When the Americans came, the Philippine Public School System was created through the passage of the Philippine Commission Act No. 74, known as the Education Act of 1901. Schools were established in the province under American Teachers known as Thomasites. Albay was not left behind in this venture. Based on available records, the towns of Tiwi, Malinao, Sto. Domingo, (formerly Libog), Malilipot, Oas, Polangui, Libon, Ligao, Camalig, Guinobatan, Daranga and Legazpi were the places where the first public schools were organized. This was in the early 1900 and at this time, Legazpi had become just another town of the province from its former status of "ayuntamiento" or city. Then in 1948, by virtue of R.A. No. 306, otherwise known as the charter of Legazpi City, Daraga was merged with Legazpi which became for the second time a city. In 1954, the City of Legazpi reverted to its former status as municipality and Daraga became once more separated from Legazpi. Nevertheless, the fight to make Legazpi a city did not end. For the third and last time (hopefully), Legazpi became again a city on June 12, 1959 and it has remained so up to the present. During this time, there was only one school division for the entire province and it included the city as comprising one school district. This was the set-up of the public school system established by the American and which the Thomasites came into.
Some of the Thomasites responsible for the opening of classes wee Horace H. Cutlet in Tiwi, Henry Tass an Henry Chi in Malinao joined later by two more Americans - William Cutler and Ferdinand McDonald. In Sto. Domingo, there was Mr. Willington; Oas had E.V. Cordaran and Camalig had Homer Kuhn and Clarence E. Baker.
Classes were small and were held in private houses or tribunals (municipal buildings). More schools were opened after 1902. This gave rise to problems on accommodation. In 1907, the Gabaldon Act passed and this eased the problem. This act provided for the construction of the Gabaldon type school buildings in the towns and barrios. Almost all towns of Albay and some barrios were benefited by this Act. To this day, most of the Gabaldon type school buildings still stand solid and strong and being fully utilized by the schools where they are located.
In 1907, the Albay Normal Institute was opened to train talented students for teaching. Graduates of this school were qualified to teach primary grades. The elementary school curriculum offered at the time was three years primary and three years intermediate. However, the primary level was increased by one year making the elementary course a total of seven years. Further development of the public elementary school system will be discussed by municipalities, school districts, and individual school in the succeeding pages with the exception of Legazpi City which became a separate division called Legazpi Division of City Schools on April 5, 1971 by virtue of a provision embodied in the Legazpi City Charter.
Secondary education was taken care by the Albay High School and Albay Normal School. The later offered an academic-general secondary curriculum with emphasis on preparing competent teachers for the elementary schools. The school was elevated to the collegiate level in 1938 by the Director of Public Schools when it offered a two-year general normal curriculum. Its first principal was the late Benigno T. Reyes and later succeeded by the late Dominador R. Coralde. Effective SY 1952-1953, its curricular offering was changed to a four-year elementary teacher curriculum giving the school a full college status and the authority to confer an academic degree of BSE major in Elementary Education to its graduates.
In 1911, The Albay Trade School which was formerly a vocational department of the Albay High School was converted into an independent vocational school. Its first principal was Mr. Arthur M. Meyers, later succeeded by Mr. Howard K. Pinkerton. At first, the school had an elementary department but in 928, the Grade V class was eliminated. In the succeeding years, the elementary grades were totally phased out and the secondary trade school was established.
Another vocational school worth mentioning was the Farm School at Guinobatan, founded by Dr. Felipe Cevallos who became its first principal. In 1927, it was elevated to the secondary level and was renamed Guinobatan Rural High School. In 1950, it was renamed Roxas Memorial Agricultural School and it established a college department offering a two year technical course in Agriculture. By 1967, it had attained a full college status offering a four-day course in agriculture.
When the second World War broke out and the Japanese occupied the Philippines, the educational system was very much affected. Many schools were closed down. Those that remained in operation had to have certain changes in their curriculum.
Nipongo was taught and rigid exercises called Radio Taizo were performed before classes started. Teachers were trained to teach. Nipongo instead of English. A lot of books were burned. Those that were spared had some pages torn off or covered before they were used in the classroom.
The post-liberation period marked the establishment of three public secondary schools in the province to solve the transportation difficulties of the students and too alleviate the problem of accommodation due to the marked increase in enrollment caused by a great number of over-aged students whose studies were disrupted by the war. These high schools were established in the municipalities in the municipalities of Tabaco, Guinobatan and Polangui. (The progress and development of these three schools and the other public secondary schools of the province will be taken up in the later section of this book.)
When the public schools system was established in the Bicol Region by the Americans in 1901, a single school division superintendent was designated to oversee the educational operations for the provinces of Albay, the Camarines, Sorsogon and Catanduanes. He was W.H. Holt. In the same year, W.S. Freer took over but Catanduanes was removed for his jurisdiction. In1902, Stephen W. Rod was assigned deputy superintendent of schools for Albay and Camarines only. The chronology of schools division superintendents assigned in Albay from 1901 to the present is given below.