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Historical / architectural resources survey, Village of Thiensville, Ozaukee County

Chapter 11: education,   pp. 55-56

Page 55

Historical and Architectural Resources Survey
Village of Thiensville                                                     Page 55
To appreciate educational developments in Thiensville, it is helpful first to trace the evolution of
public education at the state- and county-wide levels.
Wisconsin's 1848 constitution included provisions for the establishment of a free public school
system. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, the state's educational system as a whole remained
somewhat rudimentary at best. The average rural school was a small, frame structure equipped with
a woodstove, wash pails and a handful of benches or desks; depending on the locale, equipment as
basic as maps and blackboards often were scarce. The curricula typically included spelling, reading,
writing, grammar and arithmetic. As the state became more heavily settled, higher standards were
imposed. An 1861 law created the office of County Superintendent of Schools, responsible for
coordinating the activities of county schools. The following year, a standard method of certifying
teachers at the county level was adopted. County superintendents also held Teacher Institutes each
summer to provide teachers with the opportunity to upgrade their skills. The state's first compulsory
attendance law was passed in 1879, although it was unevenly enforced. During the decade, public
high schools also began to be established as a wider variety of academic subjects were taught,
including algebra, astronomy, botany and geology.88
After the beginning of the twentieth century, consolidation and centralization of schools became
issues of increasing urgency, due to the disparity on the quality of instruction in urban versus rural
districts. Fueled by the reformist Progressive Movement, the professionalization of the teaching
corps also picked up the pace through the early decades of the twentieth century. Normal schools
multiplied and districts began to emphasize the retention of trained teachers with years of experience
as a worthwhile investment of still-limited funds. In Ozaukee County, many school districts
responded to increasing educational pressures by constructing new, graded facilities that incorporated
the most modem design elements available. Its districts also began to offer vocational, agricultural
and home economic education programs reflective of contemporary teaching theories.89
Formal education began in Thiensville as early as 1844 with the founding of Van Buren School
District #3. Early school meetings were held in the home of John Henry Thien, as well as the
schoolhouse. As the area's population increased, a larger facility was needed and in 1866, a two-
story, stone school building located at 228 Elm Street (Photo Codes 77/3) was built. By 1904, the
district had outgrown the facility and a large addition was constructed as a residence for the principal
on the first floor and a third department on the upper level. The district also was renamed Mequon-
Thiensville Joint School District #3. In 1922, the citizens of Thiensville passed a $3 5,000 bond issue
88Langill and Loerke, eds., From Farmland to Freeways, 275-93.
89Ibid., 293-315; School Files--Mequon & Thiensville Binder, Ozaukee County Historical Society.

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