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Teachers in the Dayton, Ohio, public schools continued to strike last week after school and union officials failed to resolve a contract dispute over pay increases and health benefits.

While the strike has "caused no confrontations on the picket lines,'' classes and school activities have been disrupted at most of the city's 49 public schools, said Robert Mullins, a consultant with the Ohio Education Association.

Absentee rates among the district's 28,000 students have climbed as high as 63 percent since the walkout began March 25. Some 1,800 of the districts 1,900 teachers are on strike, officials said, and fewer than 200 substitute teachers and administrators with teaching certificates were able to conduct classes last week.

But Jill Moberley, a spokeswoman for the school district, said that "things were much calmer and more focused on learning'' after the chaotic first days of the strike, the city's second since 1978.

Superintendent James Williams "is very hopeful,'' Ms. Moberley added, that the district will reach an agreement soon with the Dayton Education Association over the three-year contract proposal that touched off the strike.

After working a year without a contract, teachers rejected a district offer that would have granted them 2 percent pay hikes per year and up to 4 percent in incentive pay in the first two years of the contract, said Ms. Moberley.

They also objected to a provision that would have required them to pay 20 percent of the cost of their health benefits, said Mr. Mullins, who is working with the local union to resolve the dispute.

Although the union was expected to hammer out a counteroffer sometime last week, Mr. Mullins said the bargaining teams were making "minimal progress.''

"It just doesn't seem like they're moving anywhere,'' Mr. Mullins added.


Nashville school officials are considering hiring a private, for-profit firm to run one of the district's public schools on a pilot basis.

Richard Benjamin, the director of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, announced last week that the school board will consider at its April 13 meeting a contract to allow Alternative Public Schools Inc., a local firm, to run a school.

The contract, Mr. Benjamin said, would allow Alternative Public Schools "to run a public school with private management.'' The pilot school, he said, would abide by the guidelines set for other public schools.

The board last month authorized Mr. Benjamin to investigate the option of contracting for private management after the firm submitted a proposal to the district's magnet-schools committee to run an international-studies magnet school.

Another for-profit firm, Education Alternatives Inc., now operates public schools in Baltimore.


The superintendent of the Deming, N.M., public schools has filed a federal lawsuit against the school board, charging that she was fired because she banned prayers before football games last fall.

In January, the Deming school board voted not to renew Superintendent Sally Bell's contract, which expires in June, and placed her on administrative leave with pay for the rest of the school year.

The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Bell exercised her First Amendment rights by opposing the reinstatement of prayer in schools because it violates the law and the U.S. Constitution, according to Ms. Bell's lawyer.

The three board members who voted not to renew the superintendent's contract--Don Cameron, Frank Hervol Jr., and Ruben Torres--were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The board has not formally responded to the suit.

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