Mr John Douglas, the first teacher, was born on Norfolk Island in 1840.
John and his wife purchased a number of adjoining allotments at Newport early in the 1860s. He had been a leading citizen in the early development of Newport. By 1866, the Douglas family opened a general store. They supplied the needs of nearby settlers. When in 1870 Douglas became the schoolmaster, his premises came to be regarded as the gathering place of the community. It came as no surprise to learn the Post Office was later established at his store also.
He had no previous teaching experience prior to his appointment as a schoolmaster. Unfortunately, teaching was not highly profitable and was not sufficient to meet the needs of himself and four dependents.
It was not only the attendance of the pupils which was at fault, but it was also their fee-paying capacity. Mr Douglas described the parents as "of the poorer class", he said that:
"not one of them pay for all the children sent by them, and some of the parents pay nothing whatever for any of their children, and will not send them unless I agree to such terms. I only received fees for eight children at 4s per quarter each, the parents asserting in nearly all cases their inability to pay the school fees."
Perhaps this is why John Douglas found it necessary to sell vegetables and fruit. On occasions, he worked with a horse and cart, and other times helped his wife manage the small store, all helped to support his four children.
In 1875 it became one of the teacher's special jobs to ferry children living on the south side of Dora Creek to school. This function had previously been performed by Mr H.R. Worley, but his boat had become old and leaky, and it was left to the Council of Education to supply the teacher with a new boat so that he could carry on the service. There was a new addition to the Douglas family in 1881 and Mr Douglas enlarged the premises at his own expense- a new schoolroom and kitchen were added on to the existing building. Apparently, the workmen were still there by 12th January 1882 so Mr Douglas applied for permission to close the school because:
"I soon found the confusion of noise and material all about made it absolutely impossible to carry on the school work."
In 1883 Mr Douglas decided to resign from teaching. He left on 30th June. In the month prior to this, he reported that:
"repeated inquiries have been made to me to know when the school is likely to open again."
He appears to have remained a local resident for possibly the rest of his life. His main sources of revenue were a grocery store and a 40-acre selection.
A Public School
The School during Mr Douglas' time as a teacher had been a Provisional School, i.e.: it had to support an average pupil attendance of 20 to 25 (Public Schools Act, 1866). The passing of the Public Instruction Act (1880), however, changed this. Schools with an average pupil attendance of 20 were not eligible for Public School status. This was granted to Newport School on 28th March 1885. School continued to be held in Mr Douglas' building and the Department of Public Instruction paid a rental fee of £20 p.a. for many years. Anglican Church services were also held there until a church was erected in 1885.
A New School
In 1895 the Department asked Mr Douglas to sell them the school building. Upon learning this, he said that his shock was:
"nearly as bad as Mr Barnam suffered on his first hearing the ‘Tea gong' down near Kansas City,".
He said he wanted to keep the building as a rental investment. He thought of offering the Department another 2-acre site from his selection but then agreed to sell the school and adjoining land for £250. The Department had a valuation done on the property, and, as it came to only £32, decided to look elsewhere.On 16th October 1896, 1 acre of land was resumed from a 25-acre holding which two Sydney gentlemen, Messrs John Brown Watt and Walter Cumming Watt, leased to Mr James Walmsley. The land was on the north side of the Coorumbung Road, west of the railway station next door to the Church of England.
A new school building was completed on 8th January 1898 and the keys of the old school handed back to Mr Douglas. The contractor who built the new school was Mr M. A. O'Leary of Coorunbung and the work cost £195.10s. The wooden building was 28'8" x 17'4" and contained one schoolroom and a verandah. Later in the same year, the new teacher Mr Gardiner complained that the children's hats were being blown away, so one end of the verandah was boarded up to make a hat room.