W. Douglas Hartley was born on October 25, 1918 in West Augustine.He attended local schools, starting in first grade at Evelyn Hamblen, continuing to junior high at Orange Street and high school at Ketterlinus High.After graduating from Ketterlinus in 1936, he attended Spartanburg Methodist Junior College and received a B.A. in history from Wofford College graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1940.
He matriculated to Vanderbilt University earning a masters degree in southern history.His first teaching assignment was at Rugby University Prep School in Louisville, Ky., where he taught Spanish.He entered the Army in 1942 and served until 1945. After being honorably discharged, he came home from WWII through Camp Blanding.
Mr. Hartley returned to teaching at Ketterlinus under then-superintendent J.A. Crookshank who had taught him chemistry in high school. After completing graduate school at the University of Florida, he obtained a Rank I teaching certificate, the highest ranking for teachers in Florida. He was certified in social studies and English and taught U.S. history, world history, geography and English. Limited classroom space forced him to teach each class in a different room.Soon, he was appointed assistant principal at KHS, still teaching three history classes and one English class.
In 1953 he was promoted to principal of Ketterlinus High, a school of about 400 students, grades 9 through 12. He said his job was made easier because many of the dedicated teachers that had taught him were still there: Miss Alden, English, Mrs. Bonfield, algebra and English, Miss Funk, history, Miss Cavin, Latin.While principal, Mr. Hartley arrived at school early every day to be available to talk to students. He felt they were more comfortable discussing their problems outside of school hours.Upon the urging of a retiring Mr. Crookshank, Mr. Hartley ran for superintendent of St. Johns County public instruction. He took office in September of 1957. He said he was indebted to Crookshank for his mentorship and could always count on his sound advice.
Mr. Hartley oversaw many changes in his 28 years as superintendent of the St. Johns county School system including the challenges of integration, school finances and school overcrowding.He was extremely proud of having all school accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.
The following schools were constructed during Mr. Hartley’s tenure:
Crookshank (1959), Webster (1959), Ponte Vedra-Palm Valley (1959), St. Augustine High School (1960), St. Augustine Technical Center (1971), Julington Creek (1972), Allen D. Nease Junior-Senior High School (1984), and the school named for him, W. Douglas Hartley Elementary School (1981).
He felt it was important to know each student and call them by name. “A person’s name is his cherished possession. A name to me designated somebody.” Those of us fortunate enough to have known Mr. Hartley, still marvel at his remarkable memory. He would not only call you by name, but know your father, mother, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles…. We thought he must have carried the family trees of the entire county in his head!
Sports were a great love of his life. He could be seen on the sidelines for football games, throwing the first pitch out for baseball games, in the stands for basketball games.Homecoming also held a special place in Mr. Hartley’s heart, as to which many a homecoming queen can attest. His hand-fashioned, bejeweled homecoming crowns adorned the heads of high school kings and queens for many seasons.Mr. Hartley was also active in Rotary, the American Legion and the St. Augustine Historical Society, on the Board of the St. Johns County Blood Bank and an officer for the March of Dimes.
On the role of a superintendent of schools he remarked, “This is not a position for someone looking for self-glory. It is a never-ending job and one that does not need hasty decisions.It is giving 24 hours of service as necessary to solve problems that arise and to help younger generations develop to their maximum.”
He always acknowledged the job would have been impossible without the dedicated support of the school board, his principals and the professionalism of the faculty and support staff.Among the many accommodations and honors he received, was an honorary doctor of laws degree from Flagler College in 1985.And in 1991 from the Board of County Commissioners of St. Johns County.
In their resolution to publicly recognize his contributions, “Our citizens will forever be grateful for the dedication, professionalism, principles and morals, W. Douglas Hartley has bestowed on the people of St. Johns County.”W. Douglas Hartley, SA/KHS Hall of Fame inductee 2010.
“To teach a child, you have to love a child.”