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PUBLIC SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT.
Mr. Gereke, principal of a noted English German school in this city, has an elaborate plan for the remodeling of the public schools, and as he is put forward as the representative of the German literati of New York in this respect, his pians are worthy of careful consideration. His ideas, in brief, are as follows: the whole nation should coöperate for the establishment of a thorough system of instruction, from universities to kinder-gartens. This system should be so thorough that it would rapidly absorb all of the liberally endowed private educational institutions. The steadily increasing number of private schools in this country proves that the results of the free schools are as yet far behind those of public schools in other countries, which, although not free, have almost entirely overcome the competition of private institutions. The German nation owes its rescue from the moral, social and political decay which a century ago had made it the object of a general derision and contempt, to the mental labors of her great teachers, poets and philosophers, and to her schools. The establishment of free high schools is of much more importance than that of free military schools. A comparison between New York and Berlin shows how poorly supplied the former is in this respect. There are at Berlin, connected with the University, a seminary for teachers in the high schools, two Normal schools for male and female teachers in primary and intermediate schools, 15 high schools, and a Polytechnic Institute.
Among other faults found in the schools of this country by Mr. Gereke is the great preponderence of female over male teachers, which is a proof that the profession is not sufficiently paid. It is shown by the recent annual report that in the year of its issue there were in this city 2,030 female and only 176 male teachers. Again, the irregular attendance and unequal distribution of scholars, resulting in overcrowded classes, are very palpable defects, especially in the primary schools. In the report last mentioned, the average regular attendance was only 40 per cent. in the primary schools, in the grammar schools less than 50 per cent., and even in the Normal schools only 40 per
cent. In one primary school, 736 children were taught by 10 teachers; 305 of them in the higher classes had eight teachers, and 431 were under the youngest two, one of these teaching 269. The average in the lowest classes was 160. No wonder parents get so discouraged that the greater part of the children sent to the primaries never go beyond them.
The following is a summary of the German plan offered by Mr. Gereke: 1. The public schools of all grades to be free. 2. Education obligatory from the 7th to 14th year. 3. Religious instruction to be excluded. 4. Regulations to be enacted for absorption (voluntary) of all other schools. 5. Only regular public schools to have a claim on the school fund. 6. No class to contain over 50 pupils. 4. All schools to be subject to the school law.
This plan further proposes to connect a Normal school with every high school, and a Normal school for high school teachers with the State University. Then they would have every school district contain a High school and a Normal school, which would oblige, in some parts of New York even, the placing of several counties in one district. The teachers would all be given a legal right, as in Switzerland, to a participation in the general administration of the schools, even in the choice of Boards of Education; they would be organized into district and sub-district conferences, and would have the right of petition and complaint.-N. Y. Tribune.
Q. Has a school board a right to contract with a teacher to teaca every other Saturday?
A. It has; the law is operative in regard to Saturday, and in requiring that 22 days shall be considered as a teacher's month, only where the contract is silent on those points. Q. Can a town adopt the town system a second time?
There is nothing in the letter or spirit of the law that forbids this. On the contrary, it is to be hoped no town will give up trying to take this great step forward.
Q. Can the town system be adopted at a special town meeting?
A. The phraseology of the law is somewhat obscure, but taken in connection with the provisions of sections 16, 17 and 18 of chapter 15 of the Revised Statutes, it must be held that the Legislature did not intend that a vote should be taken on the question at any other time than at the spring and fall elections.
Q. Would a request for a special district meeting signed by the director and treasurer and three others, legal voters, be a legal request?
A. The director and treasurer have the same general rights as other voters, and may therefore be two of the five requesting the meeting to be called.
Q. Is a district treasurer entitled, by law, to a percentage on a district tax collected by him, under the provisions of section 64, etc.?
A. There is no provision of law under which he can claim a per centage for the collection. The Legislature has made no provision for compensating school district officers for their services.
Q. Is a school kept in a building not standing within the limits of the district a legal school?
A. It is presumed that the school house, will, as a matter of course, be conveniently located somewhere in the district ; but while waiting, for instance for a school house to be built, a school would not be illegal because in a building outside of the limits of the district. It might, for the time being, be the only place that could be obtained.
Q. In levying a school tax upon a new town, which has never received school money from the State, by what rule must the county board be governed?
A. Section 54, of chapter 18 of the Revised Statutes, requires "the same per centage or proportionable amount of taxes for the support of common schools therein, as shall be required to be raised for that purpose in other towns in the county.”
Q. In case a district instructs the board to admit no non-resident children to the school except on payment of tuition, what shall be done if a man moves his family into the district with the avowed purpose of getting the benefit of the school for the winter, but intending to move back to his farm, in another district, in the spring, and yet insists upon sending his children to school without paying anything?
In such a case no change of legal residence is effected. The children belong to the district where the man's legal residence is; and if they persist in coming to school, without the payment of tuition and the consent of the board, the board is justified in forbidding them to attend and in directing the teacher to give them no instruction if they come. As an act of courtesy or kindness, a district may authorize the admission of non-resident children to the school, with or without the payment of the tuition, if the school is not crowded, but when a district, at considerable expense, has established and maintains a superior school, it is quite right to resist the crowding into it of pupils who belong belong elsewhere, unless payment is made for their tuition.
Q. Is a teacher under obligations to give instruction to pupils over twenty years of age, or to those coming from other districts, without extra compensation?
A. It is the general duty of the teacher to give instruction to all who have a right to attend the school. This right belongs not only to the children of school age legally resident in the district, but to persons over twenty years of age, and non resident pupils'; provided, they have been admitted to the privileges of the school, by the board, under sub-section eleventh, of section 19 of the school law. Of course no misrepresentation should be made to the teacher on this point, but he
should be sharp enough to look out for all these things beforehand; and it is wise to have all contingencies provided for in the contract, which will prevent unpleasant misunderstandings.
Q. In case two districts are extinguished and consolidated into one, what disposition is to be made of the property?
A. This case is sufficiently covered by section 16 of the School Law. The Supervisors will dispose of the property as there provided, first clearing off the indebtedness, if any, of each district, with the avails coming into their hands. The rest will go into the treasury of the new district. The section contemplates, however, that the usual mode of procedure will be to disorganize one of the districts by attaching it to the other.
Q. Is the study of the constitutions” to be enforced in school the same as other branches?
A. The law provides that they shall be “ taught in all the common schools of the State," and must be understood in the same sense as section fifty-five of the Code, which requires orthography, reading, writing, English grammar, etc., to be taught. The State has provided a few copies of the “Constitutions” for the use of each district that applies for them, but the law referred to does not require that these books shall be obtained and used, nor that all or any of the pupils shall stndy them. The subject must be taught, and this book, or some other, will be needed as a text, if a text book is used.
A competent teacher may impart instruction by means of oral lectures, or familiar talks, not only to the older pupils but to the whole school. In the summer schools, where attended by none but younger children, the subject will hardly be taught at all, except as the teacher may be able to do so something in the oral way.
Q. Has a teacher a legal right to make and enforce the rule that the scholars shall “ write compositions?”
A. In the matter of rules, it is best for the teacher to act under section fifty-two—that is, have his rules sanctioned by the board. It is of course legal to enforce the rule of writing compositions, if the rule has been legally established. In fact the exercises of any school may be considered as grossly defective, if every scholar who can write, and put words together, is not required to do it. But then it need not be called “writing compositions.” The pupils may constantly be doing this, as a part of their exercises, in almost every branch, and yet never suspect it.
Q. Can the voters of a district, at an annual or special meeting, fix the wages per week or month to be paid to the teacher ?
A. They cannot; this matter rests with the board to determine. The district indirectly controls the board by the amount of school-tax voted.
Q. Can a school-district, if dissatisfied with the teacher, discharge him by a vote to that effect, at a special mecting?
A. The district has no power to hire or discharge a teacher. This matter rests with the board.
Q. What action can be taken, if a school board employs an unqualified teacher?
A. This contingency is met by Section 136 of the School Law, which provides that “ any clerk who shall draw an order upon the treasurer for the payment of wages of a teacher, not legally qualified, or for any other purpose not authorized by law, and every director who shall countersign such order, shall be liable to a fine of not less than twenty nor more than one hundred dollars; and any elector may prosecute for the use and benefit of such district, for the recovery of the fine prescribed in this section.”
Q. Is it proper for a county superintendent to annul a teacher's certificate for neglect of duty-he being, perhaps, a physician, and leaving school to visit patients, or a lawyer, and going out to counsel with clients ?
A. This is a matter for the board employing the teacher to regulate. If he thus fails to fulfill his part of the contract he should be discharged.
Q. Would a county superintendent be justified in refusing a new certificate to a teacher who had previously neglected his duty ?
A. Not unless he was prepared to show the neglect to be of such a nature as to amount to a want of moral character.
Q. Is a certificate which merely states that the holder is qualified and authorized to teach in a certain town, valid?
A. A school board would be justified in requiring that the certificate shall show the branches in which the applicant has been examined, and his relative attainments in each, as the law directs; but it is probable that if hired under a certificate defective in these points, the teacher could nevertheless recover his wages.
Q. If the town supervisors form a new district from an old one, and the alteration is not accepted by the board of the old district (as per section 11,) is the division of the property postponed three months by such non-acceptance?
A. Yes, because all things remain in statu quo until the alteration takes effect.
Q. What is to be done with a dictionary belonging to a disorganized district ?
A. The dictionary is to be treated like other“ property” belong- & whic ing to the district, as provided for in section 16. It may be “grant that ed” to any one of the districts to which the disorganized district is attached, or it may be sold, and the avails go into the proceeds which are to pay the debts or to be distributed.