District News Roundup

December 05, 1984 5 min read

In Boston, where school-community partnerships of all kinds have sprung up in recent years, labor unions have also stepped into the school-improvement business, offering to increase the number of apprenticeships they can provide to new high-school graduates.

School officials say the pact, which commits the schools on their part to produce better-trained graduates and reduce absenteeism, may be the first such agreement in the nation.

The Boston School Committee unanimously approved the pact late last month. The agreement will raise the number of local high-school graduates in union apprentice-training programs by 15 percent over the next three years.

Rita Walsh-Tomasini, president of the school committee, said the draft was proposed at the end of September and was sent to school officials for comments. She noted that 26 unions have already agreed to the pact, which, in addition to increasing the participation of Boston high-school graduates, also sets forth specific proposals to include more minorities and women in the apprentice-training programs.

About 1,500 people now participate in the postgraduate programs, which train students for three to five years in a particular skill. The programs are jointly run by the state board of education and the unions.

Only 15 percent of the participants in the program are Boston high-school graduates. Ms. Walsh-Tomasini said the new pact should raise that figure to about 30 percent.

“This is the first such agreement in the state, and as far as we know, in the country,” said James Pardy, administrative assistant to Ms. Walsh-Tomasini. The pact will go into effect next September.

The five members of the Cabell County (W.Va.) Board of Education have filed a $4-million libel suit against the West Virginia Education Association and one of its consultants.

The board members claim in their lawsuit that their reputations were discredited in a Sept. 18 memorandum to nonprofessional county school employees from Bill Long, a Region IV “UniServ” consultant to the wvea

Court records show that in the memorandum, Mr. Long wrote: “It has been reported to me that a member of the Cabell County Board of Education has allegedly visited job locations in Cabell County to tell our esp [Education Support Personnel] members that the administration and board will systematically deny all grievances filed by any esp member. Furthermore, this board member has allegedly stated that anyone who files a grievance ought to be fired.”

Education Support Personnel is an affiliate of the wvea, which in turn is an affiliate of the National Education Association. The esp represents service employees, including bus drivers, secretaries, and custodians.

Mr. Long further wrote that “if any of these reported events did occur,” they would be in violation of the law, and he asked members to call a toll-free telephone number if they had further information or6"would be willing to testify in a legal proceeding.”

William B. McGinley, general counsel for the wvea, said last week that he had no comment on the lawsuit because he had not yet seen it.

Despite more than $30 million earmarked specifically to reduce overcrowding in New York City schools this year, Schools Chancel6lor Nathan Quinones conceded that about a third of all high-school classes, or about 13,000, still have more than the maximum 34 students.

But Mr. Quinones noted at a board of education meeting last week that at this time last year 45 percent of high-school classes were overcrowded, and he pledged that city high schools would meet the the 34-student ceiling by the February semester.

Some of the factors that have prevented reducing class sizes, Mr. Quinones said, are insufficient classroom space, inaccurate projections of student enrollment by some administrators, and “breakage.” Ac-cording to a spokesman for the board of education, breakage--or “half-classes,” which account for 70 percent of the overcrowding--results when one large class, with 70 students for example, is split into two sections, one with 34 students, the other with 36; the latter exceeds the ceiling.

City Council President Carol Bellamy and other educators criticized the board’s allocation of funds meant to alleviate overcrowding. In a prepared statement, Ms. Bellamy said that the money should have been given to the schools that needed it the most rather than distributed to Continued on Following all schools on the basis of enrollment.

A Randolph, Mass., high-school senior who drew national attention for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem during her homeroom period recently resumed attending school following threats against herself and her family.

The 17-year-old girl, Susan Shapiro, has been attending classes without incident since Nov. 21 following a seven-day absence from school, according to John E. Zoino, superintendent of the Randolph school district. Ms. Shapiro’s parents kept her out of school after they started receiving hate mail and harassing telephone calls following the publication of a story about her protest in a local newspaper, he said.

According to Mr. Zoino, the controversy began on the first day of school in September, when Ms. Shapiro, continuing a practice she began last year with her homeroom teacher’s approval, remained seated while other students recited the pledge and sang the anthem.

On the second day of classes and on other occasions, she quarreled with her new homeroom teacher about the practice. Mr. Zoino said the incidents went “99-percent unnoticed” in the community until Nov. 9, when The Patriot Ledger of Quincy published a story about them. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Shapiro, who is Jewish, began receiving the mail and telephone calls, many of them anti-Semitic in nature.

Both Ms. Shapiro’s parents and school officials contacted the U.S. Justice Department’s community-relations service in Boston to investigate the harassing calls and mail and to arrange for her safe return to school.

“The superintendent’s immediate positive reaction and cooperation from other school and police officials was most important,” said Martin Walsh, director of the service. “They headed off what could have been a major divisive issue.”

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 1984 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup