District News Roundup

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The Lincoln Central School District is expected to become the first in Iowa to lose all of its students as a result of the state's open-enrollment law.

The district's school board voted late last month to send all of its students to schools in nearby Estherville beginning next fall, largely because more than one-quarter of its budget already was expected to be eroded by student transfers to the neighboring district.

Lincoln Central had 280 students and Estherville had 1,400 before the open-enrollment law went into effect. Forty-two Lincoln students have since transferred to Estherville under the law, and about as many have signed up to transfer next year.

Under the new "one way'' sharing agreement between the two northwestern Iowa districts, the Lincoln Central district will continue to exist on paper and to have a school board and administration, but all of its students will attend Estherville schools.

Lincoln Central officials had considered merging their district with Estherville, but a referendum on the merger was defeated last summer by voters concerned the measure would increase their taxes.

State officials last week stressed that the merger of small, rural districts had been common in Iowa well before open enrollment, but rural-district officials have criticized the new law as putting unfair pressure on small districts to merge.

John W. Graham, the superintendent of Lincoln Central, said that even without open enrollment, his district may have had to cease operations within a few years as a result of its shrinking size.

Federal prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint naming a New York City community-district superintendent who committed suicide last month during an investigation of his activities. (See Education Week, Jan. 20, 1993.)

Prosecutors allege that between 1988 and January 1990, Alfredo Mathew Jr. and three associates stole $185,000 from two federally funded social-service agencies of which he was chairman. In the complaint, Mr. Mathew is described as an "uncharged conspirator.''

Prosecutors charge that Mr. Mathew and the others diverted funds from Hispanic Social Services and the Puerto Rican Home Attendant Services program for personal expenses including restaurants, airline tickets, clothing, and political contributions.

Mr. Mathew's associates, who worked for the agencies, have been arraigned, but none has yet filed a plea.

While the alleged events are unrelated to Mr. Mathew's superintendency at District 12 in the South Bronx, a spokesman from the U.S. attorney's office noted that a separate investigation into charges of fraud in the district is being conducted by investigators for the city's board of education.

The Maryland State Teachers' Association has requested that a federal court allow the union to recover back pay for Worcester County teachers who were furloughed last year.

The union, which filed the request in U.S. District Court in Baltimore last week, has charged that the Worcester school board violated the terms of the teachers' contract by reducing the number of working days and the pay rate specified in the agreement.

In January of last year, the county school board furloughed employees for several days after county officials passed a wage-cutting directive. Union officials claimed the county's fiscal condition did not warrant the cuts.

The union launched its case after a federal judge ruled that teachers in the Baltimore city schools must be repaid for the days they were furloughed since "alternatives always exist to imposing the cost of budgetary shortfalls on a class of contracting parties.''

Three members of the Harlan County, Ky., school board who were ousted by the state board of education have filed a federal lawsuit against the state charging that their constitutional rights were violated by the action.

Ronnie Ball, Benny Dale Coleman, and David C. Lewis charge in the suit that their rights of free speech, due process, and freedom of association were violated when the state board removed them from office under misconduct charges in January 1992.

The suit, filed last month in federal district court in London, Ky., does not specify monetary damages.

The suit names the state education board, its members, Commissioner of Education Thomas C. Boysen, and the state office of education accountability.

It also names "unknown defendants'' who reportedly tipped off the state about the alleged misconduct that led to the local board members' dismissal.

Their dismissal was the first under the state's landmark school-reform law.

Vol. 12, Issue 20

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