Education

News in Brief: A National Roundup

June 18, 2003 6 min read
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Boston Teachers Hit With Layoff Notices

More than 800 Boston teachers have been laid off in the largest downsizing of the district’s staff in 20 years.

Last week, 725 “provisional” teachers, with three years’ experience or less, received layoff notices; 84 permanent teachers were notified that they would lose their jobs several weeks ago. In addition, about 1,000 nonteaching employees, such as teachers’ aides, have been let go.

Officials in the 62,800-student Boston public schools hope to rehire some laid-off teachers before September, now that state cuts to the district will be less than anticipated. As it stands, the layoffs would affect 20 percent of the district’s teaching staff.

“When we adopted our preliminary budget, we based it on a very conservative estimate of local aid coming to Boston from the state,” said Jonathan Palumbo, a district spokesman. “There is a good chance it will be a bigger appropriation than we planned for.”

While it is still too early to know how many teachers would be rehired, Mr. Palumbo said, smaller- than-anticipated reductions in state aid should mean that plans to freeze teachers’ salaries and increase class sizes would not be carried out.

—John Gehring

Ga. High Court Says State Doesn’t Owe Transport Aid

The Georgia Supreme Court last week reversed a trial-court decision that would have forced the state to pay $105 million of the DeKalb County school district’s transportation costs.

The June 9 ruling means that the state does not have to offer the 96,000-student district east of Atlanta any more funding to defray the cost of taking about 4,500 students to schools outside their neighborhoods.

At issue was the transportation of children participating in magnet and voluntary-transfer programs that originated as part of court- ordered desegregation.

The district had successfully argued before the trial-court judge that the state had reduced its monetary obligation for 23 years by helping to pay for transportation to the schools that students were zoned to attend, rather than those they actually attended. (“Ga. Ordered to Pay DeKalb Schools for Busing Costs,” Oct. 2, 2002.)

By a 5-2 vote, however, the Georgia high court sided with the state.

State Attorney General Thurbert Baker issued a statement saying the ruling “is an important decision because it reaffirms our position that the state has discretion” in the way it allocates transportation funds to districts.

Sterling Payne, the executive assistant to DeKalb County schools Superintendent Johnny Brown, said the district would continue providing transportation to students in the two programs.

Alfred A. Lindseth, the district’s lawyer, said he planned to ask the supreme court to reconsider its ruling.

—Catherine Gewertz

N.Y. Employer Withdraws Offer To Help Build New High School

An unusual plan to consolidate the two public high schools that serve Corning, N.Y., has died, along with hometown employer Corning Inc.'s offer to provide $60 million toward an up-to-the-minute replacement building. (“Parting Company in a Company Town,” Sept. 19, 2001.)

The final blow to the proposed school in the 5,600-student Corning-Painted Post School District was dealt early this month with the election of three new members to the school board, giving opponents a 6-3 majority.

Two months earlier, New York state Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills invalidated the funding mechanism that officials had devised for the 2,000-student high school, which was to rise on the outskirts of the city of Corning.

Officials of the ailing high-tech materials company said the gift was off with the collapse of the plan.

Critics have argued that the school would be too big, would contribute to sprawl, and was not justified by likely future enrollments.

—Bess Keller

Former St. Louis Counselor Sentenced for Child Pornography

A former elementary school counselor for the St. Louis public schools has been sentenced to four years and nine months in prison and fined $10,000 after being convicted of a federal felony count for possession of child pornography.

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced James A. Beine, 60, to prison this month after St. Louis police found that he had handed over to an acquaintance a brown envelope containing thousands of images of child pornography, according to a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Raymond W. Gruender.

Mr. Beine resigned from his counseling job at Patrick Henry Elementary School in the 40,000-student district in March of last year. He was arrested a week later on state charges for allegedly exposing himself to two boys in a restroom of the school. He faces trial this week on the charges.

In 1994, district officials removed Mr. Beine from working with children, after they learned of allegations of sexual misconduct against him in his former position as a Roman Catholic priest. (“St. Louis to Probe Ex-Priest’s Career in Schools,” April 17, 2002.)

The following year, however, he was reassigned to an elementary school counseling position.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Accrediting Body to Vote On Penalizing Ga. District

A Georgia district faces probation by its regional accrediting body amid charges that its school board has micromanaged and mismanaged district affairs. The action stems from a recent review of the Clayton County public schools by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In a seven-page letter to district leaders, the accrediting group identified what it said were numerous problems in the way the school board conducts its meetings. The association described “a clear pattern that some members of the board have abandoned their role in policymaking to direct involvement in the administration of the school system.”

The accrediting association launched an inquiry of the 50,000-student district after the board forced out Superintendent Dan Colwell in January. Mr. Colwell initiated a court challenge to the board’s attempt to fire him, but later accepted a buyout.

An official with the association said early last week it was a “foregone conclusion” that the group would put the district on probation at its annual meeting June 13. Once on probation, a district has one year to correct the problems cited or risk losing accreditation, which could affect students’ access to college scholarships.

At a meeting last month, school board President Nedra Ware said: “The intent of the board is to totally comply with the guidelines” of the accrediting body.

—Jeff Archer

Death

Scott W. Wright, a contributing editor of Education Week and a seasoned education journalist, died on June 8 in West Liberty, Iowa. He was 38 and had been in failing health.

Mr. Wright joined Education Week in October 2000 as an assistant managing editor, with responsibility for overseeing coverage of higher education, bilingual and vocational education, private schools, and philan- thropy. He also oversaw the newspaper’s production and graphics.

Mr. Wright had earlier worked as the editor of Community College Week and then as the managing editor for Cox, Matthews & Associates Inc., the Fairfax, Va.-based publisher of both the community college newspaper and the magazine Black Issues in Higher Education. Immediately before joining Education Week, he was assistant managing editor of The CQ Researcher, a publication of Congressional Quarterly Inc.

The Iowa native was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Iowa State University. In 1988, he joined the Dallas Times Herald as a reporter. He went on to positions as a reporter and editor at the Austin American-Statesman, where he won several journalism awards. He will be deeply missed.

—Ann Bradley


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