Mr. Henry Reazin

Mr. H. Reazin formerly of Whitby was hired as headmaster of the Centre Street School January 22nd, 1862. It was stated that the trustees were glad to get him for the salary of $600 per year, to replace the former teachers of the proceeding two years. His stay in Oshawa could hardly be said to have been a pleasant one.

When he first came here, the trustees had passed a resolution to adopt the free school system. [1] It had been tried before but without success. It is interesting to read some of the discussions that were taking place at that time.

All children were to be admitted to the schools without having to pay fees. As stated earlier in this history the children paid every quarter and this was a nuisance for the teacher. It meant a lot of bookkeeping and some did not pay at all. It appeared to have been hopeless to try to collect. It did not mean that textbooks were to be supplied also. Provision had been made by the Central authority in Toronto that councils were given the right to levy taxes on corporations for free schools. However it was not compulsory at the time, it was up to each school board to make its own decision.

The free school system gave equal opportunity for education to all children. “Little ragged barefoot urchins whose parents live in shanties, who would have but little education could turn out, better men[2].” Also, parents had put their children out to work as soon as they were able rather than pay the school fees. It was hoped that the free school system might induce them to further the education of the older ones if they did not have to pay.

There were some dissenting voices of course, as the system had been tried before and had failed. The school had not prospered because of it. This idea was ruled out by someone saying that the cause of the failure was owing to the fact that there was a lack of interest and much carelessness on the part of the trustees.

There was the matter of taxes also to be considered, and more would have to be levied. “They would be the same for everyone, no matter how many children he had in school. The poor man with a large family gets a lift in the world of education with the free school system. The wealthy bachelor is made to bear a portion of the expense of education the rising generation. He grumbles of course. It is his privilege to do that.” We are inclined to forget that there has been a lot of opposition and disagreement in the past, at the beginning of certain

After a few weeks of the free school system, the children flocked into the school resulting, of course, in overcrowding. It was suspected that some of them were not five years of age; “to make a nursery of the school” was commented. Shortage of teachers and lack of classroom space meant that their teacher taught the younger students for only one hour a day, and for the remainder of the time they were handed over to the care of older students. The primary teachers were needed to help with the seniors.

Those students who were being pressed into service were deprived of the time they should have had in their own classrooms. However by February 1863, five teachers altogether were employed. This meant that the younger students could have their full time instruction and the “obnoxious monitor system,” as it was called, was discontinued.

When Mr. Reazin was to be re-hired after his first year in the school was completed, he was informed that his salary was to be lowered by $50 per year. Taxes were high and the burden of extra school costs was beginning to tell. Loud complaints were being heard. Mr. Reazin accepted the cut in his salary; he said he felt an interest in the school and did not want to leave. It would have meant an extra expense for him, also, if he had had to move his family out of town to take a position elsewhere.

By midsummer 1863, the grammar school was described as having been on its “last legs.” All year there had been discussions about amalgamating it and the common school. The time seemed to have been ripe then, and late in December the trustees held a meeting to bring this about. Also the question was who was to be the headmaster of this new organization.


[1]  The Free School Act was passed by Ontario in 1871.  Axelrod notes that 4200 out of 4400 school sections in Ontario had voluntarily opted for free schools the year before. Pg 36

By another Act, passed in 1871, the principle of free schools and general taxation for school purposes, made permissible in 1850, became compulsory. As a natural corollary, attendance became compulsory as well, for all children between the ages of eight and four-teen. Common Schools were renamed Public Schools. County Inspectors of Public Schools, who had to be qualified teachers with long and successful teaching experience, were appointed. Teachers were to make small payments towards a super annuation fund. This most vital scheme had been set going on an optional basis by Ryerson in 1854. It was abolished by the Mowat government in 1885 and was revived again April 1, 1917. All conscientious teachers are now giving it their full support.

[2] Source unknown.

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