News in Brief: A National Roundup

July 12, 2000 6 min read
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Ruling Ends Louisville Desegregation Case

Kentucky’s largest school district is moving to comply with a federal court ruling that bars the use of race as the deciding factor in enrollment at Central High School in Louisville.

The decision, handed down late last month, lifts a 25-year-old ruling that ordered the 96,000-student Jefferson County district, which includes Louisville, to achieve racial balance in its schools. It also gives the district two years to review its assignment policy for all 13 of its magnet schools.

The school board has decided not to appeal the ruling while it considers whether to revise its student-assignment policy for all its schools. Board members said a higher court would have probably thrown out the district’s current system entirely, forcing districtwide changes on a court-determined timetable.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County school officials have announced that they will allow 153 black students who were denied entrance to Central High this school year to enroll there in the fall, if they wish. Some students were blocked from attending the school because not enough whites chose to go, creating a racial-balance problem.

—Bess Keller

Rochester Considers ‘3-4-5' Plan

The superintendent of the Rochester, N.Y., schools wants to make it easier for students to earn high school diplomas earlier than usual—or later, if they need extra time.

Clifford B. Janey

Superintendent Clifford B. Janey has proposed what he calls a “3-4-5" plan that would offer advanced students the chance to graduate in three years, or allow other students to take as long as five years to earn a diploma.

Mr. Janey has met with community members about the plan for several months. The school board of the 38,000-student district will consider his plan later this month.

—Alan Richard

Palo Alto Schools Chief Indicted

The superintendent of elementary schools in East Palo Alto, Calif., has been indicted on charges of violating state conflict-of-interest laws because she signed district-backed loans to employees who rented homes from her or owed her money.

Charlie Mae Knight, who has run the 12-school Ravenswood city district in Northern California since 1985, faces 19 felony counts. Her lawyer, William L. Osterhoudt, characterized the charges as “completely unjustified.”

The loans, given between 1992 and 1997, were made from a special district fund set up to help employees in financial difficulty. As superintendent, Ms. Knight signed those checks. Many people borrowed from the fund, but the indictment focuses on $29,000 in loans made to six people who rented homes from Ms. Knight or owed her money.

The school board, noting “extraordinary progress” made in the district under Ms. Knight’s leadership, voted just after her indictment to extend her contract until 2004.

—Catherine Gewertz

Court Presence To Remain in K.C.

After legal twists and turns that cast into doubt the future of the 23-year-old desegregation lawsuit in Kansas City, Mo., a federal appeals court has decided that the suit should not be dismissed. The ruling keeps the 32,000-student district under court supervision as it tries to eradicate vestiges of racial discrimination.

Twelve judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled June 15 that the federal trial judge in the case was wrong to dismiss it last November without a full hearing on whether the district had done everything practicable to provide equal educational opportunity to minority students.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court had reached the same conclusion in March and reinstated the case, but the school district sought and received the review by a larger panel of the appeals court.

—-Catherine Gewertz

Miller Steps Down in L.A. Unified

The chief operating officer of the Los Angeles schools has resigned to make room for the staff of newly hired Superintendent Roy Romer.

Howard Miller, a lawyer who was hired nine months ago, left his job June 30. First asked to oversee the district’s wayward construction program, his role gradually expanded to full management of the 710,000-student district when the school board forced out former Superintendent Ruben Zacarias.

After briefly running the district on his own, Mr. Miller then became a partner with interim Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines. Mr. Miller helped write a reorganization plan that took effect this month, splitting the Los Angeles Unified School District into 11 subdistricts.

Mr. Romer, a former Colorado governor, was hired last month. (“L.A. Board Taps Romer for Top Job,” June 14, 2000.)

—-Alan Richard

Oakland Principals Reassigned

Nearly a third of the principals in the Oakland, Calif., schools have been reassigned by Superintendent Dennis K. Chaconas in a move he hopes will improve instruction in the 54,000-student district.

Twenty-nine of the city’s 90 schools will have new principals this fall, district spokesman Ken Epstein said. Some successful principals were moved to help struggling schools improve, while 11 were demoted to classroom positions, resulting in some resignations or retirements.

Several principals also were warned that they could face removal or demotions unless their schools improve, Mr. Epstein said. Low test scores and attendance rates and high dropout rates contributed to the changes.

—-Alan Richard

Probe of NEA Spending Sought

A conservative legal group has asked the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the National Education Association for possible violations of campaign-finance rules.

The complaints, filed last month by the Kansas City-based Landmark Legal Foundation, charge that the teachers’ union hasn’t reported the full extent of its political expenditures.

The NEA files papers that document spending by its separate political action committee. But the foundation argues that the union also has made ample use of its general funds to support candidates in campaigns for federal office and has not reported those expenditures, as required of such tax-exempt labor groups.

Officials of the NEA said the 2.5 million-member union had been reviewed—and given a clean bill of health—by the IRS in recent years. Neither federal agency is expected to decide soon whether to begin an investigation.

—Jeff Archer

Chicago Schools Reorganized

The Chicago school board will send evaluation teams into six of the city’s poorest-performing public high schools next month as part of a yearlong “intervention” that may end with wholesale changes in staffs and programs.

In an announcement late last month, board members said new management teams would be sent into the schools in August. The review teams will conduct performance evaluations of all the schools’ employees from August through next April, and any reassignments, layoffs, or firings will happen in May.

The schools will reopen in August 2001 with new staffs and possibly new programs, said school board President Gery J. Chico.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Schools Make ‘Endangered’ List

The nation’s historic neighborhood schools are in danger of being demolished or abandoned, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The private Washington-based organization, together with cable television’s History Channel, released its annual list of the United States’ most endangered historic places late last month.

This year, historic neighborhood schools were added to the list because many are being torn down to make way for the construction of new facilities, said Patricia O’Connell, a spokeswoman for the National Trust.

—Michelle Galley

Md. Aid to Baltimore Faulted

Maryland’s contribution to the Baltimore public schools has fallen about $200 million short of the amount required by the state constitution and a 1996 consent decree, a judge has ruled.

Circuit Court Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan ruled late last month that the state needs to add from $2,000 to $2,600 per pupil, or about $200 million, in the fiscal year that began July 1 to meet its obligations.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, criticized the ruling, saying it had ignored increases in state aid that have raised per-pupil spending in Baltimore.

—Robert C. Johnston

A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2000 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup


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