District News Roundup

November 20, 1991 5 min read
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SUBJ: In his latest exercise of the strict oversight mandates included in Kentucky’s landmark 1990 education-reform law, Education Commissioner Thomas C. Boysen this month began the process of removing the superintendent and entire school board of the Harlan County school district.

It is the first time Mr. Boysen has moved to oust local school-board members, and the second time he has moved against a superintendent. Superintendent Delmis Donta of the Boyd County schools resigned last month before a final state education board hearing on charges of misconduct Mr. Boysen had filed against him.

Citing instances of incompetence and official misconduct, Mr. Boysen filed the charges against Superintendent Robert Shepherd of Harlan County and all five board members of the eastern Kentucky district.

The state school board will hear the charges on Nov. 25. The beard will decide at that meeting whether to suspend the six and could then schedule a removal hearing. The men have vowed to fight the allegations.

The state’s charges against the Harlan school officials include failure to report pay raises, evasion of competitive-bidding requirements, violations of the state’s open-meetings law, and nepotism.

Conn. Judge Orders Waterbury To Desegregate School System

The Connecticut Board of Education has won its first court order forcing a school district to comply with state desegregation laws.

Hartford Superior Court Judge John P. Maloney this month upheld a state board mandate requiring the Waterbury school district to racially balance its schools.

The judge ordered the district to develop by Feb. 1 a desegregation plan to be put in place by Sept. 1 of next year.

Guy N. DiBiasio, superintendent of the Waterbury schools, said the plan could require that hundreds more children be bused and would have a “significant negative impact’’ on the district’s efforts to maintain neighborhood schools. State law dictates that the racial makeup of any given school must be within 25 percentage points of the racial makeup of the district. Waterbury, about half of whose student population comes from minority groups, has two schools that are about 80 percent minority and another school that is about 27 percent minority. The district has been under pressure from the state board for several years to integrate its schools.

Mr. DiBiasio said that the district had tried to achieve racial balance by building a new, integrated school, but that city officials denied the district the funding it needed for the school’s construction.

Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore announced this month that he will shut down the city’s public schools for five days this winter to make up for a $27.5-million cut in state aid to the city.

The proposed furlough would affect about 8,500 teachers and teacher aides and roughly 2,000 other district staff members. But because state law mandates that Maryland provide 180 days of public instruction, it is not clear whether Mr. Schmoke’s cost-cutting plan is legal.

Mr. Schmoke will request a waiver of the rule from the state board of education-usually granted only for weather or civil emergencies--unless the state legislature backs down on its refusal to raise taxes to close a $450-million deficit.

According to his press secretary, Clinton R. Coleman, Mayor Schmoke said he believes the legislature’s actions do constitute a civil emergency.

Other districts in the state, including Prince George’s County, Anne Arundel County, and Frederick County, also plan furloughs.

But unlike Baltimore, the counties plan to take their furlough days from days added to the calendar for use in case of bad weather, said Karen Poe, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education. Those districts are hoping now for a mild winter.

Students in New York City’s less affluent districts are being shortchanged by the board of education’s teacher-assignment policies, according to preliminary findings from a study by a local advocacy group.

The Community Service Society of New York maintains that the board’s policies ‘gave a one-way street out of poor districts” because they encourage the city’s most experienced and best educated teachers to transfer from schools in poor neighborhoods to those in middle-class areas. Students in the poor areas are left with a much higher percentage of uncertified teachers, the report said.

“We think there should be incentives to attract experienced and qualified teachers to the schools that need them most,” said Harriet Pike Epstein, a spokesman for the society.

The group urged the board to use contract negotiations with teachers to address the staffing disparities. A spokesman said the board would not comment until the full report is released, probably next spring.

The mother of a handicapped student allegedly locked in a closet for punishment in a McCracken County, Ky., school has sued the staff after the U.S. Education Department’s office for civil rights determined that the district had discriminated against handicapped students.

The O.C.R. investigation stems from several incidents in 1988, when a teacher at the Lone Oak Middle School in Paducah allegedly placed three handicapped children in a janitor’s supply closet in the principal’s office as punishment for disrupting class.

A report on the investigation, completed last month, said the school discriminated against handicapped students because only they were isolated in a closet. The district has since revised its disciplinary policy, and the O.C.R. decided to take no action.

Bonnie Young Howard, a parent of one of the students involved, last month filed a civil lawsuit against the school’s principal, Clifford Owen, and a special-education teacher, Ruth Powell. The suit charges the two violated her son’s civil rights.

One teacher was injured and more than a dozen students arrested as a series of gang fights forced Chicago police to close Farragut High School on Nov. 6. Tensions between rival black and Hispanic gang members had been simmering for two days before a series of fights erupted in the school and spilled out into the streets, police said. The situation had settled down somewhat until someone pulled a fire alarm; more fights broke out as students milled around outside and as they re-entered the building, so police ordered school closed for the rest of the afternoon.

During one melee in the lunchroom, a teacher was struck in the head by a table. A youth was arrested in connection with the attack, but police determined that he had not intentionally assaulted the teacher, who was treated at a local hospital and then returned to the school.

The police were out in force the next day, searching students and forcing them to remove any gang-related clothing, insignias, jewelry, and other paraphernalia. Police said a few extra officers will continue to patrol the school in case the violence flares up again.

A version of this article appeared in the November 20, 1991 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup


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