District News Roundup

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Teachers in St. Paul have voted to authorize a strike against the city's public school district beginning Dec. 5.

Almost 90 percent of the 2,600 members of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers approved the strike, which would be the city's first since 1946.

Negotiations were expected to continue during a 10-day cooling-off period that began Nov. 20.

The teachers' union is demanding an 18.4 percent salary increase over two years, including benefits; the school board has offered a 14.5 percent increase.

In particular, the union is seeking raises for teachers with between 4 and 10 years' experience with the district, because their pay lags behind the salaries of teachers in other districts.

Baltimore school officials are failing to provide timely services for thousands of handicapped children, a motion filed in federal district court charges.

The motion, filed last month by the Maryland Disabilities Law Center Inc., alleges that the school system is in "massive noncompliance" with a 1988 federal court order calling for prompt evaluation and placement of disabled schoolchildren.

The order, which came in a 1984 case involving five handicapped schoolchildren, required the city school system to speed up its timetables for serving disabled children by setting up a tracking and reporting system for handicapped students, employing private special-education services when public-school staff are unable to do the job promptly, and notifying parents of the legal timelines for providing services to handicapped children.

Few such actions have been taken so far, according to the motion.

Baltimore school officials are expected to file a response to the charges
later this month.

Philadelphia school officials have recommended that three employees found to be working for both the city and the school system be fired from one of their jobs.

The action results from a September audit by the city controller's office. (See Education Week, Nov. 8, 1989.) The audit turned up a total of 72 employees who were receiving paychecks from both agencies in apparent violation of the city charter. Twelve were employed full-time by both agencies.

School officials reviewed personnel records and found that 9 of the 12 employees cited had won special permission to hold both jobs.

A school-district spokesman said last week that school personnel staff plan to begin comparing on a biweekly basis the names of all new employees with the names of city workers.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke of Baltimore has begun an investigation into the city school district's use of textbooks after discovering more than 100,000 unused books in a local warehouse.

After a recent surprise visit to the warehouse, the Mayor assigned a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. executive to investigate the textbook system, saying that many schools are suffering shortages.

District officials said that, to meet demands for lost or stolen books, administrators often order 10 percent more textbooks than are needed. The system also buys books five years in advance, and it is not uncommon to have as many as 100,000 in storage at one time, they said.

Between 2 percent and 4 percent of the 4th-, 5th-, and 6th-grade students surveyed in Prince George's County, Md., have used marijuana, pcp, crack, or cocaine, a new study of 2,800 students has found.

Raymond P. Lorion, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland who conducted the survey for the district, said the findings from the 17 elementary schools were disturbing because the students reported usage rates above the national average for others their age.

The survey also found that some students bypassed the traditional "gateway" drugs of alcohol and tobacco and began by using illegal drugs.

Chicago teachers are "somewhat skeptical" about the prospects for widespread improvements under the massive restructuring currently under way in the district, according to a new survey.

The 142 teachers from 12 predominantly minority schools surveyed said that, on average, they expect "some improvement" in parental involvement, but were less optimistic about possible improvements in student achievement and overall attitude in the schools.

The teachers expect the least improvement in the areas affecting themselves, including teacher morale, autonomy, and professionalism, according to the survey, which was conducted in September by the Chicago Panel on Public School Policy and Finance, a local watchdog group.

The survey also found that teachers who considered themselves well-versed in the reform plan's details were more optimistic about its possible effects in all six areas.

The Duval County, Fla., school board apparently will not appeal a federal appeals court ruling that found the district's schools remain unconstitutionally segregated.

"I sense no sentiment on the school board to appeal the ruling," said Larry L. Zenke, the county superintendent of schools.

At a board meeting late last month, Mr. Zenke told the board that the court ruling was a "window of opportunity" for the district schools, and said he was confident the district could eventually comply with the court ruling.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled in September that the district must take addition6al steps to desegregate its schools. The appeals court ruling overturned a lower-court decision that would have freed the district from court supervision.

In late October, the full court refused to review the ruling. District officials must now develop a new desegregation plan for court approval.

"I think there is a general feeling that we wouldn't have this problem if we'd done what we were supposed to do in the first place," one school official said.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has granted a temporary stay of an order that could require Georgia's largest school district to develop a new desegregation plan.

The stay was granted pending action by the full Court on a further stay that would set the ruling aside until the DeKalb County schools file an appeal in the case, which they are expected to do by the beginning of next year.

In October, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturned a lower-court ruling that declared the district unitary, or legally desegregated. (See Education Week, Oct. 25, 1989.)

The ruling requires the district to take further steps, including possibly a mandatory busing plan, to desegregate its schools.

Houston schools are failing in their efforts to prevent dropouts and to recruit teachers among Hispanics, a Hispanic advocacy group has charged.

The Association for the Advancement of Mexican-Americans issued a "report card" for the Houston Independent School District Nov. 21. It failed the district in two of seven categories: helping dropouts return to school and recruiting Hispanic teachers.

According to the group, about 41 percent of the district's students, but only 8 percent of its teachers, are Hispanic. Association officials also cited a study showing that 60 percent of the county's male Hispanic students drop out of school.

Concerns about the educational problems of Hispanic students in the district helped fuel a large student walkout at a city high school earlier this fall. (See Education Week, Nov. 8, 1989.)

The district received a "B" for encouraging partnerships with businesses, a "C" for renovating school facilities, a "D" for its dropout-prevention strategies, and a "D" on state-mandated test scores. It received a grade of "Incomplete" for its efforts to promote parental involvement.

Joan Raymond, the school superintendent, contested the grades, and released recent graduation test scores that showed improvement by Hispanic students. She also promised last week to release figures showing the district's improvements in retaining Hispanic students.

Vol. 09, Issue 14

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