News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Full Appellate Court To Hear
Charlotte Case

A full federal appeals court agreed last week to hear arguments in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg desegregation case, throwing into doubt the North Carolina district's plans for assigning students to schools.

In November, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., ruled that the district's schools were not fully desegregated and overturned a lower-court ruling that would have ended mandatory busing.

The ruling last fall forced the district to scrap its plan for a new school choice plan that would have been implemented in the fall of this year. ("Charlotte-Mecklenburg Not Yet Desegregated, Court Rules," Dec. 6, 2000. )

But lawyers for the white parents who in 1997 challenged the district's desegregation efforts appealed the November ruling.

Now, the appeals court's 11 judges will hear the case. The parties are at odds over whether the board should use a race-neutral student-assignment plan for the 2001-2002 school year. Although it did not address a new district plan for next fall, the school board last week did approve using race as a factor in student assignments for five new schools.

—Karla Scoon Reid

N.J. Gym Teacher Charged

An elementary school gym teacher who allegedly bound the hands and feet of two 6-year-old boys with tape and tied their sneakers around their necks in North Bergen Township, N.J., has been charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment.

One boy told police that David Bellani, 30, a popular physical education teacher at McKinley Elementary School, sat him in front of the class on Jan. 9, bound his hands and feet with white tape, and then tied the boy's sneakers around his neck, said Lt. Joseph Bode, a spokesman for the Bergen County Township Police Department.

The second boy reported that Mr. Bellani removed his own sweater Jan. 4 and used it to bind the student's hands before tying his shoes around his neck, Mr. Bode said.

The teacher has been suspended with pay, district officials said. Mr. Bellani, who was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of child endangerment, could not be reached for comment.

—Julie Blair

Superintendent Serves Jail Time

James R. Hallford, the superintendent of the DeKalb County, Ga., public schools, has completed a brief jail sentence for drunk driving.

Mr. Hallford, who was arrested Dec. 20 after police saw his car swerving on an Atlanta street, spent a weekend in jail. He was also fined $1,000, put on probation for a year, and will have to perform community service.

While the school board has publicly reprimanded him, the members decided against asking him to step down.

The superintendent, who was hired in 1995, told police that he was drinking bourbon, according to the police report.

"I accept full responsibility for my actions and deeply regret the humiliation, embarrassment, and pain my behavior has caused my family, the board of education and the people of DeKalb County," Mr. Hallford said in a statement.

—Linda Jacobson

Parents Petition for Recall

Declaring themselves frustrated about what they see as misspent dollars and high teacher turnover, parents in Orange County, Calif., have gathered 20,285 signatures supporting the recall of three school board members in the 31,000- student Orange Unified district.

The Orange Recall Committee submitted the signatures to the county registrar on Jan. 10. The county has a month to verify the signatures; only 14,500 are needed to set a date to consider recalling board members Maureen Aschoff, Linda Davis, and Martin Jacobson and hold a new election.

Melinda Moore, a member of the Orange Recall Committee, said the group targeted members it contends support vouchers and seek to break up the teachers' union.

Ms. Davis, the board vice president, said the recall effort is an attack on conservative members who supported decisions that were unpopular with the union, including ending lifetime medical benefits for teachers.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Sub Barred for Cleaning Gun

An off-duty sheriff's deputy who was working as a substitute teacher will no longer be allowed to teach after he was caught cleaning parts of his gun this month while leading a 25-student industrial-technology class at the Bridger 8th Grade Center in Independence, Mo.

According to David Rock, the superintendent of the 11,000-student Independence Community School District, Jeffery Nunn brought in nonworking parts of the gun he used while on duty as a police officer. The safety of the class was never in question, Mr. Rock said.

But Mr. Nunn showed "poor judgment" in choosing to divide his time between cleaning the gun and instructing the class, the superintendent said.

Mr. Nunn could not be reached for comment.

—Michelle Galley

Head Start Tests for TB

More than 250 children were tested for tuberculosis last week in a Lowell, Mass., Head Start program after being exposed to the disease by an infected teacher's aide.

The aide had moved among 18 of the facility's 28 classrooms, potentially infecting the 3- to 5-year-old children, as well as about 40 adult employees of the program.

The aide was incorrectly diagnosed and treated for pneumonia when her symptoms first began two months ago, according to Roseanne Pawelec, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Ms. Pawelec said that health officials did not expect to find any children with active TB, but that the children were to receive initial treatment for latent TB until their second skin tests, eight weeks from now, come back negative. Any children with positive skin tests will receive a full nine-month treatment for the disease, which primarily affects the lungs.

—Vanessa Dea

Parents Buy Tesseract Schools

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Phoenix last week approved the sale of two private schools owned and managed by the financially troubled Tesseract Group to two foundations formed by parents whose children attend the schools.

The Phoenix-based firm, a nationally prominent school management company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last October.

The parents' groups paid $2.9 million for one of the Phoenix-area schools and nearly $5 million for the other, buying the buildings from a real estate company that had leased the facilities to Tesseract. The parents have said they plan to retain the current staffs.

—Scott W. Wright


John C. Rennie, a Massachusetts businessman who played a leading role in school improvement efforts in that state, died Jan. 15. Mr. Rennie, who apparently died of natural causes, was 63.

John C. Rennie

Mr. Rennie was the chairman of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, which he co-founded in 1988. The organization issued a report called "Every Child a Winner" in 1991 that laid the groundwork for the a sweeping education bill two years later.

After the passage of the Education Reform Act, Mr. Rennie and his organization stayed involved in monitoring and commenting on the state's progress toward implementing higher standards for its schools.

Until his retirement last summer, Mr. Rennie was the vice chairman of AverStar Inc., an information-technology company based in Burlington, Mass.

—Ann Bradley

David S. Liederman, 65, the president of the Council on Accreditation for Children and Family Services and a lifelong advocate for children, died of pancreatic cancer Jan. 12.

Mr. Liederman had also worked as the executive director of the Washington-based Child Welfare League of America, the nation's largest association of agencies that aid at-risk children. The Council on Accreditation, based in New York City, is a leading nonprofit accreditor of mental-health and social-service organizations.

Mr. Liederman served two terms in the Massachusetts legislature and was the first commissioner of the Massachusetts state office for children. In 1975, he become chief of staff to then-Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts.

—Ann Bradley

Vol. 20, Issue 19, Page 4

Published in Print: January 24, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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McKinley Elementary School is in North Bergen, N.J.

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