District News Roundup

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation is probing allegations that District of Columbia school officials illegally used federal funds for private purposes.

Schools officials in Washington acknowledged last week that the F.B.I. had subpoenaed documents related to a fund created by R. David Hall, the school board's president, to earn interest on money donated to the school system.

Local newspaper reports said that the agency is attempting to determine whether the principal or interest on the account was used for the personal benefit of school officials. The bureau is also investigating whether school officials violated federal law by placing federal funds in the interest-bearing account.

The matter was referred to the F.B.I. by Otis H. Troupe, the city's auditor, who has been investigating the school system's use of funds slated for capital improvement.

The General Accounting Office, meanwhile, is conducting an unrelated investigation of how the school system used $1 million in federal funds in connection with its Anacostia Project, an enrichment program for children and teachers in the southeast Washington neighborhood.

Mr. Hall and other district officials have maintained that no federal funds went into the interest-bearing account and that the money was used to pay for school trips and other legitimate expenses.

Superintendent Franklin L. Smith said in a statement that district officials intend to cooperate fully with the investigation and have done nothing wrong.

In regard to Mr. Troupe's audit, Mr. Smith said the district has used capital-improvement funds for maintenance purposes in the past because the maintenance budget was not adequate to pay for repairs needed to keep schools in compliance with local fire codes.

The U.S. Justice Department has sent a mediator to Lincolnton, Ga., to address complaints that black children have been forced to ride in the back of school buses.

The department's community-relations service, which specializes in mediation rather than law enforcement, sent an official to the Lincoln County school district this month in an effort to resolve the dispute, an agency spokesman said last week.

Parents and other citizens told the Lincoln County Board of Education at its April meeting that the district's buses are segregated by race.

The parents alleged that black children are forced to sit in the back of school buses and that the district's bus routes are drawn in a way that promotes segregation.

School officials have denied the allegations and blamed a new school board member who is black for starting the controversy to carry out a vendetta against the school system.

They have pledged, however, to cooperate with federal officials in addressing the complaints.

The Minneapolis school board has ended a lingering dispute with its suspended superintendent by approving a settlement under which he will resign more than two years before his contract expires.

The board last week voted 4 to 2 to endorse the agreement, which will pay Superintendent Robert Ferrera $187,000 for his early resignation.

The figure includes $70,000 in salary, $95,000 to settle charges of "personal injuries'' brought by the superintendent against board members, and $22,000 in fringe benefits, officials said.

The board voted unanimously in early February to suspend the embattled superintendent with pay and asked for his resignation amid charges of financial misconduct in the district. Two of Mr. Ferrera's top aides had resigned over the charges in January and shared $188,000 in severance pay, setting off a local furor over the size of that settlement.

Under the terms of the agreement with Mr. Ferrera, his suspension will be lifted May 22 so that he may resign the same day.

In addition, the district agreed to give Mr. Ferrera a letter of recommendation in which he is praised as "a positive-change agent.''

The letter further lauds the "innovative and visionary'' changes Mr. Ferrera brought to the district, including efforts to devolve authority to the school level and develop more ties with the business community.

The board is expected to begin the search for a new superintendent soon.

Members of the Compton, Calif., school board this month heard a scathing report on their management of the troubled district.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education presented the results of a three-month investigation of the district at a special board meeting in Compton this month. The report blasts the board for mismanagement in nearly every facet of the district's operations--from classroom teaching to maintenance of school buildings.

The report concludes that Compton administrators have focused on politics and patronage to the detriment of students. It calls for the swift retraining of teachers and principals, more attention to parental involvement and academic improvements, and an end to nepotism in hiring.

Board members accepted the grim report, which was mandated by state lawmakers, and said they would implement its recommendations.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee has announced that five elementary schools will close or merge after this academic year.

Four schools in the 10-county archdiocese--one each in West Allis, Milwaukee, Kenosha, and North Fond du Lac--will close outright, diocesan officials said. Another school in West Allis will merge with two other schools.

All five schools experienced double-digit enrollment declines last year, officials said, and all but one had fewer than 100 students.

As with many Catholic school systems, enrollment has steadily declined in the Milwaukee archdiocese in recent years. Elementary enrollment reached a peak of 110,000 students in 220 schools in 1964; today, 34,076 students attend 151 schools.

School officials are requiring that the closing schools place students in other Catholic schools and that parishes now without schools provide a subsidy for parish students attending other Catholic schools.

Twenty students were arrested after a melee broke out between 60 black and Puerto Rican students at a Milwaukee high school this month.

The brawl took place on May 6 during a random weapons check held at Riverside University High School. After students passed through metal detectors at the school's entrance, they were ushered to the auditorium. As the security check was winding down, two boys who had argued the day before began fighting in the auditorium and were joined by at least 60 other students.

One student who attacked a security guard in the hallway was arrested for assault and disorderly conduct and was expelled, school officials said. Twenty other students received municipal citations for disorderly conduct; seven may be expelled or transferred, and the rest face short-term suspensions, they said.

According to Denise Callaway, a district spokeswoman, tensions between black and Puerto Rican students have plagued the school since last fall. Following the incident, students and counselors have been meeting to discuss conflict-resolution strategies, she added.

Vol. 12, Issue 34

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