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News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Calif. State Board Upsets Math Panel Membership

In a surprise move, the California state school board has rejected many of the nominees for a committee charged with revising the states mathematics curriculum framework.

Instead of accepting the list of names proposed by the state curriculum commission, the board this month unanimously appointed a group of 19 that included just four of the names from the commission's list, said Greg Geeting, the executive director for the state board.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin said last week that she planned to send the board a letter of protest. "It's an insult to the people who were removed, and it's an insult to the process we set up," said Ms. Eastin, who was not at the meeting.

Mr. Geeting said that the board member who proposed the revised slate wanted to diversify the panel membership.

Texas Adopts Texts

Updated social studies textbooks have been approved by the Texas state school board despite protests from some board members that the books overrepresent the role of minorities and disparage Western Europeans.

In a 12-3 vote, the board adopted the elementary school textbooks by Harcourt Brace School Publishers, which were among $181 million worth of new instructional materials approved this month.

Board member Donna Ballard charged that the textbooks gave in to "political correctness." But board member Mary Helen Berlanga claimed that protesters wanted minorities excluded.

Districts in the state may use other textbooks at their own expense.

Regents Reject Vouchers

A proposal to start a pilot voucher program that would give children in substandard public schools the chance to attend private and religious schools has been rejected by the New York state board of regents.

The regents voted 12-3 with one abstention this month against sending a bill to the state legislature that would authorize the trial program.

R. Carlos Carballada, one of the board's members, had proposed a three-year experiment that would have provided vouchers worth up to $2,500 each to allow poor parents to send their children to private schools. Only students from troubled public schools on the state's probationary list would have been eligible under the plan.

'Character' Office Opens

The Maryland education department has opened a character education office.

The office, supported by state agencies, is coordinating a $958,000, four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is paying for a character education consortium made up of the state and five school districts, which will design model curricula as well as training programs for teachers and administrators, said Mary C. Aranha, a former principal who heads the office.

Maryland and Utah are the only states to establish character education offices at the state level.

Race Designations Scrapped

The Montgomery County, Ala., public schools will no longer use racial designations when filling student positions, according to a resolution the school board has passed unanimously.

The action follows complaints by a Cloverdale Junior High School student who claimed that she was omitted from a ballot as a white candidate for homecoming queen because school records reported she was black. Bethany Godby has a black mother and a white father.

Wayne Sabel, the Godbys' lawyer, said the resolution, which was passed last month, does not resolve the matter.

CDC Cites Early Deaths

More than 5 million people now younger than 18 will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta predicts.

Despite widespread efforts to educate adolescents about the hazards of smoking, tobacco use among youths has steadily increased since 1992. If current smoking patterns persist, these smoking-related deaths could result in an estimated $200 billion in future health-care costs, according to a CDC study published in the Nov. 8 issue of The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The researchers arrived at the mortality rate by combining the estimated number of young adult smokers who will continue to smoke through their lifetime with the probable number of premature deaths attributable to smoking.

Pa. Mayor Seeks Control

Unhappy with the local schools, Mayor William L. Heydt of Allentown, Pa., has asked state lawmakers to consider legislation that would let him and other mayors run their school districts.

"I am constantly approached by citizens of Allentown regarding the high school taxes and more recently, the quality of education from the local school district," Mr. Heydt said in a letter to legislators.

State Rep. Charles Dent said that he did not see an immediate need for a law, but suggested that the issue could merit a hearing.

Philadelphia is the only Pennsylvania city where the mayor can intervene in the operations of local schools.

Diocese Settles Racial Suit

A Roman Catholic diocese in Florida has agreed to pay $15,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former student who accused her principal of making racist comments during a Black History Month discussion.

Monique Dumas claimed that Thomas Ducote, the principal of St. Jude's Catholic School in Boca Raton, used her during the presentation to show anatomical differences between blacks and whites.

"They took it out of context and labeled me a racist," said Mr. Ducote, who added that he offered to apologize after the incident occurred last February.

Officials at the Diocese of Palm Beach sent the principal a letter saying the settlement, which was reached this month, was no "admission of liability" on his part. But Mr. Ducote said last week that he opposed the accord because he had done nothing wrong. "My reputation has been shot."

Board Elections Nullified

Voters will return to the polls in Shelby and Mound Bayou, Miss., after officials discovered that ineligible voters cast ballots in the Nov. 5 school board elections.

The flawed results in the two school districts were traced to malfunctioning computerized poll books, according to the Bolivar County Election Commission. Voters were improperly designated to subdistricts, thereby allowing nonresidents to vote in the two races, said Ellis Turnage, the commission's lawyer.

With six school districts and 30 subdistricts in Bolivar County, Mr. Turnage conceded that the same mistake occurs in other elections occasionally.

The current school boards will continue to serve until a special election is held.

Students' Pennies Pinched

Students in Ashland, Ore., had been on a quest to save 1 million pennies, but a thief stole their cache last week.

Christine Leonard's 5th graders at the Waldorf School of the Rogue Valley had amassed more than $1,500 in pennies in the past two years as part of a mathematics lesson. The 19 students were planning to use the money for a field trip and then donate the rest. The coins were being stored at the home of a school board member when they were stolen.

Residents of the close-knit college town are pitching in to help the small private school replace the pinched pennies.

Founder of Gesell Institute Dies at 88

Louise Bates Ames, a founder and a former director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development in New Haven, Conn., died Oct. 31 in Cincinnati of thyroid cancer. She was 88.

A psychologist and a pioneer in the field of child development, Ms. Ames was on the staff of the Yale Clinic of Child Development from 1933 to 1948. She made popular the theory that infants and children go through "phases" and thought that children should not start school before they were ready.

She wrote 300 articles and 25 books, including a series that gave parents common-sense information about children's behavior.

Leading Researcher on School Change Dies

Matthew B. Miles, one of the nation's leading researchers on organizational change, school reform, and restructuring, died Oct. 24 in New York City. He was 69 and suffered from cancer.

Mr. Miles, a former professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, helped define educational research in the United States and Europe for more than 40 years. He was the author of several books dealing with parent-teacher dynamics, networking, innovation, and lasting school improvement.

Mr. Miles became a senior research associate at the Center for Policy Research in Sparkill, N.Y., in 1970.

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