News in Brief: A National Roundup
Miami-Dade Schools Favor Bilingualism For All Students
The Miami-Dade County school board has embraced the principle of bilingual education for all K-12 students, but has not yet decided how it would pay for it.
The board voted March 18 to support a plan that aims for all students to speak two languages fluently, reflecting the strong influence of the large Spanish- and Haitian Creole-speaking population in the Florida district, the nation's fourth largest.
The plan, which contrasts with an initiative in California that seeks to virtually dismantle bilingual education there, could mean that the Dade County district's 332,000 students would have to take a foreign language in order to graduate.
The board has not yet determined how it would pay for more bilingual teachers and smaller language classes.
Eastin Demands LEP Testing
The California schools chief is taking a hard line against the San Francisco school board over its unwillingness to administer a standardized test to roughly 6,000 students who are limited-English-proficient.
State Superintendent Delaine Eastin gave the district until last Friday to back down from its decision to not give those students the Stanford-9 English test. And if they don't bend, she said, the state education department will seek a court order this week to force the district to comply.
Officials of the 62,000-student district have said that administering an English test to LEP students is unfair.
District officials are standing by their position and hoping state legislators will amend the law to exempt LEP students.
Other school systems in the state, including the Los Angeles district, have also objected to giving the test to children who know little or no English.
Boy Readmitted in Web Case
A federal district court judge in Cleveland has ordered the Westlake school district to readmit to classes a student who had created a World Wide Web page critical of his school's band director.
In the temporary restraining order, Judge John M. Manos also ordered school officials not to restrict the speech of 16-year-old Sean O'Brien, who is a member of the Westlake High School concert band.
The district suspended Mr. O'Brien for 10 days in March for posting messages on the Internet from his home that were critical of the teacher. He served eight days of the suspension before the judge issued the order. A hearing on Mr. O'Brien's motion for a preliminary injunction in the case was scheduled for April 1.
Ann Beeson, a staff lawyer at the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York City, said this was the first court order to result from a number of cases nationally involving students' speech rights on the Internet.
Retired Colonel Heads System
Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wilmer S. Cody has appointed Arnold "Woody" Carter, a retired U.S. Army colonel most recently stationed at Fort Knox, Ky., as the state manager of schools in Floyd County.
Since last fall, the state has been overseeing the affairs of the 7,700-student school district, which has been plagued by financial and management troubles.
Although Mr. Carter, a 49-year-old Floyd County native, has no experience as a teacher or administrator, his management experience and native status make him a sound choice, said Jim Parks, a spokesman for the state education department. Retired military officers have also filled the top school jobs in Seattle, the District of Columbia, and Boulder, Colo.
The state is paying Mr. Carter $72,000 for each year of his service, the length of which has not been determined.
N.C. Test Challenged
Civil rights groups in North Carolina are blaming state and local education officials for the disproportionate number of black students who have failed the state's competency exam.
The North Carolina Education and Law Project and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People State Conference filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's office of civil rights last month. The complaint charges that the state education department and 28 districts failed to provide adequate remedial help to ensure black students' success.
According to state figures, some 93 percent of white students entering 12th grade last fall had passed the test, compared with 82.4 percent of black students. In 39 districts, blacks scored above the state average on the exam, yet in the counties named in the complaint, fewer than 80 percent of blacks met the standard.
State officials argue that the numbers are inaccurate since many of the students have taken the test again this year and passed it. This is the first year that students who fail the test will be prevented from graduating.
Dallas Repair Fraud Charged
A roofing contractor and a former inspector for the Dallas school district have been indicted in connection with an alleged scheme to defraud the school system of more than $383,000 in roofing repairs.
A federal grand jury charged contractor William Morris Risby and ex-inspector James D. Hargrave on March 17. The indictment results from a continuing investigation by the FBI into corruption in the district. Mr. Hargrave is the 15th current or former employee of the 158,000-student system to be indicted on federal charges arising from the investigation.
The latest indictment alleges that Mr. Risby, the owner of Time Saving Construction, got roofing contracts thanks in part to Mr. Hargrave's influence, paid him kickbacks, and failed to perform repairs for which the district was charged.
A lawyer for Mr. Risby said the general contractor was "shocked to learn that work had not been done" and planned to plead not guilty to the charges. Mr. Hargrave could not be reached for comment.
Boy Scouts' Bans Upheld
The California Supreme Court ruled last week that the Boy Scouts of America can exclude homosexuals, agnostics, and atheists as members.
Two unanimous decisions from the seven-member panel stemmed from two separate cases: one filed by Tim Curran, a former Eagle Scout who was rejected as an adult member when his local Scout council discovered he was gay; and the other by twin brothers who refused to say the word "God" when they took the Boy Scout oath.
In the March 23 rulings, the court determined that the state's civil rights act did not apply to the Boy Scouts because it is a private group, which is free to set its own membership policies, and not a business establishment.
Earlier in March, the New Jersey Court of Appeals ruled that the Boy Scouts' expulsion of a member because he is gay was in violation of state law.
Los Alamos Approves Bond
Los Alamos, N.M., voters have approved a $14 million bond that will help the federal-research-based community repair and renovate its schools.
Fifty-four percent of the 7,821 voters supported the bond proposal in the March 24 election, only the district's second school bond election in more than 50 years.
Forty-six percent opposed the measure, which will raise local property taxes by 28 percent.
The 3,700-student Los Alamos district serves the north-central New Mexico town where, for years, the federal government has subsidized the schools to help attract scientists for research projects there. ("As Federal Subsidies Wane, 'Secret City' Looks to the Future," March 25, 1998.)
School officials said that the bond will help compensate for declining federal school aid, which, in the past, has accounted for about one-third of the district's revenue.
Thomas P. Mondani, who helped push for major reforms in state policy on teacher compensation and assessment during his 22 years as the Connecticut Education Association's executive director, died March 19. He was 63.
Mr. Mondani, a former teacher, joined the CEA, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, as a research consultant in 1963 and was appointed to the CEA's top staff job in 1971. He held the position until 1994, longer than any other executive director in the organization's 150-year history.
He worked successfully for two of the state's most significant teacher initiatives: the 1979 law that established binding arbitration for teachers and the 1986 Education Enhancement Act, which substantially raised teacher salaries while also raising minimum qualifications for beginning teachers.
Dennis Frederick, the Minnesota teacher who gained national attention when he returned to the classroom after learning he had terminal cancer, died March 23. He was 38.
Mr. Frederick began teaching 3rd grade at Pleasantville Elementary School in Sauk Rapids, Minn., in 1991. After chemotherapy proved unsuccessful in treating his colon cancer, doctors told him last May that he would probably live only another six months. Despite the news, he decided to return to the classroom in the fall. Word of his courage spread, and he was featured on national television news shows. ("A Lesson Before Dying," March 4, 1998.)
Mr. Frederick managed to keep teaching until last November, and even after that made frequent visits to the school.