News in Brief: A National Roundup
Edison Gets Financing For Phila. Expansion
Edison Schools Inc. last week received a $40 million shot of new financing, which it desperately needed to fulfill plans to take control of 20 struggling public schools in Philadelphia and expand elsewhere in the next school year. ("Edison Reels Amid Flurry of Bad News," May 22, 2002.)
New York City-based Edison, the nation's largest for-profit manager of public schools, said it would receive new capital from Merrill Lynch & Co. and Chelsey Capital Partners. A current, $35 million revolving-credit agreement with Merrill Lynch will be expanded by $20 million, with $10 million to be funded by Merrill Lynch and $10 million by Chelsey Capital. Both companies are based in New York City. In addition, Chelsey Capital will provide another $20 million line of credit secured by Edison's real estate and other assets.
The two lenders will receive warrants, or contracts, to buy as many as 10.7 million in new Edison shares for $1 a share. If exercised, the shares would give the two companies a 17 percent stake in Edison and would dilute the value of the company's existing 54 million common shares, analysts said.
Edison's share price rose from $1 to $1.62 after the June 4 announcement about the financing. But it closed at $1.30 a share on June 6.
Massachusetts Teen Avoids Trial For Alleged School Attack Plot
A teenager charged with helping to plan a violent attack at New Bedford High School in Massachusetts will avoid trial in adult court.
A Bristol County Juvenile Court judge placed Michael McKeehan, 16, under the supervision of the state department of youth services last week until he turns 21. Prosecutors expect that he will be incarcerated for part of that time. Under state law, the district attorney's office could have pursued murder-conspiracy charges in adult court, with a possible penalty of 20 years in prison.
Mr. McKeehan is one of five New Bedford High students indicted in January after police uncovered their alleged plans to murder teachers and students at the school in New Bedford, Mass., and then kill themselves. All five were arrested last November and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. ("Lessons Seen in Handling of Alleged School Plot," Dec. 5, 2001.)
Mr. McKeehan's 18-year-old brother, Eric, faces trial, but Michael McKeehan will not have to take the stand against him, said Assistant Bristol County District Attorney Raymond P. Veary. The other adult charged in the alleged plot, Amylee Bowman, 18, appeared in court June 5 on charges of violating the conditions of her release.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
Ohio Aids Rural School District After Bank's Loss of Funds
A rural Ohio school district will receive state funding to restore much of the roughly $1 million it lost when a local bank folded amid allegations of embezzlement by a school board member who was chief executive officer of the bank.
The Wayne Trace district, located in Payne in northwestern Ohio, lost the money after the bank where it was invested, Oakwood Deposit Bank, closed in February.
Mark Miller, a 14-year school board member, was charged Feb. 26 with embezzling at least $40 million from the bank. He pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering and embezzlement on March 7.
The State Controlling Board approved giving the 1,160-student district almost $670,000 on May 24 from its fund for "catastrophic" school costs. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. covered the remaining lost money.
—Karla Scoon Reid
Newly Named Board in Maryland Votes to Retain District Chief
The newly appointed Prince George's County, Md., school board decided last week to retain the embattled leader of the 132,000-student district.
At its first meeting, the nine-member board unanimously voted to offer a one-year contract to Iris T. Metts to serve as the chief executive officer of the suburban Washington district.
In January, the elected school board voted to fire Ms. Metts, the district's superintendent for the past three years. She stayed on the job under that board after the state board of education invoked its authority to overrule the local decision.
The Maryland legislature later voted to oust the elected board and replace it with one appointed by the governor and the county's top elected official.The board met after a petition drive failed to collect enough signatures to prevent it from taking office.
—David J. Hoff
Ariz. District Seeks to Recoup Insurance Costs for Ex-Workers
Arizona's Phoenix Elementary School District is hoping to recover some of the more than $500,000 in insurance premiums it paid for employees who no longer work for the district.
A March audit found that between 1999 and 2001, the district in Phoenix had paid premiums for 239 former employees.
Rick Luna, the assistant superintendent for business services, said former employees had not been removed from insurance invoices.
The district paid $489,000 to Aetna US Healthcare and CIGNA Healthcare for former employees. In addition, it overpaid—by $40,000—insurance premiums for retirees, corporate insurance holders, and workers with long-term disabilities.
To date, Aetna has issued the district an $80,000 credit. The district is still negotiating with CIGNA, Mr. Luna said, but expects to recoup a total of between $200,000 and $220,000 from the companies.
—Marianne D. Hurst
L.A. Asks Fewer Teachers To Sign Commitments
Teachers at seven low- performing schools in Los Angeles will no longer be required to sign forms that commit them to certain reform measures and to raising student achievement.
The United Teachers Los Angeles called the forms "insulting" and "one-sided" in a news release. Following the outcry, the district last month backed down from requiring teachers at the seven schools to sign the forms, although the staff at three other schools that are part of the district- run reform program must still sign them.
The forms require teachers to agree to a new dress code that bans jeans, to report to school on time, and to try to limit the number of sick days they take each year, said a spokeswoman for the 737,000-student district.
John A. Moore, one of the leaders of the Cold War-era changes in science education, died in Riverside, Calif., on May 26. He was 86.
As one of the founders of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Mr. Moore supervised the development of the group's first three high school science textbooks.
The BSCS was one of several groups to receive federal funding in the late 1950s to develop new curricula after the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik I, the first manmade satellite to orbit Earth, set off alarm about the state of American technology and education.
Until his death, Mr. Moore, a professor emeritus of biology at the University of California, Irvine, continued as an adviser to the BSCS. The Colorado Springs, Colo., nonprofit remains a leading publisher of science curricula. Mr. Moore recently published From Genesis to Genetics: The Case of Evolution and Creationism.
— David J. Hoff
Architect C. William Brubaker, nationally known for his work in school design, died May 25 in Evanston, Ill. He was 75.
His designs, which focused on the role of schools as community centers, influenced other architects as communities built thousands of new schools during the 1950s and 1960s to accommodate the baby boom generation. Mr. Brubaker helped design more than 200 schools around the country, as well as a host of other buildings in the Chicago area.
Mr. Brubaker spent his career at the Chicago-based firm of Perkins & Will and retired as its top architect for educational facilities in 1998.
—Joetta L. Sack
Vol. 21, Issue 40, Page 4