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Published in Print: July 11, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup

News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Chicago Catholic League Votes To Admit School

A Roman Catholic athletic league in Chicago that drew criticism for voting against admitting a predominantly black grammar school has reversed itself and decided unanimously to include the school.

The Southside Catholic Conference, which sponsors basketball, football, and soccer in 5th through 8th grades in 21 city and suburban parishes, had voted 11-9 in late May to reject St. Sabina School, citing safety concerns. The pre-K-8 school is located in the Auburn- Gresham neighborhood on Chicago's South Side and ranked ninth highest in crime out of 25 city districts last year. ("Sports League To Reconsider School's Rejection," June 13, 2001.)

Conference representatives voted again June 20 and agreed to admit St. Sabina. The Archdiocese of Chicago will provide two outside mediators to help league members and St. Sabina work through any difficulties.

Archdiocesan officials had criticized the original decision, which attracted national media attention after the pastor of St. Sabina Church, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, charged that the vote was racist. Leaders of the archdiocese, including Cardinal Francis George, met with conference members to respond to their concerns.

—John Gehring


Corning, N.Y., Voters OK Plan

Residents of Corning, N.Y., have voted by a wide margin to approve a school construction plan that has been controversial even though local taxpayers won't have to pay for it.

Voters approved the $76 million plan by 58 percent to 42 percent in a June 19 referendum, with 10,473 votes being cast. The plan— championed by a major local employer—calls for the conversion of two existing high schools in the 6,000-student Corning-Painted Post district to middle schools and construction of a 2,000-student high school. ("Corning, N.Y., Debates Company's School Plan," June 20, 2001.)

Corning Inc., a high-tech company that employs about 7,000 people in the Corning area, has promised to pay the local taxpayers' share of the plan—about $60 million over 30 years. The state will pay for the rest of the plan. Some Corning residents have been uncomfortable with the company's role in selecting the plan or been critical of certain aspects of it.

Three school board members who ran on a platform opposing the plan were elected to the nine-member board in May. They replaced three incumbents who supported the plan.

Superintendent Donald B. Trombley, a supporter of the plan, said the referendum was approved by a larger margin than he had anticipated. He said that support signified a "clear affirmation to move forward."

—Mary Ann Zehr


Review Raps Dallas District

Dallas schools could save money and run more efficiently by cutting central- office workers, restricting the influence of the school board, and reworking private contracts, a state official has found after a seven-month review.

For More Information

Read the comptroller's report on the Dallas (Texas) Independent School District.

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's 500-page report, released last month, urges the Dallas Independent School District to adjust its management in 193 specific ways.

She says the 162,000-student district has suffered from bad management and leadership, and could save $70 million over five years by implementing her ideas.

Among them are eliminating nearly 100 central-office jobs to save $3.8 million a year. The district also should comply with the last parts of a desegregation order and close the office that oversees it, Ms. Rylander says.

In addition, the district should tie teacher salaries to student performance, she argues, and should align its own accountability ratings with the state's system. Some of the city's schools currently rated low- performing by the state fare better in local ratings, the comptroller notes in her report.

District Superintendent Mike Moses, a former Texas state commissioner of education, said he agreed generally with the review and may include parts of it in his own reform proposals.

—Alan Richard


Couple Charged With Kidnapping

A California couple were expected to appear in court last week on charges of kidnapping a district superintendent.

Carl Williams, 45, and Kathy Williams, 48, were arrested in the June 20 incident. Each later posted $100,000 bail.

They are charged with briefly handcuffing, abducting, and spiriting away in a Chevrolet Blazer the superintendent of the Lucerne Valley, Calif., district. Jim Wheeler was taken from his district office and later freed by San Bernadino County sheriff's deputies 10 miles away, said Detective Norman A. Neiman.

The couple told police that the district's policies were criminal.

The couple have five children in the 1,000-pupil district. They claimed school officials were distributing sexually explicit material in books and were allowing students to have sex and use profanity in school. The district is located 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Mr. and Mrs. Williams were not available for comment. A preliminary hearing was set for July 5.

—Mark Stricherz


Kansas Superintendent Charged

A teenager's questions, which prompted the retirement of the Haysville, Kan., superintendent of schools, have led to a criminal charge.

Lynn Stevens, who stepped down from his post July 1, was charged last month with one count of misuse of public funds. Mr. Stevens has been replaced as the superintendent of the 4,000-student district outside Wichita.

Seth Konkel, an 18-year-old high school senior, uncovered questionable charges last fall on Mr. Stevens' district-issued credit card—including thousands of dollars spent at casinos and for expensive dinners. ("Student Sparks Probe of Local Superintendent, Wins Election to Board," April 11, 2001.)

Voters elected Mr. Konkel to the school board after the student's investigation became public. Mr. Stevens, who could not be reached for comment earlier, was forced to retire.

—Alan Richard


Miami District Declared Unitary

A federal judge has ruled that Florida's Miami-Dade County schools are desegregated and that the district must no longer report to the court about its desegregation efforts.

U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas ruled last month that the district has "maintained unitary status," meaning that it is free of the vestiges of a dual school system for blacks and whites. The ruling came after more than 30 years of court supervision of district policy, which began with a 1970 order by the late U.S. District Judge C. Clyde Atkins.

Alberto Carvalho, a spokesman for the 361,000-student district, said that it was committed to continuing to provide an equitable education and that its "record speaks for itself."

According to Judge Dimitrouleas' decision, he said, the district can continue operating race-conscious programs until June 30 of next year, at which time court supervision will end. He said that the district was examining the impact of the opinion, and that it would maintain some of the policies until a review of the system was complete.

—Vanessa Dea

Vol. 20, Issue 42, Page 4

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