News in Brief: A National Roundup

April 10, 2002 6 min read
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Dallas Superintendent’s Pay Now Among Top in Nation

The Dallas school board voted last week to increase Superintendent Mike Moses’ salary to $310,000 a year, making him one of the nation’s highest-paid urban schools chiefs.

The board offered Mr. Moses the new contract to keep him from considering the chancellor’s post at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. His five- year contract to lead the 164,000-student district ends in 2006.

Dallas board President Ken Zornes said board members wanted to make it “very unattractive” for Mr. Moses, a former Texas commissioner of education, to consider other jobs. Mr. Moses has said he would notify Texas Tech that he is not interested in returning to the university, where he worked before joining the district in 2000.

In its action April 1, the board agreed to give the superintendent a $30,000 salary increase, a $10,000 performance bonus, and $37,000 for unused vacation days. The board also will contribute $100,000 annually to an account as a retention incentive for the superintendent. If he stays until 2003, Mr. Moses will earn 40 percent of the account; the percentage rises in increments to 100 percent if he fulfills the contract in 2006.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Mich. District Settles Lawsuit Over Anti-Semitic Harassment

A Michigan school district has agreed to pay $265,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former teacher who alleged that administrators had failed to stem years of anti- Semitic harassment and death threats directed against him by students.

Louis Owen, the only Jewish teacher at L’Anse High School in the 800-student L’Anse Area district on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, said in his lawsuit that a pattern of anti-Semitic harassment began in 1996. It included messages such as “White Power,” “Kill Owen,” and “KKK” scrawled in his classroom.

He sued last year in U.S. District Court in Marquette, Mich., alleging that the district had failed to thoroughly investigate and take action to stop the harassment.

The U.S. Department of Justice intervened in his suit last year, and it helped bring about the settlement announced on March 7.

The school district will directly pay $122,500 of the $265,000 settlement, with the rest covered by its insurance carrier. The agreement also calls for the district to revise its anti- discrimination policies within 120 days and have the Justice Department review enforcement of its policies for three years.

Superintendent Raymond Pasquali, who took office in 1999, said: “The school district could have done a better job of responding to the discrimination complaints of Mr. Owen. We are looking forward to having this issue behind us.”

—Mark Walsh

N.J. Teacher Given Probation For Calling In Fake Threats

A New Jersey teacher has been sentenced to four years of probation for phoning in fake bomb and shooting threats to the Roman Catholic school where he taught.

John Danze, 26, was arrested in April 2001 after three anonymous phone threats were made against St. Margaret’s School, a 650-pupil elementary school in Woodbury Heights, N.J. The first two hoaxes were bomb threats, and the third a call in which Mr. Danze said he would be the target of a shooting at the school the next day.

Mr. Danze’s lawyer, Edward J. Crisonino, said his client offered no explanation for the hoaxes. School officials did not return a call for comment.

The teacher, who had already been sentenced to three years’ probation in January for calling in similar threats to a sports center where he coached a swim team, will undergo a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, Mr. Crisonino said.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Low-Scoring Charter School To Shut Down in Chicago

A Chicago charter school that has been grappling with low test scores and management problems will close in June.

The Chicago board of education voted March 27 to close Nuestra America Charter School, a high school of 160 students on the city’s West Side.

The school, which opened in 1997, has had “low and declining” test scores since 1999, posting the lowest scores of all 17 of the city’s charter schools in 2001, district officials said in a statement. The officials also cited its “record of poor financial management.”

Robert W. Kausal, the school’s principal, said he was frustrated that the district board had refused to give more weight to his students’ test- score gains, focusing instead solely on how they measured up to fixed standards.

One other charter school has been closed in Chicago since 1996, when charters began operating: the Chicago Preparatory High School in 1999.

—Catherine Gewertz

Ky. Court Upholds Suspension Of Principal Found With Gun

The Kentucky Court of Appeals has upheld the suspension of a former school principal who was caught with a loaded handgun in her car on school property.

Melinda Cobb was demoted in 1999 from principal of the Leestown Middle School in Lexington, Ky., to teacher, and then fired by the Fayette County school district, according to the March 29 ruling.

The district had leveled numerous allegations against the principal, but a three-member administrative tribunal convened by the state found the school system had grounds only for disciplining Ms. Cobb for violating the school board’s concealed-weapons policy and inaccurately reporting her school’s daily attendance.

The panel ruled that Ms. Cobb should be reinstated as a teacher, but suspended without pay until the end of the 2000-01 school year for violating the weapons policy. Both Ms. Cobb and the 32,000-student district filed appeals in the Fayette County Circuit Court and the state appeals court, but both courts upheld the administrative tribunal’s decision.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Wis. School Leaders Found To Lack Proper Licenses

More than 30 school leaders working in the Milwaukee area do not hold up-to-date administrator licenses from the state department of public instruction, a Wisconsin newspaper investigation has revealed.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which published its findings April 1, the administrators in question included five superintendents, two deputy superintendents, and 22 principals. The report examined a five-county area comprising the city of Milwaukee and its suburbs. State officials say that, in all, the schools in that area employ several hundred administrators.

“There are some members of ours who simply overlooked having their licenses renewed, and that’s unfortunate,” Miles Turner, the executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators, said last week.

Wisconsin law stipulates that administrators hold a license, but state education officials say it’s up to local districts to ensure the requirement is met. The state education department has reminded those identified in the article to update their credentials.

—Jeff Archer

Death: Robert H. Carleton

Robert H. Carleton, 93, a founder and the first full-time executive secretary of the National Science Teachers Association, died March 28. He lived in Silver Spring, Md.

Mr. Carleton, who started his career as a high school science teacher in Dayton, Ohio, began a quarter-century of service with the NSTA in 1948. He was the association’s executive secretary until he retired in 1973.

Mr. Carleton was the publisher of the group’s journal for science teachers and two other magazines, and wrote 14 textbooks. The NSTA, then located in Washington, created the annual Robert H. Carleton Award for science education leadership in 1973. The group, now based in Arlington, Va., has more than 53,000 members.

—Joetta L. Sack

A version of this article appeared in the April 10, 2002 edition of Education Week as News in Brief: A National Roundup


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