An oral history of SPFHS: the transformation of our school


Matthew Levine

From former state champions to esteemed teachers, this is the first-ever Fanscotian Oral History of SPFHS: a presentation of the story of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School as told from the perspective of students and teachers. 
Consistency in Academics
Overview: At the core of any good education is a stable academic system. SPFHS is not unknown to the recognition of academia. The comprehensive nature of the curriculum in 1933 began a tradition of recognizing students’ accomplishments and promoting an appreciation for the scholars of the school.
Durand Thomas: “I think there’s been an increased intensity – not that kids didn’t care about getting into college before – but I think there’s certainly pressure to achieve and it’s manifested itself in the various standardized tests that are being given. There’s certainly an increased intensity toward post Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School education. I’ve heard multiple students say that they’ve applied to more than 10 schools, maybe three or four of them were Ivy leagues. I don’t remember it being that way before, but I think that’s certainly an area that they’re heading down: a focus on what they’re doing after high school.”
Highlighting SPFHS Activities
Overview: Involvement in school activities has become a staple for many students of SPFHS: this time-honored tradition has led to the development of sport and music programs that have exceeded the expectations of any educator. 
Bill Flagg, Member of the 1977 State Championship Baseball Team: “We won the Union County baseball championship in 1976. We beat Cranford and that was a good game. And then in 1977, we beat Piscataway to become group four state champions. Those are my two greatest memories from when I was here.”
Hillary Klimowicz, Leading Scorer in Lady Raiders History: “We won the best trombone section in the States one year for Moonglowers. It was a big deal and then for basketball we won the County Championships in both my Junior and Senior years. We made it to the state group finals I think two or three out of the four years I was there and we lost to Shabazz High School every year.”
“You can’t expect to go out and win championships I think for my teammates and I that all went through Scotch Plains together, there were five of us that played played year round together.We had that chemistry and the off-season working on the game together and then carrying that onto the court of Scotch Plains.”
Thomas: “Model UN, DECA and SMAC have been incredibly active. There are certain programs that have gained a little bit more awareness and notoriety and others have gone away; something like the ROTC was cut due to budgeting, which could be a serious outlet for kids that might not go to a four year college.”
“The music department just keeps getting better and better. I’ve certainly kept up the tradition of excellence that had been laid down by many that came before us here at SPFHS. And that’s our goal really: to continue to enrich the students’ experience here at SPFHS music department as they take those concepts and goals forward beyond the music department; we want life-long learners and we want them to have life skills.”

Graphic by Skylar Stagaard
The stages of the school’s logo are listed in chronological order. The logo went through changes similar to the mascot.

Changes to School Life
Overview: The typical highschooler is portrayed in vast amounts of pop culture and mass media, but how accurate is it? Well, when considering the Scotch Plains- Fanwood High School, the time period makes quite the difference in the typical student. 
Flagg: “We started high school as sophomores and the times back then were different. We had no security guards and we had lots of freedom to move around.  I think the first year we could have open lunch where we could go out for lunch and come back in. I’m sure some things are the same- cliques hang out with each other and stuff like that. We were also a much larger school back then.” 
Klimowicz:  “I remember going to the Rialto in Westfield – so fun. We were big moviegoers – the Friday Night movie at the Rialto and then using the pay phone beside it. 
Thomas: “In my 25 years here, I think, there’s been an increased amount of co-curricular student activities. There are plenty of different clubs that have been added into the high school. I think there’s been such a tremendous amount of activities that are happening after school that the students are, I won’t say stressed out, but they’re definitely tapped out when it comes to the energy that they have to devote to extra things. And there’s been a lack of social activities that used to happen here that don’t happen anymore.”
Photo by Skylar Stagaard
The cover page of the senior issue of the Fanscotian from 1933. This publication has been consistent throughout the history of SPFHS.

Introducing Technology
Overview: SPFHS has had a makeover regarding technology: an aspect to education and social life that many students cannot imagine their lives without. From the start of the technological revolution with AOL v AIM or the newest MacBooks, SPFHS has seen an evolution in the technology available to students. 
Bill Flagg, Class of ‘78: “What technology?  We didn’t have computers, iPads, or cell phones. We didn’t have anything. There was no technology! It was a typewriter – that was your technology.”
Hillary Klimowicz, Class of 2005: “If I was having a bad day at school and I went home, I was home. I didn’t need to talk to anybody else at school anymore. Home was a safe place. I feel for my students a little bit because they can never get away from it. If they had a bad day, people can still get in touch with you and it’s 24/7.”
Mr. Durand Thomas: “Well, when I first first started teaching here, for something so simple like grades we used to submit them on a piece of paper. We had like a scantron type of thing that we had to fill in the bubbles. The school website then wasn’t nearly what it is today. Back in the day, something so simple like this, you take it for granted: going on a website, YouTube or streaming a concert; a lot of our concerts now are live streamed. That never happened before. So little things like that as far as technology have been huge.”