Districts News Briefs

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An independent panel is expected this month to recommend a sweeping overhaul of the District of Columbia school system.

In a study to be presented to Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins, the 60-member D.C. Public Education Committee, composed of business and community leaders, calls for closing schools and drastically cutting the number of administrative personnel to reduce expenses, according to reports.

The panel is also expected to propose establishing a "merit school" system, giving the school board the power to levy taxes, expanding the district's early-childhood education program to include 3-year-olds, extending the school year, and revising the curriculum while toughening graduation requirements.

Although the report has not yet been made public, The Washington Post published excerpts late last month from what it termed a "final draft" of the document. A source who has seen the report confirmed the newspaper's account.

Charles Seigel, a spokesman for the school board, declined to comment on the report until it is officially released.

Voters in Jackson, Tenn., whose school system is predominantly black, and surrounding Madison County, where most students are white, have voted to consolidate the two systems in an effort to end 26 years of desegregation litigation.

The plan, which was devised by a citizens' commission appointed by the city and county governments, must also win approval from a federal judge before it is put into effect.

Some black leaders in Jackson oppose the3plan because it calls for neighborhood elementary schools. They say they would prefer a solution devised by the courts.

The plan, which is scheduled to be implemented by the 1990-91 school year, calls for racial mixing in middle and high schools through redrawn attendance boundaries, school officials said.

Voters last month also approved a 1.25-cent sales tax to fund the merger of the 6,200-student city system with the 8,000-student county system.

Parents will be barred from hiring employees to teach educational programs during school hours, under a new fundraising policy adopted by the Montgomery County, Md., school board.

But the new policy will allow parents to continue paying the salaries of some employees for foreign-language courses and other after-hours programs now taught at some schools, said Robert Grossman, a spokesman for the district.

For safety reasons, the policy also prohibits students from conducting door-to-door sales campaigns, Mr. Grossman said.

The fundraising issue was triggered earlier this year when a parent-teacher group at one school tried to hire an extra mathematics teacher. Superintendent Harry Pitt blocked the effort, arguing that the ability of parents in affluent areas to raise more money would foster inequities among schools within the district.

Officials of Glen Ridge (N.J.) High School continued last week to respond to the upheaval caused by the arrest of five students on charges of sexually assaulting a mentally handicapped 17-year-old girl.

Principal Michael Buonomo said that school officials had met with each class at the 350-student school immediately after the arrests last month. Additional counseling also has been made available to students individually, he said.

The five youths allegedly attacked the girl while several other boys watched, according to a spokesman for the Essex County prosecutor's office.

Police learned of the incident through the school, according to the spokesman. The victim told a teacher about the attack on March 4, but school officials did not report it to police until March 22. The spokesman said investigators are looking into the cause for the delay in notification.

A high school in St. Landry Parish, La., carried the names of 45 "ghost" students on its rolls to obtain extra state aid, the state's inspector general has determined.

Teachers at Washington High School also counted students who no longer attended the school as present, and gave them minimum passing grades on report cards and statewide tests, the two-year investigation concluded.

The audit, released last month, recommended that the school establish a better system of controlling attendance records. It also called on the parish school board to forward information to the district attorney for possible criminal prosecution.

Employees of the Smith County, Tenn., school district taped the mouth of a 9-year-old autistic student shut to prevent her from making noise in class, the girl's mother has charged in a lawsuit against the school board.

The lawsuit, filed last month, alleges that a teacher and two teacher aides at Carthage Elementary School put tape over Katrina Dedman's mouth to stop her from making a buzzing noise. The tape often covered her nose as well, making it difficult for her to breathe, according to Richard J. Brodhead, the mother's attorney.

Katrina is autistic, retarded, and has a seizure disorder, Mr. Brodhead said.

Superintendent Wayne Langford confirmed that the lawsuit had been filed, but would not comment on the allegations.

School officials in Charleston, W. Va., have closed a junior high school that was found to contain high levels of a toxic insecticide.

Kanawha County officials have estimated it will cost $750,000 to repair the ventilation system at Andrew Jackson Junior High School, which was sprayed with chlordane in 1985 and 1987. The use of chlordane in schools was banned more than two years ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Federal investigators were asked to study the school after students and staff members complained about headaches and respiratory- and nervous-system problems.

State officials also said that they were investigating whether the pesticides were improperly applied.

A former asbestos manufacturer must pay $554,000 in damages to the Aurora, Colo., school district, a federal jury has decided.

The verdict against U.S. Gypsum Co. last month was part of a $40-million lawsuit filed by the district against that firm and nine other former manufacturers of asbestos-containing building products.

The jury found U.S. Gypsum guilty of negligence for using asbestos-containing material in the ceilings of two elementary schools.

Last year, another former supplier of the cancer-causing substance was ordered by a federal judge to pay $134,000 for the removal of pipe and boiler-room insulation.

The Minneapolis school district must pay a Filipino-American teacher $436,000 in back wages and $69.15 a day until it finds her a full-time job within the system, a Minnesota judge has ruled.

District Judge Charles Porter last month upheld a previous finding that the district discriminated against Lourdes Ciesielczyk on the basis her nationality.

School administrators contended the substitute teacher could not maintain classroom discipline and had difficulty with English.

Access for the physically disabled to school buildings and facilities in Fairfax County, Va., is "severely lacking," according to a report by the district's student advisory council.

The report, which found that current efforts to eliminate barriers to access are inadequate, proposed a plan to improve all facilities by the late 1990's.

But Alton C. Hlavin, the assistant superintendent for facilities, said last week that the report's "conclusions and broad condemnations do not necessarily ring true to the system."

Vol. 08, Issue 37

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