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1891. In 1891 the County Superintendent was instructed to take charge of the County Teachers' Library, catalogue the same, and keep a record of books taken therefrom.
In this year the law authorizing the establishment of City, Incorporated Town, and Union District High Schools, was enacted. Under its provisions the County Superintendent was, under certain conditions, directed to call elections in the cities or districts petitioning there for, to determine whether high schools should be established; receive the returns from such elections; and in case the vote proved favorable, call meetings of the Boards of Trustees of the districts affected, to complete the organization of the high School. He was also required to estimate the amount of money that should be raised by tax levied by the Board of Supervisors, on the property in said high school district, to purchase grounds, erect buildings and support the high school in union districts. This provision concerning estimating taxes was, by the Supreme Court, declared unconstitutional.
Another statute enacted the same year, authorized the establishment of County High Schools, and provided that in counties where high schools came into existence under this law, the County Board of Education should constitute the managing Board of such school; should hold its property, in trust, for the county; furnish the Board of Supervisors annually an estimate of the amount of money needed to pay all of the necessary expenses of running said school; adopt textbooks; adopt and enforce course of study; engage teachers, janitors and other employés; and do any and all other things necessary to the proper conduct of the school. They were to draw their orders on the County Superintendent of Schools, in the manner and form provided by law for School District Trustees against the County High School Fund, for all expenses of the school.
Grammar school course certificates were made exchangeable for high school grade certificates, and their issuance discontinued.
The County Superintendent was to appoint the District Clerk, in case the Board of Trustees failed to do so, on the first Saturday in July.
1893 In 1893 the duty of making the estimate of the amount to be raised by taxation for the support of union district high schools was transferred from the Superintendent to the High School Boards.
The course of study in these schools, as well as in City and District high schools, organized under the provisions of the same Act,
was made subject to the approval of the County Board of Education.
The County Superintendent was empowered to act with the representatives elected by the districts, in locating and naming union district high schools; and he was required to suspend the school in any such district whenever the average attendance did not exceed ten.
He was permitted to draw his warrant on the unapportioned County School Fund for $200 per year, for the support of the Teachers' Institute.
Special meetings of the County Board of Education were authorized whenever in the judgment of the County Superintendent the exigencies of the schools might require them to be held.
Life diplomas, educational diplomas, and documents issued by the State Board of Education to graduates from the State Normal Schools, having been made equivalent to certificates, the County Superintendent was instructed to make a record of the names of persons holding such documents, when submitted to him, in lieu of filing the certificates of such teachers,
Boards of Trustees were required to submit all proposed purchases of books and apparatus to the County Superintendent for approval.
1894. Until 1894 it was the practice, based on sundry statutes, in cities having Boards of Education, to draw the total amount of each apportionment from the State and county funds, and place it in the hands of the treasurers of such cities for disbursement; but in the latter part of this year the State Supreme Court decided that all such moneys . must remain in the possession of the County Treasurers till needed, and must be disbursed like the moneys of other districts, by means of orders drawn on the County Superintendents. This change involved a large increase in the clerical work of the latter officers.
CLASSIFICATION OF FUNCTIONS. While from the title "County Superintendent of Schools" one would naturally expect its bearer to be distinctively an educational officer, more concerned with pedagogical questions and problems than with anything else, an examination of the legislation concerning this official will show that in the minds of those who took the first steps in establishing the office in the State, the opposite view prevailed, and the division of labors of the original Superintending School Committee between a County Superintendent and a Board of District Trustees seems to have been designed largely to establish at some convenient
point an office of record for matters pertaining to schools; and to provide a simpler medium of exchange between the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the schools. It was perhaps also thought wise to transfer from local committees, serving without pay, the duty of attending to the numerous details of administration that would be likely to be looked after more faithfully by one man who gave sufficient time to such work to entitle him to compensation for his services.
Throughout the early history of the State, the duties of this officer were looked upon as almost wholly clerical, and County Assessors and County Clerks were considered fully competent, in the time they could spare from the duties of their more important offices, to exercise all the functions of a Superintendent of Schools. At one time only, and then for but little more than a year has the law required the County Superintendent to be a professional teacher.
As years passed, a recognition of the pedagogical element in a Superintendent's work stood out in bolder relief; but at the same time his duties in other lines were largely increased, till to-day he has assigned to him an aggregation of functions, demanding large amounts of labor, and requiring for their execution wide intelligence and sound judgment.
On analysis, the duties of the County Superintendent are naturally grouped in two divisions, - Business and Pedagogical.
BUSINESS. A large amount of work of an almost purely clerical nature is required of him. He must keep a set of books, opening accounts with from three to five funds for each district; apportion the school moneys quarterly; register trustees' orders drawn on exhausted funds; draw requisitions on the district funds, restraining improper expenditures by the trustees; take charge of, and close the affairs of lapsed districts; distribute blanks received from the Superintendent of Public Instruction; where circumstances make it desirable, distribute State textbooks to the pupils in the public schools; record the proceedings of the County Board of Education, including the standing of applicants examined; fill out certificates issued; record names of holders of documents equivalent to certificates; record his official acts; collect and file reports of teachers, trustees, census marshals, teachers' certificates, trustees orders for requisitions, certificates of election and resignations of trustees, and certificates of appointment of census marshals, teachers, and district trustees and clerks; from the documents on file and
the records of his office, compile annually a statistical and financial report to the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
He has an extensive correspondence, by far the larger part of which is devoted to the details of administration. He answers letters from applicants for certificates, prospective teachers, perplexed trustees, dealers in books, apparatus and school supplies; sends instructions, information and advice to teachers, trustees and census marshals; and corresponds with Institute instructors, University representatives and educators generally.
There is another class of duties to be performed by the Superintendent, that combines some of the clerical element with an exercise of judgment or of technical skill.
He is the legal adviser of the people in matters pertaining to the schools.
The recommendation of the creation of new districts, or of the modification of old ones, requires thorough acquaintance with local conditions. Neighborhood disagreements must be considered, and action in such matters may have a material bearing on the continuance or removal of these differences, and in no part of a Superintendent's work is common sense in greater demand than in directing matters of this class. After a line of action has been decided upon by a district, there remains the preparation of the necessary papers by the Superintendent, and here, as also in making up the records of special tax and bond proceedings, is needed the skill of a lawyer, for defective operations at this stage may at some future time invalidate an issue of bonds voted by the district.
In the issuance of bonds for building purposes, though the law does not require it, the legal work generally and naturally falls to the County Superintendent, and after directing the steps to be taken by the people and trustees of a district, he compiles the necessary record of proceedings, including affidavits of publishing and posting election notices, a copy of the proceedings of the Board of Trustees calling the election, the qualification of the election officers, the poll and tally lists used in the election, the trustees' report of the canvass of returns, the County Auditor's certificate of valuation, the order to be adopted by the Board of Supervisors, including the form of the bond, an abstract from the records of the Board of Supervisors and his own office showing the organization and legal development of the district, supervise the printing of the bonds and assist in negotiating their sale. The ability of a county to place its school bonds to good advantage in the market depends, to a large extent, on the recognized ability of its Superintendent in preparing them for sale.
He is frequently expected to outline the financial policy for the districts, and his advice has weight in determining whether additional school facilities shall be provided, or terms extended, or houses shall be built by special tax; or whether bonds shall be issued for the latter purpose; or whether maturing bonded debts shall be refunded. To act wisely in such matters, he must maintain a broker's knowledge of the conditions of the money market.
He must pass on the reports of teachers and census marshals, and see that papers of all kinds that are to be filed in his office are in proper form. This work requires, not so much technical skill, as patience in dealing with the shortcomings of persons who have seldom to use business papers.
Plans for school.buildings, before adoption by Boards of Trustees, are submitted to him for approval. This necessitates on his part a fair knowledge of the fundamental principles of architecture, and an acquaintance with the specific needs of a school house. Tact is necessary, to secure desired results in the planning of buildings, and he has frequently to direct the architect from the beginning of his work.
Arbitrary divisions of districts by the incorporation or enlargement of cities, or by the formation of new counties, sometimes raise questions of such difficulty and importance that a comprehensive study of Supreme Court decisions is required to enable him to act wisely.
The County Superintendent is expected to exercise certain judicial functions.
It is his duty to hear appeals of teachers when they have been dismissed before the expiration of the time for which they were employed, and when suspensions of pupils have not been sustained by the trustees. He also hears appeals of parents who desire their children to attend school in an adjoining district, when the trustees of the two districts fail to agree. In all these cases his decision is final.
PEDAGOGICAL. A very comprehensive duty of the County Superintendent is "to superintend the schools of his county." This probably meant to the early legislators, little more than to exercise certain functions pertaining to the mechanical parts of the school work; to see that suitable accommodations were provided; books supplied; teacher employed; and school maintained for the required number of months. His annual