News in Brief: A National Roundup

November 01, 2000 5 min read

Calif. Superintendent Charged With Felonies

The superintendent of the West Fresno Elementary School District in California has been charged with embezzlement and theft of public funds.

Joe Lee, 58, was arrested and charged with the felonies on Oct. 21. The superintendent, who turned himself in to authorities, was released following his arraignment. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.

Mr. Lee is accused of double-billing the California Association of School Administrators for thousands of dollars in expenses, and of stealing several thousand dollars from the 1,050-student elementary school district between 1996 and 1998, according to Robert Ellis, an assistant district attorney for Fresno County.

If convicted, Mr. Lee faces a maximum sentence of almost five years in jail, Mr. Ellis said.

Mr. Lee and his lawyer did not return phone calls last week.

—Lisa Fine

Students Get Computers

Arizona’s Phoenix Union High School District has started a program that will give computers to nearly 1,000 inner-city students from low-income families.

The giveaway of 986 computers at a cost of $1.2 million is viewed as one of the largest undertaken by a single school district, officials in the 22,000-student district said. A federal Title I grant is paying for the program.

District officials said they hoped the program would help motivate students to perform better in school and prepare them for higher education.

Last week, 100 machines were distributed, and more computers will be given away before the end of the year, said Jim Cummings, a district spokesman.

All Phoenix Union sophomores are eligible to apply. Students who receive computers must maintain grade point averages of at least 2.0 and have no disciplinary actions against them and no unexcused absences. Students and their families will have to go through a four-hour training session on setting up and using the computers.

—Lisa Fine

School Warns of Mock Drug Use

Elementary school pupils in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, thought it was harmless fun when they inhaled powdered drink mix through their mouths and noses to induce a cough. But administrators at Johnson School of the Arts took swift action to educate students and parents on the dangers of substance abuse.

After discovering that a few dozen 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at the 400-student magnet school were sneaking the white substance into school in small plastic bags and ingesting it in bathroom stalls and alcoves, Principal Susan Lagos brought in local drug-abuse-prevention specialists and law-enforcement officers.

“It was an opportunity to talk about the issue,” Ms. Lagos said. “We didn’t want to overdramatize child’s play, but at the same time, the children had no concept about what could have happened” if they had ingested real drugs.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Maryland School Wins Award

A small suburban elementary school in Howard County, Md., has won an award for its application of popular business principles.

Maryland’s two U.S. senators, Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, honored Bushy Park Elementary School in Glenwood with a Senate Productivity Award. The honor recognizes the school for successfully using “total quality management” techniques.

Bushy Park is the first school to be given the honor, which was created in 1983 and recognizes state organizations in the fields of education and health care, and in the nonprofit and public sectors.

Principal Nancy Kalin said her school had been using the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence for two years. The plan focuses on teamwork, using data to develop program changes and mission statements, and on creating action plans for meeting goals.

“Our lives have really changed since we put the plan into place,” Ms. Kalin said. “Time is better spent focused on teaching and learning.”

—Lisa Fine

Girl in Plot Gets Probation

A juvenile-court judge in Norfolk, Va., sentenced a 13-year-old girl to indeterminate probation last week after the girl was found guilty of plotting to commit a mass murder with two other students at her middle school last April.

The girl plotted with a 14-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl, both of whom were sentenced this past summer to supervised probation and barred from school property. All three 7th graders were expelled from Northside Middle School.

While sitting together for lunch, the three students drew up a hit list and a timetable for a school massacre that was to take place June 16, according to a prosecutor in the case. But a student who had overheard them told school officials, who then informed police.

Prosecutors said the students planned to carry out an imitation of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in April 1999.

Joseph Sellew, the deputy superintendent of the 36,000-student district, said the students had planned the attack to confront those who had teased them.

—Jessica Portner

Percentage of Mothers With Jobs Hits High

The percentage of American mothers in the workforce has hit an all-time high, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released last week.

Of the 3.7 million women who had children younger than age 1 in 1998, 59 percent were working outside the home, almost double the proportion in 1976.

Of the more than 31 million mothers who had children older than 1, 73 percent were working full time, working part time, or were currently unemployed.

Families with children in which both the father and the mother are working now represent a majority—51 percent—of all two-parent families in the United States.

The rising percentage of mothers in the workforce is one reason why child care has become such a major policy issue, the authors of the report conclude.

Titled “Fertility of American Women: June 1998,” the study is based on the bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey.

The report is available online at

—Linda Jacobson


Richard Jaeger, an expert in educational research and measurement, died Oct. 21 from complications following a lung transplant. He was 62.

Mr. Jaeger was a professor emeritus of education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Before his retirement last year, he was the director of the center for educational research and evaluation at the university. In addition, Mr. Jaeger was the director of the technical-analysis group for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and had received more than $7.5 million in grants for his work with the board.

Mr. Jaeger was the editor or author of nine books and more than 80 articles and reports. He had received lifetime-achievement awards from the National Council on Measurement in Education, as well as the E.F. Lindquist Award from the American Educational Research Foundation for career achievement.

—Vanessa Dea