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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, in violation of state law. School officials contended she had been dis6missed for poor performance.

The amount of damages awarded in the case is highly unusual and likely will influence North Carolina school boards as they consider whether to rehire new teachers, said William Pfefferkorn, the lawyer for the Forsyth Association of Classroom Teachers, which backed Ms. Spry's suit.

The decision, which has been appealed, is not expected to lead to a precedent that would change the state's 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 them 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 rests with the teacher during the first three years.

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

A private group in Milwaukee has outlined an ambitious plan to make postsecondary education accessible to every student in the city who wants to pursue it.

In "The Milwaukee Challenge," a report released last month, the Greater Milwaukee Trust notes that only slightly more than one-third of the city's graduating seniors leave school with the grades or proper coursework for college or technical school.

The report calls for the creation of a public-private trust fund to provide scholarships or forgivable loans to any college-eligible minority or disadvantaged student in need of assistance.

It also asks the city's public schools to take steps to ensure that those who want to go on to college or technical school are taking the kinds of courses they need and achieving adequate grades.

In addition, it calls for the creation of an "information council" to promote postsecondary study in the community and provide information on higher-education programs and financial assistance to families throughout the city.

The report was produced by the group's scholarship committee, which includes state and local educators, business people, policymakers, and community groups.

The Knox County, Tenn., school system may not use state pension money to offset the cost of providing pensions to former Knoxville teachers who are now employees of the county school system, the state supreme court has ruled.

The Knoxville and Knox County school systems merged in July 1987. Teachers who had taught in Knoxville participate in a state teacher-retirement plan and also are covered by a city-funded plan.

The high court ruled that the state annuity paid to teachers vested in the Knoxville city pension plan must continue to be sent directly to teachers, rather than be redirected to the county as reimbursement for its contributions to the city plan.

The Knox County Education Association views the decision as a "decisive win" for teachers, because it preserves their benefits in cases of school-district mergers, which are becoming common throughout the state as a cost-saving measure, a spokesman for the union said.


A group of parents in Orange County, Fla., has filed a suit seeking to block the school district's plan to implement a year-round schedule at an elementary school.

The parents contend that the county school board lacks the power under state law to start up the pilot program, scheduled to begin July 23 to relieve crowding at Palm Lake Elementary School. The school now has 400 more students than it was built to accommodate, a school spokesman said.

The lawsuit, filed in circuit court, seeks a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction to prevent the program from being carried out at any county school.

Lawyers for the school board said they consider the suit to have no merit.

A federal appeals court has ordered a district court to hold a hearing on the Bryan County, Ga., school district's decision to bar a mentally and physically handicapped 15-year-old carrier of the hepatitis-B virus from attending school.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said that a magistrate had ruled properly during a preliminary hearing in deciding that the chance of the boy's infecting others was slight and that the school system had discriminated against the boy.

The case began in January 1988, when the parents of the boy, identified only as Jeffrey S., sued to have their son reinstated in the schools. At the preliminary hearing, the magistrate issued an injunction to keep the boy in school. That injunction, however, was canceled after the school system filed an objection with the district court. The appeals-court panel also ordered the district court to conduct its own review of the facts.

Vol. 09, Issue 27

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