District News Roundup

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Four students from a small Texas high school have been banished from the cheerleading squad because they admitted they were pregnant, and the school board has barred pregnant students from all elective offices.

Shortly after the school year began at Hempstead (Tex.) High School, four cheerleaders on the 16-member squad revealed that they were pregnant.

When the parents of the girls, ages 15 to 17, discussed the issue with school officials, the mother of one student announced that her daughter had had an abortion. The girl was allowed to sit on the sidelines for the next football game, a decision that upset parents of the other 12 cheerleaders, who argued that she should have been restricted to the stands along with the three pregnant cheerleaders.

Following the controversy, the Hempstead district board voted 6 to 1 to ban pregnant and parenting students from elected school positions.

"We were considering the health issue, and the responsibility of the parent to care for the child,'' said Betty Vines, the president of the board.

District officials would not comment on the status of the affected cheerleaders, or on when the new policy would be implemented.

The parents of a Connecticut girl who accused her music teacher of sexual abuse six years ago, costing him his job, have recanted their allegations as part of the settlement of a lawsuit.

In 1987, Victor and Deborah Lavalla of Enfield accused Roderick Crochiere, who taught at Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School, of touching their 13-year-old daughter on the inner thigh during her clarinet lesson.

Mr. Crochiere maintained that he was tapping out the beat of the music on the girl's thigh.

Although Mr. Crochiere was not charged in the incident, the Enfield school board fired him. He then filed a defamation suit against the couple.

The settlement, announced last month, came just days before jury selection was due to start in the trial.

In addition to paying an undisclosed sum, the Lavallas apologized and said they wanted to help "repair'' the damage to Mr. Crochiere's career. Since his firing, he has suffered a nervous breakdown and has been unable to work regularly.

The Lavallas also said their complaint was "blown out of all proportion'' by school officials and that they believe the music teacher inadvertently touched their daughter inappropriately.

A state judge has ruled that there were no grounds to hold Enfield school officials liable, and dismissed the district as a defendant in Mr. Crochiere's suit.

District officials did not return a telephone call last week.

The Atlanta school system stands to lose millions in state school-construction funding if it continues to refuse to hire firms that do not specify how they will involve minorities and women, according to the Georgia attorney general.

In a legal opinion issued last month, Attorney General Michael J. Bowers said the Atlanta school board's policy conflicts with a state education department requirement that state-funded construction projects be awarded to the lowest bidder.

The district policy, adopted in May 1992, requires bidders for construction contracts either to outline how minorities and women will be involved in a project or to explain why they are unable to do so. Bidders who refuse to comply with the requirement are routinely rejected regardless of price.

Atlanta was expected to receive $7.3 million in state funds for school construction this year. State officials said they would meet with district officials to devise a compromise policy that will keep the funding from being cut off.

The Littleton County, Colo., school district and teachers' union are negotiating a plan designed to link teacher pay to performance.

Under the district's model, teachers would not receive automatic annual raises but would be rewarded for their teaching skills and for taking on such additional responsibilities as sponsoring student clubs or conducting curriculum research, according to Nancy Cain, the president of the union.

"We are trying to honor what has expanded in the teachers' role,'' said Ms. Cain, who added that all teachers would still be paid a base salary for their regular duties.

The plan, which is expected to be ratified this fall and implemented next year, is one of three performance-pay systems being considered by school districts in the Denver area.

Jefferson County recently formed a panel to study incentive pay, and school and union officials in Douglas County are expected in January to adopt the first part of a pay scheme rewarding individual schools and teams of teachers. (See Education Week, May 26, 1993.)

After state voters last fall defeated a ballot initiative to raise taxes for education, while approving limitations on taxation and spending, districts are looking for new ways to "increase credibility'' about how school money is spent, said Mike Farrell, an executive for human resources in the Littleton schools.

Dallas school officials have temporarily withheld a $60,500 award to an elementary school because of an unusually large jump in its 4th-grade scores on a statewide reading test.

Withholding the School Performance Improvement Award to the Carver Learning Center is not intended as a sign that anything improper occurred, said Bob Weiss, a member of the district accountability task force that made the decision. "We are not making a judgment, but are trying to find additional information to figure out what happened at the school,'' he said.

The school's principal, teachers, and test coordinator have been interviewed, but no one could account for the dramatic improvement, according to Randy Collins, the district's assistant superintendent for personnel, governmental, and internal affairs.

Carver officials did not respond to inquiries about the investigation.

In order to rule out the possibility of a systemic error, Mr. Collins said, he will ask the state education department to recheck the scoring of the tests.

He refused to speculate about possible explanations. "There may have been some aberration, but we are not drawing any conclusions at this time,'' he said.

The Dade County, Fla., school board has voted to eliminate a fine-arts requirement for 6th-grade students.

After meeting with parents and teachers, the school board decided last month to alter the district's elective system, which had required 6th graders to take nine weeks of art, nine weeks of music, 18 weeks of physical education, and one elective.

The board approved a new plan that does not mandate art or music, and instead allows students to choose two electives from an array of offerings that includes computers, foreign languages, and journalism, as well as the fine arts.

The plan, which is to go into effect in the 1994-95 school year, affects only 6th graders enrolled in middle schools and will not alter the schedules of more than 7,000 6th graders who are enrolled in elementary school because of overcrowding at the middle school level.

Although school officials said the plan would provide increased academic opportunities for students, art educators expressed concern over the new system.

"Our biggest fear, when a requirement for the arts is dropped, is that we move backward,'' said Ray Azcuy, the instructional supervisor for Dade County Art Educators. "We feel it's as important as basic academics.''

Vol. 13, Issue 06

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