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Districts: Baltimore Officials Struggle To Complete Immunizations

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About 8,500 Baltimore students lacked complete immunizations as school opened this month. But city health officials have been been working overtime and have cut that number to about 200.

Temporary clinics set up by the health department have been providing free shots to hundreds of students a day. About 2,500 of the district's 113,000 students were immunized in the first 10 days of this month, said Peter Beilenson, Baltimore's health commissioner.

Enforcement of the immunizations requirement has been lax for many years, Mr. Beilenson said.

No More 'Lockout'

Mayor Thomas Menino of Boston announced earlier this month that he was ending a "lockout" of the district's schools by giving principals authority to open the buildings for evening events.

Starting this week, all of the 117 public schools in the 63,000-student district can remain open after hours--even if a custodian is not on duty. Until now, only the city's largest schools stayed open at night, with custodians working overtime to clean and lock up.

Community groups applauded Mr. Menino's decision to lift the restrictions, but the local custodians' union has criticized the change, saying it will cause the district's utility bills to soar.

Serving Subpoenas

A South Carolina district wants its school principals to have legal authority to summon parents for academic or disciplinary conferences.

The Rock Hill school board voted this month to ask state lawmakers to give principals the power to subpoena parents. Under the proposal, a principal could ask local law-enforcement officers to notify parents and bring them to their child's school for a meeting.

"Principals have been losing clout, and we need another tool for their toolbox," said Superintendent Phillip J. McDaniel.

The local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People vehemently opposes the plan, saying it would penalize African-American parents who may be unable to leave work to attend such meetings.

Board Member Threatened

The District of Columbia police have issued a warrant for the arrest of George Pope, a public-education advocate accused of threatening school board member Jay Silberman.

Mr. Pope is the chairman of the D.C. Coalition To Save Our Schools, an organization that has harshly criticized Mr. Silberman for supporting private management of several city schools. Mr. Pope has admitted leaving the anonymous July 27 voice-mail message that led to the criminal complaint.

In the message, Mr. Pope told Mr. Silberman: "I am going to bust you in the face. That is not a threat; that's an actual fact."

Mr. Silberman last week called the incident "an unfortunate distraction."

Grading Veteran Teachers

Responding to complaints that tenured teachers aren't reviewed as often as their less-experienced peers, the St. Paul, Minn., district has proposed a new teacher-evaluation system.

Veteran teachers would be evaluated at least three times a year in such areas as working with students and giving directions clearly, under a proposal recently presented to the school board. Principals and assistant principals are to receive training in classroom observation and evaluation, according to school officials.

Teachers on probation have been receiving similar evaluations for years, said Richard Cherveney, the president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers.

Central-Office Shuffle

Houston Superintendent Roderick Paige wants to transfer about 250 school employees from the district's central office and into the community as part of his plan to decentralize the 200,000-student system.

Psychologists, nurse consultants, and other employees would report to schools or to one of a dozen local district offices under Mr. Paige's proposal. Those workers would be assigned to serve students in that neighborhood.

Uniform Dispute

A group of low-income students and their parents sued the Long Beach, Calif., school district last week, claiming that its mandatory school-uniform policy discriminates against poor families.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which is representing more than 50 families, filed the suit in state court. The ACLU claimed that the 74,000-student district is defying a California law that says schools must give free uniforms to families that cannot afford them.

District officials denied they are shortchanging needy families. They said that last year the district provided more than $100,00 worth of uniforms to the students who requested them.

The district approved for grades K-8 the mandatory student-uniform requirement --one of the first in the country--in January 1994. A court date has not been set.

Novels Draw Fire

A high school English teacher in New Hampshire might lose her job for assigning two novels with homosexual themes.

The superintendent of the Mascenic Regional School District wants to fire Penny Culliton, a teacher at Mascenic Regional High School in New Ipswich. Ms. Culliton last spring asked 11th- and 12th-grade literature classes to read Maurice, by E.M. Forster, and The Education of Harriet Hatfield, by May Sarton.

The school board's chairman, Steven Lizotte, said the issue is not censorship, but insubordination. The principal and Superintendent Francine E. Fullam specifically asked Ms. Culliton not to assign the two novels, according to Mr. Lizotte.

Ms. Culliton said a committee of community members and students reviewed the books and found them acceptable.

The school board held a public hearing on the issue last week and was expected to reach a decision later this month.

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