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Gains for African-Americans

Blacks are completing high school at the same rate as whites, after years of lagging behind, according to figures released last week by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

Since 1985, the percentage of African-Americans ages 25 to 29 who hold a high school diploma has risen from 81 percent to 87 percent, the government figures show. The proportion of white students in that age group with a high school diploma has stayed the same--about 87 percent.

Alaska has the highest graduation rate in the country, the Census Bureau report says, while the District of Columbia has the highest percentage of adults with a bachelor's degree.

Detroit Bond Sales Blocked

The Michigan state treasurer has put the brakes on a $1.5 billion public-school-bond sale in Detroit.

In rejecting the planned sale, Treasurer Douglas Roberts last month cited questions raised by a review of spending on a 1986 bond project. He said he would not approve more bonds until the 170,000-student district proves it can account for money from that bond sale.

Voters in November 1994 approved the sale, which at the time was the largest school-bond referendum in U.S. history. ("Detroit Voters Back Unprecedented $1.5 Billion Bond Issue," Nov. 16, 1994.)

Detroit Superintendent David Snead told the Detroit Free Press that he was confident that the district would be able to account for the expenditures.

Denver Curbs Bus Stops

School buses in the Denver public schools will pick up and drop off students only at designated stops close to their homes, according to a new policy that began this school year.

The new computerized system requires each student to carry a bus pass that details his or her route home. It will save on transportation costs as well as increase security, said Richard R. Fry, the assistant director of public education for the 65,000-student district.

Some parents, however, are upset that the new system no longer allows buses to pick up and deliver students to day care, babysitters' homes, and parents' workplaces, Mr. Fry said. A limited number of parents have received exemptions from the policy, he added.

Big Cities, Fatty Lunches

Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington serve students some of the least healthful meals, says a report by a health-care advocacy group that evaluated school lunches in 20 school districts.

"Chicago public schools should be sent to detention for their lack of low-fat foods," says a statement by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington-based doctors' association. "Children are stuck with fatty, high-cholesterol meals such as scrambled eggs, bacon, and corn dogs," the report says.

But the group praised several districts, including Dade County, Fla., and New York City, that offer low-fat entrees such as vegetarian meals or salad bars.

High School Far From Home

Three years after a lawsuit was filed on their behalf, children in a remote Utah community will once again have to leave their isolated community this fall to attend high school.

The Navajo Mountain community of about 1,600 residents sits on a Navajo Indian reservation, and is surrounded by deep canyons, high mountains, and desert. The few existing roads are too rough, and there is no direct route that would allow daily travel to the nearest high school, 45 miles away in Monument Valley.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs runs a K-8 school at Navajo Mountain for about 120 students, but there is no high school. For years, students have attended BIA boarding schools in other states or lived with relatives or friends in other communities in Utah and beyond.

Since a group of parents sued the San Juan school district in 1993, the district, the BIA, the state education department, and Navajo Mountain residents have tried to hammer out a solution, but so far that has proved elusive.

Stranded in Salt Lake City

A company hired by the Salt Lake City school district to transport the 5,600 city students who ride buses left about 50 of them stranded during the first week of the school year.

Tran Spec Contracting Busing Inc. apologized late last month for a "regrettable first week" and acknowledged the "mishandling of critical information."

The Hanley Falls, Minn.-based company had said the problems would be solved over the Labor Day weekend, said Sherri L. Clark, the 25,000-student district's spokeswoman.

But the district last week hired taxicabs to pick up six special education students who were left behind on the morning of Sept. 3.

Ariz. Academy Gets Nod

The last charter school approved this year in Arizona went to David Gordon, a 29-year-old certified teacher who now works at a credit card collection agency while he plans the new school.

Mr. Gordon said he will soon begin looking for an educational director and launch a marketing blitz for his Global Renaissance Academy of Distinguished Education, which will open next August somewhere on the outskirts of Phoenix. ("American Visionaries," Nov. 29, 1994.)

"It's going to be pretty full-time from here on," said Mr. Gordon, who hopes to enroll 225 9th through 11th graders.

With Mr. Gordon's charter, Arizona has approved 115 charter schools, 107 of which are now up and running, state officials said. A new round of applications begins this month.

Seized School Files Sought

Three years after boxes of its business files were seized as part of a criminal investigation, a school district in Gig Harbor, Wash., has sued county officials to get the files back.

Officials of the 9,000-student Peninsula school district last month asked a Pierce County judge to order the county prosecutor and the sheriff to return files that were taken in June 1993. The prosecutor's office, however, has said the records cannot be released because the investigation is incomplete.

The files were seized as part of two cases--a probe into the arson of five school buses and an investigation into mismanagement of district finances, uncovered during a 1993 state audit. One former administrator has been convicted of theft and falsification of records in the finance-management case.

But because the district's high-level administrators have all left since the investigation began, said John Biggs, the district's lawyer, none of the current administrators knows exactly what's in the files. According to Mr. Biggs, the roughly 50 linear feet of files were presumed to contain purchasing and disbursement records.

A hearing has been set for Sept. 20.

District Buys Guard Armories

A Utah school district now owns two armories that the National Guard declared surplus last year because of military downsizing.

The Davis County school district paid $487,500 for the armories, which are adjacent to two of its junior high schools, and will use the space for classrooms, administrative offices, and a gymnasium.

Davis County Superintendent Richard Kendell said the price for the facilities was right, especially "considering the replacement value would be fairly substantial"--as high as $2 million for each unit.

The 60,000-student district has been growing over the past decade. Mr. Kendell said buying the armories was part of a "multiprong approach" to accommodate students.

The district, which has been part owner and part-time user of the armories since they were built in 1956, had a right of first refusal for their purchase.

Burned School Reopens

Students at a Merritt, Okla., high school were able to return to school on time last week despite fires that destroyed the computer and science laboratories and the home economics classroom. Cleanup crews worked 12-hour shifts over the Labor Day weekend, Merritt schools Superintendent Gary Higgins said.

The principal's office and some student records also were damaged in the fires that occurred late last month. The state fire marshal's office ruled the fires arson.

A state agency is investigating the fires and some vandalism to the doors of a nearby elementary school, apparently done on the same night.

Mr. Higgins said residents of the farming community four miles south of Elk City were shocked by the crimes but had rallied around the high school and its 160 students. Less than a week after the fires, several community events had raised money to replace the smoke-damaged belongings of students and teachers.

Francis Smith, NASBE Co-Founder, Dies

Francis I. Smith, a co-founder of the National Association of State Boards of Education and a member of the Oregon state school board for 22 years, died Aug. 24. He was 82.

Mr. Smith was one of the original organizers of NASBE in 1959. The 650-member association of state board members is based in Alexandria, Va. He served as the president of the organization in 1965-66.

Mr. Smith was appointed to the Oregon board of education in 1951 and served until 1973. He was elected the panel's chairman four times.

Technology Spending

Projected district expenditures on technology, per student
U.S. school
districts will
spend about
$4.1 billion on
this school
year, up from
$3.9 billion
in 1995-96,
according to
Data, a
Total: $92.70
On-line services: $2.63
Other: $5.13
Service: $5.73
Training: $4.55
Supplies: $5.61
Software: $11.17
Hardware: $57.88

For More Information: "1996-97 Technology Purchasing Forecast" is available for $500 from QED; 1700 Lincoln St.; 36th Floor; Denver, Colo. 80203; (800) 525-5811; e-mail:

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