News in Brief: A National Roundup

May 02, 2001 6 min read
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Wyo. District Board Adopts 4-Day Week

The trustees of Sheridan County School District No. 3 in Wyoming have voted to move to a four-day school week starting next school year.

The trustees of Sheridan County School District No. 3 in Wyoming have voted to move to a four-day school week starting next school year.

Before voting 3-2 to experiment with having students attend school for four days instead of five each week, the trustees discussed some of the pros and cons of the arrangement and listened to views expressed by teachers and community members, according to minutes from the school board’s April 11 meeting and the district’s secretary.

Proponents argued the move would be beneficial for instruction in a small district. The Sheridan district has only 120 students. Opponents expressed concern that students would have to accomplish more work in less time.

At least two other Wyoming school districts—Sheridan Coun-ty School District No. 1 and Fremont School District No. 6—have already moved to a four- day school week.

Superintendent Bill Raduenz urged Sheridan County residents who attended the school board meeting last month to see how the extended class periods and shortened week work out.

— Mary Ann Zehr

Teacher Fired Over Essay

A teacher in a Murfreesboro, Tenn., high school has been fired for assigning students in his class to write an essay on why a freshman in the school was “an idiot” for penciling in his birthday on the teacher’s calender.

Rutherford County schools Superintendent Hulon Watson informed the computer-repair teacher at the 1,500-student Blackman High School of his intention to dismiss him in an April 10 letter that cited unprofessional conduct, neglect of duty, incompetence, and insubordination.

Clay Wilson initially was suspended with pay after the parents of 16-year-old Drew Gammon complained about the first-year teacher’s essay assignment intended to punish their son.

Under state law, Mr. Wilson is entitled to appeal his firing at a hearing before an impartial officer selected by the school system’s board of education.

—John Gehring

District Sued by Mink Farm

The Alpine school district in American Fork, Utah, has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the owner of a mink farm who claims that 3,500 baby minks died because the construction of a new school near his farm distracted the mothers from caring for their young.

Keith Jonsson, the owner of Jonsson and Sons mink ranch, sued the construction company, contending that it failed to take the precautions he had requested to avoid disturbing the minks. But he maintains that the 47,000-student district is also liable for the actions of the construction company while it is under contract with the district, so he had to name the district as a defendant as well, he says.

“I don’t like the idea of suing the school district,” Mr. Jonsson said. “My kids go to the new school.”

Michael Robinson, a public-information officer for the district, said that the district is “alleging that if there was any liability, it’s the construction company’s.”

—Vanessa Dea

Detroit Mayor To Step Down

Mayor Dennis W. Archer of Detroit dropped a political bombshell on his city late last month when he announced that he would not seek re-election to a third term in November.

Mr. Archer, a Democrat who has gotten credit for generating a surge of business development in the city, has also become a major player in Detroit’s public schools since voters first elected him in 1994.

Three years ago, Gov. John Engler of Michigan signed into a law a measure that scrapped the city’s school board. In its place, the legislation created a six-person board and gave the mayor the authority to pick five of the members. Gov. Engler, a Republican, named the sixth member. ( “Mich. Lawmakers Approve Takeover Bill for Detroit,” March 31, 1999.)

In 2004, city voters will decide whether to keep the current leadership model or revert to an elected board.

In the meantime, whoever succeeds Mayor Archer will be able to review the appointments of two board members in 2002 and two others in 2004.

In the April 17 speech announcing his decision not to run, Mr. Archer made a brief reference to the school district. He said that the current school leaders “are working hard to improve the academic achievement of our children and the system’s physical facilities.”

—Robert C. Johnston

Decatur, Ill., Chief Resigns

Two years after the suspension of six black students from the Decatur, Ill., schools made national headlines, Superintendent Kenneth Arndt has announced that he is moving on to a new job this summer.

Mr. Arndt, 46, will leave the 11,000- student district at the end of June. He will take over as the superintendent of the 17,000-student school system in Carpentersville, Ill., about 200 miles north of Decatur and just outside Chicago. Mr. Arndt joined the Decatur schools in 1995 and is leaving with three years remaining on his five-year contract.

A district spokeswoman said that the superintendent issued no formal statement on his resignation.

During his tenure, he set out to raise academic achievement and stabilize the district’s finances. But the district was pushed onto the national stage over a different issue in the fall of 1999, when the school board expelled the six students for fighting during a football game.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson led a campaign against the board’s action, charging it was discriminatory. The controversy also focused attention on “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies. (“Decatur, Ill., Embroiled In Expulsions Dispute,” March 31, 1999.)

—Robert C. Johnston

‘79 Shooter Denied Parole

A woman who as a teenager killed two people and wounded nine in a California school shooting has been denied parole.

Brenda Spencer was 16 when she fired on Grover Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego on Jan. 29, 1979, with a .22-caliber rifle. The school’s principal and a custodian were killed, and eight students and a police officer were injured. Ms. Spencer pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

In a hearing on April 17, the parole board unanimously denied parole for Ms. Spencer, now 38, said Lt. Robert Sebald, a spokesman for the California Institution for Women in Corona. She will be eligible again in four years.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

31-Year-Old Posed as Student

A Washington state high school has discovered one of the students it graduated last May is 31 years old and successfully posed as a high school-age student for three years.

Treva Throneberry, who graduated from Evergreen High School last June, was arrested this spring by Vancouver, Wash., police for alledgedly defrauding the state department of health and human services and Clark College in Vancouver, according to Carol A. Fenstermacher, the director of community relations for the Evergreen school district.

Ms. Throneberry is being held in the Clark County jail, and awaits trial on two theft charges and a perjury charge.

Ms. Fenstermacher said at the time the woman enrolled in the 2,200- student Evergreen district, she was accompanied by foster-care parents and claimed that she had been previously home-schooled.

She had been placed in a foster home after claiming she was a teenager, and neither the foster parents nor school officials suspected that she had lied about her age, Ms. Fenstermacher said.

“If you’d seen her graduation picture, she doesn’t look out of place,” Ms. Fenstermacher said. “She dressed very young. No one suspected she was as old as she is.”

—Mary Ann Zehr

A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2001 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup


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