District News Roundup

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The Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld an $820,000 compensatory-damages award won by the North St. Paul-Maplewood school district from the producer of an asbestos fireproofing spray used in a high school built in 1969.

However, the court last month overturned $4.2 million in punitive damages awarded in 1990 by a state court jury in Independent School District No. 622 v. Keene Corporation.

An appellate court had cut the punitive damages in half, but the supreme court said such damages were not available when a plaintiff claims only property damage.

The school district sued Keene Corporation for costs related to removing the fireproofing material, Pyrospray, from Tartan High School. The district successfully argued in court that the company's predecessors knew of the health risks of asbestos, a carcinogen, when it sold the material in 1969.

Keene Corporation argued that the district unreasonably added to the costs of removing the asbestos by undertaking it over several summers instead of all at once. The state supreme court rejected that argument.

Teacher Killed: A Seattle middle school teacher was shot to death as he arrived for work last week at the school building where he had taught for nearly two decades.

Police have no motive nor suspects in the shooting death of Neal Summers, who taught 8th-grade social studies at Whitman Middle School, district officials said.

"We are all in shock,'' said Kathlyn Lawrence, the spokeswoman for the Seattle public schools. The incident is the first homicide to occur at a Seattle public school during school hours, she said.

The day after Summers was shot to death, district officials closed the middle school, set up an information hot line, and dispatched a team of 10 school psychologists and social workers to help staff members cope.

Plans To Cut Jobs: Mayor Rudolph Giuliani of New York City, in an outline of his upcoming budget proposals, last week called for the elimination of 2,500 jobs at the city's board of education.

The Mayor's proposals go significantly beyond plans announced last month by Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines to cut 1,000 full-time positions from the board's central-office staff through attrition and layoffs. The office currently employs 3,600 people.

Mr. Cortines also said he plans to reduce the use of consultants and temporary workers and will give community school districts the responsibility for hundreds of experts in curriculum and staff development.

The Mayor, who argued that the cuts and other reductions in city agencies were necessary to address a "fiscal emergency,'' will unveil his budget April 26.

Vol. 13, Issue 20

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