|W. S. M. Pinkham's 1901-02
Florida State School Report
St. Johns County Public School System
|St. Johns County
In compliance with your request, I herewith submit the following report of the public schools of St. Johns
county for the two years ending June 30, 1902:
The amount of outstanding warrants has been increasing for the past ten years at the rate of about $1,000
annually. Our warrants are protected by arrangement with the bank. They are cashed at face value. We
pay 8 per cent per annum on warrants held by the bank a year or over, and 2 per cent on these redeemed
within a year. Amount of outstanding warrants June 30, 1901, was $9,106. The board, with a
determination to reduce this indebtedness, shortened the school term for 1901-1902 from seven months in
the country, and eight in the city, to six in the entire county. The city schools, however enjoyed the usual
eight months term, as the result of voluntary contributions by tax payers and citizens, $1,640 being the
amount contributed. The amount of outstanding warrants on June 30, 1902 was $7,388. Upon petition
from the taxpayers, representing more than seven-eights of the entire taxable property of the county, the
board of county commissioners, at their last meeting, by unanimous vote, assumed the entire indebtedness
of the school board, and to that end, ordered issuance of eight $1,000 warrants bearing 5 per cent
interest, and provided for the payment of this debt, at the rate of $1,000 annually, by paying an extra tax
of one half mill. Hence the board begins the new school year on a cash basis. This is encouraging, but
would be much more so were it not for the knowledge of the fact that, under the most economical system,
with poorly paid teachers, and unpainted school houses, the annual cost of operating schools is $16,000,
while the total revenue for school purposes is but $15,000. At their regular meeting in March last, the
board of county commissioners were petitioned by the board of public instruction, to assume the payment
of the Treasurer's commissions for handling school funds, this was very readily agreed to, thereby saving
to the school fund about $300 annually. This, and other similar acts on the part of the board of county
commissioners, is conclusive evidence that the two boards are as they should be, upon educational matters.
In the interest of education of the State, I think the board of public instruction should have the power to fix
the levy for school purposes.
Special Tax Districts.
I think the special tax district system good to bridge over until that five mill educational obstruction can be
eliminated from the constitution. I do not think it gives satisfactory permanent relief to any county as a
school district. It provides means of relief to certain sections in each county, more in some than in others,
but not sufficiently general to carry out the true principles of the public school system.
Since the introduction of the State uniform examination, there has been a a marked improvement in the
qualification of teachers, and consequently improvement in our schools. This is the result of preparation for
examination, which is also preparation for teaching. County teachers' Institutes, when conducted y skilled
instructors, and, attendance of resident teachers made a prerequisite to teaching, have done much to
advance the proficiency of teachers. State Normals, Summer Training Schools, and Teachers'
Associations, will also contribute their proportionate share in elevating the standard of teachers, and
schools, when there is sufficient fund provided for teachers salaries to warrant the enactment of a law
making teachers attendance upon these institutions a prerequisite to examinations. Until this is done, in my
judgment, the general good derived will continue to be incommensurate with the cost.
In my opinion, no change is necessary in the present system. I am opposed to a State examining board.
I am in favor of a law requiring children between the ages of eight and fourteen years to attend, private or
public school, at least four months in each year, provided, a school is operated within easy access, say
two miles, with good roads. There are other conditions, local in nature, which should be left discretionary
with the county superintendent.
Concentration of Schools.
I believe there is economy, and educational advantages, in concentration of schools. I think the people of
my county are undecided upon this question, but are willing to try it. We have not succeeded in bringing
together more than two schools, and they so small that one teacher was sufficient, so the principal
advantages, viz: the division of classes, and longer recitation periods, were not felt. In two instances, we
have transported pupils four miles, in order to avoid the necessity of establishing additional schools. I hope
to see, in the near future, great improvement in our rural schools under this system.
Within the past two years the board has built four school houses, at an aggregate cost of $2,000, of
which, patrons contributed about 50 per cent. School buildings in rural districts, cost from $100 to
$1,200. All are comfortably heated, and nearly all are supplied with patent desks. Two new schools have
W. S. M. Pinkham,