Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Part I: About the country and its...
 Part II: About the public...
 Back Cover

Group Title: United States. Office of Education. Pamphlet
Title: Public education in the Virgin islands
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091711/00001
 Material Information
Title: Public education in the Virgin islands
Series Title: United States. Office of Education. Pamphlet
Physical Description: 1 p. l., v-viii, 31, 1 p. : illus. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Cook, Katherine Margaret O'Brien
Publisher: U.S. Government Printing Office
Place of Publication: Washington, D. C.
Publication Date: 1934
Copyright Date: 1934
Subject: Education -- Virgin Islands of the United States   ( lcsh )
Description and travel -- Virgin Islands of the United States   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: United States Virgin Islands
General Note: "Issued by the United States Department of the Interior, Office of education. Harold L. Ickes is secretary of the interior and George F. Zook is commissioner of education. Katherine M. Cook...is chief of the Division of special problems."
Statement of Responsibility: by Katherine M. Cook.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091711
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 02624976
lccn - e 34000576

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page vii
        Page viii
    Part I: About the country and its people
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
    Part II: About the public schools
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
    Back Cover
        Back Cover
Full Text
LJ I...
{ !"
sr I .




in the

Virgin Islands

-. 4

- '-

- '


F- ,.

?~. -
~c~, iIi

1^ -





By Katherine M. Cook




For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D.C. Price 10 cents

* ..
. . . . .' ..

'' ~ ',:

''' '


. .

., ~.




THIS is Pamphlet No. 50 and is issued by the

United States Department of the Interior, Office of

Education. Harold L. Ickes is Secretary of the

Interior and George F. Zook is Commissioner of

Education. Katherine M. Cook, the author of

this Pamphlet, is Chief of the Division of Special


. ',* .

.. .


"" .; .-~.





Introduction v

Part I About the Country and its People
Social and Economic Conditions Influencing Educa-
tion 6

Part II About the Public Schools 15

School Administration and Organization 16

The School Curricula 20

The Teaching Staff 23

The School Health Program 26

School Enrollment and Attendance 27

School Buildings 30

Public Libraries 32

AUG 1 6 1937


I N T H E Virgin Islands, as in other outlying parts of the United States,
a public-school system patterned in many essentials after that on the main-
land, was established tvith American occupation. With the change to
civil governmental control which took place in 1931, a definite program
of social and economic rehabilitation of the people of the islands was
inaugurated. Of this program, education was made and now is an
integral and responsible part. It is a long-time program formulated with
a definite realization of the part education must play in the realization
of the ultimate goal of economic independence and social progress for the
people of the islands.
School organization and practices, especially curricular offerings, are
very naturally just now in a transitional and semiexperimental stage, but
faced toward the achievement of quite definite social and economic objec-
tives. Progress in education is, therefore, of unusual interest on the mainland
as well as to the people of the islands.
This account of the present educational situation in the Virgin Islands
is the result of personal observation of the schools made possible through
the courtesy of all the officials but especially of the Director of Education
and his staff.
The purchase of the Danish West Indies by the United States was the
result of a long series of negotiations begun by Secretary Seward at the
suggestion of President Lincoln during the Civil War. They were then
the seat of blockade running, and this fact as well as their strategic
position as a defense base became a matter of interest. Later when the

* VII *

United States became interested in Panama, negotiations were renewed,
but it was not until during the World War that the purchase was finally
consummated. In r917 the United States purchased the islands from
Denmark for 25 million dollars. They were and are considered a strategic
defense base because of their position commanding the Atlantic approach
to the Panama Canal and the southern section of the United States.
Many authorities, including the Governor of the islands, believe they are
worth much more than their cost as a defense investment alone. "The
purchase price represents little more than half the cost of a modern battle-
ship", according to a recent statement of the Governor.

* VIII *


About the

Country and its People

THE VIRGIN ISLANDS, like Puerto Rico, were discov-
ered by Columbus on his second voyage to America in 1493.
Columbus named the group as a whole "The Virgins": Under
Danish rule they were known as the Danish West Indies and the
capital, now St. Thomas, as Charlotte Amalie.
In the early days of their history they changed hands frequently.
Early explorers of many countries, Dutch, English, Spanish, and
French, visited them at intervals, and the Danes made several
early, unsuccessful attempts at colonization. During the seven-
teenth century they were the resort of buccaneers, and tradition
still associates with them the names of such notorious pirates as
Blackbeard and Bluebeard, whose castles on St. Thomas are still
the objectives of numbers of tourists visiting the West Indies. In
the eighteenth century Great Britain held them at least twice, but
eventually they became the permanent property of the Danes,
who held them for at least 250 years preceding their purchase by
the United States.
Slavery and insurrection have played a prominent and tragic
part in their history. Because of their position and the excellent
harbor of St. Thomas, they were an important slave market while
slavery thrived. For years the settlers of the islands flourished
through cotton and sugar plantations cultivated by slave labor.
In 1748, on July 4, the Danes proclaimed the freedom of the
602 .**1 ..
.... *" :. ."*
60628-34---'2 *o .*: *
.. ..* .. .
: ... ... .. .. ..

S.* *. ..
* . .
.'* -..

slaves, following the last of many insurrections during which the
slaves tore up the public whipping post in St. Thomas and threw
it into the sea.
The strategic position of the Virgin Islands-the main considera-
tion in their purchase-does not, however, constitute their only
resource, nor detract from the importance of the many factors
conditioning the welfare of the people who have now become a
part of the citizenship of the United States.
The Virgin Islands lie southeast of the United States as a whole;
they are approximately 1,400 miles, chiefly south but a little east
from our north Atlantic coast and about 1,ooo miles almost due
east from Florida. There are 50 islands in the group, many of
which are small and uninhabited. Three are of considerable size
and importance: St. Thomas and St. John, which lie close
together, and St. Croix the largest of the three, lying approximately
40 miles to the south of St. Thomas. Their combined area is
approximately 132 square miles-about twice that of the District
of Columbia. The total population in 1932 was 22,000. Their
smallness in area and population and their isolation are important
factors in an appreciation of their social and educational problems.
The capital city is St. Thomas-the Charlotte Amalie ofJorgen
Iversen its founder, who in 1672 named it in honor of the Queen
of Denmark. It is located on the island of the same name and is
1,440 miles-a 5-day trip by boat-from the city of New York.
There is regular communication and mail service also by plane
from Miami, Fla.; the plane leaves Miami each Friday morning,
stops over night en route at San Juan, P.R., and arrives Saturday
morning at St. Thomas. There is regular weekly boat com-
munication with San Juan, P.R., and between St. Thomas and
St. Croix. Boats making the West Indian cruise and certain
European steamers to South America or through the Canal also
touch the islands en route.
St. Croix, the boyhood home of Alexander Hamilton, is the
largest of the islands. It is 84 square miles in area and has a
population of about 11,400, a high percentage of which is con-
centrated in two small cities of the island, Christiansted and
Frederiksted, of approximately 4,000 and 3,000 people, respec-
tively. St. Croix is almost wholly agricultural. Its products are

... .. ... ..

.. .. ..= .* :' *"
.: . : .- **
** ; ; ;/: : -. : ; : "
*: : ...

cattle, which find a market in nearby Puerto Rico, and sugar and
vegetables, which are shipped chiefly to the United States. Grow-
ing vegetables for the New York markets, a recently established
industry, is believed to offer much promise as a paying occupation,
since certain vegetables can reach the New York market from
St. Thomas some weeks earlier than similar products from

The harbor at St. Thomas.

St. Thomas is 28 square miles in area and has a population of
9,800. Its people have long been dependent for their livelihood
largely on the business which the excellent harbor facilities of its
one city, St. Thomas, afford. About three-fourths of the people
of the island live in the city of St. Thomas. They are said to be
excellent traders, an occupation in which opportunities were
abundant when ships in large numbers stopped for coaling and
transfer of cargo, as they did for many years.
St. John is the smallest of the three inhabited islands. It has an
area of less than 20 square miles and a population of but 765.
Its people live by farming, basket making, and preparing charcoal.

Charcoal is practically the only fuel used for cooking in the Virgin
Islands and has an extensive market also in Puerto Rico.
The people of the islands are in large part descendents of slaves,
and their history has been one of struggle against adverse con-
ditions. The colored population, constituting more than 90
percent of the total, is of many varieties, including former slaves,

A typical shop or store in St. Thomas.

and descendants of slaves from the Danish and British West
Indies, Haiti, and Martinique; free Negroes who by industry have
established themselves as heads of plantations, in business, and in
industries; professional men, including doctors, lawyers, and
teachers; and politicians, musicians, and writers. The strictly
white population, constituting only about 3 percent of the total,
is made up of Danish, English, Irish, and American families, many
of whom have taken over plantations or are engaged in business
or the professions or are in governmental positions. There is a
small French colony in St. Thomas, made up for the most part
of fishermen.


The language is English, probably an inheritance from the days
of British sovereignty and British settlement. During the long
occupation of the Danes no effort was made to change it, and
schools were taught in English. It is a West Indian variety, to be
sure, not always readily understood by the visitor from the main-
land, but English no less. An interesting formality and courtesy
characterize the speech of the islanders, and they have a certain
dignity of bearing and pride, perhaps of race or status-one
doesn't know exactly what-which has a charm all its own.
The people in appearance and in dress and in manner of living
are not wholly unlike those of the other West Indies, some of
which are very close by-the British island of Tortola, for ex-
ample, is separated by only 5 miles of water from St. Thomas.
Many of the women, in the rural districts especially, wear the
old-fashioned cotton dresses-often white, and of immaculate
cleanliness-with the palm woven hats and varicolored bandanas
-sometimes more than one of each-on their heads. Covering
the head from the night air or the rain is apparently a traditional
practice much respected by the natives. It has also a utilitarian
purpose, since incredible loads, from colorful trays of fruit to
heavy baskets of coal, are carried by the islanders on their heads.
Even little children carrying heavy cans of water on their heads
are by no means uncommon sights.
In spite of obvious and widespread poverty, the roads, the
streets, the homes, and the people themselves present a remarkably
clean and orderly appearance. The towns are particularly at-
tractive, with their substantial-looking white, red-roofed houses-
apparently a Danish variety of Spanish architecture. St. Thomas,
with its clean, rain-swept streets, most of them "running up
hill"-they are really flights of steps lined on either side by
doorsteps arched over gutters that water may drain under-
neath-has been quite appropriately called the original Spotless
Town" of the well-known advertisements. In cleanliness and
sanitation, in the complete absence of beggars and of most of
the common tropical diseases such as hookworm and yellow
fever, the Virgin Islands are said to be unique among West
Indian islands. They have a record for a high degree of
literacy, the percentage being 98.


There are practically no streams on the islands. For their
supply of fresh water the people are dependent on the rainfall.
Cisterns catch this precious rainfall and certain sections of the
steep hillsides of the picturesquely located city of St. Thomas-
it is built on three hills sloping steeply down to the ocean-are
covered with cement to preserve more fully the supply.
The climate of the Virgin Islands and their scenic attractive-
ness, the latter due in part to their location where the Atlantic
and Caribbean waters meet, but also to the picturesqueness of
the islands themselves, are among their chief assets. The temper-
ature is practically uniform throughout the year, with a maximum
of 89 degrees during the summer and of 85 in the winter. The
minimum ranges from 71 in winter to 76 or 77 in the summer.
"Contrary to popular belief," says the Governor of the islands,'
"it is not hot in summer. The northeast trade winds blow through-
out the year. It is all very picturesque and romantic. On St.
Thomas are Blackbeard and Bluebeard Castles, reminders of
the old pirate days when these robbers of the sea fought their
way to booty, revelry, and early death; while on St. Croix are
the picturesque old sugar mills, relics of the grand days of the
estate owners when every estate had its own cane mill driven by
the wind, where the owner ground his own sugar and made his
own rum."

Social and Economic Conditions
Influencing Education

H 0 W the Islands are Governed From their purchase by the
United States in 1917, to 1931, the Virgin Islands were a naval
station and were governed by the Navy Department. The suc-
cessive governors during those years were officers of the United
States Navy. After a comprehensive social and economic survey
of the islands and their people, closely followed by an equally
comprehensive study of the educational situation, Congress
transferred responsibility to the Department of the Interior-the
1 Radio address, April 1932. Washington, D.C., Department of the Interior.


government being placed thereby under civil control. A governor
and an executive staff were appointed, the former by the Presi-
dent; the latter by the Secretary of the Interior; they were installed
in March 1931, and the new regime was immediately under way.

En route home after the day's marketing

The Governor and his staff and the heads of the various depart-
ments are resident in St. Thomas, the capital of the islands. The
lieutenant governor resides in and is chief executive officer of the
island of St. Croix, except of course when the Governor is in resi-
dence there. There are departments of public health, industry,
public works, public welfare, education, with a commissioner or
director in charge, and a government attorney, all part of the
executive staff. There is a government agricultural experiment
station, now also a vocational school; two well-equipped hospitals
under government control, physicians and nurses assigned to


different sections of the islands and such minor governmental
and municipal officials as are necessary for the orderly conduct
of the government and to carry on the rehabilitation program.
The judicial department includes a judge of the district court
appointed by the Governor, three police court judges, one in each
of the three islands, and necessary clerical assistants.

Bluebeard's Castle becomes a part of the
new Government hotel.

The legislative branch consists of two Colonial Councils, whose
members are appointed by the Governor or elected by the people.
The Council of St. Thomas and St. John has 16 members, includ-
ing a chairman and vice chairman; 4 are appointed by the Gover-
nor, the others are elected by the people. The Council of St.
Croix has 19 members, including a chairman and vice chairman,
5 of whom are appointed by the Governor; the others are elected.
There are a number of commissions on roads, hospitals, health,
etc.; municipal committees and boards, appointed by the Gover-
nor for special purposes or to perform special functions. The
Colonial Councils are assigned the functions usually accorded to
city councils in the United States and some of the functions of


county and State governments.2 Occasionally the councils sit
together and pass resolutions in the nature of petitions to Congress
or recommendations to the Governor.
Suffrage is restricted to males of "unblemished character" who
are 25 years of age and over and who have a clear annual income
of $300. They must have resided on the islands for 5 years. There
are fewer than a thousand voters who qualify under these restric-
tions, three-fourths of whom are colored.
The citizenship status of the people of the Virgin Islands was not
well defined until 1927, when native residents of the Virgin Islands
were admitted to United States citizenship. Previous to that time
they had been "citizens of the Virgin Islands of the United States",
but not citizens of the United States. The income and sex quali-
fications for suffrage appear to be a carry-over from the Danish

SO M E Paramount Economic Problems Socially and economically
the situation in the Virgin Islands is far from satisfactory. The
economic status of the people, both rural and urban, involves
serious problems. There is considerable diversity of occupations
and occupational interests, and the Islands are separated widely
by ocean channels. They do not form an economic unit, nor
because of questions of caste and color, a social one. In population
and in productiveness they are decreasing and had been decreasing
many years before their purchase from Denmark. The decline in
population is not peculiar to the American Virgin Islands, but is
shared by neighboring West Indies, British and Dutch, and has
continued in many of them for more than a generation.
The people depend for their subsistence on the production and
the exportation of sugar from St. Croix, on the fueling of ships and
other port activities in St. Thomas, and on the export of bay rum
and cattle and some tourist trade. Sugar production and occupa-
tions connected with shipping dominate the industrial and com-
mercial life. The decline in productiveness is due to the decline
in sugar cultivation, to changed conditions of trade affecting
St. Thomas as a transshipping base, and to general financial con-
2 Tucker, Rufus. Economic Conditions of the Virgin Islands. Washington,
U.S. Government Printing Office.

60628-34--3 9

editions including the crisis of 1920 from which recovery was
not completed when the crisis of 1929 intensified already serious

i c oa sc a- I

Typical road scene near St. Thomas.

In St. Croix as elsewhere the sugar industry is a large plantation
industry. Most of the cultivated land on the island is in the hands
of a few people. Wages on sugar plantations are low. Although
they have improved under American occupation, they still aver-
age from 40 to 80 cents per day. Under recent adverse conditions
certain large sugar plantations are no longer in operation or are
in poor financial condition. Much land formerly in cane is no
longer cultivated as such but is in pasture or "bush".
Similarly depreciation has occurred in St. Thomas. The city
became a free port in 1764, and for many years was a trading and
coaling station of considerable importance being near the most
direct route from Europe to Panama and from the east coast of


South America to Atlantic ports of the United States. It is the
best located harbor in the West Indies and was, therefore, in for-
mer days the center of a large volume of traffic and an important
coaling station.3 Changes in trade routes, the prevalence of oil-
burning vessels, and other trade conditions, some of them con-
nected with the American occupation, have contributed to the
decrease in port activities. Work on the docks is irregular and pay
is low. Much of the coaling is done by women at a very low wage.
The banking situation in the islands has had an important influ-
ence on their economic welfare. The National Bank of the Danish
West Indies, with offices in each of the three cities of the Islands,
will discontinue when its charter expires in 1934. Danish stock-
holders have been more and more cautious about loans as the date
of withdrawal approached, and credit has therefore been seriously
interfered with. Notes issued in the old local currency were for
some years below par in United States gold, making the demand
urgent over a period of several years for replacement by an Ameri-
can bank. The use of Danish currency-the Danish franc is the
basic unit, though the American dollar passes current also-is an
added complication. The necessary adjustments which have
recently been provided for by Congress will result in the establish-
ment of an American bank and the elimination of inconveniences
of the kind suggested. These readjustments should result in
facilitating economic progress.
All in all it is apparent that the economic situation is a serious
one and leaves much to be done before a satisfactory status is
attained. The taxable wealth is estimated at $350 per person;
there are too few productive industries, low wages prevail, and
unemployment and irregular employment are all too common.
A large number of people, estimated at I,ooo in 1929, are on dole.
The low living standards which accompany such conditions, lack
of vegetables, milk, and other ingredients of an adequate and
varied diet, result in much malnutrition, in the prevalence of
gastro-intestinal diseases, and in a high death rate-especially
among infants.
To the high death rate and the increasing emigration to conti-
nental United States the reduction in population is due. There


are reported 5,000 Virgin Islanders in New York City in 1932,
indicating a high percentage of migration in view of the small
population-22,ooo-of the islands.

THE Questions of Race and Caste The population, as indicated
before, is predominantly Negro. As classified in the 1930 census
it is as follows: Negroes 78.3 percent, mixed 12.4 percent, white

Bluebeard's Castle and the harbor.

9.1 percent, other races 0.2 percent. The figures cannot indicate
the shades of color and caste and the prejudice existing among the
groups based on these differences. The situation is elucidated in
the report of the study sponsored by Hanipton and Tuskegee In-
stitutes as a complex of caste and prejudice which cannot be inter-
preted in the light of American color prejudice. For example,
according to the report, certain groups known as "high yellows"
consider themselves of distinguished ancestry and therefore equal
to or superior to whites. There are many variations both in color
and caste, the latter often more subtle than the former, resulting in
"a complex of caste gone to seed." It is apparent that community
solidarity is difficult to achieve under such conditions and that
until tolerance and mutual appreciations among the groups are
attained, progress will continue to be unsatisfactory.


THE Disorganized Family Life One of the most serious prob-
lems with which the education and welfare departments are con-
cerned is the chaotic and disorganized condition of family life.
Marital relations are so irregular, illegitimacy so common, that for
most of the humbler people no family life exists,4 and "no orderly
procedure has been supplied to take the place of family life for
great numbers of illegitimate children."6 It follows that a sur-
prisingly high percentage of the children of the Virgin Islands
lack the protection and care ordinarily provided by wholesome
family life, and taken for granted under normal conditions. While
the school encounters the greatest difficulties from this situation, it
is probably also the institution which can eventually offer most
toward its solution.

POLICIES of Rehabilitation and Development The policy of
Congress so far has been one of mutual cooperation; to work with
the islanders in plans that will eventually improve their economic
condition, make the island government self-supporting and at the
same time achieve desirable objectives in human development. In
recent years Congress has appropriated for administrative pur-
poses approximately $400,000 per year, matching dollar for dollar
the revenue raised in the islands. The money is appropriated for
current expenses of the government, and with certain additional
appropriations, is directed also toward solving gradually the most
serious of the many economic and social problems.
To promote economic independence of individuals interested in
farming but unable to buy land and improvements, the govern-
ment has recently purchased two large estates. They will be
divided into small homesteads and sold on long-time payments to
promising purchasers. As plans materialize and money becomes
available further purchases will be made and gradually ownership
of small plots will replace tenantry and concentration of large land
holdings among too few individuals. In this program and in im-
proving farm methods and farm life, the agricultural experiment
station is cooperating.
4 Annual report, Governor of the Virgin Islands, 1931.
5 Report of the educational survey of the Virgin Islands. Hampton, Va.,
Normal and Agricultural Institute, 1929.

[13 1

Cooperatives for the sale of farm produce are successfully operat-
ing, and vegetables heretofore practically unknown on the islands
are being produced for sale and to vary the native diet. Coopera-
tives are also marketing successfully certain handicrafts and
canned products. The Department of Industries, in cooperation
with the schools, is developing new handicrafts and encouraging
and assisting in the sale of others. Pottery and rug making are
examples of recently developed industries. Both were initiated in
and are still sponsored by the school system.
Other activities under way are concerned with the promotion of
the tourist trade through securing steamship service at reasonable
rates, building of a modern hotel and encouraging winter residents;
promoting the bay rum, cattle, and fishing industries, and placing
them on a better basis for production and marketing, encourage-
ment of food gardens, fruit and vegetable canning, and exploring
the possibilities of cotton as a paying crop in St. Croix.
For the rehabilitation of the people, promoting their health,
improving standards of living; for general remedial work including
family rehabilitation and the care of orphan and dependent
children, the Government has established departments of health,
of public welfare, and of education. These are coordinating their
efforts with the assistance of other governmental departments in
long-term remedial plans as well as relief measures.



About the Public Schools

A SCHOOL S Y STEM reasonably efficient in inculcating
an elementary knowledge of the three R's and successful in creat-
ing a literate population was well established in the Virgin
Islands prior to the transfer of the government to civil control.
The schools were of the traditional, formal, and academic type
which apparently did not function practically in raising standards
of living or in improving the social and economic life of the people.
At the request of the Secretary of the Navy a first-hand study of
the school system was made by a committee of specialists from
the mainland under the auspices of Hampton and Tuskegee
Institutes. The committee reported early in 1929 outlining the
strengths and weaknesses of the school system and making
important recommendations for reorganization. Among the
most significant of the recommendations addressed to the edu-
cation authorities were that education should articulate with the
local situation; that steps should be taken to bridge the gap
between the home and the school; that standards of teaching
should be raised; and that facilities for health, industrial, and
agricultural training should be improved and increased.
The committee also addressed certain recommendations to the
civil authorities, stating that they found the schools inadequately
supported and the importance of education inadequately realized.
They recommended that in financial and moral support and in
responsibility for the general welfare, education be more gener-
ously provided for and that it have a larger place among the
activities of the government. They found that promoting eco-
nomic independence, higher standards of living, improved sani-

{15s }

tary and health conditions, and reestablishing family life, were
all functions which should be incorporated into an educational
program extending over a period of years. Such a program
should be designed to make progress gradually rather than
through radical innovation and artificial substitution.
These recommendations became basic considerations in the for-
mulation of the policies of the new civil administration. A director
of education in sympathy with the program suggested and in part
outlined by the survey staff was selected and installed with other
civil officials. He was charged with the responsibility of redirect-
ing objectives, modernizing the curriculum, and reorganizing
the educational program in harmony with the government's
rehabilitation program.

School Administration and Organization
T H E school system of the Virgin Islands is an integral part of
the administration of the civil government and functions as a
department of the executive organization headed by the Governor.
There is no board of education corresponding to State, county, or
city boards on the mainland to which the educational officials are
responsible and which is in turn responsible for the support
and efficiency of the schools. Schools are supported by direct
appropriation from governmental funds raised in part from Island
revenues and in part appropriated by Congress. The amount
appropriated depends, of course, on the available revenues and
is subject to decision of the executive office. There is no fixed
permanent appropriation or school fund or school tax as such.
Responsibility for the administration of the system, including the
expenditure of funds allotted for the purpose, is assigned to a
director of education appointed by the Secretary of the Interior
and directly responsible to the Governor for the conduct of the
school system. Approximately $100,ooo per year has been
appropriated for schools under the present civil government-an
approximate expenditure of $35 per capital of school enrollment.
It is apparent that the administrative set-up does not provide
direct responsibility for nor participation in the support and man-
agement of the schools on the part of the people of the Virgin

{ 16}

Islands. This handicap is met in part in two ways: Through the
attitude of the officials themselves toward the people and the
schools and through liberal interpretation of the functions of two

Teacher and children in a typical rural school.

reviewing and advisory boards, one concerned with schools of St.
Thomas and St. John, and one with those of St. Croix. The school
officials definitely cooperate and advise with the people on mat-
ters concerned with education and aim to promote, through
friendly association and consultation, wider understanding of the
place of education in their future welfare and that of their chil-
dren. Each reviewing board is composed of five members, and
the director of education acts as secretary. Two officials of the
government and three members of the respective Colonial Councils
make up the voting membership. On the board of education of
St. Thomas and St. John are: The government attorney, chair-
man; the government secretary, the chairman of the Colonial


Council ex officio and two other members of the Council, one of
whom is selected by the Council and the other by the three ex-
officio members and the one Council selection. The Educational
Board of Review of St. Croix is composed and selected in the same
way except that the Lieutenant Governor replaces the govern-
ment secretary as vice chairman; the three Council members are
representatives of the Council of St. Croix.
The director of education assumes most of the responsibilities
usually assigned to city superintendents and city boards of educa-
tion on the mainland for all public schools of the Islands. He
selects his staff, including supervisory assistants, special teachers,
principals, and teachers; fixes qualifications within legal require-
ments; is responsible for the organization of the schools,
formulation of courses of study, selection of textbooks, and
similar educational activities. Textbooks are supplied free by
the department of education.
The staff, number and type of schools, term, etc., for 1932-33 are
as follows:
The director is assisted by a supervisor of elementary schools,
who directs the supervision of all the elementary schools, and
by four additional supervisors-one of music, two of health, and
one of home economics. The elementary supervisor personally
supervises the elementary schools of St. Thomas and St. John.
Two part-time supervisors, formerly Jeanes supervisors on the
mainland, are assistant supervisors for the schools of St. Croix.
Schools are organized on the 6-3-3 plan. There is one junior-
senior high school offering 6 years of work in St. Thomas, and two
junior high schools, one in each of the towns of St. Croix, offering
3 years of work of junior high school grade. There are 19 ele-
mentary schools, each offering 6 years of elementary work, of which
8 are in St. Thomas, 7 in St. Croix, and 4 in St. John.
There are 118 teachers, including 23 special teachers, Io of
manual arts, 8 of home economics, and 5 of music, and 8 high-
school teachers. There are also 2 playground supervisors and 3
school nurses. The total enrollment for 1931-32 in the 12 grades
of the public schools was 3,228; in 9 grades of private schools, 1,179.
The school term is 200 days in length. In percentage of enroll-
ment, in regularity of attendance, and in length of term the schools


appear to have had more than the customary success. Practically
all children of school age are enrolled in school and attend with
reasonable regularity.
s@aaNQ&sk I. '-.- __- __' Ila 11M Z 4'R

At one of the recently established nursery schools.

The private as well as the public schools are supervised by the
director of education and his assistants. The services of school
nurses, as well as medical and dental service at public expense, are
available to all children whether enrolled in public or in private

THE Vocational Institute The survey commission to which refer-
ence has been made above, recommended as part of the new pro-
gram the establishment of a vocational school. An appropriation
was made by the Federal Government for this purpose and the use
of the allotted funds authorized in the spring of 1932. The agri-
cultural station on St. Croix was selected as the site and the build-


ings reconstructed to meet the needs of dormitory and classrooms.
The purpose of the school is to prepare a selected group of boys-
later it is hoped provision will be made for girls also-to become
civic and occupational leaders.
Fifteen boys were selected to make up the initial student body
from 30 candidates on the basis of intelligence, according to
standard tests, former school records, personality as judged by a
personal interview with the director of education, and on certain
recommendations of citizens and others. The following September
26 boys, similarly selected were enrolled. Eventually the school
will develop into a senior high school offering 3 years of work and
admitting graduates of the junior high schools.
The faculty in 1932-33 is made up of a principal, 2 teachers of
academic subjects, I of extracurricular activities, 3 members of
the Agricultural Station staffas part-time instructors of agriculture,
and I part-time instructor in iron working. There is a matron in
charge of the dining and dormitory facilities. The students have
the opportunity to earn their way by working on the Agricultural
Station grounds.
The courses include English, history, economic geography, gen-
eral science, arithmetic, and orientation courses in the following
occupations: Farm crops, dairying, animal husbandry, blacksmith-
ing, wheelwrighting, horticulture, carpentry and cabinet making,
auto mechanics, and elementary surveying.

The School Curricula

I N A L L of the schools curriculum revision is now in process. It
has been stated that the vocational school was very recently estab-
lished with the objective of training occupational leaders for the
established industries and those new ones which the Government
is fostering and expects to foster. The situation itself and the needs
of the people are peculiar to the islands, and it is believed that
success depends upon the formulation of a program de novo which,
while profiting by the experiences of similar and comparable
schools elsewhere, will be designed definitely for the conditions
peculiar to and the objectives desirable in the local situation.


There is but one high school-that at St. Thomas-offering com-
plete secondary curricula and including both junior and senior
high school departments. The senior high school grades were added
in 1931 and in their addition represent a new departure in ad-
vanced secondary opportunities. Pupils will be admitted from the
junior high school department and from the two junior high
schools in St. Croix as candidates become available.
The St. Thomas High School offers the regular college-prepara-
tory, vocational, and prevocational courses, and two courses for
prospective teachers. Vocational offerings under "Practical Arts"
include carpentry and woodworking, basketry, boat building,
home economics including sewing and needlework, pottery, and
rug making. Pottery and rug making, both of which were ini-
tiated as high-school courses, promise to develop into important
island industries. As the resources of the islands are explored and
new industries and new occupations open up, the vocational
offerings of the high school will be correspondingly increased.
Revision is under way in the elementary schools. Formal work
in the three R's is gradually giving place to practical activity pro-
grams emphasizing health, music, character building, sewing, and
other practical phases of homemaking, carpentry and woodwork-
ing, basket weaving, and the like, closely associated with local
needs and community life. As yet no printed course based on the
results of the reorganizations under way is available. Progress is
being made in revision of content and methods of instruction
largely as a part of the supervisory program.

THE Extracurricular Activities Usual extracurricular activities,
such as dramatics, class plays, school performances on special occa-
sions, and the like, are carried on under school auspices in connec-
tion with the junior and senior high schools. A school paper is
published by the St. Thomas High School, for which students are
chiefly responsible. Four-H clubs have been organized in the rural
sections of St. Croix, and there are two literary clubs in the St.
Thomas High School. An open-air theater was recently built by
the faculty and students of one of the junior high schools in St.
Croix. Parent-teacher associations have been organized in many
of the schools with considerable success.


St. Thomas High School Program of Studies



English 5 English 5 English 5
American history 4 American history 5 Ancient history
Vocational economics 5
Guidance I Virgin Islands his- *Mathematics 5
tory 5
Mathematics 5 *General. science 5
Mathematics 5
World geography 5 Practical arts io
United States ge-
Practical arts o1 ography
Virgin Islands ge- 5
Practical arts io



English 5 American literature 5 English literature 5
*Economic geography 5 Economics 5 *United Stateshistory5
World history 5 *Trigonometry *Botany and zoology 5
*Geometry 5 *Solid geometry *Advanced biology 5
*Biology 5 *Chemistry 5 *Principles of educa-
*Art 5 *Psychology 5 tion 5
*Spanish I 5 *Art 5 Art 5
Practical arts Io Spanish II 5 *Practice teaching io
Practical arts io Practical arts Io

NOTE Studies marked with asterisk [*] are elective. Numbers correspond to
periods per week.


The Teaching Staff

PROBABLY the most serious problem the school system has
to solve is concerned with the teaching staff. All of the elementary
teachers are natives of the islands and practically all of them have
only the education offered in the local schools. Up to 1931 there
was no senior high school in the Virgin Islands; consequently
academic training beyond the eighth or ninth grade was not avail-
able to the majority of prospective elementary-school teachers.
There were no facilities for professional training of either pre-
service or in-service type. The result is that the teachers in the
elementary schools are far below an acceptable standard in aca-
demic and professional qualifications. Complete and exact data
on the qualifications of individual teachers are not available.
Many of the teachers now in service have had considerable ex-
perience. The survey of 1929 found the educational status of
teachers "incredibly low." Even now few of them have gone
beyond the eighth grade, according to the most recent annual
report of the Governor.
The salaries, while improving, are still inadequate to attract
and retain a high-grade professional staff in the elementary
grades, and apparently the importance of good teaching in these
grades has not until recently been recognized. For the school year
1931-32 average monthly salaries ranged from $22.73 paid tem-
porary teachers holding the lowest type of certificate, to $144.20
paid to high-school teachers. Third-class teachers received an
average monthly salary of $26.92; second-class teachers, $46.26;
special-subject teachers, $48.06, and first-class teachers, $76.19.
The staff as a whole received an average salary of $50.89 monthly
in Danish West Indian dollars.
The situation is being attacked from several different angles:
[I] Qualifications for entering teachers are being raised gradually;
high-school graduation as a minimum academic requirement can
be expected shortly, since high-school facilities, including courses
in education and practice teaching, are now available. [2] In-
service training is provided for the teaching staff through summer
schools and professional supervision. [3] Special classes in pro-
fessional and academic subjects are conducted during the school


year. [4] A limited number of scholarships in educational insti-
tutions on the mainland are now available for prospective teachers.
In the summer of I931 the first summer school for the training
of teachers in service was established. It was conducted at St.
Thomas for a period of 6 weeks and proved so effective for the
purpose for which it was designed that plans were evolved for

A typical family home before the homestead plan.

conducting similar summer school sessions annually. The summer
school in 1931 was held in two sections, one in St. Thomas and
one in St. Croix, as a matter of convenience and economy for the
teachers who attended. The boat fare between the two islands is
$8, and for teachers working on a small salary this is a consider-
able item. The two sections were attended by 144 persons, most
of whom were teachers. Beside regular classes in the content
subjects and psychology and methods courses, an observation
school was conducted. Regular periods were devoted to observa-
tion and conference, with selected superior teachers in charge.
The 1933 session was held in cooperation with the Progressive

{ 241

Education Association. A number of the instructors came from
continental United States and were assisted by the local adminis-
trative and supervisory staff. Such an arrangement has many
advantages for the more or less isolated local teachers, offering
them an opportunity to enlarge their professional contacts while
profiting by the regularly prescribed courses. Flexibility in the

The same family home after the homestead plan
was effected.

summer school program is intended to enable the school officials
to meet special needs of local teachers as they become apparent
and in the long run is expected to have very desirable results.
In-service training of elementary teachers through supervision
is being systematically carried on throughout the system. The
staff includes trained supervisors who are providing intensive su-
pervision of instruction through classroom visitation followed by
conferences, planned professional reading, group conferences with
teacher participation, the encouragement of informal experimen-
tation in classroom methods, and the usual supervisory activities
carried on in modern school systems. Supervision is planned not


only to keep teachers abreast of progressive practices in education,
but to supplyinsofar as possible, the lack ofpre-service professional
The special classes conducted for small groups of teachers dur-
ing the school year were of two kinds: [a] A training class of five
twelfth-grade girls in child psychology and methods, organized
for a period of 16 weeks. Observation and practice teaching were
provided in the regular schools. The class was made up of pro-
spective candidates for teaching positions the following school
year. [b] A few small classes for teachers in service in elementary
school subjects were conducted by the supervisor of elementary
schools. The purpose was to increase their knowledge of subject-
matter material.
Four scholarships were available during 1933, two at Hampton
Institute and two at Howard University. Three were in the field
of education and one in library science. It is expected that these
scholarships will be continued and others added in the coming
years, and that the students availing themselves of such scholar-
ships will be absorbed into the school system, gradually improving
the professional status of the native teachers.

The School Health Program

T H E health program of the schools represents a direct practical
attack on some of the most serious problems of the islands suggested
in the first chapter of this pamphlet. It has many admirable
phases and includes certain excellent provisions worthy of emula-
tion by a number of school systems on the mainland. Among these
are the following: There is an adequate number of school nurses.
Classrooms are visited regularly by the school nurses; children in
need of attention are referred to them; certain examinations are
regularly made and follow-up care under direction of the physician
in charge is given when necessary. Annual health examination by
a physician; hospital care and surgical attention and dental service
all are available at public expense to all school children. These
generous provisions, together with the professional supervision of
classrooms elsewhere referred to, have apparently inspired teach-
ers with some appreciation of the importance of health instruction

{ 26}

and the opportunities which the schools offer for ultimately
improving conditions through such instruction. Among evidences
of this attitude observed were school gardens, school lunches
served in a large number of schools, and considerable effort to
realize a closer coordination with the homes.
School luncheons were served during the school year 1931-32
to about 1,ooo children in 12 schools, one phase of the attack on
the pressing problem of malnutrition. Approximately 50 percent
of the children are reported as affected by this evil, which comes
both from insufficient quantity and from poor quality of the
food available in the homes. Luncheons are prepared and served
by the teachers and pupils under direction of the supervisor of
home economics. Recipes and instructions for serving the school
luncheon are mimeographed and on file in each school. The
luncheon consists of a one-dish meal supplemented by bread.
The rural schools have small one-room kitchens with simple char-
coal pots for cooking and a few utensils. Generally a group of the
older girls is responsible for a I- or 2-week period, at the end of
which the group changes, thereby giving all of the older girls
experience in helping in the preparation and serving of the meal.
The children have been provided with enamel bowls, spoons, and
Besides preparing nutritious foods, much attention is given to an
attractively served luncheon. The menu includes products raised
in the school gardens as far as possible, or purchased at low prices
and within the ability of the pupils to duplicate at home. Potato
soup made of several vegetables, seasoned with a piece of boiling
beef, other vegetable soups, beef stew with several vegetables, hot
cocoa are among the foods which constitute the main dish in the
suggested menus, supplemented with bread.

School Enrollment and Attendance

PRACTICALLY oo percent of the children of the Virgin
Islands of compulsory school age and many above it are enrolled
in school. They attend with a high percentage of regularity, run-
ning about 97 and 98 percent for recent years for which data are


available. Enrollment and attendance at school are apparently
well-established habits which were formed before the American
occupation and continued under the government by the Navy.
There are not, therefore, the usual serious problems encountered in
this particular phase of school administration. School enrollment
has been increasing gradually year by year since 192 7-28 despite the
fact that the total population is decreasing; the largest number of
children so far enrolled in the public schools were enrolled in
1931-32 when the number reached 3,228.

The most serious problem concerned with school enrollment is
found when one examines the record of enrollment by grades and
finds children largely concentrated in the first five grades of the
elementary schools. In 1931-32, the latest years for which data
are available, approximately 78 percent of all children enrolled
were in these grades. Throughout the first five grades enrollment
is fairly constant. Beginning with the sixth grade falling off in
enrollment is heavy, and it increases rapidly throughout the upper
grades. For the year indicated (1931-32) 6 pupils were in the
twelfth grade and 148 in the last four grades of the secondary
school. This, of course, means that while a high percentage of
children become literate, few attend school long enough to receive
a creditable education or one really adequate to influence their
future lives socially or economically.

28 }

Enrollment by Grades, 1931-32

Grade Enrollment Grade Enrollment

I 554 7 176
2 500 8 93
3 462 9 96
4 496 Io 36
5 425 11 10
6 314 12 6

Another unfortunate result is the presence of a large number of
over-age children in the lower grades of the elementary school.
Besides the seriousness of this situation to the individual's progress
through school and to the system itself in the expense involved

Average Ages of Children Enrolled in 1931-32

St. Thomas St. Croix
Grade Normal
Age Over age Age Over age

S6 7 9 1 9 8 2 2 2
a 7 9 5 2 5 8 6 1 6
3 8 1o io 2 o1 9 Io I Io
4 9 1I 6 2 6 II 1 2 I
5 Io 13 o 3 o 13 3 3 3
6 1i 14 I 3 1 15 2 4 2
7 12 14 9 2 9 14 7 2 7
8 13 15 6 2 6 16 3 3 3

The above figures represent years and

in grade repetition, over-age children are apt to be socially
maladjusted and become serious disciplinary problems. The
presence of so many over-age children in the schools probably
accounts in part for the fact that such problems are prevalent.
At the close of the school year 1931-32 children in the first
grade varied from an average of i year 9 months over age in St.
Thomas and 2 years 2 months in St. Croix to more than 3 years
average over age in both islands in the fifth grade. This average
means that many children were from 4 to 6 years over age in the
middle (fourth and fifth) elementary grades-a matter of con-
siderable concern.


It appears that the weaknesses leading to the prevalence of
retardation and high percentage of elimination in the elementary
grades have not yet been overcome. Attacks are being made
through efforts previously indicated to improve instruction and
to formulate a more practical curriculum.

The School Buildings

GENERALLY speaking, the schools in the Virgin Islands
occupy substantial, commodious, and attractive buildings.
Many of the buildings were originally built for and doubtless
were adapted to other than classroom purposes. They have,
however, many excellent characteristics: They are generally well
adapted to the country and the climate-open to admit an
abundance of air and to provide cross ventilation, for example;
they are substantially built to withstand recurrent hurricanes;
they fit into their surroundings harmoniously, as do most of the
fine old houses in the Virgin Islands, and conform to the prevail-
ing style of architecture. In short, they seem less apart from the
life of the people than do many better-adapted school buildings
common in other localities.
However, since they are of an old style of architecture, and were
originally planned for use as government offices, churches,
barracks, and the like, though now remodeled and converted
into schools, they are not always as appropriate as one might
wish to school purposes, and the interiors leave much to be
desired. The buildings are often more attractive without than
within. Classrooms adapted in size, shape, and equipment to
efficient instruction, good seating, proper lighting, and other
hygienic requirements of modern school architecture in arrange-
ment and equipment are not common. The St. Thomas High
School, which occupies buildings formerly used as barracks dur-
ing the years when St. Thomas was a naval station, illustrates
prevailing practice in school housing.
The situation is mitigated by the very desirable qualities to
which attention has been called; by the probability that the
buildings have been acquired with little cost to the school system
and under circumstances which may have necessitated a choice


between modern buildings and improved instruction;
the realization that the schools are pioneering under
stances not wholly without difficulties in financial as
social conditions.

and by
well as

The Jefferson Elementary School at St. Thomas,
Virgin Islands.

The school buildings and grounds are generally well kept, and
good school housekeeping prevails in the classrooms. Several
schools have fine school gardens and many school grounds have
been attractively planned with trees, shrubs, and a good variety
of native plantings in which good taste and careful upkeep are
Sanitary toilets, hygienic drinking facilities, and similar
necessities have been quite generally provided in the schools
throughout the islands.

': '' *
.... o-. ...

Public Libraries

THERE are three public libraries, one in each of the three
towns: Christiansted, Fredericksted, and St. Thomas. They were
organized by the American Library Association in 1920. All
three libraries are completing in 1933 the third year of a reorgan-
ization made possible by a 3-year grant from the Carnegie
Corporation. A supervising librarian from the mainland has
given expert supervision during the 3 years under the provisions
of this grant, and three part-time librarians are permanently
employed. During these years the appearance, usefulness, and
service of the libraries have "increased immeasurably." Old books
have been reconditioned, new ones purchased and donated, and
there has been a marked increase in book circulation and in
visiting readers.
The libraries are real assets to the islands. They are attractively
housed and books and magazines, while not numerous, have been
well selected with a view to the needs of the people. There are
reference sections as well as those devoted to fiction and a good
selection of magazines all attractively and conveniently placed.
The libraries are particularly useful just now in the development
of the school program and in the in-service training of the teach-
ers. They have also an important and recognized place in the
whole program of education and rehabilitation as it affects the
entire population, adults as well as children.


,. *. -*-:
. . o, ;
Do ''~: - !



University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs