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Published in Print: December 23, 1983, as District News Roundup

District News Roundup

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Boston voters reelected four incumbent members of the school committee, whose terms were scheduled to expire, and chose nine new members during last week's city elections.

The election marked the beginning of a new school committee, which will increase from its current five members to 13 members. Four of the school-committee members were elected at-large and nine were elected to represent newly drawn neighborhood districts.

Reelected to an additional two-year term last week were Kevin McClusky, currently the school committee president, Rita Walsh-Tomasini, Jean McGuire, and John O'Bryant.

Among the issues the school committee must address are contract negotiations with officials of the Boston Teachers Union and a threatened one-day strike by its members. In recent months, the school committee has also been involved in developing a modified desegregation plan that would be acceptable to U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr., who oversaw the administrative affairs of the school system for about a decade before withdrawing from direct involvement in the district's affairs last winter.

Thirty-five Houston-area students who were assigned to a disciplinary center for six weeks for allegedly vandalizing a rival school must be allowed back in their regular classrooms, U.S. District Judge James DeAnda ruled last week.

Parents of two Westchester High School students brought the suit against the Spring Branch Independent Schools, charging that the students' due-process rights were violated when school officials assigned them to a "discipline center" for misconduct that occurred after school and on property outside of the school officials' jurisdiction.

The parents' suit also claims that the students' right to a good education was being compromised because the students were allowed to sleep and watch television at the discipline center and were taught only basic courses, rather than the college-preparatory courses in which some of them were enrolled.

The students who were disciplined were among a group of students discovered painting graffiti on Westchester's rival school, Memorial High School, several days before a Memorial-Westchester football game in October, according to school-district officials.

A Las Cruces, N.M., attorney has filed a class action against the public schools and the school board, charging that the district's at-large method of electing school-board members discriminates against minorities.

The suit, filed by Beatrix Ferreira, claims that the method violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It asks that the district's boundaries be redrawn and that the current system be replaced by one that would elect board members from different neighborhoods.

Ms. Ferreira lost her bid for a school-board seat last February, but said she is "very hopeful" about winning her suit because it coincides with the release of a study of 11 counties in the Southwest by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The study found that only one Hispanic has been elected to a school board in Dona Ana County (which includes the Las Cruces school district and two others) since 1973, although public-school enrollment is about 53 percent Hispanic, she said.

In the first action taken on a 71-point plan for improving public education, the Chicago Board of Education approved recommendations last week that will stiffen admission and graduation requirements for local high schools. The board is expected to consider other parts of the plan next month.

Under the new requirements--contained in a wide-ranging plan devised by the High School Renaissance Steering Committee, appointed this year by Superintendent Ruth B. Love--students would be required for the first time to take courses in foreign languages and typing.

Students would be required to take two years of laboratory science, two years of a foreign language, one semester of typing, and one semester of computer science; students now are required to take one year of science, and they have no requirements in the other subjects. The physical-education requirement would be cut from four to two years.

The board also increased the number of semester-hours required for graduation from 44 to 48.

For the first time, remedial courses would not be permitted to be used to fulfill those minimum requirements.

The board also passed a proposal to require all 8th-grade students to pass standardized tests before promotion to the 9th grade.

The new policies will be phased in with next year's freshman class.

Like a growing number of local school leaders nationwide, members of the board of education in Pullman have been considering what response to make to the numerous national reports on improving education. The first step, they decided, would be to appoint a group of citizens to help them study the leading educational issues.

The committee--"1983 and Beyond"--is charged with determining if the Pullman schools are meeting the community's educational needs, examining the district's programs, and recommending what staff members and school-board members should do to improve school programs.

In addition, the committee will be organized into six groups to study the following issues: humanities and social-sciences curricula; natural-science and mathematics curricula; vocational education, including computer competency; teacher effectiveness, including the master-teacher and merit-pay concepts; guidance and student rights, responsibilities, and privileges; and educational standards, including graduation requirements, according to Bruce McFadden, professor of biochemistry at Washington State University and chairman of the committee.

"We're going to try to deal with Pullman education in a kind of state and national context," Mr. McFadden said. "We all recognize that we have a good school system. We want to know how to make it better."

The committee's second purpose, Mr. McFadden said, is to "offset complacency. I think there's some concern among quite a few citizens in our community that our administrators and faculty are complacent."

The panel, which held its first meeting this month, is made up of 17 women and 10 men, including businessmen, members of the university community, three teachers, and two students. Their final report is scheduled to be released next summer.

About half of the 9th-grade boys in Pittsburgh public schools who attended tryouts for school basketball teams will be ineligible to play this year because of new academic standards for student athletes, a survey by a local newspaper suggests.

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette survey of seven junior high schools--intended to be representative of the city's 23 junior highs--found that 66 of 131 boys who tried out for the freshman teams would not be eligible to play this season because of a rule that requires students involved in extracurricular activities to maintain a C average in five classes. The board of education approved the restriction in May.

The rule--which replaces the previous requirement that students earn a C average in four subjects--will be phased in over a four-year period.

It applies to 9th-grade students this year and will apply to all students by 1986.

Coaches and administrators surveyed by the newspaper said a small number of students would have been ineligible under the old rule.

New Yorkers in general are not happy with the New York City Public Schools, but public-school parents are pleased with the schools that their children attend, a public-opinion survey conducted by the New York Alliance for the Public Schools has found.

About 35 percent of the general public gave the New York City school system grades of D or F, compared with only 25 percent who graded the school system A or B.

But two-thirds of parents gave their own children's schools A or B grades. Nationally, only 44 percent of parents rated their children's schools A or B, according to a 1983 Gallup poll on the nation's public schools.

Parents of the public-school pupils gave schools better marks than did the general public in almost every instance, consistent with their higher rating of the school system overall, according to the study.

Parents were particularly pleased with magnet schools and specialized high schools, which received grades of A or B from 86 percent of parents whose children attend them.

The study was based on a telephone survey of 1,100 randomly selected New Yorkers.

Vol. 3, Issue 12, Page 3-4

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