SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
1839 - 1975

As early settlers wer busy readying one-room school houses in Lee County, the office of Lee County Superintendent of Schools was formed, at that time, in 1839, as an administrative office ot oversee school operations. The original responsibilities of the county superintendent included dispersing of funds derived from the sale of the 16th section of each township which was set aside for educational use. E.R. Mason, who served as the first superintendent, was also county commissioner of schools with responsibility for hiring, firing, ertifying and evaluating teachers.

From those early beginnings, the office today has become streamlined with the superintendent wearing many hats, primarily that of laison between the State Office of Education and the local schools. Independence was apparently the key word in the early school system. Single school houses werein themselves a school district and their humbers grew with the population up until 1948 when 166 districts dotted Lee County, each with its own school board. An additional district, known as a non-high school district, encompassed those areas without a high school.

Primarily a record-keeping function in the beginning, the office kept meticulous records of every formation of a school district. Minuts of board meetings are on record both at the county superintendent's office and the County Clerk's office. Keeping up with what was going on in each school was an awesome task. Institutes were held in the fall and spring to bring the district members together. Some control was kept with the superintendent's office which certified instructors before they could go into teaching. In the 1800's teachers had to pass written examinations which tested their ability in reading, writing, grammar, geography, history and orthography.

Countrywide teacher salaries in 1862 totaled $17, 475. That compares with today's instructor package countywide which in 1974 was $4,796,345. Through the turn of the century, functions of the superintendent's office changed little. The overseer continued to map new annexations or detachments from the then existing district. John A. Torrens, superintendent from 1939 to 1967 recalled the most significant change was the formation of high school districts throughout the county which came into being in the late 1920s. In 1948 there wer 166 school districts, 10 high school districts, one non-high school district, 143 one-room schools, 518 school board members and 66 township trustees. Teachers numbered 301 and countywide enrollments were at 5,917.

The school survey committee in 1948 found many of the schools lacked adequate libraries and instructional aids. The committee concluded that reorganization was the key. From 1948 - 1956 the districts were merged and six large attendance centers were formed. On April 17, 1948 District 271 was formed followed by the Amboy District Feb. 5, 1949. On Aug. 16, 1954 Steward Elementary District came into being followed by Ashton March 19, 1956. The Nelson Elementary District remained the same and the Dixon unit district was named in 1956. Still in 1956, the non-high school district remained and a voe by Dixon District favored not taking in the outlying area. In recent years, those areas have annexed to Dixon or other districts. Township trustees were reduced to seven, elected every six years. With the election of Michael Heckman in 1975 the office was renamed regional Superintendent of Schools to more clearly define the office function. The following is a list of superintendents and the years they served;

E.R. Mason 1839-1840
James T. Little 1840-1843 Biography
Daniel Bates McKenney 1843-1846 Biography
Lorenzo Wood 1846-1850
John V. Eustace 1850-1853 Biography
John Stevens 1853-1855 Biography
Simeon Wright 1855-1857
James A. Hawley 1857-1859
John Monroi 1859-1861
William H. Gardner 1861-1863
Benjamin F. Atherton 1863-1865
James H. Preston 1865-1873
Daniel Carey 1873-1876
James H. Preston 1876-1882 Biography
Samuel H. Howe 1882-1886
P.M. James 1886-1890
Jay C. Edwards 1890-1894
Isaac F. Edwards 1894-1910
L.W. Miller 1910-1939
John A. Torrens 1939-1967
Sheldon B. Bross 1967-1975
Michael Heckman 1975 -

From the Dixon Evening Telegraph Feb. 28, 1976

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