Districts News Roundup

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The Chicago Public Schools, which this month drew criticism from U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett as the "worst system in the nation," came under fire again last week after a local group released a study revealing that nearly two-thirds of the district's 1985 graduates were unemployed or working in "dead end" jobs.

The Hiring Policy Goals Committee, one of two community-alliance groups formed by Mayor Harold Washington to address the city's educational problems, used statistics from the Mayor's Office of Employment and Training to show that 32 percent, or 5,100, of the 1985 graduates were unemployed. Another 31 percent were employed in what the committee called "dead end" jobs.

Gene Cartwright, manager of community affairs at the Chicago-based Amoco Corporation and the committee's chairman, said that as area businesses increase their efforts to provide job opportunities, the school system has an equal obligation to "make those youngsters better qualified."

Business representatives and school and city officials have been trying to put together a "learn-earn" compact, in which businesses would make a commitment to offer 5,000 jobs to the city's public-school graduates by 1992.

A grand jury in Baltimore has recommended that a number of public schools install metal detectors at their entrances to curb the use of guns among the city's young people.

The panel also suggested that Maryland lawmakers approve legislation requiring stiffer penalties for those convicted of crimes involving handguns and that educational materials on handgun control be prepared and distributed in local public schools.

Under orders from Judge Ellen M. Heller "to investigate the problem of the use and possession of firearms by juveniles" in Baltimore, the panel conducted an informal survey of 390 public-school students. It found that almost half of the male students responding had carried a handgun, and that 64 percent of all respondents knew a friend or classmate who had carried a handgun within the past six months.

"We recognize that we have a problem," said Jacquelyn H. Hardy, a spokesman for the city schools. But she said school officials think the panel may have exaggerated it.

And although officials agree with most of the report's recommendations, she said, they do not think installing metal detectors is feasible. "It's just not a practical solution because of the way the schools are built and the number of personnel that it would take to handle it.''

Louisiana's largest school district has obtained approval from the federal government to adopt a new system for electing members to its school board.

The plan approved by the U.S. Justice Department, as required under the federal Voting Rights Act, calls for the New Orleans district to elect five board members through a ward system and two members at large, according to Henry Joubert, a district spokesman. Currently, the district has a five-member board selected on an at-large basis.

Mr. Joubert said the school board adopted the new system following repeated requests from community leaders, who argued that the change would improve representation and permit candidates to campaign door to door.

All seats on the expanded board will be up for election next fall, Mr. Joubert said.

Nearly half of New York City's 6,000 homeless school-age children living temporarily in hotels do not attend school regularly, new figures released by the district indicate.

No attendance records were available from schools for 2,000 of the children, even though they registered for classes this fall, according to Jody Spiro, an executive assistant to Schools Chancellor Nathan Quinones.

The children are suspected of having "severe" attendance problems, she said.

An additional 700 children apparently failed to register and have "fallen through the cracks," she said.

The poor attendance is largely the result of uncertainty on the part of the city's board of education about how best to register and place such children, Ms. Spiro maintained.

She faulted the board's abandonment in September of a plan to match school records with hotel-registration records.

Vol. 07, Issue 12

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