District News Roundup

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Some school districts in the Washington area misuse pesticides, according to a study by a national consumer and environmental group.

The study, conducted by the organization Public Citizen, was undertaken in response to growing concern about the effects on students of the pesticides used by many schools. Some health experts believe that children may be more susceptible to the possible ill effects of pesticides, many of which have not been fully tested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (See Education Week, April 20, 1988.)

Public Citizen gave poor ratings to two of the three districts it surveyed. The Arlington, Va., district, it found, regularly applies pesticides, fails to train properly those who apply the substances, and does not notify students or teachers when the work is being done.

The report also criticized the District of Columbia school system, finding that it continues to use several potentially harmful pesticides and provides inadequate notification of their use.

On the other hand, the group gave themery County, Md., district a high rating. The report praised the district for stressing pest prevention through sanitation, instead of pesticides, and for using nontoxic or less-toxic chemical substances.

The Catholic archdiocese of Milwaukee should stop insulting the public schools on television, Superintendent of Schools Robert Peterkin has demanded.

In a letter to Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, Mr. Peterkin charged that a series of advertisements promoting Catholic schools "attack the public schools and their mission to educate all children."

Mr. Peterkin criticized an advertisement that depicts a father waiting for a late-arriving daughter, while it touts the benefits of schools that promote Christian values and that offer children "a bunch of pretty decent kids" as classmates.

"Does this statement intend to insinuate that the children attending public schools are unworthy companions?" Mr. Peterkin asked.

Joseph J. Behr, director of secondary schools for the archdiocese, said the Archbishop will not halt the advertisements.

"There was no intent in the advertising whatsoever to be derogatory of the Milwaukee public-school system," he added.

The former president of the Detroit school board resigned this month amid mounting charges that the board has been misusing public funds.

George Bell, who had served on the board for 12 years and as its president between 1980 and 1985, resigned Sept. 13, giving no explanation for his decision, according to a district spokesman.

But another board member, Alfonzo W. Bates, reportedly claimed that Mr. Bell felt the board had been attacked "unjustifiably," and that Mr. Bell "felt bad about it."

The board has come under attack this year for a district policy that allowed board members to use chauffeured limousines and to take out-of-town trips at district expense.

Calling the policy "abuse of public funds," the state legislature passed a bill in June that forbids the use of chauffeurs by school-board members.

Mr. Bell was the board's most well-traveled member in the 1986-87 school year, the spokesman said, spending more than $17,000 on 12 trips.

Earlier this year, a citizens' group unsuccessfully attempted to gather enough signatures on a petition to recall Mr. Bell, the spokesman said.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke of Baltimore has fired Meldon S. Hollis, president of the city's school board, because Mr. Hollis stated publicly that he had lied to colleagues in order to track down the source of leaks to the press.

According to newspaper reports, Mr. Hollis told a local political club that "I feed them the lies, then they run out and lie to the press."

Mr. Hollis claimed that media leaks by board members had complicated the search earlier this year for a new superintendent of schools.

Mr. Hollis's admission had undermined his leadership and credibility with the board, Mayor Schmoke said. However, he allowed Mr. Hollis to remain as member of the board.

Mayor Schmoke named Joseph Lee Smith to replace Mr. Hollis.

The Clarksville-Montgomery County (Tenn.) school system has discriminated against blacks in its personnel, textbook-selection, and disciplinary policies, charges a suit filed in federal court by a Memphis civil-rights group.

The Commission on Religion and Racism contends that black teachers and students have suffered "de facto segregation and discrimination."

The group wants schools to teach more about black culture, according to Isaac Richmond, its president. "We want the all-white learning environment in the schools altered to reflect black culture," he said.

About 20 percent of the system's 15,600 students are black.

Ten members of the group have been arrested at sit-ins at the district's headquarters.

Johnny Miller, the district superintendent, denied the charges in the suit.

Starkville, Miss., schools can continue grouping students in English and math classes according to achievement even if the resulting classes are racially unbalanced, a federal appeals panel has ruled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a lower-court ruling that the policy is educationally sound and does not discriminate against minorities. The decision hinged on the testimony of Thomas Saterfiel, the state's deputy superintendent of education, who defended the district's practices.

A North Chicago high school has finally paid the federal government the half-million dollars in taxes it had withheld from employee paychecks since 1985.

William Thompson, interim superintendent of the North Chicago High School District 123, said that "poor management" by a previous superintendent had led to the nonpayment of taxes. The official was forced to resign for other reasons this summer.

District officials are still uncertain whether they will be held responsible for interest penalties on the funds.

A Maryland high school has been promised a cornucopia of corporate gifts by its "partner," the W.R. Grace & Co.

The research arm of the specialty-chemical firm has pledged to contribute scholarships, equipment, and services valued at $500,000 to Atholton High School in Columbia, Md.

The company plans to provide annual summer internships to two faculty members and scholarships to graduates who intend to study mathematics and science.

The donation also includes computers, video recorders, laser-disk players, and a satellite television dish.

Vol. 09, Issue 04

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