Private Schools Column
Forced to choose between merging with a girls' school with which it has admittedly had poor relations or seeking to become independent of the Episcopal Church, the St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Alexandria, Va., last week chose to sever its formal ties to the church.
The move came just days after Bishop Peter J. Lee of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced that he intended to merge St. Stephen's with its sister school, St. Agnes, and to appoint the headmistress of the girls' school as director of the combined institution.
St. Stephen's received national attention this year when, like several other all-male schools, it decided to become coeducational. (See Education Week, Feb. 10, 1988.)
John T. Hazel, chairman of the St. Stephen's board of governors, announced that the panel had reconstituted itself last week under another corporate name and moved a substantial chunk of the school's assets, including $300,000 of the endowment, into the new corporation.
With those funds, he told students and faculty, the new administration would be able to run the school for "several more weeks, even months." The move, he said, will buy time to negotiate a future relationship both with the diocese and with St. Agnes.
The bishop's merger announcement on Nov. 22 came as a surprise to St. Stephen's board members. The diocese just a month earlier had approved the school's plan to become fully coeducational by 1991. The school began admitting girls in the lower grades this fall.
St. Agnes had opposed coeducation at St. Stephen's and resisted proposals over the past few years to merge with the boys' school. St. Agnes officials now say they favor the merger.
A federal appellate court has reinstated a lawsuit against the U.S. Education Department, brought by a group of Missouri parents, that challenges methods used to provide Chapter 1 remedial education to private-school students.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit decided to reopen the suit, Pulido v. Bennett, reversing a ruling it made last May. The court cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last June in Bowen v. Kendrick, which affirmed the right of local taxpayers to challenge the administration of federal laws.
A federal district judge had dismissed the Missouri suit in 1986, saying that the parents had no legal standing to challenge federal guidelines. The appellate court initially refused to reinstate the case.
The dispute centers on the interpretation of the Supreme Court's 1985 ruling in Aguilar v. Felton, which said that districts must find ways to offer Chapter 1 services that do not involve sending public-school teachers into religious schools. The parents, supported by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, charge that the Education Department's guidelines for Chapter 1 are unconstitutional.
The guidelines allow the cost of mobile classrooms and leased space for classes for private-school students to come out of a district's total Chapter 1 allocation--before funds are split between public and private schools. The suit contends that the funding mechanism provides church-related schools a disproportionate share of funds.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee should take over the operation of Roman Catholic elementary schools now run by individual parishes on the city's South Side and in its southern suburbs, a study group has recommended.
The Early Childhood and Elementary School Focus Group proposed the takeover late last month to a commission on South Side education formed by the archdiocese in March. Many of the 65 parish schools in the area--the southern half of Milwaukee County--lack adequate funding, have different pay schedules for teachers based on the wealth of the parish, and compete for funds from the archdiocese, said the Rev. Richard A. Liska, pastor of St. Matthew's parish and a chairman of the focus group.
The group proposed closing all of the elementary schools to avoid infighting among parishes. Instead, it called for formation of a regional system in which several parishes would provide support for a school. The commission is scheduled to send its recommendations to the archbishop in January.
A Fort Worth former private-school teacher has started an association for independent-school teachers.
Warren J. Blackstone, a former economics teacher at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, started the National Independent School Teachers' Association this past summer and filed for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.
The association has sent copies of its newsletter and invitations to join to about 2,000 private schools, Mr. Blackstone said. Membership costs $40. The association's address is P.O. Box 331232, Fort Worth, Tex. 76163.
Teenagers may be more politically conservative than the adult population, a national high-school "Presidential election" suggests.
George Bush defeated Michael Dukakis by 66 percent to 33 percent in Nov. 1 balloting in 100 public and private schools across the country initiated and coordinated by the Northfield-Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Mass. Nearly 56,000 students, the total enrollment of the 100 schools, were "eligible" to vote in the election, and 71 percent did vote.--kg