Districts News Roundup

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A commission of parents and educators recommended last week that the Boston School Department abolish its longstanding policy of holding back students in grades 4 or higher for poor performance.

A report by the 18-member commission, appointed by Interim Superintendent Joseph M. McDonough, also urged that the system stop using standardized tests to promote students to the next grade or to grant diplomas, according to Larry Faison, a department spokesman.

The recommendations come in the wake of criticism by local educators that the Boston school system has maintained antiquated educational practices as reform movements elsewhere have granted schools more teaching flexibility.

Boston schools now require 5th, 8th, and 12th graders to attain a minimum score on the "Degrees of Reading Power" standardized test to be promoted.

Mr. McDonough has asked the Boston School Committee to act on the recommendations before the 1991-92 school year, Mr. Faison said. The interim superintendent, who steps down July 1, warned committee members "the status quo will not be acceptable," his spokesman said.

An administrative law judge who conducted five weeks of hearings on proposed employee layoffs in Los Angeles has recommended that the school district abandon its plans to lay off up to 980 people.

The judge, Paul Hogan, found that the district had failed to keep adequate records of employees' seniority and also had failed to establish the need to exempt some bilingual employees from the layoffs. These lapses, the judge said, meant that employees did not have sufficient information to fight against losing their jobs.

The judge's recommendations are not binding on the school board, which was to decide this month whether to continue with the layoff process.

The school board has been considering laying off employees to close a $341-million budget deficit.

A South Dakota subsidiary of Citibank will spend $500,000 over the next five years, in partnership with an American Indian community college, to train native teachers as part of an effort to improve educational opportunities on the Rosebud reservation.

The Secondary Teacher Training Program, which was launched this month, is designed to "encourage Indian students to remain in school and go on to college," according to Ron Williamson, president of Citibank South Dakota.

It is designed to complement an existing elementary-education program offered by Sinte Gleska Community College. The college's name is the Lakota name for Spotted Tail, a 19th-century Lakota chief who valued education for Indian people.

The partnership program has five objectives: to train Indian teachers who can serve as role models for Indian students; to recruit trainee teachers from reservation schools; to develop mentoring programs for children in grades 6 to 9; to create a work-study program through the college for high-school students that will both encourage them to continue their education and to earn college tuition; and to develop culturally relevant curricula for precollegiate education.

The Rosebud reservation is home to 16,000 Lakota Sioux, more than half of whom are younger than 19. Reading ability on the reservation is, on average, at the 6th-grade level.

An Oregon judge has agreed to allow the Pacific Power & Light Company pay $1.3 million toward a scholarship program for Portland school students as part of the utility's $12-million settlement of an environmental suit.

In a ruling late last month, Multnomah County Judge Mercedes F. Deiz permitted the company to contribute the money to the "I Have A Dream'' project, which helps pay college tuition for deserving low-income high-school graduates. The utility pledged another $875,000 to the program as a challenge grant in an effort to win matching money.

A Portland schools spokesman said that the district hopes to help as many as 500 students, with the focus on meeting the eventual college expenses of those now in the 5th grade.

Social-service and public-interest projects in the city also received funds under the settlement.

The parents of a Boise student who committed suicide last winter have filed a $500,000 claim against the Meridian school district and their son's English teacher.

In the suit, James and Diane Brooks claim that the school district and the instructor, Laura Logan, neglected to notify them when allegedly suicidal notes appeared in their son Jeffrey's English journal. Mr. Brooks discovered the journal when cleaning out his son's school locker following his death.

Bob Haley, director of secondary education for the 15,000-student district, said the claim is not a "valid complaint." He defended Ms. Logan's actions, saying that teachers are not required to read every journal entry.

"The journal is in the [possession] of the parents," he said. "We are asking to see it so we can respond to the claims."

As of last week, no date had been set for a hearing.

Mayor David N. Dinkins of New York City has appointed H. Carl McCall, a Citibank vice president and a longtime political ally, to fill a vacancy on the city school board created by the resignation of Gwendolyn C. Baker, theboard's president.

Mr. Dinkins also is expected to support Mr. McCall's candidacy for the presidency of the seven-member board during an annual election scheduled for early July.

Ms. Baker tendered her resignation on May 1, but Mr. Dinkins chose to wait until last week to announce her successor so that he could have time to convince the 54-year-old Mr. McCall, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, to take the job.

Ms. Baker's resignation was accompanied by suggestions that her fellow board members had intended to seek her ouster from the board presidency.

The appointment of Mr. McCall, a former state senator, United Nations official, and public-television executive, is viewed as a sign that Mr. Dinkins is seeking to tighten his control over educational policymaking in the city.

Vol. 10, Issue 39

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