An Earmark of a Formidable Spirit

The Story of Leyte Schools Division

Education leads to the integral development of individuals who imbibe cognitive abilities, lifelong skills and desirable values responsive to social expectations. Through the years, the Department of Education has unceasingly provided access to quality education producing Filipinos who can meaningfully contribute to nation-building.

Policies, programs and projects are implemented by schools division offices through schools and learning centers for the effective and efficient delivery of quality instruction and related activities to the learning communities they serve.

Endowed with courage, perseverance, resourcefulness, resilience and goal-orientation, the Schools Division Office (SDO) of Leyte withstood the challenges to remain steadfast in performing its role of providing technical assistance to schools and to the learning centers.

Humble Beginnings

Leyte Division’s foundation dates back in 1901 when the then Department of Public Instruction divided the Philippine archipelago into schools divisions through the Philippine Commission Act No. 74, An Act Establishing a Department of Public Instruction in the Philippine Islands and Appropriating Forty Thousand Dollars for the Organization and Maintenance of a Normal and a Trade School in Manila, and Fifteen Thousand Dollars for the Organization and Maintenance of an Agricultural School in the Island of Negros for the Year Nineteen Hundred and One. The said act, likewise, formalized the implementation of high school system in the province in 1902. [i]

The division office of Leyte and Samar organized the existing educational system within the islands led by Barker B. Sherman, an American officer serving as its first superintendent stationed in Tacloban, Leyte. [ii]

With the enactment of Act No. 917, An Act to Amend Section 5 of Act Numbered 74, Establishing a Department of Public Instruction, as Amended, by Making the Province of Leyte and the Province of Samar Separate School Divisions in October 1, 1903, the Division of Leyte and Samar was officially divided into Division of Samar and Division of Leyte with still Barker B. Sherman as the Superintendent for Leyte. Samar Division, on the other hand, was assigned to Henry S. Townsend whose office was located in Catbalogan, Samar. [iii]

When schools were being established in the island of Leyte in 1904, documentary accounts showed that there were much hesitancy on the part of the people in giving proper support to schools, however in the long run, the transformation of the attitude of the people toward the public schools have been remarkable. Reports also noted that there was a growing enthusiasm and appreciation of the value of primary and common school education throughout the province. [iv] This showed that Leyteños then were optimistic towards education.

Mr. B. B. Sherman served as the superintendent of this division until March 31, 1904. On account of ill health, he then resigned from service on June 1904. Mr. Sherman died shortly after his arrival in the United States. Mr. J.L. Fiske was appointed as acting superintendent for this division and had served in such capacity since February 01, 1904. [v] He was given permanent appointment as superintendent of Leyte on January 01, 1905 and continued to organize the schools division to come up with needed resources to meet its goals.

In his first year of service, Mr. Fiske facilitated the appointment of local teachers who were under the municipal councils considering that only 7 out of 34 municipalities had “properly organized schools” and were supervised by American teachers. These schools were developed into the division’s strongholds in the succeeding years. On the other hand, priority was given to the poorly organized schools of which many were still using Spanish as its medium of instruction. [vi]

With the intent to provide a better structure for the schools in the division, 26 school districts were organized. American supervising teachers were assigned to each district except to 6 districts due to lack of personnel. [vii]

The first secondary class in Leyte graduated in 1904 with 10 boys and 5 girls. Some of them pursued teaching, which was the most important field at that time. [viii]

Mr. Fiske exerted efforts to increase the scope of school works and directed to establish a uniform system of primary instruction which resulted to more American teachers hired and more schools had been put in operation under American supervision.

The number of enrollees in the division were doubled during Fiske’s first year of tenure. From 9,629 in 1903, it grew to 18,176 in 1904 which could be attributed to the growing number of established new schools. The town of Tacloban showed the highest proportional enrollment in the Division. [ix]

Leyte Division also met major challenges. Schools in Jaro and Ormoc where temporarily interrupted by movements of Pulajanes, described in the report as marauders. The ladronism made by this group caused fear among teachers to perform their duties in remote stations. School works were extended to cover the missed school days. [x]

Supervising teachers of the districts had to endure the lack of transportation. Ponies, which were scanty that time and charged high rates, were commonly used by the supervisors. Travelling then in small boats was dangerous and avoided. Another challenge faced by Fiske’s leadership was learners’ attendance which was greatly affected by Leyteños custom of sending children to work in their farms outside of main towns and various centers. Such poor condition compelled less than 20% of the school age children to be absent from the schools. [xi]

As a way to address the varied issues that confronted the SDO then, Fiske, in coordination with the government, implemented programs to support learners who came from areas with no schools by admitting them to boarding schools in Palo. A tract of land in Tacloban was also surveyed and selected for the establishment of a Provincial High School to cater the growing needs to come up with future teachers. [xii]

More schools were opened through the years. Eight night schools in the division were allowed to operate for 6 months in 1904 that accommodated municipal officials and clerks as enrollees. [xiii]

As the schools in the Division grew, the demand for new school buildings increased. Constructions were made in the different parts of Leyte which included San Ricardo, Sogod, Tacloban, Tolosa, Carigara, Caibiran, Hinunangan, Merida, Naval, Hindang and Palo.[xiv] Philippine Assembly Act 1801 known as Gabaldon Law of 1907, authored by Isauro Gabaldon, led to the construction of more new school buildings called “Gabaldon School Houses” or simply “Gabaldons” in some barrio schools and town centers in Leyte.[xv]

Several American superintendents succeeded Fiske until 1930 when Cecilio K. Putong, a Filipino superintendent, was designated in Leyte.[xvi] Just a year after, Mr. Putong was transferred to Manila and another American superintendent took over. A Filipino superintendent once again took the helm of Leyte leadership in 1936 with Federico Piedad.[xvii]

Development in the division continued until the province fell to the Japanese invaders in 1942-1945. During the World War II, many of the schools stopped operating. The schools were either damaged by bombing or requisitioned for hospital use. Towards the end of the war, Leyte teachers started to regain control of these schools.

Post War Schools Division of Leyte

Florentino Kapili, Acting Division Superintendent after the war took the initial steps in rehabilitating public schools in Leyte. Repairs of the damaged school buildings started. He revitalized and enforced rules and regulations regarding employment of qualified teachers, size of classes, classroom programs, and lesson plans. He strongly advocated for school children to go back to school. The succeeding superintendents after Kapili continued the efforts to improve school conditions.[xviii]

Through the years, the progress in some municipalities led to their reclassification as cities and provinces. This newly founded cities and provinces separated from Leyte SDO to become a separate schools division.

By the virtue of R.A 2227, Southern Leyte became an independent province and three months later on October 1960, Southern Leyte SDO was founded. [xix] In the mid-sixties, City Schools Division of Ormoc was founded. Tacloban City separated from Leyte SDO in 1971. With the reclassification of Biliran Island as a province in 1992, Biliran SDO was established. In January 8, 2013, the Secretary of Education, Bro. Armin Luistro issued an unnumbered DepEd memorandum establishing the City Schools Division of Baybay separating from its mother division, Leyte Division. [xx]

Continuous improvements and development took place in the succeeding years of operations of Leyte Division. Some time in the sixties to seventies, the management of Leyte SDO was decentralized by having field offices with superintendents per legislative district. In the later years, the original organizational structure was restored with one schools division superintendent having an office in Tacloban City. In the early 90’s, the schools division office was transferred to Palo I Central School occupying the Bagong Lipunan Building and in September 2003, the SDO transferred to its current location in Government Center, Candahug Palo, Leyte.

Several Learner Inclusion Programs have been offered in the SDO such as: Indigenous People’s Education (IPEd), Special Education (SPED) and Madrasah Education Program (MEP), and Special Learner Interest Programs such as Special Science Elementary School (SSES), Science, Technology and Engineering Program (STE), Special Program in Sports (SPS), Special Program in the Arts (SPA), Special Program in Journalism (SPJ), Strengthened Technical-Vocational Education Program (STVEP) and Alternative Delivery Mode (ADM). In school year 2016-2017 the SDO formally opened Senior High School.[xxi]

To better serve the communities in Leyte more districts were organized. At present, there are a total of 60 districts in 40 municipalities of Leyte.

After more than a hundred year of existence, the Schools Division Office of Leyte continued to serve its clientele with the vision of providing equitable access to quality and liberating basic education for all. All of these would not have been possible if not for the formidable spirits of the men and women behind the Schools Division Office of Leyte.


[i] Lawyerly (1901, January 21) webpage.

[ii]National Education Association of the United States, N.E.A. Bulletin Volumes 7-9, (U.S.A: National Education Association of the United States, 1918)

[iii] United States. Philippine Commission (1900-1916), Acts of the Philippine Commission No.1-1800 (1901), (U.S.A: Washington, Government Printing Office), 680.

[iv] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906), 502-512.

[v] War Department, Volume XIII Report of the Philippine Commission Part A, (U.S.A: Washington Government Printing Office, 1905), 901.

[vi] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 502.

[vii] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 503.

[viii] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 506.

[ix] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 504.

[x] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 503.

[xi] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 503-504.

[xii] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 505.

[xiii] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 507.

[xiv] Bureau of Insular Affairs: War Department, 6th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1905 Part IV, 508-509.

[xv] Miravelavi (2014, January 19) webpage.

[xvi] Zoilo M. Galang, Editor, Encyclopedia of the Philippines: Builders, (U.S.A: E. Floro, 1958), 56.

[xvii] Zoilo M. Galang, Editor, Encyclopedia of the New Philippines Volume IX, (Philippine Education Company, 1936), 487

[xviii] Education for Victory, Official Biweekly – US Office of Education, Volume 3 No. 16, (U.S.A: Washington, D.C., 1945), 1

[xix] Department of Education-Southern Leyte Division, (2019), The History of the Division of Southern Leyte, webpage.

[xx] Department of Education-Baybay City Division, (2019), The History of the Division of Baybay City, webpage.

[xxi] Department of Education, Enhanced Basic Education Information System 2021, webpage.

Superintendents through the years…


April 2023 – Present


September 19, 2019 – April 7, 2023


January 15, 2013 – September 16, 2019


November 3, 2009 – January 15, 2013


June 16, 2006 – November 2, 2009


OIC-SDS, October 19, 2001 – February 2, 2003

February 3, 2003 – February 2, 2006


October 19, 1999 – October 18, 2001



December 15, 1986 – July 18, 1996