News in Brief: A National Roundup
N.J. District Asked To Adopt Voluntary Integration Plan
A 13-year-old desegregation battle in Englewood, N.J., has entered a new phase, following a state decision endorsing the voluntary integration of the district's high school.
In a directive issued this month, the state school board gave the Englewood district until early December to devise a plan to integrate Dwight Morrow High School that does not rely on the mandated merger of school districts.
The board strongly recommended, but did not require, the use of themed magnet programs to draw white and Asian-American students to the 750-student school, whose enrollment is now overwhelmingly black and Hispanic. The board required that the plan include "appropriate benchmarks to measure progress toward achieving racial balance" but stopped short of mandating quotas or goals.
Since 1985, the 2,600-student Englewood system has been trying to merge with two districts nearby in the interest of racial diversity. It is still pursuing that objective in state court.
Mo. School Chief Voted Out
The Kansas City, Mo., school board has voted to buy out Superintendent Henry Williams' contract, after reviewing a report from a court-appointed committee.
The desegregation-monitoring committee, made up of a panel of education experts, was established last October by a U.S. district judge to determine why the district has failed to improve academic achievement and reduce the test-score gap between black and white students.
In its 31-page report, the committee concluded that the district lacked leadership and expected too little of its students. Accountability and integrated curricula were also found to be lacking.
The desegregation committee recommended that the 37,000-student district's top 20 administrators resign and then reapply for their jobs, and that Mr. Williams be fired or offered a severance package to leave.
In a 6-2 vote Oct. 15, the school board offered Mr. Williams $15,000 in severance pay, in addition to his annual salary of $164,500 plus benefits, which he accepted. A decision had not been made as of last week about the other administrators.
Mr. Williams, who became superintendent in 1996, could not be reached for comment.
--Karen L. Abercrombie
Grading by Pupils Continues
Students in the Owasso, Okla., public schools may continue grading each other's homework assignments and quizzes and calling grades aloud.
U.S. District Judge Terry C. Kern, in Tulsa, rejected on Oct. 16 a request for a preliminary injunction against the practice. Kristja J. Falvo, who has four children in the 6,300-student district, had sought the injunction.
Ms. Falvo sued to stop the practice, which she says has embarrassed her three eldest children, who are in grades 6, 7, and 8. The lawsuit, which she has asked to be made a class action, claims the practice violates federal privacy protections. ("Court Asked To Weigh Legality of Grading System," Oct. 21, 1998.)
Among other reasons for denying the preliminary injunction, the judge's ruling said the plaintiffs had not shown that the children were suffering "irreparable harm.'' The next hearing for the lawsuit has not been set.
Ms. Falvo said she plans to continue fighting the case.
Court Upholds Teacher Contract
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled in favor of teachers who had asked that their contract be honored despite a reconfiguration of their district.
Administrators were obligated to abide by a contract effective at the Exeter district before the district two years ago pared back from grades K-12 to K-5 and a new district, called the Exeter Region Cooperative School District, was formed, the court said in the Oct. 13 ruling.
At the time, the new district basically told teachers that the contract was null and void, said Arthur L. Hanson, the superintendent of School Administrative Unit 16, which serves 5,000 students, including the 2,500 students of Exeter Region Cooperative School District.
The teachers took their case to the state Public Employees Labor Relations Board, which ruled in their favor. The state supreme court agreed.
--Mary Ann Zehr
Uniform Policy Roils District
A temporary judicial reprieve from wearing uniforms was lifted last week for students in Eagle Pass, the first district in Texas to require the standard apparel.
A state district judge had ordered the school system to relax its uniform policy temporarily after parents filed a lawsuit contending that waivers were issued in an "arbitrary and capricious manner."
District policy provides for waivers for students who oppose uniforms on religious or philosophical grounds. But with more than half the district's 2,500 high school students seeking waivers, the school board decided to take a hardball stance, said Johnnie Lee Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the 11,600-student district. As a result, only 51 waivers were issued this school year, compared with 350 last year.
About 300 students did not wear the white shirts and khaki pants after their waivers were denied, she said. At the time of the Oct. 13 order, 44 students were still holding out despite receiving in-school suspensions.
--Adrienne D. Coles
Group Shave Prompts Suspensions
A principal at North Shore High School in Galena Park, Texas, was suspended with pay for three days for requiring 33 male students to use the same electric razor after they violated the school's dress code by arriving at class unshaven.
Responding to parents' concerns for the students' health, the district placed Linda Sherrard, principal of the high school that serves 1,500 students in grades 9 and 10, on leave and gave her a letter of reprimand following the incident this month.
Ms. Sherrard sent the parents of those students a formal apology letter in which she offered to pay for blood tests and canceled the students' three-day in-school suspensions for violating the dress code.
The district dress-code regulations have since been changed to mandate that a parent be contacted when a student is found in violation of the code.
Ms. Sherrard, who has worked in the 18,000-student district for 25 years, was not available for comment.
Judge Collins J. Seitz, who was believed to be the first jurist in the United States to order an all-white school to integrate, died Oct. 16. He was 84.
Sitting on the Delaware Court of Chancery in 1952, Judge Seitz ruled in favor of black students seeking admission to legally segregated white schools because their all-black schools were inferior. He condemned the "separate but equal" doctrine, while acknowledging that he lacked the power to overturn it. His decision was affirmed by the state supreme court.
The case, later argued before the U.S. Supreme Court as Gebhart v. Belton, was among those consolidated as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Those cases resulted in the landmark 1954 decision that struck down school segregation.
The Delaware plaintiffs' lawyer, Louis L. Redding of Wilmington, Del., died Sept. 27. Judge Seitz and Mr. Redding are among four leading figures in the Brown cluster of cases who have died since mid-September. ("Deaths of Pivotal Figures in Brown Mark Passing of Desegregation Era," Oct. 21, 1998.)
A Wilmington native and resident, Judge Seitz began his judicial career on the chancery bench in 1946. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia. He was elevated to chief judge in 1971 and went into semiretirement in 1989.
Samuel Messick, a leading researcher in educational assessment, died Oct. 6. He was 67.
Mr. Messick worked for the Educational Testing Service for 41 years before retiring last year. For the final 20 years of his career, he was a distinguished research scientist for the Princeton, N.J., nonprofit organization that administers the SAT and the National Assessment of Educational Progress. He received the organization's award for lifetime achievement last year.
He was considered an expert in the fields of educational measurement, test validity, and test interpretation. His research was instrumental in shaping the SAT over the past 40 years. He served on several boards and committees for the American Psychological Association and the Psychometric Society.
Mr. Messick also was a member of the research team that advised the Children's Television Workshop when it created "Sesame Street" in the late 1960s.
--David J. Hoff
Vol. 18, Issue 9, Page 4