News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Ohio High Court Upholds Cleveland Mayor's Role

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a governance change giving the mayor of Cleveland control over the city's public schools.

A 1997 state law gave Mayor Michael R. White control of the Cleveland district and the power to appoint a nine-member school board and chief executive officer. The legislation requires that a referendum be held in November 2002 to determine whether the school system should return to an elected board.

That law has been challenged in federal and state court since Mr. White took control of the 77,000-student district in 1998.

The state supreme court, in a ruling issued last month, reversed a decision by the state Court of Appeals for the 8th District, based in Cuyahoga County, which declared that a referendum on mayoral control schools should be held sooner.

The high court found that a 1999 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, based in Cincinnati, was binding in the state case as well. The federal court found that the state law that gave the mayor control of the schools was constitutional.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Buffalo To Award Back Pay

More than 3,900 current and retired Buffalo, N.Y., teachers will share in a $73 million settlement that has ended a decade-long legal battle over back pay in the 47,000-student district.

The dispute began in 1990, when the school board rejected a new teachers' contract that had been brokered by its own negotiator and had been approved by the leadership of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

The rejection left teachers without a new labor agreement for four years, during which time their union went to court.

Although New York's highest state court ruled in 1996 that the district was obligated to compensate the teachers for their lost pay, determining how much was owed led to three more years of arguing. Last spring, state officials agreed to help the district pay for a settlement.Union and district leaders gave their final approval to the deal last month.

At an average of about $12,000 per teacher, the payments are expected to be made this spring.

Meanwhile, teachers in the U.S. Virgin Islands have ratified a new three-year contract, five years after their old contract expired.("New Boston Teachers' Pact Weakens Seniority," Oct. 18, 2000.)

Union members on the Caribbean islands of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas will be paid lump sums of between $1,500 and $2,000 in exchange for forfeiting bargaining rights for the previous school years, according to the American Federation of Teachers.

They also garnered a 13 percent raise over three years. The average teacher salary in the U.S. territory is $34,784.

—Jeff Archer & Julie Blair

Union Gets New Leader

The 20-year leader of Detroit's 11,300-member teachers' union will pass the presidential torch to Executive Vice President Janna K. Garrison later this month.

Ms. Garrison received 53 percent of the vote to replace John Elliott, the current president, edging out two other candidates last month. She will begin her new job Jan. 22 as head of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Ms. Garrison, 44, began her career in education as an elementary and middle school teacher in Detroit. She started in the union office in 1987 as Mr. Elliott's administrative assistant and rose in the ranks to become the executive vice president in 1996.

—Julie Blair

N.Y.C. Schools Net Grants

Three major foundations have committed $30 million to redesign large New York City high schools into smaller, more personalized learning environments.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Open Society Institute will work with the New York schools and the United Federation of Teachers, the city's affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, to redesign 10 of the city's large, low-performing schools, as well as to create an undetermined number of smaller high schools.

The organizations did not say whether they considered the effort to be a national model. In announcing the new consortium last month, each foundation pledged $10 million to the five-year effort.

To win a grant, applicants must create a partnership with parents, community groups, and other organizations to demonstrate neighborhood commitment to the project, foundation officials said.

—Catherine Gewertz

Vol. 20, Issue 16, Page 4

Published in Print: January 10, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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