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Central Public School

Our History Since 1853

Central Public School in it’s original architecture circa 1870.

We owe much of our existence to the endeavors of Dr. Egerton Ryerson – 1803 – 1882

Born in Charlotteville, Ontario on March 24, 1803, Egerton Ryerson was the founder of Ontario’s public school system. Among his accomplishments, Ryerson earned a degree of Doctor of Divinity and worked to regulate public education.

He made government revenue responsible for the “non-sectarian” public schools, standardized both curriculum and textbooks, and developed teacher training programs at provincial Normal Schools.

Before becoming Superintendent of Education of Canada West (Ontario) in 1845, Egerton traveled to the United States, England and Europe to study different education systems. He took what he considered to be the best of each of these systems and used them to fashion his own system in Ontario.

Dr. Ryerson’s goal was to provide free schools throughout the province. This was accomplished in 1871 when the rate-bill (parents were taxed according to how many of their children attended school) was thrown out and substituted for general taxation for property.

Perhaps Edger Ryerson’s most visible achievement was the erection of the Normal School at St. James Square in Toronto in 1852, with it’s attendant model schools for the in-class training of teachers

The buildings housed the Department of Education and served to introduce the citizens of Ontario to a host of artistic, cultural and scientific activities which laid the foundation for publicly supported museums, art galleries and other institutions in this country.

In 1853, Dr. Ryerson, against enormous public outcry, opened the first multi-graded, multi-leveled, public elementary school in Upper Canada.

One hundred and fifty years later, his unique and controversial philosophy of education seems to have worked. The school is still serving the community in which it thrives.


Central’s First Principal Dr. J. H. Sangster, term: 1853-1858

Born in London, England, he moved to New York City with his parents at an early age, then on to Toronto in 1836.

His studious habits and apptitude for mathmatics saw him seek a proper education at upper Canada College for elementary training.

In November of 1847 he entered the Toronto Normal School where he received only the second certificate for a Common School Teacher.

His presentation of a clever and original paper on Algebra attracted the attention of the Chief Superintendent of Education, Dr Egerton Ryerson and in 1848 he was appointed as second master in the Provincial Model School.

“Dr. Sangster started his principalship under adverse circumstances. There was a great conflict of opinion among the people of the City of Hamilton regarding the common or public school, and there then flourished, in the City, no less than 28 – 30 private schools.”

“Dr. Sangster was a man of wonderful tenacity of purpose, of great originality, a fine educator and disciplinarian.

He did start, as I said, under adverse circumstances, but before the end of the second year all the private schools had closed their doors and there was a wonderful future opened for this Central School”.

He resigned his position in 1858 and accepted the position of assistant teacher at the Model Grammar School of Toronto.

Thereafter he went on to publish many mathematic texts and ultimately sought and obtained his medical degree.

He attained high respect for his endeavours and was grandly acknowledged along with his successor Archibald MacCallum at Canada’s Confederation Jubilee celebration of June 29th, 1927.

Updated on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
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