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Published in Print: September 25, 2002, as News in Brief: A National Roundup

News in Brief: A National Roundup

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School Trust Managers Vote Not to Sell Hershey Foods

The managers of one of the nation's largest private school trusts—the Milton Hershey School Trust—voted last week not to sell the candy manufacturer Hershey Foods Corp.

The 17 managers of the Hershey Trust Co., which manages the $5.5 billion trust of the 1,300-student Milton Hershey School, voted 10-7 to reject a bid from a particular buyer and to instruct the company to halt the sale of the trust's controlling interest in Hershey Foods, according to Rick Kelly, a spokesman for the trust.

The Hershey Trust turned down a bid from chewing-gum manufacturer Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. for $89 per share. The company had also received a bid from Nestle SA and Cadbury Schweppes PLC for $75 per share, according to Mr. Kelly. Last week, Hershey stock was valued at $64 a share.

The trustees had set three criteria for a sale, and neither of the bids met them all, said Mr. Kelly. Those criteria were that the sale would be for a good price, provide diversification of the trust's assets, and take community issues into consideration.

A possible sale was opposed by some alumni of the school and many residents of the town of Hershey. At the request of state Attorney General Mike Fisher, a Pennsylvania judge issued a temporary injunction this month to stall the sale. ("Hershey School Part of Fight Over Candy Giant," Sept. 18, 2002.)

—Mary Ann Zehr

U.S. Court Eases Monitoring Of Little Rock Desegregation

A federal court has released the Little Rock, Ark., school district from some aspects of court-monitored desegregation, but still will monitor the district's efforts to measure the effectiveness of programs to raise minority student achievement.

U.S. District Judge William Wilson ruled on Sept. 13 that the district had eliminated the vestiges of segregation in five areas, including counseling services, student discipline, extracurricular activities, and the assignment of students to Advanced Placement courses.

But the judge said the district had not adequately evaluated the success of its programs to boost the achievement of African-American students. He said the district must show by March 2004 that it has adequately evaluated the effectiveness of those programs.

Leaders of the 25,000-student district viewed the ruling as welcome recognition of their efforts to improve the education of minority students.

"The point is not to get out from under court supervision," said Suellen Vann, a district spokeswoman. "The point is to improve the achievement of all our students, and we're pleased with the gains we're making."

John W. Walker, a lawyer who represents black students in the case, said he will ask the court to reconsider its ruling. The schools are becoming more segregated, he said, and black students are not treated equally.

The Little Rock district drew international attention in 1957 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched troops to quell opposition to school integration.

—Catherine Gewertz

Election Commission Drops Complaint Against NEA

The National Education Association has cleared one hurdle in its face-off against an adversary over the union's political activities and spending.

The Federal Elections Commission this month chose not to take action against the NEA stemming from a complaint filed in 2000 by the Landmark Legal Foundation, a Herndon, Va.-based public-interest law firm.

"In light of the information on the record, the relative significance of the case, and the amount of time that has elapsed, the commission determined to close its file in the matter," the FEC wrote to the 2.7 million-member teachers' union.

Eric Christenson, a vice president of Landmark, said that the FEC's action was not a judgment on the merits of the complaint, but a bureaucratic decision.

Landmark charges that the union uses tax-exempt dues for political activities, in violation of federal law. Complaints lodged on similar allegations are pending with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service.

—Karen Diegmueller

Tenn. High School Closes For $1 Million Mold Cleanup

A Tennessee school district has closed one of its high schools to conduct a $1 million cleanup of mold that grew over the unseasonably hot and humid summer, joining the list of districts nationwide battling the substance.

Heritage High School in Maryville closed on Sept. 16 for removal of the mold from the building and its heating and air-conditioning system, according to Alisa Teffeteller, the spokeswoman for Blount County schools.

The high school—one of two in the 11,000-student district south of Knoxville—is scheduled to reopen on Oct. 14. School officials will offer tutoring for students during the impromptu fall break, Ms. Teffeteller said.

The days lost because of the school shutdown will be made up by shortening the Christmas and spring breaks as well as scheduling school on federal holidays.

School districts nationwide are being forced to close schools and pay millions to clean up mold, which has been blamed for health problems. ("Moldy Buildings: Troubling Trend for Many Districts," Sept. 26, 2001.)

—David J. Hoff

Ga. High School Sports Group OKs Use of Prosthetic Fin

The Georgia High School Association has decided a 14-year-old student can use a prosthetic swim fin in swimming competitions. If he makes the high school swim team, that is.

The student, Hunter Scott, a 9th grader at the private Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga., sought permission to use the swim fin because a birth defect kept his left leg from growing beyond the knee.

Steve Figueroa, a spokesman for the association, said the fin did not afford the boy any real advantage, but was the only way he could compete.

The decision by the state league that governs high school sports overturns one made by the DeKalb-Atlanta Swim and Diving League. This past summer, the league ruled that the swim fin violated guidelines that bar athletes from using artificial devices in competitions.

The Roswell boy's next hurdle will be making the team, which is currently holding tryouts. The season begins Nov. 18.

"There are 40 boys going out for 20 spots," Mr. Figueroa said. "Assuming he makes the team, he has clearance from us."

—Lisa Fine Goldstein

Wash. District Settles Lawsuit Over Treatment of Black Students

The Puyallup, Wash., school district has reached a $7.5 million settlement with the families of 36 African-American students who alleged in a 2000 lawsuit that they were subjected to a racially hostile environment at school.

The 20,000- student district, east of Tacoma, will also review its harassment and discrimination policies and make a series of administrative and curriculum changes, including the creation of an office of diversity affairs and diversity training for faculty and students.

While insurance will cover the payments to the families, the $400,000 in start-up costs needed to make the additional changes will be paid by the district, said Tony Apostle, the district's director for administrative services. He added that many of the new initiatives are well under way.

"Our intention is to continue to implement what we believe are elements that will create an environment in which all students' needs are being met," he said.

Incidents named in the lawsuit include fights, graffiti with racial slurs, and a student showing up for a class picture in black-face makeup.

About 3 percent of the district's students are African-American, while 85 percent are white.

—Linda Jacobson

Death

Pamela L. Mountjoy, who spent her career strengthening the education programs of the nation's space agency and who fostered efforts to put a teacher into space, died Sept. 12 of cancer. She was 49.

Pamela L. Mountjoy

The former Maryland elementary school teacher served as a manager of the Teacher-in-Space project for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from 1985 to 1991. Then known as Pamela Bacon, she traveled with Barbara R. Morgan, the backup to teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe, for visits to schools after Ms. McAuliffe died in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. NASA announced in April that Ms. Morgan will take part in a shuttle flight in 2004.

Ms. Mountjoy, an education services specialist at NASA, instilled "hands-on, minds-on pedagogy" into the agency's publications and programs for schools, said Wendell G. Mohling, an official at the National Science Teachers Association. "She was very serious about the need for strong educational programs, making sure not only teachers had access to good resources, but also awfully good pedagogy."

—Andrew Trotter

Vol. 22, Issue 4, Page 4

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