School Boards a Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, September 19, 1911: Thought this would be the last day for our substitute, but afterwards learned that he is going to teach tomorrow instead of having it off for the fair.

Recent photo of building that once housed McEwensville School.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

It sounds as if the teacher had the option of deciding whether to give students the day off to attend the fair in nearby Milton.

I don’t know why there was a substitute teacher for the first several weeks of the school year (the teacher from the previous year was slated to return the following week) — but Thomas Kramm, in his History of McEwensville Schools, wrote:

The election of a teacher from the available candidates sometimes became a serious problem. In 1901, a sixth ballot was required to break the previous five tie ballots. In 1904, seven ballots did not results in the an election of a teacher. All candidates were rejected, and a slate of new applicants was considered. Just before school was to start, the eight ballot resulted in an election. This suggestions that there were probably power struggles within the board membership.

. . . At least one teacher and perhaps more would not return to teach the following year because the school board refused to increase the teacher’s salary.

Throughout the United States in 1911 there were more school board members than teachers. This had both advantages and disadvantages.

For example, in McEwensville there were two teachers (an elementary and a high school teacher)–yet there probably were either 4 or 6 members on the board.

The community was very involved in ensuring that the schools were high quality and met the needs of the community–but they also sometimes micromanaged the schools and perhaps didn’t always make decisions in the best interest of the students (as suggested by the quote above).

3 thoughts on “School Boards a Hundred Years Ago

    1. Thanks for the nice note. I am very fortunate to have access to an excellent library that makes it relatively easy for me to do research.

      But it made me smile that you commented on the research behind this post. New posts are scheduled appear right after midnight each day. About 10 p.m. the evening before this post appeared I still hadn’t written anything–and couldn’t think of anything to write about. I idly flipped though a copy of a local history of the McEwensville schools that I have. I came across the information about the school board and salaries, and thought: Aha! This just might work.

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