The Long Road to the Building of the Congress Street (Public) School – Ramón and Pinto’s School
- The Pima County Supervisors founded Tucson School District # 1 in 1867. There were several, short-lived efforts to educate students in the territory prior to the building of the Congress Street School.
- Mr. Augustus Brichta taught the first public school in Tucson in the winter of 1868-1869. It was closed after six months due to a lack of funds.
- The next public school was taught by John Spring in a building on the northwest corner of Meyer and McCormick streets rented for $16/month. One hundred and thirty- eight boys, the majority of whom were Spanish were enrolled in the school. Springs’ teaching duties were difficult because he had students from age 6 – 21 in his classes and had both Spanish and English speakers.
- School hours were from 9 A.M. to noon and from 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. Younger boys left at 3:00 P.M.
- In the summer of 1872, Mrs. L. C. Hughes opened a school for girls, in a house in Levin’s Park. This school was well attended and successful, but Mrs. Hughes health wasn’t good, and she had to close the school in 3 months.
- In 1873, Miss Harriet Bolton and Miss Maria Wakefield took charge of the school.
- According to records, school board trustees purchased property on the northwest corner of Congress and Sixth streets from town leader, Estevan Ochoa to build a public school. Señor and Señora Ochoa, important citizens of early Tucson, hosted the party that Esperanza and her family attended in Chapter 4 of Esperanza Means Hope.
- Anson P. K. Safford, second governor of the Territory of Arizona, arrived in Tucson on July 20, 1869. He would later be called, the “father of Arizona’s public schools.” He was often also referred to as “Little Gov” because of his diminutive size, but he was an intelligent and dignified leader and visionary. Governor Safford was also generous in using his own money to buy supplies for students who couldn’t afford to buy their own.
- In January, 1871, Governor Safford addressed the Territorial Legislature and expressed his desire for a free public school system in the Arizona Territory, so that all children, rich or poor, had equal opportunities.
- He asked Territorial Senator Estevan Ochoa to introduce the education bill. According to Safford, Ochoa, a respected Mexican and merchant in the Tucson community, would lend substantial prestige to the measure.
- Legislators appointed Governor Safford, ex-officio Superintendent of Public Instruction with no additional salary, but with $500 per year for any traveling expenses.
- He traveled the territory to urge the establishment of school districts in Arizona’s five counties.
- The women of Tucson volunteered to raise money for the construction of the new school. They held three social parties in a hall located at Stone Avenue and Ochoa Street. During the parties they auctioned items such as a large cake and a goat to boost funds. They raised nearly $4,000 that they subsequently turned over to the school board. (Señor Ochoa was one of three school board members.)
- On May 15, 1875, the Arizona Citizen reported: “Not a cent of the public money has been expended in the erection of this building, and we owe it to the ladies of Tucson for most of the money which has been paid out so far, and to Mr. Ochoa for the zeal displayed in husbanding the funds placed at his disposal, and though the fund is now all exhausted, the work goes on, as he has faith that our liberal spirited citizens will in some manner realize a sufficient sum to pay him for money now being paid by him in order that the work may not stop.”
- By fall 1875, the new public “Congress Street School” was nearly completed and the date of October 1st was set for the dedication of the school; it was built at a total cost of $9,782.
- It had three classrooms: the girls’ room, one for primary boys and one for older boys completing advanced lessons. The primary boys were taught Spanish and English. The curriculum was expanded for the advanced classes and included the following: reading, arithmetic, algebra, geography, spelling, English grammar, and United States history in English and Spanish translations.
- The school term during 1877-78 had an enrollment of 196 with 130 boys and 66 girls.
St. Joseph’s Academy for Young Ladies – Esperanza’s and Mariá Elena’s School
- With the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1870, a Catholic school, called, “Sisters Convent and Academy for Females” was opened.
- Eventually, the original Tucson school grew and divided into a secondary school, St. Joseph’s Academy, and an elementary school, St. Augustine’s, for the children of the Tucson parish.
- By 1880, the Sisters of St. Joseph were an established factor in the life of Tucson. The Old Pueblo was finally being tied into the arterial system of the United States, and a retrospective sweep of the decade of the 1870’s offers a better perspective, perhaps, than does a detailed chronological narrative of the changes that had occurred.
- The happiest of all the Tucson citizens to welcome the Sisters was the Bishop of the Vicariate Apostolic of Arizona, John Baptist Salpointe, who persistently had recruited the Sisters to come to Arizona to teach. He, himself, had arrived in Tucson in 1870.
- The Sisters took up residence in St. Joseph’s Convent, which was adjacent to the Cathedral of St. Augustine, and it was in the convent that just a few weeks after their arrival that the Sisters opened their first school as a boarding academy for girls and a day school for boys.
- The first curriculum consisted of Christian doctrine, reading, writing, spelling, simple arithmetic, music and domestic science.
- Fulfilling the hopes of Bishop Salpointe and the Sisters, the school was soon overflowing with eager students.
Three years later, the Sisters opened a school for Native American children at the San Xavier Mission.