Museum Celebrates District 308's 50th Anniversary
The following announcement was provided by Oswego Community Unit School District 308.
Legal objections stalled the proposal for years, but on May 27, 1961, voters living in the 68-square mile Oswego High School District 300 were finally permitted to cast their ballots on whether to consolidate the high school district with Oswego Grade School District 8, to create a district educating students from kindergarten through the senior year of high school.
When the votes were counted the measure had passed handily, 622-119. The new consolidated district was named Oswego Community Unit School District 308, combining the numerical designations of the two districts.
This year the district is celebrating the 50th anniversary of that vote. Previous events have included a number of district-wide events commemorating the milestone, as well as the recent gala celebration in which three distinguished alumni were inducted into the new Oswego Alumni Hall of Fame.
Honored during the April Blue and White Ball were former U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Rita Bell Garmin, and space scientist Neil Mottinger, members of the Oswego High School Classes of 1960, 1961, and 1962, respectively.
The latest community event commemorating the 50th anniversary is a new, temporary exhibit at Oswego's Little White School Museum. “Educating a Community: Saluting District 308’s 50th Anniversary,” opened May 7, and will be available for visitors through the end of June.
The museum is at Jackson and Polk streets, two blocks from Oswego's historic downtown and a block east of U.S. Route 34.
"The exhibit provides the context behind the years of public education that culminated in the formation of District 308 in 1961, and also shows the progress since that time," according to museum director Roger Matile.
"We've broken public education's history in Oswego down into roughly 20 year increments, starting with the first Oswego High School graduating class in 1887, and taking it up through the 21st Century."
The new exhibit includes photos, artifacts, and memorabilia drawn from the museum's collections, much of it never exhibited before. It also includes the museum's rarely seen collection of composite graduating class photos that extend from the late 19th Century through the early 1960s.
The photos, most of which are large-format framed documents, are hanging in the museum's Main Room.
"It's interesting to see all of the class photos together," Matile said. "Visitors will see many names from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that are still common around the Oswego area today. And some of the family resemblances are striking. It offers an interesting glimpse into the Oswego area's past."
Matile says the 1961 consolidation is a major milestone in Oswego area public education.
"It ranked right up there with the establishment of the community's first school in an abandoned log cabin in 1837, building the first high school in 1886, establishing a four-year high school curriculum in 1907, forming the Oswego High School District in 1936, opening the district’s first modern high school in 1950, and establishing the first kindergarten classes in the fall of 1961," Matile said.
He added that the new temporary exhibits are designed to complement and expand on the museum’s permanent “School Days” exhibit, which covers Oswego area educating history in greater depth and detail.
Admission is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.
Regular museum hours are noon to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Saturday. The Little White School Museum is a cooperative venture between the Oswegoland Park District and the non-profit Oswegoland Heritage Association.