News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup

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Texas District To Sell Rooftop Advertising Near Airport

Airplane passengers flying into Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport may soon find themselves looking down through the clouds at rooftop advertisements, thanks to an aggressive new campaign by Grapevine-Colleyville, Texas, school officials to generate revenue.

Last week, school board members approved a plan to begin offering advertisers the chance to buy space on school buses, stadium and gymnasium billboards--and the rooftops of 10 of the district's 16 school buildings, conveniently located within several miles of the high-traffic airport. The ad packages, which range from $1,000 to $10,000, also offer rotating sponsorship of the district's voice-mail system and daily recognition on a school TV station.

Though the district is one of the wealthiest in Texas, school officials want to bring in revenue to compensate for the $11 million it lost to poorer schools under the state's revamped school finance system, said Louise Henry, a spokeswoman for the district.

Go-Ahead Given for Firing

A teacher judged incompetent in one subject does not have to be proved incompetent in others to be fired, the Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled.

The 4-1 ruling last week clears the way for the 4,300-student Ridgefield school system to fire teacher Nancy Sekor, whom it has sought to remove since 1992.

Ms. Sekor was reinstated as a keyboarding teacher in October 1995 after a judge ruled that although she had shown herself incompetent to teach English and social studies, she was still qualified to teach keyboarding.

An independent panel had earlier found that she had serious deficiencies as a teacher and should be dismissed.

Ms. Sekor's lawyer said he may ask the state supreme court for a rehearing.

Chicago Lowers School Age

Chicago schoolchildren must start school at age 5 instead of 7 beginning next fall, under a new rule the school board has adopted.

District officials estimate that 3,000 5- and 6-year-olds currently are not enrolled in school. The estimated cost of accommodating the students not now enrolled in optional half-day kindergarten programs would be $2 million.

The policy, approved last month, has been described by Paul G. Vallas, the district's chief executive officer, as an attempt to "intercept the next generation of students."

School attendance is not mandatory in Illinois until children are 7, but Chicago will be allowed to set a lower age rule.

Cincinnati Sets Tentative Pact

The Cincinnati school district and its teachers' union have arrived at a tentative three-year contract agreement, negotiators announced last week.

Under the agreement, teachers would receive raises of 2.6 percent this year and 3 percent next year and in 1999. It also calls for establishing a shared-decisionmaking team in each school by next January and provides details on team-based schools, one aspect of the district's new strategic plan. Teams of teachers would share a common group of students for two to three years.

Opposition to some of the points in the strategic plan had become a major sticking point in negotiations on the contract, which expired Dec. 31. ("Cincinnati Board Backs School-Overhaul Plan, Despite Union Protests," Jan. 15, 1997.)

The Cincinnati Federation of Teachers has scheduled a ratification vote for March 17. The school board also has to approve the agreement.

School Cleared in Gym Injury

The Colorado Court of Appeals has found that the Boulder Valley school district was not responsible for an injury a 5th grader received in gym class.

The court last month dismissed a suit by David and Nancy Proctor, whose daughter Jaren was injured in 1993 after falling during a tumbling exercise. The girl landed on the hard gym floor and not on the padding used for the exercise.

The court determined that the gym floor at Lafayette Elementary School in Lafayette was not dangerous, as the Proctors had claimed. The district is therefore protected from the suit under the state's government-immunity law, the court said.

Suspended Chief Ousted

A school board in Richmond, Va., has voted to oust its superintendent six weeks after suspending her for insubordination and 20 months after she took the job.

On a 5-4 vote, the board agreed this month to buy out Superintendent Patricia C. Conn's contract, which was to have run through June 1999. Officials of the 28,000-student district gave no official reason for the ouster.

The move capped weeks of closed-door negotiations begun after the board suspended Ms. Conn. The reasons for the 45-day suspension reportedly centered on charges that she had exceeded her authority to spend money without explicit board approval, allegations she strongly denied.

A citizens' group that was organized to push for her reinstatement turned out in force at a board meeting last week to denounce the buyout.

Calif. To Keep Compton

A California superior court judge has denied a school board's attempt to reclaim control of its embattled district.

The court last month rejected board members' claims that the state takeover of the Compton Unified School District was unconstitutional.

The state handed the district a $20 million emergency loan in 1993 on the condition that state officials would run the 28,000-student district.

The local board was unable to prove that the district has made the improvements in academic quality and financial structure that would warrant the end of state control, said Michael E. Hersher, a deputy general counsel for the state education department. The board has not addressed policy and long-term plans, he said.

School board officials were unavailable for comment.

Anti-Drug Campaign Launched

The U.S. Department of Education is teaming up with the ABC television network and Reader's Digest magazine to send an anti-drug message to children.

Throughout this month, the network will air public service announcements and warn of the dangers of drugs through its news, sports, and entertainment programming. ABC's "March Against Drugs" will conclude with a televised town meeting March 30.

Reader's Digest will publish a special section in its April issue explaining how parents can help raise their children to avoid drugs. The department will operate a toll-free number that parents can call to order a copy of the Reader's Digest guide.

The three-way effort was coordinated by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Last week, the partnership released a poll that it says shows "most parents continue to underestimate the prevalence of drugs in their children's lives."

Wash. Court Ousts College

A college in Britain that had billed itself as "The American College in Oxford" must cease its Washington state operations, according to a recent court order.

The King County Superior Court ruled last month that Warnborough College must also pay $292,263 in damages to 31 students and their families as well as $72,000 in civil penalties.

Several American students who chose to attend the Oxford, England-based college said that they discovered the college had no association with Oxford University only after they had paid as much as $20,000 in tuition and fees.

The Washington state attorney general's office sued, accusing the college of "unfair or deceptive" marketing practices. ("Charges College Misrepresented Affiliation With Oxford Addressed," Oct. 18, 1995.)

The college's former U.S. phone number, (800) 95-OXFORD, which the families cited as one deceptive tactic, is no longer in service. College officials said last week that they were unaware of the court decision.

N.J. Student Stabbed to Death

A young man entered a Bayonne, N.J., high school last week, stabbed a student to death, injured another, and then fled, according to police who were seeking the assailant late last week.

The suspect walked into Bayonne High School and began arguing with Akim Garland, 17, in a hallway, said Edward DeFazio, an assistant prosecutor for Hudson County. The attacker stabbed the 11th grader in the stomach and then fatally stabbed Aubrey Taylor, 18, in the heart as he tried to protect his classmate. Mr. Garland was rushed to the hospital and was in stable condition last week. Mr. Taylor died at the scene.

N.H. Death Nets Suspensions

Four students in Concord, N.H., served five-day suspensions last week in connection with a fight that resulted in the death of a classmate last month.

Three of the Concord High School students were suspended for harassing a 16-year-old sophomore who stands accused of punching and killing another student during the weeks leading to the fight.

The suspended students defied a direct warning from the school's assistant principal. A fourth student, school officials said, was disciplined for his unspecified role in the fight.

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