Biography of Louis M. Lombard
San Francisco, CA Biographies





LOUISE M. LOMBARD
There is no metropolitan center of the United States which may assume superiority over San Francisco in the education and training of delinquent and mentally deficient children, this department of the local public school system having attained an international, as well as a national, reputation for its completeness and efficiency. The greatest share of the credit for this phenomenal development of the ungraded classes of the San Francisco schools must be given to Louise M. Lombard, supervisor of these classes and who has for a long period fulfilled her duties with rare intelligence and intimate knowledge of her profession.

Louise M. Lombard was born in Lapeer, Michigan, and there received her common school education. Later she took special studies at New York University, and then for twelve years she was principal of the Michigan State Home and Training School in Lapeer, which institution is one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Her family, with the exception of a sister with her, had previously gone to California, consequently they themselves followed. She was in Fresno for the first year, and then came to San Francisco.

Through the work of the educational department of the California Club, the first class for the education of mentally deficient children in San Francisco was established in 1910. The class was situated in a temporary building on the site of the old Garfield school, which had been destroyed in the fire of 1906. This building, which was unsatisfactory, was razed in 1917, and a bungalow built in its place and used until the fall term of 1927.

In 1910, there was no specially trained teacher available for the teaching of the children who were classified as subnormal. In 1913, Dr. E. B. Hoag and Dr. H. Porter began a mental and physical survey of the twenty children enrolled in this class, but prior to the completion of the work Dr. Hoag was called away, and shortly thereafter Miss Lombard was appointed to assume charge of the work and arrange for additional classes for the children needing education within their ability to grasp. Thus began the notable work of Miss Lombard in this department of the city schools. She found first that before this time pupils were chosen for the ungraded class upon the recommendations of the principals and teachers of the elementary schools, which was quite inadequate, as some of the twenty children then so assigned were found to be normal, others deaf, and a few incorrigibles. A testing program in the various schools in all parts of the city indicated the need for more classes, and in 1915 the ungraded primary school was organized, which proved to be a model of its kind. By 1919, there were four classes at the ungraded primary school and eight in operation in schools of the outlying sections. In 1920, the plan of "after care" work was started for the purpose of supervising and observing the pupils of the ungraded classes after they had left. The ungraded primary school at this time had become the center of activities in educating disabled children, and was the object of study for numerous delegations from universities and colleges elsewhere in the state. It had increased to five classes by 1927, and additional space was needed for their accommodation. Accordingly, the Washington grammar school, of sixteen rooms, which had been abandoned, was chosen as the new site. A psychological and psychiatric clinic was established by the San Francisco board of health, and later the dental clinic of the board of public health was transferred from Garfield school to the ungraded primary school. Three additional classes were also added by the transfer of pupils from the Washington, Hancock, and the Commodore Stockton schools. At the close of the 1928-29 period, there were fifty four ungraded classes, and due to the enlargement of the ungraded primary school and the large number of ungraded classes in the elementary schools, Miss Lombard was appointed supervisor. At the same time, Miss Mary Carmichael was made principal, and Mrs. Ella M. Cunningham vice principal of the ungraded primary school. Since that date, some classes have been discontinued and others added. Beginning August 11, 1930, provision was made for an average of eighteen pupils in each of the fifty six classes existent; thus one thousand and eight pupils could be taught. This was a bit more than one per cent of the total school population of eighty four thousand, nine hundred and forty three.

A special course of study has been in use in the ungraded schools since September, 1926, and in every phase the work is undergoing decided improvement as time goes on. On August 19, 1930, there were seven hundred and seventy five pupils enrolled, but the annual enrollment of 1929-30 was nine hundred and ninety five.

Pupils are selected for the ungraded classes largely by means of an official intelligence test applied to those who are reported by the principals, by the parents, or otherwise. It is proved that the idea of segregating subnormal children into small groups for special training is no longer an experiment. The fact that the schools are for the purpose of preparing these pupils to fit into social and industrial circles, however humbly, is becoming to be appreciated more and more, for otherwise they would become useless, or criminal, burdens upon the public. There have been objections which Miss Lombard and her associates have encountered. Parents have often resented the classification of their children as mental defectives, and secondly school executives have frequently objected to the expense of caring for pupils of low mental ability. The truth has been shown that the expense of training the youth of this class is infinitely less than caring for the potential future criminal or helpless individual. Normal pupils are enabled to progress faster if the subnormal are removed from their midst, and likewise the subnormal, with subjects within their grasp and comprehension, and free of the embarrassment of competition which they could not meet, are prone to gain confidence and progress much better when they are segregated.

The character of teacher necessary for this highly specialized class of pedagogy is well illustrated in the type of Miss Lombard. She must have human sympathy, patience, and a deep insight into psychological methods. She exerts more of a personal influence over her pupil than one teaching in regular classrooms, and upon the impression she creates in the mind of the pupil, so may the latter's future be governed or influenced. Her role is to give them knowledge of kindness, courtesy, justice, and self respect, and to endeavor to guide them into a channel which shall make them useful citizens, in so far as humanly possible. Every child is given every opportunity to improve; nothing is spared to give the unfortunate mind a square deal. Trades and numerous other vocations are taught, and a pupil will be carried to whatever heights his mental equipment will permit him to reach.

In 1920, the San Francisco public school department established the so called "after care" or "follow up" supervision of the pupils of the ungraded classes, a necessary provision for those who had left the school when they had reached the legal age of sixteen. The purpose of this new phase of the work was to exercise supervision over the pupil's future welfare, the suitability of his work, his social problems, and many other problems which would naturally confront him. An astonishingly small number of pupils have faced court difficulties in their later lives. According to the official report of June 30, 1930, only eight out of sixteen hundred and ninety three cases whose address was known had come before the adult court, and seventeen between the ages of sixteen and eighteen had come before the juvenile court. The late Dr. Walter E. Fernald of Massachusetts, considered a foremost authority on subnormals, stated that decent mental defectives far outnumber the trouble makers, the last being so much better known that they have given a bad name to the entire group. The list of positions occupied by former students in the ungraded classes includes employment in various unskilled labors with the exception of a very few cases which have succeeded in higher types of employment such as musicians, fur designers, telephone operators, and expert weavers. There are now in San Francisco over eight hundred former pupils on the "after care" list. It is a valuable department of the city's educational system, for without it much of the tremendous expense of the ungraded school system would be a total loss.

The Lombard Club was organized by the teachers of the ungraded classes in 1926, its purpose being increased professional and social activity for the group; to keep the public in closer touch with the educational work being done; to visit other institutions; and to hold dinners and meetings at which prominent speakers are the guests of honor. The work of Miss Lombard in making the ungraded schools the success they are is a notable achievement. She has devoted her life to the labor which she loves, and she has won the affection and respect of all with whom she has come in contact.

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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