News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Hartford Board Offers To Extend Amato's Contract

Hoping to continue the strides made by the Hartford, Conn., district over the past year, the state-appointed panel that oversees the system has offered a new two-year contract to superintendent Anthony S. Amato.

Hoping to continue the strides made by the Hartford, Conn., district over the past year, the state-appointed panel that oversees the system has offered a new two-year contract to superintendent Anthony S. Amato.

Anthony S. Amato

In the 13 months since arriving in Hartford, the former New York City community superintendent has made good on a pledge to pull up the test scores of the 24,000-student Hartford system. ("Under Amato, Hartford Schools Show Progress," March 1, 2000.)

Mr. Amato drew fire from local leaders last month, however, by applying for the top schools job in San Francisco. The superintendent withdrew his application and issued a public apology.

Hartford's board of trustees decided earlier this month to begin negotiating with Mr. Amato for a contract that would continue through June 2004. His current annual salary is about $150,000. The talks continued late last week.

—Jeff Archer

Principals Demoted in Seattle

In a move aimed at holding principals accountable for schools' academic performance, Seattle Superintendent Joseph Olchefske has demoted four principals.

In a May 12 meeting, Mr. Olchefske informed the principals that their contracts would not be renewed next year. He gave three elementary school principals the option of resuming work as classroom teachers and one middle school principal the choice of becoming assistant principal. As of late last week, it was not known what the four chose to do. They may also appeal the decision.

The principals were evaluated on a variety of factors, including test scores, progress toward closing the minority achievement gap, school leadership, and school climate, said district spokeswoman Lynn Steinberg. An unusual step, the demotions have drawn praise from school board members and the local principals' association as a much-needed move toward greater accountability.

—Catherine Gewertz

Miami To Begin Safety Repairs

The Miami-Dade County public schools will have to spend about $30 million over the next few years to comply with state fire codes.

The school board voted May 17 to spend more than $6 million on such repairs as adding new fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and additional emergency exits, said Paul Phillips, the chief facilities officer for the 353,000-student Florida district, the nation's fourth-largest.

Other repairs will be made as money allows over the next few years.

—Alan Richard

Anchorage Slashes Budget

An impasse over local funding has forced school leaders in Anchorage, Alaska, to cut $11 million from this year's budget, eliminating 63 jobs, closing eight small schools, and suspending several sports programs.

Members of the Anchorage Assembly, an elected regional council that oversees budgets of local governments, restricted the school budget in anticipation of a November ballot measure that would cap local tax rates paid for schools.

Anchorage school district leaders were hoping last week for state intervention, which could provide an additional $5 million, leaving about $6 million in necessary cuts.

School officials contend that the Anchorage Assembly can draw money from its $34 million surplus or other sources to solve the funding situation. But assembly members favor scaled-back taxes over higher school spending, said Michelle Egan, the spokeswoman for the 50,000-student Anchorage schools.

If all the cuts stick, student fees will increase. Supplies and textbook purchases will be reduced, and several programs will be eliminated, including a middle-school alternative program, leases on computers, and sports programs such as hockey and swimming.

—Alan Richard

Utah District Spares School

A 102-year-old school building in Provo, Utah, will be spared the wrecking ball thanks to a decision by the 13,500-student district's school board. The 475-student Karl G. Maeser Elementary School, one of the oldest schools in the state, sits on one of three sites the board was considering for a new elementary school, according to Lynn Smith, the district's business administrator.

During a closed-door meeting May 16, the five-member board decided to build a new school on vacant land currently owned by the city. Though plans for the Maeser elementary school are not final, the board is considering using the building for adult education and special education courses, Mr. Smith said.

—Michelle Galley

Dallas May Lose Filipino Teachers

The temporary work permits of more than a dozen Dallas public school teachers from the Philippines will soon expire, some as early as next month.

A total of 125 teachers from several countries are teaching under temporary visas in the 156,000-student district.

While many of the teachers have extended their original three-year visas once, the maximum allowed by law, the visas of 14 Filipino teachers will expire between June and October. They now hope to get permanent residence status, or "green cards." That process has been hampered, however, by mistakes made during the application process, a district official said.

Dallas school officials are working on the state and federal paperwork that is needed to retain the teachers, who include certified math instructors and other hard-to-fill spots. According to district data, the Dallas schools still have 180 vacancies for full-time teachers.

—Robert C. Johnston

Ind. Student Charged in Plot

An Indiana high school junior has been charged with criminal recklessness in the attempted poisoning of a teacher.

Michelle Kniola, an 18-year-old junior at the 1,300-student Michigan City High School, allegedly put copper radiator sealant, a poisonous substance, into a soft drink delivered to a science teacher at her school this month, according to a school official.

The teacher, David Davis, was warned by another student, and he reported the incident to La Porte County police. If found guilty, Ms. Kniola could face six months to three years in prison.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Adamany Accepts Temple Post

David Adamany, who has been the acting chief executive officer of the Detroit public schools for the past year, has been named the new president of Temple University, effective Aug 2.

Mr. Adamany will succeed Peter J. Liacouras, who is retiring after 18 years as head of the university in Philadelphia, which has nearly 30,000 students.

—Robert C. Johnston

OSHA Penalizes Ore. District

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered an Oregon school district to pay a teacher $12,000 in a whistle-blower case. The kindergarten teacher received critical job performance reviews after she raised concerns about asbestos and PCB exposure in two school buildings in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. She is to receive $7,500 in compensatory damages and $4,500 for legal fees.

The teacher in the 7,500-student Portland-area school district first filed a health complaint in 1994 regarding concerns about a boiler in an elementary school. After she asked for a transfer, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1999 against her new school when she learned a light fixture ignited and leaked an oily substance that contained PCBs.

Superintendent Robert L. Woehl said the district has appealed the May 16 ruling by OSHA.

—John Gehring

Detroit Parent Seeks $10 Million

A 10-year-old boy and his mother are suing three educators and the Detroit schools, seeking $10 million in damages after the boy was involved in an altercation with a teacher.

The boy, Derrell Webster, says the teacher struck him with a broomstick, leaving a bump near the outer corner of his left eye. A school report on the May 3 incident says Derrell was struck accidentally, apparently after the teacher picked up the broom to defend herself.

Derrell, who is enrolled in a special education program, "has been having headaches, going into deep sleeps, and he has blurred vision in his [left] eye," said Arnold E. Reed, a lawyer representing the boy.

The 167,000-student district, the teacher, a second teacher who witnessed the altercation, and the principal of the school are all named as defendants in the suit, filed May 11 in Wayne County Circuit Court. District officials could not be reached for comment last week.

—Bess Keller

Vol. 19, Issue 38, Page 4

Published in Print: May 31, 2000, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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