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The Chicago Public Schools operate a "two-tiered" high-school system that concentrates students with a high probability of dropping out in inner-city schools, according to a recent study.

The report, issued by a coalition of 17 civic organizations called the Chicago Panel on Public School Finances, tracked 100,000 students in the entering classes of 1978, 1979, and 1980. It contends that in the years between 1978 and 1980, the Chicago Public Schools ran "a two-tiered high-school system." It claims that academically adept students were encouraged to enroll in the system's "elite or selective schools," while inner-city youths "were abandoned to, and neglected in, a few schools which received the most poorly prepared students."

The study found that 43 percent of the 29,942 pupils who entered high school in 1978 dropped out, and that 49 percent of the dropouts came from 21 of the district's 63 schools.

In the 21 schools with the highest dropout rates--two vocational schools and 19 general high schools--more students dropped out than graduated, the report found, with a total of 56 percent of the students in those high schools leaving before graduation.

The report found that 70 percent of the students entering the 21 schools with the highest dropout rates had below-normal reading skills or were missing reading scores.

It also found that one-third of the students entering those high schools were over age. Only one of the schools was predominantly white, and 16 of the 21 were 99 percent minority, the report says.

The report follows on the heels of a similar report by the Chicago advocacy group "Designs for Change," which called the city's high drop-out rate a "human tragedy" (see Education Week, March 6, 1985).

A 30-year-old former teacher in Covington, La., has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for striking a 9-year-old handicapped girl.

Edward Lee Spencer Jr. was convicted last month of cruelty to a juvenile in the March 12, 1984, incident. "He had beaten a child with cerebral palsy in the bathroom of a special-education school but did it in the presence of teachers' aides," said Margaret Coon, the prosecuting lawyer.

Mr. Spencer "just lost control" when the girl refused to brush her teeth and "started beating her," Ms. Coon said. The girl's parents noticed red marks on her body and complained to school officials. Following a school-board hearing, Mr. Spencer was suspended last July, she said.

As part of the sentencing, the 22nd Judicial District Court also ordered Mr. Spencer to pay a $500 fine or spend an additional six months in jail. Civil proceedings against him, the Covington Special Education School, and the St. Tammany Parish School Board are still pending, a lawyer for the girl's family said.

A group of more than 550 parents and students, angry over officials' failure to renew a popular high-school English teacher's contract, presented the Iron County (Utah) Board of Education with a list of grievances at a meeting of the board last month.

Kent Hulet, a spokesman for the school district, said a community group known as Citizens for School Improvement asked the board to rehire the English teacher, fire an elementary-school principal and the district superintendent, eliminate a policy it claims stifles free speech, and place more textbooks in the hands of the students. "The board listened to the grievances, commented on each one, but didn't take any action," Mr. Hulet said.

The high-school teacher, Doneva Hunt, was not tenured, the spokesman said, so the board was within its rights to "release her without cause." She was not rehired, he added, because her teaching was considered substandard by the board.

In an attempt to avert a threatened $1.7-million lawsuit, the Wayzata, Minn., school board has agreed to pay the district's superintendent $35,000 plus $1,300 a month for life, settling a dispute stemming from false accusations of financial impropriety against her. The award is subject to a county judge's approval.

Shirli Vioni, who has been Wayzata's superintendent since 1983, threatened to sue the board after several board members claimed she was involved in financial impropri-eties related to her contract and the management of the district, said Douglas Skor, Ms. Vioni's lawyer.

The board asked a state auditor to investigate the allegations, said Roger Adams, executive director of human-resource services for the district, but the auditor found that no punishable action had taken place. In fact, while he concluded that "there were some things that were not done strictly according to procedure," the questionable practices were not by the superintendent, but "more by the former board and the present board," Mr. Adams said.

Despite the auditor's findings, however, board members continued to make public statements questioning Ms. Vioni's job performance, according to her lawyer.

If the board's proposed settlement is approved, Ms. Vioni will receive $35,000 within seven days of the judge's action and an annuity policy providing lifetime monthly payments of $1,300 beginning in May 1986, Mr. Adams said. Such an annuity, he said, will cost the board an estimated $125,000.

The black principal of a nearly all-white high school in Williamson County, Tenn., asked a federal district judge late last month either to order his reassignment to another school or to provide federal marshals to protect him.

The principal, Freeman Cooper, was named principal of Fairview High School, which enrolls only one black student out of a total of 511, last August after winning a race-bias lawsuit against the Williamson County school board. Mr. Cooper, a former elementary-school principal, claimed that he was denied a high-school principalship in 1974 and was later demoted to a physical-education teaching position on the basis of his race.

The Fairview school experienced a series of false fire alarms shortly after U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman ordered Mr. Cooper's promotion. Bomb threats emptied the school six times in April after the county board declined to dismiss Mr. Cooper on charges of incompetence, inefficiency, and conduct unbecoming a member of the teaching profession brought against him last January by the district's superintendent, Kenneth Fleming.

According to press reports, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the bomb threats as well as death threats against Judge Wiseman. In the motion he filed with Judge Wiseman on April 24, Mr. Cooper asked either to be reassigned to one of two other high schools in the school district enrolling a higher percentage of black students or to be provided with federal marshals for protection.

Vol. 04, Issue 33

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