This writer has always wondered how several of the school buildings in Jackson County were built in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The question seems to be answered in Jerrell Shofner’s Jackson County, Florida, A History, and in J. Randall Stanley’s History of Jackson County.
You will recall from a previous article that there were 127 schools in Jackson County in 1919. Around the turn of the century, the authorities realized that school districts could bond their respective districts, charge the citizens taxes, tear down the old buildings and build new, nicer buildings. Sneads was the first School District, in 1913, to issue bonds, and other districts followed. Suddenly, the Board of Public Instruction was devoting a great deal of their time keeping the school’s finances on an even keel.
Strangely, Shofner tells that in 1920 the school board declined to assist Malone in establishing a high school (ninth through twelfth grade classes). If the people of Malone wanted a high school, they would have to do it themselves—which they did! For a number of years Beall Mercantile Company paid the salaries of the four teachers and higher level classes were offered. Interestingly, Roy Beall initiated competitive basketball in the area and he served as the volunteer coach from 1920 until 1946. The state finally assumed some responsibility for the Malone school in the 1930s. (It should be noted that Roy Beall’s basketball teams were very competitive.)
The writer’s mother, Ruby Weston Malloy, often told of the school bus she rode from the Lovedale Community to Malone in order to get her high school education. She had attended Central School near the Lovedale Church through the eighth grade. The School Board had contracted with Wilbur Logan to retrofit an old flatbed truck into a school bus of sorts, with some sort of covering and seats running down each side of the bed of the truck. The older children of the Lovedale Community were picked up each morning during school season and transported back and forth to Malone over very rough, very dusty or very muddy roads, with the temperature inside the “ bus” the same temperature as it was outside, regardless of the season. However, education was very precious to those young people, and they, along with many, many others in Jackson County, under similar circumstances, were quite proud to have the opportunity to graduate from high school, which Ruby did in 1930.
When the Kynesville School was burned in 1922, construction of a new building was financed by county funding and a variety of voluntary contributions. In 1922 there were still 56 special school districts in the county with authority to raise taxes, and there were 105 different schools. However as better transportation became available consolidation became more and more common. However some of the one-teacher schools, such as Hasty Level, Hickory Pond, and Pittman Hill, still existed as late as the early 1950’s.
Evidently these taxing districts were very important in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s as the county built five very large schools during a five to ten year period. Marianna High School was built in 1927, with Greenwood, Cottondale, Campbellton and Sneads following during the 1930’s.
This timing of this construction is what has always intrigued the writer, because these were the dark years of the Great Depression. Jackson County was at a total standstill because there was so little available money. The banks were struggling. Most banks were closed. Shofner reports that The Peoples Bank of Marianna was in receivership, the banks in Cottondale, Sneads and Graceville were closed. The Bank of Graceville was using the Dothan Bank and Trust Company as its depository. After Roosevelt was inaugurated in March 1933, he said that the solvent banks could reopen, and very soon the First National Bank, Citizens State Bank, the Bank of Greenwood and the Bank of Malone were permitted to reopen.
All that is said to underline the question: “How did the Board of Education manage to build those five fine buildings during that timeframe?”
Nevertheless, they were built and most are still standing today, several being used very effectively almost eighty years later.
In 1947, the State Legislature designated that there would be only one school district in the county. Over the years the state has assumed more and more of the responsibility of funding the schools in the State of Florida.
History states that in 1890 the budget to operate the schools of the county during 1891 was $10,550. By 1949-50 that budget was $1,121, 097, with salaries being $818,500 of that figure. Buildings under construction at that time were approximately $301,764 with $125,000 designated for the Marianna High School Gymnasium, $93,764 for an elementary school at Marianna and $83,000 for the gymnasium at Malone.
In 1950 there were approximately 10,000 students enrolled in public school in Jackson County. 6,000 were in the white schools and 4000 in the African-American schools. At that time there were twenty three white schools in the county, including eight senior and five junior high schools. There were also forty three African-American schools, including two senior and four junior high schools.
At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year there were approximately 6,824 students enrolled in public school in the county. The budget for this period was $62,081,065 with teachers’ salaries being $25,313,000 of that figure. There are no school buildings under construction at this time.
The Jackson County school system is the second largest industry in the county, following only the prison industry.
Today there are also two private schools in Jackson County. Day Spring Christian Academy is in Marianna with 142 students serving K-3 through 8th grade. They plan to add 9th and 10th grades in the next school year. Victory Christian Academy in Sneads has 40 students, grade K-3 through grade 12. There are 253 students in the county who are registered as ‘Home Schooled”.
In the current school system senior high students who qualify can be dual enrolled and take classes at Chipola College, with all tuition and book expenses covered by the Jackson County School Board. This is a wonderful opportunity for higher education while still enjoying the normal high school experience. A few very dedicated students have graduated from Chipola with an AA Degree a few days before they received their High School diploma. There are many remarkable students from Jackson County schools who excel beyond every expectation, and many who go to universities and on into adulthood to succeed in every area of their lives. Jackson County schools continue to produce outstanding young people who excel extremely well in their future endeavors.
The school system in the county has changed a great deal in the last hundred years, but the importance of receiving a degree from high school is even more important today than it was so many years ago. The State of Florida and the tax-paying Jackson County property owners continue to provide millions of dollars each year to guarantee a quality education for our Jackson County students. May we never take our educational system for granted!