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authors, and made a report this fall, which will be published and sent to teachers and officers.
One thing I must not forget to mention, our teachers' library. This movement was started only a few weeks ago, and now we have nearly one hundred and fifty volumes, by the best authors. Those who have worked so faithfully to inaugurate this project, feel amply repaid for all trouble. The teachers seem so eager to grasp the opportunities that it brings.
We have an educational column in our county paper and the teachers and others appear interested in this. We have had some able contributions.
All in all, we are not taking a Rip Van Winkle slumber, but are trying to swell the army of faithful, earnest, conscientious, progressive teachers. There are many things to pull us back and to impede our progress, but "we build the ladder by which we rise," and we build slowly indeed, carving a place for tired feet even in cast-iron public opinion.
The prejudices loom up before us at times like towering mountains, but over the Alps we are going to find the Italy of our hopes. We have beautiful models, the great teachers away beyond and above us, and they inspire and strengthen us to "do with our might what our hands find to do."
R. M. EWART.
With this term of office our present connection with the schools will close, after a service of six years. During that time the general features of school work have made great improvement and our public schools are now in good condition considering the many difficulties with which the work has to contend.
The improvement in school property has been very great. In six years twenty-five new buildings have been erected, and as many have undergone repairs, making them as good as new. Nearly all the buildings in the county are now in good condition and most of them are furnished with the best patent furniture. Our towns and villages are all
supplied with good substantial buildings, which are generally the most expensive and imposing edifices in the place.
Since the general revival of business there has been a great inclination among our best teachers to enter other employments, so that for the past two years it has been difficult to find teachers to supply the schools. However, the young teachers who are just entering the work are generally well qualified and most of them do good teaching from the first. Our teachers are all young and earnest and put forth their best efforts.
The normal institute continues to gain favor with teachers and people. The attendance at each session has been equal to the whole number of teachers employed during the year. The last two sessions have been conducted on the graded plan with a four years' course of study almost identical with that recommended by the State committee. Two classes have completed the course and those passing the required examination have received normal institute diplomas and professional certificates.
The teachers' association is another prominent feature of our county work. An organization of this kind has existed in the county for twenty years at least. Each winter meetings are held in all the towns of the county. The attendance of teachers and persons interested in education is always large. The time is fully and profitably occupied with discussions of educational and literary topics, and many helpful suggestions and methods are presented.
I have devised a system of records for the use of the office which show the results of teachers' examination, school visitation, and the work of the normal institute.
I have also secured at considerable pains a set of the biennial reports of the State superintendent. These are now the only source of the educational statistics of the county which we have prior to 1876.
I have also preserved, and had bound in uniform volumes, the Iowa Normal Monthly from its first appearance. Besides these we have a full set of the reports of the commissioner of education and Smithsonian Institute reports, together with a number of other works on educational subjects.
All the teachers are required to make a report to this office at the end of each month on blank cards furnished for that purpose. These reports show the enrollment, average attendance, average number belonging, cases of tardiness, number of recitations each day, visits from parents and school officers, and a number of other items of import
ance. Most of the teachers also make a monthly report of the standing of the pupils to the parents.
In all our work we have met with the hearty support and co-operation of teachers and officers, and through our united efforts the work of the schools has become quite uniform all over the county.
The number of good schools is continually increasing and absolute failures are now very rare. The short terms and the continual changing about of teachers is a serious hinderance to the progress of the schools. Were these evils corrected, much of the work that is now necessary to keep up the grade of the schools could be directed to their advancement.
Indeed, a change in these respects is imperative, if we would have the schools advance much above their present condition.
DES MOINES COUNTY.
During the last year we prepared a course of study with a uniformity of text-books, covering a period of ten years of school life, commencing at the age of five years and finishing at the age of fifteen years. More than half the schools in the county adopted the course and the books mentioned in the course, and the result has been better and more efficient work.
We have had the hearty co-operation of not only school boards, but the teachers have labored with us for what we considered the best interest of the schools, and we trust the work has not been in vain. Our normal was a success, both in attendance and results and at its close the teachers reorganized the county association, which has been a power for good the two last years.
With regard to the superintendency, there are differences of opinion. We consider it essential to the success of any department that it should have a head, and we cannot conceive how the supervision of schools can be abolished without substituting something in its place, and that something will cost as much or more than the thing itself. We would recommend, that the law be so changed as to permit the school boards of the county to elect the county superintendent and his duties shall consist in carrying out the orders or instructions of
the said county boards, so far as in accordance with law. Also, that the manner of doing business in this office between officers of the various school boards be rendered efficient and more simple, and all reports of county school boards to any county officer be through the county superintendent. Also, that cities of the first class, where they have a superintendent, be left to the management of the city board, under proper restrictions, independent of the county superintendent. Also, that the salary of the county superintendent be fifteen hundred dollars, so as to approximate the pay to the amount of work required.
And now our labors as superintendent of schools cease with this year. We have been permitted to fill, for two terms, one of the most responsible and arduous offices in the county. How well we have succeeded, we leave others to judge.
G. W. FITCH.
Our school interests are rather more favorable at the present time than they were two years ago. Still it is a deplorable fact that Fayette county with all her wealth pays her teachers very poorly.
Wages, however, are slightly on the increase, but are still much below that of many other counties. Our school officers seem to lose sight of the important fact that by cutting down wages, and shortening the school term in many districts to the minimum fixed by law, they are driving many of our best teachers into other counties, or into more remunerative occupations. We are pleased to notice, however, that there is a constantly increasing demand for well qualified teachers; while the poorly qualified are employed only where the school interests of the district are below par. It is also a source of gratification to receive frequent calls from directors who are in search of good teachers, while they deplore the mistaken economy practiced by school officers in failing to appreciate the services of good teachers sufficiently to make it an object for them to prepare for the work, and remain in it. Another matter which depreciates our school interests seriously, is the practice, especially with rural independent districts, of dividing and subdividing the township until there are ten or
eleven schools, while eight or nine would be amply sufficient to accommodate all, and the expense of maintaining the schools would be materially diminished.
We will say in this connection that arrangements are being made whereby some of these feeble districts will be consolidated with others; and thus enabled to maintain the full term of school.
During the past summer a neat and commodious school-house of three comfortable rooms has been built in Oelwein, at a cost of about $3,000. A comfortable and much needed two-room addition has been built to the school-house at Fayette, giving them a substantial brick house of six rooms; and had it not been for an unfortunate disagreement with regard to location, West Union would have had a $10,000 school-house ready for occupancy during the coming winter term.
With the return of more prosperous times school officers generally manifest a desire for improvement in school-houses and surroundings. Houses have been painted and repaired; the old comfortless home-made desks have given place to new and improved school furniture; schoolhouses heretofore on the common have been fenced, and others inclosed with more substantial or ornamental fences; and in some instances flower beds and shade and ornamental trees have succeeded the prairie god of former years.
MRS. A. W. WOODLANDS.
Many of the schools have done excellent work the past year. There is a desire on the part of the patrons for better teachers. The grade has advanced, but no more than the wages.
During the past year much attention has been paid to the study of orthography, writing, and language lessons, and the result is most satisfactory, indeed.
Some of the schools have not had the full time of school, on account of the high water.