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New book documents history of Albuquerque’s schools

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From Spanish conquistadores to homecoming bonfires, from large public land deals to zany science experiments, Wilson Middle School principal Ann Piper uses more than 200 historical photographs and her knowledge of local education in her new book documenting the history of Albuquerque’s schools.

“Education in Albuquerque” chronicles the evolution of schools from the 1500s, when the Spanish came through the region, and spans to the present, documenting recent developments like the opening of Atrisco Heritage High School in 2008.

“The story of Albuquerque’s educational institutions offers a parallel view of the growth of the city,” Ernie Stapleton, former Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent from 1971 to 1977 and University of New Mexico professor emeritus, said in the book’s foreword.

The idea for the 127-page book came from a doctoral dissertation Piper wrote about the history of APS from 1945 to 1955. She has worked in the district for 27 years as an English teacher, an assistant principal, and as a principal at Jackson and Wilson middle schools.

Piper pitched the book idea to Arcadia publishing, which encouraged her to expand her topic to include all educational institutions in the city, she said.

Although the book is not a narrative, a hero does emerge. The middle chapters are dedicated to the growth of APS during the last century, with a focus on the career of John Milne, who was APS superintendent from 1911 to 1955.

Piper writes that Milne was responsible for “acquiring large tracts of land” on which the district would later build schools. He was a local folk hero, of sorts, Piper writes, noting the reaction of a young APS student who was asked about Milne by a Time Magazine reporter.

The student responded, “You don’t know who Mr. Milne is? Why, Mr. Milne is the boss of the whole world!”

The book also captures fun moments students had in and around school, including photos from a 1960 homecoming bonfire at Manzano High School, a 1973 photo of boys “streaking” across the campus of Highland High School and a 1944 photograph of an exploding science experiment at Albuquerque High School.

“Education in Albuquerque” sells for $21.99 at area book stores.

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