Excerpt taken from
Big Spring has been blessed with a desire for sound education even before there was a Howard County. This was reinforced by the creation of Big Spring Independent School District in 1901 and Howard College half a century ago.
When Howard County was organized in 1891, one of the first actions was to provide a two-story frame building to house a school on the west side of the 300 block of Scurry Street on the condition it also would house court proceedings at various times until a courthouse could be built.
Howard County at the time had jurisdiction over several adjoining unorganized counties. Howard therefore became school district No. 1, a number that passed to the Big Spring Independent School District when it was created.
Even in its earliest days, the county’s records reflect a commitment to education, including a school—even though separate—for a handful of African-American children. Common schools proliferated because there was almost no transportation access until there were 28 unites in the county.
There was an increasing sentiment in the late 1890s for a special status for the village schools referred to as the “reorganized No. 1 school,” because Big Spring was the largest community between Abilene and El Paso.
When B. Reagan, a recent graduate of Baylor University, became superintendent in 1898, he began organizing the curriculum that would earn affiliation with the State University (of Texas) and make us a “first class district.” Hardly had he left the teaching profession to enter private business when voters approved the creation of Big Spring Independent School District in December 1901.
This led immediately to a $15,000 school house bond issue on February 12, 1902 (which had to be shaved temporarily by $5000 because property values would not support the full amount). The financial strain of getting underway was indicative that resources within the 100 square mile district (less than 10% of the county area, but with 90% of the population) would create financial problems for years to come. Virtually all the wealth from successive future oil strides lay outside the district.
Nevertheless, Professor S.E. Thompson, a former vice-president of Reagan’s alma mater, was optimistic when named first superintendent on June 11, 1902 that “we will make such additions as will enable us to affiliate with the State University.” He assembled a faculty of five teachers, which grew to six by end of the first school year in 1903, when the school term was set at nine months, and the compulsory attendance ages were set at six through eighteen.
By June 1904, May Cherry, Lillie Potton (daughter of first school board president Joseph Potton), Jed A. Rix, A. C. Hayden, Jenny Bell Ethel Atwood and Della Stephens became the first graduates of Big Spring High School. At the same time, the district’s first catalogue was published, vowing "to raise our curriculum so that graduation shall be worth striving for and have meaning." Immediately, "elocution and physical culture" were added, along with books for a library, but music instruction did not make the cut for lack of space.
The District continued to grow through the oil-boom, the Great Depression and War years. There have been many examples of boldness and leadership by trustees and administrators, none more outstanding that the decision in 1955 to become the first public school in Texas to integrate all races.
Like many schools, striving for quality, BSISD has experienced ebbs and flows on standardized test, but never on the most important test of all; that of the end products—its graduates. The District has turned out an army of graduates imbued with a sense of responsibility to participate actively to preserve our democratic society and to serve the common good.
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