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N.J. Extends Takeover

The New Jersey state school board has voted to extend its control of the Jersey City schools for at least another year, despite recent test scores that are the best since the state took control of the troubled district seven years ago.

The district's reading, writing, and math scores rose in 1995-96 on state standardized exams given in the 8th and 11th grades, as well as on the Metropolitan Achievement Test taken by 4th graders.

But passing rates remained below state standards in several key areas--a key factor in the state board's decision to extend the takeover.

The higher test scores came after years of increases that were marginal at best. State officials lauded the gains as evidence that the takeover is working, and that the 32,000-student district is on the road to regaining its independence.

Workers Strike Mich. Union

In an unusual labor-relations twist, the Michigan Education Association is facing a work stoppage by its own employees.

The strike, which began Sept. 3, involves about 500 employees from around the state who are in a dispute with the union over salary and benefits issues.

MEA spokeswoman Dawn Cooper said three bargaining units are striking: two separate units of professional-staff members and the unit for clerical employees.

Union employees have been picketing outside the MEA offices in East Lansing.

School Buses Recalled

Two of the nation's largest school bus companies have announced a recall of 11,500 buses to repair fuel systems that could leak and cause fires during collisions.

The voluntary recalls came after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reviewed crash tests and found that some buses manufactured by the Blue Bird Corp. of Macon, Ga., and the Harsco Corp. of Camp Hill, Pa., leaked more fuel than allowed by federal standards.

No accidents, injuries, or deaths have been caused by the defect, the agency said.

The dates of manufacture for buses that will be affected have not been determined, a Blue Bird spokesman said last week. The two companies are testing modified fuel systems and will repair the buses free of charge.

Loans Gone Bad

A crackdown on Illinois teachers with defaulted student loans turned up far more names than expected, according to the state school board.

The board originally estimated the number at about 1,200, but a cross-reference of the Social Security numbers of state teachers with student-loan records turned up 3,034 defaulters, said board spokesman Lee Milner.

The state is warning teachers with defaulted student loans to arrange for repayment or face having their licenses suspended. State officials said only 777 of those in default have taught in the state during the past year--a small portion of the state's 116,000 teachers.

3 D.C. Schools Reopen

Students at three of six District of Columbia schools ordered closed for fire-code violations have returned to their classrooms, while more than 200 students at a school for disabled students were relocated last week after heavy rains damaged the roof.

Superior Court Judge Kaye K. Christian, in a Sept. 5 hearing, said she was satisfied that repairs at the three schools had been completed. The judge had ordered the six schools closed in August after fire-code violations were not repaired. (Superintendent Under Fire in Problem-Plagued D.C., Sept. 4, 1996.)

Repairs to the other schools were expected to be completed by the end of this month.

Court Oversight Returns

Two years after winning what it hoped was permanent freedom from a federal desegregation order, the Muscogee County, Ga., school district again finds itself under court supervision.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled that a lower-court judge erred in 1994 when he declared that the district, which serves the Columbus area, was as well integrated as could be expected. The three-judge appeals panel said the 32,000-student district had basically ignored its obligations under a 1971 order by allowing most schools to become racially imbalanced since the early 1980s.

The school board voted this month to challenge the decision, which ordered the lower court to resume its supervision of the district. Superintendent James E. Buntin defended the district's desegregation record, pointing to magnet programs designed to lure white students to primarily black neighborhoods.

San Jose Curtails Busing

Neighborhood schools will again become the norm in San Jose, Calif., under a plan to scrap strict ethnic quotas and extensive cross-town busing in the 32,000-student district.

The court-sanctioned plan will replace a controlled-choice system of assigning students that has been in place since 1985. Under that system, white enrollment has fallen from 70 percent to 30 percent.

Superintendent Linda T. Murray said the agreement means that most elementary students will be assigned to schools close to home. But she did not expect major changes in the upper grades, where students choose schools based on specialized programs.

The agreement, approved by a federal judge late last month, does not end the district's 25-year-old desegregation case. Some court supervision will remain.

Kiryas Joel Wins Reprieve

The controversial Kiryas Joel, N.Y., school district will remain in operation while state officials appeal a ruling that struck down the law that created it.

The district serves a Hasidic Jewish community about 50 miles from New York City.

The New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, issued a stay last month that will allow the district to operate while the court reviews the constitutionality of the law.

Walkout in N.J. Diocese

About 80 teachers at a Roman Catholic high school in New Jersey returned to work last week after settling a strike that began Sept. 3. The teachers at Holy Cross High School in Delran walked out on what would have been the first day of school in a dispute over salary issues.

Last week's agreement followed two days of mediation with the Trenton Diocese. The teachers returned to work after signing a new three-year contract on Sept. 12. The agreement calls for a pay increase of about 13 percent over 3 years.

Billboards Make Positive Statement

The Fayette County (Ky.) Education Association wanted to accentuate the positive about teachers, so the union bought billboard space to do just that.

"It creates a positive mind-set toward education," said Mattie Katz, the vice president of the local teachers' union and a kindergarten teacher at Maxwell Elementary School in Lexington.

"Project Positive Image" was started to counteract the negative publicity that schools sometimes receive.

Five billboards have been in place since last month, and each features artwork from Ms. Katz's students. The billboards include the National Education Association's theme for the year, "For Children and Education," and were partly financed with a $5,000 grant from the Kentucky Education Association, the national union's state affiliate.

The billboards will remain in place through this winter, and more may appear in surrounding counties, along with other advertising such as public service announcements, Ms. Katz said.

So far feedback from parents, teachers, and the community has been positive, she said.

Arthur S. Flemming, Former Cabinet Secretary, Dies

Arthur S. Flemming, who served as U.S. secretary of health, education, and welfare during the Eisenhower administration, died Sept. 8 in Alexandria, Va. He was 91.

Mr. Flemming also served as the chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights from 1974 to 1981. He was dismissed from the post in 1981 when he publicly warned that the Reagan administration was drifting back to a "separate but equal" philosophy in school-desegregation cases.

Mr. Flemming was also a member of the U.S. Civil Service Commission during the 1940s. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 by President Clinton.

President of Tenn. Union Dies at 51

Kathy Woodall, the president of the Tennessee Education Association and a longtime Nashville-area teacher, died of cancer Sept. 6 at her home. She was 51.

Ms. Woodall had served as the union's president since July 1994 and was re-elected for a second term in April. She is credited with helping champion school-safety legislation passed by state lawmakers earlier this year.

She was also the president of the Metro Nashville Education Association in 1987-88.

Ms. Woodall will be succeeded as TEA president by Velma Lois Jones of Memphis.

Vol. 16, Issue 03

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