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Gentlemen of the Board of Education:
It was my purpose, until a few days since, to confine myself, in this my Fifth Annual Report, to a compliance with your vote instructing the Agent of the Board, agreeably to suggestions made by him in previous reports, “ to prepare a report on the condition of schoolhouses throughout the State, and also a report presenting plans and descriptions of model school-houses suitable for country towns, &c.” I have prepared a partial report, presenting as concisely as seemed desirable the condition of school-houses in all the towns of nearly three counties, from information gathered from personal observation, and from other reliable sources, and can in a similar manner go through with all the other counties of the State. It will, however, require more of my time, and occupy more space in your annual report, than may seem to you expedient, and yet such a report only can give a full and definite knowledge of the subject. I do not at present submit this partial report, but wait your further instructions as to the expediency of completing it. The other report that you instructed me to prepare,“ presenting plans and descriptions of model school buildings," will be attended with considerable expense for engraving and printing the plans to be presented, which, in the absence of any appropriation for this purpose, I did not feel authorized to assume. When so authorized, such a report can soon be prepared for distribution to committees and others needing the information which it may contain, and also be embodied in my next annual report.
My duties during the year have been of the same general character as in the four preceding years of my agency, and are so well understocd by you as not to need a particular statement of them. They are briefly defined in the words of the statute to be," to visit the several towns and cities for the purpose of inquiring into the condition of the schools, conferring with teachers and committees, lecturing upon subjects connected with education, and in general, of giving and receiving information upon subjects connected with education, in the same manner as the secretary might do if he were present." I have visited about eighty different towns, occasionally spending two or three days in the same town, when of extensive area, to visit all the schools, and to meet teachers and citizens, and in several instances have, by invitation, visited the same town at two or three different times to be present on occasions of educational interest. I find that with the numerous other duties connected with the agency, this is about as many towns as I can visit during the year with any satisfaction. With this brief personal statement, I invite your attention to the consideration of the following topics.
TEACHERS' INSTITUTES. Seven Institutes have been held during the year at the following places and times :
At Medway, Norfolk Co , Oct. 9, five days, . .
Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Oct. 23, five days, .
It must not be inferred that the numbers given above were in attendance during the entire period that the Institutes were in session. They represent the whole number of different teachers, actual and prospective, and members of school committees, whose names and places of residence were registered by me, some of whom were present for only a day or two of the session. As has been stated in previous reports, the school committees in many towns are unwilling to allow the teachers employed by them to close their schools to attend the Institute for the whole period of five days, unless they will make up the time, thinking that the law will not justify them in doing so. In the towns where the Institutes are held, the schools are, of course, all closed, and the teachers in attendance, as otherwise the Institute would not be held; but from some of the neighboring towns the teachers come
for only a portion of the time, usually the last two days, and thus lose very much of the benefit to be derived from constant attendance upon the exercises. To meet this serious difficulty, and to give increased efficiency to the Institutes, I would renew the recommendation made once and again in previous reports, that the legislature be requested to pass an Act similar to that of New York and some other States, “ which shall provide that the school committee of any town may, in their discretion, authorize and require the teachers under their charge to attend any Teachers' Institute which may be held under the sanction of the Board of Education in such town, or in any adjacent town, and that, in case of such attendance, the time so spent shall not be deducted from the term of service, and shall also be counted, in the returns made to the Board, as actual school time.” Much regret is usually expressed, not only by the teachers, but also by the committees themselves, who attend only the closing exercises, and become fully aware of their character and benefits, that they had not been present during the entire session, and assurances are given that whenever another shall be held within reasonable distance they will avail themselves of the full benefit of it.
These Institutes were all held for the usual period of five days, with the exception of the one in West Newbury, which commenced on Wednesday instead of Monday in consequence of the State election occurring on the preceding Tuesday. The entire series was a very successful one, judging from the opinions of those in attendance, which in every instance were expressed either in resolutions or in some less formal way, accompanied by an invitation to hold another Institute as soon and as often as we deemed it expedient.
As a specimen of the more formal resolutions, I submit the following, which, preceded by remarks of a similar character by some of the leading citizens and friends of education from abroad, were unanimously adopted at the close of the first Institute, the one in Medway :
Resolved, That the present session of the Institute, in its practical teachings and illustrations, has given us in brief both the model teacher and school, and that the Institutes, as conducted by the present Board, are meeting and supplying the highest needs of those who bave the educational charge of our Public Schools; therefore,
Resolved, That we believe it the duty of all school committees and
friends of education to use all laudable means to secure the early and constant attendance of teachers upon this State means of improving our schools.
Resolved, That we, teachers and citizens, who have attended the meetings of this Institute, express our great obligation to the Board of Education and its agents for the opportunity of enjoying its lifelong benefits in this vicinity.
Teaching exercises and lectures at the day sessions were given at all the Institutes by Professors Wm. H. Niles and Lewis B. Monroe, of the Institute of Technology, Boston ; Mr. G. A. Walton, of Westfield ; Mr. 0. . Bowler, of Boston; the Secretary and the Agent of the Board; at five of the Institutes by Mr. Hagar, of the Salem Normal School; at three by Mr. Boyden, of the Bridgewater Normal School ; at one by Mr. Dickinson, of the Westfield Normal School, and Miss Johnson and Miss Eaton of the Framingham Normal School; at four by Mr. Walter Smith, Director of Art Education. The evening lectures were given by Professors Niles and Monroe, the Secretary and the Agent; one by Mr. Smith, and one by Mr. Philbrick, a member of your Board. Besides one evening lecture given at each Institute by Prof. Monroe, he gave readings after the lectures on two other evenings.
For the generous hospitality of the citizens in all the towns where the Institutes were held, I would express my own hearty thanks, and those of my associates, and of all others in attend. ance. All were provided for most liberally and kindly. To the officers of the several railroads, granting me permission to issue free return tickets to those in attendance upon these Institutes, I would renew the expression of my thanks for their prompt and cheerful compliance with my request for such favors. In no case has such a request been refused.
In making preliminary arrangements for the Institutes, I have not only visited the towns where they were to be held (and sometimes two or three such visits to the same place are necessary), but when practicable I have also visited several of the adjacent towns with especial reference to awakening an interest in the subject, and so secure a better attendance. Such effort is particularly necessary in those parts of the State in which Institutes have not been held, and their object is not fully understood. I have also prepared and sent to the school committees in many towns near the place where each Institute was to be held circular letters