News in Brief: A National Roundup

October 30, 2002 6 min read
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Pa. District Revokes Online School’s Charter

The board of the Morrisville, Pa., school district voted 8-0 last week to revoke the charter of the Einstein Academy Charter School, an online school that has been mired in a series of legal and political disputes since its opening last fall.

Despite the school’s ongoing legal battle with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and a bitter dispute over funding with the state education department, the president of Einstein’s board of trustees vowed last week to fight the revocation. Under state law, the Oct. 23 decision by the district school board can be appealed first to the state’s charter school appeals board, a five-member panel chaired by Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Charles B. Zogby, and then to the state courts. (“Short on Funds, Cyber School Awaits Ruling,” March 20, 2002.)

At its height last winter, Einstein Academy enrolled roughly 3,000 students from around the state, a figure that has shrunk to about 660, said Barry M. Delit, the president of the school’s board of trustees and its acting headmaster.

Mr. Delit said that he was awaiting word from a core group of about 15 teachers on whether they would continue to work, largely without pay, to keep the cash-strapped academy going as the appeal goes forward.

Einstein has been accused of mismanaging funds and of failing to comply with special education laws, among other allegations.

Kenneth D. Junkins, the president of the 1,100-student district’s board, last week accused the state education department of trying to torpedo the school to “appease the perceived will of those ‘sending’ districts who brought suit against Einstein.”

Secretary Zogby called that charge “misplaced” and said the district had failed to supervise the school adequately after granting it a charter in 2001.

—Caroline Hendrie

Arson Suspected in Burning Of Education Activist’s Car

Rita Montero, the leader of the campaign to dismantle bilingual education in Colorado, found her 1974 Volvo enveloped in flames in her back yard in Denver this month.

Ms. Montero, the chairwoman of English for the Children of Colorado, is leading an effort to persuade voters to approve a Nov. 5 state ballot initiative that aims to replace bilingual education with English immersion.

Capt. Silvano M. Marini, a spokesman for the Denver Fire Department, said last week that the car had been set afire by arsonists.

Ms. Montero said in an interview that she suspects the burning of her car is related to her position against bilingual education. She held a press conference on Oct. 18 publicizing the fact that some supporters of the ballot initiative have received threatening phone calls and have had yard signs supporting it yanked out and replaced with garbage.

John Britz, a consultant for English Plus, a coalition fighting the initiative, said his group was not involved.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Atlanta School Employees Will Receive Bonuses

More than 3,200 teachers, administrators, and support-staff members in the Atlanta public schools will receive bonuses of up to $2,000 each for meeting or exceeding performance goals.

Beverly Hall, the 57,000-student district’s superintendent, will receive a $30,000 performance bonus from the board of education, according to Pat Bowers, the chief communications officer.

The superintendent will also get a $35,000 pay raise on May 1, at which time Ms. Hall’s salary will become $218,000 a year.

Meanwhile, 23 of the district’s 97 schools showed improvement on performance goals, including student attendance, test scores, and enrollment in higher-level courses starting in middle school.

Teachers and administrators at schools that met 100 percent of their goals will receive $2,000 bonuses; those at schools that have met 80 percent will receive $1,500 bonuses; and those at schools that have met 70 percent of their goals will receive $500 rewards.

The extra money is scheduled to be paid before Thanksgiving.

—Michelle Galley

Oakland Schools’ Shortfall Prompts State Intervention

The Oakland, Calif., school district has been declared to be in a state of emergency following the discovery of a $27 million budget deficit.

Sheila Jordan, the superintendent of the Alameda County Office of Education, which oversees the 53,000-student district, has appointed a state fiscal adviser to help close the gap.

Ms. Jordan said last week that the district believed it had a $550 million balanced budget with $8 million in reserves for the 2001-02 school year. But when new financial software was installed earlier this fall, the district discovered it had a deficit and no reserves.

To operate, the district has resorted to taking out short-term loans. The Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, established by the California legislature, is helping the district to develop a three-year recovery plan.

It’s not certain what areas will be cut to make up the difference, Ms. Jordan said.

Oakland school officials could not be reached for comment.

—Nashiah Ahmad

Catholic Work-Study Schools Planned for Two Cities

Roman Catholic schools replicating a work-study model launched by the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago in 1996 are expected to open in two communities next fall.

The Missouri Province of the Jesuits plans to open a work-study school in Denver called Arrupe High School. And a coalition of religious congregations, including the Jesuits of the New York Provinces, is scheduled to open a similar school, the Cristo Rey New York High School, in New York City’s South Bronx. Each school will serve about 500 students.

With the work-study model, students pay for a large portion of their tuition by working in part-time jobs with local businesses. The Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation, based in Menlo Park, Calif., is supporting the replication of the model by financing feasibility studies and providing three-year start-up grants of $750,000.

In addition to Chicago, such schools are operating in Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; and Portland, Ore.

—Mary Ann Zehr

N.Y.C. Schools to Receive Money for Sept. 11 Losses

The New York City public school system will receive $80 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for instructional time that was lost because of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, officials announced last week.

The money, which is $23 million less than what was originally requested, will pay for overtime salaries for teachers, paraprofessionals, and operating costs for the extra instructional time, according to Kevin B. Ortiz, a district spokesman.

The 14 schools located closest to the area in which the Sept. 11, 2001, attack took place will receive the most aid—enough to pay for up to 30 hours of additional instructional time, Mr. Ortiz said. An undetermined number will receive enough money to cover up to 15 additional instruction hours. The extra instruction will take place before the end of the school year, he said.

—Michelle Galley

Death: Robert W. Beyers

Robert W. Beyers, a longtime trustee of Editorial Projects in Education who became nationally known in education and media circles as the director of the Stanford University News Service, died of pancreatic cancer at his Palo Alto, Calif., home on Oct. 18. He was 71.

Mr. Beyers promoted an unusually forthright style of news coverage during his time as the director of the news service, from 1961 to 1990, and helped bring increased recognition to the university. His candor earned him a reputation for telling the truth about Stanford, even if it wasn’t always flattering.

From 1974 until his death, Mr. Beyers was a trustee of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week and Teacher Magazine. He served as the chairman of the board from 1986 to 1997.

—Nashiah Ahmad


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