History of Santa Rosa County, A King's County

by M. Luther King. Used with permission.

PUBLIC EDUCATION IN FLORIDA

AND

SANTA ROSA COUNTY

Willing to work,
Willing to fail,
Willing to struggle,
When others assail.
Willing to try,
Willing to wait,
And willing to earn.
Willing to follow
Where others have led.
This is the secret
Of getting ahead.

 

Even though Florida had a late start in public education, progress has been consistent with their philosophy -"Through education, the culture, the traditions and the social standards set by our people are passed on down to our children." We have believed, in Florida, in Santa Rosa County, that the extent to which we are able to continue our existence as a democratic county of a democratic state and nation will depend and has depended in direct ratio to the quantity and quality of our public education.

In theory, at least, the truly democratic government has long since recognized the free public school as the most dependable educational agency; thus the free public schools, their distribution, the quality and the quantity of their enrollment, the quality and quantity of those school's instructional and other personnel, as well as the degree to which they function in the lives of the people and the communities which they serve, are a reliable set of indices to the level of living of the people of such communities.

Any valid study of such a community institution even though it is studied in a direct relationship towards its present surroundings and their influence upon it becomes much more valid if the study takes its basic assumptions from the past history of such institutions being studied.

We may even thus be able to predict something of the future trends of such institution: ". . . Coming events cast their shadows before."

Let us then, in the light of the preceding statements examine Florida's (Santa Rosa County's) system of free public schools. Such an examination would show us that the very first group interest in free public education in Florida was evidenced by the founding of the Florida Education Society during the year 1831. The account of the founding of that society states its purpose as: "to study the needs and pave the way for the establishment of a (free, public) system of education."

In retrospect, we now know that the establishment of a complete system of free public schools at that time was not only impractical but well-nigh impossible. However, one of the branches of the society at St. Augustine did found and operate a school for a time, but on the whole, the society was in a measure visionary in its philosophy and soon ceased to exist.

During the immediate successive period a free public school was operated by the city of Tallahassee.

Some institutions were instituted and operated at territorial expense before 1845, such that the reports stated that the population had reached 87,000 (47,000 of whom were white) and that ten academies and sixty common schools were listed at that time (1845) with a total of 3,129 pupils (all white) -

The first actions of the legislature on the subject of free public schools, after Florida had been admitted to the union as a state, was in 1849. Legislation was enacted providing for an increase in the public school funds by adding to the sale of school lands (the 16th section of land in each township, as well as other lands that had been designated exclusively as state school lands) the net proceeds of five per cent of the sale of other state lands, all escheated property, and all property found on the coasts (wrecks, etc.). This act also provided for a crude statewide system of free public schools.

Again in 1850 taxation by the several counties for school purposes was authorized and the state was allowed to sell the school lands consolidating the school funds under the Registrar of Public Lands, Mr. David S. Walker.

In his first public report in 1853-54, Mr. Walker stated that there were 16,577 persons of school age in Florida and that of the aggregate apportionment of $5,031.07 or 30.35 cents per school child Gadsden County secured a lion's share which amounted to $546.91. However, in 1852 there had been established in Tallahassee under Mr. Walker's guidance a public free school sustained by a tax levy upon the city and it was one of the very first, if not the very first, in the South so sustained. Thus there is little doubt but that to Mr. Walker should go the credit for the "common school law" approved January 1, 1853 which had for its purpose the establishment of a state-wide system of tax supported public free schools.

Even the state school superintendent's report of 1858 shows little progress, enumerating only 20,885 children of school age and an apportionment of $6 , 542.60.

The succeeding period of Florida history was the one which saw Florida and other states of the South arrayed in an internecine conflict, the most terrible war of all history up to that time, a war of state against state. There was, of course, little or no educational progress during that time. There was, however, no doubt that there was a sustained interest in free public education that was to stand in good stead when the state was once again ready to turn its attention to ordinary domestic affairs.

A new Constitution was adopted during the year 1868, more or less infamously called "the carpet-bag Constitution." This Constitution, whatever may be said (or may have been said) to the contrary, had many excellent points in its favor relative to free public education. The compilation of school laws under this constitution was really a very historic step forward and many of the statutory provisions in them remain, even to this day, part of the basic school law of this great state. The compilation of these school laws came during the administration of State School Superintendent C. Thurston Chase. Who his collaborators or "ghost writers" were is not known.

The next state superintendent of education in this state was the Reverend Charles Beecher, a brother of "the stormy petrel" of the American political scene of that day, Henry Ward Beecher, and also of Harriet Beecher (Stowe) remembered for two things: Uncle Tom's Cabin and her recantation by coming to Florida, at Mandarin, to make her home.

Mr. Beecher's aim (and we of late years have begun to achieve this aim) was to place school personnel on a "merit system," but the small measure of his success in this manner was destroyed by Johnathan Gibbs, his successor.

Gibbs was a graduate of Dartmouth College, Class of 1852, and a citizen of Florida only since the great influx of "carpet-baggers" in 1866. His first act in office was to remove all Democrats from posts as county superintendents. Some of these men were the most able educators of our country at that time and their services were ill-spared by the infant systems of free public schools of Florida of that day: Halliday of Alachua County, Richards of Bradford County, Anderson of Leon County, and Shands of Levy County. No reasons were ever given for their removal except they were Democrats.

The next state superintendents successively, in order, were Mr. McLin and Mr. Hicks. Mr. Hicks was the last Republican to hold that office even down to the present time. Mr. Hicks deplored the "strong prejudice" against free education.

However, there came out of Mr. Hicks' administration two acts worth remembering: the establishment of an Agricultural College at Eau Gallie (which was at the time, of course, a very poor choice of location in relation to the then concentration of agricultural activities) and the adoption of the very first state-wide uniform series of textbooks. It must be noted, however, that since neither the political functionaries nor the people of the state were ready for either of these acts, they were "white elephants" on the hands of the new state system of free public schools.

The national political campaigns of 1876 were the most stormy in the career of our country. The Florida state campaign was likewise as stormy. Mr. Hicks "stumped" the state in a campaign for reelection; his principal pleas for his own reelection as well as for the keeping of his party (Republican) in power was "elect Democrats and it will be the end of Negro education." Strangely enough, however, the Democrats won in what would now be termed a "landslide." The Democrats, as soon as they were installed in office, called a special convention to write a new constitution in 1885. This new constitution provided for, not only a common school education for all school age children, but also for a higher education on a "separate but equal" bi-racial system of free public schools. (The higher education had not heretofore been provided nor proposed by the opposing party.) Actually the major gains here then were not those of Mr. Hicks but rather of Mr. Hicks' successor, Mr. William F. Haisley, native of Indiana, graduate of Yale and Harvard and an experienced teacher. It is of more than passing interest here that this Indiana man was the first to request a poll (head) tax as a voting requirement, the proceeds to go to helping finance the system of free public schools. Another new and, at that time, strange idea was a recommendation of his that any candidate for office of county superintendent should be a teacher. Mr. Haisley also continued the recommendation for a uniform series of state adopted textbooks.

Mr. Haisley was succeeded in office by Mr. Eleazer Foster and Mr. Albert J. Russell in the order as here named. During the term of service of Mr. Russell, the Peabody Fund was made available to counties of Florida for the purpose of teacher training "Institutes." This fund was a "matching" fund and was continued with a great degree of success until the legislature of 1889 failed to provide the necessary matching funds. Even so then, eleven counties: Alachua, Duval, Escambia, Sumter, Lake, Putnam, Volusia, Orange, Brevard, Hillsborough, and Levy continued the "Institutes" at the expense of the respective counties.

The first State Teachers' Institute and County Superintendents' Convention ever held in this state was held at De Funiak Springs in 1886 with Reverend F. Pasco as president. This meeting lasted a week and was held in conjunction with the Chautauqua being held there at that time. Such or similar meetings have since been held as annual events of the Florida Education Association. The meetings were held annually at De Funiak Springs until the meeting of the year 1890 when the meeting was held at Ocala; the next, 1891, was held at Tampa; followed in 1892 by the meeting at Jacksonville; then a regular shifting from place to place up to the present time. Such meetings have been held as far from the center of the state as Miami, Jacksonville, and Pensacola.

We remember quite well the last one held in Pensacola, in 1929, during the Thanksgiving weekend when a surprisingly sharp cold snap caused many automobile radiators to freeze. The North wind that came "whistling" down Palafox Street was really sharp and biting. Automobile radiators where the automobiles were parked east of the Saenger Theatre were frozen hard. The Miami and Key West delegations headed home early Friday without waiting for the adjournment session on Saturday.

The year 1885 saw higher education in Florida receive its first real boost when the Congregationalists established Rollins College at Winter Park which has continued uninterruptedly and without any divisions or "splits" to the present time. Rollins was founded as a non-sectarian college and has continued to be so.

That same year 1885 saw the establishment, by the Baptists, of a school of college rank at DeLand to be known as DeLand Academy. When this institution was later endowed by the late John B. Stetson, it assumed the name Stetson University and has so continued as a sectarian Baptist institution to this time. Its law school, now located at St. Petersburg, is the oldest law school in Florida.

Let us now bring our observations concerning public education in Florida and in Santa Rosa County down to the local, the county, scene. Santa Rosa County: "Board of Public Instruction appointed July 25, 1869." (This is evidently the real beginning of free public education in Santa Rosa County.) "No census of youth was taken. No movements looking toward an organization of the schools of the county were reported."

Report to State Superintendent of Schools, Hon. C. Thurston Chase from J. A. Chaffin, County Superintendent, Milton: "Schools 8, gain 6; pupils 237, gain 162. Received from the state -- nothing; from the county -- $608.00. Expenditures for schools --$600.00; Amount paid county superintendent -- none, Board of Public Instruction -- none; expenses -- none." (A regular "off again, on again, gone again" Finegan report.)

Report to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jonathan C. Gibbs from County Superintendent of Public Instruction J. A. Chaffin, Milton: "Schools -- 8; pupils -- 353, gain -- 116. Total amount of money received from state and county -- not stated. Total expenditures for schools -- $600.00. Cash on hand -- $29.69."

But as if in partial explanation of this terse report Mr. Chaffin addressed this letter:

Milton, Florida

August 25, 1873

Hon. J. C. Gibbs,
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tallahassee, Florida
Dear Sir:

You will see by this report that eight schools have been in operation in this county each for three months. They were very well scattered over the county, where, in my opinion, they were most needed, as a great many children had the advantage that never attended school before. There was but one school that taught higher branches than spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, and grammar, and very little of the two last. I could have carried on several other schools had I the money. The money that has carried on the schools mentioned in this report was paid to me by the collector June 4, 1873, as the state and county school tax collected for the year 1871, and no county school tax for 1872. Now, if the state and county school tax is due the county, there are two other years that ought to be paid. Please let me know about it.

Your obedient servant,
J. A. Chaffin
County Superintendent

 

Santa Rosa County:
Report to Honorable Samuel B. McLin
Secretary of State, and Acting State Supt. of Public Instruction
Tallahassee, Florida
From: J. A. Chaffin, County Superintendent of Public Instruction; Milton, Florida:

(1874) Number of schools -- 12, gain -- 4; total daily attendance of pupils -- 364; average attendance -- 277; amount of money received from the state and county -- not given; superintendent received August 6 of present year -- $877.44 from taxes collected in 1872; total amount of money expended for school purposes -- $987.50. Santa Rosa County:

 

Milton, Florida
December 18, 1880

Hon. W. P. Haisley,
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tallahassee, Florida
Dear Sir:

Owing to the large area of our county and its sparse population, the public schools, with the exception of those in Milton, have not been attended by pupils as well as desired. The attendance is increasing, however, and it is hoped that, with growing interest in schools, will continue to increase. Although in appearance the grants to the states by the general government have been equal, yet, in fact, the grants to the northern and northwestern states, owing to the greater value of the lands, have far exceeded its grants to the southern states. I think that if this fact was properly presented to Congress by memorial of the legislature and otherwise, further grants could be secured.

Respectfully,
George C. McWhorter
Superintendent of Schools

Thus goes the narrative reports from county superintendent to the state superintendent through those formative years to 1880.

There exists something of a gap in our information at this point and where we must depend almost wholly upon what we can read from summaries of statistical reports, which we shall try at a later time to present without a rather tabulation of figures.

Those statistical summaries indicate that there was continued growth of the entire free public school system. There was a steady and continuous growth in the number of teachers and in the quality of their preparation, a like increase in the number of pupils and the offerings for them, a gradual but continual increase in the length of school term until 1895 when the number of pupils statewide had "reached the total of 100,000; then there was a leveling off and slight decrease due to a severe freeze 'which caused a considerable shift in the economic pattern and a slow-down in immigration.

Mr. Albert J. Russell, who became State Superintendent of Public Instruction February 21, 1884, was a Virginian by birth and a graduate of Anderson Seminary. He practiced architecture at Charleston, South Carolina from whence he moved to Lake City, Florida, in 1859, and a little later to Jacksonville, Florida. He served during "the war between the states" with the Confederate States Army. Upon his return to Jacksonville, he was elected to the city council there and in 1876 (the turning point year for the South) to the Duval County Board of Public Instruction.

Mr. Russell was appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1884 and served in this capacity until 1893. It was during this period (1886) that Florida really began to advance in education; for as has been noted earlier it was in 1886 that the organization of school people was begun with the Teachers' Institute and Superintendents' Conference at De Funiak Springs. That organization was computed, perfected, and has since continued as the Florida Education

Association. That organization has been the organized spearhead for every advance that Florida Education has made since 1886. Mr. Russell has been, and rightly, termed the "father of the Florida Education Association."

The Florida Education Association has been successful in its public relations; it has, in most cases, carried' the public along with its determined program. The legislature has looked to the F. E. A. as a source of information upon which to base the legislative programs down through the years. However, in 1933 it experienced active opposition from the governor of the state. Without a doubt these factions were inspired by "selfish interest groups" within the state.

This opposition came at a very trying time. It was this year which saw the closing of banks, the freezing of funds, the devaluation of the dollar ' and many other such restrictive orders by the President of our country. It was like "kicking a man that is already down."

The governor, thinking that he could carry the F. E. A. president along with his "twisted" logic (since they both claimed the same home town), spread anti-school propaganda over the whole state in radio broadcasts which were somewhat later to be known as "Criticasts." The governor's own program for schools was: (1) $5 1/2 million of state money for schools (rather than the previously approved $7 1/2 million; (2) the governor to be in control of the school program (the state board). The governor went so far in his "pressure tactics" as to threaten the F. E. A. president with closing the school of which he was principal. A "rigged" audit was even attempted. After the community had operated the school for that year without state aid, the governor eventually gave up the fight.

It took two more governors' terms to finally convince state politicians that F. E. A.'s membership had too much power to be openly opposed. They claimed the active help of too many other organizations, such that one of those three governors is said to have told his political cronies, "Well, we could fight F. E. A., but we can't afford to fight the American Legion." Perhaps we should not have digressed so much nor so far afield here, but we did wish to emphasize Superintendent Russell's great contribution to Florida education in his founding of F. E. A. in 1886 -- a contribution which has gone on, which still goes on, a real contribution to the welfare of Florida's children.

Mr. Russell was succeeded as State Superintendent of Public Instruction by Mr. W. R. Sheats. Mr. Sheats was born in Georgia, 1851; had his undergraduate and Master's work at Emory University and his Doctorate work at Stetson University in 1913. He served sixteen years as principal in Florida schools, County Superintendent of Alachua County for twelve years, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1893-1905 and 1913-1922. He was author of education articles in the Florida Constitution of 1885 when he was a member of the Constitutional Convention.

One of the first county Superintendent of Schools was E. L. McDaniel, whose salary was about $40 per month. Before this the Sheriff served as the school supervisor.

However, of much greater interest to us here would be our own County Superintendent of Public Instruction's report to the State Superintendent for that year (1900). Mr. E. L. McDaniel, County Superintendent of Public Instruction reports: "Since the last report of this nature only two school buildings have been erected, one in Milton at a cost of about $2,500.00 and another elsewhere at an expense to the Board of some $150.00. About six buildings have been seated with patent desks ... All old charts were exchanged for new ones ... Financial conditions about the same as two years ago ... School warrants are paid promptly as presented. There is marked improvement year-by-year in our teaching force. Compulsory education or attendance is a question for the future. The state is not ready for it. Teachers of this county have free access to a small library of some one hundred volumes, largely professional, bought by your humble servant for his teachers. Except School Number 1, no schools in the county have libraries."

A tabulation of statistical data for year 1900 is of more than passing interest with 67 schools (58 white and 9 colored) and a total enrollment of 2,484 or 64% of eligible school population (6-21 years of age) and at a cost of those in actual A.D.A. $5.72 out of a school tax of $0.51 per capita of total population. Of this expenditure, which amounted to a total of $14,248.68, $8,762.35 was for teachers' salaries and $720.00 for salary of county superintendent and $23.00 for janitor.

Mr. Sheats had instituted a system of biennial reports to him by county superintendents and by him to the public. We have been especially, shall we say, "intrigued" by the content of some of those reports.

He notes for instance two reasons for a decrease in the number of schools for 1899-1900, 86 white schools and 9 Negro schools, "some consolidation and some discontinuance of the less profitable schools," but goes on to say that "it certainly seems that 2,443 schools are adequate . . . as to number . . . since it gives a school for every 216 of total population or for every 66 of educable youth, less than 45 of whom enroll . . . and with other factors . . . a teacher for every 23 educable youth in school attendance." (It would be of special interest here to note that in 1960, sixty years later, that figure for the number of schools has increased to 1,930 including 70 kindergartens which were not counted in 1900. It would also be most interesting to note that the A.D.A. number of pupils per teacher in 1960 was still close to the 23 of 1900 or 22.7.)

1895-1896

"It affords me great pleasure to report a general improvement in school affairs of Santa Rosa County since the issuance of your last biennial report.

"Many lots or sites for educational purposes have been generously donated. In a few years I hope to have a well-equipped school house in every district in the county. I am happy to report, too, a very marked improvement in teaching force . . . the rejection from examination room of immoral would-be teachers; and by not assigning to schools teachers who have proved to be undesirable or incapacitated for school work . . . the prompt payment, in cash of teachers each month.

"With few exceptions all districts cheerfully provide homes free of cost to teachers ... the greater part of the expenses for new buildings was borne by interested fathers and mothers.

" . . . the enrollment is not as good as I desire. We must . . . in all cases have attractive teachers . . . a tender child should no more be permitted to receive instruction from a bleary-eyed, loathsome, or deformed teacher, than to sit day after day with its little limbs hanging from a high bench in an old bat-roost school house.

"Old debt paid.

"In 1885-6 the school term was extended from four (4) to five (5) months and a five month term will be taught this year.

"Our greatest need is school funds. We cannot operate schools unless we have money. Some of our law makers show by their actions that they believe that four months tuition a year will make statesmen and mothers of statesmen.

 

"The state militia get all they can spend for arms equipments and encampments . . . yet many towns cannot vote a sub-district and levy $ 1,000.00 for a high school building . . . Nearly every county boasts a jail costing from $10,000.00 to $30,000.00 . . . are military displays and criminals of more importance to us than our children and the future prosperity of our country?

"May the people of Florida awake and realize that they owe their children a debt and pay it.

"Give us a three mill state tax for educational purposes."

It is interesting to note certain facts that can be abstracted from these statistical reports: Number of schools: 58 white, 8 colored, total 66; School enrollment: 1,829 white, 481 colored, total 2,310; Average length of term in days: 77 white, 75 colored; General average salaries for all teachers: $26.08; white male $30.46, white female $23.24, both $26.56; colored male $25.65, colored female $22.25, both $23.41.

"Assessed valuation of real and personal property $1,315,885.00.

"Salaries of teachers $7,259.75.

"Salaries of superintendents $1,000.00.

"Total expenditures $10,344.25. Thirty-three counties made such reports: Alachua, Hillsborough, Manatee, Santa Rosa, Brevard, Holmes, Marion, Suwannee, Calhoun, Jackson, Monroe, Wakulla, Citrus, Lafayette, Nassau, Walton, Clay, Lake, Orange, Washington, Dade, Lee, Pasco, Escambia, Levy, Polk, Hamilton, Liberty, Putnam, Hernando, Madison, and St. Johns."

County Superintendent E. L. McDaniel, following State Superintendent W. H. Sheats' request, submitted his report for the State Superintendent's Biennial Report for 1901-1902. In part, he said, "Since last report five new buildings have been erected, repairs made and desks supplied to others when necessary . . . all . . . are substantial frame structures with modern patent desks . . . well supplied with blackboards.

"The financial condition of school fund is good. Warrants are at all times worth face value.

" I believe my people would favor more tax for schools. Some clamor for it, and others are voting for special tax districts. There are demands for 'a better teacher, a better house, a longer term, a new house, some patent desks, some more seats, a school library, a big dictionary for our school' made almost every day at this office.

"I hope the next legislature will enact a law creating a county high school and provide in part for its operation and maintenance.

"Special Tax Districts have not been tried -- are just organized.

"There is continued improvement in our teaching force.

"Grading committees do their work . . . well and honestly . . . a grading committee for each district would be well.

" A law of compulsory attendance in schools is needed."

The same summary of figures for the statistical report (1901-1902) would yield such as this:

"Number of schools -- 64 white, 8 colored, total 72.

"Number of pupils enrolled -- 2,040 white, 377 colored, total 2,417. 56 white teachers fill 73 positions. 5 colored teachers fill 8 positions.

"Highest salary paid white male teachers -- $75.00.

"Highest salary paid white female teachers -- $45.00.

"Highest salary paid colored male teachers -- $35.00.

"Highest salary paid colored female teachers -$30.00.

"The lowest salary paid in all four categories -- $20.00.

"There were 5 log buildings for white schools and 2 for colored schools.

"There were 62 frame buildings for white schools and 7 for colored schools. There were no brick buildings.

"Value of school property was set at $ 27,610.00.

"Total receipts for school fund, $16.517.22, $30.00 for rent, $12.00 for fuel, and $0.00 for janitor.

"Total for teachers' salaries, $9,524.62.

"Total for superintendent's salary, $720.00.

"Total cost of schools per capita of total population, $1.16; per pupil of school age, $3.10; per pupil actually enrolled, $4.95."

The years immediately following Mr. McDaniel's term in office saw many of the projects that he had advocated brought to full fruition: special tax districting, a county high school, a three mill levy, consolidation, transportation, and compulsory school attendance.

That project, which apparently had always been uppermost in Superintendent McDaniel's mind and which he always mentioned in his anecdotal reports to his state superintendent (the creation and building of a Santa Rosa County High School), was seen in final fruition in the term of his successor.

Mr. John T. Diamond, a school man of "the good old school," who had considerable experience in Santa Rosa County education, who valued above personal desires the integrity of his office, and who always placed the real needs of children above all things else, came to the office of county superintendent, too, with the purpose in mind of instituting and building a Santa Rosa County High School.

Petitions had been circulated, an election held, a bond issue voted, for the newly created Special Tax District; then the contract was let to S. F. Fulghum & Company of Pensacola, supervised by Mr. Walker D. Willis, architect, also of Pensacola, for the construction of the building for a Santa Rosa County High School for the then munificent sum of $50,000. Such a building by today's standards would cost at least six times that amount.

The marble plaque mounted in the front vestibule of the building reads:

1915
Board of Public Instruction
Santa Rosa County
J. F. Poore, Chm.
J. J. Hardin
W. F. Wilkinson
J. T. Diamond, Supt.
Trustees
H. W. Thompson, Chm.
S. G. Collins
B. D. Whitmire
 
Walker D. Willis S. F. Fulghum & Co.
Architect Contractor

 

The inscription over the entrance reads:

1915
Santa Rosa County
Graded and High School
Sit Lux

They who built here built well for that building is still being fully utilized.

When Mr. Diamond was Santa Rosa County's Superintendent of Public Instruction (before the building of Santa Rosa Graded and High School building), there were 84 separate schools in Santa Rosa County. Santa Rosa County then included about one-half the area now included in Okaloosa (Blackwater) County, which was created in 1912. Mr. Diamond visited all of those schools regularly. (Remember, too, this was back during "horse and buggy" days.) However, Mr. Diamond, like his predecessor, Mr. McDaniel, kept talking up consolidation and compulsory attendance. Alike to Mr. McDaniel and to Mr. Diamond should go much of the credit for the stable foundation upon which the Santa Rosa County's system of public schools (one of the very best in the whole state) was built.

It remained for Mr. Diamond's successors to continue the uphill battle for better Santa Rosa County schools; while he went to a position as Executive Secretary to the Florida State Board of Control, which had the supervision of Florida's system of institutions of higher learning.

Mr. Diamond was succeeded in the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction of Santa Rosa County by Mr. J. D. Smith, Jr., who also had a close intimate knowledge of Santa Rosa County's system of free public schools.

Mr. Smith, in turn, continued the fight for consolidation of the small schools of Santa Rosa County. He made a real start towards such consolidation when he held meetings in one community (evening meetings with basket dinners and free movies, in themselves quite an innovation in that rural community) with the result a petition for a consolidation and a building bond issue. (Don't get the idea for even a moment that there was no opposition to such a move, for some of the "old timers" opposed right "down to the wire.")

However, the "ground was broken" and consolidation was really to begin in earnest.

Mr. Smith was succeeded in office by Mr. Raymond B. Hobbs, (another already experienced in the school system of Santa Rosa County) who "took the ball and really ran with it." He organized communities over the whole county, in a really "political campaign" manner. The result was that petitions for creation of "special tax bond" districts sprouted up all over. Elections began to be called with a clocklike regularity; almost everyone voted the consolidation and the required bond issue.

The fact that Allentown (for some time known as the Santa Rosa Agricultural High School) had made the consolidation and building move successfully, made it much easier for the next units, desiring such consolidation and building, to achieve success.

Chumuckla, Juniper, Springhill, Harold, Holley, Fidelis, Jay, McLellan, Munson, Wallace, Bagdad, Crossroads followed in a rather rapid order as Consolidated Special Tax Districts and most of those also constructed masonry buildings. Most of these consolidations and bond issues were during the years 1924-1926 and during the administration of Mr. Raymond B. Hobbs as superintendent.

It was also during this same administration that Berryhill, the first purely elementary school, was built in Milton. This relieved and released the Santa Rosa County High School building at Milton for purely high school use.

Teachers Institute
Santa Rosa County Teachers Institute held August 29, 1917 at the former Milton High School on Canal Street. Among those pictured are: A.D. McCall, Mrs. Bessie McCall, Martha McCall Alford, John Diamond, Ruby Robinson, J.D. Smith, Chafin Jernigan, Sidney McCall, Cecil Johnson, Clyde Whitmire, Agnes Stewart, Ross Bass, Ruby Watson Diamond, Lilly Burnett, Frank Simmons, Myra Bergamy, Claudia Bergamy, and A.D. Kean.

 

During the ensuing years, following the construction of the Santa Rosa County Graded and High School, these men administered the affairs of (now) Milton High School:
 
Professor A. D. Kean, 1915-1917
Professor M. M. Bryant, 1917-1918
Professor H. S. Bowden, 1918-1921
Professor L. K. Sims, 1921-1922
Professor C. C. Garris, 1922-1924
Professor S. A. Draper, 1924-1928
Professor Ira S. Johnson, 1928-1935
Professor M. V. White, 1935-1938
Professor N. 0. Smyth, 1938-1940
Professor D. R. Allen, 1940-1941
Professor Raymond B. Hobbs, 1941-1943
Professor N. 0. Smyth, 1943-1950
Professor T. G. Vaughn, 1950-1952
Professor John H. Russell, 1952-1953

The beginning of the 1953-1954 term saw the building, Milton High School, converted to elementary use as Canal Street School, while the high school pupils attended the new high school site on Stewart Street. Mr. Russell continued as the high school principal until 1959 when he was succeeded by Mr. John Southwell. Mr. Southwell was followed by Mr. John D. Perry, and his successor was Mr. James Cook, who is presently serving in that position.

The amazing retrospect of the whole thing is how the leaders of that day had the nerve, the foresight, and courage to go into such an ambitious program in view of the impending economic crisis of that time. It was politically suicidal for Mr. Hobbs whose failure in his bid for reelection has been attributed to his program of consolidation and construction.

Mr. Hobbs was succeeded in the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction by Mr. J. C. Word who had moved into the Jay area of the county from the east central area of Alabama. He had served as teacher and principal of schools in his native county and continued to do the same in this county. He came to the county superintendency directly from the Jay High School system and his was one of a long string of elections and reelections to that office from the Jay area.

Mr. Word inherited a completely consolidated and rebuilt Santa Rosa County school system, and at the same time he inherited the greatest bond indebtedness that it could have been possible to have levied upon the county in those days.

He inherited several other conditions which would have tested the mettle of any man seeking or holding that office at that time. Among such conditions were: the almost complete exhaustion of the major natural resource of the county (long-leaf-yellow pine timber), and the resultant closing of most of the sawmills, turpentine places, and shipyards; the ravages of the cotton boll-weevil which almost shut off, for a time, the cotton production of the county; and the national and worldwide movement of the economy of the whole world towards a major depression and a second world war.

In retrospect, again, it is no small wonder that Mr. Word was able to do as well as he did. His should probably be considered the supreme effort when compared to either his predecessors or his successors. It was during his administration that the unfriendly attitude of a governor and a governor-led legislature reached its climax. Funds, even for the payment of the then meager teachers' salaries were not to be had; maintenance funds came to be non-existent; interest and sinking fund payments lagged behind, delinquent in many of the special-tax districts.

Mr. Word negotiated several refinancing measures for districts that were delinquent. Allentown, Harold, Milton, Mulat were about the only ones never delinquent in either interest or sinking fund. Court orders were issued for new millage assessments in some districts. Faced with seemingly impossible situations, he usually came up with some sort of satisfactory solution to the problems.

Interest-bearing coupon warrants were issued to teachers in lieu of the "yellow script" that had been issued as certificates of indebtedness for past due salaries. Progress, it is true, was nearly nil, but the wonder of the whole thing was that schools operated at least part time.

The Federal Government's "Make Work" projects during this period in the county included all the "new" school construction during this period: the rebuilding of the Jay High School, the building of some additions at Allentown Berryhill, and a gymnasium at Milton.

Mr. Word was succeeded in the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Santa Rosa County, by Mr. W. B. Gross, who came to that position from the principalship of Jay High School. He, too, had come to the Jay area from the same east central Alabama area as had his predecessor, Mr. Word. His two terms in that office were largely concerned, locally, of maintaining the "status quo" of legal requirements and paying of the rather immense "back-logs" of short term indebtedness. However, during his administration a better feeling toward free public schools had been building up over the whole state and in Santa Rosa County. Some people, at least, were beginning to show some measures of appreciation towards the large group of devoted and dedicated public school teachers, who had kept a semblance of an organized free public school system in operation -- mostly without pay -- during the badly depressed years. The governor had appointed a state-wide committee to study and make recommendations to the committees of the legislature in order to prepare them to pass the legislation necessary for revitalizing the Florida state free public school system.

Mr. Gross was succeeded to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Santa Rosa County, by Mr. Charles F. Morris, who although born in Alabama (Brantley) had grown up, had his elementary, high school, and college education in Florida (his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Florida). Mr. Morris had begun his professional career at DeLand, then principal at Allentown High School, Jay High School, and finally was elected to the office of County Superintendent of Public Instruction, from the principalship of, yes, you guessed it, Jay High School.

Mr. Morris served two successive terms and it was during his terms in office that the now well-known Minimum Foundation Program for Florida Schools was implemented, was put into operation, and the children of Santa Rosa County began to reap the benefit from the wise legislation contained within that "package" of legislation.

The Minimum Foundation Program for Florida Schools provided for supervisors of instruction and Mr. Raymond B. Hobbs succeeded Mr. J. S. Rozier, who had served as County Supervisor of Instruction under earlier legislation. Later Mr. A. D. McCall succeeded Mr. Hobbs as General Supervisor of Instruction and brought to the system the advantages of his years of experience in the public schools within Santa Rosa County.*

Mr. Morris was succeeded in the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction by Mr. Radford M. Locklin, born, reared, and educated in Santa Rosa County, and the University of Florida, not to mention educational experience in the General Staff College of the United States Army. Mr. Locklin, therefore, brought with him to the office of county superintendent a background of administrative training and experience. His experience and skill has been a telling factor in his successful administration up to this date.

*(Mr. McCall, upon retirement in 1966, was succeeded by Mr. S. S. Dixon, former principal of Pace Elementary School.)

CALHOUN SCHOOL (Built in 1916)
More School Pictures on the Next Page

 

 

 

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