ASHBURTON SCHOOL COMMITTEE.
Special Meeting. A special meeting of the School Committee, at which all the members were present, was held last night, to discuss a motion given notice of by Mr. Felton “to consider the advisableness of changing the master.” Before speaking to his motion, Mr. Felton asked to see the report of the Committee, which was read at the last meeting of householders. : Mr. Ward had not the report wi'h him, but would go and fetch it. On his return, he read the report, which has already been printed in these columns. Mr. Felton said the reason why he had moved in this matter was his belief that the master was inefficient At the last meeting of householders, it would be remembered, he had asked that the In speetor’s report should be produced, but it was not forthcoming ; and if it bad been, he would hove had a pood deal more to say than he had said on i’l .t coca-ion. For what he did say, then, however, and for Ins action in bringing forward the motion they were there that night to discuss, ho had been called unmanly, and other strong language had been made use of in characterising the course he had followed. The report was adverse to the master, and satisfied him (Mr. Felton) that the master was not fit to be in charge of such a large school. There were 4CJ children attending—was it right for these children to be put in this man's hands to pvnetipe upon for another thi’ee months 1 Was it right that that large number of cbi'dren should be in the bands of a man for another three months who bad been pronounced by the Inspector to be unfit for. his position ? There was nothing unmanty tin trying, in the interests of all these children, to have him removed. At the annual mooting an old member of the Committee —he would not mention names —had said that ho knew of his own knowledge, and from the progress his own children were not making, also from complaints that had been made to bun, that the teaching had been inefficient. The Committee ought, if they wtre not, to have been aware of the slate of the school, and should have taken action. He blamed them in this. It was quite reasonable for this Committee to forward to the Board of Education a confirmation of the Inspector’s report. They were an independent body, and were entitled to say whether they agreed or disagreed with the report, and if they thought the master efficient or not. It was all very well for the master to come, (fj '-er a report had been made by the Inspector, and give as reasons fur his non-success that he had been shorthanded, and that his school had been crowded ; but he should have said all that before the report came in, and given the Committee warning that he was alive to the disadvantages be had been laboring under and expected a bad report. Had he done so, he would then have shifted the blame to the shoulders of the Committee, who were responsible for laying before the Board the real state of the school. He had not a word to say against the master’s abilities—but he was not an efficient teacher ; and while he was in charge of the school, he had the care of 400 or 500 children, and the responsibility of those children's future lay with him. It was all very well to talk of justice and fairness and sentiments like that in a case of this kind ; but the education of the children had to be seen to at whatever cost; and in this case, it wasamatter of one man’s comfort against the welfare of 500. Much had been said about a workman not being able to work without tools, and so forth, and that time should be allowed a man to try himself when he got a time given him. Hewasnotagainsttl. it time being given, I).Che wished to state that his belief in the master’s inefficiency was no new thing with him. In an old notebook he.had by him, he had that day read notes a twelvemonth old, of complaints made to him against the teacher. Then, in reference to a remark made by the Chairman at last meeting regarding his own (Mr. Felton’s) boy having been dux of the school. He hoped the Chairman did not look upon that position as having been given to the lad as a bribe to hn father ! He hoped he knew the Chairman better than to believe he expected him to look upon it in that light.’ Of the fact itself he could only say that if the lad was dux, the others must bo very poor indee* 1 . Then, another fact did not look well for the school. A lad named Murray had only been a few months in the school, yet he had carried everything before him. He had been taught in England—everything was now to him hero ; he had come off the idleness of a long sea voyage, and yet ho was able to go into that school, and show the superiority of his English training over the Ashburton training by leaving all his fellows behind him in the competitions. To speak in the terms he had been doing of the school was no pleasurable duty. He would far rather praise the school, and would gladly be in a position to do so. It was no personal matter with him ; he had only the most casual acquaintance with Mr. Stott, and had net exchanged altogether a dozen words with him. Ho did not speak in a disparaging strain of Mr. Stott as Mr. Stott; he only knew him in this matter as the teacher of the Ashburton School, and in that capacity he thought ho was inefficient. A great matter for complaint was the number of times lessons were changed. Latin was begun. In two or three weeks’ Latin was changed, and algebra was begun. Two or three weeks more, and algebra gave place to shorthand, and so on. With these constant changes the children were never able to fix their attention upon any one thing, and took a dislike to the whole and learned nothing. He could bring numerous parents to say exactly what he had just said about those repeated changes. He had hoped that the Committee who knew these facts, would have taken the matter in hand, but they didn’t, and instead gldssed them over. He believed he knew what the powers of the Committee were. ’ They had the appointing of the teachers, the local management, and the spending of the money set aside for the working of the school, though the Board held supreme power. He believed he was acting quite within the Committee’s functions when he asked them to adopt the motion he would now move. It was different from the one that he had given notice of, and he would put it in this way with the consent of his seconder : “ That a leHer be wiitten to the Board, informing them that this Committee agrees with the report of the Inspector, Mr. Edge, as to the inefficiency of the present master to conduct the Ashburton School.”
Mr. Hodder agreed to the alteration. Mr. Felton continued—ln wording the resolution in that way he felt that it was left open to the Committee to act. independently at the end of three months. If the motion could be improved upon, he was willing to have it altered, so long as it retained an expression of the Committee’s opinion that the master was inefficient, Bo did not wish to interfere with the three months' trial. Long official experience had taught him how unpleasant it was to have to report an officer, and Mr. Edge’s duty was a peculiarly unpleasant one. Mr. Hodder thought the conduct of those who had supported Mr. Felton at last meeting had been somewhat misconstrued. He did not think it was intended to be precipitate in changing the master. They o dy wished to express an opinion in harmony with Mr. Edge’s report. He could say a good deal more, did he think it necessary, than he had yet said about the school,, but Mr. Felton had laid the matter so thoroughly before them that further talk from him was-useless. Hiselder boy had been trained at an English school, and was constantly interrogating the
younger one as to how school matters were carried on, and the answers were not such as led to a high opinion of the management. He would second Mr. Felton’s motion. Mr. Robinson thought that all Mr. Hodder had to say against the school should be said. Mr. Hodder would not keep back any complaint he had to make if the Committee wished him to make all he had in detail. He supported all Mr. Felton had made—who had, in fact, taken the wind out of his sails. He certainly would support him in what he had said about the changes of lessons. He would add that there was a looseness about the opening of the school, which was sometimes late and irregular. There was a want of decision of character about the teacher, and he had not abibty to maintain discipline. The manner in which the children spoke of him was proof of the latter. There were many good points in Mr. Stott’s character, and he respected him very much, but he believed he came short of the essentials for a teacher that he had mentioned. Mi-. St. Hill expressed his regret at the way the discussion had turned at last meeting, especially as it was the first meeting of the new Committee. Rcgard- : ig Mr. Felton’s long tirade about the inefficiency of the teacher, which he had so beautifully and so clearly illustrated, Mr. St. Hill was not at all pleased with it, as he felt the master had not been rendered ju lice. Mr. St. Hill took a position independent and alone; he did not tie himself up to the head master, but he hated injustice, and that was the reason why he again said the course pursued by Mr. Felton and the others was unmanly, and the circumstances warranted the word. It was simply handicapping the master with increased difficulties to hold this meeting and rake up all that had been said. He was sorry to see that two old members of the Committee had stultified themselves in the way they had done. If they would remember what took place at the Committee meeting when the Inspector’s report was read, they would recall to mind that it was simply remitted to the schoolmaster. They had every opportunity then to cry out about the master’s inefficiency if they had chosen ; they had every chance to urge on strong measures if they wished. But what did they do. They acquiesced in the doings of the old Committee and allowed the report to go to the master, and the matter to remain in the Board’s hands, who had taken it out of the Committee’s. But now a man conies into the new Committee with the new blood, and tries to sweep everything before him for the benefit of ail creation. Then these old members suddenly discover that they should do something that they did not think of doing before when they had every chance to do it. The old Committee was made up of as good men and as intelligent men as now compose the new, and the old Committee were unanimous in hanging the matter up for the time the Board had fixed. They did not consider it necessary to take any steps till then. But when two of those old members came back to this Committee they discover that the gallant Felton leads the charge against the master, and they are prepared to join in the hue and cry. It was wonderful what valor and enthusiasm that leader had infused into his followers, who were quite prepared to hang the master at the word of him they had chosen to follow, and came into the Committee with an avowed intenk'on of turning out Mr. Stott. Outside, Hr. St. Hill had not heaxd a single householder say one word in favor of this precipitate desire to hurry matters, but many of them had said they ought to wait. These householders were all parents of children at the school, but they were quite willing to wait until the proper time came. Mr. Felton had spoken lightly of the short-handedness of the school. Suppose all his men were taken from him, and he were allowed to stand alone in Ashburton. Suppose a row took place in one part of the town, and another row in another at the same time —Would the Sergeant be blamed for not being at all these rows at the same time 1 Certainly not, but the blame would be put upon the authorities who took away his hands from him. Mr. Stott was not to blame for the short-handedness of the school. Time and often Mr. Stott had complained about it, so he was not to blame for that. The Committee knew he was short-handed. First Mr. Wake, an xcellent teacher, went; then the two Misses Henderson went—they were equal to first-class teachers; then three pupil teachers we it who had been in training for some tiitvj; and all these withdrawals had been nr le at a time when the school ' was crowded. If blame lay with anyone it was with the Board —the authorities — for they were aware the staff was weak. If they had not been aware of it, would they have voted another LOO a year to pay the salary of the new mistress that had just begun work ? Then the report of the Inspector was not sent till December. If it had been sent to the Committee first to act upon, there would have been some color for the blame that has been laid upon the old Committee. But it was not sent to the Committee to act upon. It was sent accompanied by a letter, telling the Committee what the Board meant to do, and leaving the Committee no choice but to let things take their course for three months. The old Committee thought it best to wait for the three months, but this Committee, in its superior intelligence, would not do that. This motion was what they wanted to do. It didn’t stop the Committee from acting ; to be sure it didn’t. It didn’t put words in the mouths of the parents either, to their children, who were precocious enough to drop to the state of matters and come down to school with all respect for discipline and the master destroyed, and what would be the state of matters then 1 He simply asked for justice, and he would move :
“In view of the fact that the Roarrl of Education have ordeied the school to be examined in three months, and thus in a great measure taken the matter in their own hands, the action proposed to be taken by the motion standing in Mr. Felton’s name would in the opinion of this Committee be unfair to the master, urcourteous to the Board of Education, and detrimental to the interests of the school. I therefore move that no further action be taken in the matter till the school is examined.” Mr. Robinson did not know that that amendment was to be proposed ; but lie could thoroughly endorse all that had fallen from Mr. St. Hill. The thing had been taken out of the hands of the Committee, and he, for one, after the lapse of three mouths, would be quite willing to take such steps as may be required to remove the master or otherwise, as the tenor of the report should indicate, and render necessary. He would second the amendment.
Mr. Orr was glad to see that a spirit of justice seemed to pervade the meeting. He was sorry that the scene of last meeting had occurred, and he was bound to confess that had it not been for the manner in which the chairman had tried to force his ideas upon the Committee he would not have voted for the motion of Mr. Felton. He, however, admired the way in which Mr. Felton had put the matter before the Committee, still he (Mr. Orr) had always been in favor of waiting the three months before any steps were taken towards definite action: against the master.
Mr. Hodder said they ought not to overlook the fact that since Mr. Edge’s report had been published the largest, meeting of householders that bad ever assembled on the education question had been held, and had given quite a new aspect tb affairs. At that meef ’g a very strong expression of public op’ ion had been made. In deference to -hat expression of opinion, and not at all as a criticism of the old
Committee, the step suggested by Mr. Felton’s motion should be taken. Mr. Andrews thought no harm could come of a free ventilation of the matter. It might bring out justice to the master just as readily as it might bring justice to the scholars, and show the true reason why the school had not been a success. Mr. St. Hill had said a good deal about taking away a man’s hands. li had to be remembered that the Misses Henderson left the school at the time of the Inspector’s examination, and this fact, so far as Mr. St. Hill’s argument was concerned, put the hands on again. He did n °t believe, whatever they did, that the three months’ grace would be interfered with, but when they talked of justice they ought to argue for it on both sides, and while one man’s comfort was involved in the question the welfare of 500 children was also involved. Had not one word to say against Mr. Stott in any connection but his efficiency to impart knowledge. The Chairman was glad to note tl i temperate tone of the discussion, and tl j change that had taken place in Miv Felton’s motion. Had the motion tak ’ a form like this at last meeting, he for ot< ■ would never have opposed it as he did. Had there been an endeavor to sift out the true causes of the bad report, and an effort made to allocate the blame equally where it was deserved—amongst the want of teachers, the youth and want of training amongst the pupil teachers, and the want of room, he would not have struggled against the motion of last week. He had had no wish to override or dictate to the Committee. That was very far from his desire, and he regretted that they should have construed his conduct as implying such. He only struggled against what he believed to be a gross injustice, and he was sorry if in the heat of the discussion he had been led to act in a manner that gave rise to’a feeling that he was dictating to the Committee. He could not in his position do anything of the kind. He thought too, that the motion was not a legal one and he shrunk from doing an illegal thing if ho knew it to be so. He believed that a fair and searching inquiry with tlie teacher before them would have elicited facts that would have shown Mr. Stott was not so very much to blame. He must correct Mr. Felton in his statement as to the bad reports. There was only one bad report against the school, and further the school had stood very high in regard to the number of passes that had been made on the 6th Standard, while the pupil teachers had been remarkably well taught, and one of them had got a scholarship with very little effort indeed. In reference to what M r. Felton had said about the lad Murray, it certainly was a fact that ha was a very smart boy, but it did not follow that because he was so he made a good case for judging the school. The Chairman then read the following letter, making a running commentary on it as he 1 read :
Schoolhouse, Ashbiuton, February 141 b, 1881. Mu. Chairman and Gentlemen. — In regard to the work of the school, I beg respectfully, in justice to you, to the parents and myself, to submit the following for your consideration. In September, 1878, I took charge of the school. It was examined in November following. No. presented in Standards, 205 ; passed 58 per cent. In October, 1879, the school was ajiain examined. In Standard VI, V, and first division of IV then specially under my care, the following were the results : Standard VI, 2 presented, 2 passed; Standard V, 7 presented, 7 passed ; Standard'lV, 17 presented, 14 passed. Total presented in school, 230; passed 77 per cent. The staff then consisted of head master, second master, mistress, two ex-pupil teachers, one pupil teacher in fourth year, one in second year, and two in first year. The Inspector reports—The attendance at this school has increased considerably during the past year, and additional accommodation is now urgently needed. Another pupil teacher is required. The discipline and order have improved. Out of 230 ex. amined in Standards, only about 40 were presented in Standards they had previously passed under the old regulations; this o course indicates a praiseworthy anxiety on .he part of the teachers to advance their pupils. No school in North Canterbury passed more than two in Standard VI. Ashburton school is specially noted, along with two others, as teaching extra subjects. (Vide report.) Hid the pupils been kept in lower standards when the new regulations came in force the percentage of passes would have been great , and the work lighter, for the past year. ' o carry on the work efficiently during the past year, was there additional accommodation provided?—No. Did another pupil teacher step in to help ?—No. The advanced pupil teachers honorably gained certificates and got better paid situations. Boys and girls were sought for to fill the vacant places, and were obtained with difficulty and delay, during which time the work had to go on, and the attendance for the year was as follows : Ist Quarter —Working average, 339 2nd ~ ~ ~ 340 3rd ~ „ „ 331-3 4th „ „ „ 339’S
Also, Ist Quarter —Average roll No., 442'8 2nd ~ ~ ~ 478-2 4th .. » .. 449 Several improvements have taken place lately, and a new teacher has been added to the staff —the only one appointed since 1879 who had ever taught before. The young pupil teachers are making progress in their work, and soon the new school will be opened. All the teachers who have borne the strain of the past year’s work have worked faithfully and energetically, but the disadvantages were too many for success. Gentlemen, —Whatever may be the result, I shall never feel that I have manifested laxity or incapacity in conducting the work of the Ashburton Borough School.—l have, &c., Alexander Stott.
He had no desire to burk inquiry, and he was glad to see the excellent spirit that had been manifested. Mr. Felton still saw nothing in anything that had fallen from the Dr. that was any argument against his motion. All that the motion wanted was an expression by the Committee of their opinion of the Inspector’s report. Mr. Stott was not being condemned unheard, for the report of the Inspector was the result of a trial. Mr. St. Hill waited to know how Mr. Hodder could substantiate his statement that the householders expressed a strong opinion against the action of the last Committee. There had been 19 candidates up for Committee membership, and four out of those returned were old committeemen. Mr. Andrews had expressed himself very anxious for justice. Why was he so anxious now, when, as a member of the old Committee, he had had every opportunity to be as severe as he wished upon the master. It was no use saying there was no mischief being done. There was mischief, and the playground would become after this a sort of Socialist or Nihilist hotbed. The children would hear their parents sneer, and would resolve to “ douse” the authority they were under at school. The colonial youth was very precocious, and he knew what would happen. He thought the best thing the Committee could do for themselves and the school was to drop the subject. The Chairman then put the amendment. The following is the result of the voting : For the amendment —Dr. Stewart, and Messrs. St. Hill, Robinson, and Orr.
Against—Messrs. Felton and Andrews. The amendment was therefore declared carried. Mr. Felton wished that those in favor of his resolution would state their assent with it, and on the question being put by the chair, Messrs. Felton, Hodder, an.’. Andrews declared themselves in favor c it.
Mr. Orr said that he thought the whole discussion had been out of order, as they were called to discuss a particular resolution, whereas they had had under consideration a perfectly new matter. Dr. Stewart said attention had been called to the alteration in the motion at the beginning of the meeting. The meeting then adjourned.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 269, 15 February 1881
ASHBURTON SCHOOL COMMITTEE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 269, 15 February 1881
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