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State Superintendent of Schools Verne A. Duncan of Oregon has for the second time withheld state aid from the Rajneeshpuram School District, the controversial entity run by the followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. (See Education Week, March 27, 1985.)

The state chief's announcement came late last month as the community of several thousand Rajneeshees living on a ranch owned by the Indian guru began to disband, following news that both the Bhagwan and his personal assistant had left the country.

Since 1982, when the sect gained control of the Oregon town called Antelope, renamed it Rajneesh, and subsequently incorporated a second community, Rajneeshpuram, the group has been a thorn in the side of other local residents and state officials. They had filed several suits charging that the new Rajneesh community, including a school "annex," was illegally established.

Mr. Duncan said that since the Rajneesh school programs were closing down, and two of five local school-board members had left, he would continue to withhold state aid until "the district's affairs are in order." He urged that Fred Krauss, superintendent of the nearby Wasco County district, be named superintendent and that a new board be appointed.

A state study has concluded that Indiana's Project PrimeTime, a key component in Gov. Robert D. Orr's school-reform program, has succeeded in lowering pupil-teacher ratios in 1st and 2nd grade classrooms. (See Education Week, Oct. 31, 1984.)

The program, which received a $39.7-million appropriation from the legislature for the current school year, provides special funds to districts to help them achieve a maximum 21-to-1 pupil-teacher ratio in the two grades.

The report by the state education department said the statewide average pupil-teacher ratio in 1st grade dropped from about 24 to 1 in the 1983-84 school year to 18 to 1 in the past two years. The average ratio in 2nd grade has fallen from about 23 to 1 last year to about 19 to 1 this year.

Twenty-six Baltimore public-school teachers hired this year despite their failure to pass a writing test are attending special classes two nights a week to improve their writing skills, according to a district spokesman. (See Education Week, Oct. 2, 1985.)

The teachers, who had made grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors in writing a hypothetical note to a parent, were asked by the district to enroll in a free three-month writing course at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland and to take another test, said Ellen Oberfelder, the district spokesman. The teachers risked losing their jobs if they failed to do so, she said.

District officials, who are coping with a teacher shortage, felt that hiring certified teachers with writing problems was preferable to hiring individuals with no teacher training, Ms. Oberfelder said.

The chief administrator of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Region C has been charged with failing to inform law-enforcement authorities last year of allegations that a 3rd-grade teacher was sexually abusing students.

Stuart Bernstein reportedly received several complaints--from both school personnel and parents--that Terry E. Bartholome, a former teacher at the 68th Street School, was molesting female pupils, according to Mary E. House, the deputy city attorney handling the case. But Mr. Bernstein allegedly failed to notify police promptly, as required by a 1981 state law. (See Education Week, Aug. 21, 1985.)

Mr. Bernstein, who has been reassigned to the district's central office, could face up to two years in jail and fines of up to $4,000 if he is convicted. He is scheduled to be arraigned in municipal court on Dec. 18.

Mr. Bartholome, who was fired from his teaching job earlier this year, is awaiting trial in Los Angeles superior court on 45 counts of molestation.

Vol. 05, Issue 15

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