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U.S. Statehood Education, 1912-1945
U.S. Statehood Education, 1912-1945

With the approach of statehood, Albuquerque Public Schools in 1911 selected as its first superintendent John Milne, who had come here as a tuberculosis patient. He would serve until 1956 and is credited for establishing a modern, professional and progressive school system.

Anticipating the city’s growth, Milne had the district buy large tracts of land for future schools. In 1911 APS gained national attention when Milne refused to segregate schools and said Spanish-speaking children had a language asset, not a handicap. He also emphasized science and mathematics instruction.

When Milne proposed a bond issue for the new Albuquerque High School in 1913, he was criticized. Critics said the school was too big, that it would never reach its 500-student capacity. AHS was completed at Broadway and Central in 1914. By 1927 AHS needed a second building. In 1950 the campus had five buildings. APS didn’t build Highland High School, the city’s second high school, until 1944.

Between 1912 and 1919 voters approved more than $500,000 in bond issues. In the early 1920s the school district built Washington and Lincoln junior high schools and John Marshall Elementary School. It then built Longfellow and Eugene Field. In 1923 it approved construction of University Heights Elementary School in the Terrace Addition. As a result of vigorous growth in the area of present-day TVI, the new school in 1927 was overcrowded, and portable buildings were necessary.

In 1927 public kindergarten began, and the flood of five-year-olds resulted in serious overcrowding. In 1928, APS began building Monte Vista Elementary School on land donated by the area’s developer. In this period, Milne determined that in order to meet projected growth of students, the district needed a “continuous building program.”

Then the Depression took its toll. In 1931 schools began slashing budgets. Teachers suffered a pay cut, and kindergarten was eliminated, not to return for 40 years. When the vintage 1892 Fourth Ward School burned down, Milne got federal money to build Lew Wallace School.

Milne’s prudent management enabled the community to build the new schools it needed. During the Depression, he took advantage of federal New Deal funding and labor to upgrade existing schools and add new ones.

James F. Zimmerman, inaugurated in 1928, presided over UNM’s first big growth spurt. In four years he built enrollment from 400 to 1,000 and doubled the faculty. Embracing the Pueblo Revival architectural style of his predecessor, William G. Tight, he built eight new structures – Carlisle Gym, Science Lecture Hall, Yatoka Dormitory, Parsons Hall, the president’s home, Bandelier East Dining Hall, and Marron West Women’s Dormitory.

He wanted to do more. Before the Depression had tightened its grip, he got a bond passed to build new engineering labs, build a stadium and grade an athletic field. After that, UNM lacked funding and even suffered funding cuts. Faculty members took substantial reductions in pay. Zimmerman subsequently took advantage of federal relief programs to build facilities beneath the stadium in 1934. Even this odd building was done in Pueblo Revival. And he secured funding from the same source for a new administration building (Scholes Hall), to be designed by John Gaw Meem.

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