The Portage Public School District began in 1922 as the Portage
Agricultural School in the building now serving as the District's
Administration Building. Located in Portage Township, the newly consolidated
district was affiliated with Western State Normal School, the forerunner of
Western Michigan University.
Portage Agricultural School opened with five teachers and 183 students.
Student teachers from Western were transported by bus from their classes on
Prospect Hill (East Campus) all the way out to rural Portage.
The first graduation was June 18, 1924 with five students: Bertha Dustin,
Gerrit Fletcher, Dorothea Huizinga, Mason Kintner and Charles Matteson, who
graduated in memoriam. Members of the first Board of Education were C.H.
Fletcher, president; A.L. Snow, secretary; Harm Schuring, treasurer; and
trustees H.B. Sweetland and George Chipman.
The class of 1926, consisting of nine women and two men, was unique since
they were the first class to have spent all four of their high school years
at the school. "Education is Our Aim" was the school motto. Student clubs
included the Watoha yearbook, Glee Club, Art, Club, Civic League, Girl
Reserves sponsored by the YWCA, and Hi-Y sponsored by the YMCA.
The first parent-teacher association was formed after 200 people held an
organizational meeting in the school gym (now the Personalized Enrichment
Program center and a dance studio). A total of 64 charter members launched
the PTA with dues of 25 cents and meetings scheduled once a month.
Further consolidation transformed Portage Agricultural School into the
Portage Township Schools in 1946. This unification brought together the
eight original district schools in addition to schools from the townships of
Texas and Pavillion. A separate high school was built in 1949 called Portage
Township High School which later became Portage High School and serves today
as Portage Central High School.
New schools were added to the District throughout the years as the
student population continued to increase, including a Junior High School for
grades 7-9 built in 1957 and finally, a second high school built in 1964,
Portage Northern High School. Today we have eight elementary, three middle
schools, two high schools, a Community High School, and a community
education center in a district with more than 8,700 students, 1,000 faculty
and staff and thousands of alumni around the world.
For more information, see our history of Portage Public Schools, "75
Years of Shaping the Future: 1922-1997," a 64-page booklet by Penny Hames
Briscoe and published by PPS as a part of our 75th anniversary.
Also visit the Heritage Room of the Portage District Library. The Portage
Schools Collection "Finding Aid" will help you relevant documents and photos
about Portage Schools (and local and state education pre-dating PPS). Mr.
Steve Rossio is the PDL's local historian.
View the PPS Collection
"Finding Aid" for documents and photographs archived at the Portage
District Library Heritage Room. Also, read about our history through the
"This Place Called Portage: Its Past & Present," by
Larry B. Massie (2006) features many pages on the history of our school
For further information about studying the history of local schools, see
"Local Schools: Exploring Their Past" by Ronald E. Butchart (The Nearby
History Series), 1986.
See selected pages
from the 1926 Watoha Yearbook, including the cover, dedication to Cleora
Skinner, photo of the Board of Education, and photos of the faculty.
Cleora Skinner, 1922-1939
Hugh Archer, 1939-1943
Lewis D. Crawford, 1943-1947
Varl Wilkinson, 1947-1970
Dr. George Conti, 1970-1986
James H. Rikkers, 1986-2002
Dr. Pete McFarlane, 2002-2007
Marsha A. Wells, 2007-2011
Dr. Richard Perry, 2011-2013
Portraits of our past superintendents are on display in
the main lobby of the Administration Building.