News in Brief: A National Roundup

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State Infusion Saves Jobs Of 180 Teachers in Buffalo

The jobs of about 180 teachers in the 47,000-student Buffalo, N.Y., school district will be spared, thanks to a rearrangement of various grant funds and a last-minute infusion of state aid.

Democratic leaders in the state legislature announced last month that they would provide the district with $5.84 million in aid, $4.34 million of which will go toward saving 120 jobs. The money will come from discretionary funds that the Democrats in the state Assembly control. The Buffalo schools have been forced to lay off teachers to close a $28 million deficit in a $509 million budget.

Superintendent Marion Canedo said another 60 to 70 jobs would be saved by reshuffling state and federal grant money originally earmarked for nonsalary educational enhancements. As a result, the district now expects to lay off roughly 240 teachers—far fewer than its original projection of 430. ("Budget Problems Force Big Layoffs in Buffalo Schools," Dec. 12, 2001.)

—Jessica L. Sandham

Court: Mich. Group Discriminated In Girls' Sports Schedule

Michigan's high school sports authority discriminates against girls by scheduling six girls' sports seasons at less advantageous times than boys' seasons, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Enslen of Kalamazoo, Mich., ruled last month in a class action that the Michigan High School Athletic Association's treatment of girls' sports violates the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment and Title IX, the federal law passed in 1972 that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal money.

Judge Enslen held that the MHSAA is subject to Title IX even though it is not a direct recipient of federal funds. Because the association has "controlling authority" over interscholastic athletics in the state, it must obey the federal anti-discrimination law, the judge said in his Dec. 17 decision.

The judge ruled the MHSAA discriminated against girls by scheduling seasons for volleyball, basketball, soccer, golf, tennis, and swimming and diving in "nontraditional" seasons. Such scheduling, he said, gives girls' sports second-class status and hurts participants' chances for college scholarships.

The association's scheduling policy "sends the clear message ... that girls' sports take a back seat to boys' sports in Michigan," Judge Enslen said.

MHSAA officials say they plan an appeal.

—Mark Walsh

Texas Judge Tosses Out Dallas Board's Redistricting Vote

A judge has found that the Dallas school board violated Texas' open-meetings law by voting on a redistricting map in private. She ordered the vote nullified.

After hearing oral arguments Dec. 14, state District Court Judge Catharina Haynes of Dallas ruled that the nine-member board had violated the Texas Open Meetings Act between April and September of last year by holding closed meetings to discuss various redistricting maps. The board's 5-4 vote on Oct. 1 to approve one of the maps was held without the required 72-hour notice to the public, the judge found.

Judge Haynes, in Dec. 18 ruling, ordered the board to hold public meetings about all the redistricting maps considered in the closed sessions so that Dallas residents have a chance to comment before the board votes on one. In addition, the judge ordered the board to make public the transcripts of last year's closed sessions.

School district lawyers did not return calls seeking comment.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Hispanic civic leaders, who had urged the board to adopt a redistricting map that would create three Latino-majority voting districts. The map that the board adopted in October increased the Hispanic-majority districts from one to two.

—Catherine Gerwertz

Compton, Calif., School Board Regains Control of District

After eight years of state control, a local Compton, Calif., school board is now in charge of the school district.

Five newly elected members of the seven-member board were sworn in Dec. 11, the same day that they assumed the helm of the 33,000-student district. There is one vacant seat on the board, and one board member's term has not yet expired.

The move completes the shift in leadership at the district, which had been plagued by a multimillion-dollar debt and crumbling buildings. Jesse Gonzales, a veteran New Mexico superintendent, was hired in August to run the district.

California officials will continue to monitor Compton's progress closely, however. Randolph E. Ward, who ran the district for the state, will stay on as a state trustee and oversee financial matters and student achievement.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Catholic-School Teachers in New York End 17-Day Strike; Talks Continue

Teachers at nine Roman Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of New York were back at work last week following a 17-day strike. But their union warned that they would again walk off the job if a contract agreement was not reached in the coming days.

The job action by members of the Lay Faculty Association, which represents some 450 teachers who work in secondary schools run by the archdiocese, began Nov. 29. Contract talks between the group and the archdiocese had stalled over union demands for greater retirement benefits. Administrators and religious personnel filled in to keep most of the schools open during the strike, although many curtailed their class schedules. In all, the affected schools serve about 8,000 students.

Union leaders said members voted over the holiday break to return to work while talks continue, in part out of concern for students who need to prepare for the state regents' exams later this month. Although the state does not require private schools to administer the tests, private school students hoping for a regents-approved diploma can take them voluntarily.

Still, the teachers' group said it could be on strike again as early as this week if it couldn't reach an accord with management.

—Jeff Archer

W. Va. Court Bars Panel's Role In Teacher-Licensing Hearings

West Virginia's state superintendent of schools must personally preside over all hearings for teachers whose licenses are challenged, the state supreme court has ruled.

The high court held last month that neither the state superintendent nor the state school board was authorized to appoint officials to conduct such proceedings. That means the state's Professional Practice Panel, which has determined the fate of teachers' licenses since 1997, will no longer be allowed to hold hearings.

The panel, made up of teachers, higher education administrators, and state school board appointees, typically has met four times a year, and it had been slated to hold two days of hearings this month. State education officials said they expected the hearings to be delayed at least two months while their lawyers seek clarification on how to proceed.

It was unclear last week whether teacher-license revocations that were heard by the panel would be void. State officials said they might ask the court if they could hire a court hearing administrator or ask the legislature to enact a law allowing the state board to create a panel to hold the hearings.

—Lisa Fine

Oregon Principal Excludes Girl's Senior Photo With Rat

A Salem, Ore., high school principal has banned a girl's senior portrait showing her pet rat, Rotten Rattin, from the school yearbook.

Principal Rey Mayoral of McKay High School said that he respects 17-year-old student Sarah Ball's desire to include her pet in the photo, but that he believes senior pictures should be more dignified. There is no rule barring animals from students' yearbook photos, but state law gives him the right to censor school publications.

"Everyone has a right to stand up for what they believe in," said Mr. Mayoral, who described Ms. Ball as "not a troublemaker" and a good student. "But I don't think this issue warrants the time like more serious issues."

The banned photo shows Ms. Ball in a shiny black dress and black-rimmed glasses with her rat draped over one shoulder. "She looked beautiful," said Lori McMichael, Ms. Ball's mother. "She'd just had her braces taken off two days before."

As a compromise, the principal offered to allow the picture in another section of the yearbook. Ms. Ball appealed to the director of secondary education for the 36,000-student Salem-Keizer school district but lost the appeal.

Her daughter was dealt with unfairly, Ms. McMichael argued, pointing out that a kitten was included in a 1992 senior yearbook photo.

—Rhea R. Borja

Vol. 21, Issue 16, Page 4

Published in Print: January 9, 2002, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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