District News

January 09, 1991 3 min read

The New York City school system has consistently awarded, without competitive bidding, the most expensive bus contracts in the nation to companies linked to organized-crime figures, The New York Times reported last month.

Contractors and law-enforcement officials told The Times that unions influenced by suspected Mafia figures control the costs and hiring of many of the bus companies the district employs.

One company that transported disabled children in Brooklyn was run by a man who has admitted to being a Mafia assassin, The Times said.

James Vlasto, a district spokesman, refused to comment on the story, but said that the district is cooperating with law-enforcement investigations into the allegations. He also said the district is reviewing its system for awarding bus contracts.

Union officials involved in the contracts deny they have inflated costs.

There has not been large-scale competitive bidding for school-bus contracts in the district since 1979, the newspaper account said.

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education has stripped a school of its National School of Excellence award after learning that a district investigation revealed falsified report cards, test scores, and attendance records at the school.

North Beach Elementary in Dade County, Fla., will be asked to return a flag and plaque and will be removed from the national list of 221 schools recognized by the Education Department in 1990, according to a department spokesman. Attendance records and test scores are among the criteria used in awarding the honor, she noted.

In September, the district released a 35-page report corroborating allegations made against the school in a Miami Herald magazine story. The school’s principal subsequently was transferred to a teaching position at a public high school.

In response to the first campus killing of a student in the 350-year history of the Boston public schools, officials last month installed doorway metal detectors at Boston High School.

The devices, similar to those used in airports, were in place Dec. 14, three days after the death of 17-year-old Kingsley Allen, allegedly stabbed by another student, said Larry W. Faison, a school spokesman.

While there was not “100 percent agreement” within the school community about installing the detectors, Mr. Faison said, meetings with parents and others persuaded school officials to make the move.

City school policy provides for the installation of metal detectors in any school where community residents believe they are necessary, Mr. Faison said. Boston High’s detectors are not necessarily permanent, he noted, and school officials intend to review the issue in the future.

No other schools plan to add the devices now, according to Mr. Faison.

Boston High becomes just the third campus in the city to have such detectors, joining two campuses of a school that serves students with special needs.

School officials in Plano, Tex., voted last month to keep two novels by Mark Twain on the district’s required reading list despite appeals from African-American parents to remove the books.

But, as part of the policy, students who find The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer offensive can continue to choose an alternative assignment.

“Frankly, there was as much feeling to keep the books as to remove them,” said Marilyn Brooks, an assistant superintendent in the school district.

The community had been embroiled in a dispute over the novels since a local city council member petitioned for their removal last fall. The council member, David Perry, said the two novels contain racially offensive language and portray stereotypical images of blacks. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn he noted, as an example, uses the word “nigger” more than 300 times.

“Just to hear that word has a searing and degrading and horrible effect on black people, especially our children,” Mr. Perry said during a school-board meeting last month attended by more than 500 parents.

He declined to comment last week on the school board’s final decision on the matter.