Public School Week is celebrated each year in Texas usually the 1st full week in March, when a community pauses for a few days to give more consideration to one of Democracy's greatest institutions - the free school system. This year the celebration will be from March 8th-12th. Although Public School Week has been a long standing tradition, few may know its earliest origins.
It began behind the guiding hand of Texas Masons. Early in December 1950, immediately after being installed, Grand Master W.J. Burris, who had been active in the educational programs of the public schools of McAllen, and who had served on the school board, outlined to the Grand Lodge, his program which was intended to bring us closer to the great educational system which the average bread earner takes for granted.
Masonic Lodges were instructed by the Grand Master to coordinate with their local school districts plans and preparations for a Public School Week. Grand Master Burris also issued a proclamation calling upon all Texas Masons to not only assist in the program, but to impress upon their friends the importance of a closer affiliation between parents and teachers, and a revival of interest in problems of our educational system.
History recalls that Masonic Lodges of this State took the lead in founding our public free schools. Many of Texas' first grade schools and schools of higher education were operated in buildings owned and erected by Masonic lodges.
In San Saba County, the first public school was established by San Saba Lodge No. 225 in 1860. The MethodistS were attempting to collect subscriptions for a new school and build an academy building. A building effort was begun but after conferring with the lodge, the masons assumed full control over the project.
Work began on the building immediately and by 1861, despite a lock of hard currency and the outbreak of war, the school opened. It was a two story rock structure with the lodge room located upstairs and the school room downstairs. An official charter was issued by the Texas Legislature in 1863, with the name of the school as San Saba Masonic College. This was the first public school established in San Saba County.
San Saba Masonic College lasted until 1879. At first a consideration was made to donate the school back to the Methodists. However, the lodge voted to forfeit the school, thus bringing the first school to close. Dr. Rogan, a Mason, assumed control of the school until it ceased to operate, giving way to San Saba High School.
Meanwhile, other Masons in their own villages and communities throughout the county were instrumental in establishing local schools. Schools that were begun by Masons were in Rock Shoals, Colony, Deer Creek, Chappel, Rough Creek, Cherokee (also known as the Gray School) and later Cherokee Junior College.
Masonic lodges were never inclined to assume the complete role of public school education, but it was their dream to afford the common man's child an opportunity for an education. During the 1800s it was widely accepted that the mothers of children should educate the children at the home. The idea education outside the home was considered a liberal idea for its day.
Many of the first settlers in Texas were surprisingly quite educated. The early Texans had won an unlikely victory over Mexico and had acquired a vast empire. However, there was the notion that the children of these settlers could very well lose their hard won Republic by a lack of sound education. After all, this was just one of the grievances the early Texicans stated in the Texas Declaration of Independence; the lack of the Mexican government to establish public schools. Thus local Masonic lodges undertook the role and established schools in their communities until a sufficient population could support a school district as we know today.
Public School Week
Today the Freemasons of Texas take time once a year to renew their historic ties with public school education. San Saba Lodge No. 612 will distribute a special bookmarker to each student at San Saba and Cherokee schools. This has been a tradition for some time.
Grand Master Burris' words still ring true today. "It is important that we... understand the important subject of Public Schools..., since through the effort of the Order, public schools in Texas were given their birthright..."