News in Brief: A National Roundup

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

N.J. Voters Pass Record Number of School Budgets

New Jersey voters approved a record number of local school budgets in statewide voting last week. The 88 percent passage rate was the highest in state history, surpassing the previous high of 86.5 percent in 1977.

State officials and observers attributed the success to the state's strong economy, increased state aid, and a sense of confidence in the stewardship over schools by local school boards.

One highlight of the April 18 results came out of the 1,280-student Wallington school district, where voters passed the school budget—a $10.9 million plan—for the first time in 30 years.

Statewide, the fates of 553 school budgets worth $14 billion were decided last week. Districts whose voters rejected budgets must now submit their plans to their municipal officials, who can renegotiate, reject, or approve local school budgets.

Just 12 percent of voters turned out for this year's elections, the lowest proportion since 1987, when turnout was 10.1 percent. State Commissioner of Education David C. Hespe called last week's turnout "unacceptably low."

—Robert C. Johnston

Pittsburgh Chief's Pact Ratified

After postponing a final vote earlier this month, the Pittsburgh school board last week officially hired John Thompson as the superintendent of the 40,000-student Pennsylvania district.

By a 5-0 vote with four abstentions, the board ratified a five-year contract that will pay the former Tulsa, Okla., superintendent a base salary of $175,000. The deal includes an annual raise of $2,500 and a still-to-be-negotiated performance bonus, after two years, of up to 10 percent of his salary.

The split vote by the board did not reflect disagreement over the hiring of Mr. Thompson, but represented frustration by some board members at how quickly the final contract was put together, a district official said.

In exchange for Mr. Thompson's agreement not to seek employment outside the district while he is the superintendent, the board also agreed to pay him $350,000 if it decides to dismiss him before his contract expires in 2005.

—Robert C. Johnston

No Charges in 1st Grade Plot

No charges will be filed against three 1st grade girls in Lake Station, Ind., who allegedly plotted to kill another girl. The apparent plot was uncovered this month when the mother of the intended 7-year-old victim notified Virgil I. Bailey Elementary School of her suspicions.

The three girls admitted to police they had planned to kill their classmate by luring her to a wooded area near the 200-student school to shoot, hang, or stab her, according to Lake Station Superintendent of Schools Charles J. Costa. In a search of the school and, with the parents' help, of the students' homes, investigators found two drawings they said were too childish to be termed maps that showed the woods in which the killing was to have occurred. No weapons were found.

The three students, all of whom are also 7, withdrew from the school April 17. After meeting with police, the Lake Station prosecutor, Bernard Carter, decided not to file charges against the girls because of their age.

—Mark Jennings

Journalism Award Announced

The top prize in the 1999 National Awards for Education Reporting, sponsored by the Education Writers Association,went to Tim Simmons for an article that appeared in The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer. Mr. Simmons won for "Worlds Apart: The Racial Education Gap," a series published last November showing how and why African-American students lag academically behind white classmates regardless of income.

The Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting carries a $1,000 cash award and is presented to one of the first-place winners in the EWA's annual journalism contest, which honors education reporting published or broadcast in the past year.

Mr. Simmons' article was chosen from among dozens of winners who received plaques at a banquet April 15 during the EWA's Atlanta convention.

Education Week received a special citation for its year-long series "Lessons of a Century."

—Alan Richard

Teachers Trim Extra Work

Contract talks between Boston school officials and the city teachers' union heated up this month when 400 union representatives voted unanimously that teachers would stop volunteering for school-related duties not called for in their contract. The policy will go into effect May 1.

The vote April 12 by representatives of the Boston Teachers Union, the local affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, was meant to call attention to what the union sees as slow progress on negotiations over a contract to replace the one that expires Aug. 31.

Some 5,600 teachers and other staff will be covered by the vote. Edward Doherty, the union's president. said teachers in the 63, 000-student district will take further action if there is not a contract next fall. Michael Contompasis, the chief operating officer for the Boston schools, said that is unfortunate that the union action came so early in contract talks.

—Robert C. Johnston

Boy Receives Teacher's Kidney

Jane Smith gave the gift of life to one of her students April 14, in the form of a donated kidney.

On the playground earlier this school year, the 8th grader told Ms. Smith that he had one kidney that functioned minimally and one that had failed to grow because of a condition known as renal dysplasia. She responded by offering to donate one of her own.

Ms. Smith, a science teacher at R. Max Abbott Middle School in Fayetteville, N.C., was released April 17 from UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. The student, Michael Carter, was released April 19.

Mr. Carter, 15, is a student in Ms. Smith's science class and homeroom. He had been undergoing dialysis since June 1998.

—Naomi Greengrass

Suit Over LeTourneau Planned

The parents of a student who fathered two children by his former elementary school teacher announced this month that they intend to sue his school district and the city of Des Moines, Wash., for allegedly failing to protect him from the teacher's sexual advances. The teenager's parents are seeking $1 million in damages, claiming emotional suffering and the expense of raising the two children.

The parents of Vili Fualaau, now 16, say that the Highline district in suburban Seattle was negligent in hiring and retaining 38-year-old Mary Kay LeTourneau, who is serving a 7 1/2-year prison sentence for child rape. The highly publicized case is among many nationwide that have highlighted the issue of teacher sexual misconduct with students. ("Sex With Students: When Employees Cross the Line," Dec. 2, 1998.)

The parents have also charged the Des Moines city officials with negligence for failing to separate the boy, then 12, from Ms. LeTourneau after discovering the pair in a parked van.

Patricia Buchanan, the lawyer representing the 17,900-student district, last week dismissed the parents' claims that school officials were negligent. She said that Ms. LeTourneau "was qualified for the position" when hired, and that "she was supervised properly."

—Jessica Portner

Teacher Charged With Vandalism

A Virginia high school teacher was arrested April 14 on charges that he had led two students on a late-night vandalism spree.

Robert Gaige, 23, an English teacher at the 1,220-student Brentsville District Middle/Senior High School in Nokesville, Va., along with two male students, allegedly smashed mailboxes and threw a bottle of wine at the window of a convenience store.

Mr. Gaige was charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of minor and nine counts of destruction of private property. The misdemeanor charges could bring a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. The students were charged with destruction of property.

Mr. Gaige has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation. Neither Mr. Gaige nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

—Adrienne D. Coles

Bus-Crash Footage Sought

A Georgia school district has turned to the courts in an attempt to gain access to eight videotapes from a camera mounted in the school bus that collided March 28 with a 33-car CSX freight train near the Georgia-Tennessee border. The accident killed three children and severely injured two others. ("News in Brief: School Bus Did Not Stop, NTSB Says," April 5, 2000.)

The Murray County district filed suit against the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which seized the tapes, in Bradley County Chancery Court in Cleveland, Tenn., earlier this month. Jerry N. Estes, the district attorney general for Tennessee's 10th Judicial District, was subpoenaed to bring the tapes to an April 20 court hearing.

Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers is seeking dismissal both of the lawsuit and of the subpoena for Mr. Estes.

The bus driver, Rhonda Cloer, 34, has refused to cooperate with investigators until she sees the tapes. Although no charges have yet been filed, the National Transportation Safety Board reached a preliminary conclusion that Ms. Cloer did not stop the bus at the crossing.

—Mark Jennings

Vol. 19, Issue 33, Page 4

Published in Print: April 26, 2000, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >