District News Roundup
The Cleveland school system has sued 28 manufacturers and vendors of asbestos-containing building materials. The suit, filed this month in a state common pleas court, asks $20 million to pay for removal and containment of the hazardous substance and $20 million in punitive damages.
The district "has been very alert in terms of complying with federal requirements" concerning inspection of school buildings, said Robert E. Sweeney, one of the system's lawyers. Corrective action has been taken in 30 of the city's 150 schools, with an undetermined amount of work yet to be done.
In addition, Mr. Sweeney said, the system has incurred costs in training maintenance workers in techniques of detecting, containing, and removing asbestos, and in protect-ing students and employees while the work is going on.
Some of the system's worst buildings are among its newest, the lawyer said. Asbestos-containing materials were often used in the 1960's for fireproofing in the spaces above dropped ceilings, where the crumbling substance could easily get into the heating and air-conditioning system.
And, in an attempt to reduce noise in such large rooms such as libraries and cafeterias, contractors often sprayed the substance, mixed with glue, onto ceilings. After 15 years or so, the glue has begun to deteriorate, permitting the asbestos to flake, he said.
"I don't believe taxpayers should shoulder these costs, nor should districts from their tight budgets," Mr. Sweeney said.
The suit is one of several filed by school districts--including Philadelphia and Los Angeles--in the past two years. None of the cases has yet been ruled on.
The Chicago Board of Education will pay 280 high-school pupils to tutor 2,500 6th-, 7th-, and 8th-grade students in reading and mathematics next semester as part of a plan to raise test scores.
The program, which will be paid for with $400,000 in Chapter 2 funds, will begin next month. High-school sophomores and juniors will be paid the minimum wage to work one hour a day with younger students and spend another half-hour to learn tutoring skills, according to Lloyd Mendelson, director of the bureau for special programs.
The student tutors, to be selected by their principals, will be chosen on the basis of their academic records and their communication skills, Mr. Mendelson said.
The pilot project will involve one high school and one elementary school in each of the school system's 20 districts. It is based on a youth work-employment program initiated last summer, Mr. Mendelson said.
A group of 11 major corporations is launching a management institute for school administrators in Washington, D.C., school officials announced this month.
"Operating effective schools requires finely honed management skills as well as instructional leadership, so our school system has called upon the management experts--the business community--to share their training talents with our principals and administrators," said Floretta D. McKenzie, superintendent of schools for the District of Columbia.
Industry representatives will conduct training sessions about twice every month for three years. They will teach school officials to analyze trends, to manage human and fiscal resources, to motivate staff members and pupils, and to improve staff development, according to Janice Cromer, communications director for the school district.
Participating staff members will be able to complete three levels of training: introductory, intermediate, and advanced. Those who finish the three levels and work as co-instructors will ultimately become "certified" instructors to assume the management training responsibilities for the school system, she explained.
"We have heard so much about the effective-schools research on principals as instructional leaders, but we felt that our educators were well-equipped in the instructional areas," Ms. Cromer said. "But they never have had the management training that business is so skilled at."
Participating firms include Mar-riott Corporation, Martin-Marietta, amtrak, American Telegraph and Telephone Company, Xerox, International Business Machines Corporation, Control Data, The Acacia Group, Arthur Young and Company, and The Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company.
The American Society for Training and Development assisted the school system in lining up the corporate sponsors. The school district also received some suppport from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in New York City and the Community Foundation of Washington to start the project, school officials said.
About 2,000 of New York City's 6,800 new teachers already have quit their jobs this year, often because of the difficult working conditions in the urban schools, according to officials for the district and the local teachers' union.
The district hired more new teachers last fall than at any time since the city faced bankruptcy in 1975. A spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers said between 2,000 and 3,000 new teachers "at maximum" have been hired annually since 1975.
The district hired more teachers this year because of the introduction of all-day kindergarten classes in all of the city's elementary schools and an increase in the special-education courses offered, said spokesmen for the district and the United Federation of Teachers.
Robert H. Terte, spokesman for the district, said 775 of the new teachers did not show up for the first day of classes and another 1,393 have left the district since then. But he said the figures were not surprising since between 10 and 20 percent of all new teachers nationwide quit in their first year.
The Week state legislators in Nebraska defeated legislation this month that would have allowed students attending church schools to demonstrate learning by taking standardized tests.
Nebraska currently requires all schools in the state to employ state-certified teachers. The law has been a point of contention between state officials and leaders of several fundamentalist Christian schools in the state who say the law violates their constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
The legislation, defeated by a vote of 26-20 on Feb. 13, would have exempted church schools from state laws regarding teacher preparation if the schools administered state-approved standardized exams and submitted the results to state education officials.
Legislators based the proposal on recommendations from a special committee established last December by Gov. Robert Kerrey to "analyze objectively" the state's policy on the regulation of church schools. (See Education Week, Feb. 8, 1984.)
The Rev. Everett Sileven, founder of the Faith Christian School in Louisville, and other fundamentalist leaders have offered for several years to submit their students' test scores.
In a related development, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun said that he could not step into the dispute between state officials and six supporters of the Faith Christian School who have been jailed since Nov. 23 for failing to testify on the daily operation of the school.
Justice Blackmun said he had "no jurisdiction to act" because the Nebraska Supreme Court dismissed the case on Feb. 9, ruling the men did not have the right to appeal contempt orders against them.