District News Roundup
The Fort Wayne, Ind., school board last week approved a tentative settlement in the third major desegregation action faced by the district in the past 20 years.
The agreement would require the district to attempt to achieve racial balance in its schools within three years through the use of magnet schools and voluntary student transfers.
The plan will not be presented to the federal courts for approval until state officials, who are also a party in the suit, agree to provide additional funding for remedial and compensatory programs. Those involved in the agreement also want a change in state law to enable the district to raise its share of the plan's costs, according to William Taylor, whose Washington-based law firm is representing the plaintiffs in the case, a group of white and black parents.
The district, which currently has 32,000 students, was required to desegregate its junior high and high schools under a 1971 federal-court order. Subsequently, it took steps to achieve balance in its elementary schools as a result of a 1986 agreement with the U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights.
The Fort Wayne parents' group felt the agreement with the ocr did not do enough to counter racial imbalances, however. The group filed suit for further relief in 1987.
The Cleveland school system will receive $7.4 million of the $13.2 million in overdue property taxes that ltv Steel Company has promised to pay in return for a 10-year tax break granted by the city, officials said last week.
The agreement must be approved by a creditors' committee overseeing the bankrupt firm's reorganization efforts. The company refused to pay back taxes after filing for bankruptcy in 1986.
In nearby Lorain, meanwhile, a long-running tax-abatement controversy with a potentially major impact on school finances has come to an end. In a surprise vote, the city council defeated a proposal to give a 10-year tax cut to the Ford Motor Company.
The neighboring Vermilion school district, which is a major beneficiary of local tax revenues from a Ford facility, originally had opposed the plan, which would have cut the automaker's taxes by 50 percent. The district dropped its challenges after the city made some modifications, according to Jack D. Hook, the Vermilion superintendent, but the plan was defeated nonetheless.
Laconia, N.H., officials acted improperly in assessing real-estate developers a fee to pay for school construction, a state judge has ruled.
The fee, levied last year, of 71 cents per square foot of newly built space was aimed at charging apartment developers in the fast-growing city for their impact on schools, according to James Sessler, the city's attorney.
"The phenomenal growth has outed the ability of schools to keep pace," he said. "Developers should pay their fair share for new classrooms and teachers."
But Superior Court Judge William O'Neil ruled that the legislature had not authorized the city to levy such fees.
Laconia officials plan to appeal the ruling to the state's supreme court.
School officials in Corpus Christi, Tex., are reconsidering their policy of allowing a Bible survey course to be taught by instructors who are paid by a local religious group.
George P. Wetzel, the district's assistant superintendent for secondary education, said last week that he questioned the legality of the practice after learning of a 1985 ruling on a similar practice by state Attorney General Jim Mattox.
Mr. Mattox said it was unconstitutional for state colleges and universities to offer Bible courses for academic credit if they were taught by professors selected and paid for by religious organizations.
The three teachers of the Corpus Christi course are paid by Bible in the Schools, a local interdenominational group. Although the course has been taught in city high schools for decades, Mr. Wetzel said, it was offered for academic credit for the first time this year after state officials approved the curriculum.
The Charleston County, S.C., school district has the authority to establish a "no-pass, no-play" rule that is stricter than the state's policy, a local judge has ruled.
Under state guidelines, students must pass a total of five courses in a semester, or any four that are required for graduation, to be eligible for athletics and other interscholastic activities.
The county policy, however, bars students who have failed any courses.
The rule was challenged by a high-school wrestler, Wayne K. Grace Jr., who had failed one course last semester.
The district successfully argued before6Circuit Judge William L. Howard that it had the right to enact its own standards.
The terms served by members of the Denver school board should be cut from six years to four, according to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.
"We think it will make the school board more accountable to the public," said Jan Erskine, president of the National Education Association affiliate.
The union has asked the board to submit the idea to a referendum on the May 16 ballot. The board must take action by March 16 to include the measure on the ballot.
The majority of school boards in Colorado have four-year terms, Ms. Erskine said.
Meanwhile, Ed Garner, president of the Denver board, has had some critical words for the district's teacher-evaluation program, which he thinks may be too lax.
Only 21 of the district's 3,900 teachers had been placed on formal improvemant plans, Mr. Garner noted. Under the program, approved by the legislature in 1984, teachers are told they must improve or face dismissal. Only two of the 21 Denver teachers were dismissed.
School employees in Duval County, Fla., who make political endorsements or commercials would have to include a disclaimer stating that their views were not sanctioned by the district, under a proposal pending before the county school board.
Superintendent of Schools Herb A. Sang said he expected the board to act this week to require such a statement whenever the district's property, equipment, or employee titles are used in political advertisments.
The proposal stems from a complaint by the Florida Medical Association against a football coach, Charles "Rogers, who made a commercial last year urging voters to reject a measure that would have limited awards in tort-claims lawsuits. Mr. Rogers, who had been struck by a car and had a lawsuit pending, made the televised plea during off-duty hours, but on school property and with student volunteers participating in astaged football practice in the background.
The Palo Alto, Calif., district has delayed until next fall implementation of an aids-education curriculum that could include instruction for kindergartners.
School-board members sought the postponement after receiving a letter from 22 kindergarten teachers, who urged that aids instruction not begin at such a young age.
The district had proposed an aids curriculum for elementary-school students, but did not specify if instruction would begin in kindergarten, officials said.