The New Kent School Matter
Editor of The Times:
Sir,. There appeared in the daily Issue of your paper of the 22d inst. an article headed "Fierce Feud About Schools in New Kent County," &, which I think should not be allowed to pass by unnoticed and I beg that you allow this a place in your paper.
In the first place there is no uncommon trouble in the district about schools, only a difference of views among the people of the Bradenham School District as to the location of a school-house. It is true that a mystery surrounds the burning of the Bradenham school-house, but suspicion rests upon no one that I have heard of. In regard to the burning of Barhamsville school. There is not the slightest doubt as to the origin, as it was burnt about 11 o'clock in the day while school was in session and was observed first in the top of the building. The county superintendent knew this when he made the statement imputed to him by the writer of this article. that both houses were mysteriously burnt. He is absolutely false that there is any contention whatever between the neighborhoods of Barhamsville and Bradenham, and has never been. About eight years ago the people in the Bradenham neighborhood asked to have a school in their midst; the District Board declined to establish one on the ground that the means at their disposal did not justify it and that the place they wanted it was too near to the Barhamsville school. A Board of Reference was called and a school was established by shortening the term or all the schools and reducing the salaries of the teachers. This made the fourth white school. Last year it became necessary, on account of a falling off in our school population, to reduce the schools in order to meet the legal requirements under, the law and the District Board combined two colored schools and enlarged the house to accommodate the children, making only two schools for the colored people. After the Bradenham house was burned the patron's naturally wished it rebuilt. The attention of the District board was attracted to that part of the Constitution relating to public, schools, and being impressed with the idea that they were discriminating too freely in the division of the schools between the races, they declined to rebuild until they could get serious advice on the subject; however they rented a house and started the school. In the meantime a meeting of the patrons of the Barhamsville and Bradenham schools was advised to consider the above and see if some satisfactory arrangement could not be made to combine the two schools, but nothing was accomplished, I went to Richmond to consult the State Board. I did not see any of the members of the Board, but saw Mr. Brent, the secretary. I stated my trouble to him. I came home and reported the result of my conference to the District Board, and they decided to rebuild. We consulted with. a large majority of the patrons as to what place they desired, the house built, as there had been some talk by parties living in and around Plum Point to put the house closer to them.
Patrons representing nineteen children attending school said put it back on the very same spot where the old one was burned and a contract was let to that effect under specifications that the contractor would furnish all material and build the house for the sum of $140. After the house was about three-fourths completed a Board of Reference was called, asking the removal the, house nearer Plum-Point. The Board met December 18th. There were only two of the advocates for moving the house present, one of whom was not a patron or any school and would not probably be for several years, his children being so young. The other gentleman did everything in his power and means to establish the school eight years ago where it now stands. There were five patrons present who testified that the house should remain where it is, but the Board decided that the school was improperly located when it was first built, and should be removed one and a half or two miles nearer to Plum Point. The contractor suspended work for a week or more no place having been designated to build the house. The superintendent had never visited that section of this county and it looked to him that no place would be found in any reasonable time, so he completed his contract. The Board received the house and paid the contract price. A petition, asking the county superintendent to grant a new hearing in the case, signed by eight patrons representing twenty children attending school out of an enrollment of twenty-four, was returned with the information (after consultation with Mr. Brent) that no rehearing could possibly be had from the decision of the Board of Reference.
Barhamsville, Va., Jan. 25, 1902.
-The Richmond Times, February 2,1902