California's publicly-funded education system officially began in 1852 when the state legislature passed a bill establishing a state school tax of five cents per $100 and a county tax not to exceed two cents per $100. They also designated the county assessor as Ex-officio County Superintendent of Schools, ostensibly to monitor the collection of school taxes. The office of County Superintendent of Schools was officially created in 1852 and County Assessor J.E. Morgan assumed the post in 1853.
In 1855 the position of county superintendent became an elected office. Freeman Gates, a respected educator and community leader, was the first to serve as duly elected county superintendent. He is credited with founding San Jose's second public school on Third and Santa Clara Streets downtown. An earlier combination church and schoolhouse consisted of an enormous blue denim tent hand sewn by Mrs. Louis Hazelton Bascom for the Reverend Samuel Blakesly's short-lived, but well-regarded, academy of learning.
In 1860 the state authorized the county superintendent to appoint the County Board of Examination for granting teaching certificates to a burgeoning pool of educators. This board was the predecessor of today's Santa Clara County Board of Education.
In 1900 there were 84 school districts, 562 teachers and 97 schoolhouses serving a total of 14,320 students. The county superintendent's role had evolved to include annual visits to each of the county's schools, authority for textbook adoption and responsibility for the examination and certification of teachers. The superintendent's term was expanded to four years, and the board's new name, County Board of Education, reflected a greater focus on the quality of education in the county.
In D.T. Bateman's first term, the board issued the Santa Clara County School Manual, which detailed the official course of study in mathematics, language, history and science. Reflecting the fervor for etiquette characteristic of the Victorian age, the manual also taught students proper morals and manners, how to be "humane" and how to properly demonstrate patriotism. Bateman also established the Teachers' Institute of the Santa Clara County Office of Education in 1911, which offered professional development to teachers.
Highlights of the first Teachers' Institute held in 1911 included teachers' round tables on topics such as: "How to Make Mathematical Work More Nearly Meet the Needs of Daily Life" and "Teaching Peace by Means of History."
In 1950 the State Education Code defined the County Office of Education's chief function as improving educational services and ensuring equity of opportunity to all students. Accordingly, the fifties saw expansion of COE education services to students with disabilities and students in alternative school programs. The William F. James Ranch for Boys, a joint program of the COE and Juvenile Probation Department, opened in 1954 and provided individualized instruction to high school aged boys who had been before the Juvenile Court.
Baby Boomers comprised an annual growth rate of 15% in the student population which led to greater demands on the COE's administrative services such as teacher credentialing, school auditing, purchasing and accounting. In this period the County Office of Education nearly tripled its staff.
The sixties and seventies were a time of seismic change as Santa Clara County continued to grow rapidly and rural areas gave way to urban development. In 1972, when the county's student population reached an all-time high of 325,000 students, the state legislature approved the largest single increase in school funding in California history. However, six years later, Proposition 13 passed, limiting property taxes and significantly reducing revenues for education statewide.
By the eighties the COE was at the forefront of the computer revolution, providing teacher training in a microcomputer center stocked with Apples, Ataris and Commodores. As one of the first three regional data processing centers in California, the COE was delivering email to all 37 school districts by 1987.
The COE continues to provide a wide range of instructional and non-instructional technology support services to districts and schools. The COE-sponsored Internet Institute for teachers, now in its seventh year, focuses on integration of technology and curriculum. The COE's Regional Technology Center serves as Internet Service Provider for 28 school districts in addition to providing business information systems, network design and technical support.
The Santa Clara County Office of Education has evolved from its humble beginnings into a comprehensive education resource center with fiscal, administrative, human resources, instructional and student service functions.
The COE is well positioned to meet the emerging challenges of this century and to continue its practice of leadership, advocacy and support for children, schools and the greater community.