District News Roundup

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Fort Wayne Launches Broad Restructuring Plan: The Fort Wayne, Ind., school district has begun a wide-ranging reorganization plan that will trim its central-office staff and give schools greater decisionmaking power.

The plan is part of an effort to create a more service-oriented system--a goal of Superintendent Thomas Fowler-Finn, who came to the 31,700-student district in January.

The reorganization will streamline operations and reduce administrative costs, shaving $1.2 million from the district's $172 million budget, said Valerie von Frank, a district spokeswoman. Much of the money will go back into the system, she said.

To improve communication between district-level administrators and schools and eliminate bureaucratic layers, the system will be divided into several subdistricts.

Edison Addition: The Sherman, Tex., school board voted 6 to 1 last week to turn over an elementary school to the Edison Project in the fall.

Washington Elementary School will join three other schools nationwide that will be operated by the for-profit school-management company founded by the media entrepreneur Christopher Whittle. The others are in Boston; Mount Clemens, Mich.; and Wichita, Kan.

Benno C. Schmidt Jr., the president of the New York City-based Edison Project, said the Sherman school will likely be the final addition to the roster of schools the company will operate in 1995-96.

Edison recently secured $30 million in funding to implement its education-reform ideas in schools. Mr. Schmidt said the company is continuing talks with districts about taking over schools in the fall of 1996.

Rapid Transition Urged: An organization of New York City business leaders has called for the rapid decentralization of the nation's largest school district.

The city's public schools will not produce the type of workforce business needs without such dramatic change, the New York City Partnership warns in a report distributed this month.

The report lays out a reform plan designed to curtail the system's central administration--and thus leave its schools largely autonomous--by September of 2000.

The report also proposes changes in state law that would give the mayor greater responsibility for school performance. Either the mayor should appoint most school board members, or the board should be eliminated and the mayor should directly appoint the chancellor of the city's schools, it says.

Similar restructuring plans in the past have failed to win the approval of the state legislature and the city council.

Paddling Proposal Rejected: School board members in Greenville County, S.C., have rejected a proposal to return to the use of corporal punishment, a practice the county abandoned in 1991.

The board voted 8 to 3 last week against a return to paddling elementary and middle school students who misbehaved, a practice that supporters had argued would curb discipline problems.

Superintendent Tim Jenney opposed the proposal, saying it would have made the 55,000-student district a target for lawsuits.

"In the society we live in today, schools are easy marks with deeper pockets for anyone who wants that kind of thing," Mr. Jenney said.

South Carolina is one of 23 states that allow some form of corporal punishment in schools.

Rain Damage: Persistent rain in a Washington State school district warped and rotted some portable classrooms so much that 15 of them had to be permanently closed, prompting a review of the district's safety-inspection procedures.

Leaky roofs and broken floor joists made the structures unsafe, said Bob Collard, a spokesman for the Lake Washington school district. "These were really old buildings."

The 23,000-student district has about 200 portable classrooms, some of them inherited from neighboring Seattle up to 20 years ago, Mr. Collard said.

Since the 15 classrooms were closed in February, the district has been devising new procedures for monitoring the safety of the structures, he added.

"Right now, the system is that when something breaks, the custodian puts in a work-repair order," Mr. Collard said. "We're trying to take a more proactive approach."

Vol. 14, Issue 30, Page 4

Published in Print: April 19, 1995, as District News Roundup
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