News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Judge Overrules Board in K.C. On Firing Demps

The embattled Kansas City, Mo., school district was in chaos last week after its board fired three top officials, including Superintendent Benjamin Demps Jr., only to see them reinstated the next day by a federal judge.

In a hastily called meeting April 18, five board members approved the surprise ousters. Four other board members walked out of the meeting, protesting that there hadn't been enough public notice.

Relations between Mr. Demps and the nine-member board have been strained in recent months. In February, Mr. Demps, 67, angered board members by urging state lawmakers who want to take over the 29,500-student district to act sooner rather than later. ("Rift Between Board, Chief Has K.C. in Turmoil," March 28, 2001.)

U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple, who oversees the district's desegregation order, reinstated Mr. Demps and his staff. He ordered the board to attend a hearing on April 27 to explain its actions and demanded they "refrain from interfering in any way" with Mr. Demps' authority.

—Robert C. Johnston

Survey Finds New Leaders

In the process of recognizing master teachers, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is creating a growing cadre of school leaders, suggests a new survey sponsored by the organization.

Based on a nationally representative survey of board-certified teachers, the study reports that nearly all play at least one leadership role, though the majority also continue to work as classroom teachers. Most often cited were mentoring positions, in which the educators coach and train teachers whose skills need improvement.

Certified teachers' leadership activities are less frequent, however, outside of their schools. While 80 percent or more had mentored fellow teachers in some capacity, about half had worked with teacher-preparation programs at colleges or universities. And 10 percent or less said they had actively worked to change school or district policies since becoming certified.

Nationwide, some 5,000 teachers have achieved board certification since 1994. The new report is based on responses from about 2,200 certified teachers.

—Jeff Archer

Superintendent Settles Suit

The former superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District, fired amid allegations of financial wrongdoing, has agreed to a $159,000 settlement of the lawsuit he brought against the California district.

Six months after his termination in August 1999, Robert W. Pellicone sued the district, claiming the school board's accusations that he abused a district credit card were unfounded, and that he was being fired because he is gay. ("Fired Beverly Hills Superintendent Claims Anti-Gay Bias," March 8, 2000.)

School board member Barry Brucker confirmed that a $150,000 settlement had been reached, plus $9,000 in attorney's fees. Last month's decision to settle was made by the district's insurance company, he said.

As part of the settlement, Mr. Pellicone was given a letter, signed by the school board's lawyer, stating that after an investigation, "there was no official finding of fraudulent activity" by Mr. Pellicone.

Mr. Pellicone said he chose to settle to put the matter behind him as he started a new job as superintendent of the 2,600-student Shoreham- Wading River Central School District in Suffolk, N.Y. He said he was "very happy" in his new post.

—Catherine Gewertz

Rockford, Ill., Declared Unitary

A federal appeals court last week declared an end to court-mandated school desegregation in Rockford, Ill.

The case began with a 1989 lawsuit alleging that the 27,000-student district discriminated against black and Hispanic students. In 1996, after several years of litigation and efforts to remedy the charges in the lawsuit, federal Magistrate Judge P. Michael Mahoney ordered the district to borrow money to build new schools, add services for minority families, and alter student-assignment plans.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 7th District, in Chicago, overturned that decree, ruling that the district is unitary, or legally desegregated.

The plaintiffs, who wanted the 1996 decree in place for another 15 years, had not decided as of late last week if they would appeal the decision.

—Robert C. Johnston

Columbine Families Settle

The families of the two young men who shot 12 students and a teacher and injured two dozen others at Columbine High School have agreed to pay the families of most of the victims $1.6 million to settle lawsuits against them.

In an announcement made in Denver on April 19, lawyers for the victims and defendants disclosed the terms of several settlements.

Stephen W. Wahlberg, a plaintiffs' lawyer who was a lead negotiator in the settlements, said that the families of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold will pay, through their insurance policies, $1.57 million to 30 families and reserve another $32,000 for future claims.

The two men who supplied guns to Mr. Harris and Mr. Klebold, who took their own lives after the mass shootings, have agreed to pay 36 victims' families to settle lawsuits.

According to the lawyers' letters, Mark Manes' insurance policy will pay $720,000, with another $80,000 reserved for future claims, and the policy of Philip Duran will pay the families $250,000, with $50,000 reserved for future claims.

The families of six of the 13 killed in the shootings have not reached a settlement with the Klebold and Harris families.

—Catherine Gewertz

Vol. 20, Issue 32, Page 4

Published in Print: April 25, 2001, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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