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POWERS AND DUTIES OF INHABITANTS OF SCHOOL DISTRICTS.
By $ 65 (No. 87)of the school act, it is provided that " an annual meeting shall be held at the time and place previously appointed ; and at the first district meeting, and at each annual meeting, the time and place of holding the next annual meeting shall be fixed.”
Annual meetings need not be precisely one year apart. The time may be a few days or weeks more or less than a year, if the inhabitants think it necessary. For instance, an annual meeting held on the first Tuesday of October may be adjourned to the second Tuesday of October of the next year. The propriety of the act in every case must depend upon the circumstances attending it. No general rule as to the extent of the variation from a year can be laid down as applicable to all cases. Com, School Dec, 289.
It is proper, however, to observe, that as by the act of 1843 one trustee only is hereafter to be annually elected, who holds his office for three years, and as in case of a vacancy, such vacancy is to be supplied only for the unexpired term left vacant, the variations in the time of holding the annual meeting ought not to exceed three or four weeks. The time from one annual meeting to another must always be considered and treated as one year.
By 8 66 of the act of (No. 88,) “ Whenever the time for holding annual meetings in a district, for the election of district officers shall pass without such election being held, a special meeting shall be notified by the clerk of such district to choose such officers; and if no such notice be given by him or the trustees last elected or appointed, within twenty days after such time shall have passed, any inhabitant of such district qualified to vote at district meetings, may notify such meeting in the manner provided by law in case of the formation of a new district; and the officers chosen at any such special meeting, shall hold their office until the time for holding the next annual meeting.”
By § 67 of Laws of 1847, (No. 89) “ When the clerk, and all the trustees of a school district, shall have removed, or otherwise vacated their office, and where the records of a district shall have been destroyed or lost, or where trustees neglect or refuse to call meetings to choose trustees, the Superintendent of Common Schools shall have authority to order such meetings.”
By § 68 (No. 90,) " When in consequence of the loss of the records of a school district, or the omission to designate the day for its annual meeting, there shall be none fixed, or it cannot be ascertained, the trustees of such district may appoint a day for holding the annual meeting of such district.”
If an annual meeting is held at the time and place appointed at or adjourned from the annual meeting of the preceding year, the proceedings will be deemed valid, notwithstanding the omission of the clerk to give the notices prescribed by law.
Where the place and time of day for holding the annual meeting are not designated by the inhabitants, the usual place and time of day for holding such meetings will be understood, and the notices of the clerk should correspond thereto. When assembled, the inhabitants may adjourn to any other convenient place; but the clerk cannot, in his notices for the annual meeting, designate any other than the usual place for holding such meeting, where the inhabitants at their last annual meeting omitted to specify any place.
Com. School Dec. 129, 141.
The law has not specified what number of inhabitants shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at a district meeting, annual or special; and accordingly the proceedings, if otherwise regular, will not be disturbed by reason of the paucity of attendance on the part of the inhabitants, where the notice has been fair and public, and there is no room for the allegation of surprise A reasonable time, should, however, be allowed for the inhabitants to assemble, after which those in attendance may legally proceed to the transaction of any district business.
By $ 69 (No. 91) it is provided that a special meeting shall be held in each district whenever called by the trustees; and the proceedings of no district meeting, annual or special, shall be held illegal, for want of a due notice to all the persons qualified to vote thereat, unless it shall appear that the omission to give such notice was wilful and fraudulent.”
This latter provision was intended for cases where through accident or mistake, the proper legal notice has not been given to all who are entitled to it: but it cannot be construed to extend to cases in which no attempt is made to give the notice required by law to any of the inhabitants. Where the clerk of a district undertakes to give a notice in the manner provided by the statute, and has failed, unintentionally, to serve such notice on all the persons entitled to receive it, or where such notice is imperfectly served, the proceedings of the meeting will not be void on that account. They may, however, be set aside on appeal, on showing sufficient cause.
Com. School Dec. 186, 223. The law in terms, prescribes that the object for which a special meeting is called shall be stated in the notice for such meeting.
The opportunities afforded by the coming together of the inhabitants of each district, for deliberation and consultation in relation to their schools, and the various interests connected therewith, are calculated to exert a most beneficial influence in favor of education ; to promote union, harmony and concert of action in the several districts; and to cement the ties of friendly social intercourse between those having a commoù interest in the moral and intellectual culture of their children. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that they should not be neglected ; that the inhabitants should be prompt and uniform in their attendance ; and that the proceedings should be inyariably characterized with that order, regularity dignity and decorum which can alone command respect and efficiently attain the objects to be accomplished. To secure as far as possible the attainment of these desirable ends, it is. proposed in this place to examine the powers and duties of the inhabitants, when assembled in district meeting, the mode of proceeding the keeping of the minutes and records, the qualifications of voters, and some other subjects of general interest, connected with thes proceedings of district meetings.
1. POWRRS AND DUTIES
OF INHABITENTS WHEN ASSEMBLED
IN DISTRICT MEETING.
These are particularly specified in $ 62, (No. 84) of the act, and will be noticed in their proper order. They are, to appoint a moderator ; to adjourn from time to time as occasion may requira; to choose district officers at their first meeting upon the organization of the district, and as often as vacancies occur, by expiration of the term of office or otherwise ; to designate a site for district school-houses ; to lay such tax on the taxable inhabitants of the district as the meeting shall deem sufficient to purchase or lease a suitable site for a school-house, and to build, hire, or purchase such school-house, and to keep in repair and furnish the same with necessary fuel and appendages; and to repeal, alter and modify their proceedings from time to as occasion may require.
By the 10th section of the act of 1841, sub. 8. (No. 84,) the inhabitants are authorized, with the consent of the Town Superintendent of common schools, to designate sites for two or more school houses for their district, and to lay a tax for the purchase or lease thereof, and for the purchase, hiring or building of school houses thereon, and the keeping in repair and furnishing the same with necessary fuel and appendages.
This provision authorizing more than one site and school house, is intended for the accommodation of those districts that may be so peculiarly situated as to render a division inconvenient or not desirable. A banking or other corporation, or some manufacturing establishment liable to taxation, may thus be rendered beneficial to a large territory and a greater number of inhabitants, instead of having its contributions applied for the benefit of a few. And in populous places, it may often be convenient to have a school for very young children distant from that attended by those more advanced. In these and other cases, the districts should not hesitate to exercise the power given by this section. But they should in all cases obtain the previous assent of the Town Superintendent.
The same section authorizes the inhabitants, in their discretion and without the assent of the Town Superintendent, to levy a tax not exceeding twenty dollars in any one year, for the purchase of maps, globes, black-boards and other school apparatus. The principal facts in geography are learned better by the eye than in any other manner, and there ought to be in every school-room a map
of the world, of the United States, of this state and of the county. Globes also are desirable, but not so important as maps. Large black-boards, in frames or plaster are indispensable to a well conducted school. The operations in arithmetic performed on them, enable the teacher to ascertain the degree of the pupils' acquirements, better than any result exhibited on slates. He sees the various steps taken by the scholar, and can require him to give the reason for each. It is in fact an exercise for the entire class; and the whole school, by this public process, insensibly acquires a knowledge of the rules and operations in this branch of study,
Cards containing the letters of the alphabet, or words, may be usefully hung up in the room. Indeed the whole apparatus provided by Mr. Holbrook and others, is eminently calculated to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and to render it agreeable.
The amount of the tax which may be voted for the purchase or lease of sites for the district school-house, and for the repairs, furniture, fuel and appendages, is left wholly to the discretion of the district, and is unlimited by law: but no tax for building, hiring or purchasing a school house can exceed the sum of four hundred dollars, unless on the certificate of the Town Superintendent that a larger sum, specifying the amount, ought, in his opinion, to be raised; in which case a sum not exceeding the sum so specified, may be raised. $ 70 (No. 92,) If the district under the act of 1841, raise a tax for building, hiring or purchasing two or more school-houses, a tax for each may be levied, to the amount of $400, without a certificate from the Town Superintendent.
Whenever a majority of all the taxable inhabitants who are legal voters of any school district, to be ascertained by taking and recording the ayes and noes of such inhabitants attending at any annual, special or adjourned school district meeting legally called or held, determine that the sum proposed and provided to build a school house, shall be raised by instalments ; it is the duty of the trustees to cause the same to be levied, raised and collected, in equal annual instalments, in the same manner, and with the like authority that other school district taxes are raised, levied and collected, and to make out their tax list and warrant, for the collection of such instalments as they become payable according to the vote of the said inhabitants; but the payment or collection of the last instalment can not be extended beyond five years from the time such vote was taken; and no vote to levy any such tax can be reconsidered except at an adjourned general or special meeting to be held within thirty days thereafter, and the same majority is required for reconsideration as is required to ļevy such
By $.71 (No. 93) and $ 74 No. 96, the inhabitants are authorized, whenever the site of their school-house has been legally changed, to direct the sale of the former site or lot, and the buildings thereon, and appurtenances, or any part thereof, at such price and upon such terms as they shall deem most advantageous to the district.
By the 136th section of the act of 1847, (No. 155) it is provided that “whenever the number of volumes in the district library of any district numbering over fifty children between the
of four and twenty-one years, shall exceed one hundred and twentyfive; or of any district numbering fifty children or less, between the said ages shall exceed one hundred volumes, the inhabitants of the district qualified to vote therein, may, at a special or annual meeting, duly notified for that purpose, by a majority of votes, appropriate the whole or any part of the library inoney belonging to the district for the current year, to the purchase of maps, globes, black-boards, or other scientific apparatus, for the use of the school, and in every district having the required number of volumes in the district library, and the maps, globes, black-boards and other apparatus aforesaid, the said moneys, with the approbation of the State Superintendent may be applied to the payment of teachers
The object of this enactment is two-fold. It is designed in the first instance, to secure to every district at least one hundred volumes of suitable books for a district library; and to districts numbering over fifty children, one hundred and twenty-five ; and in the second, to authorize the inhabitants of any district so supplied, when duly convened for that special pu pose, to appropriate so much of the library fund for the current year, as they may think proper, to the purchase of maps, globes, black-boards or scientific apparatus, for the use of the school, or to the payment of teachers wages when authorized by the State Superintendent. In the absence of any such appropriation, or whenever any balance remains unappropriated, the library money, or such unappropriated balance, must be applied to the purchase of books; and in any event,that money must be expended for the one or the other of these purposes, on or before the first day of October in each year. It is respectfully recommended to the inhabitants of those districts which are already supplied with the requisite number of books, and ofothers, whenever they shall reach the specified number, to avail themselves of the power thus conferred upon them, to supply their school with those useful articles of scientific apparatus which so materially conduce to the improvement of the pupils. Independently of this appropriation, no district should dispense with a black-board; and if suitable maps, globes and a few of the more simple means of illustrating the elementary truths of science, can be 'superadded, the library money for two or three years cannot perhaps be more advantageously appropriated. In the mean time, the books on hand can be generally read; and such additions to the library as the growing wants and increased intelligence of the district may require, can then be from time to time procured. The advice of the Town Superintendent may at all times be had as to the most proper and judicious appropriation of the fund for the purposes provided for by the section under consideration.
By the provision of the several acts relative to school district libraries, (No. 159 et seq.) the inhabitants of the several districts