District News Update

March 01, 1989 3 min read

The Boston school committee was expected to vote this week on two controversial and closely linked issues: renewal of Superintendent Laval S. Wilson’s contract and a new student-assignment plan.

The fate of the district’s first black superintendent has become increasingly uncertain in recent months, according to district sources and press accounts, as city officials and community leaders have debated proposals for ending 15 years of mandatory student busing.

The plan to be considered by the panel is a combination of proposals submitted by Mr. Wilson and consultants hired by Mayor Raymond L. Flynn. It would allow all parents to choose their children’s schools, subject to limits set by the need to maintain racial balance.

Last month, the committee adjourned a meeting on Mr. Wilson’s contract after it became apparent that a majority of the 13-member committee opposed renewal, according to The Boston Globe.

The superintendent’s support eroded after he proposed closing and consolidating some schools as part of the controlled-choice plan, according to school officials and other observers. They also pointed to conflicts between Mr. Wilson’s efforts to centralize power and a growing local movement to give teachers and parents more control over their schools.

Some members of the Milwaukee school board are pushing for the elimination of a decade-old requirement that district employees live in the city.

According to a spokesman for the board, some members have expressed concern that the rule has slowed the pace of racial integration in the suburbs. Local union officials have argued that employees should be free to live where they chose.

One sign of sentiment on the board came last month, when the finance and facilities committee rejected a request by Superintendent Robert S. Peterkin for $40,000 for a private detective hired to investigate violators of the residency rule.

The district had been advised by the city’s attorney to hire the detective to collect “evidence” needed to settle residency disputes, according to a spokesman.

The investigator was used only when district officials had reasonable cause to believe employees were living outside the city, the spokesman added.

The funds were denied because board officials want to “reexamine the residency rules,” the spokesman said. If the rules are changed, the detective would not be needed.

Allegations of financial irregularities have led to the resignation of the athletic director of the St. Paul school system.

Melvin Branch resigned after agreeing to repay the district $4,750 that an audit showed was missing from a fund under his control.

The internal audit also questioned whether an additional $30,000 had been spent or accounted for properly. It cited such instances as the purchase of equipment without bids, $20,000 in purchases from a sporting-goods company said to be partly owned by a relative of Mr. Branch, and personal loans made from athletic funds.

The state auditor’s office has begun its own audit of the athletic department’s funds, and the Ramsey County attorney’s office has expressed interest in the case.

District officials said that they found no evidence that Mr. Branch used any athletic funds for personal gain.

Sue Collins, a Waco, Tex., high-school teacher who contended she had been pressured to change an athlete’s grade, has settled her lawsuit against the district for $50,000 plus $120,000 in legal fees.

Last year, a jury awarded Ms. Collins $77,000. But the decision was set aside by the judge in the case, who admitted that the time limits he had placed on completion of the trial were unfair.

Ms. Collins agreed to resign from her position, effective June 1, and to drop a grievance against the principal of the high school, according to Brad Ritter, a spokesman for the Texas State Teachers Association.

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 1989 edition of Education Week as District News Update