District News Roundup

May 08, 1991 5 min read
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An Oklahoma school district, its school buildings decimated by a tornado, may be forced to cancel classes for the rest of the school year.

The Oologah-Talala schools, which serve 1,200 K-12 students in Rogers County, suffered severe damage when a tornado whipped through the area on April 26. “Every building that wasn’t completely destroyed was damaged,” said Robert Boyd, the district’s assistant superintendent.

The system’s entire fleet of 23 buses was also destroyed when its bus barn was flattened. The 179-square-mile district relies heavily on buses for student transportation.

Preliminary estimates of the damage to school property are as high as $10 million.

The district school board has asked the state board of education to cancel the remaining 23 days of the school year so that it can concentrate on readying the school to resume classes for the next school year,hich starts on Aug. 12.

A panel from the Oklahoma Department of Education surveyed the damage last week, but had not yet made a decision on the district’s request.

Noting that more than 100 families in the area lost their homes to the storm and that students are experiencing considerable distress, Mr. Boyd said that the first priority must be human needs. “I think we need to be sensitive to the trauma of the students,” he said, and make schooling a second priority for now.

The Rockford, Ill., school system has agreed to spend $22 million to upgrade and better integrate district schools in order to settle a discrimination suit brought by parents.

The agreement between the district and a coalition of parents who filed suit in 1989 was approved by U.S. District Judge Stanley Roszkowski late last month.

The school system has agreed to reopen two schools that were closed in the 1980’s, spend about $6 million over three years at 15 schools for extra educational assistance to low-income and disadvantaged children of all races, and have three magnet schools in operation by the end of 1993, said John Schmidt, a lawyer for the district.

School boundaries will be revised, but “there’s no forced busing in this order,” he emphasized.

He noted that, although the judge approved the agreement, court supervision of the schools will continue indefinitely.

The 27,000-student school district, the state’s second-largest, is about 30 percent minority and 70 percent white.

Hundreds of students in Prince George’s County, Md., are being bused to schools racially similar to ones in their own neighborhoods, according to a study released late last month.

But of the 1,650 students who could attend schools closer to home, only 850 will be reassigned next school year because of inadequate classroom space, school officials said.

Eighteen years after a federal court ordered the county to desegregate its public schools, nearly 12,000 Prince George’s students, or 11 percent of those now enrolled, are still being bused along patterns drawn up in 1973, when the district was predominantly white. Black students now make up about two-thirds of the district’s enrollment.

The county’s school board commissioned the study last December in response to parents who complained that their children were being bused to schools that were almost ethnically identical to their neighborhood schools.

School-board members have said that perhaps thousands of students ultimately could be reassigned without jeopardizing the court’s requirement that the majority of county schools be 10 percent to 80 percent black.

A panel of religious leaders in Cranston, R.I., has begun a campaign to eliminate youth sports activities that conflict with Saturday and Sunday religious services.

The Cranston Clergy Association, consisting of about 30 Roman Catholic priests, Protestant ministers, and Orthodox rabbis, has called on parents to pressure youth coaches to avoid scheduling practices and games on weekend days, which they contend forces children to choose between sports and religion.

“We are not anti-sports by any means, but games can be scheduled so as to not conflict with religious services,” said Luke M. Pederson, pastor of the Calvary Covenant Church and president of the association.

In the past, clerical leaders in the city of 76,000 have expressed their concern to civic officials and sports organizers without getting results, Mr. Pederson said. Thus, they have written to parents, urging them to press coaches to avoid scheduling sports events on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings.

Despite losing student population during the 1980’s, the District of Columbia public-school system gained 1,110 employees between September 1990 and January 1991, according to independent analyses by the city council and a school-advocacy group.

The city council’s report, published in March, charges that former Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins failed to keep his promise to decrease the size of the district’s administration and to eliminate some staff positions.

Jim Ford, a city-council member, noted that the school system’s hiring practices evade Congressional limits on full-time employees by creating “temporary” and “temporary-indefinite” positions. Of the 1,110 new positions, nearly half are temporary positions, either full-time or part-time.

An analysis by the group Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools charged that many of the 75 vacant administrative positions to be eliminated under a district plan were, in fact, instructional positions.

R. David Hall, president of the school board, pointed to stringent personnel regulations under which employees can be released only through attrition as one reason for the staff increase.

To help reduce its staff and budget problems, the district last week announced a plan to offer $10,000 cash bonuses to qualified employees who retire before July 1. Officials estimate that some 380 to 500 senior staffers will opt to participate in the plan.

The local affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association in Rosemount, Minn., have signed an agreement to merge forces by next year.

In the first step of the process, officials of the Rosemount Education Association and the Rosemount Federation of Teachers signed a “unity agreement” in March and formed a joint negotiating team to review contract proposals for teachers in School District 196.

The aft local has 807 members and the nea local 509.

The full merger is expected to be completed by January. It will be the first such merger in the state between members of the Minnesota Education Association and the Minnesota Federation of Teachers. It will also be one of only a handful of such mergers in the nation.

The aft local has represented all teachers in the district since 1979. In April 1989, its nea rival won a collective-bargaining election by one vote. The teachers’ federation challenged that victory and a state board ruled that a second election should be held.

The federation won the second election. The state court of appeals ruled that the association had won the first election, but the state supreme court held that the results of the second were valid. Last November, the two unions decided to begin merger talks.

Both the state and national unions must approve the merger.

A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 1991 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup


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