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News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Former Neb. Schools Chief Dies

Anne Campbell, a former state schools chief who was called a "grand lady" of Nebraska education by her younger colleagues, died Oct. 18 in Lincoln. She was 79.

Ms. Campbell's varied career in education stretched from the superintendency of the Madison County, Neb., schools to heading three national education organizations. She was a former president of the National pta, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the American Association of University Women.

Ms. Campbell, who served as Nebraska's education commissioner from 1974 to 1982, began her career working as an administrative assistant for the Lincoln public schools. In 1969, she received a doctoral degree from the University of Nebraska, where she served as director of public affairs.

Maryland Plan Seeks To End Years of Busing

The Prince George's County, Md., school board has approved a plan to settle a longstanding desegregation lawsuit and halt a quarter-century of court-ordered busing.

The tentative agreement, reached late last month with the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, would phase out involuntary busing in the 123,000-student district, construct neighborhood schools, and provide additional resources to needy schools with large minority populations as compensation for past racial segregation.

The agreement would only go forward if the state and county provided $100 million in extra funds for the school system, said Alvin Thornton, a board member.

Some Maryland lawmakers have already balked at the idea of contributing the extra money, making the outcome of the agreement uncertain. In addition, a federal court still needs to approve the plan.

6 Dallas Workers Plead Guilty

Six former employees of the Dallas Independent School District pleaded guilty last week to federal charges of embezzlement. The district maintenance workers admitted to submitting falsified overtime pay records from September 1995 to March 1997.

They were able collectively to take almost $90,000 during that time because the altered pay records reflected overtime totaling 4,886 hours that they never worked. All six are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 23, and each faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Seven other maintenance workers have also recently pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges.

The charges grew out of an extensive probe into corruption in the Dallas district that ensnared former Superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez, who also faces sentencing in January for misusing school funds.

In a related development, Ms. Gonzalez and the district's former chief financial officer, Matthew Harden Jr., agreed last week to drop lawsuits they had filed against each other. ("Scandal, Lawsuits Hound A Divided Dallas Board," Oct. 29, 1997.)

Student-Aid Debts Skyrocket

College graduates are leaving school with more debt than ever before, and many of them say that impedes their future plans to buy homes or cars, a recent survey on student borrowing has found.

The average student-loan debt for undergraduate and graduate students is $18,800, a marked increase from $8,200 six years ago, reports the National Student Loan Survey by Nellie Mae, a nonprofit lending organization based in Quincy, Mass. For undergraduates, the average debt is $12,200, while graduates carry an average debt of $31,200.

The survey, which tracked nearly 1,100 of the organization's borrowers from January 1993 to July 1996, revealed that the largest "pockets of burden are with students from low-income families who don't get family help and are borrowing more," said Diane Saunders, Nellie Mae's vice president of public affairs. Students have been forced to borrow more as college costs have risen and grant assistance has declined, Ms. Saunders added.

Job Training Gets Boost

Three national organizations have received private grants to help teach businesses about getting involved in school-to-work programs and other job-training initiatives.

Jobs for the Future, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce late last month received about $1.5 million from the New York City-based Ford Foundation to help ensure that employees have access to training needed for high-tech jobs. The program targets at-risk students and low-skilled workers.

"One of the problems with school-to-work is that businesses have not been playing an active role in offering students work-based learning opportunities," said Basil Whiting, a senior fellow at the NAM's Center for Workforce Success, based in Washington. This will teach employers to work with schools to set up workplace-learning opportunities, he said.

The initiative's supporters have long-term plans to create a national network of employer groups to provide training.

Athletic Chief Admits Charges

A former East St. Louis high school athletic director has admitted to embezzling $90,000 from school coffers and having sex with female students.

Art May, the 54-year-old former athletic director at East St. Louis High School, pleaded guilty in federal court Oct. 23 to embezzling school athletic funds and filing false income-tax reports. Mr. May also agreed to plead guilty to a forthcoming charge of criminal sexual abuse.

As part of a plea bargain, Mr. May has agreed to cooperate with the FBI in a larger investigation of corruption within the 12,000-student East St. Louis district. He is eligible for a sentence of 12 to 18 months in jail--much lighter than if the case had gone to trial--and fines between $3,000 and $30,000. Mr. May is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 30.

Principal Barred From School

A Massachusetts elementary school principal was placed on administrative leave late last month after he allegedly brought either a gun or a replica of one to school and showed it to staff members.

William M. O'Brien, who has been the principal of Henry Whittemore Elementary School in Waltham for five years and an employee of the Waltham public schools for 29 years, was suspended with pay and barred from school property, according to Charles H. Gibbons, the superintendent of the 5,400-student district.

Mr. O'Brien's lawyer, Nancy Shilepsky, said her client found a gun replica near a trash bin on school grounds before school on Oct. 22 and showed it to co-workers.

Mr. Gibbons said Mr. O'Brien has been "an excellent principal." The superintendent said he hopes to have the matter settled as quickly as possible.

Because the case is still under investigation, police officials could not comment. A court hearing will be held as soon as the investigation is complete.

School Grieves Over Suicides

The 26,000-student Sterling Heights, Mich., school district is boosting counseling and outreach efforts to help a grieving community respond to the suicides of four Henry Ford II High School students since June.

In the most recent death, a 15-year-old freshman hanged herself in her home on Oct. 18.

The district, located in an upper-middle-class suburb 30 miles north of Detroit, made all 26 of its high school counselors available to Henry Ford's 1,500 students in the week following the latest death.

On Oct. 23, 700 people attended a district-sponsored meeting on the suicides. Seventy of them volunteered for a suicide-prevention task force.

"This is not just a school problem," said Hildy Corbett, the spokeswoman for the Sterling Heights schools. "It will take a community as a whole to deal with this."

The student deaths do not appear to be related or part of a "suicide pact," the Sterling Heights police chief, Thomas R. Derocha, said.

Youth Charged With Murder

A DeKalb County, Ga., teenager charged with the on-campus stabbing death of a fellow student will be tried as an adult. Lyndon Deshard Mosley, 15, was indicted by a grand jury Oct. 16 on a single count of malice murder, two counts of felony murder, and possession of a weapon on school property.

Mr. Mosley allegedly stabbed 16-year-old Ronald Eugene Gaines during an argument at Southwest DeKalb High School, outside Atlanta, on Sept. 18. Police said the fight began in the school hallway and moved outside near the football field, where a crowd of students gathered to watch.

The incident was the second outbreak of violence at the school in two months. On July 18, a teenager was shot twice while waiting for a student who was in a summer school class.

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