(Excerpted) We are indebted to Laura Grover Smith for the following very illuminating and inspiring chronicle of the birth and growth of public education in the City of Los Angeles:
The school in the early pueblo of Los Angeles was not regarded as an indispensable thing in a new community, as it was in New England settlements. It was not until the tide of immigration brought eastern men and women from communities where schools had been established, that education by way of schools became important in the little pueblo of Our Lady of the Angels.
Thirty-seven years from the time of the founding of the pueblo, under a Spanish governor, Maxima Pina taught the first school. It lasted a short two years and he received $140 a year.
The next record found allowed the purchase of a bench and table for the use of a school in the pueblo. Doubtless the bench and table were for the school kept by Lucian Valdez from 1827-32. This was the longest school period under Mexican rule. The only paid officials in the pueblo were the secretary of the ayuntamiento, the sindic or tax collector, and the schoolmaster, when there was one.
The schoolmaster’s salary was not to exceed $15 a month, and the chief qualification and requirement was that he should not expect, and certainly must not ask for an increase of salary. In the latter event he was to be dismissed as unfit for the office.
In addition to the long vacations, there were frequent short ones when the teacher would be called to explain. It was apparently quite a satisfactory excuse to say that the scholars had run away! Saints’ days were holidays, and each child’s name saint’s day was invariably celebrated, so schools, to say the least, were intermittently conducted.