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thorized by the town, may elect three residents of the district, to act as trustees, and to continue in office three terms of office being so adjusted that one shall be elected every year. The trustees have charge of the property of the district; call meetings of the inhabitants; provide teachers, school-room, furniture and fuel, and books for such scholars as are not supplied by their parents or guardians; visit the school twice during each term of schooling; make out all tax and rate bills; and report annually to the committee of the town, the condition of the schools, in matter and form as sball be prescribed by them. 2. Town School Committees. Each town must elect annually a committee of three, six, nine, or twelve members, to have the charge and superintendence of the public schools. The apportionmeni of school-money among the schools or districts; the examination and licensing of teachers; the annulling of the certificates of teachers found unqualified; the visitation of all the schools twice during each season of schooling ; the making of regulations respecting the classification, attendance, books, instruction and discipline of the schools ; the formation of school districts; the location of school-houses; the drawing of orders in favor of such districts, and such only as have maintained a public school for four months, under a teacher properly qualified, in a school-house approved by the committee; and the presentation of a written report, respecting their own doings, and the condition and improvement of the schools, to the town, and to the Commissioner of Public Schools,--these and other duties are devolved on this committee. In case the town is not divided into school districts, or votes to maintain the school independent of that organization, the town committee must perform all the duties of the trustees of school districts. 3. County Inspectors. Their appointment, number and tenure of office are left with the Commissioner of Public Schools, under whose instructions it is made their duty to examine teachers, and visit, inspect, and report to him respecting the schools in their respective counties. 4. State Commissioner. He is appointed by the Governor, with such salary as the Legislature may fix. His duties are to apportion the State appropriation among the several towns, and draw an order in favor of such towns as conform to the law; prepare forms and instructions for the uniform administration of the law in different towns and districts; visit schools, and, by personal communication and public addresses, call the attention of all interested, to existing defects and desirable improvements in school-houses, classification, teachers, methods, &c. in the schools ; recommend text books, and assist in the establishment of school libraries; grant state certificates to teachers whom in his circuit he shall find well qualified ; establish Teachers' Institutes and a Normal School, and in every way to elevate the profession of teaching; decide all controversies which may be referred to him, and report annually to the Legislature, his own doings, and his views as to the condition and improvement of the schools, and other means of popular education.
Libraries. Every district may establish, by tax or otherwise, a lıbrary for the use of the district; and every town may establish and maintain a public school library, for the use of the inhabitants generally of the town, to be kept together at some convenient place, or be distributed into several parts, which may be transferred from time to time for the convenience of different districts or neighborhoods, under proper regulations.
Modes of diffusing information. The teacher reports daily, in his school register, to parents and trustees; the trustees, when called on, to the committee of the town; the committee of the town annually, and the county inspectors, from time to time, to the State Commissioner; and the State Commissioner annually to the Legislature, in a printed document, which is virtually a report both to the Legislature and the people.
Such, in outline, is the system of public schools now in operation. While the frame-work of the old system is substantially preserved, such new features are incorporated into it as experience had proved to be necessary to supply acknowledged defects, and to aid, invigorate and sustain what had proved to be useful. Some of these additions may require modifications, and other provisions more efficient may be needed to prompt and assist delinquent and backward towns and districts to come up to the average standard of the State. If the people and the legislature of Rhode Island are in earnest in the efforts recently put forth to do away at once and for ever the glaring inequalilies in the condition and means of education which prevail in different sections of the State, and in different towns in the same section, and in different districts of the same town, they will provide for the uniform and vigorous administration of a system of public schools in every section, town and district. The experience of this State for two hundred years, during which this great interest was unrecognized and unregulated by law, proves conclusively that it cannot be safely left to be provided for by the instinct of parental duty, or by the voluntary and unaided efforts of individuals and towns. If thus left, while a few will be educated at great expense, at home or abroad, the many will have but scanty and irregular instruction; and not a few will be doomed to the condition of unlettered ignorance. Even if general provision is made by law for the education of all the children of the State, such provision to be efficient must connect every citizen with its management, must be adapted to the local circumstances and wants of different towns and neighborhoods; and by enlisting the vigilance of tax-payers and parents, be surrounded with the largest possible amount of watchfulness, interest and affection. The schools established must be at once good and cheap,-good enough for the children of those who know what a good school is, and cheap enough to be within the reach of the poorotherwise they can never become public or common schools, in the highest sense, where the children of all, rich and poor, the more and the less favored in outward circumstances, are welcomed to the same fountain of intellectual and moral life, and the ties and sympathies of mutual interest, friendship and dependence are nourished among the whole people, from earliest childhood. Unless this standard of excellence can be reached, or at least approached, the appropriation from the general treasury will fail in its object, and ihe schools maintained for two or three months in the year, under teachers young, inexperienced and unqualified, uncared for by parents, and unvisited by committees, will continue to prove in many towns, and more districts, costly and delusive nullities, satisfying the public conscience with the semblance of common schools, without removing the reproach of having persons, born on the soil of Rhode Island, unable to read and write. That the deficiencies in the schools are not exaggerated-tbat the conditions and elements which must exist and co-operate together before a good school can possibly exist, are not found at all in several towns, and in many districts in almost every town, and that there are modes within the reach of every town and district, authorized by the new act, by which these deficiencies can be supplied, and these conditions realized, will be seen in the following summary of the state of the public schools, and suggestions for their improvement.
IV. In pursuing the practical operation of the system of public schools as it has been heretofore organized, with a view of sug. gesting improvement in the schools, in those details and influences, whose nice adjustment and harmonious working, are necessary to the production of the great result, the thorough, equal and universal elementary education of all the children of the State, I shall confine myself mainly to general results, and recommendations ; reserving to a subsequent Report, or to a document to be appended to this, a particular account of the state and means of education in each town, with suggestions of improvement modified to the peculiar circumstances of each. The facts and suggestions presented, are the result of my own observation and reflections, on a great variety of schools in every section of the State, for two years past, fortified or modi. fied by the written communications of teachers and committees, from every town, in reply to circulars (Appendix i. and 11.) addressed to them respecting facts within their own personal knowledge, and plans of improvement adapted to circumstances of which they were the most competent judges.
Most of the deficiences in whole classes of schools, as well as the most glaring inequalities in the means and condition of education in different sections of the same town, and in different towns, are the direct result of the organization through which the schools are conducted. Every town in this State is divided territorially into school districts, and with the exception of four towns, the schools have heretofore been conducted by these districts, although but partially organized, or by a local committee, appointed to act for such districts. In the four instances where the schools are administered by the town in its corporate capacity, there is a much nearer approach to an equality of school privileges, a higher degree of excellence in all the constituents of good schools, and stronger evidence of progress, than in the towns where the district organization is virtually relied on. The districts as now constituted, differ from each other in territorial extent, number, occupation and pecuniary ability of the inhabitants, and more than all, in the degree of parental interest manifested in the public schools. Some districts enjoy in compactness and number of population, every facility for a gradation of schools, taught by competent teachers, through the year, and at the same time put up with cne large school, for a few months in each year, because their several proportions of the state and town appropriations are in. sufficient to put the schools on a more liberal foundation, and the remaining districts are not willing, in town meeting, to vote a larger sum. In other districts the school is too small-the children, few in number, irregular in their attendance in inclement seasons and bad state of the roads, are doomed to all the hardships of a poor school-house, an incompetent teacher, and the want of the stimulus and excitement which springs from a large number of the same age engaged in the same pursuits. Most of these inequalities could be easily obviated, were a school system to be introduced for the first time, with an appropriation on the part of the State large enough to induce the towns to act with corresponding liberality; and most of them
can now be gradually removed, and the disadvantages to some • extent, at least, be remedied.
1. By the establishment of a sufficient number of schools of different grades at convenient locations, irrespective of district lines, in all the small towns, and in every town where the majority of the voters are prepared to act liberally and efficiently on the subject. A good beginning made at any pointthe fruits of but one good school, taught in a good school-house, by a good teacher, under thorough supervision, once seen in any section of the town, must inevitably be followed by the introduction of the same or greater improvements in every other. The peculiar facilities of each section will be improved, and the natural disadvantages under which any portion may labor, will be obviated by special interference in its behalf.
2. By the thorough organization of school districts, in every town where they must be continued, and especially in such towns where the majority are not prepared to act with liberality and efficiency in behalf of public schools. In such towns those districts which are prepared to act should have every facility afforded, and noi be kept down to the standard of the backward districts. To enable them to do this, a general revision of school districts is desirable, for the purpose of defining their boundaries more accurately, and of adjusting the size to the altered circumstances of the population. In such a revision, the several districts into which a compact village has been heretofore divided, should be consolidated into one for the purpose of maintaining a gradation of schools; small districts should whenever practicable, be enlarged so as to embrace at least forty children of the proper school age, by adding portions of larger adjoining districts; and the very small districts should be annexed to others, where the same can be done without subjecting any of the children to an inconven. ient distance. Whenever a small district has been created under peculiar circumstances, and in other cases, where a few families by spirit and liberality, supply the natural deficiences of their position, it may be advisable to continue such for the present.
It will be the duty of the Commissioner in his addresses, circulars and reports, from time to time to call the attention of towns and districts to the manner in which their peculiar facilities can be improved, and their natural disadvantages can be obviated. 2. School-houses.
Under any plan of education, whether public or private, for every grade of school, whether elementary or superior, there must be a place where the school can be taught, and common sense dictates that this place should be located, constructed, and fitted up so as to promote, and not hinder, perfect, and not defeat, the work to be carried on within and about it. It should be built for children, and for children differing in age, sex, size, and studies, and therefore requiring