|A Tour with Superintendent Meserve
St. Johns County Public School
St. Augustine Record
May 2, 1926
Note: Robert Bage Meserve was born January 13, 1892 and died December 18, 1973.
St. Augustine's School Plant
Day's Sightseeing Tour of Scholastic Institutions In City is of Interest
Reporter Makes Round with Robert B. Meserve
Much Impressed by what he sees
Handsome School Houses and Progress Being Made Appeal
by Bill Rauh
From mediocrity to near perfection, is the leap taken by the public schools of St. Johns County under the able guidance
of Robert B. Meserve, county superintendent of public education. Two years ago when Meserve, then a young banker,
took charge of the schools in St. Johns, they lacked many things, when compared to some of the other like institutions of
learning throughout the country. There has been a marked improvement. Meserve has left little to be desired in public
school education. He has mixed the honor system with good common system ---and the result is a satisfactory and
beneficial schooling curriculum that is unbeatable.
Probably for the want of something to do, for better, the editor wanted the writer to do something --- Meserve was
"Picked On" as a suitable subject for an interview concerning the St. Johns County school system. Before delving
pell-mall into the school system a little might he mentioned about the man who has made this organization possible.
Meserve himself reminds one of a machine gun in action. He shoots words at you at about the rate a Gatling machine
gun he knows where his thrusts are going and he also knows what he is talking about. Earlier in his career he was a
banker, but he liked children and he liked work--both drove him to his present position.
It has often been said by school authorities that when a teacher likes a school, the school is a good one. If that chronicle
can be believed, the schools in this county are perfection themselves. It is hardly believable that hundreds of
applications are made during the school year by teachers from every state in the union to ply their wares in the
institutions in St. Johns County. Besides this great number of applications (most of which are written) Meserve declares
that there are a great many personal calls made by teachers.
Meserve is careful how he picks his faculty. From the hundreds mentioned above perhaps 25 to 50 are picked. Not
many perhaps, but they are all the best obtainable. Meserve believes that good teachers are the most vital need in
schools. By good teachers he means not only good scholars, but men and women who have the rare faculty of perfectly
imparting their knowledge to young and immature minds. The superintendent will not accept any teacher unless he or
she has had a at least three previous years of teaching experience. They all must be college or normal school
graduates. He declared that he tries to select teachers with ultra-school ability and education. This, Meserve says has
proven better than the old type of teacher who thought athletics was so much poison in a child.
One of the greatest sights in the world is to step unnoticed some morning in the big auditorium of the St. Augustine
Grammar school and watch and hear the younger students recite from the stage. Early in life these kiddies are taught
oratory, and singing. They are taught not to be afraid of audiences. It is a great asset to them later in life.
Conditions are rather crowded in the grammar school. Some 1,200 children wend their way into that building every
morning. The building is built for some 900. Next year conditions will be worse. But Meserve does not throw up his
hands in disgust and rave and rant. He fires a few volleys from that machine-gun mouth of his and lo! The building is
changed, rooms are added, study halls are cut off to make more room, the third floor and basement are used. And the
1,300 or more kiddies that go to the grammar institution next year will find things even better than this year. Meserve
believes that when one is forced to, one can do with the facilities they have at hand.
The chemistry department of the Junior High school will be installed with entire new equipment next year. So will the
science departments. These departments were temporarily dismantled one year ago but they will again function this time
for the 9th grade as is planned under the 6-3-3 system to be used next year. Meserve believes that they are necessary
departments and what that man believes necessary goes!
It is very seldom that in a grammar school one sees a perfectly equipped cafeteria service. They have one at the
grammar school here. Mrs. William Moeller is chief of the culinary department and chief of every other department
handling this kitchen.; Some 300 children are fed daily here at a nominal charge. When Mrs. Moeller took charge of the
place the "wise crackers" declared that the cafeteria could never be run at a profit. Somehow or other it has been and
the prices charged the children are decidedly reasonable. At present after paying all expenses for food and upkeep the
net amount of money in the bank for this cafeterias more than Satisfactory. This money next year will be used to buy
provisions and new pots, pans and other necessary equipment.
Just before we left the grammar school for a visit to the high school, Meserve pulled the fire bell for a drill. It was a
wonderful sight. Some 1,200 students and their teachers marched out of that building in an orderly manner. It took
exactly two minutes to empty the building. Meserve said that at times it is done in less than that. Every pupil and room
has its place when the drill bell is rung. There is no hurrying or pushing. No scuffing or shoving older boys stand at the
stairway entrance in case a younger lad should fall and hold up the line. It is serious business and the children take it as
such. Meserve himself is a might good sport but he believes that business and pleasure have their places.
The new high school is one of the most beautiful in construction, this writer has ever looked upon. It houses at present
some 300 students. It can take care of more than 500. Everything is new. Large rooms and fine arrangements and
Everything is arranged to conserve space and eliminate disorder. At one and of the building on the main floor is the
general science, cooking and sewing departments for the girls. On the other side of the hall is the chemistry and science
rooms for the boys. Both were functioning merrily when we entered. The girls section is taught by a mighty beautiful
teacher, who Meserve says can teach. She makes fine sandwiches anywhere! A young lady also teaches the boys
It might be mentioned here that Meserve likes young and pretty teachers. Don't get us wrong now! He likes them for the
effect they have on the students. Meserve claims they have the pep and cheerfulness. Meserve laughed in genuine
amusement when the writer thought several of the teachers were high school pupils!
In the high school is the mimeograph printing department that does much of the work for the schools in the county. All
the printed forms, report cards, posters and advertisements, menus, and songs are turned out in this miniature shop.
The printing department, according to my guide has more than payed for itself this year alone.
The high school has a perfectly complete library where the student can come to study. Next year a room is being
arranged for a typewriter department where the student can be taught to properly punch a machine with more than two
fingers "a la newspaper style." For the recesses a basketball court is built for the students in the rear of the building.
After leaving the high school we jumped in Meserve's puddle jumper and set sail on all six for the West Augustine
Grammar School. Meserve again got his machine gun in action and the results were interesting.
Meserve declared that the mode of handling children in both high and grammar schools is different now-a-days that of
yore in going through the schools one can hear an undertone of conversation going on throughout the various class
rooms. The writer expressed his surprise, but Meserve hastened to explain that in the schools under his wing, the
children are allowed a certain amount of supervised liberty of "loud thinking."
"When you and I went to school we would almost get our necks broke for talking, but I believe it is hard for a child to sit
45 minutes in one classroom without opening his or her mouth except to recite," Meserve declared. "We have tried both
ways and find that by allowing the children to talk is the better."
One reason for the success of Meserve's tactics is the fact that he tries both ways -- the old way and his own. He
combines the best of both with the result that he gets results. And in the end that is what counts.
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