Current Events: Roundup

November 01, 1993 7 min read

Vindicated, At Last

In 1987, Victor and Deborah Lavalla of Enfield, Conn., accused Roderick Crochiere, a music teacher at a local elementary school, of sexually abusing their 13-year-old daughter during her clarinet lesson. Crochiere maintained that he was merely tapping out the beat of the music on the girl’s leg. Although Crochiere was not charged in the incident, the Enfield school board fired him. [See “Presumed Guilty,’' May/June 1991.] Crochiere then filed a defamation lawsuit against the couple. This past September, the Lavallas recanted their allegations as part of a settlement of that lawsuit. In addition to paying an undisclosed sum, the couple apologized and said they wanted to help “repair’’ the damage to Crochiere’s career. Since his firing, he has suffered a nervous breakdown and has been un- able to work regularly. The Lavallas contend that their complaint was “blown out of all proportion’’ by school officials and that the music teacher inadvertently touched their daughter inappropriately. A state judge, however, has ruled that there were no grounds to hold Enfield school officials liable and dismissed the district as a defendant in Crochiere’s lawsuit.

Guilty As Sin

In September, a Maryland circuitcourt jury found former teacher Ronald Price guilty of sexually abusing three of his female students. The jury convicted Price, who taught for 22 years at Northeast High School in Pasadena, Md., on seven charges. Price, who admitted on national television that he had been sexually involved with students during an 11-year period, testified he did not know that the state’s child-abuse law prohibited such activity. He also charged that school officials knew of his relationships and did nothing. Superintendent Berry Carter of the Anne Arundel County Schools has been suspended with pay pending an investigation of the charges. Price reportedly has a contract with a Hollywood producer to make his life story into a television movie. In August, a state judge rejected a bid by the state attorney general to bar the former teacher from profiting from such an arrangement, saying the state law invoked in the effort “is unconstitutional and unenforceable.’'

In The Black

Education Alternatives Inc., a private firm that seeks to manage public schools, says it made a profit last year for the first time. The Minneapolis-based company reported profits of $1.1 million on revenues of $30.1 million for the fiscal year ending in June. The company had failed to turn a profit in its previous six years of operation. A five-year, $133 million contract to manage nine Baltimore schools is credited for the company’s recent profitability. [See “Bullish On Schools,’' April.] That contract-- and speculation about upcoming deals--has helped boost the company’s stock above $35 per share, up from an original selling price of $4 in 1991. Company officials have predicted that EAI’s profit on each contract would be thin but that its overall profitability would increase as it takes on more business.

On The Mend?

In a report on its management of the troubled Chelsea, Mass., public schools, Boston University says it has made “significant progress’’ in early childhood education, curriculum reform, and its plans to build new schools. Test scores also are beginning to show modest improvements, and the percentage of students taking the SAT has nearly doubled, according to the university, which has managed the city’s public school system under contract since 1989. [See “Chel- sea At The Crossroads,’' September 1990.] What’s more, the BU report says, the annual drop-out rate has fallen from 20 percent to 8 percent, and the proportion of Chelsea High School graduates who go on to postsecondary education has increased from 52.6 percent to 66.7 percent.

They Didn’t Laugh

Three students at Chelmsford (Mass.) High School have filed a lawsuit against the school, its parent-teacher organization, and an AIDS-awareness educator who they say humiliated them. The students allege in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court that Suzi Landolphi, a comedian who brings her “Hot, Sexy, and Safer’’ presentation to colleges and schools, sexually harassed them by using explicit language and humor at an assembly. During her presentations, Landolphi has one student pull a condom over the head of another, asks a student to make an “orgasm face,’' and speaks frankly about different kinds of sexual behavior. Chelmsford Superintendent Richard Moser said that, although some administrators expressed concern over the tone of the presentation, an “overwhelming number’’ of students seemed to respond favorably to it. The content, he added, was consistent with the school’s approach to AIDS education.

No Live-in Lovers

A former teacher at a private Waltham, Mass., boarding and day school has filed a job-discrimination complaint because school officials refused to let her live in a campus dormitory with her lesbian companion. Christine Huff, who had been assistant dean of students, head houseparent, and coach at the Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School, filed the complaint after she was not offered a contract for this school year. Living on campus is a requirement of her job. “I lost my job,’' Huff says, “because I was forced to choose between the career I love and the woman I love.’' The school allows married, but not unmarried, couples to live in the dorms together. Huff and her companion had a “commitment’’ ceremony this past summer, but Massachusetts does not recognize same-sex marriages. The school’s policy is consistent with state law, said Headmaster James Clements.

More Money

Total spending by all levels of government on collegiate and precollegiate education will hit a record $493.3 billion this school year, a 50 percent increase over the past decade after adjustment for inflation, according to the U.S. Education Department’s annual backto-school forecast. The proportion of the nation’s gross domestic product spent on education will increase from 6.7 percent in 1983 to 7.9 percent for this school year-- the highest gain for a 10-year period. Spending for elementary and secondary schools is projected at $295.2 billion, up 47 percent over the past decade after adjusting for inflation. Spending last school year was $279.4 billion, the department says. Per-pupil spending for K-12 is estimated at $5,920, up from $5,721 last year.

Corporate Giving

Although corporate charitable giving declined overall last year for the first time in more than two decades--from $6 billion in 1991 to $5.92 billion in 1992--contributions to precollegiate education increased, according to an annual survey by the Council for Aid to Education. Total education-related giving in 1992 was $2.43 billion, a 2 percent decrease in inflationadjusted dollars from 1991. About 70 percent of education dollars-- $1.69 billion--went to higher education institutions. Precollege programs received about $364 million, up from $314 million in 1991; that was a 16 percent increase in actual dollars and a 13 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. An additional $364 million went to “other educational programs,’' a category that includes gifts to education-related organizations and scholarship and fellowship programs.

Imported Reform

Drawing on materials developed in British Columbia, the Nebraska and Iowa education departments have issued a detailed framework for K-3 reform. The guide adapts to American settings principles used by the Canadian province’s ministry of education to reform primary education. It covers such issues as active learning, ungraded classrooms, assessment, subject-matter integration, and multiculturalism. Copies of the 700-page document, The Primary Program: Growing and Learning in the Heartland, are available for $25 each from Harriet Egertson, Office of Child Development, Nebraska Department of Education, 301 Centennial Mall South, P.O. Box 94987, Lincoln, NE 68509.

Rising Enrollment

Enrollment at the nation’s independent schools increased 1.7 percent between the 1991-92 and 1992-93 school years, according to annual figures released by the National Association of Independent Schools. Growth was particularly strong in preschool programs, where enrollment grew 3 percent, and postgraduate and 13th-year programs, where it swelled 12.7 percent. The most dramatic increases were seen in the Southeast and West, where the number of students rose 6.8 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively. Total national enrollment in NAIS schools during the 1992-93 school year stood at 387,065 students.

A version of this article appeared in the November 01, 1993 edition of Teacher as Current Events: Roundup