News in Brief: A National Roundup
Mass. School Board OKs Limits For Bilingual Ed.
The Massachusetts state school board has endorsed a legislative proposal that would drastically scale back bilingual education if approved by lawmakers next year.
Under the plan, a non-English-speaking student could spend no more than a year in a bilingual classroom.
Eighty percent of the state's 44,000 students whose English is limited transfer from bilingual to mainstream classrooms within three years, according to state estimates.
The plan, which has been criticized by bilingual education supporters, is designed to give districts more flexibility to decide how to educate limited-English-proficient students.
--Robert C. Johnston
Audit Says Firm Overcharged
A company that runs two private schools for disabled children overcharged six New Jersey districts by about $2.5 million for its services, according to a state audit.
The 200-plus-page report, commissioned by the state education department and released last month, found that Archway Programs Inc. violated numerous state regulations and provided inadequate educational services to the 240 students it serves in schools in Washington Township and Burlington County.
The company's owners, a married couple, charged the districts for hundreds of inappropriate expenses, including an $11,000 trip to Hong Kong, according to the audit.
Education department spokesman Peter Peretzman called the audit results "staggering."
The Atco, N.J.-based company, which has admitted no wrongdoing, is appealing the decision. The state has ordered it to present a corrective-action plan within 45 days.
--Joetta L. Sack
Schools To Post Offenders' Photos
A New York City community school board has ordered that photos of released sex offenders be posted in all the district's elementary and middle schools, making it one of the city's toughest policies.
Although the board passed the measure in August, District 24 in the Queens borough used the policy for the first time Nov. 9, when a convicted sex offender moved into the area.
New York state's policy, which required individual districts to send parents letters and post notices in schools, was too weak, said Frank M. Borzellieri, a board member for the 36,000-student community district and the sponsor of the policy.
With the new policy, local schools may now mail notices to parents with photos and detailed descriptions of the offenders and their crimes.
Some educators and child psychologists have warned that the policy could do more harm than good by scaring students unnecessarily. But Mr. Borzellieri said the idea has received community support.
--Adrienne D. Coles
District Settles Harassment Suit
A Washington state district has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit by a former student who alleged school officials failed to protect him from anti-gay harassment by other students.
The 25,000-student Kent, Wash., district will pay $40,000 to settle the suit filed by Mark Iversen, who is now a 20-year-old college student.
Mr. Iversen's suit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, said that he faced frequent harassment by other students at Kentwood High School for being openly homosexual.
In one incident, he was beaten and kicked, allegedly by a group of eight students in a classroom while others watched. Several students faced juvenile-court proceedings as a result.
The lawsuit said school officials' failure to stop the harassment violated Mr. Iversen's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
But district officials said they had acted in good faith to enforce anti-harassment policies and to discipline students who tormented Mr. Iversen. At one point, they assigned a security officer specifically to protect him.
Under the settlement, the district must educate teachers and administrators about peer sexual harassment based on sexual orientation.
Help Pledged for Boston Students
Following reports of dismal academic performance by their communities' students, a group of African-American churches in Boston has pledged to assume greater responsibility for ensuring the success of the children.
The Black Ministerial Alliance announced plans last month to start after-school programs offering tutoring and other educational activities within three years at all of its 60 churches.
Now seeking $1.5 million in grants to underwrite the effort, the group also recently began holding monthly "summits" to inform community members about new school policies in such areas as student assessment and promotion.
The Rev. Gregory Groover, who chairs the group's education committee, said that while the school system has the primary charge of educating children, his associates hope to help.
The promise came after the nonprofit Massachusetts Advocacy Center announced that a study it commissioned showed that only 15 of 750 black 11th graders in the city's schools had achieved "partial mastery" on a standardized test in mathematics.
City Plans Construction Aid
The Cincinnati City Council has taken steps to make good on a $100 million promise to help the city's 52,400-student district repair its crumbling schools.
Along with Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, the city made such a pledge in 1996 as part of negotiations for a sales-tax increase to raise money for stadiums for its professional sports teams.
County officials have already put their $100 million commitment in writing, and city leaders agreed last month to pay the district $5 million a year for 20 years, beginning in January 2000. The money will come out of the city's general fund.
Arthur Hull, the president of the school board, said that district officials hope to break ground on new construction projects as early as next summer.
--Jessica L. Sandham
Employees Retire After Probe
Two employees of the Scottsdale, Ariz., school district have decided to take early retirement after they were named in a state investigation.
In a report released in October, the state auditor general said the district illegally awarded nearly $12 million in contracts, refused to give documents to investigators, and accepted kickbacks.
The district settled out of court with the state attorney general in October.
It paid $300,000 and "admits it systematically and pervasively violated multiple state laws and failed to maintain and produce records for us," said Karie K. Dozer, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.
The auditor general's investigation took a year and a half to complete and examined three administrations, she said.
The district's director of purchasing and the executive director of building services announced their early retirements Nov. 10 after the auditor general linked them with wrongdoing, said Gremlyn Bradley-Waddell, the spokeswoman for the 6,700-student district.
Neither of the two employees has been charged.
--Mary Ann Zehr
Boy Fatally Stabbed on Bus
Police in Jefferson County, Miss., have charged a 13-year-old boy with murder after the 8th grader allegedly stabbed another student on a bus ride home from school.
During an argument on the school bus, according to law-enforcement officials, Roderick M. Frye drew a 3-inch knife from his pocket and stabbed 14-year-old Kenneth Earl Grayson three times in the chest. The victim died at the scene. Both students attended Jefferson County Middle School.
Sheriff Peter E. Walker said his office was still investigating what might have caused the fatal altercation, which has rattled the rural county of 9,000 people.
The alleged assailant, who is being held without bail in the county jail until a hearing later this month, will automatically be tried as an adult and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, officials said.
State law requires the transfer to adult court of juveniles facing charges of murder or other serious crimes.
Principals Get More Firing Power
Teachers in the District of Columbia can be fired after a 90-day probation, under a plan to help principals who once had to wait a year or more to move against low-performing employees.
Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who assumed her current post in May, says the 90-day notice is part of her plan to make sure Washington's 5,000 or so public school teachers are fit for their classrooms.
Principals in the 146-school system will assess teachers based on student test scores and in-classroom evaluations of student performance.
A low-performing teacher and his or her principal will have 90 days to work on improving the assessment, according to Denise Tann, the system's acting communications director.
The plan's critics, which include parents and teachers, argue that the probation is too limiting, and that it is one of the shortest in the nation.
Vol. 18, Issue 14, Page 4