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Memphis Mayor Seeks $100 Million for Schools

In a break from tradition, Mayor W.W. Herenton of Memphis wants the city to spend $100 million for badly needed school repairs.

Typically, revenue sources for the city's 108,000-student district are limited to property and sales taxes that flow into its operating budget. The city has no separate capital-projects funding for schools.

But, with an estimated $400 million needed for repairs and improvements, school officials turned to Mr. Herenton--the district's former superintendent--for help.

"This is the first time in years they've asked for capital improvements," said Carey Hoffman, the Mayor's press secretary. The city council, which must approve the plan, has been receptive, she added, despite the need for budget cuts elsewhere to pay for it.

"For the first time, the Mayor is putting city schools on equal funding with other city-owned facilities," said Margaret L. Coleman, the director of fiscal operations for the district.

Novel Controversy

School officials in Conroe, Tex., have temporarily removed an acclaimed novel by a black author from junior high school classrooms because some parents complained the book includes racial slurs.

Several black parents objected to the reading aloud of the 1971 novel, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, during a course on racial tolerance. The novel by Ernest Gaines tells the fictitious story of a freed slave and her 100-year struggle against racism.

Shauna McKay, a spokeswoman for the Conroe Independent School District, said the parents who complained of the book's use were concerned that "students felt uncomfortable when passages from this book were read aloud prior to discussion of the passage." Ms. McKay added that the complaints were the first in the three years the novel had been used in the course.

Counseling Concerns

A Catholic interest group in St. Paul has raised concerns about the public school district's counseling service for students who have questions about their sexual preference.

The Catholic Defense League sent a letter to Superintendent Curman Gaines this month saying that Catholic students should not be referred to counselors who are gay or lesbian and who do not respect the church's teachings on homosexuality, said Peg Cullen, the group's president.

The church forbids discrimination against homosexuals, but teaches that same-sex activity is morally wrong, Ms. Cullen added.

The league wants the district to allow parents whose children request the service to choose the counselor and review any materials used in the program, which is available in the district's high schools.

The superintendent has not responded to the group's concerns yet, Christine Wroblewski, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gaines, said last week.

But "if a parent does not want a student to take part," she added, "they can contact the district, and we'll adhere to their wishes."

A New Start

The U.S. Defense Department and the National Research Council have launched a five-year retraining program to turn scientists and engineers into teachers.

The $5 million program is scheduled to begin in the Los Angeles Unified School District this summer. It will prepare professionals from the military and civilian workforce who were displaced by budget cuts for new careers teaching science and mathematics in middle and high schools.

With the money from the Defense Department, the research council will work with the district and California State University at Long Beach to design teacher training programs.

The first class of 20 teaching fellows is expected to begin full-time classroom teaching in the fall of 1996. The new teachers will be assigned to inner-city high schools in the Los Angeles area.

Student Killed, Principal Wounded

A 13-year-old student opened fire with a shotgun at a Catholic school in Southern California, wounding the principal and killing himself, police said.

The shootings followed a counseling session Jan. 23 between John Sirola, an 8th grader at Sacred Heart School in Redlands, and Principal Richard Facciolo, police said.

After the meeting, the boy left the school and later returned with a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun, shooting Mr. Facciolo in the face. On a walkway outside the school, the youth shot himself in the chest and died at the scene, police said.

A police spokesman said an autopsy revealed the teenager may have fallen and shot himself accidentally.

A police search of his bedroom turned up a hacksaw and a short section of the shotgun's barrel. The boy's mother told police that she did not know her son had a gun.

Mr. Facciolo was taken to the Loma Linda University Medical Center after the shooting. He was in fair condition late last week after undergoing reconstructive surgery on part of his jaw and shoulder, Anita Rockwell, a hospital spokeswoman, said.

Vol. 14, Issue 19

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