News in Brief: A National Roundup

January 19, 2000 5 min read

Baltimore Schools Chief Intends to Step Down

Robert Booker, the chief executive officer of the Baltimore public schools, announced last week that he plans to step down, and the district said it will begin searching for his replacement.

Mr. Booker, 69, informed the school board he will leave when his two-year contract expires June 30—or sooner if a replacement is found. He has not yet announced whether he will retire or seek a new job.

A former financial officer of the San Diego County government in California, Mr. Booker earned praise for improving the 107,000-student district’s finances. However, he was criticized for his low-key style and lack of educational expertise.

—John Gehring

Ky. Official Resigns

A top official with the Kentucky Department of Education who is under criminal investigation for alleged financial irregularities has resigned.

Randy Kimbrough, the deputy commissioner of the department, was asked to resign Jan. 6.

Her departure came after the FBI and the state attorney general’s office began a probe of her handling of a $300,000 expenditure in 1998 and 1999.

Ms. Kimbrough could not be reached for comment.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Assignment Plan Changed

The Wake County, N.C., school board has adopted a student-assignment policy that does not use race as a factor, reversing a practice established in the 1970s to desegregate schools in and around Raleigh.

The board voted unanimously Jan. 10 to begin using socioeconomic factors and student-achievement levels in deciding from which neighborhoods schools will draw their students.

The decision is intended to head off legal challenges to race-based student selection. White parents won a federal court decision last year against such a policy in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., district.

Many of Wake County’s 95,000 students may be reassigned as early as next fall. Twenty-seven percent of students in the district are black, and 9 percent are from other minority groups.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Drug Tests for All

An all-boys private school in Tennessee says it plans to test its entire student body for illegal drugs next fall.

All 875 students at Christian Brothers High School, a Roman Catholic school in Memphis, will be tested at least once during the school year, said Principal Chris Englert.

Those who refuse will not be allowed to enroll, he said.

Parents will pay $60 for the tests, which will use hair samples to determine use of marijuana, cocaine, and other substances.

Students who test positive will meet with parents and the school dean to discuss counseling.

The students would then be tested once more in 100 days, and if they again tested positive, would be expelled.

—Adrienne D. Coles

New CEO for Hawaii Schools

A group of troubled private schools that serve native Hawaiian children has named a University of Wisconsin-Madison official as its chief executive officer.

Hamilton I. McCubbin

Hamilton I. McCubbin will start on Feb. 1 and oversee day-to-day operations at the Kamehameha Schools, which have been embroiled in a lengthy controversy involving the schools’ former five-member board of trustees.

Investigations by Hawaii’s attorney general and the Internal Revenue Service found that the trustees—who have all since resigned—had mismanaged the schools’ $6 billion charitable trust. Five interim trustees now lead the organization.

Founded in 1884, the Kamehameha Schools educate 4,500 students at campuses in Honolulu, Maui, and East Hawaii and at 29 preschools throughout the state.

Mr. McCubbin, a graduate of the schools, has since 1985 been the dean of the school of human ecology at the University of Wisconsin.

—Linda Jacobson

Fla. Student Dies on Bus

A 12-year-old Miami-area boy who leaned out the window of a moving school bus and hit his head on a concrete light pole Jan. 6 died moments later in the arms of the bus driver, authorities said.

The bus was carrying Nicholas Antonio Acosta home from Lake Stevens Middle School in Opa Locka at about 2:30 p.m.

The vehicle was pulling back into traffic from an off-road area when the boy lowered the window and leaned out to talk to a girl, according to Jay Vas, a Miami-Dade County Police Department detective.

Investigators said that there was no indication of driver error, and that no charges were likely to be filed.

—Catherine Gewertz

Chemical Prompts Exodus

The discovery of an explosive chemical forced the cancellation of classes and athletic events Jan. 10 at a high school in Portland, Maine.

Students and faculty evacuated Deering High School after a consultant brought to the school to train teachers in the disposal of hazardous materials discovered two old cans of ethyl ether in a storage room.

The unopened cans showed an expiration date of 1985, and if jostled could have exploded with the force of one or two sticks of dynamite, said Assistant Principal Michael Johnson.

Officials decided to “err on the side of caution” and send the students home, Mr. Johnson said.

The chemical is commonly used in science experiments, and exposure to sunlight over time can increase its chances of exploding.

Mr. Johnson said a retired science teacher might have left the chemical behind.

—Alan Richard

Arrests Follow Bomb Incident

Four Texas students were arrested last week after a pipe bomb was found in a restroom at their high school Jan. 10.

The youths, two 17-year-olds and two other juveniles of unidentified age, were all students at Blanco High School, about 40 miles southwest of Austin.

Authorities used a robot to move the bomb from a boys’ restroom at the school and detonate it in a nearby field. No one was injured.

Local authorities said last week that one of the 17-year-olds was charged with second-degree weapons charges.

The other 17-year-old was charged with making a terroristic threat, which is a misdemeanor.

No details about the other two juveniles were available.

—John Gehring

District Chief Resigns

The superintendent of the Clayton County, Ga., schools has resigned, but will stay on as a consultant with the suburban Atlanta district through 2002 under a deal worked out with the school board.

Joe Hairston’s resignation earlier this month after five years followed a series of clashes with the board on how to improve the 45,000-student district’s schools.

The board named the school system’s executive officer of personnel, Dan Colwell, as interim superintendent.

—Mary Ann Zehr

A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2000 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup