District News Roundup

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Junior High School 123 in New York City's Bronx borough opened on schedule last week, shortly after a state judge overturned an order by Schools Chancellor Nathan Quinones that would have kept the school closed for one year.

School officials reported that the last-minute court order added "confusion and uncertainty" to the first day of classes, because students had been reassigned to other schools.

Mr. Quinones ordered the school closed last month in one of his last major acts before announcing that he would retire at the end of the year. The junior high was one of five schools that he had put "on notice" in 1985, warning that they would be shut unless they improved significantly.

Although some high schools have been closed and successfully redesigned under Mr. Quinones' orders, the junior high schools are controlled by locally elected community boards, which have fought excessive intervention by the central administration.

State Supreme Court Judge Bertram Katz issued the order reopening the school because it had been closed "without rational basis." His ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Bronx borough president, Fernando Ferrer, and parents. District officials say they will appeal the decision.

With the aid of an unknown benefactor, a 17-year-old exchange student from Spain who was denied admission to Upper Darby (Pa.) High School will still be able to spend a year living and studying in that community.

Sancho Davila--who was not admitted to the public school because the principal felt his academic record was below standard--was able to enroll at Monsignor Bonner High School, a local Roman Catholic school, after he received a check for tuition from an anonymous donor, an Upper Darby school official said last week.

Of the six foreign students who applied to the district's high school through Academic Year U.S.A., a nonprofit foreign-exchange agency, only three were accepted.

Sancho's rejection attracted local media attention, the school official said, because "he was already en route to the United States when the board took its vote."

In a preliminary vote, the District of Columbia's board of education last week rejected a recommendation by a coalition of prominent citizens that the city abolish its law requiring teachers to live in the District.

In a report endorsed by a number of educators and business leaders, the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law had urged the city to drop the residency rule because of the "serious negative impact it has on the District's ability to recruit and retain teachers," said Roderic Boggs, the group's executive director.

The report also urged that officials raise teachers' salaries to a level competitive with surrounding suburban school districts, improve teachers' working conditions, and require that teacher applicants pass a test covering subject matter and basic skills.

The superintendent of schools in Mitchell County, Ga., should resign "without de6lay," and five of seven school-board members should also consider stepping down, says a report by Georgia's Professional Practices Commission.

Both the superintendent and the board members have shown a "deplorable lack of leadership" and have used their offices to pursue personal, highly political agendas, according to Hans Schacht, executive director of the commission.

The commission's 163-page report, presented to the local school board Sept. 8, summarized an investigation of the school system requested by a local grand jury.

The report cites a number of incidents of unprofessional conduct involving the board and the superintendent, Rudy Rigsby. It alleges, for instance, that Mr. Rigsby tried to use his political clout to get his brother a school supervisor's job.

Mr. Schacht said that although the three-school system has a $10.5-million budget, "we just didn't find any satisfactory relationship between the substantial financial backing and the output."

A Roman Catholic high school closed by the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis has found new life through the efforts of parents and teachers, opening for classes this month in a new home--a Lutheran church.

After a last-minute agreement with the Protestant church, the 40 students and six teachers of the Regina High School for girls began classes in the Salem English Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis.

Parents and teachers had begun efforts to reorganize the school after the archdiocese announced in April that it was closing the 289-student facility because of rising debts and falling enrollment.

The new Catholic school will be independent of the archdiocese.

Hundreds of Coffeeville, Miss., children are back in school after a three-week boycott of classes by black residents protesting what they see as discriminatory school policies.

But the protesters are continuing a boycott of white-owned businesses designed to pressure the school board to address their concerns.

The Rev. Arthur Earl launched the protest last month, when a black teacher was reassigned because of a district policy barring teachers from teaching their own children. A white teacher with a child in private school was assigned to teach the class.

Mr. Earl said the protesters were displeased with the district's current superintendent, Trois Hill, and with the quality of services in the district. The black teacher's transfer was "the straw that broke the camel's back," he said.

Although the school boycott ended Sept. 8, the business boycott will go on until the white teacher and Mr. Hill, who is also white, are ousted, said the minister.

Mr. Hill said the board had met with the protesters but has no plans to scrap the transfer policy or fire the white teacher, who was hired in 1972. He also noted that the board had been cleared of discrimination charges raised earlier when the board hired him over a black candidate.

Black elementary-school students in Carbondale, Ill., returned to school last week after a four-day boycott called to protest the district's lack of minority teachers and administrators.

Leaders of the boycott noted that although 45 percent of the district's students are minorities, only 11 percent of the teachers and none of the administrators are black.

While the board has not yet committed itself to meeting the boycott leaders' hiring demands, district officials have agreed to meet with the protesters. "We want to address their concerns," said Larry Jacober, the superintendent. "There is an interest on the part of the board of education to establish communication lines."

School officials in Portland, Me., responding to objections from a local civil-lib-erties lawyer, have agreed to remove a biblical inscription from the auditorium of a local high school.

The 40-foot inscription, which has been on the wall above the stage in Portland High School for more than 40 years, will beremoved as part of a $20-million renovation of the school. But Seth Berner, the lawyer who first noticed it during a New Year's Eve celebration at the school, has written officials asking that it be removed immediately, to teach students about the separation of church and state.

"The principle is important to the freedoms we enjoy as citizens," he said. "It should be taught, particularly in the public schools."

The Billings, Mont., police department is trying to track down a sniper who fired at least 18 rifle shots into the district's new Skyview High School during a school dance held to celebrate the first week of classes. No one was injured in the Sept. 4 incident, but police estimate that the shots caused $5,000 in damage to the building. The department is offering a $1,000 reward for information aiding in the sniper's arrest and conviction.

The Tennessee state comptroller's office will begin an investigation this week of alleged corruption in the Chattanooga school district's maintenance department.

According to District Attorney General Gary Berbitz, state investigators will look into charges that the district's maintenance director, Alvin Brown, has used school employees, equipment, and supplies for personal projects for a number of years.

The state investigation stems from an earlier probe by a private detective hired by city officials. Mr. Brown, who retired earlier this month, was unavailable for comment.

Vol. 07, Issue 03

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