Districts News Roundup

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A law firm representing the District of Columbia's public schools in lawsuits against former asbestos manufacturers has withdrawn from a multi-million-dollar contract with the school system in the wake of charges that the contract was too costly and possibly improperly awarded.

At a meeting last week, the D.C. board of education voted to request an independent audit of its no-bid contract with the firm Leftwich, Moore and Davis, which was harshly criticized by the city's auditor for having charged the district $4.5 million for legal services since December 1984. Board members had previously estimated that the contract would cost between $20,000 and $65,000 per year.

The audit also found that the contract was awarded without competition and without the full board's approval.

Detroit's superintendent of schools has taken the first step toward implementing a reorganization plan that could make deep cuts in the system's bureaucracy.

The plan, proposed by Superintendent Arthur Jefferson and approved last month by the board of education, reduces the num6ber of administrative units in the district from 16 to 9. It also envisions cuts of up to 25 percent in the number of administrative and support personnel.

Mr. Jefferson this month named the nine unit administrators who will work out the plan's final details.

District officials said last week that the reorganization was aimed at streamlining the administrative structure and making its focus the provision of direct support to schools and students. They also said the plan would save the district an estimated $11 million annually.

It calls for greater authority, responsibility, and accountability for school principals, and states that the primary responsibility of area superintendents must be to improve the performance of principals.

New York City and its public-school administrators have forged a new contract that will increase salaries by roughly $10,000 over the next three years but extend from three to five years the required probationary period prior to the awarding of tenure.

The agreement came in the wake of calls for the abolition of tenure by numerous political officials, including Mayor Edward I. Koch and Robert Wagner, the city's school-board president.

Ted Elsberg, president of the 4,300-member Council of Supervisors and Administrators of the City of New York, an affiliate of the afl-cio, confirmed last week that he had agreed to the extended probationary period because "it would quiet some of those calling for the elimination of tenure for administrators."

The salary increases negotiated in the contract, which replaces an agreement that expired last September, will be retroactive to Oct. 1. Under the settlement, the average salary for assistant principals and elementary-school principals will jump roughly 20 percent over the next three years, according to Mr. Elsberg.

The average salary of high-school and middle-school principals will climb approximately 15 percent over the same period; the new contract will raise the top salary level for high-school principals from $64,000 to $74,000.

A leader of Arizona's Navajo tribe has filed suit against his local school district, charging that the system used to elect board members violates the civil rights of Native Americans.

The suit, filed late last month in the federal court in Phoenix, seeks to overturn the Holbrook School District's at-large election system, which requires each board member to seek votes from all of the district's residents.

George Clark, a member of the Navajo Tribal Council, contends that the system prevents Navajos from electing tribal members to the board, in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. About 40 percent of the Holbrook district's students are Navajos.

Vol. 07, Issue 20

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