Nine years after Allegany County formed from part of Washington County in 1789 (Chapter 29, Acts of 1789), the Allegany County School was to be erected at Cumberland (Chapter 58, Acts of 1798). It would be located on Fayette Street, near Smallwood Road, where the St. Peter and St. Paul’s German Catholic Church later would stand (J. Thomas Scharf, History of Western Maryland, 1968, vol. 2, p. 1357). The first school in the County, it later moved and reformed as the Allegany County Academy. To purchase land and erect a schoolhouse, Visitors were named: John Lynn, Even Gwynn, William McMahon, Joseph Cresap, David Lynn, Patrick Murdock, Hanson Briscoe, John B. Beall, and John C. Beatty. They also were to hire a teacher, hold meetings to review the progress of the School, and appoint new visitors when vacancies occurred. By 1824, the Visitors were renamed the Trustees of Allegany County School (Chapter 4, Acts of 1824).

In 1812, a State fund for county public schools was established (Chapter 180, Acts of 1812). The Treasurer of the Western Shore was to distribute monies from the fund among all the counties, including Allegany; however, the funds raised were insufficient to support county schools. Nonetheless, the Treasurer of the Western Shore paid school funds to the School at Cumberland “as a public donation”.

[photo, Board of Education, 108 Washington St., Cumberland, Maryland]


The Allegany County Board of Education originated in 1816 as the State School Fund Commissioners, which headed the County's fledgling public school system. Later, it reformed and was renamed as the County School Commissioners, the Board of Commissioners of Public Schools, and the Board of County School Commisioners

Board of Education, 108 Washington St., Cumberland, Maryland, July 2001. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

State School Fund Commissioners. The General Assembly, in 1816, appointed nine commissioners to oversee the State school fund in each county (Chapter 256, Acts of 1816). The commissioners were to “establish a central free school in each election district” and report to the General Assembly on how funds were used. In the colonial period, free schools offered a curriculum that included “Latin, Greek, Writing, and the like” (Chapter 31, Acts of 1694). [It is not clear from the 1816 law if the word “free” refers to the classical curriculum or the lack of tuition.] The Treasurer of the Western Shore was directed to pay Allegany’s portion of the school fund directly to the Levy Court, which would have the same authority as the commissioners of the State school fund.

County School Commissioners. In 1825, a statewide public education system was formed (Chapter 162, Acts of 1825). Justices of the levy courts in each county appointed nine school commissioners who were to divide the county into school districts. The levy courts also appointed up to eighteen inspectors of primary schools for each county. The inspectors' charge was to examine teachers, issue teacher certificates, visit schools, give suggestions to teachers and school trustees, and report to the county school commissioners. Elected by the voters of each school district, three trustees were to purchase schoolhouse sites, repair and furnish the schoolhouses, and hire all teachers within the district. Authorized to keep records of school commissioner meetings, a district clerk was elected by the voters annually. A district collector collected monies from school taxes.

Allegany County Commissioners were authorized in 1836 to appoint three school commissioners for each election district (Chapter 106, Acts of 1836). Formerly elected by the voters, three trustees were appointed by those school commissioners for each school district.

By 1849, the Mayor and Council of the Town of Cumberland were named as a “board of trustees” to erect the Allegany County Academy near the courthouse, then located close to Johnson Street (Chapter 105, Acts of 1849; Morris L. Radoff, The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland, Part One: The Courthouses, 1960, p. 3). The Academy was allotted part of the State fund apportioned to Allegany County schools. [In 1929, the Academy closed and its building was leased in 1934 to the Cumberland Free Public Library.]

Board of Commissioners of Public Schools. In 1860, the Allegany County school commissioners reorganized as the Board of Commissioners of Public Schools (Chapter 335, Acts of 1860). This board continued to perform the duties previously assigned to county school commissioners, but now also was authorized to select three “discreet and well qualified men” to serve as a board of examiners who would interview, test, and certify teachers. Composed of five members (one from each election district), the Board of Commissioners of Public Schools was named annually by the Orphans’ Court. Also, the Board annually appointed a nonmember to serve as treasurer and secretary.

Board of County School Commissioners. In 1865, the State Board of Education called for a “uniform system of Free Public Schools” (Chapter 160, Acts of 1865). The public school system became centralized; “supervision and control of Public Instruction” was vested in the State Board of Education. The State Board appointed boards of county school commissioners in each county to serve four-year terms. Three years later, boards of county school commissioners regained control and supervision over county schools (Chapter 407, Acts of 1868). The public school system was no longer accountable to the State Board of Education. Within each county, voters elected county school commissioners from each election district to two-year terms. These school commissioners had custody over schoolhouse property and were expected to pay teacher salaries.

For all counties, including Allegany, the school commissioners reorganized in 1870 (Chapter 311, Acts of 1870). County circuit court judges were to appoint three school commissioners for their respective counties. At the same time, the Board of State School Commissioners, previously named the State Board of Education, was reformed.

In 1892, the Governor gained authority to appoint county school commissioners (Chapter 341, Acts of 1892). That year, three school commissioners were appointed for Allegany County to serve six-year terms. By 1900, the Governor was to take into consideration minority party representation when appointing county school commissioners (Chapter 29, Acts of 1900).

Board of Education. County school commissioners were renamed boards of education in 1916 (Chapter 506, 1916). They were to be appointed by the Governor without regard to political affiliation.

In 1951, the Allegany County Board of Education was composed of five members of whom at least two had to be women (Chapter 605, Acts of 1951). Also, at least two members were to represent the minority political party. By 1974, the Board came to be elected by the voters (Chapter 491, Acts of 1974). To be eligible as a candidate, a prospective member had to submit a petition signed by at least 200 county voters to the Board of Elections.

Today, educational matters that affect Allegany County are under the control of the Board of Education (Code Education Article, secs. 4-101 through 4-126).

The Board's five members are elected by the voters on a nonpartisan basis to serve four-year terms (Code Election Law Article, secs. 8-801 through 8-806). The Convention of Allegany County Association of Student Councils elects a student member to the Board every year. The President of the Board of County Commissioners is a nonvoting member. A president and vice-president for the Board are chosen annually in January (Code Education Article, secs. 3-201 through 3-204; 4-107). The Superintendent of Schools serves as the Board's executive officer, secretary, and treasurer (Code Education Article, sec. 4-102).


District boards of school trustees were authorized in 1825 (Chapter 162, Acts of 1825). They were to represent the voters of the school district. While their work supplemented that of the county boards of education, their duties shifted over time.

School District Trustees. For all Maryland counties, including Allegany, legislation was enacted in 1825 providing that three school district trustees were to be elected annually by the voters in each school district (Chapter 162, Acts of 1825). These trustees were authorized to purchase schoolhouse sites, build, furnish and repair schoolhouses, provide books, hire all teachers and make semi-annual reports to school commissioners. From the school commissioners, State monies were distributed to the school district trustees, who, in turn, were to pay teacher salaries.

In 1836, the Allegany County School District Trustees were granted school funds from the County as well as the State (Chapter 106, Acts of 1836). Two years later, five trustees were to “superintend the school”, furnish the collector with a list of taxpayers from whom to collect revenues, and receive monies from the treasurer of the County school fund (Chapter 204, Acts of 1838). The Trustees also were to hire certified teachers and meet quarterly to discuss school conditions. For each schoolhouse, the County School Commissioners appointed Trustees annually.

Directors: In 1860, Allegany County’s School Commissioners appointed three directors for each school district (Chapter 335, Acts of 1860). The directors assumed duties previously entrusted to school district trustees. In addition, directors were expected to call meetings of voters within the school district to decide which teachers would be hired and which textbooks purchased.

District Commissioners. Statewide, duties held formerly by school district trustees were assumed by the county school commissioners in 1865 (Chapter 160, Acts of 1865). County school commissioners served as “district commissioners” for school districts under their jurisdiction. They advised teachers on discipline, examined pupils, and were to convince the public of the value of education. For the first time, schools of different grades could be established by the district commissioners if the number of children between the ages six and eighteen exceeded 100.

District Board. By 1868, school district trustees for all counties regained their former powers (Chapter 407, Acts of 1868). Reorganized as school district boards, they again assumed responsibility for all schoolhouses, land, and the hiring of teachers in their districts. Each board had three members: the county school commissioner of the “election district in which the school-house [was] situated”, and two members elected annually by the voters of the schoolhouse district. The elected members of the school district boards were to be representatives of the voters.

Board of District School Commissioners. In 1870, school district boards were renamed boards of district school commissioners (Chapter 311, Acts of 1870). Thereafter, they were appointed annually by county boards of school commissioners. Objections were raised that the district school commissioners no longer represented the voters since they were not elected, but the Board of State School Commissioners considered them representatives.

Board of District Trustees. Boards of district school commissioners again reformed in 1892 as boards of district trustees (Chapter 515, Acts of 1892). They were allowed to choose their own officers.

In 1884, the State Board of Education recommended that three district trustees be replaced by one (Annual Report of the State Board of Education, 1884, pp. 9-10). The State Board repeated this recommendation in 1898 and further recommended that teachers be appointed by committee since the district trustees were not experts on the school system (Annual Report of the State Board of Education, 1898, p. lxxix). By 1904, boards of district trustees lost their authority to appoint teachers (Chapter 584, Acts of 1904). In their stead, county superintendents nominated and county school commissioners selected those teachers to be hired.

The State Board of Education was concerned about losing public support because the voters did not feel represented in the school system (Annual Report of the State Board of Education, 1904, p. 11). In an effort to maintain that support, the State Board permitted district trustees to appoint a “principal teacher”, approved by the county school commissioners, who would join boards of district trustees as a secretary without a vote.

District Board of School Trustees. In 1916, boards of district trustees reformed as district boards of school trustees (Chapter 506, Acts of 1916). Appointed to three-year terms by county boards of education, district school trustees were charged to suspend or expel students. Principal teachers, once appointed by district school trustees, now were appointed by county superintendents. District school trustees continued to represent the voters in the education system and retained custody of school property (Annual Report of the State Board of Education, 1916, pp. 30-31).

By 1918, district boards of school trustees, by unanimous vote, could “refuse to accept the original assignment of any teacher” to schools under their jurisdiction (Chapter 381, Acts of 1918). County superintendents, however, only were required to name three teachers to the school trustees for appointment. In times of emergency, school trustees were authorized to dismiss pupils or close schools. They also were to appoint janitors for each school.


The Allegany County Public School System is governed by the County Board of Education (Code Education Article, secs. 4-101 through 4-126). In addition, through the review and approval of the annual operating and capital budgets, Allegany County government exercises authority over the County Public Schools. Moreover, through the establishment and monitoring of various financial and academic policies and regulations, the State Department of Education also has considerable oversight of county public schools. Indeed, under Maryland law, the State Department of Education works with county public schools to comply with requirements and mandates of federal law.

In Fiscal Year 2018, the Allegany County Public School System had twenty-one schools: 3 high schools, 4 middle schools, 13 elementary schools, and one career and technical school. At the same time, 8,702 students were enrolled in the County's public schools.

Duties of the Superintendent of Schools originally were the responsibility of School Inspectors, then County Examiners, and the County Superintendent of Public Education.

School Inspectors. The duties of county superintendents of schools first were assigned to school inspectors in 1825 (Chapter 162, Acts of 1825). Levy courts were to appoint annually up to eighteen inspectors of primary schools for each county. The inspectors determined teacher qualifications, examined teachers, and issued teacher certificates. They also were expected to visit schools and offer suggestions to school district trustees. By 1835, the number of inspectors was reduced to three for each county (Chapter 278, Acts of 1835).

The Allegany County Board of Commissioners of Public Schools was authorized in 1860 to appoint a nonmember to serve as treasurer and secretary, roles later filled by the Superintendent of Schools (Chapter 335, Acts of 1860). The Commissioners also were to appoint a board of examiners to interview, test, and certify teachers. These duties later also were assigned to the Superintendent of Schools.

County Examiners. In 1868, county examiners assumed all duties of school inspectors, and were expected to serve as secretary, treasurer, and executive agent for county boards of school commissioners (Chapter 407, Acts of 1868). Appointed by boards of county school commissioners, county examiners were to visit each school at least twice a year in counties having 50 or fewer schools. This included Allegany County. Additionally, they helped organize teacher associations at district, county and State levels, examined teachers in the presence of three county school commissioners, and notified teachers of meetings. By 1870, county examiners were to visit each school three times a year in counties having less than 50 schools, which still included Allegany (Chapter 311, Acts of 1870). Also, they were allowed to examine teacher candidates in the presence of one county school commissioner instead of three.

County Superintendent of Public Education. In 1904, county examiners were renamed county superintendents of public education (Chapter 584, Acts of 1904). Three times a year, they were required to visit each school in counties with 60 or fewer teachers. Twice a year, they went to schools in counties having more than 60 teachers -- among them Allegany County – and once in those counties with more than 175 teachers.

Superintendent of Schools. By 1916, county superintendents of public education were renamed superintendents of schools (Chapter 506, Acts of 1916). The new superintendents were authorized to execute the laws of the State Board, interpret all school laws, and decide disputes of the county boards of education about rules and regulations. In addition, superintendents could recommend to the county boards of education that schools be repaired or condemned. They could nominate all principals and assistant teachers for appointment by the county boards, grade and standardize public schools, create a textbook list, and determine school curriculum. Since 1916, the Superintendent of Schools has been appointed to four-year terms by the Board of Education.

The Superintendent of Schools administers the Allegany County Public School System, and serves as executive officer, secretary, and treasurer of the Board of Education (Code Education Article, secs. 4-102; 4-201 through 4-206).


Allegany College of Maryland is a two-year public community college. It was founded as Allegany Community College in 1961 by resolution of the Allegany County Board of Education, approved by the Board of County Commissioners, and was renamed Allegany College of Maryland in 1997.

While its main campus lies in Cumberland, Maryland, the College also has two out-of-state campuses. The Somerset County Campus opened at Somerset, Pennsylvania, in 1989, and the Bedford County Campus began at Everett, Pennsylvania, in 1990.


The Allegany County Library System began in 1934 in the building that holds its main branch on Washington Street across from the County Courthouse in Cumberland. The structure had been the Allegany County Academy which closed in 1929. The Board of County Commissioners leased the building in 1934 to the Cumberland Free Public Library, which in 1960 reformed as the Allegany County Public Library. An addition to the Academy building was dedicated in May 1966, and further renovations were completed in 2005.

With the Washington Street Library (its main library in Cumberland), the Library System now has five additional branches: Frostburg (1961), George's Creek (2001), LaVale (1975), South Cumberland (1982), and Westernport (1970).

The first branch of the Cumberland Free Public Library started in the fall of 1934. Formed in a classroom of the Pennsylvania Avenue School, it moved in January 1965 to 301 Virginia Avenue. Its present location at 100 Seymour Street was dedicated on December 12, 1982.

At its present site, the Westernport Library was dedicated in February 1970.

At its current location, the Library was dedicated on September 28, 1975.

At 65 East Main Street, the present site opened in January 1999.

The George's Creek Library opened in March 2001.

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