New in Brief: A National Roundup

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N.Y. Appeals Court Upholds Bronx Boards Suspension

A state appeals court has upheld New York City Schools Chancellor Rudy F. Crews suspension of two community school boards last winter.

The District 7 and District 9 boards in the Bronx had not exhausted their administrative remedies when they sued to overturn Mr. Crew's action, the appellate court ruled this month.

The ruling was the latest twist in the chancellor's months-long campaign to oust members of those and other local boards, whom he has accused of misdeeds ranging from mismanaging their districts to abusing their positions for personal gain.

In April, lower courts had ruled against Mr. Crew and reinstated the two Bronx boards. They remained suspended, however, pending the appeal.

A majority of the members of the two boards won re-election in May, but Mr. Crew blocked them from taking office for at least a year under authority granted him by a state law passed in March.

Tardy Parents Face Fees

A California charter school has instituted a policy that has long been a part of the for-profit day-care business--late fees.

Parents who are tardy picking up their prekindergarten and kindergarten children are now charged $1 for every minute that they are late.

The notification letter that the Fenton Avenue Charter School in Lakeview Terrace sent to parents also states that the second time a child is picked up late, the school will both charge the fee and notify the county's department of family and children services.

School officials said some parents were jeopardizing the safety of their children by repeatedly picking them up late.

Tulsa Passes Bond Issue

Third time's the charm in Tulsa, where city voters have approved by wide margins a $94.5 million school-bond issue, the largest in Oklahoma's history.

Attempts to raise similar amounts in 1994 and last year fell short of the 60 percent majority required for passage of school bonds. Except for two bond proposals for buses and air conditioning in 1991, the 42,000-student district had not won at the polls since 1969.

Superintendent John W. Thompson said that packaging the request into four separate bond proposals--for building renovation and construction, libraries, classroom materials and equipment, and school buses--also helped residents know what they were voting for Oct. 8.

Neb. Board Delays Rules

The Nebraska state school board has postponed new rules for educating expelled students in the hope that lawmakers will rescind a law requiring districts to provide them with an alternative education.

The board's eight members unanimously opposed the law calling for the new rules, which the state legislature passed this spring. The law, which takes effect July 1, compels districts to offer alternative-education opportunities to expelled students.

"Expulsion means banished, you're out of here," board member Kathleen McCallister said last week.

Ms. McCallister and other board members said if the law is not repealed in the next legislative session, which begins in January, they will approve regulations that give districts great flexibility in carrying out the law.

Seattle Mulls Patches

The superintendent of the Seattle schools has suggested that giving nicotine patches to students might be a way to help them quit smoking.

John Stanford, who became the district's schools chief last year, made the statement in a routine memo to the school board last month after a new district survey revealed that 61 percent of Seattle students had tried cigarettes by the time they turned 13.

He directed district health officials to devise a comprehensive plan to address student smoking, which could include the nicotine devices.

The patches, which are worn like bandages for about two months as they release nicotine into the bloodstream, have shown some success in helping wean adult smokers from their habit.

Chicago Shuts Homeless Site

The Chicago school district has closed a school that served homeless children in 1st to 8th grades to satisfy a demand from plaintiffs in a class action.

Representatives of homeless parents and children filed a lawsuit in 1992 claiming that the single-teacher classroom was a method neighborhood schools used to keep out homeless students, said Rene Heybach, the supervisory attorney for the homeless-advocacy project of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago.

The group had charged the school district with violating the federal Stewart B. McKinney Act of 1987, which requires schools to provide a quality education for homeless children.

Students who attended the one-room Uptown School at the Salvation Army Emergency Lodge were sent to other district schools last month.

Md. District Bans Frog Book

It's not easy being green, but life has been exceptionally hard for one frog in particular. Prompted by a parent's complaint, school officials in Baltimore County, Md., have removed the children's book Froggy Went A-Courtin' from the shelves of its school libraries.

Based on a folk song, the illustrated story is about a cigarette-smoking, bank-robbing, safe-cracking degenerate frog named Froggy who eventually gets carted off to jail for his crimes.

"The school has the responsibility to review all materials--but there should be a more democratic process for banning a book," said the book's author and illustrator, Kevin O'Malley, who has written and illustrated 14 books. "They had every right to do it," but, he added, "I hope they will reconsider."

A committee of elementary school teachers and administrators voted unanimously last month to ban the book on the grounds that it was inappropriate for students. School officials said the move was an act of selection rather than censorship.

AFT Upholds Chicago Union Election

Top officials of the American Federation of Teachers have found no merit to charges of election fraud that were lodged against leaders of the Chicago affiliate by an unsuccessful candidate for the local union's presidency.

A committee headed by two AFT vice presidents concluded that there was "no credible evidence" supporting allegations brought by teacher Deborah Lynch Walsh after she lost her bid to oust Thomas H. Reece, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, during the May 17 election.

"To say we're disappointed is a total understatement," Ms. Walsh said last week after learning of the decision from a reporter.

The opposition faction headed by Ms. Walsh, the ProActive Chicago Teachers and Schools Employees, or PACT, alleged that union officials allied with Mr. Reece carried out the election under conditions that improperly allowed candidates and their supporters unfettered access to ballots. ("AFT Probes Charges in Chicago Union Election," Sept. 18, 1996.)

But after weighing evidence from a hearing in Chicago last month, the AFT officials said the election should stand. Mr. Reece garnered 72.8 percent of the vote to Ms. Walsh's 27.2 percent.

"Serious allegations and insinuations have been advanced by PACT of election fraud and ballot stuffing," the committee wrote. "However, the testimony and evidence has not matched the rhetoric."

Ms. Walsh stuck by her charges, however, and chided the national union for failing at least to require the CTU to turn over operation of future voting to a third party.

AFT officials did not address that issue in their decision.

Moreover, they obliquely rebuked Ms. Walsh by saying that while the right to challenge election results or procedures was part of a healthy democratic union, "the availability of that right should not be abused."

Children's Reading Expert Dies at 102

Roma Gans, an emeritus professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the author of books on teaching children to read, has died. Ms. Gans, 102, died Oct. 4 at the Springside Nursing Home in Pittsfield, Mass.

Ms. Gans joined the Teachers College faculty in 1929 and retired in 1959. She also wrote several children's books.

Many of her reading texts are still in use, including Guiding Children's Reading Through Experience, published in 1942, and Common Sense in Teaching Reading, published in 1963.

Vol. 16, Issue 08

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