District News Roundup
President Reagan's criticism this month of the busing system used to desegregate schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina spurred an angry editorial in the local paper and enraged a number of school officials and local politicians.
The President's remarks were "ill-timed and ill-informed," according to Robert C. Hanes, deputy superintendent for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Mr. Hanes, a Democrat, said school officials "were distressed and angry" about the speech given at an Oct. 8 campaign rally in their city.
President Reagan stated that busing "takes innocent children out of the neighborhood school and makes them pawns in a social experiment that nobody wants." He added that busing has failed as a means to achieve desegregation.
In reaction to the remark, C. Dick Spangler, chairman of the state board of education and a Charlotte resident, said, "A lot of people are running for office these days and it's probably not beneficial for me to comment on every politician who makes some sort of self-serving statement."
An editorial in The Charlotte Observer, printed the day after the President's speech, said that President Reagan had "flaunted" his ignorance of the city's accomplishment and had brought back "an unwelcome reminder of some ugly emotions and unfounded fears that this community confronted and conquered more than a decade ago." The paper stated that Charlotte-Mecklenburg's proudest achievement of the past 20 years "is its fully integrated public-school system."
In the fall of 1970, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system became the first in the nation to undertake a court-ordered desegregation plan involving systemwide busing. This past spring, the National Education Association recognized the Charlotte-Mecklenburg desegregation plan as one of the most successful in the nation.
According to Mr. Hanes, a little more than half of the school system's children--or 40,000 to 50,000 students--ride buses to and from school each day. About one-third of these ride buses for the purpose of achieving desegregation.
Philadelphia schools that cut down on their energy use in 1982-83 received a windfall from the district last month as part of a conservation program that school officials estimate reduced district energy use by 10.9 percent that year and saved the city $3.23 million in utility costs.
According to J. William Jones, director of public affairs for the Philadelphia schools, 170 elementary and high schools, out of a total of 256 in the 200,000-student district, received incentive checks.
The Franklin Learning Center reduced its energy consumption by 54 percent and received $70,654 in return. Six other schools received checks for more than $20,000, 18 received more than $10,000, and 29 schools earned more than $5,000 for their conservation efforts.
The schools participating in the program got back from the district 40 percent of the money they saved. They are using the funds for a variety of purposes, Mr. Jones said, from the purchase of computers, books, and snowblowers to the funding of special school projects.
Mr. Jones said the idea for the program came up after the appointment of Constance E. Clayton as superintendent of schools in October 1982. "She had several initiatives she wanted action on, including energy conservation," he said. The conservation effort was tested first without financial incentives in four pilot schools, he explained, "and then we said 'why just pilot schools and not the whole system?'."
The campaign to save energy will be continued this school year, Mr. Jones said.
The superintendent of two private schools in Cleveland that were started four years ago by parents who opposed court-ordered busing said last week that his schools are being unfairly discriminated against in their efforts to obtain charters from the state education department.
Norbert G. Dennerll Jr. said that although Freedom Academy and Griswold High School enroll approximately 600 students, only four of whom are black, other school systems in Ohio have similar racial enrollments and have not been required to meet the state's standards for nondiscrimination in order to obtain a charter.
A "charter" entitles eligible private schools to publicly funded auxiliary services and transportation assistance, according to Robert Bowers, Ohio's assistant superintendent of public instruction.
In order to obtain a charter, he said, a school must meet state standards prohibiting discrimination. A federal district judge in Cleveland ordered the state to develop those standards three years ago in the school-desegregation case of Reed v. Rhodes.
In that case, Judge Frank J. Battisti specifically forbade charters for Freedom Academy and Griswold High School until the state had developed rules for private schools on nondiscrimination; had determined that the two schools complied with those rules; and had gained the court's approval for the two charters. The judge also forbade the state to assist the two schools in meeting the new standards.
Last Tuesday, Ohio's Department of Education asked Judge Battisti to Continued on Following Page Continued from Preceding Page
reconsider his decision and allow the state to provide technical assistance to Freedom Academy and Griswold High School.
Mr. Bowers said the state wants to help the two schools meet the standards. He added that it is "totally false" that other schools have been granted charters without meeting them.
Suits Claim Elections For School Boards Are Discriminatory
The Southwest Voter Registration Project this month filed lawsuits on behalf of minority populations in five New Mexico school districts alleging that the districts' systems for electing school-board members are discriminatory.
Rolando L. Rios, legal director for the project, said that at-large-elections within the five districts require anybody who runs for a school-board office to run within the entire district rather than from individual wards. Consequently, he said, citizens in neighborhoods that are predominantly minority do not have the numbers needed to elect any representatives to the school boards.
As an example, he noted that in the Roswell Independent School District, about 30 percent of the students are Hispanic but there is only one Hispanic board member.
The lawsuits were filed against the Roswell Independent School District, Chavez County, the Carlsbad Municipal School District, the City of Carlsbad, and the Silver City Municipal School District.
The project has also sued the Lubbock Independent School District in Texas and is considering filing lawsuits against as many as six other districts in that state, Mr. Rios said.
The class actions are being filed on behalf of the minority populations in those communities, which include blacks, Hispanics, Mexican Americans, and American Indians.
Grid Season Ends With Girl Athlete On the Sidelines
A few days after receiving a temporary injunction from a federalel10ljudge permitting her to play high-school football, a 14-year-old girl from Campbell County (Ky.) High School stood on the sidelines as her school's freshman football team played the last game of its seven-game season.
U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman ruled earlier this month that Lori Shields, a 135-pound offensive guard, could play. The injunction came just two days before the football season ended.
"She came back Tuesday and Wednesday and practiced, but the game was so close we kept the starters in the entire game," according to the team's coach, Terry Lightfoot. The Campbell County freshman squad won the game with a touchdown pass in the final 31 seconds.
Ms. Shields' parents filed suit in August against the Campbell County Board of Education for sex discrimination after the board decided--primarily for safety reasons--that Ms. Shields should not be allowed to play football.
Connecticut Town Votes To Float Loan, Obey Funding Law
Residents of the only Connecticut district with a budget below the state's minimum funding requirement voted last week to take out a $225,000 loan rather than challenge the state law in court and risk losing $460,000 in state aid.
According to William F. Risley, superintendent of the 405-student Columbia Public School District, the district sends its 215 high-school students to a neighboring community and saves about $1,000 per pupil on educational costs. That $215,000 savings puts the district below the state-required minimum expenditure.
The district's 1984-85 budget provides $2,451 per pupil, but the state has ordered the district to spend84 per pupil.
"This issue has nothing to do with the suitability of the education that we provide," said Mr. Risley. "It's a matter of raising and spending a lot of money that we don't need."
"What the state is saying is what the state and others have been saying for the last 20 years: 'If you throw enough money into education problems, they will go away,"' Mr. Risley said, adding that as a result, public schools not only in Connecticut but around the country are much worse than they were 20 years ago.
The district will use its "extra" $225,000 to speed up building maintenance, purchase new equipment, and introduce next year a $75,000 computer-education program that had been projected to take three years to implement.
Judge Orders District To Expand Efforts For Handicapped
A federal judge has ordered school officials in McDowell County, W.Va., to enroll at least 300 more handicapped students in its special-education programs by April 30, 1985, to close a case that has been dragging on since 1975.
According to Superintendent Robert I. Goosens, the suit was filed by parents of a 6-year-old handicapped student in 1975. The student had an open spine and required special help in the classroom, but the district did not respond to his needs at that time.
The federal district judge in the case ruled that the McDowell County schools would have to provide the services for the boy and expand its programs for all handicapped students, according to Mr. Goosens.
In a hearing this month, U.S. Judge John Copenhaver Jr. set timetables to ensure rapid progress in implementing the programs.
The 11,000-student district has about 800 students in special-education programs. But Judge Copenhaver ordered that the number be raised to between 1,100 and 1,300 students by April and that the district recruit the necessary teachers by the end of the 1985-86 year.
The district estimates that it will need five additional speech-language teachers, five teachers for the learning-disabled, five teachers of the emotionally and mentally impaired, one physical therapist, and 10 aides.
"We have been trying to provide as much service as possible but we're in a coal field and it is difficult to attract highly specialized teachers," said Mr. Goosens, who noted that the district may have to provide up to $3,000 in additional annual salary to attract new special-education teachers to the area.
Mr. Goosens estimated that expansion of the program will cost $300,000. Moreover, the district will have to act quickly to overcome a major financial hurdle: If the 300 new handicapped students are not identified and listed on the district's books by this week, officials will not receive additional state aid for the students for 1984-85, according to Mr. Goosens.
He said he has asked the state ed-ucation department to give him additional time to identify the handicapped pupils.
Texas District Enlists 'Anti-Suicide' Team Following Six Deaths
A Texas school district has hired a team of "anti-suicide" counselors to work with high-school students following the suicides of six local teen-agers within two and a half months.
The psychologists were hired this month to talk to students at Clear Lake High School, according to Byrd Menard, principal of the 3,060-student high school in League City, an affluent suburb of Houston.
The latest victim of what officials have termed a "cluster" of suicides was Darren Thibodeaux, a 14-year-old 9th grader at Clear Creek High School, who died of carbon-monoxide poisoning on Oct. 4.
According to news reports, it was originally thought that as many as 30 students had entered into a pact in which each swore to commit suicide in a six-week period. But school officials discovered that the story of the pact had been generated by one student as a lark and that such an arrangement does not exist.