Leland High School Parent Club
Aaron Seandel, Leland's first Principal
1966-1967 School Year
The Rajkovich property had been purchased by S.J.U.S.D. in 1960, and bond funds for building two schools on the site were allocated in 1964. The total acreage of the property was 55 acres, with Bret Harte occupying 20 acres and Leland the remaining 35. Harte opened its doors in September 1966, and Leland opened the following year. The Board of Education had named the school in honor of two members of the Leland family, Raymond B. Leland, who was principal of San Jose High from 1920-1933, and his son, Gordon, who attended San Jose High and was a casualty in World War II. There were many people in the San Jose community who went to San Jose High during .Maje. Leland.s tenure and who were excited to learn of the honor afforded him by the Board.
Construction of the high school began in early summer of 1966, and 3.625 million dollars was the approximate cost for the plant upon completion. The architectural firm that designed the school was Clark, Stromquist, Potter, and Ferlich. Alken Construction Company was the general contractor and related to this, one of the construction crew had a Weimerauner dog named Otis, and he was a favorite of all who were around the school, students and staff alike, during the time of construction and later. There were articles in the local and school newspapers in October 1967, about Otis. failing health and the concern of the student body about it. ..the ASB raised about $40 to pay for a visit by Otis to a local vet.
I was appointed Principal in the summer of 1966, and among my responsibilities were (1) to meet with the students that would attend Leland and also meet with staff, as they were known that were transferring to Leland; (2) meet with parents in the attendance area to establish a parents group of some sort; (3 to maintain a cursory overview of the construction going on- the district administrative staff had primary responsibility.
We planned to open with all three classes, 10th, 11th and 12th, and an enrollment of approximately 610 students. All of the juniors and seniors, except for the new enrollees, came from Pioneer High School. The sophomores came from Bret Harte. There was strong resistance by the Pioneer students to move, primarily because of the breaking up of friendships, along with a concern that flexible scheduling, which Principal Ralph Sleight and his staff had established at Pioneer, would not be implemented at Leland. There were also misgivings, by both students and parents about the quality and availability of complete academic and activity programs because of the small enrollment.
Early in January of 1967, a committee of eight students was elected to serve as an advisory committee to the principal. The first task, completed in February, was the selection of school colors and the nickname. The colors picked, which remain to this day were Navy Blue, Columbia Blue and Gold. The mascot was selected, the Charger. I remember that there were two other contenders, the Broncos and the Miners (recognition of the Quicksilver mines in the area) but the Charger won out. They also developed the student body constitution. They worked very hard on this, interviewing student representatives from other schools, and reviewing constitutions from eight high schools in the area. The finished document was presented to the student body for their approval early in the first year of operation. They also conducted the election for the first student body president and Bill Higgins was elected. I also used them as a sounding board to discuss the type of master schedule to implement. They wanted the flexible schedule.they pointed out the advantages.longer periods for labs, shops.shorter time allocated for lectures while acknowledging the concern about and the problems that arose from some students. use of the unscheduled time during the day. Their input, and the fact that the incoming faculty from Pioneer in particular supported this design made the decision easy.
Much time was spent in the selection of faculty, as well as key positions in the classified staff. I was very fortunate in being able to select Lee Watters as my secretary. She was Lloyd Buchser.s secretary at Roosevelt, and wanted a change in location. She was terrific.. I think she had left by the time you came to Leland. Jan O. Neal was her replacement, and she was good as well. The co-administrators- you know Harriet.she was a vice principal at Pioneer, and then Dick Bondelie, holding a similar position at Willow Glen High School. Harriet, I recall, was given some release time towards the spring of 1967 to develop the master schedule.. There were thirty certificated .slots. originally allocated to the school. This number included the librarian and counselor spots. (Edna Sewill, librarian, became a key faculty member, did not come to Leland until the second year.) We had the services of a part time nurse that was not charged to the faculty allocation. Teachers at Pioneer were given first chance to apply and seventeen people were approved for the move; the rest of the openings were to be filled by (1) transfers from other schools in the district and (2) new hires. Walter Hoshaw came from Roosevelt Jr. High, to fill a teacher/counselor slot; the librarian came from Markham Junior High and Tony Moreno was moved from Hoover Junior High. After the faculty was selected, the department chairs were selected, and the staff went to work on developing courses of study, ordering texts, working with Harriet to develop a master schedule, all of the thousand and one things associated with opening a school. The first faculty meeting was held on May 25th of 1967, which included a tour of the entire, nearly completed, plant.many of the incoming people had not seen the school until that date.
I also began to meet with the parents .One of the first orders of business with this group was to decide what type of parent organization to have.P.T.A, or a Parent.s Club. They wanted a Parents club.they felt there would be more autonomy with this type of organization, and I supported them. We had a wonderful group of parents help us get started.Some of the family names that come to mind are Garafolo, Coleman, Dorsey, Bell, Boswell, Drennan, Grimditch, Robertson, Leo, Popes. I.m sure there were others in this initial organizational group, but I can.t recall who they are. The support and interest of the Parents groups has been maintained throughout the years, and the group was critical to the success of the school during the early years.I spent lots of time with parents during this time and later years.
The First Year, 1967-1968:
Everything was ready for the opening day. There were many staff people working the weekend before on last minute preparations. There were no major concerns about the buildings, supplies, but we did have one potentially serious predicament occur during that weekend.
A student of John Berney, an incoming senior from Pioneer, a lab assistant, was cleaning the cage of the boa constrictor in the Science wing for a stretch. The reptile was stretched out on the lab tables. The phone rang, and the student went to answer it. When he returned, the boa was gone and nowhere to be found.
The student came down to the office to report the incident, and needless to say, we were more than concerned. John had gone home, and he came back to school to help locate the critter.. no luck on that day, and as matter of fact, no luck for several months. First day came and went without a major hitch. The students, particularly those who had been in John.s classes at Pioneer, knew the boa was missing.and they handled the situation very calmly. The staff was apprised and nobody was really concerned.. The school dedication ceremony was scheduled for the cafetorium on October 25, 1967. Major Leland.s widow participated, Superintendent George Downing, and the President of the Board, Neil Geier, were also platform guests. There were 600 in the audience because the first Back to School night was being held right after the dedication ceremony. We really had our fingers crossed that night.
However, luck was with us and the snake remained hidden until sometime during the Christmas break. I was at school and the first indication of its discovery was a scream from the custodian who was cleaning the Science wing. Apparently the boa had been relaxing in the opening between the inside and outside walls all these months, getting its needed nourishment, and for whatever reason, decided to make its appearance, much to the consternation of the custodian. Needless to say, we got John back to school in a hurry, from vacation, to take care of things
Other than that little blip, the opening went well. This first year was terrific---everything that was done was brand new to the school, the establishment of many traditions that still are part of the school.s fabric. There were monthly dances There was a contest to name the school paper.we ran it through the English and Journalism classes and a sophomore won the prize with .The Charger Account.. I have memories of the cheerleaders and others coming to our house showing my wife and I the very first spirit trophy that Leland won.and were they excited! I recall groups of students singing Christmas Carols throughout the community, at our house and others in the Almaden area. In one respect we were fortunate to open with only 600+ students. It didn.t take long to know most everybody in school and that created a great feeling, one of closeness, among the Leland community.
The activity program went full bore starting with the first day of school. There was a complete athletic program for both boys and girls. The club programs got started.Key Club, Journalism, Yearbook, the Spirit staff was outstanding, Language clubs, The football teams, both varsity and sophomores, while they played hard, didn.t do very well; but the student body never quit their support, and finally the varsity won the last game of the season. The sophomore team won two games. We won the league Water Polo championship that first year. The varsity basketball team won the consolation championship at the Westmont Tournament. There were many individual standouts in other sports.wrestling, track, golf, and tennis. The girls won the league championship in swimming, and had success in the other sports.basketball, volleyball, softball, badminton, and tennis.
The biggest down side to the first year, and for some time thereafter was the student smoking on and near the campus. With the flexible scheduling providing unscheduled time during the day, some students took advantage of the situation. The creek across Camden Avenue from the school became a gathering place for smokers, and we had more than one complaint from the property owners about the use of the area as a smoking haven, and also about trespassers moving on to private property. It was still an issue at Leland when I left in 1973.wonder if the problem is still as acute nowadays.
The first senior prom was held at Kelly Park in one of their display rooms, I guess. It was a perfect fit for the size of the graduating class-about 140 seniors and their dates. It was a special time for all of us.
Then Graduation in the inner quad.that was a special place for the students and for me through the years I was there. I think when Dan came in, he moved the ceremony to the football field.
Type yIt was, and I.m sure it still is, a great school. Without question being principal at Leland was the highlight of my professional career.