District News Roundup
The New York City Board of Education and Schools Chancellor Nathan Quinones are reviewing the rules on flea markets operated by parent-teacher groups, after ordering two of the markets to close recently and then granting each a 30-day reprieve.
A regulation developed by the former schools chancellor, Frank Macchiarola, prohibits pta-operated flea markets in city schools, according to Robert Terte, a spokesman for the board of education. But Mr. Macchiarola may have granted exceptions to the rule for certain flea markets during his term of office, he said. The current board and Mr. Quinones want to "regularize" the rules, he added.
"They may decide not to let them operate, but they may be allowed to continue," Mr. Terte said.
If the flea markets are forced to close, the result would be "chaos'' for P.S. 183, according to its principal, Lloyd Torres.
The six-year-old Saturday flea market--one of the two given a 30-day reprieve--is organized by the pta and run by an independent manager. It nets the Upper East Side school between $60,000 and $100,000 annually, according to Stanley Bloch, the group's co-president. Flea-market revenues help support the school's physical-education, music, art, and French programs, Mr. Torres said.
The pta flea market at Intermediate School 44 also received a temporary reprieve. A third pta-run flea market, at P.S. 41, was closed by the superintendent of the local community school board over the summer following "community opposition," according to Cindy Fine, president of the school's pta
New York City's comptroller, Harrison Goldin, has charged that the New York City Board of Education threatened the health of stu-dents at three elementary schools by installing two coal-fired furnaces in each of the schools last year.
One-third of the 950 students at one of the schools--P.S. 91 in Glendale, Queens--last week continued a boycott of classes that began late last month because one of the boilers was leaking carbon monoxide fumes before it was shut down, according to the principal, David S. Levitman. At the height of the boycott, parents kept nearly two-thirds of the students out of school, he said.
Mr. Goldin, whose office investigated the boilers after receiving complaints from parents that the schools were "cold and dirty," said he was "both puzzled and outraged" by the school board's decision to install the coal boilers. Mr. Goldin's report also found that the burners had more than doubled annual fuel costs at the three schools.
The school system chose the boilers--which burn bituminous, or soft, coal--because they use "a less expensive, American-produced fuel," according to Joseph Mancini, a spokesman for the board.
The school district has "no plans" to replace the boilers at the three schools, according to Mr. Mancini, although adjustments to the burners are being made. The board, however, has cancelled plans to purchase burners for other schools.
The Cedar Hill, Tex., school board has declined a request by a group of parents to fire a physical-education teacher who strip-searched 15 7th-grade girls to look for money that was reported missing.
The board instead reassigned the teacher, Janice Ellis, to another physical-education class, according to Joseph Neely, superintendent of the 2,600-student district.
The board also reprimanded Ms. Ellis, who has been with the district for two years, and Jeanne Cothran, an assistant principal who approved the search, for their actions.
The 15 Cedar Hill Middle School students were told to strip to their undergarments after one student reported that $1.85 was missing, Mr. Neely explained. The students were searched individually; the money was not found.
Responding to a $900,000 budget deficit, the acting superintendent of the Berkeley (Calif.) Unified School District has announced a "season of no spending" that cuts a number of programs and expenditures not directly related to classroom instruction.
The spending freeze temporarily eliminates school-bus transportation for field trips and athletic programs, conferences and inservice training for teachers, and requisitions for renovation, materials, and supplies, according to Louis R. Zlokovich, acting superintendent of schools.
The freeze also prohibits the hiring of substitute teachers for any purpose other than teacher illness, Mr. Zlokovich said.
"Basically, we overspent," he said. "We will have a fall of no spending and a winter of no spending, then we will reassess in the spring."
Mr. Zlokovich said that the district's financial problems "had been building up for a period of years," but were exacerbated this year after Alameda County officials informed the district that it had erred when, in an attempt to show a balanced budget, it listed the value of three pieces of property it intends to sell among its dollar assets.
When the error was corrected, the district was left with a $900,000 deficit, Mr. Zlokovich said. Theschool system has sold its computer system and will attempt to sell the properties to make up the deficit, he said.
Following complaints from parents about Bible classes offered in their district's schools, West Virginia's attorney general this month advised that public schools should offer Bible studies only as part of courses on history, literature, or comparative religion.
Attorney General Charles Brown also said such courses must be taught by a state-certified teacher.
The formal opinion was requested by Thomas McNeel, the state superintendent of schools, after parents objected to Bible classes offered in Mercer County schools.
The classes have been offered since 1939 for students in all grades during free periods, according to a spokesman for the district. The costs for the voluntary classes are borne by the Bluefield Bible Study Committee; the classes are led by teachers trained at Columbia Bible College, the attorney general said.
The decision about whether to continue offering the classes will be left to William Baker, who was scheduled to take over as superintendent of Mercer County schools last Friday. Mr. Baker has declined to comment on the dispute until he officially begins his new duties.