News in Brief: A National Roundup

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School Support Staff OKs Affiliation With Miners' Union

School support-staff employees in Harlan County, Ky., have voted in the United Mine Workers of America as their bargaining agent.

The school workers voted 194-133 this month in favor of having the coal miners' union represent them. Doug Gibson, a spokesman for the union in Washington, said he hopes contract negotiations will begin as soon as possible.

Though unusual, the arrangement does not mark the first time the miners' union has represented school employees, he said.

The union recently represented a school group in eastern Indiana.

The 6,500-student district in eastern Kentucky has about 700 employees, more than half of whom are support-staff members: cafeteria workers, bus drivers, teachers' aides, and custodians.

Harlan County school officials could not be reached for comment. But Daphne Goodin, a regional representative of the Kentucky Education Association, said the miners' union "doesn't understand the needs of schools" in Harlan, and that in the likelihood that the demands are not met, she fears a strike.

--Kerry A. White

Group Offers Teacher-Test Plan

A Massachusetts higher education group last week recommended a set of principles of fairness and due process it believes should be used in administering a high-stakes licensing test for teachers.

The report by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, a group of 56 degree-granting institutions, follows a yearlong controversy in the state over a licensing test that many prospective teachers have failed.

Although the report endorses such testing, it also calls for teacher tests to be monitored for reliability and validity; for the test-makers to disseminate technical manuals; and for improvements in the gathering and reporting of data about passing rates.

The association also called on the state to focus on both the supply of teachers and the quality of new entrants to the profession.

--Ann Bradley

Court Upholds Records Release

A Wisconsin appeals court has upheld a 1996 state circuit court ruling that allows the Madison school district to release a report on allegations of sexual misconduct against a former principal.

Stephen M. Kailin, the principal of the 400-student Franklin Elementary School from 1993 to 1996, sued to prevent disclosure of the report and other personnel records. He argued that his right to privacy outweighed the public interest in disclosing the records.

Mr. Kailin had resigned and voluntarily surrendered his teaching and administrator licenses after a district investigator submitted a report to the school board in 1996, according to Mike McCabe, a spokesman for the 25,100-student district. No criminal charges were filed.

The report details alleged incidents involving the principal and students, and includes the outcome of investigations of "inappropriate physical contact, and inappropriate behavior that did include serious allegations of sexual assault," Mr. McCabe said.

Mr. Kailin's lawyer did not return phone calls last week.

--Andrew Trotter

Reading Tutors Planned for L.A.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer has unveiled a program intended to pair thousands of the city's elementary school students with college students who will serve as their reading tutors.

The city-sponsored effort, which is called Read L.A., forges an alliance between the 700,000-student Los Angeles district and California State University campuses.

Under the plan, college students will get credit for tutoring youngsters. Ideally, teacher-candidates will make up the bulk of the tutors, according to the organizers.

The program will begin in a few pilot schools next fall and is slated to expand citywide by the end of the 1999-2000 school year.

Only 20 percent of the city's students are reading at grade level, according to Jane Blumenfeld, Mr. Feuer's chief of staff.

--Robert C. Johnston

Girl Arrested in Jeans Dispute

A juvenile-court judge ruled last week that the Waterbury, Conn., district will have to prove in court that it was justified in arresting a 12-year-old girl for an incident stemming from her violation of the school system's dress code.

Administrators at the North End Middle School called in police March 24 to arrest Teshana Byars for criminal trespass when the 7th grader refused to go to the principal's office. She was being sent there because she wore jeans to school for a second time. Bluejeans are prohibited by the policy, according to Philip A. Giordano, the mayor and the ex officio chairman of the school board.

The 15,200-student district last August adopted the policy, which, Mr. Giordano said, most parents favor.

Dennis Byars, Teshana's father, said that she would not return to school until the matter was resolved in court. Mr. Byars, who is working with the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, claims that the dress policy violates his daughter's constitutional rights and his parental rights.

--Karen L. Abercrombie

Official Accused of Double-Dipping

A top school security official for the District of Columbia began a similar job with the Cleveland district before quitting his first job, according to a spokeswoman for the District of Columbia's schools.

The dual-employment allegation has already cost Sidney Yeldell his job as the security chief for the 76,000-student Cleveland schools, and is likely to cost him his District of Columbia position, too.

School district officials in Washington said he may not have been in his office there past March 16 although he did not submit his letter of resignation until March 26. Cleveland officials said he started his job as the security chief in that city's schools March 1. He was fired from the Cleveland post on March 24.

Mr. Yeldell, who could not be reached for comment, began his $98,500-a-year position as a special assistant to the superintendent for the 72,000-student district in the nation's capital last July.

Washington school officials said they did not yet know how he accounted for his time on the job when he was actually in Cleveland. He may also face criminal charges of fraud, officials said.

--Bess Keller

Former Dallas Chief Released

Yvonne Gonzalez, the former Dallas superintendent who was convicted of embezzlement, has announced that she plans to go to work for a clothing factory now that she has been released from custody, according to local press reports.

Ms. Gonzalez, who was fired from the superintendency of the 158,000-student district after spending $16,000 in unauthorized district funds on furniture for her home and office, made the announcement at her lawyer's office soon after she left a halfway house in San Antonio April 2. ("Former Dallas Superintendent Sentenced to 15 Months," Feb. 11, 1998.)

She was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison and served 10 months at the halfway house. She still faces two years of supervised release.

--Bess Keller

District Drops 'Work' Day

Officials of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in North Carolina have decided that students will no longer be excused from school to participate in "Take Our Daughters to Work" Day. The annual event, which encourages parents to introduce their daughters to the world of work, is scheduled for April 22.

The 100,000-student system changed its policy to help meet the state schools superintendent's goals on attendance and achievement, according to Janyce Rucker, the district's media-relations supervisor.

Officials said they hoped to schedule another "work day" during the summer.

Heidi Burbadge, a national organizer for the event, said that even though the day is planned to be held during the school year, the organization wrote a curriculum that schools can use at any time in conjunction with such activities.

--Candice Furlan


Wilson Riles

Wilson Riles, a three-term California state schools chief and the state's first African-American to be elected to statewide office, died April 4 following complications from pneumonia. He was 81.

Mr. Riles was elected to the nonpartisan post of state superintendent of public instruction in 1970. The former classroom teacher and school administrator was re-elected in 1974 and 1978.

He oversaw the state's K-12 public school system during a time of rapid growth in enrollment and spending. During his tenure, he implemented early-childhood-education programs, opposed mandatory busing for desegregation, and championed tougher tests.

--Robert C. Johnston

Vol. 18, Issue 31, Page 4

Published in Print: April 14, 1999, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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