Elmo Derico Oral History, 2 of 2

Dublin Core


Elmo Derico Oral History, 2 of 2


Elmo Derico Oral History, 2 of 2


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


February 15, 1996.


Second Part of interview with Elmo Derico. First part here


Analog Cassette Tape, Txt File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Marion LaVoy


Elmo Dericco


4325 Schurz Highway, Fallon, NV.


Churchill County Oral History Project

an interview with


Fallon, Nevada

conducted by

Marion LaVoy

February 15, 1996,

This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norine Arciniega; final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.

This is Marian Hennan LaVoy interviewing Elmo Dericco for the second half of his interview. This interview will be basically about his years as assistant superintendent and superintendent of schools. The date is February 15, 1996, and the interview is at my home, 4325 Schurz Highway, Fallon.

LaVOY:  Well, Elmo, I'm glad to see you again. We want to get in your years as assistant superintendent and superintendent in this interview, so would you please tell me when you became assistant superintendent of schools in Churchill County.

DERICCO: I became a superintendent July 1, 1959.

LaVOY:  What were some of the duties that were required of you as assistant superintendent?

DERICCO: When I went in, first I was in charge of the elementary schools and the curriculums, and then I had the hot lunch facilities, and I had transportation, and also I was in charge of maintenance and repairs throughout the whole building.

LaVOY:  Stopping just a minute, tell me about this hot lunch program. Had that been going in the schools for a long time?

DERICCO: Yes, that had already been established in the county, and it was ongoing. In fact when I came in 1955, the hot lunch program was in operation and it was located where our present administration building is. That was the first hot lunch facility.

LaVOY:  Who was in charge of it?

DERICCO: I replaced Mr. Godwin who was an elementary coordinator. He passed away, and then I applied for the job and got it.

LaVOY:  As head of the hot lunch program?

DERICCO: Yes, when I became assistant superintendent, that automatically fell under my jurisdiction.

LaVOY:  Tell me something about how the hot lunch program started in the schools here.

DERICCO: It was through government subsidies that the hot lunch program started. Of course, previous to that, I can't go back in history as far as it goes; it probably started in some areas. I noticed the Harmon School which was a country school had a hot lunch facility at one time also back in 1955, but I think it started with the aid of the federal government when they started providing lunch program for the needy children. The way they provided that was through monies and through agricultural commodities such as butter, meats, chicken, hams, canned goods--a lot of canned goods. That's the way it was first established, and it still operates under that type of a program.

LaVOY:  Did the head of the program have to make up the menus or were the menus sent to them?

DERICCO: No. Well, we were controlled by the state because the federal government sent the monies to the state, and then, also, naturally, they had the federal regulations. Their meals had to meet a certain rating as far as food benefits for each of the students. We'd make up our own menus. When I took over as assistant superintendent, I had two kitchens and then later three, and I had one head cook who was more or less in charge of maintenance of the kitchen but she was also the one that developed the menus. She would develop these menus according to the state and federal regulations. Later on as we grew bigger, I had a person who was in charge of the hot lunch programs, and when I became superintendent then, of course, she worked under me. My first one was Betty Trigueiro. She was the first one I had as the hot lunch coordinator.

LaVOY:  How many years was she there?

DERICCO: Betty was there about ten, twelve years as the coordinator. Actually she did retire, so she must have gone twenty years as a cook--she was the Northside cook first, and then became the coordinator for the program. So she had twenty years total in the system.

LaVOY:  Did the children help with the program at all?

DERICCO: Right. Part of the program was to educate the children in helping in the kitchens. The way they did, they'd rotate a class through a week helping clean up the tables and serving and things of that nature there and doing the dishes.

LaVOY:  So, it was not done according to need .


LaVOY:  It was done according to class so that everybody got chance.

DERICCO: Right. We picked the different classes in there to work, and they'd all get a chance at it, and they'd get their meals free then. They liked doing that. They enjoyed doing that as part of the hot lunch program.

LaVOY:  What was the cost of the first hot lunch programs in 1959?

DERICCO: I think they were about twenty-five cents, and the milk was a nickel or a few cents, and, of course, now it's gone up into the dollars. I think the lunches are a dollar and a quarter now in comparison with twenty-five cents in the early days.

LaVOY:  Now, in those days did the children eat their lunches?

DERICCO: The cold lunch or the hot lunch?

LaVOY: The hot lunch.

DERICCO: 'Course you know how students are. There's some things they liked and some things they didn't like, but our program was to have them at least try it. Try the meal, see if you like it. We had different types of menus and stuff, and they would try them. If they didn't like it, we wouldn't force them to eat it, but they had to try and at least take a bite or two and see what they thought. As I said, there were meals they loved and meals they didn't. Hot dogs, spaghetti, soups and things they just loved. Of course, if you tried a new dish on them that they'd never tried before, it was a challenge for them.

LaVOY: I can well imagine. What other duties did you have besides the hot lunch?

DERICCO: I was in charge of the transportation system.

LaVOY: Tell me something about that.

DERICCO: The transportation system that we had in 1959, we had twenty-seven buses

and maintained twenty-five routes to carry the students to and from school.

LaVOY: That's a tremendous amount.

DERICCO: The average capacity of our bus was between forty-eight to fifty-four passengers, and now in comparison, the district now maintains a fleet of forty-four buses and has thirty-four routes. These units are anywhere from sixty-five to seventy-five passenger buses. The unique thing about the transportation when I had it, we had student drivers from the high school, and they were allowed at that time to drive buses. We'd get a student that lived on a particular route, and he would take that bus home and they'd take them back and forth and they would pick up the students on their routes, but that has gone by the wayside now. They have stricter regulations as far as drivers are concerned.

LaVOY: How did you know that you had a good student driver?

DERICCO: Well, we checked into the student at school and see what kind of a student they were. If they were a responsible student, and then we trained them as far as driving bus is concerned, and then we'd put them on the route and they'd drive. Not to say that we didn't have any problems. You know, a student driver with a high school student naturally had problems at times. There were some students that handled it quite well, and, of course, there were some that didn't. If they couldn't handle the situation, then we'd have to remove them, but we had a lot of student drivers over the years that did the job, and I must say they did an excellent job on the whole.

LaVOY:  What were some of the situations that you had that had a driver removed?

DERICCO: Oh, sometimes in the early days they'd stop--and, of course, it had its effect. If a student was acting up on a bus, he would stop and kick them off the bus and leave them walk home. Well, now, of course, you can't do that anymore because of the safety factor. But, that was one thing, and, of course, a high school student would sometimes let their buddies get away with things where they wouldn't let the little students do the same thing. Of course, the elementary student would come in and say, "Well, he lets Johnnie do it. Why can't we do it?" That was my biggest problem in the control of the younger students and the older students, and, of course, the older students picking on the younger students was a problem at that time, too.

LaVOY:  Who repaired the buses for you?

DERICCO: We had our own shop. In fact, up until Reno went to their own system, we had one of the biggest systems in the western part of the United States with this bus route that we had. And we had our own shop.

LaVOY:  Where was it?

DERICCO: It was located right next to the Oats Park School. We had three mechanics. We had one hoist, and, of course, many nights when our buses would break down, and we needed to repair these, men would work through the night to get the bus back on line so that we'd have the buses for the next day. Now we have a beautiful facility with three hoists and a lot of extra space and quite a few extra buses that we can put on line if one breaks down.

LaVOY:  Who were some of the mechanics that worked so diligently?

DERICCO: I had Mark Lee who just retired about a year ago, and Leland Roberson. He was head of the transportation facility, and he retired from the system after thirty years. Gene Forbush was another one. Actually, he was the first one that was under my command. There was a man named Mr. Ringstrom before that that ran the shop, but over the years these people took over and ran the shop. Then I had Bill Oar who was one of my student drivers, and now he's in charge of the transportation system now. He's a supervisor and director of the transportation system. They have three head mechanics plus Bill Oar and a secretary that operate the bus system now.

LaVOY:  What is the approximate cost of operating a bus system?

DERICCO: It's quite expensive. Your buses nowadays run anywhere from forty to fifty to sixty thousand dollars apiece. These are the great big ones. I remember when they used to be about twenty thousand. Then they went to thirty. In order to get one of the bigger buses, you're looking at a bus anywhere from sixty to seventy thousand dollars.

LaVOY:  Who would you buy the buses from?

DERICCO: We'd put them on bid. We'd go out for bid on the buses, and, of course, the different companies like Ford, Chevrolet, and one time International, would bid the buses, and then they'd take them to the factory and they'd put the body, like Ward or Bluebird or something like that would put the body on that chassis that we would bid.

LaVOY:  When you wanted to buy a new school bus, did you have to take that to the school board, or could you do it through your financial setup in the school?

DERICCO: Everything we purchased we went to the school board because with such a big item, and we had a law restricting us for so much money that if you went over so many thousands of dollars everything had to be put up for bid. If it was under a certain amount you could go three quotes, but if it was over a higher amount then you had to go to open bid--all our buses and everything. Our complete budgets were always run through the school boards.

LaVOY:  Did you have any problems with school board members buying buses?

DERICCO: No. The only thing that was the greatest problem was financing. We tried to get on a ten-year plan as far as rotating our buses every ten years, but because of the expense we never could get on that. I think maybe they might be nearing that right now after all these years that they're getting to a point where they're starting to rotate them on a ten-year basis. We figured the life of a bus about ten to twelve years.

LaVOY:  It's amazing with all those kids it would last ten days let alone ten years. What were some of the schools that were built during this assistant superintendent stage?

DERICCO: When I went in as assistant superintendent, the school district started to grow. In 1957, they had just completed the West End Elementary School [280 South Russell]. We were growing, and they had some money left over, and they built four classrooms where the Northside Elementary School is right now [340 Venturacci Lane]. In 1959 and 1960, we floated a bond issue in order to add onto the Northside Elementary School and also build a junior high school. Between 1960 and 1962, we built the Northside Elementary School and then we added about ten to fifteen classrooms, a multi-purpose room, kitchen. Then we built the E.C. Best [750 East Williams Avenue] which became a junior high school for seventh, eighth, and ninth grades.

LaVOY:  That was where E.C. Best is now?

DERICCO: Yes, it is.

LaVOY:  Did you add any libraries at this time?

DERICCO: Yes. In 1968, we needed some libraries real bad at the elementary level, and we went to the federal government. They have a building program. If you qualify, they help you in the building, participate in buildings. We did get eighty thousand dollars from the government, and it helped build the library at the West End Elementary School and the E.C. Best Junior High School.

LaVOY:  Did you have the money to hire librarians, or did teachers handle the job?

DERICCO: We always hired librarians in our system. We've been very fortunate.

LaVOY:  They've had their masters in library arts?

DERICCO: Well, I don't know if they had the masters or not, but they had library training and library science and things of that nature there, but we did have librarians in the two schools.

LaVOY:  With these new libraries, how did you get the books that you needed for it?

DERICCO: The thing is that usually when you build a new building, a part of the monies can go for new library books. That's the only thing it can go for. You can't buy curriculum books and things of that nature under a bond issue, but library books you can, so we did purchase some of our library books through the bond and the money that we received. Plus the PTA [Parents-Teacher Association] helped us out quite a bit in our programs.

LaVOY:  That's interesting to me because PTA was very strong at that time, and now it's very hard to get anybody to be in PTA. What were some of the PTA projects that you recall?

DERICCO: One of the big projects was the annual carnival. It was quite a thing. In the spring the PTA would put on this carnival at Oats Park. The park area. We'd have a big parade downtown first where all the elementary school children would dress up in different types of costumes and things and march down the street at eleven o'clock, over to the park, and everybody would follow them over there. Then they'd have a big carnival, and they'd have eats and everything else. The money from that went to the schools for different projects. I know if it wasn't for the PTA, that carnival during the first four or five years I was assistant superintendent of the hot lunch program we couldn't have survived in the hot lunch program because we didn't have enough money. They'd always come up and give us a shot of maybe four or five hundred dollars at the end there to help pay for our bills. That was the big thing with PTA. Then they did other things. They had meetings during the year. They supported our bond issues. We had different activities they sponsored such as plays in the elementary schools and the high schools.

LaVOY:  Who were some of the active people in PTA that you recall?

DERICCO: There's been so many. The Cornus [Henry and Marilyn] were quite active. Don Mellos, they were quite active. Over the years there were different ones that came up as directors of that PTA, and they did an outstanding job. The amazing thing is the volunteers they got during that carnival. In fact, the town would shut down at noon. All the businesses would shut down at noon, and they'd all go to the Oats Park and eat and participate in the carnival and then come back and open up.

LaVOY:  This carnival was held in the spring?

DERICCO: The latter part of May. Just before school was out.

LaVOY:  Well, that's great! Did they have speakers come in, or was it . . .


LaVOY:  Just purely carnival?

DERICCO: It was purely carnival. They had games. Just like a carnival. They had the fish tank. They even had some dunk tanks every once in awhile.

LaVOY:  Did you ever get caught in the dunk tank?

DERICCO: No, I never did get caught in the dunk tank. I was busy chasing youngsters with water guns along with the rest of the administrators. That was one of the problems we had. That's when the merchants seemed to load up on water guns, and these students would get the water guns and they'd be going around. Of course, they were shooting themselves but it ended up they were shooting the people.         (laughing) We had a quite a time. I think one year I collected seventy-five water guns.

LaVOY:  Then what did you do with them?

DERICCO: I just kept them. Of course, if they came back later on and asked for them I would give it to them, but they never did.

LaVOY:  (laughing) Oh, dear. Tell me about some of the vocational things that were going on while you were assistant superintendent and on into your years.

DERICCO: The vocational's been one of the outstanding programs that we've had in Churchill County over the years. It started back when L.C. Schank was the director of the vocational program. Through this program they had the shop area in which they built different types of and repaired agricultural equipment, made agricultural equipment, and, also, they had their teams on judging the cattle, the meats, the milk, and all this stuff. He was outstanding. In fact, Churchill County was one of the most outstanding programs for years and years and years. Later on these other schools came along and started competing. One of the ones that compete with us now is the Elko area. Elko Chapter, the Wells Chapter, and they're outstanding now, and they have quite a program in which they develop all their programs during the year. Then they go to state, and they compete against one another. Then the chief judging teams that win go back to the Nationals in Kansas City, and we've had a lot of teams go back there that have done an outstanding job. We've had a lot of our people become star farmers at the national level. Don Travis was one of them. L.C. Schank was the first one that started, and then we had Howard Hutchings, and then [Jim] Sustacha. He took over. He was an Elko boy, and he took over the program, and, of course, the competition's still there, and they still go at it in a big way. It's one of our strong programs in our community.

LaVOY: You have competition in cattle judging?

DERICCO: Meat judging, cattle judging, livestock judging.

LaVOY: Pork?

DERICCO: I don't know if they have pork. They probably do. The other things they have, on equipment they have.

LaVOY: Farm machinery

DERICCO: Yeah, and then parliamentary work as far as speeches and things of that nature there. They compete in that level. It's quite a program for these people.

LaVOY: That's basically the agricultural end of it.


LaVOY: Was the automotive end of it? I know that would catch some of the agricultural for the machinery, but how about the rest of the automotive end of it?

DERICCO:The automotive program is a separate program, although it can overlap as far as repairing engines and things of that nature such as a baler or a tractor. Although the ag department did their own work in their shop on the tractors and things of that nature, but the automotive department was a new program that started while I was an assistant superintendent, and that was the training of individuals in small motors and then into big motors. Ernie Ferguson was the first instructor, and he was a lay teacher. He was a mechanic at the Chevrolet Garage. He did an outstanding job. He was a top notch mechanic and he trained these kids. In fact, his students were so well trained that they took a lot of state honors. They'd have a state contest every year where they'd go. They'd practice on a vehicle and then they'd go to a contest. They would bug the vehicle and these students would have to find these mistakes, and the ones that could find all the mistakes the quickest and run that car across the line in running shape would win. I think he won about five or six titles in state, and he went back to National. He always finished in the top ten in National. It was an outstanding program.

LaVOY:  Who were some of the students that you recall that were so good in that program?

DERICCO: I'm trying to think now. There were some good ones. I just can't recall any of the students. I know my boy [Tod Dericco] was involved in it. He didn't quite make the finals, but he just loved Mr. Ferguson. That's where he got his training to become a mechanic now. He's a mechanic for the state. Through him and Mr. . . [Jim Baglin] a gentleman who has a shop that he worked with. There's a lot of students that did a good job.

LaVOY:  That's wonderful. Did many people donate old cars to them for that program?

DERICCO: Yes. The shops like the Chevrolet and the Ford would donate vehicles. In fact, I don't remember whether the Chevrolet or the Ford had one of their new vehicles wrecked, and they turned it over to . . . they couldn't repair it. I mean, they could have repaired it, but it was pretty well damaged, and they turned it over to the students to work on the engine and to learn all the new things about new engines and things of that nature. The businessmen were very good at helping Mr. Ferguson and developing these students.

LaVOY:  That sounds like those two programs were going real, real well. Tell me something about your home ec program.

DERICCO: Home ec program over the years has gone down. I'm sorry to see that because it used to be one of the chief things in our schools. We still have it at the high school. We used to have it at the junior high school and the high school. The junior high school has been cut out. We do not have it anymore. At the high school Mrs. [Leona] Rawlins is running the home ec program there, and she's doing an outstanding job. In fact, I think I read in the paper just the other day that she received some honors for the work that she's done. She works real hard with those students in trying to keep the interests and the attitude in the development of the home ec program. Frankly I'd like to see it start again because I think there's a lot of things these students can learn.

LaVOY: Did that program start downhill in the years that you were superintendent?

DERICCO: Yeah, the one at the junior high did. The interest just started fading there near the end there when I was superintendent. Then they came up with other new programs. Other technology programs started to come into existence, and, of course, that's what they went to.

LaVOY: This was about 1968 that this started?

DERICCO: Yeah. Well, actually the programs went down in the 1980s.

LaVOY: Now, you became superintendent in 1968?


LaVOY: And the home ec programs were going good at that time?

DERICCO: Yeah, they were going real well.

LaVOY: But it was in the 1980s that they…

DERICCO: 1980s that the one at the junior high kinda went down. The high school's still going.It's still in existence. It's to the tireless effort of Mrs. Rawlins. She keeps it going.

LaVOY: Something I'm curious about. There are a good number of the girls in the high school in particular have unfortunately become pregnant while they are attending school. At what point were these girls allowed to stay in school? I remember a number of years ago that if the girls were pregnant they had to go to a special school for special education. When were they brought into the program as a regular student?

DERICCO: You're right.   In the early days, of course, any student that became pregnant had to quit school. We did allow them to go to school up to a certain point in our school district until they started showing. They couldn't participate in the physical education programs because we were concerned about their health and everything else, but as far as going to school, they still continued school, but when they got to a point where they shouldn't be in the school, then they had to leave the school. This all changed with Title Nine. The rights of the students, and I think that was back in the 1970s in through there that the rights of the students became prevalent, and then you could not remove them. They stayed in school, and they just became part of the school district. The only thing we were concerned with that we wanted them to see a doctor, and if they had to participate in p.e. for how long they could go.

LaVOY:  Did you bring in any classes on parenthood at this time?

DERICCO: As far as parenthood's concerned, Leona Rawlins kind of covered that in her home ec classes. [end of tape side a]

LaVOY:  How did the school board handle the situation of young pregnant girls in the high school?

DERICCO: Eventually we had a mandate through the Legislature that sex education had to be taught in the schools, and it was up to each of the school districts to develop a curriculum which would benefit the students. They allowed each of the school districts to develop their own curriculum. Of course, it had to be approved by the state, also, so we did have a series of hearings in which we developed the sex education courses. Believe me, it was quite something because it was a very hot issue because there were certain people that believed that sex education should be taught in the home and should not be in the schools itself, while others thought the parents weren't doing their job at home, so something had to be done to advise these students of the problems that they can run into. We set up a committee. The committee was led by Reverend [Larry] Moore, and he did an outstanding job. This committee got together and developed the different types of curriculums that should be taught and how far it should go down. Whether it should be together or separate. The first one they had separate type of instructions for the boys and girls. After the curriculum was developed, and after many heated meetings--the committee did an outstanding job. They took abuse at times which was too bad because all they were doing was carrying out the mandate of the Legislature. After we established the curriculum, we made presentations at the schools on certain nights three nights in a row showing what would be taught and what wouldn't be taught. The thing is, it was completely voluntary on the part of the individuals. If the parent wanted their son or daughter to participate in the program, they could, and it started at the junior high school. That's where we started the sex education. Anytime they have changes in the curriculum, they present it to the public so they can review it and they receive their comments. [there is a very long pause here]

LaVOY: The instruction is separate?

DERICCO: Yes, I think they're separate at this . . . when we started it was separate. It was completely volunteer on the part of the student going to the program. Now, I think, it's still separate at the junior high. At the high school I don't know if they've combined. They were talking about combining the two together. So, I'm not quite sure whether they are or not.

LaVOY: How did you handle the assignment of teachers for this?

DERICCO: What we did during the first year is, of course, we just looked at our local staff. Our first ones were conducted by nurses. They're the ones that instructed in that area.

LaVOY: Who were the nurses?

DERICCO: Bernita McCormick Moiola was one of them. I don't know who the other one was, but she was the chief one that we had at that first instructional period. I know they have the nurses available. Now they have regular instructors in the area that have been trained, and I guess they can have the nurses available at times when they think they're needed in the room for critical explanations or things of that nature there.

LaVOY:  Let's go over now to when you became superintendent in 1968. I know many of these programs carried over from your assistant superintendent days. How about your math program?

DERICCO: We've always had an outstanding math program. That math program kind of goes back to when I was teaching. We have the advanced placement of students in top programs now. Back in those days, I'd say back in 1957, 1958, we had a top-notch math program, and it was taught by Mr. [Jim] Bogan, and the top students in the mathematics programs would go into this program. We had some outstanding . . . He was a very disciplined man in math. When you went in that room, you went in there to do math and nothing else. The students still talk about this gentleman and the work he did with them. Some of our outstanding math students have landed terrific jobs as a result in the engineering and the military. And everything else that math program that carried over and, now as a result of all of the years, in math and English the top-notch we have advanced placements and things of that nature there for students. Chemistry's another one.

LaVOY:  Just continuing with mathematics, what are some of the mathematic programs that you did have? I know you say "advanced math," but …

DERICCO: Well, we had the regular general math. We had algebra. We had geometry. Now they're going to calculus. Of course they have other technologies in math. I haven't been in the system for five years now. They probably have advanced areas. A lot of our students are working with the community college in English and math, so they're going to advanced programs on the college level during their senior year. That program was going on when I was a superintendent that some of our students could enroll in the WNCC [Western Nevada Community College] programs in these different areas. Computers was another one.

LaVOY:  When did computers first come into the high school?

DERICCO: We had a few computers greatest thing is when we went into the computer program, and we had it clear down to the first grade. That was in the latter part of the 1980s and the 1990s, and I remember that we finally got computers at the around elementary level, and we had a computer in every classroom, and we had students going to some computer programs in a computer lab. Since then they do have computer labs. The one I'm really familiar with is the one at Northside. What really impresses me is these little ones in there in this computer lab working the computer which I'm deadly afraid of, and they're just running these programs right and left. It was in the 1980s that we did finally break into all these computers. Even in our office we finally went into the computer program. (laughing)

LaVOY: Well, as I was going to say, it's very embarrassing to me that to have my grandchildren know how to run a computer, and I don't.

DERICCO: Oh, yeah. They're not afraid of them, boy. They've grown up with them, and they just love them.

LaVOY:  I have mixed emotions about computers in the schools completely. I wonder if the children are really learning their math or if they're using the computers.

DERICCO: My concern also. I think, basically, when these young ones are going into their math program, they should learn how to think with their mind rather than with a machine. They started bringing these little calculators from which they'd figure the time tables and things of that nature there. When we were in school we had to memorize our times tables and everything right here. We could read them off, and we had the test for them. We could sound off on our multiplication. They don't have it nowadays. You can see it in the student in a store giving you change sometimes. They just can't think of the change. A machine has to tell them how much to give, and that's the bad part. I think they should still be trained of the mind.

LaVOY:  I'm in a hundred per cent agreement with you on that, and it's the same way with spelling.

DERICCO: Spelling's another thing that I think we've kind of fallen down on that. Although, the last few years we've had some outstanding spelling people. McGinnesses went back to national twice, but still spelling is an area that still has to be worked on and practiced and practiced and practiced the same as the way of the times tables. Another area that I think that we've fallen down in is geography. Our students do not know the world today, and I know it's changing. Changing quite rapidly. But still when they don't even know where areas in the United States are located, there's something wrong. I still am a believer of a complete instructional program in geography period.

LaVOY:  Well, I certainly agree with you on that. Getting back here, how about your literary students? Your English programs? You've had some outstanding English teachers in the high school. What programs do you recall as being superintendent that you were particularly proud of?

DERICCO: In the English program we had outstanding teachers. Had a good solid department. I'm not familiar with the English teachers now since I've been out, but I remember when, of course, the ones we always looked back with as far as a strong English teacher was Anne [Gibbs] Berlin, and, of course, she was one that would always really have the students working hard on their English programs. The late Pat [Knoedler] Oxborrow, was a strong English teacher, and I'll tell you with those two teachers the English classes were taight well.  Later on in years Norine Arciniega was an outstanding English teacher. Colleen Wilson, and now I understand Mrs. [Joyce] Barnes is quite good too. As I say I'm not familiar with the rest of them, but they had programs within there that the parts of speech, sentence structure, and things of that nature there. I think we've kind of fallen away from that now. There's a modern approach on writing and things of that stuff which I think is good. Development of poems and the writing, but I think sentence structure--you still have to have the basics in English and writing in order to produce the other types of programs. At that time they were quite strong. Our English programs, our tests, were quite high in English, and I hope they continue. I'm always interested in the test results when they come out in the fall or in the spring, whenever they come out, as to how our students are doing.

LaVOY:  With your science program did you have anything that you were particularly proud of in science?

DERICCO: Science programs. I think we have one of the outstanding right at this time in Churchill County. We have nice science facilities. We added the new science building to the high school in 1968 which is the junior high now, and we had some outstanding science teachers there, biology teachers. Now at the high school we have, I think, one of the outstanding science teachers, Mr. [Steve] Johnson. He's an individual that really studies the program and really provides a good background in chemistry and physics. I'll tell you we're quite fortunate to have saved him because after we hired him I thought he'd be long gone to other schools.

LaVOY:  Do any of the students get invited to science seminars throughout the country?

DERICCO: Through the efforts of Walter Plants--he was quite a science instructor at the junior high level, and he started the science fair. Through the science fair it brought up all the interests of all these students in making different things of scientific projects, and we've had some outstanding ones. In fact we had one boy that did a scientific project on the Stillwater area. I think it had to do with toxic water and its effect on the bird population. The ducks and birds in the water itself. I think he did the experiment for about fifty dollars whereas the government did it for thousands and thousands of dollars, and he came up with what the problem was. He became so famous that he went national and international in appearances and meetings national and international in appearances and meetings and things, and he became a very important individual from our school district.

LaVOY:  What was his name?

DERICCO: Kevin Bell.

LaVOY:  Well, that's really to his advantage that he received so much recognition.

DERICCO: Oh, he did, and he did an outstanding job. All for fifty dollars.  (laughing)

LaVOY:  (laughing) We have pretty well covered the vocational, the literary and agricultural, etc, ends of the school; tell me, I'd like to know something about the building of the schools. What different schools were built while you were superintendent?

DERICCO: As I think back, I think I was involved in the construction of nineteen units throughout the district. As I mentioned before West End was completed when I became assistant superintendent all except for the library, and then we added on to Northside, and then we added the E.C. Best and the library at E.C. Best Junior High School. The science wing at the high school was added, and then we had numerous vocational buildings that we added the vocational building just west of the agricultural building, the block building. Then we added a carpentry building across the street from the old high school in which we taught advanced carpentry. That was another new program that we had. Advanced carpentry and carpentry for the students that were interested in building, becoming carpenters and things of that nature there.

LaVOY:  Did they build any houses or anything like that?

DERICCO: That particular advanced agriculture classes built a house every year, and then they would auction it off and sell it. It was one of these rollaway homes. They would borrow money from the school board, and then we'd sell the building, and then we'd put back into a fund for them, and then they'd build another one the next year. In fact, at the old high school, they built the photography building which they used for many years. That was built by the students themselves. They had quite an advanced program in carpentry for the students. The regular shop area, of course, under Mr. Evans. We had two Evanses there. One was Claude, and the other Evans was [Ron]. He's quite good in the making of furniture, clocks, and things of that nature there, and they have a wonderful program in building different things for students.

LaVOY:  Don't they have an exhibit every year of the furniture that the students have made?

DERICCO: Yeah, they have their annual vocational fair every year in which they display all the work that the students do. The regular carpentry class and, also, the advanced carpentry class.

LaVOY:  Didn't one of the Crook boys win an award for a clock or something just two years ago?

DERICCO: Yes. I understand he [Billy Crook] did. They'd build these grandfather clocks, and you'd see about five or six of them in there that these students were building. Beautiful ones, and beautiful dressers and coffee tables.

LaVOY:  Do the students have to buy the wood out of their own fund?

DERICCO: Yes, they pay for the wood and things of that nature there and all the things that went with it. You know, the handles and hinges and things like that.

LaVOY:  Well, that's great. What was the last school that you were responsible for building?

DERICCO: We built Minnie Blair in 1974, and then the last project was we passed a twelve million dollar bond issue. With that twelve million dollar bond issue we built the high school, and the last project that I was involved in was the building of the vocational building. We took Minnie Blair which was the middle school at that time and turned it into the beginning of a high school. Originally when we built it in 1974, we said we're going to use this as the beginning of our high school, and so we converted the Minnie Blair building as the main part of the high school. We added the vocational building, we added the science wing, and then we added the gymnasium. That was the last piece of construction that we had when I was superintendent, but we did pass a twelve million bond issue right as I left which added onto many other things, too. At the present time, though, just to show our school district's growing, they're adding onto the science building, and they did finish the theater building which was part of the twelve million bond issue, and they added another addition to the vocational building.

LaVOY:  What architect did you use for this new Minnie Blair Junior High School?

DERICCO: Minnie Blair--you mean for the high school itself?

LaVOY:  No, Minnie Blair, the junior high.

DERICCO: Mr. Ferrari from Reno was the architect for the Blair Building, and then the Van Woert and Hershnow [Hersnall] were the architects for the development of the high school portion of it.

LaVOY:  Did they come down and keep an eye on the contractor that were doing the building?

DERICCO: The way they worked this is that whenever you have a construction project of that size, you hire a clerk of the works. He's an individual that's hired by the school district that understands construction, understands reading of the plans and things of that nature there, and he's on the job all the time watching the construction of the building on a day-to-day basis and makes sure that the construction people follow the plans that they're supposed to.

LaVOY:  Who did you have doing that?

DERICCO: Dan Schultz was the clerk of the works for most of the construction of our buildings here. Although the early phase in which we had the junior high and Northside was Mr. Peterson, but Dan Schultz is the one that's involved on the latest construction that we have. He's on the job all the time watching the construction of the building. Now as I said the architect comes at critical points. When critical points of the building are being, like the pouring of a certain area or things of that nature there, the architect is available. Well, he's available at any time, but he makes it a point to be there at that time. Also a lot of these architects hold weekly meetings. They come up on the beginning of the week and meet with the superintendent and the clerk of the works, and they go over everything where they're at and how they're going and the material flow and everything else.

LaVOY:  Was it difficult for you to know exactly what they were doing as superintendent, or were you very well aware of what they were doing?

DERICCO: I was very well aware. I'd go out to the sites every day, and, I talked to the clerk of the works. Of course, I don't have that extensive of a background in construction, but I knew exactly what was going on, and they'd explain the critical points and what they were doing, and that's when I discovered the one urinal in the boys' locker room when I was on an inspection one time. That was a big controversy in the school district. (laughing)

LaVOY:  Just one instead of a series of them?

DERICCO: Well, can you imagine? Here we had a locker room being built for the boys in which you have anywhere from forty to fifty in at one time, and they had one toilet and one urinal for the whole works. Of course, when I looked at that they said, "Oh, no, there're probably others going in." Well, they didn't. The architects had screwed up. We had a big controversy over it, and the architects had to eat the bill in remodeling that bathroom and putting in a number of urinal stalls plus a number of stools and things of that nature. Of course, that became one of the big ha-ha's of the construction period in my regime. (laughing)

LaVOY:  (laughing) You'll go down in history. Something I was just wondering about. The school buildings are lovely in this area, and I'm sure that you had a great deal to do with how they look and how they were taken care of and everything. Did you have a grounds keeper for all of the schools?

DERICCO: Well, the grounds are usually maintained by the maintenance departments. Don Barnes is in charge of that, and he usually had a certain number of people assigned. We had a electrician. We had a carpenter. We have a plumber. Of course, as the time goes on, we've gotten so many buildings now that they've had to go in . . . and we have an electronics man. We had to have an electronics and refrigeration man now because of the new types of materials that we have, buildings and the equipment, but we also have to bring in additional help. Lots of grounds, lots of grass, and it's hard to take care of. They're not kept up as well as we'd like, but we kept at them all the time. During the summer, what we'd do, we'd have high school boys to help with the maintaining of the yards, and we usually kept them in pretty good shape that way with the aid of these young people. It was jobs for the high school boys and girls. We had girls also to mow lawns and keep up the grounds itself. But, it's a tremendous job and a tremendous area to cover.

LaVOY:  I imagine that it really is, and I imagine it's very expensive.


LaVOY:  Now we'll go into a few of the little controversies. Did you always have a good rapport with your various school boards?

DERICCO: Oh, I think throughout the years, on the level, I had good rapport with my school boards. I worked for thirty-nine different individuals during my time as a superintendent and assistant superintendent of schools. Oh, naturally, I'd have my run-ins with different ones at different times. We'd have our little closed-door sessions in which we would expound at one other, but on the whole I had very good people that were really interested in the school district and in the development of programs for students. The one thing that they always wanted to do was to have the best possible education for the money that we had for the students, and academics was first. We wanted to make sure that we had plenty of books, plenty of paper, supplies, and the staff to instruct these students. Oh, yes, we had little incidents.

LaVOY:  One that I'm not sure that I know too much about it, but what I read in the paper was that you had contracted with someone to cut the alfalfa that was on the west end of the new high school and I believe that the gentleman that had had the contract became very upset with one of the teachers. Do you recall what that was about? You don't have to mention any names.

DERICCO: We have a program which--when we purchased the Blair property we purchased about sixty acres there which was one of the greatest buys we ever made. That allowed for the expansion of our Lahontan Elementary and the high school itself, and part of it, of course, at first, was alfalfa fields. Well, as we built, it was a training program for agricultural students on the operation of a swather, a baler, and things of that nature. As we started to construct and take over those fields, Mr. [Jim] Sustacha, who was the vocational instructor went out and got other places in order to provide experience for his students because he was losing this particular area at the Blair property. He did go in and make a deal with one of the farmers to cut their hay as a training program. Well, this individual felt that the school district was cutting him out of a livelihood in doing this. Of course, Mr. Sustacha said, "Well, I wouldn't do it if she [the property owner] didn't agree to it." All she said was, "I want you to do it." But, he was looking for a training program for those students, and I think that individual became upset unjustly.

DERRICO: We ran into a similar problem when we started building these houses. Mr. [Robert] Pattison who started the program for the building of these homes went around to all the contractors in the area and asked them if it was all right if his students would build this type of a house and that he would call on them and come visit them when they're building their houses to train these students on different phases of construction. Of course, he did get their permission. Well, later on in years, we had new contractors, and, of course, they started complaining about the students building this house. Well, we had to go through the union and everything and appease them that, "Hey, we're just building this house. We're not trying to make any profit. Just what it costs us, and it's a training for the students who eventually become carpenters for the people in the area." And they did. We have a lot of individuals that have gone through this program and later became carpenters in different construction companies. So, you do run into problems with the public at times on different issues, and still they want your students to have a good training program, but some don't like you infringing upon their territory. (laughing)

LaVOY:  Well, Elmo, we've covered a lot of things. There's one thing--I should have brought it up sooner, but you mentioned that you had something called the Junior Frolic that took the place of your carnival. Would you go into what the Junior Frolic is?

DERICCO: The Junior Frolic was a program at the high school in which the classes and also the different clubs in the school would develop plays and musicals and things and we'd make a presentation to the public. The reason for it was to raise money in order to hold our junior-senior prom, and, also, at that time we had the junior-senior banquet in which the juniors would take the seniors to the dinner. Well, what happened, of course, as we grew in time, it got so big that we couldn't have the Junior Frolic anymore, so what the high school did afterwards, they went to a musical. They put on a musical, and one of the first ones they put on was Cindy which was a modern version of Cinderella, and it was directed by Bill Davis, the drama teacher, and Larry Hoffman, the music teacher. It replaced the Junior Frolic through this musical program. But this last year they want to get back to the Frolic again to try and create the interest of the students back towards this type of thing, so they may have another Junior Frolic this year with all the clubs and the classes putting on different presentations. They did a miniature one last year.

LaVOY:  When you retired, approximately how many students and teachers did you have at the school?

DERICCO: Our student population has grown from 1959 from 1820 students to 3,425 students as of September 22, 1989. You know, with this growth I've witnessed the construction of nineteen buildings, as I've said before, and in turn the staff has increased from eighty-eight teachers and three principals to two hundred teachers plus twelve administrators. So, in concert, the classified personnel grew accordingly, too, proportionately as the certified staff did.

LaVOY:  Well, you certainly were a busy man for all your years there as the superintendent, and I think we have pretty well covered your years in the school district, and I know you were sorely missed when you retired, but once again on behalf of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Project I want to thank you for taking the time to come back again and give us an update on actual school problems.

DERICCO: It's a pleasure for me to do so.

LaVOY:  Thanks so much, Elmo.


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Churchill County Museum Association, “Elmo Derico Oral History, 2 of 2,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed December 6, 2021, https://ccmuseum.omeka.net/items/show/232.