District News Roundup

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A new survey suggests that most Milwaukee County residents favor electing their school superintendents rather than permitting local school boards to appoint them.

According to the poll by the Milwaukee Journal, 69 percent of 800 Milwaukee-area residents surveyed said they would prefer to vote for the superintendent who oversees their district schools.

A majority of 55 percent said they favored establishing a single school district to serve all of metropolitan Milwaukee, including both the city and the surrounding suburbs. For all other public functions, most respondents said separate city and county governments should be maintained.

When queried on their impressions of the public schools in the area, 74 percent said they thought favorably of suburban Milwaukee schools. Only 41 percent reported having a similar impression of the public schools in the city of Milwaukee.

Three former officials of the largest suburban school district in New Jersey have been charged with bid-rigging, extortion, and other offenses that allegedly cost the district nearly $1 million in excess transportation costs over a 10-year period.

Separate criminal complaints against the former Woodbridge Township school officials and two school-bus contractors were charged March 28 in federal district court by U.S. Attorney Samuel A. Alito Jr. and in state superior court by New Jersey Attorney General Cary Edwards.

The prosecutors allege that federal and state investigations spanning more than two years uncovered evidence that two former members of the township's school board and the board's former transportation coordinator engaged in a "decade of looting'' of the system.

The officials padded bills, rigged bids, falsified vouchers, and stole school-board property in various schemes connected with "accepting or extorting huge bribes'' from bus companies that did business in the district, the prosecutors maintain. Similar corruption is "endemic to a large segment of the school-bus industry in the state,'' and more charges may be filed as a result, according to a statement issued jointly by the prosecutors.

They allege that James W. Dickinson, the board's former student-transportation coordinator, was the central figure in the scheme. Also charged were Patsy Margiotto and Stephen R. Kovacs, both former school-board members.

The bus contractors, who face fraud and tax-evasion charges in the case, are Neil J. O'Shea, former president of the Squire Transportation Company, and George Dapper, president of George Dapper Inc.

Officials of the Englewood, N.J., public schools have agreed to drop a 4th-grade social-studies textbook that parents had criticized for presenting a "Euro-centered'' view of the world.

"The Earth's Regions,'' part of the McGraw-Hill Book Company's "Our Nation, Our World'' basal series, "sends the message that the world is almost totally inhabited by people of European descent,'' said Larry Leverett, the district's superintendent.

Mr. Leverett said that the text's chapters on Africa "were not as well developed as chapters on Europe,'' and that a passage stated that Western Europeans had spread their culture "all over their planet.''

Alma Graham, the book's author, responded in a letter to the district that the reference to "their planet'' was a mistake that had been corrected in subsequent printings. She also noted that the book has been used without criticism in districts in Florida, California, and elsewhere.

The Englewood schools, which are 65 percent black and 19 percent Hispanic, adopted the book in 1983, according to Mr. Leverett. In 1986, Helen Tinsley-Bligen, whose daughter was in the 4th grade at the time, asked administrators to reconsider their decision.

Although the publishing company and school officials held workshops to train teachers in presenting supplemental viewpoints, Ms. Tinsley-Bligen and other parents continued to press their objections. In response, administrators and the school board agreed last month to drop the textbook and to review the entire series.

An Arkansas school district has gone to court to block the state from reducing its and other districts' state aid in order to cover desegregation costs in the Little Rock area.

Edward McKinney, superintendent of the Magnolia School District, said last week that federal court orders requiring the state to help pay for desegregation in Little Rock and Pulaski County have already forced the state to cut aid to his system by about $37,000.

He said district officials fear that new funding requirements imposed by a federal appeals court in February could result in even greater aid reductions.

Mr. McKinney said the suit filed March 29 in Pulaksi County Chancery Court seeks an order protecting all districts from the financial fallout of the Little Rock case.

"A fair and equitable solution'' in that lawsuit, he said, "will not deprive children in the Magnolia School District, or in any other district, of an education of the best quality the state can afford.''

Close to 300 video-cassette recorders and 21 televisions donated to the New York City Board of Education by the General Electric Company were reported stolen last week from a warehouse in Queens.

The equipment, valued at more than $100,000, was taken from a warehouse where it was being held pending delivery to various elementary schools. It was to have been used to help improve students' reading, said Gloria Lesser, the assistant director of the board's news bureau. No forced entry was involved, suggesting "an inside job,'' said Mayor Edward I. Koch.

Students at Norwalk High School in northern Ohio went to school during their spring break last week to make up for six days of classes that had been cancelled because of a series of bomb threats.

Fred Walter, superintendent of Norwalk schools, said seven students have been expelled for the remainder of the school year for their involvement with the rash of threats, which culminated in the explosion of one home-made bomb in a school locker.

Two of the seven, 10th-grade students, have been arrested in connection with the explosion, which did not harm anyone "but could have been very dangerous,'' he said.

Strict security measures have been instituted since the explosion, he added. Lockers have been sealed shut and students are searched as they enter the building. Uniformed police officers patrol the hallways by day and parent volunteers guard the school at night.

Though some measures may be phased out within the next few weeks, school officials plan to hire a permanent security guard.

A mother who claims that her son was paralyzed as the result of an injury sustained during a lunch-hour food fight is suing the New York City school system for $15 million.

Francisco Beltran, 14, was in a coma for three weeks, underwent two brain operations, and has been paralyzed on his left side since he was accidently struck in the head with an apple during an October food fight in Junior High School 143 in the Bronx, said Kevin Concagh, a lawyer for the family.

More than 250 students were left unattended in the cafeteria at the time of the 15-20 minute food fight, the lawyer said.

Vol. 07, Issue 29

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