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On some of the provisions of the School Law, and on the duties of different officers and bodies corporate under them.
82. In order to receive its allowance from the State Treasury, a town must first vote to raise the amount the law requires, (6) and if voted annually, the vote must be passed on or before July 1st, in every year. But an appropriation may be made by a standing bylaw, under which the town treasurer may every year make the necessary appropriation.
38. It is believed that where a town is divided into districts, and each district has trustees to manage its own local affairs, it will be better to have the town's committee a small one, provided competent persons can be obtained to undertake it. Their duties are to examine teachers, visit and have a supervision of the schools. There is danger that a large committee will not meet often, and that they will attempt to perform too many of their duties by small sub-committees of one or more. The delegation by the whole committee, to each member, of the power to manage some particular district, was one great cause of the inefficiency of the former system. The examination of teachers, will, in most cases, be better done by the whole committee; and incompetent persons will be less likely to apply to the whole committee, than to a single member, to be examined.
By the new act, a town may appoint or authorize its committee to appoint a superintendant of schools. In such case the superintendant would perform the duties of examining teachers, visiting schools, and such other duties as the committee might assign him. This would relieve the committee of a very laborious portion of their duties.
84. The town treasurer should, as soon as the State money is apportioned, which is to be done in May, and as soon as the school
committee have made their report and the town has voted to raise what the law requires, apply to the Commissioner for an order for his town's portion. If the town appropriation be made by standing by-law instead of an annual vote, he may apply immediately, provided the school committee have made the report the law requires. Some towns make a practice of depositing their school money in some bank, which will pay them a low rate of interest. But it should be always subject to order.
If the treasurer is newly elected, or his election not generally known, it may be well for him to procure from the town clerk a certificate to the fact of his being town treasurer.
He is to keep a separate account of all school moneys, and is, within one week after the annual town meeting, to furnish the school committee with a particular account of all school moneys in his hands, the sources from which derived, &c. He can only pay out the school money (whether derived from the State, town or registry tax) to orders signed by the chairman or clerk of the school committee and if he pays it out or appropriates it otherwise, he would be liable to the penalty of the law.
The town treasurer to obtain the State appropriation, should furnish to the Commissioner a certificate substantially in the following form, signed by himself, or the town clerk:
I certify that in addition to the funds received from the State, and to the unexpended school moneys of last year, received from all sources, this town has by vote passed in a legal town meeting, appropriated the sum of dollars, to be paid out of the town treasury, for the support of Public Schools in this town for the present year, according to law.
To C. D.,
Town Treasurer of said town.
Commissioner of Public Schools, or Town Clerk.
85. The school committee should first be engaged and then elect their chairman and clerk. It would be well to have the cer
tificate of their own election and engagement made upon the record book itself, as loose papers are more liable to be lost. [See form. The number of the school committee, three or more, may be fixed at each annual town election. If the town fails to elect at the annual town meeting, the town cour.cil must elect them at its next meeting. Otherwise the old committee will hold over. But any town may vote to delegate to the council the power of appointing the committee. [See Digest, page 302, § 5.
86. Vacancies. If any member of the committee resigns, the rest (if there be a quorum) may supply the vacancy. If so many resign or refuse to serve, as not to leave a quorum, the vacancy must, as in case of other town officers, be supplied by the town council, until the next town meeting. [See Digest, page 302, § 6.
87. Meetings. They should hold meetings at least quarterly, as the law requires. But the schools cannot prosper much, unless meetings are held much oftener than this. By frequent meetings and conversation, much valuable information may be acquired. And it would be well for committees to be continually endeavoring to obtain a knowledge of the situation of the different districts, the amount of taxable property in each district, the number of the agricultural and manufacturing population respectively, &c., &c., and this sort of information should be preserved, as it is absolutely necessary to enable them and their successors to discharge well their duties.
All acts of the school committee to be valid, must be done at a meeting of the committee. Giving their assent to any measure separately, and without meeting, would probably be held illegal.
The manner of calling special meetings of the committee, should be regulated by by law. If there be no by-law, the chairman should call them, and should give every member notice if possible.
88. Within a week after the annual town meeting, the school committee are entitled to receive from the town treasurer a report of all school moneys in his hands, specifying particularly the sources whence derived, &c. [See § 23.
89. As soon as elected,
the clerk of the committee should forward to the School Commissioner a list of the names of the com
mittee, with their post-office address, and should also inform him in what way packages or bundles can most conveniently be sent to them. This will materially aid the Commissioner in the discharge of the duties of his office.
90. Laying of Districts. A town may vote to manage its schools collectively or by districts. If there are districts, the whole power of laying them off, making new ones, altering them, and of settling disputed boundaries, is vested by law in the school committee, subject to an appeal to the Commissioner.
Although the law has not required any particular notice to be given before deciding on making or altering districts, yet reasonable notice should be given in all such cases.
In laying off districts, regard should be had to the convenience of attending school, the number of scholars, the valuation of property, and ability to provide school houses, &c. It will be always expedient to bound them by rivers, roads, or other natural or well-known boundaries, when practicable. When the lines can, without inconvenience, be so drawn as to include all of any person's farm in the same district where his dwelling house is, it will save a great deal of trouble and expense in assessing taxes.
In New York they bound their school districts by lines running from one specified point to another, and when the line crosses any person's farm or lot, they tax the whole farm or lot in the district where the dwelling house is, if there be one on it. But this rule is objectionable, because when a tax is contemplated, a person so situated may avoid a portion of it by a fraudulent conveyance of his land. And every purchase or sale of land so situated does practically alter the bounds of the district.
Districts must be set off by bounds including certain land. It is not sufficient (in those towns where the schools are managed and the school houses built by districts,) to declare that a district shall be composed of such and such persons. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts have declared such districts to be invalid. 106 and 12 Pick. 206.
When a district which has built a school house, is divided, or its bounds altered so as to take off any portion of it, the joint proper
ty is to be equitably apportioned among them. If the district owe any debts, they should of course be considered in the apportion[See the law, § 49.] In some cases this can be done by a division of the property itself. In other cases the rent or income may be apportioned, according to the peculiar circumstances. The school committee must decide such cases, subject, of course, to the appeal provided by the law.
Where it is more convenient for a person belonging to one district to send to a school in another district, the school committee alter the bounds so as to include his house; or the trustees, or if no trustees, the committee may permit his children to attend such school and pay for it under the provisions of § 53. And the committee may make the same arrangement for those who can more conveniently attend a school situated in a neighboring town.
every town, after the boundaries of the districts are settled, it would be well to have a description of them printed for general information and circulation. This might, with propriety, be attached to the School Regulations.
91. The power of forming joint districts on the borders of the different towns, is also confided to the school committees. Many of the manufacturing villages are on streams which are the boundaries of towns, and are partly in both towns. In such situations the school committees should encourage the union of the adjoining districts, as both together may be able to establish a better school, or keep one for a longer time, or to establish them of different grades. The manner of apportioning the money to a joint district is regulated by § 52.
In assigning to a district which forms part of a joint district, its proportion of that part of the money which is divided according to average attendance, the committee will of course take the average attendance of that portion of the scholars who belong to their own town.
92. By the school act of 1800, the power of laying off school districts was vested in town councils.
By the act of 1828, the power is not specially vested any where, but was probably intended to be exercised by the school committee. By the act of 1839, the power was vested in the towns, but all