HANDICAPPED PUPILS HAD A HERO IN CLIFFORD MARTIN
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Handicapped Pupils had a hero in Clifford Martin
The foresight OF Clifford Martin provided the cornerstone upon which many of the successful programs for special or exceptional students in Wood County today were built. Martin retired from The Wood County Board of Education as director of pupil personnel services in 1971. Spencer Shannon was superintendent of schools when he retired.
The former principal of Sumner School became a special teacher in 1955, with the mandate to study the social structure of the Wood County school system and make recommendations for improvement and changes of his choice. Martin, a native of Parkersburg, received his early education at Sumner School. A football player in college, he returned to Sumner after teaching jobs elsewhere to be coach and then principal from 1943-55.
Upon integration of the all-black school on Avery Street into the public school system and its closing in 1955, Martin was the driving force in the Sumner facilities becoming a school for handicapped children. The school's conception in 1862 gave it the distinction of being the first black school for elementary schoolchildren established below the Mason and Dixon line. The school was the major source of social life for the black community through the years.
In 1954 the first and ninth grades were integrated into the public school system. By 1955 the entire school was integrated into the system and Sumner was closed. The main part of the building was demolished and the gym, built in 1926, was later converted into a school for the handicapped, said Martin.
Martin's higher education began with a grant-in-aid for football at West Virginia State at Institute in 1925. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest black fraternity in the country, and served as assistant in the biology lab. He sang in the glee club. He served as director of affiliates for organizations associated with the black state teacher's association. Martin graduated from West Virginia State in 1929 with majors in psychology and biology, but with no thought of becoming an educator.
When I graduated From West Virginia State, teaching was furthest from my intentions. I wanted to follow psychology. However, psychology was in infancy at that time some 40 or 50 years ago. There were very very few opportunities for anyone. especially black to enter into the field of psychology, he said. After a few months working on a pleasure boat in Put-In-Bay near Detroit, Martin was asked by one of his former professors to take a position as science teacher and coach at Quadalupe College, Sequin, Texas.
It was fortunate that I accepted the position in college because two months later the bottom fell out of the stock market. From Quadalupe, Martin went to SL Philip's Junior College in San Antonio. From Texas he went to California to pursue graduate studies, enrolling in the graduate school of the University of Southern California. He taught adult education classes in Los Angeles.
The turning point in Martin's teaching career came during the Depression, California was one of the hardest places hit during the Depression. Things were really rough. At the insistence of the principal and patrons of Sumner School, I returned to Parkersburg with the prospect of succeeding J. R. Jefferson, principal at Sumner for 42 years and one of the pioneer educators in West Virginia, said Martin. Upon being appointed special teacher in the Wood County school system, Martin chose administration rather than the classroom.
The attendance part was organized, so I made a study of the national trend of uniting the social and physical well-being of the student into a united organization, he said. After studying personnel policies and services in other cities, Martin was invited and the only one from West Virginia to attend a meeting at Yale University for pupil personnel directors from throughout the country.
The first Department of People Personnel Services in West Virginia started here in Wood County. The homebound program in Wood County was expanded to all the physically and mentally handicapped children. In this position I had been exploring, I came across the fact that we were losing too many of our teenagers to pregnancy. At that time most of the ones leaving school never returned to finish their education.
This made quite an impression on my mind until I conceived a plan whereby something could be done to educate these pregnant teenagers, said Martin. Through close contact with E. P. Elser, director of special education for West Virginia, Martin was given permission on a trial basis to organize classes for the pregnant teenager. After one year of trial, permanent status was given by the state to establish school or classes for the pregnant teenager, thus being the first school or classes of its kind in the state which originated in Wood County.
Martin saw a great need for the classification and organization of exceptional children, the handicapped and the mentally retarded. At that time, Sumner School was the only opportunity the exceptional child had for any sort of attention, he said. After studying the situation keenly and observing special education programs in various other cities and states, Martin proposed classifying the pupils, ages 5-21, into six new classes and placing them in elementary schools of the system.
All of the students were tested and placed in the appropriate categories. It was through the keen interest of the principals, teachers and parents at these schools that the program proved successful during the first year. After the first year, I saw a need for classes in the junior high school level. thus two junior high school classes were organized, he said. During the time Martin was directing the special education program, trips were made to Coonskin Park at Charleston and to the Columbus Zoo.
He was working on a trip to Washington D.C., when he retired. The six elementary schools in which the exceptional students were placed were Rayon. Williamstown, Vienna, Lincoln, Beechwood and Tavennerville. Junior high schools were Edison and Washington. Abilities classified through proper mental testing proved all levels of intelligence. The reason to have them in different schools was to mainstream them into subjects or activities in which they could function. Some could function in music but not in math. Some in home economics or in woodwork Some showed athletic talent, he said.
Students remaining at Sumner, the more profoundly retarded, were given vocational training in homemaking and woodwork. When the school health service was expanded to 12 or more nurses, they did an outstanding job with social concerns as well as medical needs of the students, said Martin. In the transition from segregated to dual school system, the part played by the T. ard of education, the superintendent, the churches, the parents, the students and teachers was largely responsible for the highly successful and peaceful transition to the dual
system, according to Martin.
In speaking of working with the board of directors and school personnel at that time, Martin mentioned Chuck Leary as board president; Darel Custer, director of guidance, and Tom Goines, director of teacher personnel. In a civic capacity. he mentioned the assistance of Edwin Dils. Although since retirement Martin limits his involvement in community service, he has been active through the years with the Wood County Recreation Commission, the Boys Club, Wood County Detention Center, Parkersburg Youth Center, Logan Job Training and Information Center, the Sheltered Workshop, Wood County Human Relations Council, Parkersburg Solicitation Board, Advisory Council on Aging, state Advisory Council for the Education of Exceptional Children, Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council. Wood County Advisory Committee for Vocational Education, Council on Crime and Delinquency.
He has worked with the Youth Division of the American Red Cross, YMCA, Planned Parenthood Association.
National Council of Christians and Jews. committee for recommending pay for justices of peace. Mayors Advisory Committee for Revenue Sharing Projects. Wood County Sheriff's Citizens Advisory Committee and Special Olympics. Martin and his wife the' late Thelma Mayle Martin. are the parents of two children. Both are pursuing
careers in education. Clifford Martin Jr. of Reston. Va., is assistant to a vice president at Howard University,
Washington. D.C. and LaVerne Martin Toller of Columbia. Md., is a supervisor of special education at Silver Spring, Md. There are eight grandchildren Proud' that his son and daughter are following careers in the field of
education. Martin said. They are doing so at their own volition. I did not try to influence or have them go
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