District News Roundup

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Laval S. Wilson, superintendent of the Boston Public Schools for the past five years, last week agreed to a buyout of the 18 months remining on his contract.

The school committee agreed to pay Mr. Wilson $240,000 for the salary and perks he would have earned during his remaining tenure, and an additional $20,000 to cover his legal expenses, according to a school district spokesman.

The superintendent and the school committee also informally agreed not to engage in any further verbal warfare or legal action against each other, according to the spokesman.

The committee unanimously chose Joseph McDonough, a retired Boston school administrator who has twice previously served as interim superintendent, to lead the school system until a permanent successor is found.

Also last week, the Boston City Council agreed to fund the first year of a reform-oriented teachers' contract, averting the possibility that teachers would go on strike this year.

The action gives teachers a 5 percent raise retroactive to last September, and allows the district to begin immediately toimplement the school-based management components of the contract, the spokesman said.

A first-year teacher in North Carolina whose contract was not renewed has been awarded $454,910 in damages by a Forsyth County jury that found she was wrongfully dismissed from her job.

Susan D. Spry sued the Winston-Salem-Forsyth County Board of Education in June 1988, charging she had been fired for personal reasons. School officials contended she had been dismissed for poor performance.

The amount of damages awarded in the case is highly unusual and likely will influence local school boards as they consider whether to rehire new teachers, said William Pfefferkorn, the lawyer for the Forsyth Association of Classroom Teachers.

The decision, which has been appealed, is not expected to set a precedent for teacher-tenure laws, however.

Under North Carolina law, teachers are given one-year contracts for the first three years of their employment. School boards are required to give teachers a reason if their contracts are not renewed, and are not permitted to make such decisions on the basis of personal, political, or arbitrary considerations.

The burden of proving wrongful dismissal, however, rests with the teacher.

After the fourth year, teachers are given tenure, and the burden of proof in firing them rests with the school boards.

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District last week agreed to pay $6.02 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the parents of 16 children who allegy had been sexually molested by a teacher.

The agreement, which must be approved by the state superior court, provides compensation for children who claim to have been molested by a 3rd-grade teacher at the 68th Street School in 1985.

The former teacher, Terry E. Bartholome, was convicted in 1986 on 30 counts--including child abuse and molestation--and is currently serving a 49-year jail sentence, according to Richard K. Mason, the lawyer for the district.

The children's parents filed a $200-million lawsuit against the district in 1986, charging that school officials neglected to report suspected abuse by Mr. Bartholome to the authorities for up to a year after allegations were made.

If approved by the court, the settlement money will be paid out over the course of the students' lifetimes, and will be used to cover the costs of health and psychological care and postsecondary education, Mr. Mason said.

Chancellor Joseph Fernandez of the New York City schools has denied a request by Cardinal John O'Connor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York to allow federally funded drug counselors to work in parochial schools.

Instead, Mr. Fernandez said, he wants the counselors to help parochial-school students in neutral, off-campus sites. The counseling would be funded by $500,000 in federal drug-prevention money granted to the district to administer on behalf of Catholic schools.

Providing in-school services, Mr. Fernandez argued, would violate a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Aguilar v. Felton, that prohibits public-school teachers from providing Chapter 1 instruction in parochial schools.

The cardinal, whose archidiocese includes Manhattan, Staten Island, the Bronx, and several counties north of the city, maintains that the counselors must provide on-site services in order to be effective.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fernandez and unions representing school employees have been negotiating the conditions under which school workers could be tested for drugs.

Mr. Fernandez has also said he wants applicants for school jobs to be tested for drugs.

Susan Amlung, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, said the union, while not favoring drug tests, would not oppose them for job applicants.

School employees cannot now be required to undergo drug testing. Ms. Amlung and school officials said they agreed that current employees could be tested only when there is a "reasonable suspicion" that an6employee had used drugs.

Teachers working in the Avon Lake (Ohio) City Schools charged their district with engaging in unfair labor practices after they were locked out of schools for planning half-day strikes.

The 168 members of the Avon Lake Education Association had planned to strike during the second half of every school day beginning March 1. The city board of education responded by locking them out and staffing the schools with substitute teachers.

The union members--who ended the standoff March 8 after accepting a pay increase of 12.5 percent over two years--filed a complaint with the state Employment Relations Board alleging that their right to strike was obstructed by the lockout.

Nearly 30 percent of school libraries in Dallas have fewer books than required under state law, an audit has revealed.

Fifty-six of the district's approximately 200 schools--about 28 percent--have fewer than 10 books per student, the minimum required by a 1984 law. Schools were to have been in compliance with the law by 1987.

School officials said the 49 elementary schools involved will have the minimum number of books by the end of the school year. The remaining seven high schools and middle schools, however, will not receive any additional allocations this year, an official said.

The book shortage stems in part from tight budgets in the district, the official said.

Across the district, the average ratio of books to students is approximately 11-to-1, according to a school official.

A 17-year-old student and his 18-year-old friend have been charged with vandalizing a suburban-Washington high school last month, causing more than $250,000 in damages.

The student, a senior at Richard Montgomery High school in Montgomery County, Md., has been charged as a juvenile with eight felonies stemming from the incident in late February. His friend, who dropped out of the school last year, has been charged as an adult with 10 felonies.

The pair allegedly broke into the school twice over a weekend, set fires, tried to cause an explosion by opening natural-gas valves in a chemistry lab, smashed computers and other machinery, broke windows, and demolished the school's television studio. Antisemitic graffiti also was found on some walls.

Prosecutors plan to ask the court for permission to prosecute the student as an adult.

Vol. 09, Issue 26

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