District News Roundup

December 04, 1991 6 min read
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A federal appeals court has ruled that officials in Little Rock, Ark., and two neighboring school districts in Pulaski County should be given the freedom to change minor details in a desegregation plan approved by the court last year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled last month that the Little Rock, Pulaski County, and North Little Rock school districts are free to change such details as long as there is no retreat from the plan’s crucial elements.

The appeals court said these elements include the operation of inter-district and magnet schools, an effort to eliminate achievement disparities, and increased parent involvement.

The federal district court in Little Rock had barred minor modifications in the plan submitted by the three school districts because, it said, the alterations went beyond the authority given to the school districts by the Eighth Circuit court.

An innovative alternative school in New York City has struck an agreement with city officials that will allow it to remain open as an independent public school.

The Bronx New School, a K-6 facility, was rounded three years ago in a church basement as an offsite program of Public School 257 in the Bronx’s District 10. The school, which moved to a new facility this fail serving 160 students, offers an alternative curriculum, a lottery system for choosing students of diverse backgrounds, and a system for allowing parents to have a say in picking its principal and teachers. In September, the parent-teacher association sued the community school board and its new superintendent for changing staffing, curriculum, and budget without consulting the parents’ group.

Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez was asked to intervene in the conflict. As a result, the P.W.A. and the district have agreed that the school will become autonomous and that the parent association will keep its powers. The P.w.A. agreed to drop its suit and may choose a new principal in January.

Deputy Chancellor Stanley Litow said he and Mr. Fernandez were pleased with the decision.

Emissions standards for microcomputers established by the New York City Board of Education may cause other jurisdictions to adopt similar rules, according to computer-industry officials.

The recently adopted regulations limit the electromagnetic emissions from computer terminals to 2 milligauss, lower even than the conservative standard of 2.5 milligauss adopted by the Swedish government.

The school board used the Swedish standard as a model for its regulations.

Industry spokesmen said that the new standard, which may soon be adopted by the New York City government, could eventually affect the entire industry because the board and the city purchase large numbers of computers and other jurisdictions are likely to follow their example.

There are no proved health risks associated with the use of video-display terminals. James Vlasto, a board spokesman, said that the standards were adopted as a preventive measure.

Los Angeles public schools using a program for teaching values saw significant decreases in student discipline problems last year, according to a study.

The program was developed by the Thomas Jefferson Center, a nonprofit educational firm, and has been used by several school districts throughout the nation. The new study represents the first attempt to measure the effectiveness of the program in a quantitative way, said B. David Brooks, the center’s president.

The study, conducted by California Survey Research, focused on 25 Los Angeles schools that began using the ethics- education program last year. The researchers said major discipline problems at those schools decreased by 25 percent in an average month when compared with the previous year. Less serious problems, such as tardiness, declined by 40 percent in an average month.

“The results are compelling,” Mr. Brooks said. “if we say ‘Be polite,’ over and over again, it will make a difference.”

Girls’ athletics in Boston’s public high schools receive less than one-third the amount of funding spent on boys’ sports, according to an analysis by a Boston School Committee member.

After examining the athletic budgets of each of the city’s 15 public high schools, Rita Walsh-Tomasini found that spending for boys’ sports averaged about $20,000 per school, compared with less than $7,000 for girls’ sports. In one school, the funding disparity was more than 4-to-l in favor of the boys.

Ms. Walsh-Tomasini attributed much of the unequal funding to the availability of more sports for boys. In theory, both sexes can compete in such sports as football and hockey; in practice, girls do not participate.

An aide to Ms. Walsh-Tomasini said she has asked schools to transfer money from boys’ sports to girls’ sports for the fall and winter seasons. However, he noted, the current school committee will be abolished at the end of the year and replaced by an appointed board, so the superintendent’s office is unlikely to take action on athletic funding this year.

Members of the Atlanta Board of Education must treat each other with “mutual respect” under the terms of an measure approved by the board.

The measure is an attempt to stop recent public displays of animosity that have taken place between board members. At issue, in part, is the fact that the board’s president, Joseph Martin, also serves as a neighborhood liaison to the Atlanta mayor’s office. D.F. Glover, a board member who abstained on the vote, has charged that Mr. Martin’s dual positions constitute a conflict of interest.

The amendment to the rules of conduct for board meetings, drafted by Mr. Martin, states that board members should behave “in ways which demonstrate the attributes of mutual respect and fair play, and orderly decorum.”

“They will treat each other... with respect and courtesy, even when expressing disagreement, concern, or criticism about any issue or incident,” the measure continues. “Board members will also refrain from making statements in public meetings which have the direct and intended effect of impugning another person’s motives or intelligence, attacking others on a purely personal basis, or disparaging anyone’s racial, social, or religious background.”

A potentially explosive incident at an affluent, predominantly white Rye, N.Y., high school in which students performed in blackface has been brought to a peaceful, and even educational, conclusion.

Every year at Halloween, the seniors perform skits during a student assembly that are not previewed or censored, according to Barry Farnham, the district’s superintendent.

This year, two of the skits included students in blackface imitating rap groups. The skits were broadcast on the local educational-access channel, and some viewers complained of the skits to local newspapers and the area chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Both Mr. Farnham and Doris Bailey, the president of the N.A.A.c.P. chapter, said they believed there was no malicious intent on the part of the students.

“They felt that this was a comedic situation, but it really isn’t funny to a certain segment of our society,” Ms. Bailey said.

Within a day, student representatives had apologized for the incident.

Mr. Farnham said he is committed to “doing a number of things curricularly and structurally to broaden students’ understanding of how powerful symbols, such as the use of blackface, can impact upon people in a negative way.”

He also suggested that a panel of students, teachers, and administrators review future skits before they are performed.

The school’s quick action, Ms. Bailey said, turned the incident into “true learning experiences for the students.”

A version of this article appeared in the December 04, 1991 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup


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