News in Brief: A National Roundup

February 06, 2002 6 min read
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Roosevelt Averts Layoffs With $1.4 Million in N.Y. Aid

The beleaguered Roosevelt school district on Long Island, N.Y., which faces a state takeover, avoided laying off 30 employees last week with a $1.4 million cash infusion from the state Senate.

The school board of New York’s only state-supervised district had been ordered by state Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills to make $2.8 million in spending cuts to help balance its budget.

“I wasn’t going to allow employees to become the victims of mismanagement by the board,” said Sen. Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., the Republican state lawmaker who secured money from a $3 million emergency fund set aside for the school system, which is located in his district. He has asked the state Assembly, the legislature’s lower house, to make up the remaining $1.4 million from its $3 million fund for Roosevelt.

Alan Ray, a spokesman for the state education department, said the funding addresses the district’s budget dilemma this school year, but won’t solve Roosevelt’s long-term deficit.

The 3,200-student district has been plagued by financial and academic troubles. (N.Y. State Officials Threaten To Dissolve District, Dec. 5, 2001.) State lawmakers are trying to broker a plan to seize control of the school system. Mr. Fuschillo sponsored legislation in the Senate calling for the removal of the school board and a $4 million loan to the district. The measure passed in October.

Key to any agreement is getting Republican Gov. George E. Pataki’s approval of a $6 million annual budget increase for the district over the next five years, said Assemblyman Steven Sanders, a Democrat and the chairman of his chamber’s education committee. He added that Roosevelt needs another $100 million in state aid for renovations and construction.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Former Ky. Education Official Named No. 2 at Los Angeles District

Thomas C. Boysen, who served as Kentucky’s education commissioner from 1991 to 1995, has been hired as the chief operating officer of the Los Angeles school district.

Mr. Boysen, who will be paid $215,000 a year, will oversee the human resources department, which serves more than 78,000 employees, and help streamline business, financial, and technology systems in the nation’s second- largest district.

Roy Romer, the former three-term governor of Colorado and the superintendent of the 723,000-student district since July 2000, chose Mr. Boysen after a yearlong search. Mr. Boysen previously had served as the senior vice president of education for the Milken Family Foundation, a philanthropy based in Santa Monica, Calif., that finances education initiatives.

As Kentucky’s education commissioner, Mr. Boysen helped implement a package of reforms adopted in 1990 to restructure the K-12 system, standardize student assessment, encourage the use of technology, and equalize funding.

—Marianne Hurst

Groups, Firms Seek to Provide Services to Phila. Schools

Thirty-one groups have expressed interest in becoming consultants to the Philadelphia school district as it tries to revitalize its ailing schools.

The School Reform Commission, appointed by Pennsylvania’s governor and Philadelphia’s mayor to run the 200,000-student district, received a wide range of responses to its “request for qualifications” to act as consultants. The deadline for responses was Jan. 25.

Edison Schools Inc. confirmed it threw its hat into the ring to consult on the full range of management issues for which the commission solicited help. Miami-based Chancellor-Beacon Academies has in the past expressed the desire to serve in that same capacity, but declined to characterize its submission to the reform commission.

Other groups expressed interest in consulting on some services, such as provision of food services, assessment evaluation, or leadership development, commission spokeswoman Carey Dearnley said.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, some of those who responded to the commission’s request included the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education; the nonprofit Philadelphia Education Fund; KPMG International, a professional-services firm; Nobel Learning Communities; and Aramark Corp., a food-service company. (“Community Groups Looking to Run Phila. Schools,” this issue.

—Catherine Gewertz

Parents Want ‘Traffic Signal’ Removed From Mich. Cafeteria

Some parents in Morley, Mich., want a traffic-signal-like device removed from a school cafeteria.

Brenda Gridley, the mother of a 2nd grader and a former volunteer at Morley Elementary School, said she had gathered about 70 signatures on a petition asking school administrators to remove the device, which has a noise sensor that turns the light red when students get too loud.

Ms. Gridley became concerned when her daughter told her that the school’s principal was punishing children for excessive lunchroom noise. Punishment had included docking minutes off the children’s allotted time for recess.

Ms. Gridley, who appeared before the school board with other parents to outline their concerns, maintained that school officials hadn’t communicated clearly with the parents about the complaints.

Officials of the Morley district, about 45 minutes north of Grand Rapids, could not be reached for comment.

—Alan Richard

R.I. Teachers Are Ordered to Remove Personal Items

Teachers in the Coventry, R.I., school district will have to remove some couches, rugs, and other personal items from their classrooms after they were cited in an annual safety inspection.

The state’s division of occupational safety told officials in the 5,800-student district outside of Providence to remove several items an inspector concluded were potential fire and health hazards.

Responding to the order, district officials requested that teachers remove all furniture that was not new and flame-retardant. An initial request to remove all items not issued by the state or the district upset some teachers.

Scott Bateson, an inspector with the occupational-safety division, said the order was intended to “get rid of the junk.”

The prevalence of children with allergies is of particular concern when teachers bring in yard-sale items or used furniture that may or may not be sanitary, Mr. Bateson said.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Okla. District Gets Flak for Black-Themed Poem

Officials with the Millwood school district in northeastern Oklahoma City plan to keep the “The Black Pledge of Allegiance” poem posted on a Web site despite pressure to take it down.

Gloria Griffin, the superintendent of the 1,100- student district, said that she had received hundreds of malicious e-mails from users of, a conservative Web site that hosts political discussions, claiming that the poem is racist and separatist.

The seven-line poem states in part: “One nation of black people; With one God for us all; Totally united in the struggle for black love; Black freedom, and black determination.”

Participants in a chat room posted Ms. Griffin’s e-mail address and criticisms of the district. The messages and some of the e-mails were particularly ugly, said Ms. Griffin, who added that her student population is 99 percent African-American.

A group of students posted the poem on the school’s Web site three year ago after a lesson on multiculturalism, Ms. Griffin said. She added that she would ask the students this year to write their own alternative pledge that could be included on the Web site next year.

—Michelle Galley

A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup


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