The California gold rush was still in its infancy when Californians sat down to write their state constitution in 1849, and even in those rough and tumble frontier days, public education was at the fore of everyone’s mind.
What followed in the wake of the subsequent population explosions in the Golden State was the proliferation of tiny, one-room schools, each forming a separate school district and generally governed by a three-man board of education. Hundreds of them dotted the countryside.
In time these tiny school districts, although nominally supervised by county superintendents of education and county school boards, became fiercely independent, and in large part the educational policy and personnel matters were left to the whims and fancy of the local school boards.
By 1893, more than 3,500 school districts had sprouted up in California; 27 of them were in Madera County alone. Old timers will remember names like Arcola, Alpha, Berenda, Dennis, Spring Valley, Webster, La Vina, Mary’s Dale, Hanover, Fresno Flats, Eastin, Daulton — just to name a few of Madera County’s “little slice of public schools.”…