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School History

  • J. Nelson Kelly 1874 - 1934

    The greatest honor ever given to Mr. J. Nelson Kelly came on October 16, 1966, when an elementary school at 3000 Cherry Street was named after him. His name was immortalized for all the people of Grand Forks. When Mr. Kelly accepted the position of superintendent in 1894, the school system consisted of three schools. During his 25 years as superintendent, six new school buildings were completed. Much of what Mr. Kelly accomplished was due to his magnetic personality. He loved people and made friends with those of all ages and all walks of life. His main goal was the development of the school system, and he was assisted in his achievements by a loyal staff of teachers and administrators. Students who were in school during the early part of the 20th Century remembered Mr. Kelly best for his annual reading exams. He was a firm believer in the importance of being a good reader, and therefore visited every school and listened to every pupil read one or two paragraphs. When Mr. Kelly came into the room, a great silence greeted him. He was a large man, standing 6'2", broad-shouldered, and had qualities of a Southern gentleman. He would seat himself in a desk and say, "Good reading consists in getting the thought from the printed page. When I call your name, please stand and read until I ask you to stop." The marks were put on report cards as Reading Exam. Mr. Kelly was recognized and valued as a great educator and a patriotic citizen. Upon his death in 1934, all schools in Grand Forks Public Schools were closed in recognition of his contributions to education.