The School Board: 1873-1967

Most of the following accounts were printed in the local newspapers during those years.

In the early 1870’s, the School Board appeared to have been in a real slump. It is understandable because not many of them had much education and hence were not particularly interested in the academic part of it or in school business. Also Board members were not being paid.

During the year 1873, only two or three meetings were held in which any school business could be transacted. Other meetings lacked the necessary quorum. If it had not been for the chairman Dr. McGill, school affairs would not have been taken care of at all.

A ruling was made in February 1874, to the effect that the trustees must meet on the first Thursday of every month. It was hoped then, that there would be “more and better meetings.” A broad hint was given out that those trustees who did not want to take the time to look after school affairs should resign from the board. However, as the year progressed things did not mend. Business that should have been taken care of in January, the beginning of the school year, was neglected. Teachers’ salaries had not been fixed for the current year; one new teacher on the staff did not even know what her salary was to be. Others wanted a raise in pay.

Besides the school business other things were neglected as well. The building was in a disreputable condition, the woodwork needed cleaning and painting and the walls needed whitewash. The school rooms were dirty, disorderly and the maps were torn; the buildings outside needed repairs as well as the fences.[1]

Mr. Tamblyn, head master of the school at the time warned the trustees of the conditions more than once and also of the overcrowding in the school. Still no action was taken.

In November 1875, Inspector Buchan visited the school. He was well satisfied with the progress the scholars were making in their studies but not with the condition of the buildings. It was reported that he threatened to advise the Department of Education of the state in which he had found things. In such case had he given an unsatisfactory report, the government grant would have been cut off. However it was afterwards denied that he had made such a threat. Nevertheless it reached the ears of the villagers and needless to say they were far from being flattered by it. At the annual meeting of the ratepayers in January 1876, many attended and they demanded the resignation of the trustees. The newspapers reported that it was a very interesting session, indeed. The result was that the trustees did not resign and they did not stir themselves into action very soon.

An amusing report was printed in the “Vindicator” April 7th 1876. It was the day of the trustee meeting and not one of them was present. “A number of the members had joined an elocution class and it had met on the same evening. Some very brilliant oration at the meetings was to be expected now. A new pump was needed at the school and it would be an excellent chance for brilliant elocutionary effect for the property committee.”

Also the following; at one time when there was no quorum and no meeting of the school board all of the trustees were attending an oyster supper. Someone suggested that it might be a good idea, on the night of the trustee meetings to give oyster suppers and invite the members of the Board to attend. Perhaps they might be induced to transact the school business afterwards.

Before the school opened in August 1876, some of the necessary repairs were started. The walls inside the building were whitewashed, before that, so it was said, they had looks as if “a thousand rotten pumpkins had been splattered on them.” Also the woodwork inside was painted. The remainder of the repair work was finally completed but in no great haste.

However, the years 1876 and 1877, saw the building of the ward schools and the trustees certainly had to stir themselves to action, then.

On July 30th, 1879, notice was given of a motion passed, which stated that in the future, the high school board and the public school board were to be separate units.

In the year 1881, the trustees on the boards of the different schools were divided into committees, each having three members. There were as follows:

High School – Messrs. [John] Cowan[2], Larke and [George] Grierson[3]

Centre Street School – Messrs. Jones, [William T.] Dingle[4] and Dr. Coburn

Mary Street School – Messrs. Kennedy, Morton and Bambridge

Albert Street School – Messrs. Dickie, [Walter] Coulthard[5] and McLaughlin

Finance Committee – Messrs. Holland, Grierson and Morton

A law was passed in 1879, which stated that in order to qualify for government grants, Inspectors for the different schools were required to be appointed. On May 9th, 1879, James McBrien was appointed Inspector; his salary was $45 per annum. G.A. Sommerville received a salary of $125 for the year 1880 – 1881. Salaries were not handsome in those years.

In the year 1881, municipal assessors were obliged to register all children between the ages of seven and thirteen. Truant officers were also mentioned, but as yet none had been appointed.


[1] We are assuming that Olive is talking about Centre Street School

[2] Owner and investor in Cedardale Scythe Works and Ontario Malleable Iron Company.

[3] Police Magistrate

[4] Established W.T. Dingle Works, producing fanning mills and seeders.

[5] Owner of Coulthard-Scott Ltd., maker of drills and seeders.


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