Civic Institutions: Public Schools

“SAC. DON GIUSEPPE CARONNA AGOSTA” ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

In 1779, that is after 137 years of existence, an act was stipulated on July 14 of that year for the religious autonomy of the town, which up until that time was a dependency of the Matrice Church of Gibellina. The Notary Francesco Scardino called tire 511 heads-of-families to sign the decree, and be dismayed, oh, my Reader, that only 32 of them knew how to sign their own name, and the remaining 479 were all illiterate! How much intellectual obscurity for so many years!

Dionisio Catone (Dest. de mor. III. 1) had written: sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago, A grave proclamation explained by Missirini in his volume “Moral Wisdom” (C. XCIX. p. 461): ignorance is the plague and the death of the intellect, which advances every great infirmity of the body and of fortune; it is tire source of every calamity, taking the form of wickedness, it is filthy and despicable; it is the foul defect that degrades human dignity, and it is created only by our sloth, which is meritorious of every great pain. Diogenes, when asked what was the heaviest weight drat there was on the earth, answered: The ignorant man.

In 1779, then, ignorance was expanding, there were no schools, which are the fount of knowledge and wisdom.

There was only one bright spot: a good supply of books held in the Community archive; but the crass ignorant, in a moment of trouble and revolution, burned them!

The grief of thoughtful citizens found its expression in community resolution number 35 of October 7, 1867: “on account of the events of 1820, the community archive was burned and with it some mad men burned our precious library that the community owned…” It was on this occasion that the community began applying to the Royal Government to acquire the library of the former: Capuchin Fathers.

In truth, in the community of Poggioreale no real schools existed. Traditionally, as revealed in mentions in some community resolutions of the years beginning in 1863, it is understood that in those days some learned men were urged to share the crumbs of the scarce knowledge with men and boys.

After 1860, a lower school was instituted in the Town Hall; there was a first grade in the lower school and a first grade in the upper school. After a year, there is news of a second grade and later still one finds that a third grade elementary class existed, but only for a few years.

In the years 1866, 1867 and 1868, due to the initiative, urging and expenditures of Sac. Don Giuseppe Caronna Agosta, illustrious and meritorious Poggiorealese, the third and fourth elementary grades functioned methodically and well for boys, with the relevant final exams held in the presence of the Community and Scholastic Authorities, who at the end declared the illustrious citizen: “Meritorious of Instruction,” as had been stated to the Regional Government (upper class scholastic certificate of January 13, 1866 and municipal certificate of March 1, 1868).

After a couple of years serious complaints arose with regard to the insufficiency of schooling for girls, so the Community, with resolution number 25 of May 14, 1871, made a formal request to the Provincial Scholastic Authority for a female Teacher who would possess a license of higher education as well as excellent moral conduct, to be able to teach with competence and by good example.

Afterwards, the lower, elementary schools held regular classes. As a result of the Prefecture Pronouncement of December 1876, and again of the council resolution number 9 of February 2, 1877, the school of Poggioreale was classified rural, second class. In the years 188082 the third grade was eliminated along with the fourth, in 1884. The IV and V grade for boys began with the counsel resolution of November 10, 1895, and then was confirmed with the successive resolutions of October 3, 1897 and December 7, 1913.

This bequest lasted about three years and the V grade was eliminated. The elementary level scholastic position was approved with the resolution of July 1, 1923, when that is, the teacher Aloisio Giuseppe (Son of Vincenzo), of his initiative, united a sufficient number of pupils, who had been promoted from grade IV; he furnished them books and notebooks at his own expense, and he taught them assiduously, magnanimously supporting them through the completion of the scholastic year and through the exams with positive results. Thus, he showed to the superintendent of Studies Cavaliere Piccinni and to Royal Inspector Cavaliere Vittorio Aliquo, from which he had permission, that the grade V in Poggioreale was viable and worthwhile. It was then that the Community restored the institution of tire grade V, which since then has been established and has continued uninterruptedly.

In former times the schools were spread out in different houses in the town, and they were finally installed, in the year of 1906, in the local Town Hall, which was transferred into Mirto house. Having begun construction of the new school building (February 1952), the elementary classes were transferred into the buildings of the Convent of the Capuchin Fathers, and subsequently moved to their permanent location on October 28, 1955.

The day of October 27, 1955, this new building was inaugurated. The inauguration was a sumptuous affair, attended by the Honorable Regional Assessor for Public Instruction, His Excellency the Prefect of the Province, the Superintendent of Schools, the Scholastic Inspector of the district, the Didactic Director of the counsel, the Secretary General of the Province and other esteemed persons. There was no lack of flattering speeches for the occasion on the part of the distinguished guests. The new building is large, having three floors, constructed from the ground up on the same land where the old building had stood, which had been razed to the soil. In it are housed all 12 elementary grades, with modern and commodious classrooms thanks to the generous intervention of the Regional Assessor of the Public Schools. Space was not lacking for the public school and for the school facilities in town. The construction of the new building was deliberated by the Council on March 12, 1950; construction began in 1952, and after an interruption of work, was completed in 1955. There is access from Via Garibaldi, at the intersection with Via Umberto. The location is in the center of town.

The school opened with 370 pupils enrolled for the scholastic year 1955-56. In 1954-55 there had been: 375 compulsory students, 329 attendees, 240 promoted.

With resolution number 51 of November 13, 1954, the Community Council of Poggioreale officially named the new building: “Sac. Don Giuseppe Carolina Agosta Elementary School ‘82 in honor of the meritorious pioneer of elementary instruction in Poggioreale noted above.

A complete loudspeaker apparatus was installed in the school that connected to all of tire classrooms. A siren with a loud and strident sound was installed to regulate the start and finish time for the pupils.

The Scholastic Charities ably assisted the students who were poor.

THE AGRARIAN SCHOOL

Since 1952, a Professional School has been installed in the building of the former Convent of the Capuchin Fathers, specializing in Agricultural studies and conforming to regional law number 73 of July 15, 1951. It maintains 2 faculties with 5 grade levels. It is abundantly furnished and very comfortable. The School flourishes in this rural environment and is worth of every favor and recognition. Hopefully, it will continue to progress and render itself meritorious in the community.

THE READING CENTER

In Poggioreale there is a Center for reading that is open to all on Via Umberto 1. It contains a good number of books and is well frequented. Since the cultivation of the mind is a good means to the true goal, which is the education of the heart, the moral center of all our actions, consequently, the Center for reading will succeed in furthering the civilization and the progress of the public. It is our duty to frequent it and to encourage, ever more, the support for this beneficial Institution.

[This webpage is excerpted from the book: “The History of Poggioreale, Sicily – From 1640 to 1956.” Originally written in Italian by: Canonico Dottore Francesco Aloisio in 1956. Adapted and translated by: Dr. Jeremiah P. Spence, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas. 5th Edition. International Order of Genealogists Publishing. Ireland. 2019. ISBN: 9781072403371. The book can be purchased online at: https://www.amazon.com/History-Poggioreale-Sicily-1640-1956/dp/1072403374/ ]