One fundamental characteristic of the American people, is their persistency in adhering to the free school system. The warnings of our forefathers that the life of the great republic depends on the intelligence and clear vision of the mass of the people have made a profound impression on the American people. As a result the public school system of America is vigorous and flourishing. No other people on earth with the possible exception of some of the British colonies voluntarily tax themselves so heavily for popular education, as the people of the United States. The school idea is firmly fixed in the life of America. It asserts itself everywhere as fine buildings, good systems and large attendance of pupils.
No better illustration of the above can be found than that shown by the Cripple Creek district. A few years ago the district was a cattle ranch. Suddenly gold was discovered and a great rush of people from all parts of the United States took place to the coveted territory. But amidst the confusion and chaos of a new community organizing itself and developing its social life, the schools were not forgotten. The schools began with the inception of the camp and have steadily grown in keeping with the greatness of the district.
The voters have always given freely in taxes to support the schools, and the various board of education have never objected to large expenditures, where the interests of the schools were at stake. Year by year for the past five years the schools have steadily grown—and new buildings, new books, new apparatus and more teachers have been needed—but the demand has been steadily met until to-day the district has 4,200 pupils enrolled, ninety teachers, two high schools, eighteen different buildings worth $190,000, $15,000 in desks and apparatus, and $12,000 worth of school books, and a system that works harmoniously and compares favorably with the best systems in the country as regards text books, teachers, methods and general spirit of progressiveness. The people know this and therefore give the schools steady and unrestricted support.
The district in its organization is unique in that it has within its borders eight incorporated towns:
and two unincorporated town: Elkton and Independence, making ten towns besides the rural schools of Spring Creek and Spinney. This district of fifty-one square miles five members in the board of education located as follows:
In Cripple Creek;
Victor G. Hills
J. W. Beaman
Charles W. Wells
Mrs. Carrie E. Berry
Mr. J. W. Palmer
Mr. Ezra W. Palmer is superintendent and has been in charge of the schools for the past three years, and Mr. James Stevens is supervisor of buildings. Two supervisors of drawing, two of music and one of arithmetic are employed.
The growth of the district is well illustrated by the increase in the teaching force:
1896, number of teachers, 45
1897, number teachers, 60
1898, number of teachers, 72
1898-99, number of teachers, 90, and to this number will be added four more before the close of the school year.
The development of the high schools have been gratifying. Two new brick buildings, modern in every respect, are now being occupied by the respective high schools of Cripple Creek and Victor. These buildings are well equipped and are attended by about 275 students, being about equally divided between the two schools. The development of the high schools has been in keeping with the lower grades and the spirit of the schools is vigorous and enthusiastic. The corps of teachers of each school is as follows:
Mr. E. C. Hickey, principal
Miss Alice C. Harris, science
Miss Minerva Agnew, literature and mathematics
Mr. G. W. Gould, Latin, history and rhetoric.
Mr. J. P. Wright, principal
Miss Edith Atkinson, Latin and English
Mr. A. C. Cole, science
Mr. Albert Dawkins, history, German and science.
The free text book system is employed in this district. That is, all books, chalk, ink, pens, penholders, drawing paper and other supplies needed are supplied by the district at a cost of about $4,500, or $1 per pupil. The system is absolutely necessary in a community so transient as a mining one, and besides the patrons are saved a great expense, as the district purchases wholesale 30 per cent cheaper than the individual parent can. Uniformity is also secured and then all children are supplied which would not be the case were each parent depended on to supply his children's wants. A general supply room is kept in Cripple Creek and all text books and supplies are consigned to the various schools by the superintendent by requisition signed by the various principals.