National News Roundup
The Justice Department is taking the Buffalo, N.Y., school board to court because it alleges the board unlawfully denies sick-leave benefits to pregnant employees and long-term disability insurance to women disabled by childbirth.
The department said last week's action marked the first time that the government has gone to court to enforce a 1978 law barring discrimination against pregnant women.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation, Local 650 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and the Buffalo Board of Education Professional, Clerical, and Technical Employees Association were also named as defendants in the suit.
The government charged that contracts negotiated by the labor unions discriminate against female employees because practices adopted under the agreements "give men more comprehensive coverage and subject women to terms and conditions of employment not imposed on men."
The lawsuit asked the court to bar the defendants "from engaging in all sex-based discriminatory practices" and to order the school board to compensate women who were discriminated against by having been denied benefits.
Because it receives one-third of its budget from federal and state sources, a private school for boys in Utah is not immune from federal civil-rights lawsuits, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week.
The Court declined to review a federal appeals-court decision, in Williams v. Milonas, that said two students should be permitted to sue the school under the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The students allege that the punishment procedures used by the institution, Provo Canyon School, were so excessive that they violated students' constitutional rights.
The Court also refused to review a decision by the North Dakota Supreme Court that required a fundamentalist Christian school to comply with state curriculum and teacher-certification standards.
The state court had ruled that parents who sent their children to Living Word Academy, which had been denied a license by the state, were guilty of violating the state's compulsory-attendance laws. The case is Rivinius v. North Dakota.
Federal programs for handicapped, disadvantaged, and limited-English-speaking students have made a more positive impression on local school officials than is generally believed, according to a new federally funded report.
In a study of 80 schools in 20 districts, researchers found that "people have become used to the [federal] laws, have come to understand them better or fear them less, or have simply forgotten what a school was like without targeted instruction."
"The key principles underlying program rules seem to have sunk in and become part of local ways of doing things," the study said.
Attitudes were less positive in school districts with severe financial difficulties, according to the study, which was conducted by sri International of Menlo Park, Calif.
States News Roundup
In a precedent-setting decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that school committees must bargain with employees' unions before they lay off workers.
The state court's decision upheld the findings of the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission that the Newton, Mass., school committee violated the state's collective-bargaining law when it laid off seven custodial workers in 1976 without first consulting with union officials.
In its decision, the court ruled that the school committee's decision to lay off the workers should have been a "mandatory subject in bargaining," according to Stevens M. Day, a state labor-relations examiner.
"The court has set a precedent on what is a mandatory subject [for negotiations] in the public sector," Mr. Day said.
The Republican leadership of the Kansas legislature last week offered a compromise on taxation and education spending after Gov. John Carlin vetoed a school-funding bill for the fiscal year 1984.
Governor Carlin, a Democrat, rejected the measure on the grounds that it did not provide enough state aid to school districts, that it set unrealistically low limits on districts' budget increases, and that it would hamper Kansas schools' ability to pay competitive salaries to teachers. According to the state chapter of the National Education Association, Kansas ranks 37th among the states in average teachers' salaries. The Governor also sought substantial changes in state tax laws in order to raise additional revenue.
In their response to the veto, legislative leaders agreed to increase taxes on liquor and tobacco and to reduce the amount of federal tax that can be deducted on state income-tax returns; together, the two measures would raise an estimated $66.7 million next year.
But the lawmakers rejected the Governor's plans to reduce the depreciation allowance for business and to repeal last year's law exempting used farm machinery from taxes.
In addition, the two sides were in disagreement over a proposed severance tax on minerals.
The gop plan left the Governor and the legislature about $20 million apart on state aid to local school districts. At midweek, observers predicted that the deadlock would not be resolved before Friday's adjournment of the regular session and would have to be revived in a "veto session" later this month.
The Florida chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has announced that it will challenge in federal court the state's 3-year-old teacher-certification test on the grounds that it is culturally biased.
Last October, 35 percent of the blacks who took the state's basic-skills test for teachers passed all four parts of it, compared with a 90-percent rate of passing for whites.
A similar disparity in the scores of the two racial groups has existed since the test was first administered in November 1980.
Florida's Education Standards Commission and Ralph D. Turlington, the state's commissioner of education, have recommended that the passing scores on the tests be raised, on the grounds that the examinations are too easy.
The Alabama chapter of the naacp has a suit pending in federal court seeking to bar the use of the test as a requirement for certification in that state.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court has upheld the suspension of a Boston teacher who was indicted in 1981 and eventually convicted on drug charges.
The appeals-court panel ruled that the Boston School Committee acted properly when it suspended Robert L. Dupree, a junior-high-school teacher, for misconduct.
In its decision, the court found that Mr. Dupree's indictment on "drug felony" charges amounted to misconduct in his employment, even though the charges stemmed from activities outside of school, according to Mary Jo Hollender, first assistant general counsel for the school system.
The three-judge panel ruled that "teachers hold a position of special trust that is different from other types of public employees" and therefore can be held to higher standards than other employees, according to Ms. Hollender.
The court's ruling also clears the way for the suspension of a second teacher indicted for possession of and conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
District News Roundup
A Wisconsin student who was not elected to his high school's chapter of the National Honor Society does not have a constitutional right to an impartial review of his application, a federal court has ruled.
The Penwaukee High School student's grades were high enough for admission to the society, but a faculty committee judging his "scholarship, service, character, and leadership" did not select him for membership, even after the student's father sought and won a second vote.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin, the parent charged that because the society membership "can have a substantial effect on the possibility of admission to a prestigious college," membership constitutes a "proprietary interest" that is protected by due-process guarantees.
U.S. District Judge Terence Evans rejected that argument, saying the student "has no constitutionally protected liberty or property interest in election."
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that the School District of Philadelphia must honor a contractual agreement to give maintenance workers and bus drivers a 10-percent salary increase, in accordance with an arbitrator's earlier decision.
The workers won the pay increase after a brief strike in February 1981, but the board soon announced that it was rescinding the raise because of financial difficulties. An arbitrator appointed after a ruling by a Common Pleas Court judge held that the workers were entitled to the raise.
But another arbitrator, appointed at the direction of a Commonwealth Court judge, has not made a decision on the case.
The supreme court's decision essentially approves the first arbitrator's right to make a binding decision, a board spokesman said.
A similar pay increase negotiated by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was also cancelled by the board, but the two sides later negotiated a compromise raise.
The victory for Local 1201 of the International Brotherhood of Fireman and Oilers will cost the already strapped city government $13.3 mil-lion, a spokesman for the department said.
The same day the decision was announced late last month, Mayor William Green said that the city would have to raise taxes by nearly $100 million to balance the $1.46-billion budget for 1984.
A Kansas district this month joined the districts in at least 13 other states that are experimenting with a four-day school week.
The main reason for the experiment in the North Lyon County School District is to reduce utility and busing bills, said Superintendent James W. Fraley. Busing costs alone add up to more than $1,000 per day in the large, rural district of 670 students, he said. The experiment will last only for the month of April, and then the district will survey teachers for their reaction, he said. The school day will be lengthened by 36 minutes during the four days on which classes are held.
In New Mexico, where the concept was pioneered 10 years ago in one rural district, the result of four-day weeks has been a greater emphasis on academics and a reduction in athletic events, said a spokesman for the state education department. All student activities, including athletics, must be conducted on Fridays only, he said.
Wilmer S. Cody, currently the superintendent of schools in Birmingham, Ala., has been named the top candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant superintendency in Montgomery County, Md.
Last week, Mr. Cody came to the suburban Washington district and met further with school officials, as well as with local citizens and the chamber of commerce. If the board members, five of whom visited Mr. Cody in Alabama, continue to be favorably impressed with him, he will be offered the position, a spokesman said.
Mr. Cody, a native of Alabama, is widely credited with bringing the Birmingham system successfully through a court-ordered desegregation process. During his 10-year tenure there, he also instituted programs that led to improved student achievement and stronger curricula.
Edward Andrews, the retiring superintendent, has accepted a position as a member of the faculty at the University of Maryland's college of education. Now in the third year of a four-year contract, Mr. Andrews asked to retire this year because his 70-hour work week prevented him from spending time with his family.
Marvin E. Schuman, a mathematics teacher at Frankford High School in Philadelphia, will replace John Murray as president of the 21,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. His term of office will begin June 1.
In the March election, Mr. Schuman won about 55 percent of the votes, according to a pft spokesman. He served on the union's ex-ecutive board from 1960 to 1981.
Mr. Murray, the outgoing president, has headed the union from 1979 to the present. His tenure coincided with two teachers' strikes. The union spokesman said that Mr. Murray is likely to return to job as a mathematics teacher at Abraham Lincoln High School.
Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee took another step toward implementing his merit-pay plan, even though the proposal still has not been passed by the state legislature and the 36,000-member Tennessee Education Association opposes it.
Last week, the Governor appointed an 18-member "proposed" interim selection commission that will work out the procedure for selecting "master teachers." Master teachers, according to the new plan, will be a new tier of teachers selected for their ability in the classroom, not for their academic credentials or seniority, and they will receive pay increases of up to $6,000.
The proposed commission has already held its first meeting and appointed four subcommittees, said Betty Long, a state education department spokesman. Some people were surprised when two leaders of the teachers' union, who were ap-pointed to the commission, appeared for the meeting, Ms. Long said.
Legislators considering the bill have received many questions from teachers about how the new group of master teachers would be selected, Ms. Long said. The Governor's decision to create the commission and to start defining the selection system is a way of answering those questions and allowing teachers to join the discussion, Ms. Long said.
The University of Massachusetts at Amherst has received more than 200 requests for applications for a new internship program that will turn 20 recent college graduates into mathematics and science teachers in 14 months.
"Most of the requests have come from people who are still in college," said Richard J. Clark, associate dean for program planning in the university's school of education.
Mr. Clark said that the university's program represents the first time these students have "seen a program that provides an option--working and looking at teaching without foreclosing the possibility of a career in business and industry."
Most of the people seeking applications say that they otherwise would not have considered teaching, Mr. Clark said.
The "Math-Science-Technology Project" will begin in June and will provide college graduates with degrees in chemistry, mathematics, physics, computer science, and related fields with the opportunity to work as teachers in schools and as paid employees in business firms. They will also participate in courses, seminars, and workshops that will enable them to earn master's degrees in education and be certified to teach.
Goodlad Finds Schools Set Goals, But Ignore Them
"If we can only understand schools clearly in our minds," writes John I. Goodlad, "we might be more successful in improving them." Mr. Goodlad's forthcoming report, "A Study of Schooling," has gathered information to further the understanding of schools from students, teachers, parents, principals, and others, as well as from documents. The multi-year study involved more than 1,000 classrooms in elementary, junior-, and senior-high schools.
In an article published in the April issue of Educational Leadership, the journal of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Mr. Goodlad describes some of his findings to date. In answer to the question, "what are schools asked to do?" the researcher found four broad areas of goals: academic, social and citizenship, vocational, and personal.
"But a careful analysis of the state's goals for education raises in one's mind some serious questions about the parallelism between what many of these statements convey and what goes on in schools and classrooms," he writes. Many states include the goals of teaching students to communicate through writing and speaking, and developing their ability to use and evaluate knowledge.
"These goals convey to me an image of students writing essays and narratives, engaging in dialogue with one another and with their teachers, initiating inquiry into questions not resolved by teachers or in their own minds."
The evidence gathered in visits to schools, interviews, and the like, differs considerably from this vision, according to the scholar. "Indeed," Mr. Goodlad writes, "the picture is of students passively listening, reading textbooks, completing assignments, and rarely initiating anything--at least in the academic subjects." The study will be published in book form later this year.
Virginia Townsfolk Bedeviled by School's Mascot
High-school students in Christiansburg', Va., have voted almost unanimously to keep their traditional mascot, the "Blue Demon," despite a petition drive by some townspeople who want to have the name changed.
Over 97 percent of the school's 900 students voted to keep the mascot, a bearded blue devil with horns and a pitchfork.
Some parents and townspeople object to the fact that the school mascot is also a symbol of Satan, said Diane Kitts, the Christiansburg resident who organized the drive.
"We don't like the connotations of the name, and we would like to see something different," she said.
"We are not trying to inject religion into the schools," she added.
Ms. Kitts said she has received calls from people "all over the country" who are, or have been, involved in similar disputes.
For now, though, the "Blue Devil" will remain, said Sam Lucas, princi-pal of Christiansburg High School.
Mr. Lucas said it would cost nearly $25,000 to replace the logo, including repainting the gymnasium and replacing "a whole bundle of uniforms."
Ms. Kitt countered that the estimate is inflated "to make the cost look insurmountable.
"The first estimate I heard was $10,000."
She added that the concerned parents do not intend that the school pay the full cost of the changeover. "We wanted to raise money as a community," she said.