The History of Roosevelt

The history of the village of Roosevelt can be traced back to the settlement of Hempstead in 1644.  The first colonists had emigrated from Hemel-Hempstead, a market town in Hertfordshire, England.  These settlers came by way of Connecticut because of boundary disputes and religious intolerance.

On the plains, which they called Hempstead, the settlers established a village and organized the government.  Their village, Hempstead later became the religious, economic, and political center of a growing stream of settlements.

 

It was not many years later before a path of settlements were made to the rich meadow grass, and useful harbors of the south shore.  This area later became known as Roosevelt, to places such as Merrick, Freeport, Baldwin and the Rockaway Peninsula.  The Roosevelt area included the East Meadow Brook, one of the longest and most important on Long Island.  Paralleling this to the west of Roosevelt was the potentially useful West Brook. 

 

The area known as Roosevelt was once part of the heavily wooded section known to the Hempstead settlers as the Great South Woods.  Its natural advantages and geographical position drew home settlers, since Roosevelt was on the important road between the “Town Spot” at Hempstead and the landing at Freeport.  At Roosevelt, the road branched off to Merrick and Babylon.  Trade followed along this road to the shore points.  Heavily built wagons were frequently seen lumbering along to the docks with produce and grain.  Coal and manufactured products such as goods, furniture and household utensils were drawn back from the docks. 

 

These attractions spurred the growth of Roosevelt.  When first known as Rum Point, it was a little agricultural village with a store, two taverns and some twelve or fifteen houses.  Deeds recorded before 1830 refer to the area as Rum Point.  After the Civil War, it became known as Greenwich Point, a thriving agricultural and paper manufacturing center.  The name change occurred because of a temperance movement, which swept the country and brought the name Rum Point into disfavor.

 

Business and industry during this time was varied.  Farming produced grains, dairy products, vegetables and orchard fruits.  These products were exchanged for liquors, fry goods, furniture and other merchandise.  Mills also flourished, mostly around the East Meadow Brook.  There were grist, paper, lumber and saw mills located there.  Brick making was in progress.  A most important industry was the making of flies for fresh water fishing and the raising of trout before the State Fish Hatcheries were in operation.  Fly making continued well into the 20th century.  Blacksmith shops were also located in Roosevelt.

 

An interesting part of Roosevelt’s history centers on Rev. Charles Edwards, an influential minister who traveled to all areas of the south shore.  He was an alert scholar and was interested in experimental gardening, writing and invention.  He published the first newspaper in Roosevelt, which was called, “The Rustler”.

 

Most interesting of all his activities were his experiments with gliders, airplanes, and air currents.  Long before Lilienthal, Langley or the Wright Brothers became deeply involved in aeronautical experimentation, Rev. Edwards had envisioned airplanes as a vehicle for common use.

 

Greenwich Point had plenty of prime lumber.  Shipbuilding was one of the early industries.  The boats built in Greenwich Point were hauled down to the Bay at Freeport.

 

By 1900, Greenwich Point’s population was 1,500.  It was a rural village with its own business center on a Main Street, bordered by farms.  There were no fire or police departments and wavering gas lamps dimly lighted the streets.  There were four hard-surface roads in the village:  Babylon Turnpike, Nassau Road, Centennial Avenue and Washington Avenue.  The village had to depend upon an old-fashioned stagecoach to connect it with the outside world.

 

With the turn of the century and the establishment of an independent post office, Greenwich Point changed its name to Roosevelt.  The name, Greenwich Point was not acceptable to the Post Office authorities, as regulations required that there should be only one village or town of the same name in the state, and a village by the at name had already been registered.  Roosevelt was the name chosen, in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, the president of the United States.  This occurred in 1901.

 

In the railroad-building era, villages that had stations such as Freeport and Hempstead boomed.  Greenwich Point was little affected by this.  During this time, however, summer homes were being built in Roosevelt.  The coming of the electric trolley car in 1903, which connected Roosevelt with Hempstead and Freeport, had the same effect on Roosevelt that the railroad had on many Long Island villages.  The rapid and inexpensive means of transportation brought an influx of house seekers to Roosevelt.

 

Around 1940, Roosevelt was a community of modest homes with a population of 8,000.  Public services were established which expanded with community growth.  Roosevelt now derives its public service from the town, county, or state government.  These include the school district and the following departments:  fire, water, sanitation, electric, and police.

With the advent of modern transportation, Roosevelt has grown from a small rural community with summer residents to a typical Long Island community where the residents commute to other areas for job opportunities.  This very small district of about one square mile comprises a large “minority” population in contrast to the majority of Nassau County which is mostly Caucasian.  In recent years, Roosevelt has experienced a large influx of Latino and Caribbean people, adding to the diversity and multicultural features of the village.  Many residents of this community of modest homes struggle to make ends meet” because of high taxes engendered by the dearth of commercial property.
 
Some time in the middle of the 1800’s there was a one-room schoolhouse in Roosevelt.  It was located on Washington Avenue near the present site of the Washington-Rose building.  Later, a three-room building existed.  This edifice was used for such functions as meetings, political activities, social gatherings, and Sunday school and church services.
 

With the increase of population, a demand arose for the expansion of educational facilities.  School Number 1, an eight room building, was first constructed.  A few years later in 1915 a similar building called School Number 2 (Rose Avenue School) was built.  After a fire in 1922, when School Number 1 was destroyed, a modern sixteen-room school with an auditorium was built on Washington Avenue.  This was originally named the Theodore Roosevelt School after President “Teddy” Roosevelt.

 

The Centennial Avenue and Under Hill Avenue Schools were erected in 1930.  Centennial Avenue was originally named Quentin Roosevelt and Under Hill Avenue was originally named Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., after the sons of President “Teddy” Roosevelt.

 

Centennial Avenue and Under Hill Avenue were neighborhood K through 6 schools.  Rose Avenue was a K through 3 and Washington Avenue had grades 4 through 6 on the first floor.  The second floor contained grades 7 and 8 from the entire school district.  Students beyond 8th grade went to either Freeport or Hempstead High School.

 

Because of the World War II “baby boom”, both Freeport and Hempstead School Districts were pressuring other school districts around them to expand.  In September of 1956, the Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School was opened.  It consisted of the main office area, 100-200 wings, Junior General Purpose Room and Kitchen, large gym complex and the industrial arts area.  The present senior high kitchen was the music room.  What is now known as the “Central Office” was an elementary school and was called Northeast Primary.  It housed K through 3 students who later went to Washington-Rose.  This section was erected as part of the new junior high school.

 

Shortly, thereafter, Freeport only allowed students to register if older sisters, brothers and parents had attended.  Hempstead also continued to grow.  In September 1962, the Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School opened its doors and in 1964, Roosevelt graduated its first senior class.

 

The additions to the building included the 300-400 wings, Senior General Purpose Room, kitchen, small gym, two industrial arts rooms, auditorium, music suite and planetarium.  There was a junior high school library in the 200 wing and a senior high school library in the 300 wing.  The Northeast Primary section became the District Offices, Guidance Offices and Business Department classrooms.  Some time later, because of needed space, the District Offices were relocated on the northwest corner of Pennywood Avenue and Nassau Road where they remained until the 1978-79 school year.

 

A new elementary school was also erected and was called the Northeast Primary and served the same purpose as the original one.  It since has been renamed the Daniels Primary Center in honor of a retired teacher-principal.

 

Later, two portables were built at the Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School for added classroom space and were known as the 500-600 buildings.The Roosevelt Pre-Kindergarten Complex opened for the 1965-66 school year.  The Consumer Home Economics Program, which does not exist today, became part of the pre-kindergarten complex during the 1970-71 school year. 

 

In the 1978-79 school year, the 700-800 wings and a new library were added to the Roosevelt Junior-Senior High School.  The Guidance Department was moved to its present location and the Business Department to the 800 wing.  The area vacated became the Central Office.

 

The Roosevelt School District today consists of the following buildings:  three K-5 schools, and one Middle School and one High School.  Pre K is held within the Washington Rose elementary school.  Because of long-standing problems in funding, facilities, and academic achievement, the Roosevelt Schools have drawn nationwide attention.  In fact, because of many years of low student achievement, the High School and Middle School were placed on the SURR (Schools Under Registration Review) list in 1989.  However, in 2009 the Middle School was removed form the SURR list due to consistent academic improvement on the New York State English Language Arts and Mathematics Assessments, and their ability to meet and exceed New York State School Accountability measures.

In 1995, after student achievement failed to improve and facilities continued to be unsafe and ill-maintained, despite visits by several State Education Department- appointed teams, the State Legislature passed Chapter 145 of the Laws of 1995.  Subsequently, several advisory and governing groups were appointed by the Board of Regents.  Also part of this effort was the establishment of the District Review Panel whose job was to develop a Corrective Action Plan in consultation with the community.  This Panel also had the responsibility of monitoring the Board’s activities.  At a later date, Chapter 145 also created another advisory group, the Citizens’ Advisory Council {CAC}.  Afterward, at the Panel’s request, the State Education Department (SED) Task Force was created to lend technical assistance to the district.

Essentially, the State intervention was met with hostility and skepticism.  This was obvious in the many Board meetings which evidenced flaring tempers and caustic verbal exchanges.  Such resistance was demonstrated by both the Board and community residents alike.  From 1996 to the fall of 2000, the Board ran the district with intermittent involvement by the Panel and some input from the CAC.  Symptomatic of the lack of educational leadership during that time period was the constant administrative and teacher turnover which many have dubbed “the revolving door syndrome.”  This anomaly—five superintendents or acting superintendents, two high school principals, two Middle School principals, and several treasurers and assistant superintendents of curriculum and instruction and business—was astounding.

 

In October of 2007, the Roosevelt Board of Education, along with the State Education Department hired a new Superintendent of Schools.  The new Superintendent of Schools, working with an appointed Board, with the exception of one elected member, began to develop and implement initiatives that would set the foundation for the revitalization of the Roosevelt UFSD.  Although faced with the challenge of leading the District in absence of key Central Office and building level administrators – interim as Business Official, no Assistant Business Official, no Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, no Subject Matter Specialists, Department Coordinators or Chairs, no Director of Facilities, and an interim High School Principal – the newly appointed Superintendent of Schools endeavored to bring reform to an otherwise failing school system.  Despite these obstacles, in just one year, the Roosevelt Union Free School District has made noteworthy progress.  Not only has the District opened 3 newly rebuilt elementary schools, but for the very first time opened a new Middle School, totally independent from the High School.   
 
Academically, our schools continued to make progress and improve their performance on both State and standardized assessments.  Our three elementary schools, which have a history of satisfactory to superior academic achievement, continue to demonstrate excellence.  In addition, they continued to implement programs and services for students that nurture their growth and foster their social and emotional development.  Some of their enrichment programs are highlighted include:  The Pre-Kindergarten Center boasts a program of performing arts centered around language development; The Washington Rose School offers the “Jazz Sampler”—a program integrating English Language Arts, Social Studies, and the Arts—based on the New York State Standards; a Math and Technology program is being implemented at the Ulysses Byas School; the Centennial Avenue School features several innovative programs and projects; the Middle School, which was removed from the state’s School Under Registration Review (SURR) List is now fostering a strong teambuilding effort; and at the High School level, “New Horizon”, an alternative education program,  is being offered to students who are in need of credit recovery in order to graduate but whose schedules lack space for certain course offerings.