Agency History #1089


Creation of the district was authorized by the 1890 territorial free school law. Salt Lake City Mayor George M. Scott, acting as president ex-officio, organized the first Board of Education on July 19, 1890. Board members met in the City Hall. The board was organized to take over the twenty-two ward schools and establish a single public school system for Salt Lake City. The district revised its mission statement in 1993: "The Salt Lake City School District, as a catalyst for creating a new standard of excellence, will ensure high levels of student learning and performance in all schools and will prepare all students to pursue and celebrate lives of continuous learning and service in a diverse, global society." (From the Salt Lake City School District employee newsletter, October 13, 1994, pp. 1-2.)


Salt Lake City School District provides public education for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade by preparing every student with the knowledge and skills needed for lifelong success in a changing world. Enrollment in city schools peaked in 1959 at 45,000 students. Today, the district serves a general population of 174,264 with 24,981 students enrolled in regular day school programs in the fall of 2000. The boundaries of the district are the same as those as the Salt Lake City limits and spread over an area of 110 square miles. The district has 37 school campuses: 28 elementary schools (grades K-6), five middle or intermediate schools (grades 7-8), three high schools (grades 9-12). In addition, the district operates several alternative programs--a community education department, adult education, an alternative high school and middle school, parent cooperative programs, programs for motivated students and for the handicapped, and other special services. The Salt Lake City School District provides a basic educational program at all schools that is designed to provide the skills and content that all students need. Some additional programs, such as character education and multicultural education, enhance the basic program for all students. The district recognizes the diversity among the student population and therefore provides a number of programs to meet these individual needs, e.g., special education, alternative language services, and extended learning.


The district is governed by a seven-member Board of Education of Salt Lake City, which is elected by the citizens of Salt Lake City in a general popular election. Board members elect a president and vice president at the time new members are sworn into office. The board appoints a superintendent and a business administrator (one of three assistant superintendents) whose duties and responsibilities are to some extent prescribed by Utah State statutes. The district is also subject to the general oversight of the Utah State Office of Education. This includes a budget approval process that is compliance oriented and is more ministerial in nature than substantive.

The free school law enacted in 1890 provided for a board of education of ten members in cities of the first class. The legislation specified that the board should consist of the mayor and two trustees elected from each of the five municipal wards. The mayor was designated by law as ex-officio president of the board until 1892. The board was to elect a vice president and clerk. The size of the board was increased to twelve members (two from each municipal ward) in 1939 and reduced to seven members (one from each precinct) in 1971.

The district is legally autonomous. Since its inception, the school system was kept separate from all political elements in the community. The Salt Lake City Board of Education, with corporate control of the school system, was a distinct entity from the municipal authority. The legal name of the district is the Board of Education of Salt Lake City School District. In order to distinguish the district entity from the legislative body which governs the district, the name Salt Lake City School District is used to describe the district entity.


Salt Lake City School District is under the direction of the Board of Education, with day-to-day operations overseen by the Superintendent of Schools. The superintendent is assisted by an associate superintendent. An assistant superintendent, supported by department and area directors, directs Educational Services. Another assistant superintendent administers Human Resources while a third oversees Business Services. Principals report directly to the superintendent.

The district originally was organized into three administrative departments--instructional, building, and accounting. These operated somewhat independently until 1916 when a resolution of the board made the superintendent the chief executive officer of the board and gave to the superintendent general supervision under the board of education of the entire school system with oversight over the officers of all departments. The first kindergarten was established in 1905.

J. F. Millspaugh, 1890-1899
M. Adelaide Holton (acting), 1899
Frank B. Cooper, 1899-1901
D. H. Christensen, 1901-1916
Ernest A. Smith, 1916-1920
George N. Child, 1920-1932
L. John Nuttall, Jr., 1932-1944
James T. Worlton, April 18-June 30, 1944
Howard McDonald, 1944-1945
M. Lynn Bennion, 1945-1969
Arthur Wiscombe, 1969-1973
M. Donald Thomas, 1973-1984
John W. Bennion, 1984-1984
Darline P. Robles, January 1, 1985-present

Mayor George M. Scott, July 1890-March 1892 (ex officio president)
Mayor R. N. Baskin, March 1892-January 1893 (ex officio president)
William Nelson, January 1893-January 1895
John E. Dooly, January 1895-January 1898
Charles Baldwin, January-August 1898
William F. Colton, August 1898-January 1899
W. A. Nelden, January 1899-January 1900
E. W. Wilson, January 1900-January 1901
William J. Newman, January 1901-January 1903
Arnold G. Giauque, January 1903-January 1904
Oscar W. Moyle, January 1904-January 1908
H. P. Henderson, January 1908-January 1909
James T. Hammond, January 1909-January 1914
William J. Barrette, January 1914-January 1917
Oscar W. Moyle, January 1917-January 1919
H. A. Smith, January 1919-January 1923
George F. Wasson, January 1923-May 1931 (resigned)
G. H. Backman, May-November 1931 (died November 23, 1931)
Alex E. Eberhardt, December 1931-January 1939
Nephi L. Morris, January 1939-April 1943 (died April 5, 1943)
D. D. Stockman, May 1943-December 1944
LeGrand P. Backman, January 9, 1945-1956
Virgil H. Smith, January 1957-December 1958
T. Quentin Cannon, January 1959-December 1960
Waldo M. Andersen, January 1960-December 1964
George A. Christensen, January 1965-1969
Waldo M. Andersen, 1969-1971
Robert R. Sonntag, 1971-1973
John C. Crawford, Jr., 1973-1977
Dan S. Bushnell, 1977-1979
Wayne C. Evans, 1979-1981
Carolyn B. Kump, 1981-1983
Wayne C. Evans, 1983-1984
Lorna Matheson, 1984-1988
F. Keith Stepan, 1988-January 3, 1989
Stephen G. Boyden, January 3, 1989-1991
Alan F. Mecham, 1991-1993
Ann C. Clawson, January 1993-June 7, 1994
Mary Jo Rasmussen, June 7, 1994-1997
Karen G. Derrick, 1997-1999
Katherine Black, 1999-2000
Joel K. Briscoe, 2001-2002

COMPILED BY: W. Glen Fairclough, Jr., , April 2002


Buchanan, Frederick S. Culture Clash and Accommodation: Public Schooling in Salt Lake City, 1890-1994. San Francisco: Smith Research Associates in association with Signature Books, 1996.

Gooderham, Marie E. History of Granite School District, 1904-1976: its Roots in Utah and American Education. Salt Lake City: Granite School District, Office of Instructional Services, November 1977, p. 20.

Moffitt, John Clifton. A Century of Service, 1860-1960: A History of the Utah Education Association. Salt Lake City: Utah Education Association, 1960.

Moffitt, John Clifton. The History of Public Education in Utah. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1946.

Salt Lake City Board of Education. Annual reports, 1890-[ongoing]. Series 84682.

Salt Lake City Board of Education. Fifty Years of Public Education, Fiftieth Annual Report School Year 1939-1940. Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City Board of Education.

Salt Lake City Board of Education. Years of Challenge: Public Education in Salt Lake City, 1890-1965. Including the Seventy-fourth and Seventy-fifth annual reports for the school years 1963-1964 and 1964-1965. Salt Lake City: Salt Lake City Board of Education. Series 84682.

Salt Lake City Board of Education. Annual Budget, Fiscal Year 2000-2001.

Salt Lake City Board of Education. Public Information office.

Salt Lake City Board of Education. World Wide Web site, (August 2000 and April 2002)

Salt Lake County. Superintendent of County Schools. Circular of the Public Schools of Salt Lake County. 1890.

Series 83155 Utah. Legislature. Laws of Utah, 1851-[ongoing]. 1890, Chapter LXXII, Article XV (Schools in Cities, sections 100-129, pp. 128-135).

Series 83238 Utah. Legislature. Utah Code Annotated, 1851-ongoing. Title 53A, Sections 2-3.

Series 1052 Utah. Legislature. Utah Code Unannotated, 1982-ongoing. Title 53A, Sections 2-3.

Series 240 Utah. Secretary of State. Public Documents Serial Set, 1896-1956.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.