News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Teachers Pick AFT Affiliate for Leading Role in Dallas

A majority of the 9,500 teachers, counselors, and librarians in the Dallas school district voted this month to allow the Alliance of Dallas Educators, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, to be their chief representative before the school board.

After an earlier election was ruled invalid, more than 4,300 teachers chose the Alliance to chair the district's new Coordinating Teacher Organization, which works with district officials and the school board to address issues raised by each of the four unions represented there. ("Four Dallas Unions Vie To Lead Teacher Representation," Nov. 12, 1997.)

Nearly 2,400 teachers voted for the the Classroom Teachers of Dallas, the National Education Association affiliate. Two independent groups--the Texas Classroom Teachers Association and the Association of Texas Professional Educators--received 138 and 248 votes, respectively.

District officials said that the new committee, which includes members of all four teacher groups, will improve communication between teachers and the district. Some 77 percent of those eligible voted.

Leaders of the other three teachers organizations felt that the new committee was unnecessary and that it was an attempt by the Alliance to gain exclusive representation in the district.

N.J. 5th Graders Must Move

New Jersey schools chief Leo F. Klagholz last week ordered the Atlantic City school district to remove 5th graders from the 1,800-student Albany Avenue School.

"It is quite clear that the 5th graders at Albany Avenue are not safe there," Commissioner Klagholz said in issuing the order. The middle school has been plagued with disruptions almost from the day it opened this fall to serve 5th through 8th graders from the whole city. ("Makeup of Atlantic City Middle School at Issue," Nov. 12, 1997.)

Mr. Klagholz has repeatedly called for the 5th graders to be returned to their neighborhood schools. District Superintendent H. Benjamin Williams has defended the current setup.

The students must be moved out of the school by Dec. 1.

Detroit Board Fills Seat

The Detroit school board has picked the head of the local Urban League to fill the seat vacated by former Vice President Kwame Kenyatta, who quit last month after the board forced Superintendent David L. Snead to resign.

The 11-member board appointed N. Charles Anderson, the president of the Detroit Urban League, to the post Nov. 14. He ran unsuccessfully for the board last year and will have to be elected next fall to keep his seat.

Mr. Snead's critics said he did not promote the reforms advocated by New Detroit Inc., a business group that conducted a financial and management audit of the 184,000-student district. District officials are not disclosing the cost of buying out Mr. Snead's five-year contract, which runs until 1999, said spokeswoman Michelle Edwards. He earned $148,000 last year.

Mr. Kenyatta served on the board for five years and is best known for advocating an Afro-centric curriculum.

Chicago Aids Besieged School

Instead of moving a Chicago school plagued by gang violence, as top officials had considered, the district will help beef up police and community patrols there.

Schools chief Paul G. Vallas considered relocating Jenner Elementary School after a string of violence, including a fatal shooting witnessed by 8th graders looking out a classroom window two months ago.

A group of churches protested the proposed relocation and volunteered to help patrol the neighborhood, open after-school programs, and start a 24-hour crisis hot line. Mr. Vallas said last week that the 420,000-student district would contribute $100,000 to the safety campaign, help organize community meetings, and request more police officers around the school.

Jenner Elementary abuts the Cabrini-Green housing project, a magnet for drug dealers and gang members that is scheduled to be partly torn down next year.

Fewer Calif. Seniors Eligible

The overall percentage of California high school seniors who are eligible for admission to the state's public universities dropped in 1996, the California Postsecondary Education Commission says.

The proportion of students eligible to attend the California State University system dropped from 34.6 percent of all California high school seniors in 1990 to 29.6 percent in 1996, according to a recent commission report. Eligibility for the University of California system dipped from 12.3 percent to 11.1 percent in the same period. The decline was steepest for black and Hispanic graduates.

The eligibility percentages for both systems fail to meet goals set out in the state's 37-year-old master plan, which suggests guidelines that the CSU system takes the top third of graduating seniors and the UC system takes the top eighth.

Although the numbers are unsettling, the study also found that more students are taking many of the classes they need to qualify for admission to the universities, said Warren Fox, the executive director of the Sacramento, Calif.-based commission.

Court Again Bars Prop. 187

A federal judge in Los Angeles has dealt the latest legal setback to California's Proposition 187, the anti-illegal-immigration ballot measure approved by voters three years ago. The federal government alone has the constitutional authority to regulate immigration, U.S. District Judge Mariana R. Pfaelzer said in a Nov. 14 ruling.

Proposition 187 seeks to bar illegal immigrants from receiving public education, social services, and health care and calls on school authorities to turn in suspected illegal immigrants, but it has never been implemented. Since the heated 1994 election, numerous lawsuits in state and federal courts have blocked the measure.

The provisions that sought to keep illegal immigrants from receiving a K-12 public education had been struck down in earlier rulings.

Lawyers consider Judge Pfaelzer's latest action to be her final word on the measure. The state is expected to appeal the ruling, eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Suspect Held in Shootings

An 18-year old wanted in the shooting death of a Jacksonville, Fla., high school student has surrendered to police.

James David Campbell is alleged to have killed a 14-year-old Ribault High School student and wounded another in an incident that took place across the street from the school on Nov. 7 as the teens were heading to morning classes.

Mr. Campbell, who turned himself in earlier this month, is being held without bond in Jacksonville, police said. The suspect is also charged with three counts of aggravated assault in a Sept. 12 shooting at Raines High School in Jacksonville.

Needle Scare in Ohio

School leaders in Collins, Ohio, offered free HIV tests to 5th graders last week after some parents feared a classroom experiment might have exposed students to the virus that causes AIDS.

As part of a recent science lesson, 30 5th graders pricked their fingers with a sewing needle and smeared drops of their blood onto a glass plate in order to examine blood cells under a microscope.

Their teacher at Western Reserve Middle School cleaned the needle with anti-bacterial soap after each puncture, which is not standard procedure for handling possible contaminants, administrators said.

Officials at the 1,330-student district are offering free, confidential blood testing for HIV and hepatitis B to all students involved, and 16 children have already been tested at a local hospital.

The district superintendent said he plans to reprimand the teacher.

Tainted Berries' Supplier Pleads Guilty

Frederick L. Williamson, the former president of the company that supplied a shipment of Mexican strawberries that triggered a hepatitis A outbreak in several Michigan schools last spring, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in San Diego this month to lying to the government about where the fruit originated.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which purchased the berries for the national school lunch program, requires that all food used in the program be domestically grown.

Mr. Williamson, who resigned as president of the San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Sales Co. after the food scare last spring, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false claims.

He faces a $1.3 million fine and a 15-year jail term.

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