Dorothy Bullock, A Local LegendTaken from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (1992)
When snow fell heavily on school days, Glassboro elementary school Principal Dorothy L. Bullock wouldn't even bother making the treacherous trip back to her Atlantic City home. Fighting Mother Nature so she could make it to work, Bullock bunked at her brother and sister-in-laws' house at the south end of Williams Street in Glassboro for as many as four days straight.
Her sister-in-law, Rosa Latney, didn't mind. Bullock had grown up in that very house, Latney said. And after she was finished with her students for the day, Bullock would teach her little niece and nephew how to read and write.
"She wanted to give back to the community that gave so much to her," Latney said. "She was just happy to have been an instrument in (the children's) education. She wouldn't go to another town."
Bullock, who died in 1990 at the age of 75, recently became the first black teacher from Glassboro to have a district school named after her. The Dorothy L. Bullock Elementary School on New Street is scheduled to open in September.
But this honor, like Bullock's dream of becoming a teacher, was not realized without a fight. When the board voted unanimously on February 10 to name the school after Bullock, it ended a two year battle between members of Glassboro's black community - who wanted the school named after Bullock and former teacher Bertha A. Turner - and the board, which until last month wanted to call it the New Street Memorial School.
"The board was listening to the community and their request that the board reconsider," Superintendent Nicholas A. Mitcho said of the board's change of heart. "I think that it was probably one of the major things."Board President Joseph Brigandi said the community lobbied for a change. "The ministers in town sent us a letter and the members of the community association asked us to reconsider the name," he said. Board members decided to use only Bullock's name because only one name is used for other Glassboro school buildings named after people.
Bullock's brother Herbert Latney was recuperating from a December 7 triple-bypass heart operation when he heard that the board had reversed its original decision. "I could hardly sleep for the rest of the night," Latney, 64, said. Latney's wife, Rosa, was at a prayer meeting at nearby First Baptist Church when the board voted to name the elementary school after her sister-in-law.
"People started coming by, the phone rang - we cried," Rosa Latney, 60, said. "We were really surprised that it was unanimous. How many times do they do that - a complete turnaround? But with prayer and persistence, the school board had a change of heart."
According to her relatives and former co-workers, Bullock was fairly persistent herself. In the latter years of the roaring 20's, when success and excess were blurry signposts on the fast track of young America, teenager Dorothy Latney wanted to stand out like a bright light. Her dream was to teach children.
It would be a hard climb, as Latney's aspirations also meant traveling paths other than the familiar hallways of Glassboro High School. One was the road to neighboring Pitman, where she often walked three miles after school to a job cleaning and doing laundry. "She was a house maid so she could help her father and mother put her through college," Rosa Latney said. "Reading was Dorothy Latney's specialty, Herbert Latney said Dorothy, who was the oldest of five children, taught him, his brother Buddy, and his two other sisters, Anita and Lynette, how to read before they entered kindergarten.
"Dorothy's other passion was playing piano for the First Baptist Church ñ the same church where Rosa Latney prayed over the school board's decision. After 40 years as an educator, Bullock moved to Denver in the late 70s when her husband, Hamilton, fell ill. She returned in 1988, after his death. She said, "I want to go back to my old church,"; Rosa Latney said,"She was really happy (to be home.)
Bullock actually started teaching in Glassboro public schools three years before she received her bachelor's degree in education from Glassboro State College in 1942. Bullock went back to Glassboro State and received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1964, and finally a Master of Science degree, specializing in reading education, in 1968.
Glassboro resident Charles Smith, who spearheaded the Community Awareness Association's push to get the school named after Bullock and Turner, has fond memories of Bullock's teaching him to read in first grade. "Reading and education were very important to her, and all the kids in Glassboro got off to a really good basic start because of her," Smith said. "She's an institution."
Mitcho remembered working with Bullock between 1967 and 1969 when she was the director of a summer program to educate migrant farm workers in Swedesboro. After three summers with Bullock, she became a mentor to Mitcho, he said. "She was a really sensitive to the needs of people who needed literacy (education)," said Mitcho, who joined her in the Glassboro School district in 1971. "She was very firm in her convictions about what was good for kids. She really enjoyed being with kids, and they liked her, also. She was a wonderful person."
Rosa Latney said, "Bullock's greatest legacy is the many people in Glassboro who learned in her classrooms." If you go around to just about any family in Glassboro, they'll tell you "Mrs. Bullock was my teacher," or "Yes, she taught me."
Bullock's intensity for learning has been passed down to her niece, and namesake, Dorothy N. Bullock. This Dorothy Bullock, 36, is the principal of an elementary school in Atlantic City. "Aunt Dot trained my sister and I in social grades, education, and the love for learning," Bullock said. "She was always there for us. I am very proud of her."