History of Snohomish High School

  • The history of Snohomish schools is one of fascinating change and growth. There is some disagreement as to the exact date the first school began. Some say 1867, and others say 1869. It is fairly certain that it was conducted in the Sinclair home. The organization of Snohomish School District Number 1 took place on May 7, 1878. Through the years private and/or select schools were opened with varying degrees of success. W.W. Pettit opened one school in March 1887, and it offered two and four-year courses as well as business degrees. This school had a library consisting of 300 volumes. In April 1891, the people voted for a property tax for the purpose of adding four rooms to the Central building. That year the payroll amounted to $650.00 per month for the eight teachers and one janitor. Pupil enrollment was 340.

    In June 1891, the Reverend J.W. Dorrance opened the Dorrance Academy with four pupils. This number increased to 25 by August. The following year a building was constructed for its use. The academy was known later as the Puget Sound Academy and then with the increase of public funds, it became Snohomish High School. The first graduating class from Snohomish High School consisted of five men and six women. Commencement was held June 8, 1894.

    Snohomish continued to grow in educational opportunities. In 1899, the district hired its first full time superintendent, Charles M. Sherman. In September of 1900, the district’s public school enrollment was 593 with a marked increase in the upper grades, 8th-10th, from 42 to 74. By 1911, six additional structures had been constructed at the high school site to accommodate its expanding departments. The district teaching corps numbered 34 with 17 teaching exclusively in grade school, 12 at the high school and five specialists who divided their time between schools. The specialists taught music, drawing, penmanship, domestic arts and agriculture.

    The decade from 1920-1930 brought about major changes in Snohomish schools. Teachers sought equality and recognition. These were also years of growth and challenge. Debt was a constant concern. As debt was reduced, improvements were sought. With the 1930s came the depression. Student enrollment increased. Teacher salaries were slashed and schools were closed. As the depression was ending, things began to turn upward. A new gym and music building were opened. Federal officials condemned the old courthouse section of the high school, and federal funds were used to build a new high school.

    The Class of 1940 was the first to graduate from the new SHS building. The high school campus was growing, and the school board traded land at the former Shorts School east of town for five acres adjoining the athletic field. Extra-curricular activities such as athletics, drama and field strips suffered because of war restrictions. Bus routes were cut as well as night football. War needs were reflected in the curriculum with an emphasis on physical training and manual arts. Added courses included radio, aircraft construction, sheet metal work and electricity. While the community was confident that America was winning the war, the harsh reality of the human sacrifice was not ignored. Schools began to take a lead role in fighting juvenile delinquency. The 1940s also brought with it driver’s education and draft registration. In February 1948, the Washington State Education selected Snohomish as one of the 20 best schools in the state.

    War, the draft, and the Cold War were the issues of the 1950s. Enrollment was climbing and adult education classes were offered. Teacher salaries were raised, and television was added to SHS. The first homecoming was held in January 1953 during half time of a basketball game. It was a modest ceremony that would be switched to football season the next year. In 1955, parents, for the first time, sponsored an after-commencement party for the graduates. In 1958, Snohomish received “first class status” from the state. The classification was based on the school’s enrollment and the district’s population. With the change, the district now became responsible for providing its own financial functions formerly done by the county. Citizens began questioning the increase of employees in the administrative area of the district’s programs. As a first class district, accounting, payroll, record keeping, all of which would be audited by the state, became a local function that wasn’t going to be done by school board members, principals, teacher or secretaries. Education was becoming more expensive and more complicated.

    The 1960s and 1970s brought about a growing community, as well as financial problems and politics. Recession, economic woes, and the Vietnam War had significant impact on the nation and on Snohomish and its schools. Classroom space was dwindling and levy dollars were reduced. The Superintendent of Public Instruction informed schools of a cut in student funds due to the war. The taxpayers rejected the levy and bond issues. Levies were re-submitted and failed due to lack of validation. The state began looking at tax reform for a new funding formula. Vandalism and fire hit the school district. Only with the assistance of 60% state funding, was the district able to expand special education to the high school level. Although funding was tight, the board sensed changes in society and approved a self-supporting alternative education program.

    The communication explosion, fueled by technology, ignited the decades of the 80’s and 90’s. Journalism students wrote and published The Arrowhead, which reflected a dramatic change from past traditions. The Snohomish Drug and Alcohol committee (SnoDAC), a community based program, held a series of meetings dealing with grim statistics about drug abuse. SnoDAC began the Natural Helpers program. Money continued to be a problem with the state’s budget crunch. The voters were generous in passing a 2-year levy in 1988. The formation of the Snohomish School District Foundation for Scholarships and Grants was approved by the school board in May 1986.

    The 1990s were considered a restructuring decade. The long awaited remodeling of historic but badly outdated “B” building was completed. Several sites were purchased for new schools. More at risk students meant that educators needed programs to deal with the risks that students faced. DARE (Drug Alcohol Refusal Education), RADD (Resistance Against Drugs and Drinking), and RAT (Rat on a Rat) programs were implemented. Community members and students began to work with each other. Grants for additional programs were received from federal, state and county agencies. In the spring of 1991, the requirement of earning eight hours of community service was added as a graduation requirement. Another levy was passed in 1990. The fall of 1992 brought a significant change in the configuration of the district. Centennial Middle School was built and 7th and 8th graders would now attend Centennial or Valley View Middle school. Ninth graders would now attend the Snohomish Freshman Campus in the former Snohomish Junior High building.

    The fall of 2002 began with a delay to the start of school due to a strike by the Snohomish Education Association. School began in late September with the last day of school being June 30, 2003. Following the strike, and under the leadership of new superintendent Bill Mester and SEA president Kit Rainey, a renewed relationship between the District and SEA was born with an emphasis on collaboration.

    In 2004 voters approved a bond to build a new elementary and high school and modernize Snohomish High School. In the spring of 2008 the Snohomish Freshman Campus closed its doors and that fall Glacier Peak High School opened to students in grades 9-11, adding seniors in the 2009-2010 school year. Snohomish High School added freshmen to its campus for the first time in 30 years in the fall of 2008.

    In the past, the Snohomish School District has survived levy failures, financial crisis, changes in superintendents and school board members. Today administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, students and involved and knowledgeable community members work together to improve and reform education in the Snohomish School District. In spite of the challenges this district faces, history has shown that purposeful collaboration between the community and school can result in positive outcomes.