Districts News Roundup

April 05, 1989 7 min read

Schools Chancellor Richard R. Green of New York City has suspended a community school board after two members were indicted on bribery charges related to their duties in office.

The action against Community School Board 12 became necessary because the indictments “have seriously undermined the credibility and respectability of the board and the stability of the district,” the chancellor said in a statement last week.

The suspension is the second imposed by Mr. Green since last fall, when allegations of bribery and corruption against community-school-board members erupted into a full-blown scandal. He moved against the board of Community District 9 in November, and investigations of possibly illegal activities in a number of other districts within the city school system are currently under way.

The two districts affected by Mr. Green’s actions, and a third suspended by his predecessor, are being run by trustees until new boards are elected. Community-board elections, scheduled for May 2, are the first to be conducted under a conflict-of-interest law enacted by the legislature last year.

Principals in Cleveland will receive higher salaries--and be held more accountable for student performance--under a plan approved by the school board.

High-school principals now earning from $54,180 to $68,141 will earn from $63,720 to $72,920, the board decided last month.

Intermediate-school principals will earn from $55,720 to $64,020 and elementary-school principals will make from $52,317 to $60,315 under the plan, which will take effect in the next school year.

In order to advance under the new system, principals will have to demonstrate an “ability to perform and produce measurable results,” said Timothy O. Giles, the district’s chief of supportive services.

The board last summer approved an evaluation system designed to assess principals’ performance based on such criteria as students’ test scores, attendance, dropout rates, and enrollment in extracurricular activities.

More than 20 percent of high-school principals in Chicago have retired since the beginning of the school year, Bruce Berndt, president of the Chicago Principals’ Association, said last week.

Elementary- and middle-school principals also have retired in greater numbers than in previous years, he noted.

Mr. Berndt suggested that the retirements may have been hastened by a school-reform law that abolishes tenure, allows local councils to hire and fire principals, and calls for performance-based contracts for principals starting in 1990.

Some principals “didn’t feel like fighting the upcoming school-reform changes in principal selection,” he said.

The Suwannee County, Fla., school system has “a hostile racial environment” resulting in discrimination against blacks, a group of black teachers and students has charged in a federal suit.

The group alleges that black teachers have been fired for racial reasons and have not been permitted to teach college-preparatory classes.

Black students have been disciplined more harshly than white students and subjected to racial slurs from teachers, the suit also alleges.

School officials have denied all the charges, Victor Afracano, a lawyer for the northern Florida district, said last week.

In Denver, meanwhile, several black teachers and the local naacp are arguing with school officials over a district plan to improve the quality of the teaching force.

The group charges that the plan discriminates against black teachers and is being misused as a disciplinary device.

A proposal to raze the landmark Beverly Hills (Calif.) High School and lease its land to developers faces community opposition.

A school-board panel suggested in February that the financially strapped Beverly Hills school district could make money by leasing to commercial developers such “surplus land” as parking lots, athletic fields, and the tract that contains the district offices.

The committee also urged officials to “seriously consider” demolishing the 60-year-old high school--whose alumni include a number of entertainment-industry figures--and leasing 8 acres of its 27-acre campus to a developer.

Members argued that income from development on the tract would allow construction of a new, “state-of-the-art” high school on the remaining 19 acres.

But Mayor Robert K. Tanenbaum has led a chorus of public protest, calling the committee’s suggestion “the most repugnant proposal I have ever witnessed in government.”

Public hearings will have to be held on the plans, which are contingent on zoning changes, according to Hali Wickner, a spokesman for the district.

The Cincinnati school system underreports the size and cost of its bureaucracy by failing to count teachers who perform out-of-classroom tasks for at least part of the day, the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers has charged.

Although 55 teachers in the district spend all or part of their day acting as administrators, the cost of the tasks they perform is not considered administrative, according to a new report by the union. As a result, it says, the district’s statistics underestimate bureaucratic costs by nearly 30 percent.

But Lynn Goodwin, the district’s deputy superintendent and treasurer, said such teachers should not be counted as administrators. “I don’t know of any school in which all teachers teach all day,” he added.

A gospel-choir course at a Cleveland-area high school will be eliminated because of concerns that it violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on state establishment of religion.

The decision by officials of Cleveland Heights High School to discontinue the course, which had been taught for four years, drew complaints from many students and parents at a school-board meeting last month.

The school has offered to create an African-American music class next fall that would include gospel music. And students could continue the choir as an after-school club, Robert Greene, the district’s director of community relations, said last week.

The presence of a rare type of plant has blocked use of a proposed site for a badly needed elementary school in Orange County, Fla.

Engineers were surveying the site when they discovered about 35 specimens of scrub lupine, one of about 120 Florida plant species to be declared endangered, according to Lee Ann Lowery, real-property manager for the Orange County school system.

Faced with overcrowding at a nearby elementary school and unable to afford other land in the Orlando area, district officials considered trying to build around the plants. They finally abandoned the site last week, however.

Vandals have caused an estimated $1.1 million in damages to a Minnesota high school.

Henry Sibley Senior High School in Mendota Heights will be closed for the rest of the school year because of damage allegedly inflicted March 23 by four students, district officials said.

The students used a hand-operated fork lift to smash through doors and walls, burned a vending machine with an acetylene torch, and splashed paint throughout the school, according to Dennis Delmont, chief of police in the St. Paul suburb.

Most of the repair costs will be to remove asbestos insulation that was damaged when the vandals turned on three fire hydrants, officials said.

The students have been charged with first-degree criminal damage to property, third-degree burglary, and theft.

The San Francisco Unified School District’s support for a United Farm Workers grape boycott is illegal, growers have charged in court.

David J. Pinkham, owner of a Central Valley vineyard, and the California Grape Commission allege in a lawsuit that the school board abused its powers and issued “an unveiled, purely political endorsement” when it approved a resolution forbidding the district from purchasing grapes or other food “contaminated with pesticides.”

Thomas J. Sammon, executive assistant to Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, said last month that the resolution is legal because it concerns the safety of students.

About 50,000 Philadelphia children between the ages of 6 and 12 are “alone and unsupervised” from the timeel10lschool ends until their parents return from work, according to a recent study.

The Philadelphia School Age Child Care Coalition noted that the city has space for only about 2,000 children in after-school programs operated by schools, the recreation department, community organizations, churches, and day-care providers.

The coalition urged the city to recognize “latchkey” children as a top priority.

A version of this article appeared in the April 05, 1989 edition of Education Week as Districts News Roundup