District News Roundup

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As a result of a projected $38-million budget shortfall, officials of the St. Louis public schools have laid off 295 employees, including 80 teachers.

The St. Louis Board of Education voted late last month to eliminate a total of 457 positions, ranging from administrative to clerical jobs. In addition to the layoffs, 162 positions were eliminated through retirements and resignations.

In conjunction with the staff cutbacks, effective July 1, the district will close 10 of its 123 schools, including 2 high schools, 2 middle schools, and 6 elementary schools.

The personnel reductions will save the district approximately $22 million, according to a school spokesman. The remainder of the $16-million deficit was eliminated through the school closings, other program cuts, and the deferment of purchases of supplies, library materials, and computer equipment.

The insurers of two suburban Milwaukee school districts cannot refuse to pay the district's legal costs associated with a desegregation suit, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled.

In a decision issued late last month, the court ruled 4 to 3 that three insurance companies that had policies with the Shorewood and Greenfield school districts must pay lawyers' fees and other district costs connected with the case.

The state high court returned the case to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court to determine what share of the costs the insurance companies must pay.

Wausau Insurance Company, Continental Casualty Company, and U.S. Fire Insurance Company had argued that they were not liable to pay damages related to desegregation.

The districts sued the companies, claiming a total of more than $714,000 in costs, including about $663,000 in lawyers' fees, in connection with the 1984 desegregation suit involving Milwaukee and its suburbs.

Two New York City school custodians and two of their friends were arrested late last month and charged with selling handguns on or near school property.

Joseph Stiff, 35, and Travis Walker, 24, both custodial workers at Prospect Heights High School and Intermediate School 61 in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, were arrested by plainclothes policemen posing as customers.

Along with two of their friends, the janitors were charged with criminal sale and possession of firearms, according to the police.

The investigation, a collaboration between the city's firearms task force and the board of education, began last June following an anonymous tip. Police spent $7,000 to buy 25 weapons in the past several months, culminating with last month's arrest.

Sgt. Edelle James, a police spokesman, said that no students were ever involved in the purchases, which usually took place at night.

Bess Reynolds, the superintendent of Brooklyn School District 17, said she was "certain'' that steps had been taken to increase school-security measures, but could not elaborate.

Mayor Richard M. Daley has nominated three new members to serve on the Chicago Board of Education and has reappointed two existing members.

In making his selections, the Mayor ousted three board members: Anna Mustafa, Grady Bailey Jr., and Patricia Daley. Mr. Bailey and Ms. Daley, who is not related to the Mayor, had been outspoken critics of Superintendent Ted D. Kimbrough's policies.

To replace them, the Mayor nominated Charles E. Curtis Sr., a mortgage broker, James D. Flanagan, a banker, and John Valinote, a manager for the International Business Machines Corporation. The selections must be confirmed by the city council.

Mayor Daley also reappointed Clinton Bristow Jr., the board's president, and Bertha Magana, a lawyer, to serve new terms.

Shortly after Mr. Daley made his decisions, however, the board of education ousted Mr. Bristow as president and elected Florence B. Cox to the post. Mr. Bristow will continue to serve out his term on the board.

The vote was seen as a repudiation of the Mayor, because he had praised Mr. Bristow's leadership in reappointing him.

Cleveland school officials have dropped their investigation of a major computer supplier after a district administrator recanted allegations that contracts with the company had been forged.

The district instead has moved to demote the administrator, who claimed he made the forgery allegations for fear of losing his job after signing for millions of dollars worth of computer equipment without prior school-board approval, according to Juanita Bryant, the district's director of community relations.

The board had come under fire for narrowly approving a $4.2-million contract with Digital Equipment Corporation despite the fact that the equipment had already been delivered, without direct board authorization, in a transaction that the district still had under investigation.

Since the incident, the board has moved to draw up procedures to prevent any transactions from taking place without its approval, Ms. Bryant said.

California officials have appointed an administrator to supervise the Coachella Valley Unified School District after approving a recent $7.3-million emergency loan to the school system.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig appointed Andy Viscovich as the state administrator after the position drew 40 applicants. The state will assume all legal powers of the local school board, which will serve in an advisory capacity to Mr. Viscovich.

The loan, needed to balance the district's $37-million budget, must be repaid after 10 years. Mr. Honig said he has been encouraged by the district's initial steps toward solvency. He expressed confidence that Mr. Viscovich, a former superintendent, will implement a sound recovery plan.

A private foundation in Oklahoma will underwrite the development of a "hands on'' science museum in Tulsa that is designed to foster interest in the physical sciences among the state's elementary- and middle-school students.

The trustees of the Tulsa-based Pearl M. and Julia J. Harmon Foundation announced late last month that the foundation will spend $1.5 million to build the first phase of the project on a four-acre downtown property that is part of a failed savings and loan's portfolio.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall, once the tract, which is adjacent to Tulsa's Roman Catholic diocesan high school, is rezoned.

The museum will be wholly funded by the foundation, which will subsidize its educational use to ensure access for children in economically distressed areas.

George L. Hangs Jr., the foundation's secretary, said the trustees will employ an advisory committee of educators to ensure that exhibits, some of which may be privately funded, are compatible with the science curricula of local school districts.

Cathey Frederick, a trustee and the principal of a local elementary magnet school, added that the museum budget also includes money to develop curriculum materials with which teachers can prepare students to take fullest advantage of museum visits.
An Arizona court has denied a Phoenix boy's bid for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the Osborn school district from enforcing a ban on sports-team T-shirts officials believe are related to gang activity.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Barbara A. Rodriguez denied the injunction late last month, saying that "the safety of students and the curtailment of gang activity'' provided a "rational basis'' for the banning of T-shirts bearing the logos of several sports teams.

The case was brought on behalf of 12-year-old Joey Burton, an Osborn Middle School 7th grader who was sent home from school May 12 after wearing a T-shirt decorated with a rendering of Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls basketball player, according to the boy's lawyer, Gary Peter Klahr.

Joey, whom Mr. Klahr described as an honor-roll student and athlete who is not involved in gangs, maintains that the school-board policy violates his constitutional rights of free speech and expression.

"The kids do not commit gang activities because they wear these shirts,'' he said, adding that the court decision was "outrageous.''

The T-shirt policy is "nonsense,'' said Mr. Klahr, who is also a member of the Phoenix Union High School District board.

The Osborn school board instituted the policy in April, prohibiting students from wearing the logos of the Chicago Bulls, Cubs, and White Sox; the Los Angeles Kings and Raiders; the Oakland Athletics; and the Georgetown University Hoyas.

Mr. Klahr said last week that unless the school district negotiates a resolution to the situation, he will file an appeal with the state court of appeals.

Over the protests of anti-abortion parents, the Wallingford (Conn.) Board of Education voted late last month to allow Planned Parenthood instructors to continue teaching classes as part of the district's "family life'' curriculum.

Planned Parenthood staff members have taught middle-school classes on puberty, sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control for about eight years in Wallingford.

The group, which offers similar classes in other Connecticut communities, is one of four organizations the school system has brought in to teach the family-life curriculum. But only Planned Parenthood has been subject to community opposition.

About 94 percent of the district's middle-school students attend the classes, which require parental permission slips.

Vol. 11, Issue 38, Page 2

Published in Print: June 10, 1992, as District News Roundup
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