Description: KERNVILLE UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT HISTORICAL DATA The Kernville Union School District was formed on April 6, 1932, when the North Fork and Kernville districts joined. The Isabella District, formerly known as the Palmer School District, was annexed into the Kernville Union School District in 1948. The Vaughn School District, which included the 1920 annexation of the Havilah School District, was annexed in 1950. The first year of the Kernville Union School District, 1932-1933, recorded an average daily attendance of forty-one pupils. The first teaching principal was Bessie S. Robinson, who had previously served as the teaching principal of the Kernville School for two years. Mrs. Florence Pascoe was the district clerk during the 1932-33 school term. Woodrow W. Wallace served as district superintendent from 1946 to 1974. This has been the longest period of administration in the history of the district. Mr. Wallace saw the district grow from an average daily attendance of 56 pupils in 1945-46, to 321 pupils in 1961-62, and then to 625 pupils by his retirement in 1974. Dr. Robert W. Kibby served as superintendent from 1974 to 1983. District attendance continued to increase, reaching 876 by the time Dr. Kibby resigned. Upon Dr. Kibby’s resignation, Douglas N. Halloran was appointed superintendent. Mr. Halloran had previously served as an elementary principal in the district for 15 years. During Mr. Halloran’s term as superintendent, the district attendance increased to over 1020 pupils in 1989-90. In 1992 Christine Frazier was appointed superintendent. Mrs. Frazier served as superintendent until 1995. During her tenure the district attendance grew to 1212 students. Additionally, Woodrow Wallace Junior High School was converted to Woodrow Wallace Middle School serving 6th through 8th grade students. Upon Mrs. Frazier’s resignation, George Bury was hired as superintendent. During his tenure from 1996 to 1998, the district enrollment declined from 1212 to 1124 students. In 1998 Dr. Steve Merta was hired as the district superintendent. District enrollment declined from 1124 to 1010 students. During his tenure the Kernville Union School District Preschool was founded, technology opportunities expanded, and the Family Resource Center was created. Additionally, the HOPE After School Program was developed to serve students at Kernville Elementary, Woodrow Wallace Elementary, and Woodrow Wallace Middle School. School safety was a focus of two projects: the reconstruction of the bridge and bike path over Erskine Creek boulevard and the award of the School Community Policing grant placing Kern County Sheriff’s Deputies on campuses teaching and mentoring students. The Kernville Union school District covers 295 square miles of territory. It includes most of Isabella Lake and the Kern Valley. Much of the area is mountainous and includes the summits of three of Kern County’s highest peaks: Greenhorn Mountain, Breckenridge Mountain, and Piute Peak. The history of the area dates back to a gold strike at Keyesville in 1853. The first county seat, Havilah, another gold mining town of early days, is located in the Kernville Union School District. Gold mining declined in the 1870’s, and agriculture became the prominent activity of the area. In more recent years, with the construction of a dam on the Kern River creating Lake Isabella, the Kern Valley has become a tourist center. Lake Isabella is a popular fishing, water skiing, wind surfing, and camping area. The Kern River is also a popular camping area, and in recent years has become the Southern California center for river rafting and kayaking. Nearby Greenhorn Mountain has developed into a winter ski resort and summer camping center. The valley’s rural and mountain settings have also been used extensively for the making of motion pictures and television productions. Kernville School District The Kernville School District was first established on May 5, 1868, with twenty-six census children reported in the district. An earlier school had been established in 1863 by Adam Hamilton, but it was not a public, tax-supported school. Mr. Hamilton, founder of the town of Whiskey Flat, which is present day Kernville, was the first district clerk for the Kernville School District. J. W. Summer served as district clerk from 1870 to 1887, and from 1888 to 1892, a total of twenty-one years. The name of the first Kernville teacher, following its organization as a school district, is not known. From official records, the earliest known teachers were Mrs. Hettie Gould and Lizzie Yates. They taught at the Kernville School in 1880-81, with an average daily attendance of fifty-nine pupils. Between 1906 and 1918, teachers did not stay long at Kernville. The average stay was one and one-half years. High teacher turnover was typical of Kern County rural schools during this period, thus it was not a problem unique to Kernville. North Fork School District The North Fork School District was formed on February 9, 1921, from five northern sections of the Kernville School District. The school was established to serve the children of the employees of an Edison power plant in the vicinity. Prior to building the North Fork School, children had to leave home at 7:30 a.m. and travel from three to six miles on the burros to attend the Kernville School. In the February 9, 1921 issue the Bakersfield Californian announced the formation of the North Fork School. The article stated: “A North Fork School District has been formed on the Tulare County line. A school has been maintained, though not a legally constituted district. It will be legitimate starting July 1 by action of the Board of Supervisors. The school has been so far maintained by popular subscription and with books, supplies, reports, and examination of credentials being furnished by the Office of the County Superintendent. Sixteen children attend the school. Mrs. Nelson Bond is the teacher.” The North Fork School lasted only eleven years. It joined Kernville School on April 6, 1932, to form the Kernville Union School District. Palmer School District The Palmer School District was formed on May 11, 1883. The first teacher, E. T. Allen, recorded an average daily attendance of twelve pupils in 1883-84. The first district clerk was Mrs. R. Palmer. In 1903-04 the teacher was Irene Bendle. Anna M. Baker taught at Palmer School in 1904- 05. The district name was changed to Isabella School District in 1905. Also, at this time the Vaughn School District was formed from a portion of the new Isabella School District. Isabella School District Originally known as the Palmer School District, the name changed to Isabella school District in 1905. The district encompassed approximately 25 square miles of territory. Most of this area is now under the water of Lake Isabella. The Isabella School was located about three miles north of Bodfish near the present southwest corner of Lake Isabella. Like many rural schools at the time, the school was rather primitive. The Isabella School discontinued operation in 1945 after enrollment dropped to ten pupils. The district remained independent, with children attending neighboring schools by interdistrict agreement, until being annexed by the Kernville Union School District in 1948. Vaughn School District The Vaughn School District was formed on April 3, 1905. The school was located in Bodfish at the lower end of the Kern Valley. The district began with ten pupils. John Neill served as district clerk from 1905 until 1912. Leo Herzinger was the teacher for the first five years of the school’s operation. Mrs. Leanah Schanz taught for 12 years at the school, from 1930-1942. This was the longest term of any Vaughn teacher. The Vaughn School remained small. Attendance was never more than 22 pupils. Its attendance area increased considerably when the district annexed the lapsed Havilah School District in 1920. The Vaughn School District was annexed by the Kernville Union School District on January 23, 1950. Havilah School District The Havilah School District was formed on November 9, 1866. It was the first public school to operate in Kern county. At that time Havilah was a bustling mining community and the County seat. The first district clerk was William Gill Mills. One of its earliest teachers was Rev. J. H. Cornwall. Rev. Cornwall taught the Havilah School in 1868. He later became the County Superintendent of Schools. The Havilah School was small in size and teachers moved often. Bakersfield became the County seat in 1873. After that business conditions in Havilah were poor and the need for school funds were great. Celsa H. Carnall, Havilah teacher in 1904-05, wrote about this hardship. On September 1, 1920 the Havilah School District lapsed due to low attendance. The school was annexed by the Vaughn School District. Kernville Union School District The current school district is comprised of three schools: Kernville Elementary School, Woodrow W. Wallace Elementary School, and Woodrow W. Wallace Junior High School. Kernville Elementary School is located in Kernville. It is the newest school plant in the district. It was built as a K-6 school in 1968. Woodrow W. Wallace Elementary School was dedicated on November 21, 1953 as Kernville Elementary School. The school was given its current name November 21, 1966, thus allowing the Kernville name to be used when the new school was built in Kernville. Originally Wallace Elementary was a K-8 school. The school changed to its current K-6 status when a separate junior high was created in Fall, 1985. Woodrow W. Wallace Junior High School separated from Wallace Elementary in 1985. The junior high and the elementary school share the same campus, but they are now considered separate schools. In addition to building more classroom facilities as enrollment increased, a gymnasium was added to the campus in 1978. To accommodate the increase in student population at the school site a new library building was added in July1990. ** Historical data obtained from the doctorate dissertation, “A History of School Organization and Administration in Kern County,” by Edmund Ross Harrington, June
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