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St. Louis Push Is on To Meet Requirements

Launching a push to meet state accreditation requirements, district leaders in St. Louis have unveiled plans to extend the school year, adopt proven improvement models, and recruit thousands of volunteers to shore up academics at the district's lowest-performing schools.

Launching a push to meet state accreditation requirements, district leaders in St. Louis have unveiled plans to extend the school year, adopt proven improvement models, and recruit thousands of volunteers to shore up academics at the district's lowest-performing schools.

Superintendent Cleveland Hammonds Jr. announced the plans at an "Accreditation Summit" Nov. 20. Although details had not yet been worked out, he told about 200 educators and community leaders that if the improvements were implemented, the 46,000-student district would "regain accreditation."

District officials learned last month that their schools had not met state accreditation requirements, which gauge attendance, dropout rates, and performance on state assessments, among other measures.

But the Missouri state board of education, in contrast to its decision to revoke the Kansas City district's accreditation, gave the St. Louis system two years to improve.

—Kerry A. White

N.M. Boy Charged With Murder

A 12-year-old middle school student in Deming, N.M., has been charged as a juvenile with murder, attempted murder, and aggravated assault for a Nov. 19 incident in which he allegedly shot and killed a female classmate.

According to Deming Police Chief Michael Carillo, the victim, Aracely Tena, 13, was shot once in the back of the head at Deming Middle School and died the next day. Deming, a farming and ranching community of some 16,000 people, is about 100 miles from El Paso, Texas.

The accused 7th grader was carrying a single- action Colt .22 revolver at school when he allegedly fired one shot that struck the victim, police said. Police have found no motive but are continuing to investigate, Luna County District Attorney Daniel Viramontes said last week. Classes resumed at the school Nov. 21.

—Meghan Mullan

Cleveland Vouchers Examined

Students participating in the Cleveland voucher program attend schools that are, on average, more racially integrated than the city's public schools, a report by the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions says.

Jay P. Greene

Nearly 20 percent of the nearly 5,000 participants in the Cleveland Scholarship Program attend private schools whose racial composition reflects that of the metropolitan area, compared with only 5 percent of students in the Cleveland public schools, according to the study released Nov. 17 by the Columbus, Ohio- based research group.

Jay P. Greene, an assistant professor of politics and public policy at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of the report, predicted that the findings would make it tougher for critics to maintain that school choice promotes divisiveness and segregation.

The report is available at www.buckeyeinstitut (requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader).

—Kerry A. White

N.J. Film Project Stirs Trouble

Religious and civic leaders and a local newspaper are calling for the ouster of the East Orange, N.J., school district's award-winning superintendent after learning that the school board for the financially troubled district approved his $300,000 film project.

John Howard Jr., who has been credited with helping to put the 11,600-student urban district on the road to improvement since he took over as superintendent in 1992, proposed the feature-film project as a way to introduce students to filmmaking, according to news reports. But the cost and content of the film have angered critics.

"Dragonfly," a screenplay written at Mr. Howard's request, is about a teacher-run gambling ring and gang rivalries among black and Hispanic students, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, which obtained a copy last month.

The New Jersey Association of School Administrators named Mr. Howard the 1997 superintendent of the year. He would not comment on the controversy.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Fraud in Private Aid Plan Alleged

A South Texas company guaranteeing students and their families financial aid for college has allegedly swindled more than 1,000 people across the nation, according to a lawsuit filed last week by Texas Attorney General John Cornyn.

The College Planning Center, based in Castroville, Texas, near San Antonio, sent families unsolicited information promising students between $2,500 and $22,500 in aid annually per student for a fee of $850, said Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for the attorney general.

When families arrived at so-called financial-aid seminars, however, they received sales pitches on insurance packages instead, according to the state lawsuit.

Linda K. Weber and Richard Scott Weber of Castroville own the company, Ms. Browne said. Their telephone lines have been disconnected, she said.

—Julie Blair

Ore. Certificates Bring Aid

Astoria High School has become the first school in Oregon to give scholarships to students who earn the state's new Certificate of Initial Mastery, according to Principal Steven M. Giere.

An independent scholarship fund will contribute $300 to the postsecondary studies of any student at the 750- student school in Astoria—about 65 miles northwest of Portland—who earns the certificate, which requires passing tests in writing and completing a total of eight classroom work samples in three different fields. Mr. Giere said the goal is to increase students' motivation.

"This is not a cash-for-grades program," Mr. Giere said. "They've got to be enrolled in some two-year college, trade school, or community college, then it becomes a tuition credit."

The scholarship award is intended as a recognition of the importance of the state's academic standards. The $3 million independent scholarship foundation, started by a former school librarian in 1977, gives other awards to help students pursue postsecondary education.

—Andrew Trotter

Calif. Bus Fumes Called Threat

Exhaust fumes from diesel school buses threaten the health of school children in California, a report by a Los Angeles-based environmental-advocacy organization contends. The fleet is one of the oldest and most polluting in the country, the Coalition for Clean Air says in its report.

More than 4 percent of the 24,372 school buses in California predate 1977, and those buses release at least three times more smog-forming agents than newer models and do not meet state emissions or federal highway safety standards, according to the group.

Because children breathe in and out at twice the rate of an adult, children take in more of the toxins, which can lead to chronic bronchitis and eye and throat irritation, and increase the risk of developing asthma and lung cancer, says the report released last month.

The California Air Resources Board and local school boards should acquire buses that run on clean, alternative fuels a priority, the report argues.

The California Department of Education will support legislation to remove the buses, according to spokesman Doug Stone.

—Michelle Galley

Pokémon Clash in Tucson

In another school incident tied to the Pokémon card-collecting craze, an unidentified 11- year-old from Tucson, Ariz., has been arrested and charged with armed robbery after allegedly stealing another boy's cards at knifepoint.

The Amphitheater Middle School student reportedly held a four-inch knife to another boy's stomach Nov. 15 and threatened to stab him if he didn't turn over his cards. The youth who allegedly made the threat was being held at the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center pending a Nov. 30 court date. School officials did not comment on the case.

The incident comes just weeks after a 12-year-old boy in Lakeland, Fla., was expelled from school and charged with battery after allegedly pushing and choking a Sleepy Hill Middle School teacher who had confiscated his Pokémon cards.

—Jessica L. Sandham

Columbine Costs Mount

The state of Colorado has spent nearly $8 million responding to the shootings last spring at Columbine High School, according to a report from Gov. Bill Owens' office.

Figures from the Governor's Columbine Task Force reveal that the state provided $4.4 million for law-enforcement, mental-health, and school expenses (the latter largely for increased school security, worker's compensation, and substitute teachers) as a result of the April 20 incident, in which two students killed 12 other students and a teacher and wounded 23 people before taking their own lives.

The Colorado Department of Public Safety spent almost $3 million, the state department of education spent $500,000, and the department of public health and environment spent $25,000.

In addition, Jefferson County laid out $1.8 million—most of which, $1.3 million, was spent by the sheriff's office. As of Oct. 31, the 89,000-student Jefferson County school district had seen expenses for $1.6 million in the aftermath of the shootings.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 19, Issue 14, Page 4

Published in Print: December 1, 1999, as News in Brief
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The News in Brief photograph in the Dec. 1 issue incorrectly described the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade route in New York City. It begins on Central Park West and heads downtown at Herald Square.

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