News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Flap Over Teacher Bonuses Resolved In North Carolina

About 650 itinerant teachers in the Guilford County, N.C., school district will not have to return bonus money that was overpaid to them under the state's accountability plan. And about 1,300 others who were inadvertently left out of the program will get their portions of the incentive money thanks to an anonymous donor who provided more than $45,000.

Under the 2-year-old plan, teachers in schools that meet or exceed the state's expectations on end-of-year tests can receive up to $1,500 each in bonuses. Teachers who provide services to several schools within a district are to receive a portion of the bonus, prorated according to the percentage of their time they work in the schools that qualify.

Guilford County school officials, however, misinterpreted the rules of the program, according to Kay Williams, a spokeswoman for the state education department. The district mistakenly gave full bonuses to itinerant teachers who were based at the exemplary schools, but gave nothing to others who spent part of their time there but were based elsewhere.

After a barrage of protests from teachers and the public--and after the private donor agreed to pay for part of the error--the district decided it would not seek repayment.

--Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Stamp Commemorates Brown

To mark the 45th anniversary of the May 17, 1954, ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the U.S. Postal Service is unveiling a stamp titled "Desegregating Public Schools." The 33-cent stamp, which goes on sale this week, is one of 15 stamps on a sheet depicting events from the 1950s. The sheet is the newest addition to the Postal Service's "Celebrate the Century" program, in which a collectible sheet of stamps highlighting events from each decade of the 20th century will be issued.

Schoolchildren taking part in the program's classroom activities and the public were invited to vote last year on the stamps that would be featured on the commemorative sheet. Some of the other winners include Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat book, drive-in movies, the development of the polio vaccine, and the television comedy "I Love Lucy."

Voting for the stamps to represent the 1990s is going on in participating classrooms and at post offices through May. More information on the program is available at the Postal Service's World Wide Web site:

--Michelle Galley

Illinois Waiver Law Challenged

A court ruling has raised questions in Illinois about a 1995 law that enables the state school board to waive certain education requirements.

A Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled May 12 that the state law was unconstitutional because it gives the board improper control over legislative matters. The ruling came in a lawsuit, filed by the 33,700-member Chicago Teachers Union in 1997, that challenged the state's decision to allow the Chicago schools to offer just two years of high school physical education in order to beef up other course offerings. State law calls for four years of physical education in high school.

In addition to charging that the waiver law is improper, the CTU maintains that the Chicago waiver is bad educational policy and that it puts physical education teachers' jobs at risk.

Though all waiver requests go through the state board, only the legislature can approve exemptions from mandated programs, according to Mike Hernandez, a lawyer for the board. Waivers not acted on by the legislature within 30 days of receipt are automatically approved.

The state judge barred the Chicago schools from making the physical education change, which was scheduled to take effect in the fall. Both the state board and the 437,000-student Chicago district plan to appeal.

--Lynn Schnaiberg

Two Boston Schools Get Donation

A Boston couple has donated $2 million to two local high schools. The Trefler Foundation, established by Pam and Alan Trefler, announced the gift to East Boston and Madison Park Technical Vocational high schools this month.

The 1,250-student East Boston High School plans to use the money for a program to help students at risk of failing, and the 1,620-student Madison Park school plans a comprehensive study of all aspects of technical vocational education at the school. Each school will receive $1 million.

The foundation has given more than $5 million to Boston's public schools since it was created two years ago. Mr. Trefler owns a multimillion-dollar software company based in nearby Cambridge. Ms. Trefler teaches at the city's Dorchester High School.

--Candice Furlan

Blind Teens Can Have Exam Read

Four North Carolina teenagers who lost their sight in the past two years will be allowed to have the state's reading-comprehension exam read to them.

The yearlong debate over how the four students at Governor Morehead School for the Blind would take the test, which students must pass in order to graduate, was resolved earlier this month when the state education department decided the students could use a computer program that will read the test to them with a synthesized voice. Mastering Braille usually takes five to seven years.

--Candice Furlan

R.I. Union Head Will Be Replaced

Harvey B. Press, who has served as the president of the National Education Association Rhode Island for 14 years, has lost his latest bid for re-election.

Union delegates this month voted 148-128 to replace Mr. Press with Larry Purtill, the union's vice president.

Mr. Press, whose current term is up in August, had come under criticism for a long-running court case involving union officials' pension benefits. At the same meeting, delegates voted not to pay more legal fees for the case.

--Ann Bradley

L.A. To Provide Free Child Care

Los Angeles County has launched the nation's largest free after-school child-care program, aiming to provide care in 225 county elementary schools.

The county is working with the California Department of Public Social Services to provide free child care to families who participate in CalWORKs--the state's welfare-to-work program.

The $74 million after-school enrichment program, approved this month, will focus on improving achievement in such areas as mathematics, reading, and spelling.

The county hopes to have at least 25 schools ready to offer care by September and 125 schools ready by January. About 16,000 students will be served, according to John Berndt, the program's director.

--Karen L. Abercrombie


John Minor Wisdom, a federal judge who had been involved in numerous desegregation rulings throughout the Deep South, died May 15 in New Orleans. He was 93.

Judge Wisdom was named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in 1957 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Over four decades, Judge Wisdom wrote decisions that desegregated courthouses, schools, state legislatures, voting booths, and juries.

He ruled that all six states under the court's jurisdiction--Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas--had to desegregate their public schools.

--Candice Furlan

Wilfred Keyes, an African-American parent who sued the Denver public school system in a case that led to a pivotal desegregation ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, died May 14 in Aurora, Colo. He was 74.

In Keyes v. Denver School District No.1, the high court for the first time held a district liable for intentional segregation even though it had never required separate schools by law. The 1973 decision also held that Hispanics and blacks should be counted together when determining whether a school was segregated.

--Michelle Galley

Vol. 18, Issue 37, Page 4

Published in Print: May 26, 1999, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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