The superintendent of KISD, Dr. Dan Troxell, is taking a similar job at a bigger district in Leander; the president of the chamber, Terry Cook, is leaving 'for personal reasons.' I certainly wish both men the best of luck in their new endeavors.
Although we tend to follow the politics at city hall and the county courthouse more than the politics of the school system, the Kerrville Independent School District is a much larger organization than either of those. The KISD has more employees, has a bigger budget, and (I would argue) has a much more important role to play in our community's future. Teaching kids to read, inspiring them to learn, and shaping them as citizens is far more important than an expensive water pond or whether public monies should fund a privately developed retail mall.
Likewise, the chamber of commerce has an important role to play in our community. Granted, modern chambers of commerce are not nearly as effective or as important as the local chamber here was in the early 20th century, but they still provide a voice for business and community not found anywhere else.
Both local organizations had their start around the same time. The Kerrville Independent School District began in 1923; the precursor to the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce began in 1922.
Public schools had been a part of Kerr County since its first days. The earliest public schools were run by county government. The first school was held in the log courthouse, with William E. Pafford as its first teacher, as early as 1857.
In the years up to the Civil War, several names are recorded as teachers in Kerrville's early schools. Bob Bennett, in his "Kerr County" history writes "It is evident that but little schooling was available in Kerrsville for the first several years after the organization of the county. The classroom equipment consisted of a rough table, slab seats, and a plentiful supply of switches."
The school moved from the courthouse to "a frame building on the site now occupied by the [old] Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital," at the corner of what is now Sidney Baker and Water streets. Later the school moved to the John Ochse Store, near the corner of Washington and Main streets.
After the Civil War there was a civic movement in Kerrville to have the school housed in a permanent facility, and classes were held in the bottom floor of a two story rock building at the corner of Main and Sidney Baker streets. But even this solution was temporary.
In 1883 a frame school building was erected on Jefferson Street, and was named the "Guadalupe Institute." Boys enrolled in the school were given training "rudimentary military tactics," and drilled by their instructor Professor J. C. Lord. "The company used wooden lances in place of guns." I imagine they were quite a sight.
Still, even with boys parading with wooden lances, many in Kerrville wanted a more permanent school system. Captain Joseph A. Tivy, Kerrville's first mayor, is really the father of our school system here, because he gave the land for the schools and also tracts that could be sold to help fund construction of a school building.
The city of Kerrville was incorporated "for school purposes" in 1888; it was incorporated again, "for municipal government purposes" a year later, in 1889.
Later, in 1923, an election established the Kerrville Independent School District, moving control of the schools and taxing authority from city government to a newly formed board.
The chamber, since its beginning in 1922 has been instrumental in the progress of our community. The Chamber has been involved in early improvements to the local telephone system, funding the County Agents' work years ago, partial funding for the municipal swimming pool (the old Cascade Pool which was at the river bluff at the end of Earl Garrett Street), support for the creation of the Upper Guadalupe River Authority, help with the creation of Louise Hays Park, and countless other projects.
In 1985, the Chamber, along with Schreiner University, began Leadership Kerr County, a program to train future leaders of the community by educating them about different aspects of the county through a nine month intensive program. It's a very good program, because it exposes the participants to the problems facing the county, the whole county.
Of course, the purpose of the Chamber is largely economic -- to promote the commercial interests of the community. Some of the achievements that the Chamber can take at least partial credit for are the Fish Hatchery near Mountain Home, Methodist Encampment, the Kerrville State Hospital, Wildlife Management Area, the Veteran's Hospital, the USDA Entomology Labs, the relocation of Mooney Aircraft to Kerrville, the local office of the Parks & Wildlife Department, the founding of the Kerr Economic Development Foundation, and a successful physician recruitment program decades ago.
Leadership of these two organizations, the school district and the chamber, is vital to our community, and I'm sure the boards of each will work hard to select people who will make Kerrville a better place.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who supports the chamber and the school district. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 30, 2016.