Delaware Valley School District – A Proud History of Education in Pike County, PA
Delaware Valley School District is located in Pike County, Pennsylvania and serves five townships (Delaware, Dingman, Milford, Shohola, and Westfall) and two boroughs (Milford and Matamoras). One of 67 counties in the state, Pike was officially created on March 26, 1814 while it was still a wilderness. Milford, as one of Pike’s two boroughs, was named county seat.
Delaware Valley, along with Wallenpaupack and East Stroudsburg, make up Pike County’s three school districts. DVSD is the only district of the three to have its geographic boundaries fully within Pike County and its students all from Pike County. It serves an area approximately 191 square miles in size.
Delaware Valley School District, formed in 1954, is comprised of seven individual schools. These include one high school, two middle schools and four elementary schools. The schools are Dingman Delaware Primary, Dingman Delaware Elementary, Delaware Valley Elementary, Smith Nelson Shohola Elementary, Dingman Delaware Middle, Delaware Valley Middle, and Delaware Valley High.
At the close of School Year 2012-2103, 4,934 students were enrolled in the district which includes grades Pre-K through 12. Also at the close of 2012-2013 School Year, the district employed 377 teachers, 226 full-time and part-time support personnel, 20 administrators and 5 supervisors.
Since being established more than a half-century ago, DVSD’s enrollment has more than quintupled. In the decade 1990 to about 2000, Pike County was the fastest-growing county in the state – growing in population by more than 65 percent, with an additional 17 percent through 2004. Delaware Valley, at the same time, was one of the fastest growing school districts in the state.
DVSD is governed by nine individually elected board members who serve four year terms, and by Pennsylvania’s State Board of Education, Department of Education, and General Assembly.
The district’s seven schools, along with its administrative office building, are nestled along mountains, rivers, and streams in a picturesque rural setting located at the conjunction of New York, New Jersey, and northeastern Pennsylvania’s border. The area is known as the Tri-State region. It is located approximately 90 miles from Manhattan, NY, 70 miles from Newark, NJ, and 50 miles from Scranton, PA. Due to its easy accessibility by train and bus to such larger cities, many of the students in the district come from commuting families.
HISTORY OF DVSD
While the earliest of schools in Pennsylvania were informally created by parents, itinerant schoolmasters, and early settlers in the state, the history of education in America places Pennsylvania as a forerunner in insuring equal educational access for all. As one of the first states to initiate public education law, Pennsylvania’s constitution was signed in 1790, just 14 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Its constitution included provisions guaranteeing free public education for all children, including those without the ability to pay for an education.
Prior to the passage of Pennsylvania’s Free School Act of 1834, the length of a typical school year was just a few months annually. These months were scheduled so as not to interfere with family planting and harvesting times. Small schools were roughly constructed in rural areas, or small group classes took place in the homes of better educated families. Typical school curriculum focused on reading, writing, and arithmetic, with spelling taught as a vital part of reading and writing. Favored texts and primers included Old Dutch Bibles and other books families and teachers may have had on hand. In the school year 1830-1831, it was estimated that over sixty percent of Pennsylvania children between the ages of five and fifteen did not attend school.
In 1834, the state’s Free School Act created individual township school districts to be funded by county school tax levies and some state funds. In Pike County, small one and two room schools cropped up all over the county, in each political subdivision and township. While the law called for creation of township schools, textbooks, teacher training, or mandated school terms and attendance policies were not necessarily provided for.
In 1868, Pike County’s Superintendent of Schools, E.S. Decker, described the schools of Pike as follows:
“There are fifty in the county. These are all wooden frame buildings. Five have been built during the year. About ten percent are unfit for use. About forty have no outbuildings. Very few have grounds suitably improved.”
Post elementary school education at the time was considered a privilege and not funded except for qualifying private academies. Scholarship students could attend these select academies, typically for a three year high school term. There was an expectation that in return they would teach in public schools after their graduation.
As the nineteenth century closed, compulsory attendance laws were being passed requiring all children to remain in school until the age of 16.
Milford had established two of these post elementary academies, with one eventually becoming the original Milford High School. In 1892, having completed the required three years of post-elementary education at Milford High, the Class of 1892 became the first graduating class. At that time, there were 67 schools scattered throughout Pike County’s 545 square miles, including in Matamoras.
The state had authorized, also in 1892, the construction of public high schools in all communities with populations of 5,000 or more. Matamoras High School, located in the second of Pike County’s two boroughs, held its first high school graduation three years later with the Class of 1895.
By 1903, the average teacher’s salary in the county reached a monthly amount of approximately $25.40 per month. In 1913, teachers’ salaries averaged $51 a month. That year, Pike County’s 63 schools had an average total attendance of 1194 pupils and an average of 7.54 months of school.
By 1920, the state was pushing for the consolidation of schools and had offered an incentive of $200 for the closure of any schools with an enrollment of 10 students or less. At that time, both Milford and Matamoras High Schools expanded to include grades one through twelve. Students attended from both within and outside the boroughs, and many of the small townships schools closed.
During these days, friendly rivalry events were established to take place between Milford and Matamoras’ expanded grade level schools. These events included field days and a wide range of academic competitions. Held during warm end-of-the-school-year days, the traditions of scholastic bowls and bees, sporting events, and field days continue in individual Delaware Valley schools today.
Chester B. Dissinger, formerly a teacher in Pike County, assumed leadership as County Superintendent of Schools in Pike County in 1922. A quote from Dissinger, published and reprinted here with permission from author and Shohola Historian George Fluhr, hints of the difficulties officials faced in governing education in the early rural school districts of Pike County.
“I’d go through mud, sleet, and icy roads, and see and be with two or three teachers a day, in dreary, dark, ill-lighted, unpainted, and deplorable schools’ back houses dirty, unkempt, falling down, stinky, an awful.”
County Superintendent Dissinger’s annual salary in 1925 was $2500.00.
By 1933, school consolidations had gradually taken place. Total expenditures for Pike County schools that year were just under $152,000. Dissinger reported, again quoted by Fluhr, “Pike’s taxes are collectible, budgets are balanced, teachers’ salaries have been paid, tuition bills are not overdue, only one district out of our 13 has cut elementary teachers’ salaries below $100 per month, and no properties in the county have been sold for unpaid taxes; and in fact Pike is okay in every way.”
While many dozens of schools closed in Pike County in the first half of the 1900’s, each township and borough in the county still had its own school district.
In 1954, Delaware Valley Joint School District was formed and a Joint School Board came into being through the consolidation of Matamoras Borough, Milford Independent, Dingman Township, Westfall Township, and Delaware Township School Districts.
In 1968, Shohola Township School District also joined the district. At that time, geographic boundaries were established for Delaware Valley and remain the same to present. The name of the district was changed in 1968 from Delaware Valley Joint School District to Delaware Valley School District.
On July 1, 1971, the county‘s Superintendent of Schools position, which at the time was held by Leland G. Cramer, was abolished. Delaware Valley School District’s first Superintendent of Schools was appointed by its School Board of Directors.
Delaware Valley School District Superintendents -- 1971 through Present
1971—FIRST DVSD SUPERINTENDENT APPOINTED
1971 – 1973 -- Leland Cramer
1973 - 1977 – Dr. S. William Ricker
1977—1980-- Dr. Robert J. Reidy
1980 – 1985 -- Dr. Gerald E. Strock
1985 - 1998 – Mr. James Melody
1998 – 2012 -- Dr. Candis Finan2012—Present – Mr. John BellResearched and compiled by Sharon E. Siegel