News in Brief: A National Roundup
Phila. Targets High Schools With Broad Overhaul Plan
The Philadelphia school district announced a wide-ranging plan last
week to improve all 45 of its high schools by bolstering support for
struggling students and offering more academic choices.
Paul G. Vallas, the chief executive officer, described the plan as a "total transformation" of the 208,000-student district's secondary schools.
He hopes to ensure that students are ready for high school by stopping social promotion, requiring summer school for struggling students, and offering a 9th grade transition program featuring intensive mathematics and reading help. All high schools will begin using a unified 9th grade math and language arts curriculum by the fall.
The district will expand its preparation programs for college-entrance exams, its Advanced Placement courses, and its career and technical education programs, and double the number of counselors to provide a better support net. It also will provide year-round training for teachers and administrators.
Enrichments such as art, music, and sports programs will be added.
Mr. Vallas hopes to create smaller, more personalized learning environments in many of the schools by opening academies in some schools and expanding the number of high schools.
By building or replacing 14 high schools and converting as many as 10 middle schools to high schools, the district hopes more schools can have enrollments of just 250 to 800, officials said.
University Receives Grant For Teacher-Training Program
Aurora University in Aurora, Ill., announced last week that it has won a $10 million federal grant to expand its innovative program of teacher education. ("Total Immersion," Nov. 7, 2001.)
The grant, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will be used to establish the Institute for Collaboration in Education and Health Services. The centerpiece of the institute will be an expanded "partnership school" that will build on the university's current programs with the local school district to train teachers, social workers, and nurses.
Ted Parge, the university's vice president for advancement, said the money would be used primarily to construct a new building on campus that would allow the university and the district to expand their partnership.
Under the training approach, which has been lauded as a national model, university students gain four years of experience working with K-12 students as they earn their teaching credentials.
Colo. Principals Disciplined For Purchases of Beer
Two high school principals in the Jefferson County, Colo., district have been disciplined for buying beer with school funds.
The alcohol was purchased with money from school vending machines and was served as part of the schools' annual coaches' meetings, held in August at the Coors Field baseball stadium in Denver, said Rick Kaufman, the communications director for the 89,000-student district.
The principals involved believed that they could use the money in such a manner, Mr. Kaufman said, but the district has since clarified that school "revenue-enhancement funds" are not to be used to buy alcohol. In addition, it now requires that itemized receipts accompany invoices for purchases with school funds.
Money from one high school had been used to buy alcohol for the annual gathering since 1998, Mr. Kaufman said, while the other principal had approved such purchases since 2001.
Mr. Kaufman would not say what steps were taken to discipline the two principals, but each was placed on administrative leave on Feb. 11 for a little more than a week while the district investigated.
The beer was served as the coaches watched a baseball game following a meeting and a dinner.
Texas Honor Student Fights Transfer Over Alleged Threat
A 17-year-old Texas honors student is fighting a district decision to transfer him to another school for allegedly making a "terroristic threat" against a female classmate.
Terry Carter, a senior at Dunbar High School in the 80,500- student Fort Worth district, was suspended last month for a poem he wrote and read aloud in a theater class on Jan. 30. The poem, delivered in a rap, mentioned the name of the girl and referred to a gun and pulling a trigger in the same verse, according to Mr. Carter's lawyer and school officials.
The girl told a teacher she felt threatened, and the matter was turned over to the district.
Initially, district officials suspended Mr. Carter and ordered him to attend an alternative school until at least early June. His lawyer, Bobbie Edmonds, appealed that ruling, and the district reduced the boy's sentence at the alternative school to 10 days, which he was serving last week.
The district's director of student affairs, Cecelia G. Speer, said Mr. Carter would not be allowed to return to Dunbar High, though he can enroll in one of the district's other 12 high schools. Ms. Edmonds said last week that she had appealed that ruling as well.
—Darcia Harris Bowman
No Candidates File to Serve On Local N.J. School Board
What if they held a school board election and nobody ran?
The Pequannock Township, N.J., school district faces that very problem over its April 15 school board elections.
Since no one filed to be a candidate for the three open seats on the nine-member board, the district will have to resort to filling the positions with write-in candidates chosen by voters that day.
"I was surprised and disappointed," said Jacqueline L. Cusack, the superintendent of the 2,500-student district in northern New Jersey. "While the district is a good place to be, what makes it that way is active leadership, beginning at the community level."
The school board election will be the first in the township's history in which no one has filed to run, she said. The three board members whose terms expired decided not to stand for re-election.
Ms. Cusack said she thought there were myriad reasons why no candidates expressed interest by the filing date last month, including family duties.
—Lisa Fine Goldstein
Minn. Teenager Charged With Setting Off Pipe Bomb
A high school student has been charged with setting off a pipe bomb at Park Senior High School in Cottage Grove, Minn.
The Feb. 11 explosion, which caused an estimated $20,000 in damage, occurred at night while a girls' basketball game was taking place at the school. No one was injured in the blast.
Nicholas Andrew Brang, 18, a senior at the school, was charged on Feb. 18 with first-degree arson and unlawfully discharging an explosive or incendiary device. State sentencing guidelines call for a minimum 48 month prison term, according to Doug Johnson, the Washington County attorney.
Two juveniles, who are also students at the school, have been questioned in the case but had not been charged last week, authorities said. None of the suspects in the case had prior criminal records. Mr. Brang could not be reached for comment.
Death: Fred Rogers
Fred Rogers, the gentle host of the children's television program "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," died on Feb. 27 of stomach cancer. He was 74.
The program, which ran on public-television stations from 1968 to 2000, made the ordained Presbyterian minister a household figure. With his trademark cardigan sweater, Mr. Rogers welcomed young viewers to his neighborhood, which featured a magical trolley that took them to the Neighborhood of Make- Believe.
Mr. Rogers won two Peabody Awards, four Emmys, a lifetime- achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Vol. 22, Issue 25, Page 4