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Shakeup in N.Y.C. Board Ousts Gresser as President

The New York City board of education has ousted Carol A. Gresser as its president in favor of William C. Thompson Jr. The move was reportedly orchestrated by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani at the behest of city Schools Chancellor Rudy F. Crew.

Mr. Thompson, an investment banker and Democratic politician from Brooklyn, won the top spot on the seven-member board following a behind-the-scenes campaign to remove Ms. Gresser from the post she had held since 1993. Mr. Thompson, considered a liberal on such social issues as condom distribution in schools, has been a board member since 1994.

Ms. Gresser had clashed bitterly with the mayor during his feuds with former Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines. And she reportedly irked Mr. Crew by supporting a board secretary whom the new chancellor viewed as a bureaucratic impediment to change.

Baltimore Budget Woes

Facing a budget shortfall caused by spending decisions at the city and state levels, Baltimore's mayor has ordered budget cuts of $32.4 million for the city's schools.

The cuts, announced last month, include millions frozen by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening in an attempt to prod Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke into settling a lawsuit the city filed against the state last year that seeks an increase in school funding. The state has offered $140 million in total additional aid between 1998 and 2001. The Baltimore city district has a 1996-97 budget of $654.2 million.

Baltimore's Sun, meanwhile, reported the mayor and the governor had moved closer to an agreement after a meeting late last month. But a spokesman for the mayor said late last week that no settlement had been reached.

'Midgets' Must Go

A North Dakota school district has voted to drop the name "Midgets" from its athletic teams because of concerns that it was offensive.

Students and residents in the 3,000-student Dickinson district will have a say in choosing a new name, following the board's 4-1 vote in July. Superintendent C.B. Haas said he will invite community members to pick a name that will signify "dignity, intelligence, and strength."

The nickname dated from the early 1900s, when the southwest North Dakota town fielded a basketball team of unusually short athletes.

The name had become increasingly controversial. The term "speaks of a class of people who are not fond of having that name used to describe themselves," said board member Diane Melbye, who voted for the change.

Speech Policy Suspended

A federal district judge has ordered a California school district to suspend its policy of barring speakers from identifying school employees during board meetings.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint last month against the 31,000-student Moreno Valley district after a parent referred by name to a school principal and the superintendent while voicing her concerns about racial tensions in a middle school. After warning her not to use officials' names, board members ordered a sheriff's deputy to remove the parent from the meeting, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU argued that the board's policy violates state and federal free-speech and equal-protection guarantees

But Superintendent David L. Andrews said the policy protects school employees and the public from slanderous statements.

The judge issued a temporary restraining order that likely will remain in effect until the case is settled.

Head Start Ruling

An Oklahoma district has relinquished control over its Head Start program following a state appellate court ruling that prohibits public schools in the state from administering the federal program for low-income preschoolers.

The Boynton-Moton district was the only school provider among the 21 Head Start programs in the state. The state court of appeals ruling said the mission of a school district differs from that of a Head Start provider. "The legislature intended the entities to be separate," the court said.

An interim agency will take over the program in the eastern Oklahoma district, which serves about 300 3- and 4-year-olds. District officials do not plan to appeal.

Paul McSpadden, a specialist for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the court's decision is not likely to affect the nearly 400 Head Start programs nationwide--out of 1,433 altogether--that are run by school districts.

Catholic Education Tax

The Boston Archdiocese has begun taxing local Roman Catholic parishes that do not run schools to help support those that do.

Cardinal Bernard Law, the Boston archbishop, imposed the new 6 percent tax on the parishes' Sunday collections to ease the financial burden on parishes that provide a Catholic education.

"As the cardinal said, our obligation to teach goes beyond the parish borders," said David Smith, the archdiocese's director of finance. Mr. Smith estimates the new tax on the approximately 260 parishes without schools will generate an additional $1 million annually to help the 135 parishes with schools. The archdiocese will grant exemptions to parishes unable to pay, he said.

Textbook Adoption

The Hudson, Ohio, school board has adopted an American history textbook that had fallen short of approval in June.

The earlier vote, decided by abstentions, had attracted wide attention largely because the textbook had drawn vocal opposition from the head of the local chapter of Citizens for Excellence in Education, a conservative advocacy group. Robert Lattimer had argued that The American People: Creating a Nation and a Society overemphasized the role of women and African-Americans, among other criticisms.

The textbook won approval last month after board members studied it "in more detail and compared it to other textbooks," board President Howard Hendershott said.

Steps Toward Reform

The Boston school district has released a report detailing its goals in education reform and suggesting strategies to improve teaching and learning.

"Focus on Children: A Comprehensive Reform Plan for the Boston Public Schools," released last month, was compiled over the past year by a seven-member committee appointed by the mayor.

The report says the 62,000-student district should seek to change the structure of schools to focus on student performance, provide safe, nurturing school environments, and engage parents and the community in school improvement.

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