District News Roundup

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The East St. Louis, Ill., school board, which has come under increasing criticism in recent years from state officials for failing to remedy its educational and financial problems, has voted to fire its superintendent, Elmo J. Bush.

Mr. Bush, who became superintendent of the district in December 1988, had been suspended by the board in November pending investigation of charges that he had violated state and local bidding procedures.

The board voted unanimously last month to fire Mr. Bush for insubordination and for violating the bidding regulations. Mr. Bush, who has appealed the ruling to the state education department, could not be reached for comment last week.

Meanwhile, state officials are putting the finishing touches on a report that is expected to conclude that the East St. Louis school system is rife with patronage hiring, spends money illegally, and permits students to graduate without taking required courses, according to an Associated Press report.

The Memphis board of education has decided to delay until April consideration of a controversial proposal to ask the city's voters whether they favor consolidating their school district with the much smaller Shelby County school system.

Under Tennessee law, Shelby County residents who live outside Memphis would not be allowed to vote on the proposal, because consolidation would be forced upon the county if city residents decided to disband their school system. A similar move led to the 1987 consolidation of the Knoxville and Knox County school systems.

But some Shelby County community leaders have threatened to avoid the merger by seceding and forming a new county.

There is some dispute over whether the county leaders can make good on their threat, but city school officials said late last month that they would seek to negotiate a compromise.

A citizens' commission is expected to explore the issues raised by the consolidation proposal, including funding disparities and desegregation obligations, and to make recommendations about new district boundaries and governance systems.

The Memphis city system serves 105,000 students, most of them from minority groups, while Shelby County enrolls 35,000 students, most of them white.

Chicago's newly formed local school councils will be encouraged to compete among themselves in producing measurable improvements in their schools under a new program being funded by Illinois Bell and the philanthropic arm of its parent company, the Ameritech Foundation.

The three-year, $1.2-million competition is the latest demonstration of the considerable corporate support that has been mustered for Chicago's revolutionary school-reform efforts.

Awards of $10,000 each will be granted to the 20 elementary schools and six high schools in the district that compile the best records of improvement in such areas as test scores, attendance, and dropout and graduation rates.

A blue-ribbon panel of community, civic, and educational leaders will set the criteria for selecting winners and serve as judges in the competition, which will be administered by the Chicago Public Schools Alumni Association.

A Virginia judge has refused to issue a temporary restraining order blocking a new sex-education program set to begin this week in the Grayson County school district.

Grayson County Circuit Judge Willis Woods declined to issue the order, requested by a group called Grayson County Concerned Citizens and Parents, because he said there was no evidence that the program would cause "irreparable injury" to students.

The parents' group filed suit in the court challenging the constitutionality of the sex-education program adopted unanimously the county school board in January.

The group alleges that the school board did not adequately involve parents when they drafted the sex-education program. The state has required all districts to adopt a sex-education program, and said that parents must be consulted.

Under the Grayson County program, parents have the option of removing their children from the sex-education classes.

Walter Stamper, a lawyer for the group, said the parents object to the program because it does not discuss values and because the curriculum includes elementary-school-age students.

A full hearing is set for late April.

The parents of a Florida 6th-grader have been charged with negligence after their son threatened suicide by pointing their gun at his head during class.

Under Florida law, parents who fail to secure firearms face misdemeanor charges if their children obtain them.

The 12-year-old boy surprised teachers and classmates at Crystal River Middle School in central Florida last month when he aimed his parents' .22-caliber pistol at his head during school. School authorities persuaded the boy to surrender the gun without firing a shot.

The boy was suspended for 10 days, but was not charged with any crime.

His parents are scheduled to be arraigned this month. They face a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The administration of Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. pledged last week that the city school system would receive the entire $600 million it had requested for the next school year.

The decision to increase the school budget by 20 percent--or $100 million--reportedly was made by the Mayor before his arrest on Jan. 18 on charges of cocaine possession. City officials, however, announced the increase on Jan. 30 before a meeting between Carol Thompson, the city administrator who is managing the city while the Mayor undergoes treatment for substance abuse in Florida, and a group of civic leaders who have repeatedly pressed for more money for the schools.

School officials greeted the budget increase with excitement, but several city officials have noted that the 20 percent jump is likely to require a tax increase.

The increase, requested late last year by Superintendent of Schools Andrew E. Jenkins, would be used to improve teacher and principal salaries, repair school buildings, and combat the city's high dropout rate.

The budget must now be approved first by the D.C. Council and then by the Congress.

Vol. 09, Issue 20

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