statutes Illinois. Laws.

School laws of Illinois online

. (page 7 of 26)
Online Librarystatutes Illinois. LawsSchool laws of Illinois → online text (page 7 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


intendents should carefully examine the bonds on file, to see who
are, and who are not, entitled to participate in such distribution.
If any bonds are found to be defective, or not to have been
properly renewed, the trustees and treasurer of the proper town-
ship should be informed of the fact, and warned of the conse-
quences of neglecting to comply with the law. And when the
time to make the apportionment arrives, those townships only
can be included in the distribution, whose treasurers' bonds are
on file in proper form, and unexpired. If any township is ex-
cluded from the distribution, the township treasurers and trustees
will then be responsible, and not the county superintendent.
This rule applies to all the funds in the hands of the superin-
tendent — both to that apportioned in proportion to the number of
acres, and to that upon the census of children. The amount that
would have been apportioned to townships excluded by default in
filing the necessary bonds, must not be reserved for them, to be
paid over when they comply with the law, but must all be appor-
tioned to the other townships — it is forfeited^ not simply

This amendment determines the important principle that a
township treasurer's bond must be renewed every two years, in
case the same treasurer is re-appoiuted from time to time. Fail-
ure to renew does not, of course, invalidate the bond, or release
the securities, but it is the duty of the treasurer to renew his
bond at the time of each biennial re-appointment, and no funds
can be paid him by the county superintendent if he fails to do
so. The tenure of the treasurer, and that of his official bond, are
intended by law to be coincident, viz : two years.

The provisions of law on this subject may be summed up as
follows :

1. Every township treasurer, before entering upon his duties,
must execute a bond.

2. If a treasurer serve two years and is re -appointed, he must
execute a new bond.

3. If a treasurer resign, or is removed, and a new one is ap-
pointed, he must execute a new bond.

4. Every bond must have at least two responsible freeholders
as securities, which securities shall not be members of the board
of trustees.


5. Every bond must be approved and accepted by at least two
members of the board of trustees.

6. The penalty of every bond must be at least twice the
amount of the moneys, notes, mortgages and effects, in the cus-
tody, or to be in the custody, of the township treasurer.

Y. Every township treasurer's bond must be in the form
prescribed by law. (See section 55.)

A reference to the above points will enable any county super-
intendent to determine readily and surely the character and con-
dition of every bond on file in his oflSce, or that may be delivered
to him, and to govern himself accordingly.


One of the most important duties of county superintendents
is the preparation of full and careful reports, showing the pro-
gress and condition of the public schools in their respective
counties. Upon the completeness and accuracy of the county
reports, depend the fullness and value of the biennial report to
the governor, and upon that report the people of this and other
states rely for their knowledge of the condition of public educa-
tion in Illinois; and the legislature, for the data by which to
estimate the character of the results achieved, and the legislation
necessary to the farther improvement and development of the
whole system.

I wish I could impress upon school officers the vast importance
of well digested, consistent and thoroughly reliable statistical
and general educational reports. It is certain that many con-
sider the elaboration and tabulation of school reports as little
better than useless drudgery — ^to be performed bec'ause required
by law, but as of little practical value. And hence, it cannot be
denied that this duty is more neglected, or more carelessly per-
formed, than any other connected with our system. I speak in
general terms, for there have always been some, whose reports j
have reflected honor upon themselves and the state.

The first requisite of a statistical report is truth. Let the facts
appear just as they are, whether they show progress or retrogres-
sion. It is folly to exaggerate facts in order to save the pride of
a community, or to make actual decline appear as advancement.
It is more than folly, because it does injustice to those whose
l)ona fide progress is made to suffer by comparison with fictitious ,


progress ; and because it misleads and deludes the public mind.
Consistency, fullness of details, discriminating accuracy, close ob-
servation, neatness and punctuality, are also indispensable in
good school reports. Such reports require a great deal of time,
and thought and patience ; but they are worth something when
you get them. I have spoken of the necessity of school reports.
They are absolutely essential — they are the way-marks of pro-
gress. 1^0 system of schools, or of any thing else, can dispense
with such periodical exhibits of its operations.

For the reason, therefore, that complete and trustworthy school
reports are a necessity, this section, as amended, is highly penal
in its provisions relative to default in returning such reports ; the
•consequence being the forfeiture of the state fund, for the year
next succeeding that in which no report was made, and the lia-
bility of the delinquent county superintendent to removal from
ofSce, for such neglect of duty. These provisions are not too
severe. There is no excuse for the non-rendition of the required
reports, except in case of providential or other unavoidable neces-
sity, in which case the state superintendent is authorized to
remit the forfeiture. He will cheerfully and promptly exercise
the discretion vested in him in such cases, whenever satisfactory
reasons are shown for the failure, but not otherwise. Blanks of
every description, and full instructions as to the manner of filing
them, will, in all cases, be furnished to county superintendents,
as heretofore, and all possible aid and assistance will be cheer-
fully rendered whenever requested ; so that if any county should,
unfortunately, incur the penalty named in this section, it shall
have no right to complain. It is not anticipated that such a con-
tingency will occur.

For the past six years, county superintendents have been re-
quired to report annually. That rule will be continued. It is
better in all respects than to report only once in two years. The
facts and statistics of each year should be collected and tabulated
while the memory is fresh and the materials abundant and avail-
able. If deferred for two years, the report for the first year , is
sure to be comparatively meagre and imperfect, and the materi-
als of both reports to be more or less confused. County reports
will therefore continue to be due on or before the second Mon-
day of l!Tovember annually.



It was the object in amendiDg this section, to correct the erro-
neous ideas, so prevalent in portions of the state, in regard to
the nature of the office of county superintendent, and the char-
acter of the duties belonging thereto ; and, hence, the amend-
ments consist mainly in declaring and defining the educational
duties of the position. These amendments should be considered
in connection with that of the eleventh section of the act, and as
explaining why the legislature abolished the name of " school
commissioner " and adopted that of " county superintendent of
schools." It is safe to say that numbers of our people have had
no proper conception of the real duties of school commission-
ers. They have been thought of merely as the financial and
disbursing agents of the school fund, whose duties consisted main-
ly in selling a bit of school land occasionally, dividing a little
school money, and appropriating the per centage of commissions
allowed by law. It is even to be feared that some school com-
missioners themselves have not looked much beyond these con-

To dispel such utterly wrong and pernicious impressions, the
amendment to the eleventh section declares that there shall be
elected a county superintendent of schools , and the twentieth
section, as amended, declares what are the great^ paramount, all
im/portant duties devolving upon him as such. These chief duties
are not to sell school land and apportion school moneys, but to
visit schools • to study their methods of instruction, discipline and
government / to instruct in the science, art and methods of teach-
ing ^ to he the adviser and assistant of school officers and teachers;
to proinote the formation of teachers' institutes / and to labor in
every practicable %oay to elevate the standard of teaching y and to
improve the condition of the common schools of his county.

These are high educational duties and responsibilities, not
mere business and financial details ; and it is for these great ends
that the oflice of county superintendent of schools has been created
— an office not surpassed by any other in the magnitude, dignity,
importance and difficulty of the duties imposed — duties which
absolutely demand for their proper .discharge, the ablest, best,
and most experienced educational men that can be found — duties
that require not only great ability and special qualifications, but
much time, attention and thought. I rejoice that so many of the


present superintendents are of this character. I call upon the
people of every county in the State, to see to it that these high
interests are entrusted to no other class of men. Do not give the
highest county school office to men who seek it only for the sake
of the commissions accrningjrom the sale of land and the division
of the school fund, but to those who comprehend, and are able to
perform the infinitely more important duties pointed out in this
section. Let no private, personal or political considerations
prompt you to place any but the very best available man in this
responsible position.

As has already been said, the financial duties of a county
superintendent, though highly important in their sphere, are
utterly insignificant when compared with his educational duties.
Any man of ordinary honesty, and of even less than ordinary
business capacity, can sell a piece of lan^, or apportion a few
hundred dollars. But no mere business man, be his talents or-
dinary or extraordinary, can successfully meet the educational
requirements of this and other sections of the school law. It is
these duties which impart all real value and significance to the
office of county superintendent. Apart from these duties, the
office might be abolished, without material detriment to the es-
sential interests of common schools.

From uo other cause have the interests of common schools
suffered so much as from the lack of close, competent, energetic
and faithful supervision. In both of my reports to the legislature,
I earnestly invoked its aid to provide a remedy for this great
evil. In urging this point the following language was used :
"The great want of our free school system is supervision. The
need of this is felt in all its departments and agencies, from the
highest to the lowest. The impossibility of obtaining full and
reliable data for the statistical reports, though a serious evil, is
the least of those which flow from the absence of systematic and
responsible supervision. The schools themselves, and the essential
interests of education, are the greatest sufierers. The lack of effi-
cient subordinate supervision is fatal to every effort of the state su-
perintendent to give unity and strength to the system, and equally
so to the plans of commissioners for the improvement of the
schools of their respective counties. It is vain to make recom-
mendations or issue letters of instruction, if there are none to see
that they are carried out. Hence the want of unity and co.


operation among the various official agencies of the system.
Irregularities are unnoticed or wniked at ; errors in government
and classification — vicious arrangements of studies and methods
of teaching are suffered to exist, all of which would instantly be
detected by the vigilant eye of an experienced visitor, and the
proper remedy be applied.

"Hence there should be a competent, earnest and faithful
county superintendent in every county of the state, who should
be required to devote his whole time to the watchful care and
supervision of the common schools of his county ; and for these
services he should receive a suitable compensation. Under the
influence of such an officer in every county of the state there
would, in a single year, be such a change for the better in the con-
dition of the public schools, as would surprise the most sanguine
and convince the most skeptical. Activity would succeed stag-
nation, order arise from confusion, uniformity from diversity,
strength and success from weakness and failure.

" The county superintendents would be the prompt, efficient
and reliable agents through whom the state superintendent could
at all times communicate with the schools of the state and carry
out his plans for their improvement ; they would be the ready
and constant advisers of teachers, directors and township officers ;
counseling them in their duties, relie^dng them in their perplexi-
ties, assisting them in their records and in all the business details
pertaining to the schools. They would be active and efficent help-
ers in preparing for, organizing and conducting teachers' insti-
tutes, and in bringing the people to see the necessity of thorough
teachers and sound principles and methods of instruction. And
when the time for the annual reports arrives, the central office
would have prompt, complete and harmonious materials from
which to prepare the state report, and thus the legislature and the
people would be furnished with minute and authentic data as to
the progress of the whole system.

" For this work the very best and most experienced educa-
tional men should be chosen — practical teachers, if possible.
There is not a county in the state where the ablest and strongest
of such men would not find scope for all his time and all his
powers, and still leave much labor undone that ought to be per-
formed. The idea that this work can be properly done by any
man in connection with or in addition to any other regular pro-


fession or employment, is absurd ; tlie mere business and finan-
cial matters connected witli the schools may be attended to by a
person engaged in other pursuits, but to speak of this as school
supervision would be a strange perversion of language. The fact
that little more than this is done or attempted by some of the
school commissioners of the state, is not their fault, but that of
the system. There are not five counties in the state in which the
compensation now allowed school commissioners by law, is alone
adequate for their support ; no man therefore can take the oflice
of school commissioner unless he has some other means of income.

" The supervision here recommended will cost something, but
it will amount to something. It will be an infinite gain to the
schools and in the end be in every sense the cheapest. This is
the testimony of every state where it has been tried, and is indeed
self-evident ; for all know that honest and vigilant supervision is
the life and strength of every enterprise requiring numerous and
diversified agencies."

I congratulate the friends of free schools that the agency so
long needed has at length, in part at least, been provided. The
legislature has given us county superintendents of schools, and
has thus recognized, as never before, the true natm^e of the ofiice.
It is for us to see that the just expectations of the' friends of this
important change are not disappointed.

It is obligatory upon county superintendents to visit every
school in their respective counties, at least once in each year.
Less than this ought not to be required ; much more is expected.
Every school has a right to the benefit of such official visitation.
The value of an encouraging word to a faithful teacher, or an
approving remark to deserving pupils, or of a kindly hint or sug-
gestion, is very great. A devoted and competent superintendent
will always be able to draw from the storehouse of his experience
and observation, an apt suggestion or a timely hint, some word of
counsel or advice, which will cause his visit to be pleasantly re-
membered and its repetition to be desired.

The visitations of the superintendent should be conducted with
a definite plan and aim, and the results carefully noted and pre-
served. He should always aim at some positive practical good,
both to himself and to the school ; hence, he must know how and
what to observe, and how^ and what to speak. There is no
wonder-working magic in the mere official visit of a county super-


intendent — he must know what he is about, and be master of the
situation, or the comments that will follow his departure may be
the reverse of complimentary. If a superintendent does not un-
derstand the science, art and methods of teaching, it is needless
to say that he cannot instruct others in them ; nor will it be long
before both the teacher and pupils of the school visited, will find
it out. But the visits of a superintendent of large experience,
ample endowments, and an earnest, intelligent pm'pose, cannot
fail to be always most welcome and most useful.

In order to form a just opinion of the real condition of the
school visited, the ordinary routine of the exercises should not be
disturbed or suspended, and the visit should not be less than two
or three hours, if practicable. The practice of arresting the usual
p)roceedings in order to enable the visitor to witness the perform-
ance of a few favorite scholars or classes, is all wrong — it defeats
the whole object in view, which is to ascertain how i'h.Q daily loorh
of the school is done, not to be amused or astonished by the
achievements of a trained few. The superintendent calls to inspect
the school, not to attend an exhibition. Still worse is the habit
of suspending all business when the inspector enters, until he
"makes some remarks," and not resuming until he retires —
leaving both parties precisely as wise as they were before. The
intention of the law is plain ; the superintendence contemplated
will require careful study and preparation. Mere visitation is
not what is wanted ; that alone is as useless as for a physician to
merely look upon a patient, and then retire. The disease must
be understood, and then the remedy applied. So in the edu-
cational work ; its princples must be understood, its wants known,
and then the proper means employed to correct existing defects.

This section is also amended as to the manner of appeals to
the state superintendent. "When controversies arise, the parties
are fii-st to seek the opinion and advice of the county superin-
tendent. If his decision is satisfactory, that ends it. If not, then
the county superintendent forwards a written statement of the
facts in the- case, to the state superintendent. This mode of con-
ducting appeals is more simple than that under the old law,
besides avoiding the contingency of cases where an agreed state-
ment cannot be obtained, as not unfrequently happened under
the former plan. The county superintendent, having already
examined the case and afforded the parties a fuU hearing, is fa-


miliar with all the essential points in issue, and can readily embody
them in his statement to the state superintendent.

But it is the intention of the law, as amended, that all matters
of doubt, or in respect to which information or advice is needed,
should be referred, primarily, to the county superintendent. He
,^'shall be the official adviser and constant assistant of the school
bfScers and teachers of his county." He stands at the head of
the common school system for his county, and is the proper offi-
cer to apply to on all subjects relating to the interests of the
chools, and to the rights and duties of school officers and teachers
n his county. It is his duty to be thoroughly acquainted with
the law, with its official and judicial interpretations, and with the
wh.o\Q frame work of our educational system, and thus to be quali-
ied as the official and intelhgent adviser of all in his county who
may need his assistance.

This was undoubtedly contemplated in the original adjustment
3f the several classes of school officers ; it is the shortest and most
natural course for the parties concerned ; it relieves the central
affice of an unnecessary burden, and smooths and simplifies the
operations of the whole system. If the county superintendent
should be unable to give the information, or to answer the ques-
tions submitted to him, it is his right and duty to apply to the
state superintendent for the necessary advice or instructions,
which the latter is bound to furnish — promptly and fully. But
the county superintendent was intended to be, and is, the proper
advisory and consulting officer on all common school matters in
Liis county, and as such he should be first applied to. In the
great majority of cases he can furnish the desired information or
counsel, and thus save much time and delay to the parties con-

Should matters of a controversial nature be submitted to the
fetate superintendent, he will deem it his duty to decline to con-
sider or pass upon them until they shall have been referred to
the county superintendent, as required by law. All such mat-
ters will receive prompt attention when they are received through
the regular and prescribed channel, namely, through the county
superintendent, and not otherwise. This is not to cause the
parties needless trouble, nor to save the state superintendent
from labor, but to subserve the ends of truth and equity, and to
comply with the law. The one great end sought by the prior


reference to tile county superintendent, is to furnish the state
superintendent the means of rendering a just and impartial deci-J|
sion, should the case come before him by appeal.

The department will, in all cases, decline to furnish an opinion
or decision in a case where legal proceedings have been already
instituted, or are pending ; nor will such opinion be knowingly
given to be used in a court of justice where the question or ques-
tions are being tried; nor where the object is to use such decision
in legal proceedings proposed to be instituted. Official opinions
will be declined in such cases for two reasons : first, because the
object of clothing the state superintendent with authority to
determine school controversies is io ])r event litigation, not to fur-
nish parties or their counsel with the means of gaining a suit
after legal proceedings have commenced; and, second, because
by the terms of the 8th section of the act, the state superintend-
ent has nothing to do with cases which have been taken into the
courts — his jurisdiction ceases the moment that of the courts be-
gins. He neither has nor claims, nor wishes to have or to claim,
any judicial authority.


The amendment to this section provides for the election of one
township trustee annually, and extends the term of office to thi-ee
years; being the application of the same principle to the election
and tenure of trustees, as has, for the past four years, obtained
in respect to the election and tenure of school directors. I^o
amendment has worked better than that which extended the term
of office of directors from one to three years, and which obviated
the great evil of an entire change of men and measures every
year, by providing for the retirement of one director annually,
leaving a majority of the board still in office. There is no reason
to doubt that equally great advantages will follow the incorpora-
tion into the law of the same rule in respect to township trustees.
It will give stability and uniformity to the policy of the board,
and avert the evils incident to an entu'e change of members every
two years.

The new rule took efiect at the last regular election of trustees,

Online Librarystatutes Illinois. LawsSchool laws of Illinois → online text (page 7 of 26)