News in Brief: A National Roundup
Beginning Teachers in L.A. To Receive Hefty Raises
Beginning teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District will be paid $37,000 a year, one of the highest starting salaries in California, under an agreement reached by the district and the teachers' union.
The new salaries, a 13.6 percent increase over the previous salary of $32,569, are being paid for with district money and with special state funding designed to encourage teachers to become fully certified. The raises, agreed to April 25, will be retroactive to July 1, 1999, for qualified teachers.
Only those who have met all of the requirements for a state license will eligible for the raises. In addition to beginning teachers, some Los Angeles teachers with five years of experience or less will also get increases of up to $4,500 a year to ensure that they aren't paid less than novices.
Meanwhile, the district and United Teachers Los Angeles have not yet begun talks on a new contract. The current agreement expires June 30. The district is seeking to pay more to teachers whose students improve their performance on standardized tests, a proposal the union calls unacceptable.
Columbine Tape Angers Many
A videotape showing the graphic aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings was being sold last week by Jefferson County, Colo., authorities for $25 per copy, a move that angered families of those who were slain or injured in the April 1999 incident.
The four-hour tape includes footage shot inside the school by the Littleton (Colo.) Fire Department and later used in a training video. The tape also includes footage provided by television station KCNC. County officials decided to offer the tape to the public two days after some families of the victims won a court order giving them unrestricted access to the footage. District Judge Brooke Jackson is reviewing additional tapes and documents, but had not ruled on their release as of late last week.
Reaction to the tapes was swift. Officials with the 89,000-student Jefferson County schools argued the images "traumatize victims of the tragedy and work against the school district's efforts over the last year to support healing," the Denver Post reported.
—Robert C. Johnston
Explosive Disaster Averted
A man driving a car carrying tanks of explosive fuel crashed through an entry gate April 21 onto the campus of Rosemead High School in Rosemead, Calif., causing the car to burst into flames.
The school was evacuated, but no students were injured. Qijun Li, the driver, said he wanted to kill students at the 1,885-student school because some "looked down on him," according to David Sandell, the El Monte Unified School District superintendent. The fire department found the car loaded with propane and gasoline tanks, according to Detective Mike Cofield of the arson and explosives detail of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Mr. Li, 29, survived the crash and has been charged with attempted murder.
No More Free Lunch in Buffalo
Soon there will be no free lunch at schools in Buffalo, N.Y. After a year of offering those meals without charge to all student takers, Buffalo district administrators have decided they cannot afford the program for another year.
School officials were hoping that a six- month campaign this year to sign up low-income families would substantially increase the number of children on which the federal program's main subsidy is based, thus enabling the district to afford free lunches for all students. But the district saw only a 3-percentage-point rise in participation, roughly from 68 percent to 71 percent of its 46,000-student enrollment.
J. Andrew Maddigan, the spokesman for the district, said a modest price increase is on the menu: Lunch will cost 50 cents next year, but breakfast will continue to be served free.
Diversity Program Survives
Beverly Hills High School in California will continue recruiting students from racial and ethnic minorities as a way to diversify its enrollment, the local school board decided in a closely watched move last week.
The 2,130-student school's diversity program has been in place for 31 years as a way to voluntarily integrate the school with Asian- American, African-American, and Hispanic students from neighboring districts. This year, 117 of Beverly Hills High students attended the school under the program.
The 1999-2000 enrollment at Beverly Hills High was 5 percent black, 14 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, and 77 percent white, according to the most recent figures. At issue last week were concerns that the program might violate Proposition 209, the 1996 statewide initiative that barred racial preferences in public education. School officials, acting on legal advice, had considered scrapping the program. While agreeing to continue, the board members of the 5,350-student school system said they would study whether changes would be needed to keep the program in compliance with Proposition 209.
—Robert C. Johnston
Dispute Over Teaching on Bus
Certain prekindergartners in Bartow County, Ga., will be receiving lessons on school buses during their ride to preschool next fall, thanks to a plan approved last month by the school board.
The program will put paraprofessionals on buses transporting the county's 4-year-olds to a new pre-K center located almost 20 miles from the homes of some parents.
Some of the 200 participating children will spend up to 45 minutes each way on the bus, according to Julie Cauffman, the spokeswoman for the 11,700-student Bartow County school district. To make better use of that time, the paraprofessional will lead the 4-year-olds in such activities as fingerplays and songs, she said. Critics say that holding lessons for a group of such young children on the bus will be difficult.
Criticizing Board by Name OK
A federal judge has ordered that the Columbus, Ohio, school board cannot bar speakers from criticizing board members by name during public meetings, at least for now. U.S. District Judge James L. Graham granted a temporary restraining order April 21, keeping the board from enforcing its policy until a full hearing could be held May 1.
Local resident Jerry Doyle was ejected from a Columbus board of education meeting March 7 for criticizing a board member by name.
The board policy prohibits anyone from using names when making a public complaint during a meeting, said Giselle Johnson, the general counsel for the Columbus schools.
Vol. 19, Issue 34, Page 4