District News Roundup

March 15, 1989 5 min read

Money woes and declining enrollments have led the Rockford, Ill., school board to vote to close 11 schools next year.

The school system in the state’s second-largest city is one of nearly 200 that have been placed on a financial “watch list” by the state board of education for failing to meet fiscal guidelines.

A key element of the plan calls for consolidating five existing facilities into one “mega-elementary” school serving 1,200 students, school officials said.

The moves will enable the district to lay off 200 teachers and other school workers and chop $7.3 million from a projected $9-million deficit in next year’s budget, they said.

The Toledo Federation of Teachers must repay nearly five years’ worth of fees collected from six nonunion teachers, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled.

The panel voted 5-2 to uphold a lower court’s ruling that the money had to be refunded because the union had failed to meet guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court for unions in collecting dues from nonmembers whom they represent in collective bargaining.

The fees in question have been held in escrow since September 1983, when the lawsuit was first filed. In addition to returning those funds to the six plaintiffs, the union was ordered to pay some $20,000 in attorneys’ fees to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, Gibney v. Toledo Board of Education.

Students caught carrying guns or other weapons into Montgomery County, Md., schools will be automatically recommended for permanent expulsion, under a new district policy.

While officials have moved in the past to expel gun-toting students, Superintendent Harry Pitt acted this month to make the practice formal district policy.

Expulsions will also be meted out to students found selling or distributing drugs or alcohol on school grounds, according to a district spokesman.

Although the new policy gives students a chance to justify their actions, the spokesman argued that it was unlikely that a student would be able to provide a “legitimate” reason for possessing a weapon.

Mr. Pitt is also considering a new policy to ban beepers and portable phones, which are often carried by students involved in the drug trade, the spokesman said.

A 15-year-old boy was beaten to death by an older student in an Atlanta high school only 10 days after district officials denied his parents’ transfer request.

Derrick Guthrie, an 8th-grade student at Harper High School, died from his injuries Feb. 20 after being knocked down and kicked repeatedly by 16-year-old Brian Ball, according to a police spokesman.

Students reportedly overheard Mr. Ball threatening Mr. Guthrie about his involvement with a girl at the school. He allegedly attacked the younger student in a school hallway.

District officials said the younger boy’s parents had requested a transfer because they feared for their son’s safety. The request was denied because of lack of evidence that the boy was in danger.

Mr. Ball, who is being held at a juvenile-detention center, faces murder charges.

Up to 100 New York City elementary schools would get new libraries, under an initiative funded by a $3-million grant from the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund.

The “Library Power” program will provide selected schools with up to $30,000 worth of assistance each, in the form of space renovation, book purchases, and staff development.

The program, which will also incorporate up to $4.5 million in funding from the city’s board of education, will be administered by the American Reading Council.

Meanwhile, a group of school, government, and corporate leaders last week announced creation of the Fund for New York City Public Education to increase private-sector support for the schools. Sponsors said they had already raised more than $2 million in foundation grants.

The Syracuse, N.Y., school system, which has won national acclaim for its special-education programs, has been sued by a 20-year-old autistic student who claims that administrators used her disability as an excuse for forcing her out of school.

The class-action lawsuit filed last month by Helena N. charges that school officials violated the federal special-education law when they suspended her from Fowler High School for disability-related behavior. She also alleges that district officials illegally tried to place her on a home-bound instruction program when her suspension had ended.

The school system in the past has received wide recognition for efforts to integrate autistic students into regular classrooms. One such program was the subject of a Public Broadcasting System documentary last year.

School officials last week declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Troy, Mich., citizens who oppose the planned construction of a $32-million high school have filed recall petitions against six school-board members.

The board had decided to sell bonds to pay for the construction after local residents twice voted down a similar plan to pay for the replacement of an aging facility. In doing so, the board took advantage of a state law that allows districts to sell bonds worth up to 5 percent of the value of taxable property within their jurisdictions, explained Marajeane Zodtner, the district’s executive director of business.

Ms. Zodtner said the recall election will be held this spring.

New York City students would be purged of “New Yorkese” and other bad speech habits under a plan proposed by Schools Chancellor Richard R. Green.

In a memo to Mayor Edward I. Koch, however, Mr. Green stressed that ''our purpose is not to devalue anyone’s home language,” but to alert students to the need to use formal English effectively to be successful in school and the workplace.

A list of “speech demons” devised by Mr. Green includes the use of “axe” for “ask,” “youse” for “you,” “he be” for “he is,” and “liberry” for “library"--an infraction for which Mr. Koch, who has pushed the speech program, also has admitted guilt.

Although critics say Mr. Green’s list includes many phrases used by black and Hispanic students and could be stigmatizing, Mr. Koch argues that the expressions “cut across economics and race and ethnicity.”

Mr. Green has pledged to declare a “Putting Your Best Speech Forward Day” this spring.

A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 1989 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup