New York (State). Superintendent of Common Schools.

Judicial decisions of the State Superintendent of Common Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Commissioner of Education, from 1822 to 1913 online

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damaged by the elements, and to fit up and furnish such room or rooms in a
suitable manner for conducting a school or schools therein."

This statute became operative June 30, 1894, and from that date all boards
of education in union school districts organized under the general law could
not legally hire any rooms or buildings in which to maintain and conduct a school
unless at the time of such hiring the existing school buildings owned by the dis-
trict were overcrowded or some of its school buildings had been injured or
destroyed by the elements. Such is clearly the limitations upon their power
contained in the statute herein referred to. Since the enactment of that statute
it has been the settled policy of the State that all localities must own the school
buildings in which their schools are conducted and that the leasing and renting
of property for school purposes was not authorized except under extraordinary
conditions, and those conditions must be such as are enumerated in the statute.
Numerous decisions to that effect have been made by this Department.

The proofs herein show that in the year 1897-98 additional school buildings
were built and furnished to this district at an expense of about $28,000, and
it may fairly be assumed that in 1898 the district owned ample school rooms to
accommodate all the children of school age residing in the district, and hence no
emergency existed that required the hiring of the building in question.

It is also clear from a careful reading of the resolution adopted August 7,
1899, '^I'lst in the opinion of the board of education the emergency which would
authorize the hiring of projterty for school purposes by the board of education
in this district did not then exist; indeed, the respondents in their answer state
that the " special emergency occurred soon after the appeal herein was taken."

The testimony relating to the overcrowding of the schoolhouses owned by
this district is so contlicting, especially taken in connection with the fact that the
leasing of this property has been continuous since 1885, that I can not bring
myself to believe that the school buildings owned by such district were so over-
crowded as to recjuire or authorize the leasing of this building for school
purposes.

It appears from the proof herein that there is a room in one of the school-
houses in this district at present leased by the board of education to two young
ladies in which a private kindergarten school is conducted, and that there is
also a large assembly hall in the Central school building owned by the district,
which if fitted up and furnished would provide rooms to accommodate all the



JUDICIAL DECISIONS : SCHOOLHOUSES 807

children residing in this district without any necessity of leasing property for
school purposes.

The assessed valuation of this district from the last annual report made
by its officers appears to be $2,218,185. A community of such recognized intelli-
gence and abundant financial ability should provide adequate and commodious
school buildings owned by the district, and not be a tenant of individual land-
lords, and certainly not when it possesses property which it is itself leasing to
other tenants. Ample provision exists in the school law for providing school
facilities adequate to the needs of this district.

I therefore decide :

1 That union school district 12, Ridgeway and Shelby, Orleans county, must,
in accordance with the provisions of the Consolidated School Law, own the
buildings in which the schools therein are conducted, save only when temporary
hiring of rooms or buildings is made necessary by some emergency provided for
in the school law.

2 That the board of education should not continue the leasing of buildings
for school purposes beyond the present school year, and that it is their duty, and
they are hereby ordered and directed, to prepare and submit to a special meeting
of the district duly called, or to the annual meeting to be held on the first Tues-
day of August 1900, resolutions authorizing the construction of any additional
school buildings and furnishing the same, which in their judgment, may be neces-
sary to properly accommodate the children of school age residing within such
district.



3731

In the matter of the appeal of Charles McCoy and Chauncey J. Fox v. union
free school district no. i. town of EUicottville. county of Cattaraugus,

The action of a district meeting granting an extra allowance to contractors who have built
a new schoolhouse can not be sustained, unless notice by the board of education stating
that such tax will be proposed, and specifying the amount and oV)ject thereof, shall
have been published, etc.

Decided November 17, 1888

Scott, Laidlaw & McNair, attorneys for the appellants
Armisah Ward, attorney for the respondent

Draper, Superintendent

It seems that the district above named has recently erected a new school-
house, the work being done by Messrs Stokes & McMahon as builders, under an
agreement to perform the same for the sum of $12,749. The work was com-
pleted and the builders were paid the contract price in July last. At the time
of this settlement the builders presented a claim against the district amounting
to $613.68 for extra labor and materials, over and above such as they were
required to supply under their contract. The board of education paid them the



8o8 THE UKIVERSITV OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

sum of $166.82 and they delivered to the board tlieir receipt in full, covering
both the contract price and their claim for extra services, and material. They
insist, however, that it was understood that they should present their claim for
the balance, amounting to $446.86 to the annual school meeting, to be held in
the district on the 28th day of August 1888. That there was such an understand-
ing is disputed by the appellants, but I do not consider the point material. They,
in fact, did present their claim to the annual meeting, and the meeting resolved
to pay the same and directed a tax should be levied in order to raise the money.
From this action of the district meeting this appeal is taken. The appellants
urge that the appeal should be sustained for the following reasons: (i) that
the items charged were not extras ; whatever was done, was done under contract ;
(2) that there had been a full and satisfactory adjustment and final settlement
between the parties; (3) that the district owed them nothing; (4) that no
notice was given prior to the district meeting, stating that such tax would be
proposed at such meeting, and specifying the amount or object thereof.

I shall first consider the last objection raised by the appellants. If it is valid
it will be unnecessary for me to go into the merits of the controversy. Section
10 of title 9 of the Consolidated School Act provides that "A majority of the
voters of any union free school district other than those whose limits correspond
with an incorporated city or village present at any annual or special district
meeting, duly convened, may authorize such acts and vote such taxes as they shall
deem expedient for making additions, alterations or improvements to or in the
sites or structures belonging to the district, or for the purpose of other sites or
structures, or for a change of sites, or for the erection of new buildings, or for
buying apparatus or fixtures, or for paying the wages of teachers and the neces-
sary expenses of the schools, or for such other purpose relating to the support
and welfare of the school as they may by resolution approve; and they may
direct the moneys so voted to be levied in one sum or by instalments but any
addition to, or change of, site or purchase of a new site, or tax for the purchase
of any new site or structure, or for the purchase of an addition to the site of
any schoolhouse, or for building any new schoolhouse, or for the erection of
an addition to any schoolhouse already built, shall be voted at any such meeting.
unless a notice by the board of education, staling that such tax will be proposed
and specifying the amount and object thereof, shall have been published once
in each week for the four weeks next preceding such district meeting, in two
newspapers if there shall be two. or in one newspaper if there shall be but one
published in such district; but if no newspapers shall be published therein, the
said notice shall be posted up in at least ten of the most public places in said
district, twenty days before the time of such meeting."

It is not pretended that such notice as that contemplated in this statute was
given prior to the action of the district meeting. It seems to me that this
statute is fatal to the action of the district meeting. It may be true that the
action appealed from was not technically for any one of the purposes enumerated
in this statute, but that it comes within the general scope and intent of the



JUDICIAL DECISIOiNS: SCHOOLHOUSES 809

statute, it seems to me there can be no doubt. The money ordered to be raised
was for the payment of a claim growing out of the erection of a new school-
house. I think the people of the district were justitied in relying upon this pro-
vision of the statute to prevent any action of that nature without such prelim-
inary notice as the statute prescribes. It therefore follows that I must sustain
the appeal and perpetually enjoin the board of education from levying or collect-
ing a tax pursuant to the action appealed from.

My arriving at this conclusion will not bar the claimants against the district
from procuring a determination of the justice of their claim. They can either
present the same to a special district meeting after proper notice, or they can
bring an action against the district in the courts. The appeal is sustained and
the action of the district meeting is declared null and void.



5194

In the matter of the appeal of Jeremiah P. Conklin, J- ^^llitnlan Baker and
Joseph M. Edwards, trustees of school district no. 3, town of East Hampton,
Sufifolk county, from the action of a special meeting of said district held
June 29, 1905, in voting to rescind the action of a previous meeting in voting
$5000 for repairs etc.

A district meeting voted to repair a schoolhouse but the trustees had awarded no con-
tracts and a district liability had not been created. Such district could legally change
its plans and vote a tax for the erection of a new building.

If a district meeting votes a tax for the purpose of repairing a schoolhouse such action can
not be reconsidered after the expiration of 30 days unless the district votes in good
faith to erect a new building and authorizes a tax therefor.

Decided August 15, 1905

Draper, Counmssioncr

A special meeting of the legal voters of school district no. 3, town of East
Hampton was regularly called for May 11, 1905, to consider the advisability of
making repairs to the schoolhouse and authorizing an appropriation therefor.
The meeting appointed a committee to act with the trustees in preparing plans
for the proposed improvements. The meeting appears to have given the question
of repairs careful attention and to have regularly adjourned from time to time.
At a meeting held May 25, 1905, plans and specifications prepared by an archi-
tect for an addition to the building were submitted and adopted. An appropria-
tion of $5000 was voted for making such repairs.

At a meeting held June 15, 1905, the wisdom of erecting a new building
instead of enlarging the present building appears to have been discussed. An
informal ballot was taken on the question to ascertain the sentiment of the dis-
trict and 19 votes were cast in favor of erecting a new building and 13 votes in
favor of erecting the addition already authorized. At a meeting of the district
held June 29, 1905. the following resolution was adopted: "Resolved, That all



8lO THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

acts, resolutions, appropriations, plans and specifications relative to the building
on or addition to the present schoolhouse in the village of Amagansett, New
York, be now rescinded.''

No other action in relation to the matter was taken at that meeting or so
far as the pleadings herein show at any subsequent meeting. It appears that at
the time of this meeting no contracts had been let for the repairs authorized by
the di^trict May 25th. No district liability would have followed by a change of
plans to provide for the erection of a new building. Had this meeting made an
appropriation for the erection of a new building and taken such other action
necessary to prepare for the erection of such building its action would undoubt-
edly have been lawful. No action of this character was taken and the meeting
even adjourned sine die. The action of the meeting, therefore, in voting to favor
the erection of a new school building can not be regarded as having been taken
in good faith. Without providing for the erection of a new building this meeting
could not legally rescind its former action in voting an appropriation of $5000
for repairs to the building. Section 18 of title 7 of the Consolidated School Law
provides that a vote to repair or erect a schoolhouse or to erect an addition to
a schoolhouse shall not be reconsidered except at a meeting held within 30 days
from the date on which such vote was adopted. The vote by which the appro-
priation of $5000 for the erection of an addition to the schoolhouse in question
was reconsidered took place at a meeting held 49 days after the date of the
meeting at which such appropriation v/as made. The action of such meeting
was in violation of law and therefore void. No answer has been filed to this
appeal and the allegations contained in the moving papers must be regarded as
admitted.

The appeal herein is sustained.

It is ordered. That the board of trustees of school district no. 3, town of
East Hampton, be, and they hereby are, ordered to proceed to erect the addition
to the present school building as directed by a special meeting of such district
on May 25, 1905,' and to raise the said appropriation of $5000 as directed by
that meeting.



5179

In the matter of the appeal of Edwin L. Rymph for the removal of Louis J-
Cobey, sole trustee of school district no. 3, towns of Hyde Park and Pough-
keepsie, Dutchess county.

When a district meeting appoints a building committee to assist the trustees in making
certain repairs and the district subsequently decides not to make such repairs but
authorizes the erection of a new building and does not continue such building committee
it is held that the duties of such committee ceased.

.\ building committee can act in an advisory capacity only. A building committee may
advise trustees or make suggestions as to the procedure in erecting a building, but the
responsibility, under the law, of erecting such building rests upon the trustee and he
may proceed as his judgment directs even in opposition to the wishes or recommenda-
tions of a building committee.



JUDICIAL decisions: schoolhouses 8ii

A school district meeting can not restrict the powers of a trustee in determining the number

of teachers to be employed and the compensation of such teachers. The law imposes

this duty on a trustee.
If authorized expenditures made by a trustee are excessive or improper objection should be

made at the meeting of the district when the trustee makes a report thereon. If no

objection is made and such report is accepted by the district, such acceptance will be

regarded as a concurrence in the judgment and authority of the trustee in making such

expenditures.
A trustee should not proceed with the erection of a building to cost an amount in excess

of the funds available until he calls a special meeting of the district and receives

instruction therefrom or until a further appropriation is made.
When a trustee violates no instruction from the district but exercises his best judgment

on the course to pursue, even if that judgment is faulty, it does not constitute sufficient

cause for removal from office.
Decided February 23, 1905

Homer E. Briggs, attorney for appellant
Hackett & ^^'iIliams, attorney;? for respondent

Draper, Commissioner

This proceeding is brought to remove Louis J. Cobey from the office of
trustee of school district no. 3, towns of Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie. It is
alleged that Mr Cobey has illegally, wastefuUy and excessively expended the
funds of the district and that he has wilfully refused to obey instructions given
him by the district. Thirty-five legal voters of the district join Mr Rymph in
this petition and 26 legal voters of the district join Mr Cobey in his answer to
such petition. This district has three schoolhouses. One is known as the Violet
avenue schoolhouse, one as Mount Plope schoolhouse, and one as the Chapel
Corner schoolhouse.

One cause of much of the trouble in this district is a misunderstanding
between a building committee and the trustee. At a special meeting of the dis-
trict held September 16, 1902, the chairman was authorized to appoint a build-
ing cominittee " to assist the trustee with the supervision of the repairs and
the enlargement to the Mount Hope schoolhouse." The records of the meeting
show the chairman appointed as such committee : John A. Roosevelt, Frederick
R. Newbold and ^^'illiam R. Wright. At this special meeting the collector
reported that after paying the running expenses of the district there would be a
balance of $250. The meeting directed the trustee to raise by tax $250 and to
use such other amount remaining on hand after payment of all other school
expenses, for the enlargement and repairs to the Mount Hope schoolhouse. The
district, therefore, contemplated and authorized an addition and repairs to the
Mount Hope building to cost about $500. It appears that Mr Roosevelt went
to Canada shortly after the appointment of this committee and that upon his
return he was ill for some time. It also appears that Mr Newbold went to
Europe and that neither of these members rendered any service on such com-



Si 2 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

mittee or were ever consulted in relation to the work of such committee. The
only member of such committee who rendered any service was Mr Wright.

No repairs were made during the year to the Mount Hope schoolhouse.
At the annual meeting in August 1903 Mr Wright as the building committee
made a report recommending that a new schoolhouse be built on the property
adjoining the present site. This annual meeting directed that a special meeting
be held August 11, 1903, to consider among other things the proposition to build
a new schoolhouse at Alount Hope. Such special meeting decided to build a
new schoolhouse. Neither the annual meeting of 1903 nor the special meeting
of August II, 1903, authorized the continuance of the building committee
appointed at the special meeting of September 16, 1902, or the appointment of
a new committee. The records of these meetings or the pleadings in this pro-
ceeding do not show that any discussion took place at either meeting in relation
to the continuation of such building committee. That committee was appointed
for a definite purpose, namely, " to assist the trustee with the supervision of
the repairs and the enlargement to the Mount Hope school." No work in con-
nection with such repairs or enlargement at the Mount Hope building was done
for one year and at the expiration of that time the district decided not to do
the work which this committee was appointed to assist the trustee in supervising.
Therefore, the duties of the committee ceased. Such committee was not author-
ized to assist the trustee in any manner whatever in building the new school-
house authorized at the special meeting of the district August 11, 1903. When a
district meeting authorizes the appointment of a building committee, such com-
mittee can act in an advisory capacity only. Subdivision 5, section 47, title 7
of the Consolidated School Law imposes on the trustees of a district the duty of
building a schoolhouse when a district authorizes the erection of such building.
A building committee may advise trustees or make suggestions as to the pro-
cedure in erecting a builcling, but the responsibility, under the law, of erecting
such building, rests upon the trustee and he may proceed as his judgment directs
even in opposition to the wishes or recommendations of a building committee.
Trustee Cobey was entirely within his legal rights in obtaining plans from an
architect of his selection instead of taking the plans prepared by an architect
consulted by Mr Wright.

At the annual meeting of the district August 4, 1903, the trustee was author-
ized ■' to make such repairs to Chapel Corner school as he may find necessary."
Trustee Cobey in compliance with such instruction made extended repairs to
such building at a cost of $449.22. He made a complete detailed report of such
repairs and the expenditures therefor to the annual meeting of the district
August 2, 1904. The meeting accepted such report. Under the instruction given
the trustee he possessed power to make any necessary repairs. It is not claimed
that unnecessary repairs were made. No one suggested at the annual meeting
that the expenditures were excessive for the repairs made. It is not even claimed
that the district, at the time of the annual meeting, was not in possession of all



JUDICIAL decisions: sciioolhouses 813

information in relation to such repairs and the cost of the same which the peti-
tioners herein now possess. The appellant herein and many of those who join him
in this petition were present at the annual meeting and in accepting the report
of the trustee acquiesced in his judgment on the necessity of repairs made and
the cost of the same. If these expenditures were improper or excessive it was
the duty of the petitioners to have offered their objections at the annual meeting
and not to accept the report. The petitioners also fail to show that such repairs
were not necessary or that the expenditures therefor were excessive.

It is alleged that Trustee Cobey expended $86.34 in building a chimney in
the Chapel Corner schoolhouse when a contractor offered to do such work for
$45 if the trustee furnished the necessary sand. Trustee Cobey shows that the
actual cost of building such chimney, including all labor and material, was only
$46. He also shows that the remaining $40.34 was expended in repairing the
ceiling and walls of the Chapel Corner building as the ceiling of such building
had fallen after the annual meeting of 1904, and in also placing a concrete bot-
tom in the Violet avenue schoolhouse. The annual meeting of 1904 voted an
appropriation of $70 to build the chimney in the Chapel Corner schoolhouse.
Since the trustee built such chimney for $46 and made the additional repairs for
S40.34 it appears that such expenditures were legally and wisely made.

The petitioners allege that the annual meeting of 1904 instructed the trustee
to employ three teachers — one at a salary of $14 per week and two at a salary
of Sio each per week, and that only one teacher should be employed in each of
the schoolhouses of the district. The records show that Trustee Cobey asked for
an appropriation of $1760 for teachers' wages and that such appropriation
included $400 for an e.vira teacher in the Violet avenue schoolhouse. The meet-
ing voted not to hire an extra teacher and reduced the estimate of the trustee
for teachers' salaries $400, appropriating only $1360 for that purpose. Subdi-
vision 9, section 47, title 7 of the Consolidated School Law confers upon trustees
the power to employ all teachers, to designate the number of teachers to be
employed, and to determine the compensation of each teacher. A school district
meeting can not restrict the powers of trustees in such matters. It appears
that Trustee Cobey employed only three teachers and that he paid each of them
$12 per week. He possessed the legal right to do this. If in his judgment it had
been necessary to employ four teachers he might have employed that number not-
withstanding the fact that the district voted to hire only three teachers. Twelve
dollars per week is a reasonable salary for this district to pay its teachers. The
action of the trustee in this respect was proper and legal.

The special meeting of August 11, 1903, voted an appropriation of $4000
to buy the Violet avenue schoolhouse and site, paint the schoolhouse, fence the
lot, make the necessary improvements to the same, and to build a new school-
house at Mount Hope. The Violet avenue building was purchased at $2045.19.
Previous to the annual meeting of 1904 the trustee expended $233.75 for repairs



Online LibraryNew York (State). Superintendent of Common SchoolsJudicial decisions of the State Superintendent of Common Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Commissioner of Education, from 1822 to 1913 → online text (page 101 of 188)