes the current students. In listening to her speak, we realized that our middle school students of today are very similar. The past and present students are both caring, intelligent, enthusiastic, energetic, creative, and generous," said Nicole Oursler, a VCMS teacher who attended Grand Island schools. She was an organizer of the anniversary event.
"As I walk down the halls as a teacher, I sometimes have flashbacks of being a student. It is a really weird, but wonderful feeling," said Mrs. Oursler. "The middle school is where I discovered my passions, learned to persevere through difficulties, and developed lifelong friendships. I am so connected to our school's 50th anniversary because VCMS is my alma mater, my current place of employment, and we are both turning 50 this year."
One highlight of the assembly was the opening of the 25-year-old time capsule of 1993. The top 10 items were revealed on stage. They included:
- School badge
- Atlas show U.S.S.R.
- YM and Super Teen magazines
- 1993 yearbook
- Reel to reel tape
- 8 track tape
- School stationary
- Buffalo Evening News with the headline "Walk on the Moon"
- A letter written by teacher Art Meaney in his first year of teaching at the MS. (He's still teaching at the MS)
- A 1993 Buffalo Bills sports page.
The other items will be available to see in the showcase outside the middle school library throughout September.
A new time capsule was started with a fidget spinner, a Viking value t-shirt, Haan craft sewing project and many more school items. It will hang from the library ceiling and be opened in the 2043-2044 school year.
The anniversary assembly will also included:
- Brief overview of school's history
- Video clip of what life was like in 1968
- 1968 dance performed by faculty
- Biography of Veronica E. Connor
- Video clip of Veronica E. Connor at the building naming ceremony in December 1996
- Grand Island schools' trivia questions
- Video clip of current faculty with reflections from when they attended VCMS
- Slide show of current faculty and staff when they were students or early in their careers
- Video clip of 25th anniversary assemblies
- Students' predictions from 25 years ago as to what life would be like in 2018-19
During the photo slide show portion of the assembly, students guessed which faculty were middle school students at VCMS. Organizers included this so students could see that their teachers were once young, sometimes awkward looking, struggled with many of the same issues they experience today, and also shared some of their same interests.
"I want students to realize that even though school is much different today with all of our modern-day technologies, that kids today still have many of the same qualities that students had in the past," said Mrs. Oursler. "The legacy of our past students has carried on until today and I hope that character will be maintained in our future students as well."
Who was Veronica E. Connor?
Veronica E. Connor was born in 1910 in Ransomville, NY. She attended a one-room school house in Ransomville. When the time came for her to attend high school she would ride a train into Niagara Falls and would walk to Niagara Falls High School each day until her graduation in 1928. She chose to become a teacher in part because her mother and aunt were both teachers, however women at the time were rarely offered other career choices than secretarial work, nursing, or teaching.
Miss Connor began her teaching career at the Porter Center School in Niagara County. After success in Niagara County she was recommended to become a Supervising Principal (teacher/principal) on Grand Island. Miss Connor's first assignment was teaching grades 7 and 8 at Grand Island School #5 - a one-room school house on Baseline and Bush Roads on Grand Island. She served as principal of the other one-room school (#2 on Staley Road) and a two-room schoolhouse (#9 on Baseline Road).
As Grand Island schools continued to grow so did Miss Connor. She earned degrees in Education Administration and was named Chief School Officer. Over time until her retirement in 1973 as Superintendent of Schools, she oversaw the Grand Island schools through many changes in education including the creation of shared services with other school districts (BOCES).
Affectionately called "Big Red" because of her striking red hair and an enthusiastic and vibrant personality, she was well-known for her unwavering dedication to the education of the children on Grand Island.
The Grand Island schools until 1963 did not have a high school program on the Island. Students were transported to area school districts off the Island to receive required coursework. The Senior/Junior High School building, opening in September 1963, would house grades 7-10. One grade level was added each year until June 1966, when the first class graduated from the Grand Island High School. The Middle School was the last building added during Miss Connor's term at the Grand Island School System.