News in Brief: A National Roundup

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Sought-After Candidate Accepts Top Miami Post

The Miami-Dade County school board has voted to hire Rudolph F. Crew as its next superintendent.

In a 7-2 vote on May 17, the nation’s fourth-largest school district agreed to hire Mr. Crew, who was once the chancellor of the New York City schools. The decision appeared to end weeks of questions about where Mr. Crew would settle. St. Louis, East Baton Rouge, La., and the District of Columbia also had been interested in having Mr. Crew lead their school districts.

Mr. Crew’s contract with the Florida district will make him one of the highest- paid superintendents in the country. He is set to earn $295,000 in salary his first year, with an additional bonus of up to $50,000. If he stays six years, his salary will reach $360,000 with a bonus of as much as $80,000.

—Catherine Gewertz

Ohio Parents Lose Challenge To Students’ Punishment

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the parents of two Cincinnati-area students who were disciplined by their school district for drinking beer on an exchange trip to Germany, despite having permission from their families to do so.

U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel on May 3 dismissed the suit brought by the parents in the 1,700-student Mariemont city school district, finding that there was no federal issue involved.

Richard G. Ward, the lawyer who represented the parents and the stepfather of one of the 17 students who were disciplined—some of whom became intoxicated—said he has asked for a new trial in federal court.

"To me, this is a parents’-rights case," Mr. Ward said, adding that he hoped that parents could work with district officials to come up with a process to avoid future confusion over discipline policies and student trips.

Bronston McCord, the lawyer for the school district, called the lawsuit a "frivolous action."

—Ann Bradley

Teachers Give Poor Marks To Many of Chicago’s Principals

The Chicago Teachers Union’s new "report card" on principals has drawn a sharp response from the group that represents the city’s administrators.

The CTU released the results of a survey on May 6 giving grades to the principals of 546 of the city’s 602 schools. A third of the school leaders in the 440,000- student district who were graded received either D’s or F’s.

The survey was done by the Scantron Corp. of Irvine, Calif., and the University of Illinois’ Labor and Industrial Relations Institute.

In addition to overall scores, the union published results from what it said were the city’s 10 highest- and lowest-rated schools. Deborah Lynch, the union’s president, said the survey presented "a comprehensive picture of the leadership and leadership issues in Chicago’s schools."

But Clarice Berry, the president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, condemned the survey as "garbage and mudslinging."

"It’s unprecedented for one union to attack another," Ms. Berry said. "There are so many problems we have in common, it’s counterproductive for us to be fighting one another."

Both Ms. Lynch and Ms. Berry are facing election battles this month. The survey results are on the teachers’ union’s Web site at
PrincipalSurvey2004/PrincipalSurvey.htm l

—Ann Bradley

D.C. Leaders Eye Fund Raising To Boost Schools Chief’s Pay

Civic leaders in the District of Columbia are considering ways to put together a compensation package worth nearly $600,000 to lure the city’s next schools superintendent.

Tony Bullock, the spokesman for Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said in an interview that the city needs to pay between $250,000 and $350,000 in salary alone and likely would need help from private donors to raise money for benefits, performance incentives, and bonuses.

That salary would be approximately double what the city has paid previous schools chiefs.

"The mayor’s point of view is if we want the best, we have to be competitive," Mr. Bullock sid.

One idea is for donors to contribute to a nonprofit organization, he said, adding that it was not clear whether legislation would be required to set up such an entity.

—Ann Bradley

Former Students Allege Abuse By Nuns at School for Deaf

Nine former students of the now-closed Boston School for the Deaf have filed a lawsuit alleging that the Roman Catholic nuns who operated the school abused them physically and sexually.

The school in Randolph, Mass., was operated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston from 1899 until 1994. Among others, the plaintiffs are suing 14 nuns of that order and two priests. The May 11 lawsuit, filed in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts, describes abuses allegedly suffered by hearing- and speech-impaired students who attended the school any time from 1942 to 1977. The allegations include sexual abuse, from fondling to rape.

Two plaintiffs allege they were forced to put their faces in a toilet. The plaintiffs are represented by Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston lawyer who negotiated for victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston to receive a $85 million settlement.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston released a statement saying that the religious order first learned of the specifics of the allegations last week.

"We will begin an immediate investigation that will be fair and sensitive to all involved," the statement said.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Fla. School Board Settles Suit Challenging Prayer at Meetings

The Manatee County, Fla., school board decided last week to settle a federal lawsuit brought by parents who challenged its practice of beginning meetings with Christian prayers.

The lawsuit accused the 40,000-student district of violating the First Amendment’s prohibition against a government establishment of religion. It was filed by Steven and Carol Rosenauer, who took exception to the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at board meetings, according to their lawyer, Thomas Julin.

Following the couple’s initial complaint last spring, the district’s lawyer issued guidance saying board members should not engage in secular prayers, Mr. Julin said.

The board continued to allow the prayer to be read, however, and the Rosenauers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Orlando in January, Mr. Julin said.

School district officials could not be reached for comment.

The settlement prohibits the school board from giving a sectarian prayer or preaching a particular religion, according to Mr. Julin.

—Michelle Galley

Colo. District Backs Away From Performance-Pay Plan

The Steamboat Springs, Colo., school district is heading back to the drawing board on a plan that would link teachers’ pay to their performance.

Members of the school board said at a May 3 meeting that the 1,700-student system could not afford the $600,000 a year in additional money that the plan would have cost, based on an independent financial analysis presented to the board last month.

The proposal would have paid teachers on the basis of new classrooms skills. They would have been evaluated on those skills largely through classroom observation and detailed portfolios.

When the proposal was approved by the board and the local teachers’ union two years ago, the district was also paying the staffs of individual schools for meeting student-achievement goals on state tests. That program has since been dropped.

—Bess Keller

N.Y.C. Report Sees Rise In Level of Spec. Ed. Services

New York City’s department of education said last week that a school survey found that special education students are getting more services than previously thought. But the city’s public advocate disputes the findings.

A survey of more than 30,000 students done by Carmen Farina, the acting deputy chancellor for teaching and learning in the 1.1 million-student school district, found that the city department of education had increased the number of children receiving special education services since last year in occupational, physical, and speech therapy. The gains occurred in part because officials hired more 200 additional therapists.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, who has done her own studies of the special education system and has been pushing for citywide reforms, said she was "troubled" by the survey results.

The "findings are not consistent with the information I have received from sources familiar with the system," Ms. Gotbaum said in a statement.

—Michelle R. Davis

Vol. 23, Issue 37, Page 4

Published in Print: May 19, 2004, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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