Students' cow recalled at Harmon Middle School 40th reunion in Aurora

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- Eileen Kutinsky, a former science teacher at Harmon Middle School, was known as "the cow lady."

In the 1980-81 school year, she and about 150 sixth-graders purchased a cow that lived at the school. The cow -- Carmen from Harmon -- resided in a 20-foot-wide parachute that resembled a large tent. It served as a place to store food for the cow and also where students and parents could stay at night.

The cow was one of many topics discussed by about 70 employee alumni members at the 40th Harmon School reunion May 16.

The school was launched in 1974. Previously, the middle school was located where the current Board of Education offices are now.

Years ago, Kutinsky was discussing in her science class which liquids float on top of other liquids -- like cream on milk. "Someone said, 'You ought to get a cow and you'll learn these things,'" she said.

Kutinsky thought it sounded like a good idea. She spotted an ad for a jersey cow in a farm publication.

"I told the students, 'If you're serious and you want a cow, you'll have to talk to your parents and plan for objections that people are going to have,'" she said.

Students initially raised money to buy the cow by selling shares for $1 each.

Newspaper stories followed, and Kutinsky said donations came flooding in from all over the country. The money was used to buy cow feed plus materials to create the parachute dome.

Kutinsky milked the cow every morning and night. "But I was never alone," she said. "Students and parents were always with me."

KUTINSKY said while the youngsters adopted the cow, it also adopted the students.

"The cow was very kid-oriented," she said.

The cow even had her photo in the school yearbook. "She stood in line in the cafeteria and got her picture taken," Kutinsky said. "She didn't even poop on the floor."

Kutinsky said they made ice cream and cottage cheese from the cow's milk. It later gave birth to a calf, which was named Harmon from Carmen. The students kept the mother cow for one school year, then sold her to two neighbors.

"The kids learned more from that cow than I ever thought they would," said Kutinsky, who taught at Harmon from 1974-84. "They learned about responsibility, and they learned how you get what you want."

Bob Luckay, a Harmon social studies teacher from 1974-98, took a turn briefly as a cow milker.

"It was not easy milking a cow," said Luckay. "Eileen was the spirit of Harmon School."

Kutinsky proudly held a 3-foot-wide wooden cutout of a cow that had newspaper articles about the Harmon cow pasted to it. The cutout was made by former Harmon industrial arts teacher Bert Bergansky.

Michael Lenzo, the school's first principal, serving from 1974-80, said he was surrounded by excellent teachers at Harmon.

"We were all excited to start a new school," Lenzo said. "We were blessed with so many good teachers. There was great spirit and attitude. I enjoyed the creativity of the staff. They would assume responsibility far beyond what you'd expect. If they were paid by the hour, you couldn't compensate them.

"A LOT OF fantastic things were being done at the new school," said Lenzo, mentioning nearby field trips to Camp Asbury in Hiram Township along with annual journeys to Washington, D.C., and places in Ohio such as Columbus and Chillicothe. "Those were great experiences for those kids."

Andy Kmetz, a Harmon art teacher, guidance counselor, track coach and director of school plays, said the faculty worked together as a group. He started teaching at the school in 1974.

"I had the freedom to do what I wanted to do," he said. "I was in a tremendous situation. I really enjoyed teaching here."

Barb Barnes was the first and only Aurora school nurse for grades K-12 for 26 years (1969-95) including at Harmon. "I really enjoyed the kids," she said.

She recalled the annual trips to Washington, D.C., adding with a smile, "I called that 'combat duty.'"

After attending Aurora schools, both her sons later became fire chiefs -- David in Aurora and Don in Shaker Heights.

"They couldn't get away with anything in school because their mom worked there," she added with a chuckle.

A program handed out at the reunion included a photo of a tree created by Brian Caponi, a Harmon art teacher from 1985-2001, and the original leaves on the tree were made by the late George Shuffert, who was the head custodian at Harmon for many years. The leaves contained the names of every staff member who worked at Harmon since it opened.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

Facebook: facebook.com/mike.lesko.378

Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC

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