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Published in Print: June 16, 1999, as News in Brief: A National Roundup

News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Seattle Narrows Search For Academic Administrator

The search for a top academic officer for the Seattle public schools has come down to three African-American women with experience as high-ranking administrators in urban districts.

They are: Cheryl King, a deputy superintendent in Flint, Mich.; June Collins Rimmer, an assistant superintendent in Indianapolis; and Doris Walker, an assistant superintendent in Edmonds, Wash., who formerly worked in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The job is the second highest in the district and is considered particularly important.

Superintendent Joseph Olchefske, who was the chief financial officer under Superintendent John Stanford and was appointed to succeed him after Mr. Stanford's death last November, does not have a background in education.

The 47,000-student district is striving to raise achievement, particularly among minority students, and the new academic chief will have responsibility for implementing academic standards.

A decision in the search might come as early as this week.

--Bess Keller

Putting Homes on Hold

Developers in Broward County, Fla., cannot build any new homes until classroom space catches up with demand, a state appeals court has ruled.

With 230,000-students this year and an average annual growth of about 6,000 students, the county, just north of Miami, is one of the largest, fastest-growing, and most crowded school districts in the nation.

On May 21, the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee upheld a lower-court ruling that allowed the county to draft an ordinance barring residential development in areas with overcrowded schools, without the approval of every municipality in the county.

Local and state developers had challenged the restrictions, arguing that no such law could take effect without the approval of each municipality.

--Kerry A. White

Forgione Considered for K.C. Post

Pascal D. Forgione Jr.

Pascal D. Forgione Jr., the outgoing U.S. commissioner of education statistics, is a leading candidate for superintendent of the Kansas City, Mo., schools.

Mr. Forgione, a former state superintendent for Delaware, will leave his federal post this month because the Clinton administration has declined to nominate him for another term. ("Renomination Blocked, Forgione To Depart," May 26, 1999.)

He said last week that he was interested in an urban superintendent's job.

The Kansas City position has been filled by two interim administrators since last fall, when Superintendent Henry Williams' contract was bought out. The court-appointed committee that monitors the 36,000-student district's desegregation efforts ordered Mr. Williams' removal, saying the school system lacked leadership.

The school board will chose the superintendent from names screened by the monitoring committee.

--Bess Keller

L.A. Targets Social Promotion

Following up on plans announced in January to end social promotion, school officials in Los Angeles have earmarked $71 million in next year's proposed $7.1 billion district budget to provide remedial help for the lowest-achieving elementary students.

The money would pay for after-school, weekend, and summer classes for roughly 110,000 pupils in grades 2-5 who, because of low achievement-test scores or poor classroom performance, are considered in danger of being held back a grade.

If the school board approves the proposal--and a spokesman for the 700,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District said the plan has solid backing--the remedial programs will begin this summer. All will be voluntary this year; beginning next summer, however, the programs will be mandatory.

A new state law that takes effect in the 2000-01 school year bars the practice of passing students on to the next grade when they haven't mastered the skills of the current grade.

The Los Angeles schools are planning to implement such a policy a year early.

--Kerry A. White

Miss. District Bans Book Bags

The Biloxi, Miss., school board has banned book bags and the use of the lockers in the district's high school and three junior highs, beginning next school year.

The unanimous action June 3 was seen as a way to help prevent school violence and improve instruction.

Since students will no longer have lockers to store their textbooks, schools will provide two copies of each--one to remain in classrooms and one for students to take home.

Board members said that will reduce excuses for not doing homework, and will help students arrive on time, since they will not have to go to their lockers for heavy books. Larry Drawdy, the superintendent of the 6,400-student district, estimated the cost of additional books at $125,000.

--Marnie Roberts

Boston To Restrict Older Students

The Boston school committee is scheduled to vote later this month on whether to put an age cap on students attending traditional public high schools.

The proposal would bar students who turn 20 before September of a school year from attending classes with regular high school students. Instead, the 64,000-student district would set up after-hours programs in public high schools for overage students, according to a district spokesman.

With more than 1,000 high school students age 20 or older in the Boston system, district officials believe that providing alternatives would ease disruption in the classroom and the awkwardness of having 14- and 15-year-olds in the same classes as students five years or more older.

Students who graduated from the alternative programs would still receive regular diplomas.

--Marnie Roberts

Students Caught in Drug Sting

The use of undercover police officers posing as students in Los Angeles public schools has resulted in the arrests of scores of students for selling illegal drugs, police say.

As part of an annual program, police officers dressed as teenagers attend classes and try to buy drugs from students. School officials and teachers are not informed of the officers' presence.

A police spokesman said he could not disclose details of the program without breaching security.

But he said 225 drug deals were made between January and June of this year, involving 187 students, most of whom were arrested.

--Michelle Galley

Colo. Fund Raising Nears $5 Million

Various fund-raising efforts to help or honor victims of the Columbine High School shootings have raised nearly $5 million, officials in Jefferson County, Colo., said last week.

Aura Leigh Ferguson, the programs director for the county district attorney's office, said 29 funds have been established since the April 20 incident, collecting donations for scholarships, memorials, and violence-prevention programs.

The $3.2 million Healing Fund is the largest, and is working with the district attorney's office to find the best means of distributing the money it has raised to the victims, Ms. Ferguson said.

She said officials have surveyed families of those killed or wounded during the rampage to solicit their opinions on where the money should go.

All those involved "are just trying to get a good picture of what the issues are and what the needs are," Ms. Ferguson said. "We are cooperating and getting the money to the people who are victims of this tragedy."

--Candice Furlan

Ore. Town's Students Get $3 a Book

Educators in an Oregon town say the generosity of a retired motel owner and his wife is paying off in improved reading scores.

For two years, Walter and Nancy Behrens have paid students at four elementary schools in the Pacific Coast community of Lincoln City $2 for every book they read. And they recently upped the reward to $3.

The couple donates $25,000 to the program, which also pays for textbooks and field trips, each year.

"I was skeptical," said David Phelps, the principal of the 480-student Taft Elementary School. But "we have seen a real turnaround with what these children have done."

Reading scores at Taft Elementary, located in the Lincoln County district, have increased greatly since the start of the program, Mr. Phelps said.

Mr. Behrens, 83, expanded his gifts to include textbooks once he learned that they were "dog-eared and dirty and not enough of them for kids to take home," he told The Associated Press.

--Julie Blair

Vol. 18, Issue 40, Page 4

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