Having tasted the life of a private school principal, Ferris decided to get back into public education and in September of 1879 he began work as superintendent of schools in Pittsfield, Ill., a post he held for five not completely happy years.
He said, "The city under a special charter elected annually its entire school board of five officers. For some unaccountable reason there was an annual strife for membership. During my five years of service some of the leading citizens served in the capacity of school director. These men were as diplomatic and conservative as professional politicians. They were desirous of meeting the demands of every religious and race faction. The board consulted the superintendent of schools regarding the hiring of teachers, but ignored any advice he saw fit to offer. The interest of the pupils was subordinated to the wishes and limitations of teachers and school board."
At the close of five years he was asked to remain, but he declined, resolving never to resume public school work again.
From Pittsfield he came to Big Rapids, and there the story really begins. His vow never to return to public school work again explains many of the decisions he made from that time on.