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Column One: Administrators

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Like countless school systems across the country, the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Public Schools are struggling with tight budgets brought on by the recession.

But that district's superintendent, Jeffery N. Grotsky, has taken an unusual step to help the bottom line. He donated back to the district, for use in educational programs, a 5 percent pay raise granted by the school board.

The Grand Rapids schools have had to make substantial budget cuts to close a projected $15-million deficit for the next school year, caused by declining revenues as well as higher operating costs.

A recent survey of elementary-school principals confirms that budget cuts such as those in Grand Rapids are the rule, rather than the exception.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals surveyed more than 600 of its members in 41 states, and 74 percent of the principals reported that their budgets had been cut, despite growing elementary-school enrollments. Services for at-risk students have been hardest hit by the cuts, the respondents said.

Among the survey's other findings: 40 percent said their schools have lost classroom teachers, 51 percent said building repairs and improvements have been curtailed, 60 percent reported salary freezes or minimal raises, and 80 percent have eliminated field trips.

The Urban Superintendents' Network has joined a growing list of education and business leaders calling for comprehensive, communitywide collaboration to better serve the needs of children in the nation's cities.

Sponsored by the U.S. Education Department's office of educational research and improvement, the network includes more than two dozen former and current superintendents. In a new publication, the administrators offer advice and information about urban collaboration.

"The superintendents have concluded that unless they take a leadership role in collaborations, the all-encompassing needs of the majority of urban school children, especially potential dropouts, will not be addressed,'' they write in "Collaboration to Build Competence: The Urban Superintendents' Perspective.''

The booklet includes chapters on building partnerships, characteristics of successful collaboratives, and measuring success. An appendix provides information on collaboratives in 24 cities.

Copies of "Collaboration to Build Competence,'' GPO-065-000-00475-5, are available for $4 each from New Orders, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15250-7954.--D.G.

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