To many of us, the name of Paul C. Bunn is attached to an elementary school in Brownlee Woods, either the original one opened in 1960, or the new one opened in 2008. For older readers, you will remember Paul C. Bunn as the superintendent of the Youngstown City Schools from 1944 until 1956, when he retired. He was a remarkable community leader who left his mark on the district. Under his leadership, my high school building, Chaney High School, was built, replacing the old Chaney, which became West Jr. High.
Bunn was born February 9, 1885 in Salineville, Ohio. He attended the College of Wooster and then earned his Masters degree from Columbia University. After just two years of teaching in Salineville, he became superintendent of Bettsville schools. Later he moved to Ashtabula Harbor as a teacher and then for four years as principal of the high school. He went on to twenty-one years as a high school principal in Lorain followed by nine years as superintendent. For many these days, they would be thinking of retirement at this point. Instead, Bunn accepted the job as superintendent of Youngstown City Schools.
He was a progressive educator for his day. He proposed adding a 13th and 14th grade for those not going on to college. He reinstated kindergarten, which had been suspended in the 1930’s. You’ve heard the phrase “permanent record”? He led the adoption of a permanent record plan which tracked students education throughout their time in Youngstown schools. From the suggestions of school students, he compiled a Bill of Duties, printed in color, framed and hung in every classroom. Howard C. Aley observed, “Mr Bunn contended that every child should be taught the fundamental virtues of obedience, respect for authority, and reverence for God, home, and country.”
He renovated the old Wood Street School into what became the Choffin Vocational Center, and launched a practical nurses training program. He led the construction of the Williamson, Elm, Kirkmere, North, and Chaney buildings and additions and renovations to many other schools to welcome the baby boomers who were filling the classrooms. He created adult education programs and used the new technology of TV to start weekly programs on WKBN and WFMJ. He streamlined the process by which veterans could obtain a high school diploma by passing a general education test. Guidance and psychological testing programs were set up.
He was a member, and often leader of, a variety of educational associations. In Youngstown, he was on the Boy Scout executive council, the YMCA, the Youngstown Club, the Youngstown Safety Council, a trustee of the library and a 32nd degree Mason. He taught Sunday School and served as an elder at First Presbyterian Church. After his retirement as superintendent of schools he went on to serve as director of the Mahoning County Council for Retarded Children, a position he was serving in at the time of his death.
He died on April 8, 1957 after suffering from a stroke on March 22 from which he never regained consciousness. The Vindicator editorial on April 9 1957 stated that “the children’s welfare was the first consideration.” He was described as “a leader, never a driver” and that he “was an example of the saying that if you want something done, go to the busiest man in town.”
It is fitting that the Paul C. Bunn Elementary School has Three Universal Expectations: Respect, Responsibility, and Safety. I think Bunn would be nodding his head in agreement and would have graciously but firmly expected students, teachers, and administrators to all live up to those ideals. He more than did, and the education many of us received in Youngstown’s schools are a legacy of his leadership.
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!