District News Roundup
A Texas district-court judge has blocked the efforts of a citizens' group to force the Lake Worth Independent School District to roll back tax rates and provide refunds to taxpayers.
District officials had warned that they might be forced into bankruptcy if required to return the estimated $1 million in tax revenues.
The group, the Committee for Responsible Leadership, had gone to court seeking an election to overturn property-tax increases implemented by the district in 1987. The 1,400-pupil district had raised its tax rate by 32 percent in what officials described as an effort to fund changes mandated by the legislature, such as teacher pay raises and lower teacher-student ratios.
Judge Scott McCown dismissed the case because the district did not have the resources to refund the taxes and because delays in bringing the matter to court had nullified the issues involved, explained Randall Wood, a lawyer representing the district.
Residents fighting the tax increase should have tried to get a temporary injunction before taxes were collected under the new rates, the judge said.
Cleveland students who graduated last June earned more than $200,000 under an unusual scholarship program.
The district's program, which began in February 1988, gives students scholarship money for good grades. An A is worth $40, a
B is worth $20, and a C is worth $10. More than 2,400 of the 2,906 graduates earned amounts ranging from $10 to $440.
The Birmingham, Ala., school district should sharply scale back its magnet-school program and redistribute its resources throughout the system, a study panel has recommended.
The idea was broached by the Comprehensive Needs-Assessment Committee, which is examining the district's operations as part of a review of the state's educational system.
"Basically, what they have said is that the magnet concept needs to be looked at so that every youngster receives the same basic education," said Superintendent of Schools Cleveland Hammonds. There has been a "perception in the community," he noted, that magnet-school students receive a better education than do other students.
The magnet schools were established as part of a court-ordered desegregation effort, Mr. Hammonds said. He added, however, that the number of white students in the system has dropped so steeply over the past decade that the magnet program no longer has any substantial impact on desegregation.
A recent special meeting of the Boston School Committee was "extravagant" and "financially insensitive," according to a fiscal watchdog agency that has asked Mayor Raymond L. Flynn not to approve expenditures for the event.
The three-day January meeting, held at a hotel in nearby Dedham to discuss the implementation of a controversial student-assignment plan, is expected to cost $7,400. Although the funds would come out of the school department's budget, the spending must be authorized by Mr. Flynn. He had not done so as of last week.
"It wasn't the $7,400 so much," said Jeffrey W. Conley, executive director of the Boston Finance Commission. "That's not a substantial amount in their budget."
But because the schools face a possible budget deficit and cutbacks in services, he argued, "it didn't seem to us they had to go to Dedham to have a meeting they could have held at" school-department headquarters.
Laval S. Wilson, Boston's superintendent of schools, defended the meeting as necessary for a discussion of the complex issue.
The Mesa, Ariz., school system plans to start running computerized national searches on the driving and criminal records of job applicants.
Like a growing number of other districts around the country, Mesa has hired a private firm to search public documents to determine if potential employees have motor-vehicle infractions or have been convicted in a state or federal court.
The district, which hires between 400 and 450 people a year, estimates that each search will cost $20. It currently asks applicants if they have been convicted of a drug- or sex-related felony.
The district has had a string of sex-related arrests of school workers in recent years, but school officials deny that the new policy is a response to those incidents.
The Rhode Island Department of Health plans to conduct random testing of Pawtucket students for tuberculosis after finding that 25 students and three teachers at two schools tested positive for the disease.
A total of 150 students and teachers at Jenks Junior High School and Shea High School were tested for the disease after a student developed tuberculosis last year. Health officials emphasized that the test indicates only whether a person has been exposed to the bacterium that causes the disease, not whether the person has the disease itself.