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Three days after publicly declaring his position on a number of desegregation issues, Boston's school superintendent, Robert R. Spillane, was reappointed to the position he has held for the past seven months by a 4-1 vote of the Boston School Committee.

And in a second vote taken by the committee on March 5, Mr. Spillane was unanimously awarded a four-year contract beginning July 1.

A vote scheduled for last month on Mr. Spillane's contract was postponed after the two black members of the school committee questioned Mr. Spillane's racial "sensitivity."

In fulfillment of an agreement negotiated between Mr. Spillane and the two black school-committee members, the superintendent delivered a speech on March 2 in which he reaffirmed his commitment to "eliminating racial inequality and improving quality" in the city's public schools.

The speech, however, failed to convince Jean McGuire, one of the two black school-committee members. Ms. McGuire cast the lone vote against Mr. Spillane's reappointment, but joined other committee members in unanimously approving the superintendent's new contract.

Alarmed by the poor performance of Hispanic children at one Bridge-port, Conn., school, the Puerto Rican Coalition of Connecticut has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking that school officials develop a plan to ensure that students complete eighth grade with proficiency in the basic skills.

Rosa R. Esperon, a lawyer with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is representing the coalition, said the suit may be the first assertion of a legal right to literacy. The complaint was filed last month after a year of discussions with the school board and superintendent on a literacy plan, she said.

Ms. Esperon said that the coalition is continuing its discussions with school officials, but that it has asked the Justice Department to join in the lawsuit.

The coalition, according to Ms. Esperon, was concerned that Hispanic students at Howe Elementary School were completing the eighth grade without having mastered basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. A review of achievement-test scores of fifth graders at the school showed that the students were two to three years below their grade level, while students at another school in the district were two to three years above their grade level, she added.

"The coalition couldn't develop a plan on its own, but it wanted to join with the school in developing one," Ms. Esperon said. However, she said the board and superintendent "didn't move fast enough."

Ms. Esperon said the disparity in test scores "may have to do with the amount of resources and teacher expectations" in the schools.

The Minneapolis school board has voted unanimously to close 18 schools--one-quarter of the city's total--at the end of the current school year in order to alleviate an anticipated $97-million deficit over the next five years.

The closings were also a belated attempt by the board to bring five years of stability to the system, which has experienced a steady decline in enrollment over the past decade.

The drastic move, which followed seven weeks of bitter controversy, entails redrawing attendance boundaries for most of the city's schools. That means that more than half of the system's 37,500 pupils will attend different schools next fall, and more children will ride buses to school.

In a related step, the school board approved a new method of reducing racial isolation at two high schools, one of which has the city's highest percentage of blacks, the other the largest concentration of whites. The plan calls for minority students at North High School to attend Edison High School for a full school day during one trimester during their freshman, sophomore, and junior years. White pupils from Edison will make a similar shift to North. All will remain at their home schools for their senior year.

At the request of Indian parents, boundaries were also altered to keep Indian pupils in the inner-city schools they now attend.

Groups opposing the closings have threatened to bring lawsuits, on the grounds that the plan discriminates against minority children by forcing them to be bused more often than whites.

Vol. 01, Issue 25

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