The Schoolhouses of Old Deerfield
The education of Deerfield’s children has always been a challenge. In the 1870s, for example, a report of the school committee included complaints that some teachers weren’t doing their job, that they were “not giving the classes sufficient drill,” and “they slide over their recitations too easily.” Few teachers were highly qualified, and the pay was dismal. In fact, most of those hired were friends or relatives of connected townsfolk who needed a job. Further hindering education was the fact that the school houses were often so poorly heated in cold weather that they were well-nigh intolerable, and parents kept their children home.
In the 1870s, the cost per pupil averaged $6 per student to educate the 350 or so children which attended Deerfield schools. Teachers could expect to earn a bare susistance wage. In 1811, No. 3 School District (located on Middle Road near junction of Tin Pot Road) hired a Mr. J. Morrison for the handsome salary of $10 a month as teacher. Districts did usually provide board for the teacher and wood for the school house.
Contrast this with 1958, soon after the school system was centralized in the George B. White School. The School Board consisted of Ruth B. Pennell, Wadsworth Winslow Jr. and Cornelius P. Short. The school’s proposed budget was $68,205.24, nearly $8,000 up from the year before. Superintendent of Schools Murray Watson lamented the rising costs of high school tuition and teachers’ salaries, which made up nearly 80% of the entire school budget. Concord High School was among the highest of the five high schools taking Deerfield children at $385 per student. Beginning teachers expected an annual salary of $3,700.
Some of these schools were quite nice; No. 6 school was built in 1873 by Frederick P. James (of Philbrick-James Library fame) for $5,000. Others weren’t quite so fancy. The Parade District raised $218.18 to pay for the building of the No. 7 school house. In 1847 the No. 2 School District raised $300 to build a new school to replace the old one. The actual final cost of the structure is unclear, and the subject of several subsequent district meetings, as the builder, Henry Tucker of Deerfield Center, pressed for proper compensation. (For more details about this, it is highly recommended that the reader consult historian Joanne Wasson’s Tales of Old Deerfield, an indispensable book in any investigation concerning Deerfield’s past.)
The 15 Districts that existed over the town’s history were:
School District No. 1, Reservation Road