News in Brief: A National Roundup

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L.A. School Leaders May Cut 1,000 Administrative Jobs

The Los Angeles Unified School District's two top administrators want to cut about half the system's administrative positions—and if the school board rejects the plan, the chief administrators say they will quit their jobs.

Howard Miller, the chief operating officer of the district, told The Los Angeles Times last week that interim Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines was working on a plan that would eliminate nearly 1,000 jobs.

The plan would reassign hundreds of administrators currently working at the district headquarters, lessening the need for office space. Employees would become teachers, secretaries, or other school employees, or could retire.

District leaders said the plan may be the only way the 700,000-student district can avoid state takeovers of some schools under a new accountability law, and to fight some communities' attempts to secede from the school district.

—Alan Richard

School Lunch Items Recalled

A poultry processor has recalled 114,000 pounds of chicken that was distributed to school lunch programs in six states.

Gold Kist Inc., an Atlanta-based processing company, recalled the meat Feb. 22 after tests by the Ohio Department of Agriculture found listeria monocytogenes—a microscopic bacteria that can cause serious illness— in two samples of chicken.

The school districts affected were in Colorado, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. The recall includes chicken patties and nuggets produced Jan. 25 at the company's plant in Boaz, Ala.

Paul Brower, the vice president of corporate relations for Gold Kist, said all the cases of both items had been accounted for in Ohio, but not yet in the other states. He said state school administrators, school lunch planners, and schools scheduled to receive shipments had all been notified. No illnesses have been reported.

—Candice Furlan

D.C. Board 'Hybrid' Faces Vote

The District of Columbia Council decided last week to seek voter approval for a plan to convert the school board in the nation's capital from an all-elected body to a "hybrid" board composed of elected and appointed members.

Anthony A. Williams

—John Harrington/Black Star

Narrowly passed by the council Feb. 17, the measure would shrink the board from 11 to nine members. Four would be elected from local districts and one would be elected at large as board president. Mayor Anthony A. Williams would appoint the remaining four.

Voters will decide—probably in the November election—whether to accept that proposal or keep the current board configuration.

The council vote was a compromise both for council members, the majority of whom favor retaining an all-elected board, and for Mr. Williams, who wanted to appoint all the members. The "hybrid" proposal was already before the council on Feb. 1, but when consensus for it collapsed, the council decided to let voters choose the current board structure, a nine-member elected board, or a five-member appointed one.

—Catherine Gewertz

Teacher-Chaperone Disciplined

A Spanish teacher at a Chicago high school has been disciplined for leaving a student in Spain at the conclusion of a three-week exchange trip last month.

Christine Matishek, a teacher at Morgan Park High School, was reassigned for three days last month to a nonteaching job at the 2,200-student school after her decision to leave 16-year-old Preston Ross III behind.

When the student lost his passport, Ms. Matishek arranged for a chaperone to assist him in securing a replacement in Madrid while she and 18 other students returned to Chicago as scheduled on Feb 12. The student arrived home three days later.

Paul Vallas, the chief executive officer of the Chicago public schools, released the district's investigative findings stating that both Ms. Matishek and Principal Charles Alexander were "responsible for placing the student at risk."

Ms. Matishek was allowed to resume her 26-year teaching career on Feb. 22.

—Mark Jennings

Contract Signed in Des Moines

Leaders of the Des Moines, Iowa, public schools have signed a three-year contract with the local teachers' union aimed at keeping teachers from crossing state lines for better-paying positions, especially in high-demand subject areas.

First-year teachers with bachelor's degrees will now earn $27,864—a $3,280 increase from the current year. Hiring bonuses of $2,400 will be paid to shortage-area teachers in science, math, and physics. Veteran teachers will receive raises that will put some salaries at the $50,000 mark for the first time.

Eric Witherspoon, the superintendent of the 32,000-student district, said he hopes the salary package will help reverse the trend of Iowa teachers, leaving for higher-paying jobs in other states.

Paul Mann, the president of the Des Moines Teachers Association, said in a joint statement with the superintendent that the contract was a far better agreement than in years past.

— Alan Richard

District To Open on Holy Days

School board members in a central Ohio community voted last month to reopen schools on the Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Officials in the Sycamore district in Blue Ash, northeast of Cincinnati, had previously closed schools on those days in 1998 and 1999, citing high absenteeism in 1996 and 1997.

But the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the 6,000-student district in September, arguing that the district was favoring Judaism over other faiths in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

In a 4-1 vote on Feb. 16, board members decided that absenteeism was not high enough to justify permanently revising the school calendar. The decision was not related to "the religious aspect" of the lawsuit, according to Superintendent Bruce Armstrong.

—Jessica L. Sandham

Historic Boston School Reopens

A public school that once served African-Americans in Boston has reopened as a part of the city's Museum of Afro-American History.

The Abiel Smith School opened in 1825 after Smith, a white businessman, left the city a $2,000 endowment to educate black children. The school was both a primary and secondary school for black children until 1855, when the state legislature banned school segregation.

The museum's executive director, Beverly Morgan-Welch, said officials there still have much to learn about the history of the school.

The three-story building, which was restored and opened through a partnership between the museum and the National Park Service's Boston African-American Site, now houses a museum store, a gallery, and a classroom with interactive exhibits.

—Naomi Greengrass

Daley Unveils Child-Care Plan

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has announced a $41.2 million program to renovate and build childcare centers in 20 neighborhoods throughout the city.

The program, known as the Children's Capital Fund, is the cornerstone of the mayor's plan for child-care and education for children under age 6, which seeks to provide licensed care to an additional 5,000 children in that age group by 2002.

The city's 68,000 children under age 6 are eligible for subsidized child care. Of that number about 17,400 children currently receive subsidies and are served by licensed child-care providers.

Under the mayor's plan, announced Feb. 22, a combination of public and private money would be used to build or renovate 24 child-care centers, make repairs to an additional 30 facilities, and finance improvements for 200 child-care programs.

—Candice Furlan

Cameras Aboard Phila. Buses

The Philadelphia school board has approved a plan to install 200 video cameras on school buses to encourage better behavior and promote safety.

The district once assigned adult attendants to every school bus, but has been phasing them out as a cost-cutting measure.

Of the 215,000 students in the district, about 30,000 ride school buses daily. The district currently rotates 20 cameras among buses that no longer have monitors on board, said John Lombardi, the administrator of transportation services.

Students who repeatedly misbehave can be identified on videotape and barred from transportation.

The district has 950 buses. About 500 carry special education students, and most of those still have adult attendants. The cameras should be installed by the end of the school year, said Mr. Lombardi.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Vol. 19, Issue 25, Page 4

Published in Print: March 1, 2000, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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