District News Roundup
Voters in the Southern Gloucester County (N.J.) Regional High School District will have their seventh opportunity to approve the money the district needs to build a middle school that would end 15 years of split sessions at Delsea Regional High School.
The high school, which now has 1,531 students, has been operating on a split schedule since 1968. The first shift of students arrives at about 7:30 A.M.; the second departs at about 6 P.M.
School officials have tried--and failed--repeatedly to get voter approval for the funds needed to build another school. The amount needed would have been about $2.9 million in 1974, when the voters first rejected the bond issue, according to Boyd A. Sands, the district's superintendent. Today, Mr. Sands said, the cost of the construction is $8.1 million, even though the building would be much less elaborate than was originally planned.
If voters do not approve the bond issue, the school could face loss of its state accreditation. Currently, it has conditional approval, but school officials say the state is losing patience with the situation. Regional accreditation is also in jeopardy, although the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges is not scheduled to re-accredit the school for another year.
Under New Jersey law, such capital-construction projects may only be carried out with voter approval. However, Mr. Sands said, another district faced with recalcitrant voters once sought the intervention of the state and was able to proceed with a major repair. "Our next step would be to ask the commissioner of education to step in," Mr. Sands said.
Worried about public-relations problems, the Baltimore County Board of Education last month turned back a proposal by the department of recreation and parks to convert an elementary-school basement into a rifle range.
Recreation officials asked the board to bring back a program that was conducted in the basement of Norwood Elementary School from 1963 to 1978. The board rejected the plan in an 8-to-1 vote.
A district spokesman said the board was sympathetic to the idea of reviving the rifle program but decided that holding it in a school would be "inconsistent" with efforts to re-duce violence in the district of 88,000 students.
Any student caught carrying a weapon in school is automatically suspended, said Donald T. Roscoe, a spokesman for the district. Board members feared that the policy would be applied to otherwise innocent students who bring guns to school for the rifle program.
The rifle range was closed in 1978 when a fire-department inspection found an insufficient number of entrances and exits and a poor ventilation system that violated the county's safety code, Mr. Roscoe said. No rifle-range users were reported injured in the 15 years that the range operated, he added.
A West Virginia grand jury has concluded that there were no irregularities in voting procedures during a special election called by the Logan County Board of Education last month, but it did offer unsolicited criticism of the schools that were the polling sites.
While praising the manner in which the elections were conducted, the grand jury criticized school officials for not keeping the schools clean. "The grand jury found that the schools were not clean and that the grand jury believes that the board of education currently has sufficient personnel to assure that the schools are kept in cleaner condition," the panel's two-page report said.
Sam P. Sentelle, superintendent of schools, said the grand jury was empaneled by the chief judge of the West Virginia Seventh Circuit Court "to oversee all aspects of the election." However, he said, the grand jury "had no business commenting on the maintenance and upkeep of the [school] buildings."
County residents were asked to consider a referendum renewing a local tax levy for the public schools and a $10-million bond issue that would have provided support for maintenance and repairs to school buildings.
Prior to the elections, several groups opposed to the bond issue alleged that there were irregularities in the election process, and that led to the involvement of the grand jury, according to Mr. Sentelle. Using many of the district's 37 schools as polling sites gave members of the grand jury access to school facilities.
Mr. Sentelle said he is writing to the grand jury to ask for more specific information on the problems it found.
A black parent who thinks Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn contains racial slurs, portrays blacks in an "ugly light," and should be removed from a school's required-reading list has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission under the state's Human Relations Act, which prohibits discrimination in education.
Margot Allen first complained to the State College Area School District in 1981 when her son's 9th-grade English teacher at State College Area Intermediate High School asked him to read the part of the character Nigger Jim because he had "the perfect voice for it," Ms. Allen said.
Her son, Antwi, was the only black student in the class. Of a total school-district population of 5,817, only 87 students are black, according to Edward Frye, director of administrative services for the district.
Following Ms. Allen's complaints to the teacher, the principal, and other school officials, the district participated in a study with Pennsylvania State University's Forum of Black Affairs. Based on the study's finding that reading Huckleberry Finn enhances white students' attitudes toward blacks, the board voted in October to keep the book in the curriculum, according to Mr. Frye.
Ms. Allen said she then filed one complaint with the commission and another with the naacp because neither the district nor the study had addressed her other concerns, including how the teacher handled the instruction and how negative stereotyping affects youths. "The school needs to work on healthy images for youngsters," she said. "What is going to protect black children?"
The human-relations commission plans to investigate Ms. Allen's complaint and to interview those involved in the case, according to Homer C. Floyd, executive director of the commission.
"We're not in the business of censoring or banning books from the shelves," he said. "We would concentrate ... on the manner in which the book is being used and how it is being taught, if it's taught in such a way that there would be racial discrimination attached to it."
One of the pioneers of the open-classroom movement--Castle Rock (Wash.) High School--which 12 years ago established liberal attendance, individualized learning, and advisor/advisee programs--has reverted to more traditional ways.
The removable partitions of the open classrooms have been replaced by real walls, and this year new attendance policies require that students, who at one time could roam the halls or remain off campus all week for independent study, must be present in every class every day. Students must also carry hall passes when they are not in class, according to the school's principal, Thomas L. Quigley.
The new rules were adopted this year upon the recommendation of a citizen's committee that included students, teachers, and administrators.
In addition, the school has stiffened its graduation requirements in core subjects and has imposed more strict discipline standards, according to Mr. Quigley.
"When the alternative programs were adopted, people were very sup-portive intellectually," Mr. Quigley said. "They understood the need for students to obtain off-campus experience, to have links to the workplace, and to be independent thinkers." Yet at the same time, many did not like the fact that to accomplish these goals, students had to be allowed to stay out of class for long stretches of time, he added.
Research conducted by the Uni-versity of Washington, Mr. Quigley said, indicated that the open-classroom experiment produced no measurable changes--positive or negative--in student achievement, but that student satisfaction with school had improved substantially.
But today, the times--and students--have changed, he said. The students prefer the more traditional structure, in part because the competition for jobs makes them keenly aware that "if they are going to succeed they have to do well in school."