District News Roundup

April 29, 1992 8 min read
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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that the rights of Cincinnati teachers are not being violated by a district policy that takes race into account in deciding teacher transfers.

The policy “is substantially related to an important government objective’’ in that it is designed to keep the faculties of the city’s schools racially balanced, the court said in a recent decision.

Although the policy allows the Cincinnati Board of Education to consider race in determining teacher assignments, it affects black and white teachers equally and, thus, cannot be seen as establishing racial preferences, the three-judge circuit-court panel said in upholding a decision by a federal district court.

The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers had brought suit alleging that its members suffered racial discrimination under a teacher-assignment policy that requires the racial composition of each school’s faculty to be within 5 percent of the district average.

The board adopted the assignment policy in 1974 in response to a school-desegregation suit and preserved it even after being released last year from a voluntary consent decree authorizing federal court oversight of its desegregation efforts.

Teachers in Fairax County, Va., have threatened to launch a nationwide adverse-publicity campaign against the county to protest cuts made by county supervisors to the school budget.

The Fairfax Education Association last week said it is considering placing advertisements in The Wall Street Journal and a number of local newspapers this week, urging businesses to think twice about moving to the county.

The county’s economic-development authority has run ads in The Journal, Fortune Magazine, and other business publications touting the high quality of its schools. The budget approved last week by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors doubled the allotment for similar advertising designed to attract new businesses. After meeting with county officials, union leaders said they would temporarily postpone acting on their threat, but they have an ad ready to run at short notice.

“Fairfax County public schools were among the best in the nation,’' the union’s ad says, “but that can no longer be said.... Before you move your company to Fairfax County, be sure to come in and look around. You may not like what you find.’'

Faced with a $90-million deficit for the next fiscal year, the Fairfax supervisors cut $25 million out of the schools’ budget and froze teachers’ salaries--including seniority increases--for the second year in a row.

The Fairfax teachers’ union, meanwhile, has also joined a coalition of county employee groups that are calling on their members to boycott local restaurants. The employee groups are targeting the leaders of a vigorous campaign by restaurant owners to defeat a proposed 4 percent meals tax. Receipts from the proposed tax, which county voters decisively rejected earlier this month, would have helped limit the amount of money cut from the schools’ budget.

The Lee County, Fla., school board voted last week to establish a booth where students can be tested for the virus that causes AIDS at a high-school health fair next month.

By a unanimous vote, the board said that the Lee County AIDS Task Force and the local health department can provide confidential testing for the human immunodeficiency virus to students who are at least 18 years old at the health fair.

Students will make appointments in advance with the school nurse to be tested in the auditorium, and will be given counseling both before the test and after the results are in, said Elizabeth Harmon, the district’s administrator of comprehensive school health and drug-free schools.

If the board is satisfied with the program, testing may be expanded to health fairs at all seven district high schools next year, she said.

According to the Center for Population Options, 35 school-based and school-linked health clinics, most in large urban areas, provide H.I.V. testing to adolescents.

The owner of a day-care center in Farmville, N.C., was convicted last week on 99 out of 100 charges of sexually abusing 12 children enrolled there.

After two weeks of deliberations, a Pitt County Superior Court jury found Robert F. Kelly Jr. guilty on 4 counts of rape, 46 of taking indecent liberties, 36 of first-degree sexual offenses, and 13 of crimes against nature.

The trial of Mr. Kelly, who had operated the Little Rascals day-care center, lasted eight months and cost taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million. The duration and cost drew comparisons to the McMartin Preschool case in Manhattan Beach, Calif., a case that ended with no convictions.

The North Carolina case, which prosecutors built largely on the testimony of the children themselves, drew national attention and renewed debate over the credibility of young children in sex-abuse cases.

Mr. Kelly was sentenced to 12 consecutive life terms in prison.

The Roman Catholic bishop of Des Moines withdrew his request for the resignation of the diocesan superintendent of schools this month after local Catholics vehemently protested.

Sister Jude Fitzpatrick said last month that she would resign at the request of Bishop William Bullock, who reportedly told her she was not following the direction he sought for diocesean schools.

The announcement sparked a protest that included petitions, a letter-writing campaign, and the resignation of the chairman of the diocese’s board of education.

The board also challenged the bishop, saying that it had not been consulted and that it would not accept Sister Jude’s resignation until he provided an explanation.

On April 10, Bishop Bullock reversed his action and said Sister Jude would continue as superintendent. Diocesan officials would not elaborate on the bishop’s change of heart or on the reasons he sought to oust Sister Jude in the first place.

The sponsors of a private-school voucher plan in California have obtained a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Los Angeles Unified School District from using public resources to fight the statewide initiative.

The Excellence Through Choice in Education League sued the district after the Los Angeles board of education adopted a motion opposing the initiative and broadcast the meeting on the district’s public-access cable-television channel.

The group also obtained similar restraining orders against the Las Virgenes Unified School District, and plans to file suits against other districts engaged in similar actions, according to Kevin Teasley, the league’s vice chairman.

“Schools are not there to be activists for or against any statewide propositions,’' Mr. Teasley said. “Schools are to be neutral.’'

According to Ron Apperson, a legal adviser to the Los Angeles district, the board’s meetings are “routinely televised’’ and the meeting concerning parental choice was “business as usual.’'

The court was scheduled to meet last Friday to consider whether to issue a permanent injunction against the district.

Principals and other supervisors in the New York City school system will receive a 5.5 percent pay increase under a contract agreement reached this month.

The principals, who had been working without a contract for more than a year, will receive the same raise as that negotiated by the city’s teachers in their 1990 contract. The Council of Supervisors and Administrators, the union that represents the principals, had held out for the 5.5 percent raise because a smaller increase might have left some administrators earning less than some teachers they were supervising.

Effective dates for the new contract are March 1, 1991, through Oct. 12, 1992, although the pay raise is retroactive only to last July. The pact includes top salaries of $77,101 for high-school principals, $72,505 for junior-high-school principals, and $68,907 for elementary-school principals.

The contract has been sent to members of the administrators’ union for ratification.

The family of a New York student who survived a school-trip bus crash earlier this month has filed a $5.5-million lawsuit against the Gray Line Bus Company.

Stuart Rotkowitz filed the lawsuit in Nassau County State Supreme Court after his son, Michael, was injured in the accident, and required 100 stitches in his head and sutures in his leg.

The crash, which occurred in upstate New York, killed two students and injured most of the 25 others on board.

The suit charges that the the bus company was negligent in hiring the driver without checking his driving record or references from previous employers.

The suit also accuses the driver, Dennis D. Ellis of Brooklyn, with negligence as a result of speeding and improper handling of the vehicle. The suit alleges that Mr. Ellis was drinking a beverage while driving and singing loud songs at the time of the accident.

Mr. Ellis was ticketed for speeding and may face criminal charges.

A Fulton County, Ga., superior-court judge has ordered the school board to award a $13-million school-renovation contract to a construction firm that had been rejected for allegedly failing to involve more minority subcontractors.

Superior Court Judge William Daniel ordered the board to award the contract to Centex-Hamby, one of several local contractors whose bids to renovate the campus of North Atlanta High School had been rejected.

Centex-Hamby, a white-owned firm that had made the lowest bid to renovate the school, filed suit in superior court shortly after being rejected late last month.

A spokesman said the school board had found that Centex had not made a “good
faith effort’’ to employ minority subcontractors. Following a closed session, the board threw out the bids and began a second round of contract proposals.

While school-district regulations allow the board to reject all contract bids, the court found that the board violated state law in rejecting qualified bidders, and could not justify doing so in order to meet affirmative-action requirements. The board was also found guilty of violating the state’s open-meetings act.

The board has yet to decide whether to appeal the order.

A version of this article appeared in the April 29, 1992 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup


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