District News Briefs

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South Dakota's largest school district has sent layoff notices to 157 teachers because of a statewide budget freeze, but Superintendent Jack Keegan Jr. of Sioux Falls said such drastic measures may not be needed.

The superintendent warned at a meeting with 350 of the district's 1,150 teachers on March 10 that layoffs may be necessary to compensate for an expected $2.3 million shortfall in state funds through 1997.

State law requires that teachers be notified by the third week in March if they will not have a job in the fall.

Some state lawmakers have criticized Mr. Keegan for the layoff notices, noting that a tax plan passed by the legislature insures that the district will receive about $1.4 million more from the state next year.

"We're not overreacting," Mr. Keegan said last week, adding that "this does not mean that all those teachers will be laid off."

No decision on layoffs will be made until after the district's budget is submitted to the state next month, the superintendent said.

Exiled Classics

Reacting to the discovery of "considerable obscenities" in two commonly read books, a Wyoming school board has removed Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Hal Borland's When Legends Die from its high school curriculum.

The action followed a parent's complaint, which pointed out 57 swear words in 40 consecutive pages of When Legends Die.

J. Allen Lowe, the superintendent of Lincoln County School District #2, said that the books will remain on library shelves and that anyone who disagrees with the board's decision is welcome to protest it.

Charges in Kickback Scheme

A former employee of the New York City school board was indicted last week on charges of creating phony purchase orders and then taking $20,000 in kickbacks from a vendor who was paid for the supplies.

Sandra Orter, 48, a former administrative associate in the division of strategic planning, pleaded innocent to the charges. She resigned from her job last May.

The vendor has been cooperating with Edward F. Stancik, the city's special commissioner of investigation, who last year released a report detailing the theft and abuse of school-supply funds.

Mr. Stancik's report said Ms. Orter had set up a monthly kickback scheme with the vendor, sometimes receiving payments at a Chinese restaurant. She used some of the money, the report said, to pay for a mortgage on a vacation home in the Poconos.

Targeting Gang Violence

A program aimed at curbing gang violence in Houston would subject potential gang members to a series of conferences with parents, school administrators, and police.

The Gang Education Awareness Resistance program is a joint effort of the 225-school Houston district, police, and the mayor's anti-gang task force. It will train administrators in each school to identify signs of gang activity, such as tattoos, hand signals, or gang graffiti on notebooks.

Teachers and students are encouraged to report would-be gang members to these experts, who will decide whether a conference with parents is necessary. "We're looking at intervening at the earliest level," Capt. Bill Harness of the district's police force said.

Vol. 14, Issue 26

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