News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Delaware State Chief Named Md. District Superintendent

The Prince George's County school system, Maryland's largest, last week named Delaware Secretary of Education Iris T. Metts as its next superintendent.

Ms. Metts, 56, will take over July 1 from Jerome Clark, a longtime administrator in the suburban Washington district who won promotion to the top job three years ago. Mr. Clark announced his retirement in early February amid criticism of the 130,000-student system's lagging scores on statewide exams, which have put many schools in jeopardy of state takeover.

Before assuming her state post in 1997, Ms. Metts was the superintendent of the 20,000-student Christina school system in Newark, Del. She began her career as a physics and mathematics teacher in Richmond, Va., and spent 23 years there before serving a three-year stint as a high-ranking administrator in the Evanston, Ill., public schools.

--Caroline Hendrie

Providence Picks Superintendent

Diana Lam, a former superintendent of the San Antonio, Texas, schools, was named late last week as the new superintendent in Providence, R.I.

Ms. Lam was the only remaining finalist for the job of heading the 26,000-student district after June Collins Rimmer dropped out earlier in the week to take the No. 2 position in the Seattle school system.

Ms. Lam built a national reputation as an urban school reformer in the San Antonio schools, which enroll about 66,000 students, but also fought with a divided board there.

In Seattle, the selection of a chief academic officer for the 47,000-student school system was considered particularly important because Superintendent Joseph Olchefske worked in public finance before joining the school system in February and has had no formal education training. Lauding the choice of Ms. Rimmer, 49, he called her "an educator's educator," referring to her 29-year career in the 42,000-student Indianapolis district, where she was a teacher, principal, and, most recently, an assistant superintendent.

--Bess Keller

Dayton in Debt; Seeks State Help

Public school officials in Dayton, Ohio, are turning to the state for help after an audit revealed the school system is more than $14 million in debt.

The 26,000-student district, Ohio's sixth largest, has an annual operating budget of $186 million. Local officials, pointing to unrealistic financial forecasts, have gone even further than the state, projecting a $20.7 million deficit for schools.

The seven-member Dayton school board, with the backing of Superintendent James A. Williams, unanimously passed a resolution this month to ask Ohio State Auditor Jim Petro to place the school system under "fiscal watch." That status would allow local school leaders to manage their own finances, but with close guidance from the auditor's office.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for Mr. Petro's office, said a team was looking into the prospect of helping manage the district's finances and would likely decide a course of action by the end of the month.

--Kerry A. White

W.Va. Jury Rules in Restraint Case

A West Virginia district has been ordered to pay damages to a couple whose autistic son was strapped into a restraining device at school.

A Kanawha County Court jury earlier this month ordered the Mingo County school board to pay $339,000 to Ronnie Lee and Kathy Spaulding. The couple sued the 7,000-student district, saying they did not give permission for school officials to use a foam and rubber harness to strap their son into a chair in his classroom.

Beverly Selby, the Spauldings' lawyer, said that the parents were never told about the device during the more than two years their son attended a district school.

District officials, who are in the process of appealing the decision, declined to comment.

--Candice Furlan

Judge: District Must Pay for Care

A federal judge has ruled that a Nebraska district must pay the residential-care costs for a student who was moved by his parents to a facility outside the district.

The ruling this month by U.S. District Judge William Cambridge will require the 18,500-student Millard school system near Omaha to pay for the care of 12-year-old Sean Jasa, who suffered spinal meningitis as an infant and is now severely brain-damaged, blind, and partially deaf. He requires a full-time aide to provide basic care and interaction.

The boy's parents, who still live in the district, moved him to a residential facility outside the district, and Millard district officials refused to continue paying for Sean's care.

Superintendent Keith Lutz maintains that the parents placed Sean in the nursing facility without notifying the district. "We can provide the education services in the district, and we were providing" those services, he said. The district is appealing the judge's decision.

--Joetta L. Sack

Elementary Pupils Get Free Books

Public elementary schools in the District of Columbia received 250,000 new books last week for students to read over the summer.

The books, which were donated by Scholastic Inc., are being distributed by the nonprofit literacy group Reading Is Fundamental Inc. The donation is part of the group's "Sizzling Summer Books" program, which provides each elementary student in the city's public schools with three books. Similar campaigns are planned in other cities.

The summer reading program is also expected to provide up to 50 volumes of books to each elementary school classroom and library by the fall. Through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, RIF is expanding its efforts to provide books to students and promote reading among low-income children.

--Karen L. Abercrombie

Largest-Ever N.C. Bond Voted Down

Voters in Wake County, N.C., have rejected the largest school bond issue in state history. That action will force one of the country's fastest-growing districts to find another way to pay for school projects.

By a 65 percent vote, Wake County residents on June 8 turned down the $650 million school bond.

"Voters were clearly saying we cannot afford this type of tax," said Chuck Fuller, the director of North Carolina Citizens for a Sound Economy, a grassroots group that opposed the bond.

The bond would have provided money for a $948 million school project that includes 15 new schools and repairs and improvements to existing schools, as well as $150 million for technology.

Opponents were against the estimated $400-a-year increase in property taxes that the school bond would have cost them.

"There is a better way to build schools without raising taxes," Mr. Fuller said.

What the district will do now is the biggest question, district spokeswoman Kathy Newbern said.

The 91,900-student system, which includes Raleigh, is the state's second largest and is expecting 3,000 new students in the coming school year.

--Adrienne D. Coles

Ann L. Brown, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who did pioneering work in cognitive psychology, died June 4 at the age of 56.

Ms. Brown, who was born in Portsmouth, England, did not learn to read until age 13, but she went on to graduate with honors from the University of London.

In the United States during the 1970s, Ms. Brown, working with Annemarie Palincsar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, devised a successful method for improving children's reading comprehension that is known as reciprocal teaching.

More recently, Ms. Brown and her husband, psychologist Joseph C. Campione, had parlayed some of the same techniques into a program called Fostering Communities of Learners. Through that program, they sought to transform elementary school classrooms into research communities in which children were encouraged to follow their own questions and to share their findings. The researchers were in the midst of compiling results from early evaluations of the program when Ms. Brown developed an undisclosed fatal illness.

Ms. Brown was a past president of the American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education.

--Debra Viadero . Edward C. Pomeroy, a leader in teacher education and the first executive director of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, died June 16 after a short illness. He was 82.

After becoming the group's executive director in 1970, Mr. Pomeroy led the Washington-based organization while it broke away from the National Education Association. The AACTE now represents 750 colleges and institutions nationwide.

During his career, Mr. Pomeroy helped establish the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the International Council on Education for Teaching. He also served as an advisory commissioner of the Education Commission of the States.

--Michelle Galley

Vol. 18, Issue 41, Page 4

Published in Print: June 23, 1999, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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