News in Brief: A National Roundup

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St. Louis Judge Blocks Neighborhood Schools Plan

A state judge in St. Louis has ruled that a neighborhood schools measure, described as a "student bill of rights," may not be placed on the city's March 2 ballot.

The proposal does not comply with the city's current desegregation order, Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Dieker Jr. said in the Jan. 22 ruling.

Proposed by former Democratic state Rep. Tom Bauer, the plan was designed to give the city's parents the right to choose K-8 neighborhood schools or allow students to transfer to any school within the district. St. Louis voters would have had to approve the measure, which was a part of a larger education bill that passed in the Missouri legislature last year, in the upcoming local election.

Mr. Bauer, who plans to appeal, filed a lawsuit against the city's three-member transitional school board because it refused to put the question before voters.

Randall Cahill, the lawyer for the board, said the wording of the measure was unclear. Though the board does not object to students' having a choice of which school they attend, Mr. Cahill said, the plan would destroy the district's magnet schools and eliminate its middle schools by ordering the district to reinstitute a K-8 system.

--Karen L. Abercrombie

OCR To Examine S.C. Program

The U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights is reviewing a South Carolina elementary school's program after a parent complained about the number of black students in classes that focus on the academic basics and discipline.

Officials of the Beaufort County schools say the "academies" at Hilton Head Elementary School, which were created to organize the school's 1,800 students into smaller groups, are all equal in their content and rigor. Parents can select the program that best suits their child, according to district spokesman John C. Williams.

But the parent said that school officials, who often guide parents in the decision, are segregating students by race.

The International Beacon Academy, which encourages students to learn independently, is the most popular choice among white students, 408 of whom have chosen it. But only 57 black and 15 Hispanic students attend that program.

In comparison, some 131 black and 33 Hispanic children are enrolled in the STAR academy, which emphasizes basic skills and lecturing. About 121 white students attend that program.

Mr. Williams said the programs may become more racially balanced as parents learn more about each program.

--Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

City To Run School Police Budget

School officials in Portland, Ore., have turned over the financial management of their school police force to the city's chief of police.

While the district will continue to hire and fire school police officers, budget matters will be handled through the Portland police department, said Lew Frederick, a spokesman for the 56,000-student system. He emphasized that the move did not mean that the city would take over other school police operations.

The district employs 20 certified and armed officers and eight support personnel; the program's annual budget is nearly $2 million. For the past three years, the city and the state have provided the money needed to run the school police program because of district budget cuts. The new setup is expected to help the district save money by lowering administrative costs.

--Adrienne D. Coles

Miscount Costs District Millions

An apparent glitch in a computer program used by many school districts nationally could cost the Muskogee, Okla., district $3.5 million.

A state auditor found that the district's software package, used for administrative functions, miscounted some student attendance figures in 1996, leading to state overpayments to the district totaling that amount.

The auditor found no evidence of malfeasance, said Sandra Garrett, the state schools superintendent.

But the district, which enrolls 6,770 students, must still repay the money, she said. Ms. Garrett, who was a teacher in the Muskogee schools, said she hopes the repayment can be spread out over time.

Superintendent Eldon L. Gleichman, who was not in charge of the district when the problem occurred, already has cut the $3.5 million out of the district's current $30 million budget. He said the district is also getting about $2.5 million per year less in state aid, which is based partly on the highest attendance level in the two previous school years.

--Andrew Trotter

Hawaii Civil Rights Panel Created

The case of Philliep Knox, a 14-year-old African-American special education student who claims that he has been harassed by classmates at Iao Intermediate School in Wailuku, has prompted the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission to form an advisory committee to address civil rights issues in the public schools.

Even though the commission does not currently have jurisdiction over the schools, it had been discussing the topic of civil rights in them after a number of incidents were reported in the statewide system, said Al Lynde, a spokesman for the commission.

A bill pending in the state legislature would give the committee jurisdiction over school-related cases.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii has asked the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights to investigate the matter relating to Mr. Knox.

June Motokawa, a former president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association and a member of the commission, will head the new committee. She is expected to report on her progress toward forming the committee at the commission's Feb. 15 meeting.

--Linda Jacobson

Athletic Director Altered Scores

To soften the blow felt from lopsided losses, the Boston public schools' athletic director has been changing the scores of hockey games for years.

When the winning team pummeled the losing team, athletic director Rocco DiLorenzo, would feed inaccurate scores to local newspapers, which typically did not have staff members at the games.

The practice was uncovered last month when a newspaper photographer attended a game and noticed a discrepancy between the score she saw and what was later printed in the paper.

According to Tracy Lynch, a spokeswoman for the 64,000-student district, the athletic director meant to protect the losing players' self-esteem. She added that the district would not tolerate the practice, but that no disciplinary action would be taken against Mr. DiLorenzo, who could not be reached for comment.

Superintendent Thomas W. Payzant has said that he is appalled by the practice and that district officials are looking into the scoring practices in all school sports.

--Michelle Galley

Two Die in Bus Accident

A student and a truck driver in Florida were killed last week when a school bus and a tractor-trailer collided.

Victor J. Dixon, 8, and Sammie Hughes, 63, both died at the scene in Vero Beach, Fla. All 14 pupils from Osceola and Rosewood elementary schools who were on the bus were taken to a hospital; 10 have since been released.

Bus driver Deborah Colletti remained in critical condition at Indian River Memorial Hospital late last week.

She has no previous citations, according to Florida Highway Patrol officials. No charges had been filed late last week.

--Candice Furlan

Hartford Study Cites Safety Issues

A physical examination of the Hartford, Conn., schools has revealed a pressing need to modernize the district's infrastructure, including fixing safety-code violations at about 30 buildings.

The study by a local architectural firm was part of the long-range planning process called for by state lawmakers two years ago when they dissolved the locally elected board and appointed their own panel in its place, officials of the 25,000-student district said.

The review also shows about 23 of the district's 35 buildings need substantial roof repairs. Many schools also lack adequate wiring for up-to-date technology and need upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it says.

Neither the firm nor the district has estimated a cost for the renovations.

By next fall, system officials expect to have a set of long-range recommendations for making improvements.

--Jeff Archer

Teacher Resigns Over Death

A Texas magnet school teacher who led a field trip in which a student fell to his death has reached an agreement with his district over the terms of his punishment.

Lee Bloomfield, a teacher at the 160-student Yvonne A. Ewell Townview Center in Dallas, was suspended with pay following the death of 14-year-old Colt Perryman on a field trip last year to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Under the terms of the deal, Mr. Bloomfield has agreed to resign.

The suspension of Mr. Bloomfield and another teacher, Marsha Evans, led the school's teachers to cancel future field trips, sparking a 300-student protest.

After the incident, Mr. Bloomfield was slated for dismissal; Ms. Evans returned to work in September. Mr. Bloomfield is expected to leave at the end of this school year.

--Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 18, Issue 21, Page 4

Published in Print: February 3, 1999, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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