News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Los Angeles District Makes Another Round of Cuts

The Los Angeles Unified School District has cut another $51 million from its budget, bringing to $101 million the total reductions to the district's $9 billion budget for this fiscal year.

Officials said no additional cuts will be made this year.

The board of education of the 737,000-student district had already made $50 million in cuts before voting March 4 to eliminate the additional $51 million to ease a fiscal pinch fueled by state budget cuts.

In the latest cuts, the biggest share—nearly $30 million—came from a pool of state and federal funds aimed at helping schools serving low-income areas. But district spokeswoman Cricket Bauer said schools would not feel the effects of that cut because the money would come from more than $42 million that had never actually been allocated.

Schools are more likely to feel a $14 million cut that will come directly from their general budgets, she said.

—Catherine Gewertz

Chicago School Pulls Out Of Catholic Sports League

A predominantly black Roman Catholic school in Chicago that was denied entrance to a nearly all-white sports league before being accepted after pressure from the Archdiocese of Chicago has left the conference, citing persistent unfair treatment.

Basketball coaches and some pastors representing other teams in the Southside Catholic Conference league had rejected St. Sabina School's bid to enter the league last May, saying they feared that teams traveling to the school on the city's South Side would be in danger. ("Sports League to Reconsider School's Rejection," June 13, 2001.)

But the school was later accepted into the conference after Cardinal Francis George pushed for an agreement.

St. Sabina parents and school officials voted 54-0 on March 7 to leave the conference because of what they called a pattern of disrespect from some opposing fans and players. In the most serious incident, a St. Sabina basketball player was called a racial slur by an opposing player.

"There comes a time when you have to make a stand, and no trophy is worth your self-respect," said Christopher Mallette, St. Sabina's athletic director.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Chicago and league officials did not return calls seeking comment.

—John Gehring

Lawsuit Faults Mich. School In 6-Year-Old's Shooting Death

The mother of a 6-year-old girl shot and killed by a 1st grade classmate in 2000 has sued the Beecher school district near Flint, Mich., and seven teachers and administrators, alleging that they failed to take steps to prevent the shooting despite the assailant's record of violent behavior.

Veronica McQueen, the mother of victim Kayla R. Rolland, filed the lawsuit Feb. 28 in U.S. District Court in Detroit. It alleges that her daughter's killer had stabbed another student in the neck with a pencil before the Feb. 29, 2000, shooting at Buell Elementary School.

"The risk that [the student] was out of control and dangerous to other students was obvious," the lawsuit states. Under the district's discipline policy, the boy should have been expelled after the pencil incident, the lawsuit contends.

Prosecutors decided not to charge the 6-year-old boy in the shooting, but he has been placed in a foster home.

Kenneth Jackson, the superintendent of the 2,100-student Beecher district, said last week that he had not seen the suit, but that he expected the district's lawyers to file a response.

—Mark Walsh

San Francisco to Close Low-Performing High School

School officials in San Francisco will close a low-performing high school that has lost more than half its enrollment over the past five years under the district's student-choice policy.

Eugene McAteer High School had come to be viewed as a dumping ground for students with chronic academic and discipline problems.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, in recommending the 850-student school's closure at a Feb. 26 meeting, acknowledged that assignment and transfer patterns had led to student- achievement problems at the school.

Many students have been transferred there in the middle of the year. Large numbers of special-needs students had also been assigned to the school, which will close at the end of this academic year.

Only 15 percent of McAteer's students had included it among their choices this school year. Over the past five years, the graduation rate has dropped from 86 percent to 75 percent, and the state has given the school the lowest ranking on its Academic Performance Index.

McAteer students will be guaranteed admission next year to one of three schools of their choice.

—Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Hartford Schools Chief Plans to Move On

The superintendent widely credited with turning around the Hartford, Conn., public schools is in the market for a new job.

Anthony S. Amato announced earlier this month that he was in the running for the top post in a number of other districts, which he did not name.

After three years at the helm of Connecticut's largest school system, he said he was confident the district was on the right path. Further, he said, he didn't want to wait until he had accepted another job before telling local leaders that he was planning to move on.

Mr. Amato arrived in Hartford after state lawmakers declared the 24,000-student system to be in crisis and passed legislation replacing the local school board with a state-appointed panel.

His overhaul of what had long been the worst-performing district in the state relied heavily on standardized curricula, student test preparation, and professional development for teachers and administrators.

—Jeff Archer

Cheerleaders Relinquish State Championship Trophy

An Oregon high school cheerleading team has had to give back its state championship title because a cheerleader on the squad should have been disqualified for her poor grades, school officials say.

The student's spring grades would have barred her from participating with the team that competed in the February championship, Principal Dottie Bertelli of Hillsboro High School said.

"It was not their fault," said Ms. Bertelli, a former cheerleading coach and the mother of a cheerleader, said of the team. "It was an adult error. They will always be champions in my heart."

Coaches are required to check team members' grades before they try out, before each season, and after each grading period ends. The school's cheerleading coach of nine years, Tila Smith, resigned over the incident, Ms. Bertelli said. Ms. Smith could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Bertelli said she informed the Oregon School Activities Association and returned the title after a school administrator brought the grade problem to her attention. But with the association's permission, she let the Hillsboro team keep the state-championship patches for their letter jackets, she said.

—Lisa Fine

Vol. 21, Issue 27, Page 4

Published in Print: March 20, 2002, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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