News in Brief: A National Roundup

January 15, 1997 7 min read

Public For-Profit School In Detroit To Remain Open

A controversial for-profit school in Detroit that is run by the neighboring Romulus school system can stay open, a county judge has ruled.

Detroit officials filed a lawsuit asking the court to close the Baron-Romulus School of Choice on the grounds that its opening in their district last fall violated state charter school and school choice laws. (“For-Profit School for Dropouts Sparks Turf Battle in Detroit,” Oct. 9, 1996.)

But Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen MacDonald found last month that the state does not prevent districts from opening schools in other districts.

“She basically said that school districts are no longer relevant,” said Arthur Carter, the deputy superintendent of the Detroit schools.

About 400 students are enrolled in the school.

N.Y. Union Wins Grievances

The United Federation of Teachers, which filed nearly 17,000 grievances over large class sizes in New York City schools last September, has won nearly 60 percent of its complaints.

Some 8,000 grievances were resolved by district administrators or by high school superintendents, while another 9,000 were appealed to the chancellor’s office, the union reported.

Schools Chancellor Rudy F. Crew denied 3,900 of those appeals, mostly because of a lack of space and other exceptions to contractual limits on class size.

The remaining cases were decided by arbitrators. In a series of decisions, the independent arbitrators ruled last month that the board must reduce the size of 1,500 classes in 42 schools by Feb. 1.

The grievance blitz was prompted by a new, expedited procedure in the contract.

TV Ratings Take Effect

Beginning this month, all television programs, except for news and sports shows, will be assigned one of six ratings to alert parents of their appropriateness for children at certain ages.

They are: TV-Y, for all children; TV-Y7, children age 7 and older; TV-14, contains material that parents would find unsuitable for children younger than 14; TV-G, for all ages; TV-PG, some material that parents might find unsuitable for younger children; and TV-M, mature audiences.

The television industry’s new guidelines, however, have already been met by a hail of criticism from parent, medical, and education groups because the ratings are age-based rather than content-based. (“Plan for Rating TV Programs Likely To Mirror Age-Based Movie System,” Dec. 11, 1996.)

Tutoring Includes Dinner

With the new year, 40 Chicago public schools are serving dinner as part of a voluntary tutorial program that nourishes students’ bodies and their minds.

The program targets elementary schools currently on probation. No more than 12 percent of the students in those schools score at or above the national average in reading. At a cost of $4.8 million, the extended-day program will provide tutoring and meals to some 12,000 students.

The two-hour program includes one hour of teacher-supervised classes and one hour of recreation and a nutritious meal.

S.C. Principal Is Charged

An elementary school principal in Chesterfield County, S.C., was put on administrative leave this month after being charged with failing to notify authorities of suspected child abuse.

Six weeks after a teacher and a school counselor notified Principal Ernest Witherspoon that Rachel Nelson had been bruised and burned with a curling iron, the 7-year-old student was found beaten to death in her home. Her foster mother was charged with murder, according to Hugh Munn of the State Law Enforcement Division.

The Chesterfield County school board will decide this week whether to return the McBee Elementary School principal to work or to extend his administrative leave until his case has been resolved. Under state law, school officials are required to inform authorities if they suspect child abuse. If convicted of the misdemeanor, Mr. Witherspoon could be fined or face a jail term.

Colo. Court Bans Fees

The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that the Douglas County school district near Denver must stop collecting developer fees.

Impact fees have been collected since 1991 to cushion the impact of 10 percent annual growth in the 25,000-student system. In last month’s 4-3 ruling, the court also ordered the district to return $10.5 million to developers. The fees generated as much as $3.5 million a year, district officials said.

Bill Reimer, an assistant superintendent, said that efforts to clarify laws on the fees have failed before and that he is not optimistic legislative relief is in the offing.

Teachers Get Coaching Dibs

California public school teachers who apply for athletic-coaching positions are entitled to a hiring preference, the state supreme court has ruled.

Outside candidates can be considered only when no qualified teachers apply for the open positions, the court said in a 4-3 decision this month.

The case involved a teacher in the Rialto Unified district in San Bernardino County who was passed over in 1992 for two assistant basketball-coaching jobs that were given to nonteachers.

A lawyer for the California Teachers Association did not know how many other states have such hiring preferences.

Haitians Sue N.Y.C. Schools

Haitian community groups and parents have filed a class action against the New York city and state school systems alleging that school officials are violating federal and state law by denying equal education opportunities to Haitian students with limited English proficiency.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court Dec. 19 in New York City, centers on the provision of bilingual and special education services.

Brought on behalf of the estimated 7,000 LEP children who speak Haitian Creole in the city schools, the suit charges that the city has failed to provide the children sufficient bilingual education resources and that the students have not had full access to the whole range of school curricula.

Cleveland Mother Jailed

A Cleveland mother has served five days in jail after school officials in a neighboring district claimed that she had illegally enrolled her son in a school there.

Judy Kincaid, a 36-year-old Cleveland bus driver, was sentenced last month to 90 days in jail after she pleaded guilty to theft of a service. Municipal Judge Robert F. Niccum suspended 85 days of the sentence, fined Ms. Kincaid $500, and ordered her to repay the Euclid school district for the instruction her son received.

Officials with the suburban Cleveland school district were tipped off last October that Ms. Kincaid had enrolled her 5-year-old son in an elementary school in Euclid even though she and the boy did not live in the district. Ms. Kincaid had used the Euclid address of the boy’s aunt.

Ms. Kincaid could not be reached for comment.

Sacramento Salaries Frozen

The newly elected school board in Sacramento, Calif., has halted salary increases that its lame-duck predecessor had given to central-office administrators.

The 6-1 vote last month came just four weeks after one approving the raises. All four new board members voted for the pay freeze.

The old board voted in November to increase the salaries of some central-office administrators from $70,165 to $85,291.

Raises for principals and vice principals were unaffected.

The school board is to take up the raise issue again by March 3, after a study of what neighboring districts pay.

Return Sparks Protest

A South Carolina teacher who was suspended for writing on a student’s face returned to her job last week as a civil rights organization protested outside the school.

About 40 demonstrators assembled at Pepperhill Elementary School in North Charleston upon the return of Phyllis Adelsflugel. NAACP officials said that they organized the protest because her 20-day suspension was not severe enough.

The North Charleston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also alleges that the teacher violated 5-year-old Nina Campbell’s civil rights.

Ms. Adelsflugel was suspended in November for sending the African-American kindergartner home with the message “Where are my glasses?” scrawled across her face in blue magic marker. The first -year teacher resigned, but later appealed to the school board, which reinstated her.

Froggy Book Gets Reprieve

The bad frog of children’s books has been granted a pardon of sorts. School officials in Baltimore County, Md., recommended a compromise that lifted the ban on the book Froggy Went-A-Courtin’ following a public hearing last month.

The illustrated folk tale that features a degenerate frog who gets carted off to jail for his crimes was banned last fall after a parent complained. It will be returned to the shelves of elementary school libraries, but only teachers and parents will be able to check it out and read it to children.