House Speaker Newt Gingrich has won the annual Doublespeak Award from the National Council of Teachers of English. The NCTE bestowed the dubious distinction on the Georgia Republican this fall at its annual convention in San Diego. The award is an ironic tribute to public figures who use language that the council says is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-contradictory. Keith Gilyard, chairman of the organization’s Committee on Public Doublespeak, said Gingrich was cited for passages from his book To Renew America, in which he reveals his vision for the nation. His nomination was based on a July 1995 Time magazine article about the book that outlined contradictions in Gingrich’s arguments. In the book, Gingrich writes, “When confronted with a problem, a true American doesn’t ask ‘Who can I blame this on?’ '' The Time article pointed out that Gingrich then goes on “to survey America’s problems and blame them on various people.’'
Lunch To Remember
Just plain sick--that’s how most people at Flushing High School near Flint, Mich., will remember this year’s celebration of American Education Week. Student council members honored the school’s faculty with a luncheon, ordering 16 feet of submarine sandwiches and a bowl of punch. The 83 teachers and staff members at the 1,300-student school quickly devoured the food. That was Nov. 15. Within two days, 29 employees had called in sick, complaining of nausea and indigestion, which students in the high school’s bacteriology class quickly traced to a section of a ham sandwich. Efforts to find substitute teachers took a back seat to misery. “It really devastated us,’' said assistant principal Gary Whitmire, who was taken ill himself. “It simply emptied your whole system. The kids were distraught.’' Within a few days, however, the sickness had become a topic of humor. “It’s the talk of the town,’' Whitmire said.
Wedding Bill Blues
Chuck Holley had taught for the Lawrence, Kan., public schools for more than 20 years, and Sara, his wife to be, for three. So it seemed natural for the couple to tie the knot in the auditorium of Central Junior High School, where they both teach. A story like that couldn’t help but become local news. But when Craig Fiegel, an assistant superintendent for the district, saw the item in a local newspaper,
he decided that the couple should have to pay to use the public facility. The Holleys were not pleased about the $50 fee. But they eventually paid up--in pennies. With the help of donations from colleagues, Chuck managed to accumulate $50 in 1-cent coins, which he presented to the district in a grocery bag.
Assault And Battery
A Boston high school student has been charged and arraigned as an adult after allegedly hitting a 78-year-old substitute teacher in the face. Police charged the 17-year-old senior at Brighton High School with assault and battery on a public servant, a misdemeanor. The substitute, Louis Deraney, who, at 4 feet 6 inches, is 11 inches shorter than his alleged assailant, told police that he was hit after asking the student to leave the classroom. Deraney received several stitches near his mouth. The student has been suspended from school indefinitely and faces possible expulsion, according to a district spokesman. If convicted, he faces a minimum of 90 days in jail.
The Bridgeport, Conn., school board has fired a teacher for allegedly tampering with students’ answer forms on a statewide test. Carolyn Hanes, an 8th grade teacher at Hooker School, is the first teacher in the state to be dismissed for suspected cheating on the Connecticut Mastery Test, according to Richard Huydic, director of planning and development for the 22,000-student Bridgeport district. The board voted to fire Hanes in November after one of her students pointed out that his answer sheet had been completed even though he did not finish the test. Hanes, a 25-year teaching veteran, has denied tampering with the test forms. She said she left the sheets unguarded in her classroom and did not know who had filled in the answers.
A Houston teachers’ union has sued the city’s school system for what the teachers are calling “union busting’’ activities. The Houston Federation of Teachers accused the district of unlawfully opening teachers’ mail, delaying delivery of union mail, transferring vocal union members among schools, improperly changing grievance procedures, and encouraging new teachers to join a different organization. The lawsuit, filed in November in state court, seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction directing the 207,000-student district to cease illegal actions. District spokeswoman Sandy Rivera would not comment specifically on the lawsuit but said school officials welcome opportunities to work with employee organizations on their concerns.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced in December that it has certified another 91 teachers who work with children in early adolescence. The teachers, language arts specialists and generalists who teach all subjects, are the third group to be certified by the private Detroit-based organization. They bring the total number of board-certified teachers to 267. The national board eventually plans to offer certification in more than 30 fields. The voluntary credential is designed to promote professionalism and recognize outstanding teachers. For information about national board certification, write to the NBPTS, 300 River Place, Suite 3600, Detroit, MI 48207; or call (800) 22TEACH.
Cut In Benefits
Responding to cuts in projected benefit payments, a group of former Ohio teachers has filed suit against the State Teachers Retirement System. The lawsuit, which was filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in December, alleges that the retirement-system board violated its contract when it reduced pension benefits for some 15,000 teachers who left teaching before completing 30 years of service. System officials said the benefits were subject to change based on investment performance. They said the former, higher rates became too costly to pay to all teachers.
School officials in Bradleyville, Mo., thought their ship had come in when a property-tax reassessment almost tripled land values in their district to $9 million. Even after cutting the district’s levy rate to adjust for what appeared to be a windfall, they budgeted for extra tax revenues of $136,000. But just as fast as the tide rolled in, it ebbed. Local officials determined that they mistakenly had assessed the value of an $11,000 380-acre farm at $5 million. New tax bills are being sent to some district residents, but those assessments will bring in only about $20,000 of the extra money that was expected. District officials chalked up the error to a computer glitch. “We have no ill feelings about the mistake,’' says Lonnie Leatherman, superintend-ent of the 230-student district. “We were going to live with the extra money; now we’ll live without it.’'
A version of this article appeared in the February 01, 1996 edition of Teacher as Current Events