A Rich History in Public Education


The Portage Public School District began in 1922 as the Portage Agricultural School. 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 the first class to attend all four years at the high 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 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 Pavilion. A separate high school was built in 1949 called Portage Township High School which later became Portage High School and today is known as Portage Central High School. 

New schools were added to the District throughout the years as the student population continued to grow. Portage Central Junior High School was built for grades 7-9 built in 1957 and Portage Northern Junior High in 1961 followed by Portage Northern High School in 1964.  Today we have eight elementary, three middle schools, two traditional high schools, a community high school, and a community education center.  The district has more than 8,700 students, 1,000 faculty and staff and thousands of alumni around the world.

For more information, visit the Heritage Room of the Portage District Library where you can find the Portage Schools Collection, including transcripts of interviews with former School Board Presidents and Superintendents. 

The Portage Schools Collection Finding Aid will help you locate relevant documents and photos about Portage Schools as well as other  local and state education information pre-dating PPS.

Portage Agricultural School

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, 2011-2012
Robert Olsen, 2012-2013
Mark Bielang 2013-Present

School Board Presidents
George Chipman 1938-1944
Gardner Garlick  1944-1946
Stuart McCamley 1945-1953
Clair Branch 1953-1960
Okko Brouwer 1960-1961
Robert VanderRoest  1961-1970
L. William Boyer 1970-1975
Gayle Werme 1976-1978
James Ellinger 1978-1986
Patricia Dolan 1986-1989
Kevin Flynn 1989-1991
Philip Sheldon 1991-1995
John Whyte 1995-1996
Kevin Hollenbeck 1996-2003
Tom Eddy 2003-2006
Shirley Johnson 2006-2009
Jennifer Whistler 2009-2010
Kevin Hollenbeck 2010-2011
Bo Snyder 2011-2013
Randy Van Antwerp 2013-Present