District News Roundup

December 05, 1990 7 min read

Teachers at a Roman Catholic high school in St. Paul have voted to establish a union, the first at a Catholic school in Minnesota.

Teachers at Hill-Murray High School voted 18 to 9 last month to form a bargaining unit affiliated with the Minnesota Federation of Teachers. But the state’s Bureau of Mediation Services has not yet certified the union because the school has gone to court to challenge the legality of the union.

The school first tried to stop the union election after the state bureau ruled that workers at church-related schools are covered under the state’s labor-relations act. A federal judge and a state appeals court both refused to delay the union election.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is asking the appeals court to rule that the state agency has no authority over the Catholic school because of the clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing free exercise of religion.

The bureau will delay certification of the union until the appeals court rules, an official said.

A high-school principal in Fairfax County, Va., has been found responsible for three falsified teacher-performance evaluations following an internal investigation by the school district.

The investigation into the evaluations used for the district’s nationally known merit-pay program found that in 1988 someone lowered the performance ratings for three teachers at J.E.B. Stuart High School. Although the teachers’ ratings were lowered one category, all three still received the highest salary bonuses possible under the plan.

District officials have concluded that interference with the evaluations was limited to the incident at the one high school. They would not say who they believe altered the documents, saying only that the school principal was held responsible because he was in charge of the school at the time.

The principal retired from the school system before the falsifications were discovered last June.

The New York City board of education is considering selling some of its property--including Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez’s $995,000 townhouse--to raise money to offset the effects of another round of budget cuts.

No decision has been made on whether to sell any holdings, according to Robert Terte, a spokesman for the board, but there has been “some discussion” of selling the school system’s television and radio stations and some of its non-school buildings.

“It’s being considered in the context of considering every possible way of finding additional sources of revenue or making cuts that will not impinge on students in the classroom,” Mr. Terte added.

A juvenile-justice task force in Prince George’s County, Md., has recommended the use of drug-sniffing dogs in the county’s schools, but the state’s attorney’s office, which convened the panel, does not back the idea.

Patrols of drug-detecting dogs are “not really needed,” said Jacqueline P. Byrd-Tillman, chief of the juvenile division of the state’s attorney’s office. “It would be disruptive and counterproductive.”

Demonstrations of the dogs have shown that when they detect illegal substances, “they get out of control,” and can be destructive, Ms. Byrd-Tillman said.

“You’d hate to jeopardize the children,” she added.

The task force, assembled two years ago, likely made the recommendation based on a drug situation that was more severe then than it is now, Ms. Byrd-Tillman said. Between fiscal years 1989 and 1990, she noted, the number of drug-related incidents on the grounds of county schools decreased from 34 to 30, and the number of drug arrests declined from 23 to 11.

State’s Attorney Alex Williams supports the panel’s nine other suggestions, including routine drug testing of all juvenile delinquents and mandatory treatment for all students involved with drugs, Ms. Byrd-Tillman said.

A Massachusetts high school has become the only school this year to eliminate its National Honor Society chapter, according to the Washington, D.C., group that administers the program.

The Hampshire Regional School Committee in Westhampton voted last month to close out the longstanding nhs chapter at Hampshire Regional High School because of the subjectivity of membership criteria, which include leadership, character, and service.

A parent complaint was the “last straw” for the committee, which had long known of many academically qualified students who were disappointed at their failure to meet other membership standards set by the 70-year-old nhs, said Deborah Niswonger, chairman of the school committee.

“We felt that the number of students rejected on the basis of subjective decisions indicated a real problem,” she said. Last spring, only 18 of 44 students with the required B average were inducted by faculty members into the honor society, Ms. Niswonger said.

Hampshire becomes one of only a very few schools to drop its nhs chapter in recent years, said Dale Hawley, director of student activities for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, which oversees the program. In fact, he said, about 40 to 50 schools a month join the 22,000-chapter program.

Joan M. Raymond, superintendent of schools in Houston, and Ruth L. Scott, the superintendent in Toledo, Ohio, both announced their resignations last week.

Ms. Raymond, who has been Houston’s superintendent since 1986, said she has accepted a “satisfactory economic settlement” from the board of education, which had recently voted to place the superintendent on probation. (See Education Week, Nov. 28, 1990.)

Her resignation from the 194,000-student district is effective Aug. 31, 1991.

Ms. Scott, who is 58 and had planned to retire in two years, decided to resign because the Toledo school system is facing a round of deep budget cuts following the defeat of a tax levy in November, according to a spokesman for the district. Ms. Scott felt that the superintendent who made the cuts should also guide the district through the following years, the spokesman added.

Ms. Scott’s resignation is effective Dec. 7. She has been superintendent in Toledo since November 1985.

The Dallas Housing Authority last month opened three study centers at public-housing projects in the hope that the facilities, equipped with computers, reference books, and tutors, will reinforce school lessons and help at-risk youths with their homework.

With startup costs of about $25,000 each, the centers will be run by the Girls Club Inc., a Dallas group active in education and recreation projects. Teachers will oversee computer instruction with additional assistance from college students, officials said. The centers are open from 4 P.M. to 8 P.M., Monday through Thursday.

“The whole intention of what we’re trying to do is to equalize resources,” said Lori Henderson, deputy executive director of the Dallas Housing Authority.

She said many of the neighborhood schools that serve at-risk students are not equipped with computers, and residents of public housing are rarely are able to afford reference materials.

To help spark youths’ interest in the centers, the housing authority has stocked each facility with computer-game software in addition to the education materials. Officials are approaching Dallas businesses seeking contributions to start new study centers.

The Pittsburgh school district will receive a $125,000 refund for computer software that it purchased, and apparently discarded, five years ago.

The fate of the class-scheduling software--which was subsequently found unsuitable for most of the city’s schools--was the object of an internal investigation launched last month when officials determined that it was never returned to the publisher, c.t.b./Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, of Monterey, Calif., for a refund, and could not be located in the district’s warehouses.

The discrepancy was initially discovered during an audit of the district’s computer operations last summer.

District officials suspect that the software may have been destroyed without authorization by district employees, a spokesman said.
During the course of the investigation, three district officials each indicated that the others may have been responsible for the discrepancy.

One of those officials, James Angevine, who headed the district’s computer department, resigned from his position at last week’s board meeting.

But a spokesman for the district said that she did not know whether the resignation was precipitated by the investigation, and she noted that personnel matters are considered confidential.

A version of this article appeared in the December 05, 1990 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup