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These innovations were discussed and promoted by the University convocations, meetings of educators held annually starting 1863.

In 1854 the Legislature created a Department of Public Instruction, headed by a Superintendent elected jointly by the Senate and Assembly for a three-year renewable term.

The new Department had a small staff which carried on the work of advising local school authorities, allocating state aid, and preparing reports to the Legislature.

After 1842 the Superintendent of Common Schools was a member of the Board of Regents, as was the Superintendent of Public Instruction after 1854.

The latter official shared with the Regents the responsibility to inspect and report on academies.

The Regents were a corporation empowered to act as trustees of Columbia College (originally chartered as King's College in 1754 and closed during the Revolutionary War) and of every other college and academy incorporated in the state thereafter.

The Regents originally consisted of the governor, other state officers, and the mayors of New York and Albany, ex officio, plus twenty-four persons appointed for life.

Gideon Hawley, the first Superintendent of Common Schools, organized the system, distributed school aid from the Common School Fund, and prodded local officials to set up school districts and submit reports.

Hawley was dismissed in 1821 for political reasons, and thereafter the Secretary of State served as the Superintendent of Common Schools.

The rapid development of public high schools after the 1850s caused administrative confusion.

The high schools were operated by union free or city school districts, which the law made subject to visitation and inspection by the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Legislative bills to that end were introduced in the Assembly by Regent Alexander Hamilton, and in the Senate by Regent Ezra L'Hommedieu, in 1787. The act empowered the Regents to "visit and inspect all the colleges, academies, and schools" in the state, award higher academic degrees, hold and distribute funds, and exercise other powers of a corporation.

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