News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Phila. Board To Impose Contract for Teachers

The Philadelphia school board voted unanimously to impose an interim contract on the 21,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers late last week, following nine months of negotiations.

The five-year contract won't take effect until next September, however, and negotiations were set to continue this week. The new pact lengthens the school day by one hour, boosts teacher salaries 17 percent, and includes a voluntary performance-pay system, said Hal Moss, a spokesman for the union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Meanwhile, teachers in the 223,000- student Los Angeles Unified School District last week authorized their union's leadership to call a strike.

Union leaders and district officials in Los Angeles are bargaining over salary increases and privileges awarded to veteran teachers. Talks are scheduled to continue this week, said Steve Blazak, a spokesman for the 43,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles, an affiliate of both the AFT and the National Education Association.

—Julie Blair

Study Faults Math Program

Underachievement in mathematics in the Montgomery County, Md., schools is due more to flaws in the curriculum, teaching, and instructional leadership than to student ability, according to an audit and two district studies.

District officials commissioned the three- month, $100,000 audit by Phi Delta Kappa International of Bloomington, Ind., after teachers complained of a lack of coherent guidance in math, and after 64 percent of the 9th graders who took an Algebra 1 test failed.

The studies, released last month, found great variability in student achievement between schools and ethnic and racial groups. Classroom instruction, course content, and curriculum organization also were found to fluctuate.

The audit recommended that the 130,000-student district eliminate the practice of grouping students by ability.

—Andrew Trotter

Principal Accused of Extortion

A former New Orleans elementary school "principal of the year" has been arrested after being accused of demanding payments from faculty members.

Patricia Adams Collins, 46, the associate director of early-childhood education and staff development for the 75,000-student Orleans Parish school district, was charged last month with extortion. She allegedly demanded a $500 payment from three reading facilitators during the 1998-99 school year from the extra pay they received for the program, said Zully Jimenez, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans district attorney's office.

Ms. Collins allegedly threatened to transfer her subordinates if they did not pay up. If found guilty, she could spend up to five years in prison and pay a fine of as much as $5,000.

The reading facilitators were accused of aiding in the extortion. Such a crime carries a maximum penalty of 21/2 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

All three have been placed on administrative leave, said Linedda McIver, a district spokeswoman. The district is cooperating with the investigation, she added.

Ms. Collins' lawyer could not be reached for comment.

—Julie Blair

Two Wounded in Gunfight

Two students shot and wounded each other with the same gun at a New Orleans middle school last week, police said.

A student who had been expelled bypassed a metal detector and slipped a gun through a fence to a 13-year-old student involved in a heated argument in a breezeway during the lunch hour, police said.

The boy allegedly shot a 15-year-old in the abdomen with the .38-caliber handgun. Though wounded, the older boy managed to wrench the gun from his attacker and returned fire, wounding the younger student in the back, police said.

The two students were hospitalized and remained in stable condition after the Sept. 26 fight at the 660-student Carter G. Woodson Middle School.

When the 13-year-old is released from the hospital, he will be charged with attempted murder, New Orleans police said in a statement. The 13-year-old accused of providing the gun was charged with attempted murder. The 15-year-old will not be charged, police said.

School officials did not return calls for comment last week.

— Jessica Portner

N.Y.C. Eyes New Schedule

A task force is proposing that New York City schools hold classes year round in newly constructed high schools to ease overcrowding.

The proposal was to be presented to school board members this week. The plan would affect 13 schools being built in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, starting in 2003. Participation in the year-round program, which would create 6,000 more high school seats, would be voluntary for students and teachers.

The board would have to lobby for changes to state law if it approves the year-round classes. New York law prevents schools from holding mandatory classes in July and August.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Rastafarian Garb OK'd

Eight Rastafarian children barred from school in the Lafayette Parish, La., district because dreadlocks and knit coverings for their hair clashed with the dress code have returned to classes after the school board settled their parents' lawsuit.

Georgiana Helaire and Edgar Green sued the district with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union because school officials had refused since April to enroll their children. The 29,000-student district cited the dress code's prohibition against "extreme" hairstyles and said the head coverings could conceal contraband such as weapons.

The settlement allows the children to keep their dreadlocks and wear head coverings, which must match school uniform colors. It requires the students to allow school officials to inspect the head coverings daily for contraband.

—Mark Walsh

S.F. Cuts Teacher Jobs

Faced with falling enrollment, San Francisco's school board has cut 38 teaching posts as part of a two-year plan to save $23 million and pay for teacher raises.

Enrollment dropped by 2,000 this year, to 60,000 students—a shift that will be reflected in the amount of state aid the city gets. At the same time, the board raised teacher salaries, beginning this fall, by as much as 22 percent for first-year instructors.

As a result, the board said it was forced to cut costs by reassigning 19 teachers in schools with small class sizes to vacancies in other schools. Another 19 emergency- credentialed and part-time teachers were given the option of being daily substitute teachers this semester after their jobs were cut.

—Robert Johnston

Vol. 20, Issue 5, Page 4

Published in Print: October 4, 2000, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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