Moman H. Shepard. During the winter of 1916 the Oklahoma Journal of Education devoted several of its pages to a leading article concerning the work which Moman H. Shepard is doing in Grady County as superintendent of schools. He entered upon his duties as superintendent in the summer of 1915. Mr. Shepard has always demonstrated that he is thoroughly practical in his profession, but like all practical men who make a real success he has ideals, and some of his ideals when he entered his present office were in increasing the length of the school term, in securing better equipped school rooms, and better trained and better paid school teachers. One of his first steps in carrying out this ambitious program was in calling a general meeting of the school boards of the County of Chickasha. That meeting was a source of inspiration and encouragement to everyone who attended it. State Superintendent Wilson was the principal speaker, but many others, including school board members themselves, participated in the discussion of local school problems. Superintendent Shepard himself gave a very intelligent exposition of his own ideas and plans for the improvement and betterment of the local school system, insisting particularly that it was a good investment to pay larger salaries for teachers whose services were worth the money, since a few dollars increase in monthly wages would mean an increased efficiency of from 50 to 200 per cent.
Concerning his work after taking the office of superintendent, the Journal of Education published some instructive paragraphs, and a few of these should be quoted: “Three months ago Superintendent Shepard informed his teachers that school rooms must look like they were meant to live in if they were to ‘get by’ inspection. There are curtains on every rural school window in Grady County today, and every district in the county but eleven has already had a visit from the superintendent. These visits are another hobby of Superintendent Shepard. He bought a Ford car just for the purpose of being able to make the rounds quicker, and he starts out each week on a schedule he knows he can make. He writes to the district school board to be at the school house at a certain hour of a certain day, and together with the teacher they inspect the work being done and discuss improvements. The superintendent insists upon seeing the board members. ‘If I have to miss seeing either the school or the board members,’ Mr. Shepard says, ‘I miss the school. I want to get the point of view of the patron.’
“One of the biggest tasks Mr. Shepard set out to perform during the two years he will be superintendent was the absolute elimination of illiteracy in Grady County by working through the moonlight school movement. The census shows that there were 614 illiterates in the county in 1910. Moonlight schools were organized in 39 districts, in which the total enrollment was 685 men and women, ranging in age from youngsters to a grandmother seventy-six years of age. The county is declared to be the ‘champion moonlight school district in Oklahoma.’ A complete check has not yet been made, but Superintendent Shepard says he will hold his teachers responsible for reaching every one of the original 614 illiterates by the end of next year.
“A seventy thousand school bond issue carried in Chickasha a few weeks ago. The reason it carried with many already complaining of high taxes was that everyone knew in the first place that school money always reaches the place it is intended for, and in the second place that money invested in schools is well invested. The bonds carried by a big majority.
“Education Month meant a lot to Grady County last November. The superintendent himself made fifty-one addresses. The county demonstration agents each made seventeen educational talks in three days. An educational sermon was preached from every pulpit and the superintendent got lawyers, real estate men, merchants, doctors, whomsoever he could, to go out to rural school houses and speak to farmers on the importance of building up the rural school system.
“While Superintendent Shepard is progressive and quick to take hold of any movement that promises better conditions for the farmer, his experience of the past ten years has taught him that one impractical movement can do more harm to the cause of education than two successful movements can remedy. He is a strong believer in the principle of consolidated schools, but he doesn’t believe the plan is practicable until the county has better roads. ‘A child will not do very efficient school work,’ he declares, ‘if he is compelled to be jounced about over rough roads for two hours each morning and night.’ But he also thinks that the road problem is a part of the school problem, and that it is a part of the teacher’s work to get up enthusiasm for good roads and scientific agriculture in his or her district. ‘ These are all necessary to the thrift of a rural community’ Mr. Shepard declares, ‘and the school will not have filled its mission until it has taught Oklahoma farmers how to make a better living and make it easier and more pleasantly than they make it now, at the same time that the school is educating the farmer’s children.&rdquot;
It was on the basis of his accomplishments for six years as superintendent of the public schools of Verden that the people of Grady County acquired such a favorable impression of Mr. Shepard’s work and showed their confidence by electing him superintendent of schools. At Verden he broadened the course of study and raised the general efficiency of the schools. By adopting for the public schools of Verden a lecture and demonstration course on physiology, conducted by Dr. Frederick W. Jones, Mr. Shepard initiated a movement in school work that is spreading over the state and promises to become an established feature of public school work. During the school year that closes in May, 1915, Doctor Jones made regular visits to the school and delivered lectures on personal and school hygiene, sanitation, first-aid treatment in accidents, prevention of contagion, treatment of contagious diseases, etc. He donated a skeleton to the school laboratory and illustrated subjects with his microscope that was loaned to the school. This feature of public school work has given the Verden school an enviable reputation over the state.
Superintendent Shepard, however, was not content with that. During his administration he established a regular four-year high school course, which was unique for a town of the population of Verden; emphasized athletics so that the school became a leader in the county in that line; established and equipped a school library; and in other ways made this small town school nearly the equal in equipment and efficiency of city schools in Oklahoma.
An interesting feature of his work in Verden is the fact that all pupils who were in the seventh grade when he began teaching there remained in school to the eleventh grade in high school. This record is remarkable in view of the fact that a large per cent of pupils were from the country and that only a small per cent of the seventh grade pupils in Oklahoma complete the high school course. Athletics was partially responsible for this. The Opera House was leased for athletic exhibitions and training, and supervised athletics met with high popular favor. In two years the school has been awarded three cups in county scholastic contests, one in track and field athletics, another in basket ball and another in intellectual work. The last was won in 1915 with a score of sixty-two points against twenty-seven for the next highest school. These features of the work almost eliminated tardiness, and during the school year of 1914-15 with a total enrollment of 283 only twenty cases of tardiness were reported. The average attendance during the year was 230, and out of that number forty-five were in high school. This is a larger percentage for the high school than is shown in many city schools. There were five other teachers in the Verden School, all of whom were selected by Superintendent Shepard for their educational and efficiency qualifications. The school building, a brick structure, was erected at a cost of $15,000 during his administration. It contains a modern heating plant and is excellently ventilated. Scientific agriculture is successfully taught in the school and is growing in importance. During the last year the school conducted one of the best lyceum courses held in that section of the state.
Moman H. Shepard was born in Narrows, Virginia, August 10, 1866, a son of Charles L. and Dora G. (Brown) Shepard. His father was also engaged in merchandising in Virginia and for a number of years shipped tobacco down the James River to Richmond, bringing back shiploads of merchandise. Some years ago he removed to the western part of the state, where he is now living engaged in farming. Superintendent Shepard has one sister, Mrs. Ruth Asbury, wife of an engineer at Roanoke, Virginia.
After gaining a primary education in the public schools of his native county, Mr. Shepard entered the Collegiate Institute, of which his uncle, the Rev. Charles A. Brown, was president. He spent four years there and did janitor service to pay for his board and tuition. Later he had a year in Emory and Henry College and took summer courses in agriculture at the University of Virginia. His first school was taught in his home county, a district school. His salary was $28 a month. The following year he was elected assistant principal of the high school at Narrows, his native town, and he held that office three years. Commenting on this stage of his career, and showing the progressive ideas which have always dominated his work, the Oklahoma School Journal said: “He was assistant superintendent and high school principal all in one at a salary of sixty dollars a month. He taught all four grades in high school, classes in Latin, Algebra, English, German, Physics and History. They were holding school in an old wooden building. There wasn’t a brick school building in the county, but the young schoolmaster told the school directors that they had to have a better building. It couldn’t be built from taxes, because most of the people who paid taxes wouldn’t stand for any extra burden, but ten days of canvassing among the people of the district brought donations of twenty thousand dollars in work and money, and Narrows erected the first rock school house in the county.”
On coming to Oklahoma he taught for half a school year in the high school at Enid and at the end of the term was elected superintendent of schools at Verden, a position he held six years. He resigned in 1915 to take up his duties as superintendent of schools of Grady County, a position to which he was elected on the democratic ticket in 1914. There were four teachers in the race for the democratic nomination for superintendent in 1914, and Mr. Shepard won by a plurality of 614 votes. Mr. Shepard has derived constant encouragement and much practical assistance in his career from his capable wife. He was married in Graham, Virginia, to Miss Zelma May Burton, who is a graduate of the Graham High School and of the Virginia Institute at Bristol, Virginia, receiving degrees in literary, music and elocution courses. She has been principal of the high school at Verden. Her maternal grandfather established a colony at the present site of Peterstown, Virginia, and afterwards laid out the town, which was named in his honor. Mr. and Mrs. Shepard have a son Kenneth, aged six years. Mr. Shepard is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, of the Masonic Lodge, the Verden Commercial Club and the Grady County and Oklahoma State Teachers’ Association.