News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Federal Judge Orders End to Race Policies

A federal judge in Detroit has ruled that race-conscious admission policies at the University of Michigan's law school are unconstitutional.

The March 27 decision by U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman follows a December ruling by another federal judge in Detroit that upheld the university's affirmative action policy for undergraduate admissions.

In his ruling, Judge Friedman ordered the law school to end its practice of admitting African-American, Hispanic, and Native American applicants with lower grades than those of white and Asian-American applicants.

"By using race to ensure the enrollment of a certain minimum percentage of underrepresented minority students, the law school has made the current admission policy practically indistinguishable from a quota system," the judge wrote.

The University of Michigan argued that racial diversity is critical to a high-quality legal education. University officials said they would appeal the decision.

In December, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld race-conscious admission decisions at the University of Washington's law school from 1994 to 1998. The university eliminated the consideration of race in 1998 to comply with the passage of a state initiative against racial preferences.

—John Gehring

Group To Train Chicago Leaders

Worried about a looming shortage of principals, the Chicago public schools will turn to a nonprofit company to help train up to 10 potential school leaders.

Carlos Azcoitia, the deputy chief education officer for the 431,000-student district, said the system this year has already lost 25 principals to retirement.

And that's where New Schools for New Leaders, a New York City-based organization, comes in.

The group will start a "medical-style residency" for aspiring principals this July, said Jonathan Schnur, the group's chief executive officer. Recruits will take seven weeks of coursework, at National Louis University in Chicago, and later begin an internship with a qualified Chicago public school principal serving as a mentor.

The recruits must have at least two years' experience as teachers or counselors in K-12 schools. National Louis University, a teachers' college, will certify the recruits at the end of the 13- month program.

The school system will pay the recruits $45,000 each for the 13-month program. The Eli Broad Foundation and the Chicago Public Education Fund will pay $1.2 million for housing, tuition, and other costs.

—Mark Stricherz

Wis. Online Yearbook Shut Down

School officials in Eau Claire, Wis., have pulled the plug on Memorial High School's online yearbook out of concern that posting photographs of students on the World Wide Web might expose them to harm.

The yearbook, a series of Web pages on the school's main Web site, had close-up shots of students mixed in with long-distance shots, but no names were given, said yearbook adviser Carolyn Sylte.

This was the second year the school, which enrolls 1,960 students, had an online yearbook, supplementing print and CD-ROM versions.

Jerry Bauer, an 11th grader who spent more than 100 hours developing the Web-based yearbook, is circulating a petition to reverse the policy or change it to allow parents to sign waivers to allow their children's images to appear online, Ms. Sylte said.

—Andrew Trotter

Student Held in Nun's Killing

An 18-year- old student is being held in a Miami jail, accused of fatally stabbing a nun at a Byzantine Catholic school in the Miami suburb of West Kendall.

Mykhaylo Kofel, 18, has been charged with first-degree murder, armed burglary, and using a weapon to commit a crime in connection with the slaying of Sister Michelle Lewis at Holy Cross Academy, said Nelda Fonticella, a spokeswoman for the Miami- Dade County police.

Mr. Kofel, a Ukrainian citizen who has been a high school student and monk in training at Holy Cross for four years, confessed to police, Ms. Fonticella said, but detectives have declined to reveal his motive.

Sister Michelle, 39, taught calculus at the school of 500 students and managed its administrative affairs. Colleagues became concerned when she did not appear at Mass on March 25. Police said the murder was committed between late Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Ms. Fonticella said Mr. Kofel was scheduled for arraignment April 16 in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court.

—Catherine Gewertz

Philadelphia OKs Incentives

The Philadelphia school system is offering financial incentives to teachers in high-demand specialties and to those willing to work in schools that traditionally have had trouble recruiting and retaining staff members.

School board members voted unanimously last month to add $1,500 to the salaries of licensed teachers in the areas of mathematics, Spanish, chemistry, physics, special education, and bilingual education.

The board also approved $2,000 bonuses for all licensed teachers in schools plagued with recruitment problems and high turnover. Teachers who fit both bills will get $3,500.

The action follows complaints by local advocacy groups that some students in the 208,000-student district—many of them in middle schools—are far more likely than others to have teachers who are inexperienced and who lack the proper credentials.

—Jeff Archer

Detroit Hit With Judgment

The Detroit school system may have to pay an $11.1 million legal judgment for the district's role in a milk-contract scandal, after the Michigan Supreme Court refused last week to hear the district's appeal of a state appellate court decision.

A local contractor, Jo-Dan Ltd. Inc., alleged that the district's bidding process to provide schools with milk and other dairy products was not fair and was influenced by bribes involving Detroit's former school board president, Harold Murdock, and another contractor. Mr. Murdock later plead guilty to tax-evasion charges in connection with the case.

"This type of conduct, involving bribery, an onerous and ill-conceived 'investigation,' and a sham 'hearing,' was reprehensible, shameful and illicit," the Michigan Court of Appeals wrote in its ruling last year.

The district is still reviewing the decision, but Stan Childress, the 176,000-student school system's spokesman, said it had set aside money to pay the judgment if necessary.

—Karla Scoon Reid

District Removes Mercury

An Ohio school district has removed mercury from all its science classrooms after a student stole a jar of the toxic metallic element and took it on a school bus, exposing dozens of students to it, said Superintendent Ron Lindsey of the 1,800-student Sheffield-Sheffield Lake district in Lorain County.

The student allegedly stole a jar containing 7 ounces of mercury from the Lorain County Joint Vocational School on March 21. The student faces expulsion.

The 47 students who came into contact with the mercury were tested for exposure. Most had traces on their clothes and shoes. But none has tested positive for having the element in their systems; it can cause long-term health problems, including brain damage.

—Lisa Fine

Vol. 20, Issue 29, Page 4

Published in Print: April 4, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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