CLARK COUNTY, WISCONSIN
By Geo. E. Crothers, County Superintendent
Published by Saterlee, Tift & Marsh, Transcribed by Tiffiney Hill
The man who is seeking for a home, there is no subject of greater importance than the educational, sentiment and the condition of schools in the land he intends to make his home. The presence or absence of the school, its progressive character, or its low and backward condition determine largely the future of his family. For mercenary motives alone, the investor in lands may look sharply to school facilities in the vicinity where he places his money, for he well knows the cash value of schools, and the extent to which their proximity and prosperity enhance the value of his property.
It is generally conceded that the school system of Wisconsin is not excelled by that of any state or country in the world. The fathers of our state laid the foundation of a magnificent school fund, which is constantly increasing, fed from several different sources without adding a cent to the taxation of the people. This fund is carefully invested, and the interest is divided annually among the school districts in proportion to the number of children of school age.
Local management of school matters is directly in the hands of the people. The annual school meeting is held on the first Monday in July. At this meeting all matters of interest to the school are discussed, district officers elected, provisions made for building and repairing school houses, purchasing supplies, etc., and taxes necessary in addition to state fund income are raised. In all matters pertaining to schools, women as well as men are allowed to vote.
The district board consists of three members who have immediate management and control of affairs in each district. The organized districts are under the general supervision of a county superintendent, who examines and certificates teachers, inspects schools, etc. At the head of the schools, to counsel and direct, stands the state department, which consists of the state superintendent and his assistants.
Since the schools are supported in part by local taxation, their condition may be taken as a index to the prosperity, liberality and public spirit of the people; hence, citizens of Clark county point with pride to the white school houses that dot the green sward of the play-grounds, at short intervals along every highway. In many districts the first school house was built of logs, as it could be quickly and cheaply constructed. But few of these remain, and the neatly painted frame buildings and the substantial brick structures put to shame many older communities in less progressive lands.
Something of the growth of the county may be learned from a few statistics from the county records. In 1879 there were sixty-three school districts; in 1889 there were one hundred and six; in 1879 there were 3,204 children of school age; in 1889 there were 6396, and the census of 1890 will doubtless show a much larger number. Ten years ago we had but two graded schools, now we have eight. All of this increase has come by quite, steady growth in farming communities and substantial towns, and not from the transient swell of mushroom cities.
There are three well equipped free high schools, besides on at Unity, one half of whose territory is in this county, although the school building is just over the line. From the three mentioned at Neillsville, Humbird and Colby, twelve pupils graduated in 1889 and fourteen this year.
The city schools of Neillsville are worthy of special mention, as they rank among the best schools in the state, not excepting the largest cities. There are nine departments, employing eleven teachers, including the high school principal and his assistants. They occupy two fine brick buildings, containing the best provisions for heating and ventilation, and are well supplied with apparatus and libraries. Graduates from the high school may pass into the State University without examination.
The village schools of Humbird contain three departments, and three outlying school houses near the village, all included in the high school district. The people of Humbird are strongly interested in schools, and spare no pains to further educational interests in their midst.
Thorp has a fine graded school of four departments. Without doubt, a free high school will be established during the coming year, as the preliminary steps have already been taken. The grading in the several departments is perfect, and the condition of the school reflects high credit upon the principal, teachers and board of education.
Dorchester has three departments, occupying two neat frame buildings. The school has always received a liberal support from people of Dorchester an vicinity, and its force can not fail to be felt in that vicinity, or the community at large.
A fine high school building has recently been built in Colby, and the school, as well as the building is a credit to the village and vicinity. Many of the young people who have come from the high school at Colby, are among our best teachers, and show well the character of the school and the work of the principal who has been at its head since it was established.
Greenwood will have three departments the coming year, and the indications are that the four rooms of their beautiful school building will soon be occupied, and no doubt in the near future a free high school will be organized.
Loyal and Maple Works have each two well filled departments, and should the present conditions for the growth of these towns continue, other departments must soon be established.
Abbotsford, Curtiss, Lynn, and several country districts, are already preparing to form graded schools.
Without disparagement to others, we think we may claim better schools than many portions of the east, and even better than older parts of Wisconsin. The average wages for male teachers here is $45.50 per month, and for female teachers, $30.25 per month. School is taught on an average of seven and one-half months in the year in country schools, and nine months in the cities and villages.
Among our teachers are many students and graduates from high schools, normal schools, universities and other good institutions of learning. Our schools are well supplied with text books, furniture and apparatus and all districts are free from debt. Twelve towns in the county have taken advantage of a state law for establishing school libraries, and have purchased a well selected stock of books, which are so distributed that each school receives the benefit of all the books in the town. Yet from the fact that nearly al the land is valuable, the taxation is not heavy. Generally the school houses are situated at a convenient distance from on another, and the best of opportunity is thus afforded for pupils’ attendance.
There are in addition to the public schools several well sustained parochial schools situated in different parts of the county. These are mostly under the auspices of the Catholic and Lutheran churches.
Although we may justly claim that our schools are good, we would not give the impression that we have reached the ultima thule of our ambition in this direction. Many fine school houses that can seat fifty pupils each stand in new districts where there are but ten or twelve pupils. They stand there equipped and paid for to welcome the woodman’s ax that shall build homes for children who will fill up the vacant desks. Neither would we wish to convey the opinion that this county is so well supplied with the best educators that there is not room for more. Every year new districts are formed and new departments opened. Experienced and able teachers may be reasonably sure of finding employment, appreciative patrons and ample pay, but we have no use for fossils nor experimenters nor for those who have failed elsewhere and expect to come here and impose on new districts. The future of our children is a precious as that of any in the world, and the best is none to good for them.
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