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Published in Print: December 10, 2003, as News in Brief

News in Brief

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Schools Chief to Retire In Fairfax County, Va.

Daniel A. Domenech, the superintendent of the Fairfax County, Va., public schools, announced last week that he will retire in March.

Mr. Domenech, 58, who has spent six years at the helm of the 161,000-student district, will then become a senior vice president of urban markets for McGraw- Hill Education Co. in New York City.

He cited a desire to move closer to his aging parents, grown children, and grandchildren in making his announcement.

During his tenure, the native of Cuba, who immigrated to the United States at age 9 speaking no English, has earned good notices for boosting achievement among all groups of students.

—Ann Bradley

K-12 Growth Projected to Slow, According to U.S. Estimate

The nation's K-12 population will continue to grow over the next decade, but not at the pace of recent years, according to federal projections.

Enrollment will rise by 4 percent between 2001 and 2013, compared with 19 percent from 1988 through 2001, the National Center on Education Statistics reported last week.

Public and private schools educated 53.9 million students in the fall of 2001—the most recent year that NCES has final enrollment figures. The school-age population is the highest in the nation's history, according to the center, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Education.

—David J. Hoff

La. Student Punished for Talking About Gay Mother in School

The American Civil Liberties Union is demanding that a Louisiana elementary school expunge the disciplinary record of a 7-year-old boy, charging that the boy's constitutional rights were violated when he was punished for talking about his gay mother during class.

The free-speech organization came to the defense last week of Marcus McLaurin after a teacher at Ernest Gallet Elementary School in Youngsville allegedly scolded him in front of his 2nd grade classmates for explaining his mother's gay relationship to another student and sent him to the principal's office. As punishment, the school required the boy to attend a 6:45 a.m. behavioral clinic, where, the ACLU claims, he was forced to repeatedly write, "I will never use the word 'gay' in school again."

James H. Easton, the superintendent of the 29,000-student Lafayette Parish schools, said in a Dec. 2 statement that the teacher acted appropriately because the boy was punished not for using the word "gay," but for talking during class and "hindering the classroom learning process."

Explanations offered by Marcus' teacher in the discipline reports she filed indicate otherwise.

"Marcus decided to explain to another child in his group that his mom is gay," the teacher wrote in a form that the ACLU has posted on its Web site. "He told the other child that gay is when a girl likes a girl. That kind of discussion is not acceptable in my room."

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Long Beach, Calif., Schools Sued Over Killing of Former Student

The father of a woman who was murdered by her former high school teacher has filed a $10 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the Long Beach Unified School District in California.

Martin Mora alleges that school officials knew that Myra Mora Lopez, who attended Woodrow Wilson High School, was living with her former Spanish teacher, Pedro Tepoz-Leon, in July 2002 when she was taking summer classes in the district to earn credit toward graduation.

The suit claims officials knew that the two had a relationship and that Mr. Tepoz-Leon, 35, had struck Ms. Mora and yet let him continue to teach until he murdered her on Oct. 24, 2002.

In October, a Long Beach Superior Court jury concluded that Mr. Tepoz-Leon stabbed the 19-year-old to death and convicted him of first-degree murder. Mr. Tepoz-Leon, who faces a 26-year-to-life prison term, is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Officials of the 97,500- student Long Beach district denied the accusations and said they aided law- enforcement officers in prosecuting Mr. Tepoz-Leon.

—Andrew Trotter

Farmers Raise Funds for Schools By Making Semi-Nude Calendar

Rural Oregon farmers and businessmen who bared (almost) all in a "pin-up" calendar have raised more than $100,000 for the 1,900-student Junction City school district near Eugene.

The men of the Long Tom Grange, a rural fraternal organization, posed in the buff with artfully placed horse saddles, banjos, tractors, and daffodils.

Such calendars have become popular fund-raising tools and are the subject of a forthcoming movie about older women in England who are credited with starting the trend.

Robin Pfeiffer, a Junction City vineyard owner and "Mr. March," said his group was dismayed at the severe budget cutbacks in the Junction City schools, whose budget has decreased from $12 million in 2002 to $10 million this year.

The $17 calendars for 2004 are sold both in local businesses and online at

Junction City schools Superintendent Kathleen Rodden-Nord said options for spending the money include restoring programs that have been cut, reducing class sizes, and bringing back extracurricular activities.

—Rhea J. Borja

Phila. Schools Weighing Fate of Novice Teacher

A Philadelphia high school teacher who unsuccessfully sought a court order to remove unruly students from his classroom is now working in an administrative office.

District officials are holding hearings to determine the fate of David Pitone, who walked off his job in frustration after only a few days because students he had ejected came right back into his classroom.

Mr. Pitone, 40, a computer engineer, began work at Audenried High School in October after completing a district training program for professionals from other fields wishing to become teachers.

District spokeswoman Cecilia Cummings said that Mr. Pitone, in trying to remove students who had cursed at him and threatened him, had failed to complete the proper forms and to call security to have the students escorted to the principal's office.

Mr. Pitone took the unusual step of seeking a court order that would enable him to eject the disorderly students, but his request was denied.

Ms. Cummings said veteran teachers were assigned to help Mr. Pitone, but he didn't accept their assistance.

—Catherine Gewertz


Clark Kerr, the first chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and the chief architect of the master plan for higher education that has guided California for the past 40 years, died Dec. 1. He was 92 and died in his sleep after suffering complications from a fall.Mr. Kerr joined the Berkeley faculty in 1945 as a professor of economics and industrial relations. He served in the newly created position of chancellor from 1952-58 and was president of the University of California system from 1958-67 during a time of great student unrest.

Beginning in 1964, Mr. Kerr struggled with the Free Speech Movement, which, among other measures, pressed for students' right to exercise their political beliefs on campus. In 1967, under pressure from then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, the university's board of regents fired Mr. Kerr.

He later headed the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education and its successor, the Carnegie Council on Policy Issues in Higher Education, until 1979.

—Ann Bradley

, a former commissioner of education in Vermont, died Dec. 1. He was 61.

A native of Vermont, Mr. Hull was the state's top educator from 1996 to 1999, when he stepped down because of health problems.

Mr. Hull worked as a teacher, administrator, and superintendent in the state, as well as serving in the top post. During his tenure as commissioner, he lobbied the state legislature to pass Act 60, a sweeping school finance measure that established a statewide property tax to finance public education.

Under Mr. Hull's watch, Vermont education officials wrote statewide standards for what students should learn and developed accountability measures to gauge student performance.

—Michelle Galley

Vol. 23, Issue 15, Page 4

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