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Auditor Calls for Overhaul Of Cleveland Governance

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The Cleveland school system is on the brink of financial collapse and needs substantial changes in its governance and operations, according to a state auditor's report.

The Ohio legislature had asked State Auditor Jim Petro to examine the district's operations after a federal judge ordered a state takeover of the troubled 74,000-student district. (See Education Week, March 15, 1995.)

In the report released last month, Mr. Petro said the district's debt will likely grow to more than $145 million by the end of the 1996 fiscal year. Moreover, the district may need to spend four times that amount to bring its buildings up to code.

Mr. Petro named several causes of the district's troubles, including its antiquated record-keeping systems. He called on the state to use its court-ordered oversight powers to enact broad reforms.

NAACP Leader Suspended

The NAACP suspended the president of its Yonkers, N.Y., branch last week for his critical remarks about the federal-court-ordered busing program used to desegregate the city's schools.

Kenneth W. Jenkins had served as the unpaid president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People branch since 1990. His suspension stemmed from a press conference last month at which Yonkers Mayor Terence M. Zaleski denounced the policy and said he would seek to have the 23,000-student district declared desegregated.

A news release issued by the mayor's office quoted Mr. Jenkins as saying that busing "may have outlived its usefulness" and that he planned to work with city officials to scale back the program.

Mr. Jenkins said last week the news release had quoted him out of context. He said he continues to support busing and other aspects of the district's desegregation plan.

Superintendent Woes

The Kansas City, Mo., school district has hit more snags in its search for a schools chief. The school board voted late last month to remove the acting superintendent, Willie Giles, after he was accused of sexual harassing a district employee.

The announcement came during the 37,000-student district's search for a replacement for Walter Marks, who was fired earlier this year. John Murphy, the superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools, dropped out of the race in September after a disagreement with the board over pay. (See Education Week, Sept. 27, 1995.)

Mr. Giles has been demoted to his former job as deputy superintendent and suspended with pay while district officials look into the harassment allegations. Mr. Giles was also criticized for hiring his daughter-in-law despite the fact that she had admitted stealing more than $40,000 in a previous job.

Meanwhile, Mr. Marks has sued the district, seeking nearly $500,000 in lost pay and pension benefits. The former chief was fired after a television news crew filmed him lifting boxes in Florida while on leave for chronic back pain.

Support Group Under Fire

A support program for gay teenagers in three St. Paul, Minn., high schools is coming under scrutiny by a Roman Catholic religious-freedom group.

The Catholic Defense League, a 2,700-member independent organization, has sued the St. Paul district for more information about the Out for Equity program. The program includes support groups for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students.

"They're advocating that the homosexual lifestyle is perfectly normal and that if you have any qualms, including religious ones, you are a homophobe," said D. Kevin Leehan, a lawyer for the CDL.

In a written statement, St. Paul school officials said the program is one of several voluntary support groups and offers "no recruiting, advocating, or identification of potential members."

Conflicts of Interest

Teachers in Manchester, N.H., have filed a class-action grievance against the school district over a new rule aimed at reducing conflicts of interest.

Officials of the 16,000-student district have said the policy is intended to prevent cases such as a school psychologist referring a child to his or her private practice, or a music teacher charging students for after-school lessons.

But the Manchester Education Association claims the new rule could be construed to bar teachers from offering services to volunteer organizations.

Quadruplet Quandary

A set of quadruplets in Montgomery County, Md., will be placed in the same kindergarten classroom, the school board there has decided.

The parents of the quadruplets had kept their children out of school for seven weeks to protest a principal's decision to place them in separate classrooms.

The board voted last month to keep the children together, rejecting the principal's contention that separate learning environments would enhance the children's individual and social development.

Principal Dawn Ellis of Burtonsville Elementary School said she was disappointed at the board's decision but happy the children were finally enrolled in school.

Boston Reading List

Children's literacy has moved to the top of the Boston schools' priority list.

"Read Boston," a new campaign to ensure literacy by the 3rd grade, was launched last month by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant, and children's advocates and parents. They hope to achieve the goal over the next 10 years.

Research has shown that 3rd grade reading proficiency is one determiner of future academic success. If so, many youngsters in the 63,000-student district are in trouble. Reading scores from 1995 show approximately half of Boston's 3rd graders read below grade level.

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