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Federal File: Asking O.C.R.; Moving along

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Officials from the Education Department's office for civil rights visited Calhoun County, Ga., earlier this month to investigate charges of racial inequities--not in itself an unusual event.

But this time, the agency was invited by Corkin Cherubini, the superintendent of schools in the rural, southwest Georgia county.

Mr. Cherubini, who was elected superintendent in 1992 after nearly 24 years as a teacher in the system, says he turned to the federal government after residents resisted his efforts to better integrate the 1,200-student school system.

A department official confirmed the visit, and said schools do not often invite them. "It's very rare," the official said.

Mr. Cherubini said the system has been racially separated "since the first days of integration."

"I knew we were nowhere near what O.C.R. or what natural common sense or what good ethics or whatever would dictate," he said.

Among other things, he said, black and white children were tracked as early as kindergarten, with most black children grouped among low achievers and most white children grouped among high achievers. High school cheerleading squads were separated by race: football for white students, basketball for black students.

When the white "power clique that has been controlling the county" caught wind of Mr. Cherubini's efforts to eliminate racially based tracking, he said, he turned to the O.C.R.

Among other things, Mr. Cherubini said, the office "is taking a hard look at our special education programming," which serves a disproportionate number of black students.

The O.C.R., he said, has been "very functional and helpful."

John F. Jennings will head a new center to study national education policy when he retires at the end of the year.

The foundation-funded effort will be housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington. In the last few years, Mr. Jennings, chief education counsel for the House Education and Labor Committee, has edited books on federal education policy for I.E.L.

Mr. Jennings is retiring after an unparalleled 27 years with the committee. He announced his plans last week.

--Mark Pitsch

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