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A Paper of Special Interest to District School Trustees.
“I have been asked to speak on 'The Business Side of a School Trustee's Duties.' Of all the duties of a school trustee, as laid down in the school law of California, there is not one whose due performance does not conduce to the profit or improvement of the school district, and consequently not one should be left out of his category. There are some which are absolutely essential to the organization and development of the school district, and these will claim the larger share of our attention. The administration of a school district calls for the exercise of the same qualities that are necessary for the conduction of a private business, punctuality, efficiency and honesty. He must perform his duties faithfully and expect to suffer his own conveniences at times to meet the demands made upon him.
“In spite of the tendency in some quarters to belittle the office, it is one which involves interests of vital importance, and the results following the administration, whether good or bad, are striking illustrations of the effects of the system. A careless board, an indifferent teacher, a school of no life or interest, and a community of lowered educational aims; a live board, a conscientious teacher, a school ambitious to excel, a community abreast of the educational progress of the day. On the other hand the office should know its place, an over officious trustee is more harmful than a negligent one. The parent who has placed his child in the school should see to it that fit trustees are elected. If mistakes have been made the next election will remedy it.
"The first duties of the board are the selection and appointment of a teacher, fixing the length of a school year, providing the supplies and meeting questions in regard to repairs and improvements. A clerk should be first selected to attend to all communications. All members should be given sufficient notice of intended meetings, matters of importance should be acted upon only by a full board, and it is conducive of harmony to keep absent members posted on the action of the board. Avoid the appearance of two members running the district by the slighting of the third.
"Too great care cannot be exercised in the selection of a teacher. The county office and superintendent are always ready to furnish all possible assistance in the matter. Credentials will be offered, but their value depends upon their source. School officers are, as a rule, too good natured to refuse a recommendation. All possible information concerning the candidate should be obtained. The plan of having the candidates in turn conduct a trial class in the presence of the board seems hardly practicable under the present conditions. A personal interview is essential. Candidates should present
themselves in person, as in this way only can a fair estimate be formed. Personality, so important an element cannot be revealed in recommendations, however flattering Previous experience should be given its full weight and allowance for circumstances should be made in cases of ill success. The needs of a district and wishes of the patron should always be considered in the interests of harmony. Upon a matter of principle, however, there should be no yielding, and an unfit teacher should be promptly rejected. To adopt President Roosevelt's forcibly expressed decision, 'merit, not influence,' should govern the selection.
"To avoid trouble an agreement should be signed by all, stating all the decisions reached—the length of the school year, matters of salary, and such other matters. A verbal agreement sits too lightly upon some people's conscience. The teacher should be encouraged to arrive before the opening of school to become acquainted with the local situation, and visit the parents and the children in their homes. Within the limits of county board rules, the teacher should be given the largest amount of liberty possible. Let her feel that you have confidence in her judgment. It is only fair in the second half of the school year to inform her, as early as possible, as to whether her work is satisfactory, and whether she may expect a re-election, which can be done unofficially and the contract made after the close of the school year. The advantage of the continuous service of a teacher in a school, when satisfactory, need only to be mentioned, and frequent changes are greatly to be deplored. The delay of the pupils and teacher in becoming acquainted takes valuable time from the work, which may account for the complaint that classes are falling below their grades.
“In the event of the fortunate selection of a teacher, who has judgment and tact to keep the school running properly, the duties of trustee are easily performed. But, like the proverbial course of true love, the course of school affairs never runs smooth, and never will as long as human nature is as it is now. If, when trouble comes, there is a division in the district and discord in the board, the outlook for an unsuccessful school and a discouraged teacher is excellent. For a remedy enter upon the following action: Suspend judgment. Do little talking; get at the facts from reliable sources; be not influenced by hear-say; do not take sides; form and declare an opinion only after having obtained the fullest information.
“In the interest of economy, school supplies should be procured in as large quantities as possible—the year's supply can be estimated by consultation with the teacher and reference to previous years consumption. Patronize nearby dealers when possible, and insist upon getting the best materials, which are conducive to good school work.
"The schoolhouse should be kept in good repair-painted and insured. When work of any considerable amount is necessary, it is well to advertise for bids. Trustees should be watchful of the expenditure of the district funds and refuse to accept poor work and high charges often done to keep the money in the district. The money saved is needed and can be used to add to the library fund, decorate the school room, or replenish the apparatus.
“The census marshal should be appointed before the first day of April, and his return should be made by the following roth of May. In case of competition, the office should be given to the lowest competent bidder.
“The clerk should keep a record of all the meetings of the board and district, and of all the financial transactions, and once a year should verify his books with those of the county superintendent.
“It is the duty of every trustee to keep himself fully apprised as to the progress of school affairs, and study the needs and opportunities for improvement. The rule for school visitation should be fully complied with. It is
but justice to the teacher to judge from observation rather than from hearsay of incompetent witnessess.
“The ideal trustee is yet to be found, but in the face of the steady progress of educational methods towards the ideal school, the trustee of the future must be prepared to meet the conditions of the change, be awakened to the reception of new ideas and give more time and thought to the matters committed to his care. In a word, to do his part toward attaining the end, which, as defined recently by an eminent educator of the east, as our national goal in education --'The perfecting of individual citizenship in a Christian democracy.'”
To Trustees, Teachers, and Dealers:
V. B.-Every Trustee, every Teacher, and every Dealer in School Supplies should have a copy of this Letter and keep it on file for reference.
Every member of the Board of Trustees should have a copy of the new School Law, and should make himself thoroughly familiar with the sections bearing upon the acts of the Board.
Boards of Trustees should hold regular meetings, or special meetings regularly called (see Section 1617, Sub. 1 of School Law), and all the official acts of the Board should be regularly recorded in the minutes, which should be regularly read and approved. In the August (1899) number of the “Official School Journal”' State Superintendent Kirk says:
“Orders for supplies and other demands upon the funds of a school district must be made at a meeting of the Board. It is illegal to get first one trustee's consent or signature to an order and then another outside of a meeting of the Board."
Again: “But a meeting and a majority vote of the Board are necessary to legalize any purchase or order involving expenditure of the funds of the district."
(See first note on face of new order blank.
Orders for teachers' salaries are exceptions to the above; but every teacher must be regularly elected and hold a valid certificate to be entitled to salary for his services.
We would urgently direct trustees to study sections 1621-2-3 of the School Law, and to remember the particular facts that the running expenses of the school must first be paid for eight months, and that debts contracted in excess of the income of the year cannot be paid. Many trustees contract with teachers and others regardless of probable income for the year. This should not be done. Estimates on your probable income for the year can be had at the office.
Orders, except for salaries, must be accompanied by an itemized bill on the back of the order signed by the clerk of the district, or by the bill itself.
When the orders are drawn for contract work, the certificate of the architect or trustee, stating that the work has been examined and found complete as per contract of (here give date), must accompany each order.
When certificate is from trustees it may be written on back of the order and signed by the Board.
Trustees cannot legally charge for work done in connection with their own schools.-See section 1876 (page 41, School Law) of political Code.
Great care should be exercised by both trustees and teachers in the purchase of maps, charts, globes, etc. Nothing should be bought that is not really necessary. Many teachers think they need a piece of apparatus, urge their trustees to buy it, then find at the end of the year that there is not sufficient money left to pay for teaching.
The Library Fund is created for the purchase of three things only: books for the school library, books for supplementary work and apparatus. Do not include anything else in bills drawn on the Library Fund, and include no item not found on the authorized and published list of the County Board of Education.
Regular text-books are not supplementary readers, and should not be purchased out of the Library Fund, unless found, also, on the Library list. Desk copies of these books can be purchased out of the County Fund.
When Library books are ordered, the catalogue number should be given for each book, also the name of the author.
Kindergarten materials and other school supplies cannot be paid for out of Library or State Funds.
Dealers should not mix books, supplies, etc., in the same bills. They will save time and trouble for themselves, for trustees, and for this office by noting, and carefully following, the above directions in making out bills for school districts.
In drawing orders, many clerks fail to name the fund upon which they wish to draw. This usually results in a loss of time, as the order so drawn must be returned. Clerks should always tell persons receiving orders whether or not there is sufficient money in the funds drawn upon. In order to do this intelligently, they should start each year with the proper balances, and then keep an accurate account of all moneys received and paid out. There is no reason why the clerk's books and those of the office should not be alike throughout the year — barring the orders drawn by the clerk but not yet paid by our office.
As the State fund can be used in payment of teachers' salaries only, and as most other claims must be paid out of the County fund, clerks should not draw heavily on the County fund for teachers' salaries near the close of the year; for by so doing they are apt to leave balances in the State fund, and to endanger the payment of claims that can be paid out of the County fund only.
There are four apportionments of funds each year—two of the County and two of the State. The first (County) reaches us about the first of January, the second (State) about the first of February, the third (County) about the first of June, and the fourth (State) late in July. The last, although coming after the school year has closed, may be applied in payment of teachers' salaries for the year ending June 30th. The clerk's books should not be closed for the year until notice of this apportionment is received. Balances, however, may be made June 30 for comparison with the office books.
Usually, about a month in advance of these regular apportionments, we are allowed a temporary transfer of funds, which may be drawn upon as soon as the clerks are notified thereof; but clerks should look upon this as money borrowed for the district, and the amounts so borrowed should be entered in their account books in pencil to be erased and the real amounts put in in ink, when the regular apportionments are made.
Teachers and others receiving orders from trustees, if they wish to prevent trouble for themselves, their bankers, and this office, should insist on learning, from the clerks, whether there are funds on hand to meet the
demands. Persons sometimes come twenty, thirty, or more miles with orders that we cannot pay on account of lack of funds, or of some irregularity in drawing the orders.
If money is not in the fund, the order will at once be registered; but it should be remembered that registration does not insure payment. It simply puts the order "in line” or “turn” according to presentation, for payment when funds come in.
Where teachers do work in both the high school and grammar school, the work must be paid for from both funds, in proportion to the amount done in each. High school teachers must not be paid for out of State or County funds.
J. H. STRINE, County Superintendent of Schools.
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION.
H. T. GAGE, President oj the Board
Governor, Sacramento. THOMAS J. KIRK, Secreiary of the Board . Superintendent Public Instruction, Sacramento. BENJAMIN IDE WHEELER.
President University of California, Berkeley. FLETCHER B. DRESSLAR, Prof. of Theory aná Practice of Education, University of Cal., Berkeley. MORBIS ELMER DAILEY.
President State Normal School, San Jose. E. T. PIERCE..
President State Normal School, Los Angeles. C. C. VAN LIEW
.... President State Normal School, Chico. SAMUEL T. BLACK
President State Normal School, San Diego. FREDERIC BURK..
President State Normal School, San Francisco.
THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCA-
State Superintendent Kirk Reports School Visitations as
Follows During the Month of December:
December 2nd I visited the schools of the city of Santa Barbara and found them under the efficient supervision of Mr. W. L. Wilson in a very flourishing condition. The corner-stone of a forty-thousand-dollar high school building had been laid only a day or two before my visit. It is expected to be completed and dedicated before the close of the present year. The walls are of gray sandstone and the building will prove an ornament to the city and will meet the demands of an earnest corps of high school teachers and a body of two hundred promising high school students.
The new grammar school building in the eastern part of the city that