Written by Elizabeth Pinkerton
Photos by Louis Silveira and courtesy of the Elk Grove Historical Society
Our Elk Grove Unified School District celebrates its 60th anniversary this year on July 1. The District was formed after voters of the entire area chose to unify the seven elementary school districts with the high school district. The name of the high school, Elk Grove, was chosen as the name for the new unified district. What an amazing six decades they have been for all of us in Elk Grove in the past 60 years! And, what an amazing school district we have!
New residents consistently state that the reason they moved to Elk Grove was because of the excellent schools! Let us make sure that we can still say this 10 and 20 years from now!
We had 10 schools 60 years ago when Elk Grove Unified School District was created. In 60 years, the District has grown to 67 schools. The K-12 student enrollment in 1959 was 3,000, and in 2019, it is 62,675 plus large numbers of Pre-kindergarten students and adults in education programs!
There are many reasons why Elk Grove Unified is one of the most successful school districts in California and the nation. We not only have excellent teachers and school staff, but we have dedicated parents and hard-working students.
Geographically, we are one of the largest school districts in California, covering 320 square miles. We are the largest in student enrollment in Northern California and the fifth largest in California. Elk Grove Unified School District covers all the City of Elk Grove, parts of the cities of Sacramento to the northwest and Rancho Cordova to the north east, and large parts of Sacramento County to the south and east.
So, how did all this happen? How did seven little elementary districts give up their independence and became part of a unified district with their high school? The seven districts were these:
The Dillard Elementary District had absorbed the Davis School. And the Lee School joined with the Dillard School after the election;
The Franklin District had taken in the Point Pleasant, Mokelumne, Carroll, Union House, and Prairie schools;
The Cosumnes River Union District had combined four small school districts into one in 1948 - Michigan Bar, Stonehouse, Wilson, and Rhoads;
The Pleasant Grove District had taken in the Reese School;
The Sierra Enterprise District was a combination of the two earlier schools, Sierra and Enterprise, and Enterprise had taken in the much earlier Excelsior and Highland schools;
The Florin District had two earlier schools, Florin East and Florin West, and it had the new Isabelle Jackson School;
The Elk Grove District had two earlier one room Elk Grove schools and the even earlier San Joaquin school and Victory School, as well as the new Anna Kirchgater School.
Due to the increase in student enrollment in the years following the end of World War II, both the Florin and Elk Grove districts built new schools in 1957 to handle the growth that was moving south from Sacramento. Florin’s school was Isabelle Jackson School which is now the William Daylor site. The Elk Grove second school was Anna Kirchgater School that continues to serve students in the north central part of the district.
The unification of the Elk Grove district took place under the supervision of Sacramento County Superintendent T.R. Smedberg who had been the principal of Elk Grove High School in the 1940s. Unification was popular in the 1950s as evidenced by the many districts throughout the state that joined their neighbors to make better use of their resources. In order for a district to unify, the voters of the proposed area went to the polls and voted either yes or no. Elk Grove’s vote was close, but the yes voters won.
The new district decision makers created a plan to have a seven-member Board of Education. Four Districts, Franklin, Florin, Pleasant Grove and Sierra Enterprise, would each have one member Elk Grove, due to size, would have two members, and again, due to size, there would be one member to represent Dillard and Cosumnes River.
These were the Board members who started the District in 1959: James R. Guttridge and Dr. Wyland Cripe, Elk Grove; Alfred Schopf, Florin; Robert Walker, Sierra Enterprise; E. Henry Kloss, Franklin; Robert S. Mackey, Pleasant Grove; and Jake Schneider, Cosumnes River and Dillard.
The new district was set to begin on July 1, 1959, and the Board hired Dr. George Kibby to serve as the first superintendent. William Schreck was later hired as the Assistant Superintendent. The Kibby-Schreck team, along with its important player, Arlene Hein, as the secretary, established the foundation that resulted in the outstanding Elk Grove Unified School District of today
A key factor in the success of EGUSD is that in 60 years, there have only been six superintendents, and it is likely that no large districts can match how long our leaders stay with us.
George Kibby was the first in 1959and he stayed until 1968. Next were Glenn Houde – 1969 to 1983, Robert Trigg- 1983 to 1995, , David Gordon – 1995 to2004 , Steen Ladd – 2004 to 2014, and from 2014 to today, Christopher Hoffman.
The 2019 members of the Elk Grove Board of education are Chet Madison, Bobbie Singh Allen, Carmine Forcina, Anthony Perez, Beth Albiani, Nancy Chaires Espinoza, and Crystal Martinez Alire. As in earlier years, Board members each represent a specific area of the district, but they are elected from the entire district. Board members serve long terms as well, and some win election after election.
So, how did we get to where we were 1959? What was education like, and what were the key events that occurred?
Our first teachers for children were the parents or our Miwok families who lived all along the Cosumnes River. The first school (that we know of from our early settlers) was the one started by the wife of Martin Murphy at the ranch north of the Cosumnes River and west of what is now Highway 99. She called it a kindergarten, but it was for all children. Next, was the first Rhoads School on the eastern end of the Cosumnes River, started by Jared Dixon Sheldon. The gold mining families started many little schools during the late 1840s (in what is now the Rancho Murieta area). Schools also arose around the early day stage stops.
Our claim to California education fame is the first official school in Sacramento County in 1852 was the San Joaquin School, located at Grant Line Road and today’s Highway 99.
The Elk Grove Elementary District is one of the oldest in California, formed in 1866, right after the Civil War when families began to move to this area, and many of them had obtained property with their military benefits. The Elk Grove School was built at the little crossroads place on Stockton Road. The second school at this site is still with us and used as a residence.
In 1892, a special election was held among the elementary school districts to tax themselves to create a high school. Most of them said, yes, and that is how the Elk Grove Union High School District was formed. This had never been done in California, and it gave Elk Grove the distinction of having the first rural high school district in the state. The present boundaries of the Elk Grove Unified School District closely follow the high school boundary designated in 1892.
In 1908, we had another first—the first rural library in California. It was started by Principal Harriet Eddy at Elk Grove Union High School that at that time was in today’s Old Town Elk Grove.
In 1920 and 1921, two new schools were built in Elk Grove, the high school at what is now the site of Joseph Kerr Middle School and the Elk Grove Grammar School at what is now the site of Cosumnes Community Services District. The historic brick building of the grammar school is still there on Elk Grove Boulevard. It later became the district office until the Robert L. Trigg Education Center was built on Elk Grove Florin Road.
In 2019, The students at Elk Grove Unified School District represent great diversity - 26% Hispanic, 24% Asian, 20% White, 12% African American, 18% Other. English Learners represent 112 languages. This is the mission statement that speaks to all: “Elk Grove Unified School District will provide a learning community that challenges ALL students to realize their greatest potential.”
Happy 60th Anniversary to everyone connected to Elk Grove Unified School District!
BOOKS BY ELIZABETH PINKERTON
History Happened Here,
Book 1 – River, Oaks, Gold
Book 2 – Fields, Farms, Schools
We the People, a Story of Internment
All book proceeds go for student scholarships, and I thank the many purchasers who have made possible the 75 scholarships with each one $1,000 – Make your check for books payable to Laguna Publishers and send to me at 9227 Lamprey Drive, Elk Grove CA 95624. Books are $20 apiece and California sales tax is included. Add $3 for shipping of one or two books; $5 for 3-6 books. Call me at 916-685-0606 or email me at email@example.com.
Teacher and Administrator for 40 years, she is now a historian and author.
This story first appeared in Ardent
for Life Summer 2019 issue.