By Gary Knepp, Vice President, Milford Board of Education; Historian; Attorney-at-Law
Board of Education meetings are generally poorly attended, quiet and, well, boring. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes tempers flare over the curriculum, controversial books, financial questions, or discipline issues. The December 1935 board meeting was remarkable. The county newspaper reported that “simmering” issues “came to a violent boil” that night.
Apparently everyone knew what was coming. The meeting room was filled. The overflow spilled into the hallway. Attorneys were present.
Superintendent Harry Milligan presented a petition, signed by nearly all the teachers, accusing the janitor with “willful neglect of duty” for failing to remove trash, wash windows, and clean the toilets.
Board member Sam Bateman, described as the leader of the “anti-Milligan” faction, charged that the superintendent had threatened to fire the janitor if the janitor failed to persuade Bateman and another person from running for the board. (Bateman was re-elected and the other person was elected.) Allegations of “sore loser” and “revenge” were shouted from the audience. Milligan admitted that he had talked to the janitor about getting the two not to run, but denied threatening to fire him.
The audience weighed into the fray with support for both sides. One person jumped up and ran his finger along the window sill, showing how dirty it was. The janitor’s attorney demanded “justice” for his client. According to the paper, “Other flurries added to the tempestuous evening.”
The board retired to executive session to discuss the matter. No one left the meeting during the deliberations. After an hour, the board returned to announce that it would adjourn for two weeks.