District News Roundup
Ten Texas Students Bitten by Spiders At Middle School
Ten students at Danbury Middle School in Danbury, Tex., were bitten last week by newly hatched black widow spiders that had escaped from a jar in a science classroom.
Nine of the students complained of red marks on their arms and were treated at a nearby hospital and released; one youth who complained of nausea and aching was kept overnight at the hospital, according to James Kemp, assistant superintendent.
Hundreds of the baby spiders were hatched last week after a student brought one spider to his science class. The teacher placed the black-bodied, red-bellied arachnid in a jar. When the spider's eggs hatched over the weekend, the babies escaped through the air holes punched in the lid.
Following the incident, the science classroom and several adjoining rooms were fumigated, according to Mr. Kemp, "to make sure that any of the young spiderlings which might have wandered out of the jar ... would not live to reproduce elsewhere."
Superintendent Keith Swim said that in the future live spiders will not be allowed in the district's classrooms.
Milwaukee Students Refuse To Boycott Public Schools
Students in Milwaukee failed to take part this month in a one-day boycott of public schools that had been urged by black Wisconsin clergymen; according to school officials, attendance was normal on the day of the boycott.
The Wisconsin Ministers Fellowship Conference, which represents about 60 predominantly black Milwaukee churches, suggested the boycott as a means of drawing attention to the lack of black administrators in the Milwaukee school system. Although almost 50 percent of the students in the school system are black, only about 20 percent of school employees are black.
"We're talking equity here, " said James Lathan, pastor of New Grace Baptist Church, which is a member of the conference. Participants are also upset about a recent decision by the school board to hire a white woman for an executive position rather than a black candidate.
Although students did not boycott the schools, Mr. Lathan said he considers the boycott successful. "We sent a strong message to school officials that the black community has found serious problems with the system," he said.
Mr. Lathan also criticized those school programs that he said steer black students into child-care and food-service occupations. "These programs are teaching nothing more than how to baby-sit or work in fast-food restaurants," the pastor said.
"If those programs are ineffective for black students, they're ineffective for white students," countered David Bennett, deputy school superintendent. School officials were disturbed by the call to boycott, since it encouraged truancy. "It's just irresponsible," Mr. Bennett said.
Dade Cty. Approves Hike in School Tax
The Dade County, Fla., school board has approved a 1983-84 operating budget that will increase the schools' share of the property-tax rate by about 10 percent.
The $944.8-million budget represents an increase of $57 million over the previous year's funding, according to the district. For property owners, the budget will increase taxes from $6.50 per $1,000 of assessed value to $7.20.
Despite the overall increase in funding, budgets for some programs have been cut, including those of the central office and area offices, which were cut 6.8 percent. But funds for most classroom programs and services were reduced slightly or not at all; some were increased slightly.
Illinois District Links Salary Hikes To Student Scores
A small Illinois school district with a history of low student-achievement levels has voted to cut its chief administrators' salary increases if pupils' test scores do not increase each year for the next five years.
"We cannot continue to receive raises while we preside over an academic graveyard," said G. Edward Smith, the district's superintendent, who initiated the plan. "That's illogical." Achievement scores of some of the 2,500 students in the K-8 district lagged more than two years behind the national average, he said.
The five-year plan was passed unanimously this month by the school board and went into effect immediately. During the first year, it calls for some increases in average scores at all grade levels; if that goal is not met, administrators will take a 20-percent cut in their annual salary increases, Mr. Smith said.
The second-year goal is to raise the scores of kindergarten through 4th-grade pupils to the national average and to achieve at least some improvement in the average scores of the upper grades. If that fails, administrators will take a 30-percent cut in salary increases, Mr. Smith said.
By the fifth year, average scores in all grades must exceed the national norms in academic subjects, he added.
Mr. Smith conceded there was "some anxiety" among administrators about the plan but that the majority had supported it. Those affected would be the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, the five principals, the special-education director, the curriculum supervisor, the research specialist, and the busi-ness manager.
Mr. Smith said a similar plan was implemented for one year in a Kalamazoo, Mich., district, while he served as a principal there.
Worcester, Mass., Student Killed in School-Bus Accident
A 13-year-old Worcester, Mass., youth was hit by a school bus last week while he was waiting for transportation to North High School. William W. Walley was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Vincent Hospital after sustaining severe head injuries, hospital spokesmen said.
The 9th-grade student was standing with about 50 classmates waiting to board one of two buses sent to pick them up. Amid the pushing and shoving, about six students, including William, fell, according to Bruce E. Wells, the school's principal.
The boy rolled under the back wheel of the bus, which was still moving, Mr. Wells said.
The remaining students were transferred to another bus and taken to school.
No charges have been brought against the bus company, United Truck and Bus Service Company, or the bus driver, Robert E. Murphy, according to Mr. Wells.
Minn. District Limits Access to Schools By Religious Groups
The Anoka, Minn., school board has approved a policy banning certain religious groups and activities from school grounds during school hours, despite a campaign mounted against the plan by a statewide Christian group.
The policy prohibits "nonacademic groups whose prime interest is religious worship, not the study of religion," from using the schools, said Lewis Finch, superintendent of the suburban Minneapolis district. Under the rule, activities in the schools must be primarily secular in their purpose and must not either strongly promote or inhibit religion, he said.
Members of the Christian Educators and Parents Association of Minnesota argued against the plan, which was supported by the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. The board passed the policy in a 5-to-1 vote, Mr. Finch said.
In the Anoka schools, the main issue was whether to give ministers, youth groups, and other religious organizations access to students during the school day, Mr. Finch said. The new policy is based on criteria established in several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, he added.
Divorced Parent Sues Texas District
The divorced father of a student in the San Antonio Independent School District has filed suit in state court against the district, charging that it violated federal and state law by allegedly denying him access to his son's educational records.
The suit asks $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages, according to Frank Clark, the district's associate superintendent.
Mr. Clark said the suit contends that the district violated the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act and the Texas Family Code when it denied Richard D. Weaver "knowledge about his son's educational process," and access to his test results. It also claims the district did not allow Mr. Weaver to visit his son's classroom during the last school year.
Mr. Weaver's son, an elementary-school student in the district, is in his mother's custody, according to Mr. Clark. He said the district has special rules and regulations allowing parents to review their children's school records and visit the schools.
Houston Schools Launch TV Series For Area Parents
On Oct. 4, the Houston Independent School District will air the first of a nine-part television series designed to involve parents more in the public schools.
Parents who watch all of the programs and answer questions satisfactorily on a response sheet will be given a "Parent Proficiency Certificate" by the district, which is paying $84,500 for the project.
The first program, to be shown on Channel 8, a public-television station, from 7 P.M. to 8 P.M., will focus on the issue of student conduct in the schools, said Patricia Shell, the district's superintendent for instruction. The second will air on Oct. 19; the others are not yet scheduled, she said.
Ms. Shell said parental involvement in the schools is the final link needed to complete Houston's plan for educational excellence, launched by Superintendent Billy Reagan.
The television programs are intended to inform parents in more detail about skills their children will need in the job market; to encourage them to help their children choose courses and set homework schedules; to urge them to work with their children on learning skills at home; and to involve them in the issue of student conduct.
Utah Residents Favor 'Head Tax,' New Survey Shows
A majority of Utah residents would support a policy of taxing families according to the number of children they have in school, a survey conducted last month by Dan Jones and Associates, a Salt Lake City research firm, reveals.
The survey was based on a scientifically selected sample of 801 residents. It was conducted for the Gov-ernor's Steering Committee on Education.
Utah has the highest rate of births per family in the U.S. The state also has the fastest-growing school-age population, according to Mr. Jones.
Some 57 percent of those surveyed said they would favor taxing families according to the number of children in school, while 39 percent were opposed.
When asked what type of taxation would be acceptable if taxes had to be raised to support schools, 56 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer raising the sales tax, 17 percent favored raising the property tax, and 19 percent favored increasing the income tax.
Queried on possible alternative taxes, 65 percent of respondents favored increasing the corporate income tax; 77 percent favored a severance tax on minerals; and 62 percent favored charging student fees for nonrequired courses.
Education is the state's "number-one" issue, followed by unemployment and the economy and flooding, according to the survey. Some 89 percent of those polled favored mandatory performance evaluations of teachers and 75 percent favored a merit-pay system. But respondents were opposed to lengthening the school year and using seniority to determine teacher pay.