State News in Brief

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Ga. Districts Looking for New Superintendents

As schools open across Georgia this month, up to half the state's 180 school districts are looking for new superintendents.

A 1992 constitutional amendment gives districts until next Jan. 1 to replace elected superintendents with chiefs appointed by local school boards. ("Elected District Chiefs in Ga. The Latest To Become Extinct," June 12, 1996.)

"There's no statewide sense of panic, but some have realized in the past few months that, 'Hey, we better get going,'" said Laura Reilly, the director of communications for the Georgia School Boards Association.

At the time the amendment was adopted, 107 districts elected their superintendents.

Early hiring patterns show that boards are willing to pick more women and members of minority groups than held the job under the old system.

"We want to make sure everybody has a fair shot at being a superintendent, and we like what we're seeing," said Bill Barr, the executive director of the Georgia School Superintendents Association.

Observers say the hiring frenzy has had no impact on the beginning of the school year.

Colorado Safe-Schools Law Is Questioned

A Colorado law designed to get tough on students who commit assaults is being questioned by some watching the case of a high school student expelled after a schoolyard fight.

The Jefferson County school board expelled Danny Evenson, 15, last month after a fight last December at Wheat Ridge High School in which he reportedly knocked out the tooth of another student. Mr. Evenson was found delinquent in a juvenile court of felony second-degree assault.

Under a 1993 state law, any student convicted of felony assault must be expelled. The law is believed to be responsible for a sharp increase in expulsions in Colorado: 1,661 students were expelled during the 1995-96 school year.

Colorado lawmakers and educators say that schoolyard fights usually result, at most, in misdemeanor assault charges and thus do not require expulsion of the participants.

The prosecutor of Mr. Evenson's case told The Denver Post that he was not aware of the "safe schools" law when he charged the boy with felony assault. But knocking a tooth out was "serious bodily injury" under the law and merited the more serious charge, the prosecutor said.

Lack of Accountability in Wis. Reforms Assailed

Wisconsin residents may have become complacent over the past strong performance of public education in the state, and thereby overlooked flaws in the state's education system, a report argues.

The state education department has become bogged down by regulations and lacks coherent policies for accountability for high performance by students, suggests the report released by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute in Thiensville.

"Many of the reforms enacted have continued to focus on specifying inputs, rather than increasing the educational system's accountability for improving educational outcomes," the report concludes. Likewise, it adds, "[t]he state seeks to control the behavior of local school districts through mandates and rules."

The report, "Reforming Public Education in Wisconsin: Moving From Bureaucracy to Accountability," recommends that the state provide greater regulatory flexibility, improve accountability practices, and reduce its education bureaucracy. It also calls for the creation of a mechanism in the legislature for assuming long-term oversight of the state's education-policy system.

John T. Benson, the state schools superintendent, characterized the report as an outpouring of opinion, not a research project.

Vol. 16, Issue 02

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