District News Roundup
The New York City school system's practice of paying school employees for overtime work and extra assignments "is permeated by overpayments and abuse, including possible fraud," according to an audit released last week by Harrison J. Goldin, the city's comptroller.
The audit of the school system's books from September 1981 to November 1983 cites cases of school employees receiving "per-session" pay for work they may not have done, of double billing, of thousands of employees working longer hours than allowed by the board of education's regulations, and of payment for work done at home.
"Virtually every regulation" regarding per-session pay "was ignored," according to the audit.
"It is not that management did not have the capability to monitor this payroll," the audit states. "Internal review of the payroll was nonexistent."
Nathan Quinones, the acting schools chancellor, responded to the audit by saying that Mr. Goldin "is giving the impression this [problem] is general throughout the [school] system. It is not." The audit was begun before the issue of per-session pay arose in the case of Anthony J. Alvarado, now under suspension as schools chancellor. The city's Department of Investigation has charged that Mr. Alvarado authorized "extraordinarily high and/or substantially increased" per-session payments to employees who made loans to Mr. Alvarado.
The St. Paul (Minn.) Public Schools have joined the growing number of school systems that are dropping the practice of advancing students on the basis of age and are tying promotion to test scores or some other quantifiable criteria.
This month, the St. Paul school board approved a plan to craft a subject-by-subject outline of what it expects its students to learn in each grade and ordered school officials not to advance students who have not mastered the skills.
"We will be keeping much closer track of each and every student un-der the plan," said Superintendent George P. Young. "We will also be able to be much more specific about what it is students are expected to know in each grade."
The details of the plan will take several months to work out, Mr. Young said, but the board has agreed in principle to devise an individual plan of study for each student who is held back.
"We are borrowing from the individual-education-plan idea used in special education," Mr. Young said.
The plan, he said, was based on a three-year study of the promotion issue commissioned by the board of education. The board decided to conduct the study in 1981, after an unusually large number of students were not promoted. That year, budget cuts forced the cancellation of summer school, where many students made up enough work to advance to the next grade.
"That incident brought into sharp focus the fact that a number of our students were not earning enough credits during the regular school year. People started asking what was going on in the schools and who was keeping track of what students were learning," Mr. Young said.
The recent resignation of a teacher who was indicted for criminal activity and then found to have a prior criminal record has prompted school officials in Roanoke, Va., to study ways of working with the police to check the criminal records of prospective teachers.
"At the moment, it's a finger-pointing situation," said Donald M. Sutton Jr., supervisor of education systems for the Roanoke Public Schools.
"The state department of education figures the localities should be checking the backgrounds of applicants, and the school systems feel the state should do it. Obviously, it's not being done by anyone," he added.
The Roanoke schools decided to explore ways of checking on new teachers after Gary Wayne Holland, a health and physical-education instructor at Lucy Addison Junior High School since 1980, was indicted by a federal grand jury recently on charges of illegally possessing a firearm and cocaine, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Mr. Holland had been found on a highway with a firearm, cocaine, and a 15-year-old girl. After he was apprehended, it was learned that he had been convicted of malicious wounding in 1972.
Mr. Sutton said it is as yet unclear whether the school system would be
within its legal rights to review an applicant's background with the police. He noted that the school system's lawyer is also studying the possibility of conducting criminal checks on those currently teaching in the Roanoke schools.
Ruth B. Love, superintendent of Chicago schools, last month told Hispanic groups that she would create a school-department task force to look into ways to lower the dropout rate of Hispanic students, who make up about 21 percent of the city's 434,000 elementary and secondary students.
A study of students entering high school in 1979-80 and completing school in 1982-83 indicated that the dropout rate for Hispanics is 45 percent, according to Robert M. Saigh, director of information for the Chicago Public Schools.
But a study funded by Aspira, a local educational counseling service for Hispanic and minority students, found that only 25 percent of the students who entered Roberto Clemente and William Wells High Schools in 1979 graduated four years later, according to Aida I. Sanchez, program director for the counseling service.
Ms. Love has said that "Whatever the dropout rate is, it is too high." The task force will assign the task of studying dropout-prevention programs to two or three of the superintendent's staff members, according to Mr. Saigh.
One such program for Hispanic students will be launched next year with a $100,000 grant from the Coca Cola Company, Ms. Sanchez said.
Last month, Aspira received word that it would receive the grant to provide counseling services for 100 incoming freshmen at Chicago's Schurz High School.
Students and school officials in Yonkers, N.Y., were anxiously awaiting a state appeals court's decision late last week that could determine whether classes in the 20,000-pupil district will have to end for the school year on May 9, more than a month before the scheduled closing.
Earlier in the week, a lower state court rejected an attempt by the city school board to force the city to pay $12.5 million to keep schools open through June 26.
The board contends that the city council, which is responsible for financing the school district, had promised to spend $100 million for education in the current school year but provided the schools with a budget of approximately $88 million, ac-ording to Devorah Heller, a spokesman for the district.
In his April 25 ruling, Justice Joseph Jiduice held that the board and the superintendent "continued to spend at their peril knowing full well that the school system would run out of actual available funds before the end of the school year."
The city council contends that it cannot provide the disputedfunds because the municipal government faces deficits of $10 million to $12 million in the current fiscal year and $48 million in the fiscal year that begins on July 1.
If the appeals court upholds Justice Jiduice's decision, the district will begin an eight-day shutdown period beginning on April 30, with schools closing for the school year on May 9, Ms. Heller said.