following is an address given by Mildred Bray,
By MILDRED BRAY Superintendent of Public Instruction, State of Nevada
Before Nevada became a State of the United States in 1864, there were no public schools here. Parents coming westward to carve careers or seek fortunes either gave their children such scanty education as their talents and time permitted, or employed tutors or governesses to teach in the family home. Sometimes other children in a community would be invited to receive instruction from a tutor or governess employed by the wealthier families, but education was not general, and the free public schools with which you and I are familiar did not exist.
The framers of our State Constitution in 1864 made provision for a uniform system of public schools so that children in Nevada might receive good educations, no matter whether they lived in towns or in isolated farming and mining communities, or whether their parents were rich or poor. In that Constitution they established a minimum school term of six months for every school district receiving State support, and provided for the future support of the public schools of Nevada. Their foresight in providing for our schools was excellent, and it has only been in very recent years that the growth of our schools and the increased demand of society for better education and a curriculum have made it necessary to seek other sources of income in addition to those planned in the Constitution for the Nevada schools.
The official records of our public schools date back to 1881. At the close of the school year 1880-1881, there were enrolled 8,827 children of school age. For the school year ending last July 1, there were enrolled in the elementary schools 13,980 pupils, and in the high schools 5,458 pupils. In the kindergartens of Nevada last year there were 590 children, making a total net enrollment in all the public schools of Nevada of 10,276 boys and 9,697 girls-a grand total of 19,978 pupils.
In 1881, 176 teachers were employed in the public schools, while in 1939 there were 900 teachers. An increase of forty-three percent in the pupil population of a state in fifty-eight years is considerable, and speaks well for the growth, educational outlook, and future of our state.
Our Constitution also provided for a State Superintendent of Public Instruction to be elected at the regular general election every four years by the voters of the State. The duties of the State Superintendent are prescribed by law. She is a member of three educational boards and of the State Textbook Commission and is a director of the State Orphans' Home. She conducts State and district institutes, enters into contracts for the care of the deaf, dumb and blind children of Nevada in institutions of other States, makes a biennial report to the Governor on the condition and amount of all funds and property appropriated to the purpose of education, as well as on various matters of statistical interest. Among other things, it is her duty to visit each county in the State at least once each year to consult with school officers, address public assemblies, and inspect schools.
Our Nevada laws provide for a State Board of Education, consisting of the Governor, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and five other members, one elected from each of the five educational supervision districts. This board forms the governing body for the State educational system. It meets regularly four times a year and at such other times as are deemed necessary. The State Board of Education approves and adopts the courses of study proposed by the State Superintendent for use in the schools of the State, sets forth rules and regulations for the certification of teachers, revokes and suspends teachers' certificates for good cause, authorizes the necessary printing of forms to be used in carrying out the proper recording of statistical information relative to the schools, and advises the State Superintendent on matters of educational policy and legislative program. This board also acts as the Public School Teachers Retirement Salary Fund Board, serves with two other citizens representing agriculture and labor as the State Board for Vocational Education and, with four school principals or teachers appointed every four years by the Governor, selects the text books to be used by you pupils in the elementary schools of Nevada.
The State Superintendent is assisted by six Deputy Superintendents. Five of these deputies are appointed by the State Board of Education. Each deputy has direct supervision over the schools of his supervision district and is responsible for having the school laws of Nevada enforced there. Educational District No. 1 covers Elko County; District No. 2, northern Nye and White Pine Counties; District No. 3, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, and Pershing Counties; District No. 4, Churchill, Lyon, Mineral, and Washoe Counties; District No. 5, Clark, Esmeralda, Lincoln, and southern Nye Counties. The office Deputy Superintendent, appointed by the State Superintendent, supervises the schools in Ormsby, Douglas, and Storey Counties, and handles much of the work in the State office.
Each deputy visits each school in his district at least twice a year, confers with school boards and patrons on school problems, advises and helps the teachers in their work, recommends the establishment of new school districts when five children of school age reside in a section of the state not already included in a school district, and assists the trustees in preparing the annual school budget. The Deputy Superintendents also keep the State office fully advised about school conditions in their districts. The regular visits of the State Superintendent and the Deputy Superintendents to the schools are made to improve the conditions of the buildings and equipment and the methods of teaching, to assist the trustees in properly managing the schools financially, and to serve as mediators in any disputes which may arise over school problems. It is important in a State with the vast area of Nevada that the schools in one section of the State do the same quality of work as schools in other parts of the State, so that children transferring from one school to another may not be handicapped or retarded in their education. The Nevada supervision system tends to keep education throughout Nevada uniform.
In addition to the State Superintendent and the Deputy Superintendents, there is employed in the State Department of Education a certification clerk who checks the certification of all teachers in Nevada. An actuary for the Public School Teachers Retirement Salary System has charge of the service records of every teacher who is now receiving benefits as a retired teacher or who may hereafter be eligible for such benefits. Two secretaries are required in the State Department to do the great amount of stenographic, statistical, and filing work incident to the work of the office.
As the State Superintendent is executive officer for the Vocational Education Department, that department is a branch of the State Department of Education. Three supervisors-one for vocational agriculture, one for home economics education, and one for trade and industrial education-are employed in the Vocational Department and supervise their special departments in the Nevada high schools and evening classes. A supervisor of vocational rehabilitation sees that proper training is given disabled persons to permit them to become economically competent and self-sustaining. A stenographer is employed in the Vocational Department to tend to the clerical work of the four supervisors.
In its effort to give the children of Nevada the very best educational opportunities, the State Department of Education is confronted with the necessity of doing a tremendous amount of research work, so that the recommendations made by the State Superintedent to the Legislature may be sound and justifiable. A study of the manner in which educational problems in other States are handled and a serious consideration of whether those practices are applicable to and should be adopted in our own State are important factors which require considerable survey and study. During the past few years the State Department has continuously conducted important research studies on many educational problems.
Schools are supported by funds raised mainly from taxes, the principal item of taxation for the public schools being the tax levied on all real and personal property in Nevada. School districts receive their income from State and county apportionments and from special taxes levied in individual districts. Each school receives a share of the State Distributive School Fund and of the County General School Fund, the amount being determined by the number of pupils in average daily attendance for the preceding school year. It is the duty of the State Superintendent to see that these apportionments are correctly made to each school entitled to receive them.
Every adult in Nevada recognizes that the greatest asset of the State is the boys and girls in our public schools. We are proud of the distinction of being "One Sound State," but it depends entirely upon you school children whether we shall continue to be "sound." If you grow into manhood and womanhood with good characters, trained to think clearly and act decently, if your education prepares you to live happily and courageously as good and loyal citizens in a democracy, then Nevada will prosper and be worthy of being a part of the United States. The whole aim of the Department of Education is focused on furnishing you that education which will make you good, useful, healthy and happy citizens of this country. In times like these, when the lives of children of other lands are imperiled by war, menaced by starvation or false creeds of government, we can well be thankful that the children of the United States are fortunate in the security afforded them by a democratic form of government and the wealth of opportunity ahead of them. We trust you to cherish and preserve your government in the days to come, so that future generations of children in the United States may enjoy the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of public assembly, right of trial by jury, and other blessings enjoyed by all Americans.
A very happy New Year to each of you. May you be successful in doing the best work of which you are capable.