Cities News Roundup
A bill that would give the mayor and city council of Philadelphia control of the city's financially beleaguered school system has won the support of the Pennsylvania State House and has been sent to the Senate.
The bill, which passed in a 169-to-24 vote on March 24, would abolish the city's school board and replace it with a Commission on Public Education whose members would be appointed by the mayor. The commission would be empowered, under the proposal, to select a new school superintendent with the approval of the mayor.
The measure, which would go into effect immediately after enactment, would also permit the city council to revise the school district's budget.
Currently, the city government is required to finance the school system, but is not authorized to alter the school system's budget. The city school board, on the other hand, is required to develop a budget but has no authority to levy taxes to pay for it.
Critics of the school system's current method of finance have charged that it holds no one fiscally accountable. Philadelphia's public schools face a budget deficit in excess of $100 million in the current fiscal year.
Telling the school board that he wanted to go out "at the top of his game," Joseph E. Davis, superintendent of schools in Columbus, Ohio, resigned last week, effective July 31.
"If I was destined to make a contribution to the Columbus Public Schools," Mr. Davis wrote in his letter of resignation to the board, "that contribution surely has been made by now." As he began working on the district's top five priorities outlined recently by the board, he added in the letter, "I have not discovered the same sense of challenge that has motivated and sustained me during the past 28 years."
Mr. Davis's record since he as-sumed the superintendency in August 1977 suggests that he was indeed destined to make a contribution to the city's schools.
In addition to taking the district smoothly through desegregation at a time when protesters in other communities were burning school buses, he also reorganized the secondary schools into middle schools and four-year high schools, according to a spokesman for the district.
The superintendent is credited with persuading voters last fall to approve the system's first tax levy in 13 years. He has also closed 50 schools; introduced mastery learning into the district; expanded special and vocational education by 30 percent; and reorganized the district's administrative structure.
Prior to becoming superintendent, Mr. Davis held a variety of administrative posts in the district. He began his career in education as a teacher in Denver. In 1953, he took his first job in the Columbus system, teaching English at Central High School--one of the schools that the district will close in June.
The school district's spokesman said that Mr. Davis, who is 54 years old, has no firm plans for the future as yet, nor has the board announced its plans for hiring his successor.
Vol. 01, Issue 28