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Board in Iowa Seizes Control Of Tiny District

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The Iowa Board of Education has touched off a controversy over rural-school consolidation by voting to seize control of a tiny school district for not being in compliance with state academic standards.

The board's action this month marked the first state takeover of a district under educational standards passed by the legislature in 1987.

Critics of the action against the Hedrick district said it was the first step in a state effort to consolidate districts and kill off rural schools.

The board revoked the accreditation of the one-school, 200-student district in the southeastern part of the state and handed over its governance to a regional education agency.

The state education department will have until March 15 to develop a plan to merge the district into surrounding districts by July 1, said Dwight Carlson, a department bureau chief who headed the Hedrick evaluation team.

Michael Moon, the lawyer for the district, said the 1987 standards are too difficult or expensive for rural schools to comply with.

"Rural schools aren't going to be around much longer," he warned.

Hedrick officials were first told they were not in compliance in March 1988, when the state discovered that the district had instructors teaching subject areas in which they were not properly licensed.

The district also was not offering required courses, had not implemented required policies and monitoring procedures, and had not set up required programs for at-risk or gifted students, state officials maintained.

Mr. Carlson said the state warned the district again in February 1989 and January 1990.

A report issued this month by Director of Education William L. Lepley said that although the district had remedied some of its shortcomings, a number remained. They included the failure to adopt or revise policies on enrollment and student discipline and to institute the at-risk and gifted programs.

Mr. Moon argued that the remaining compliance failures were minor and could have been easily corrected.

The board's decision will be appealed through the courts, Mr. Moon said.--jw

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