School Climate & Safety

News in Brief: A National Roundup

September 27, 2000 5 min read

Miami Union, Ex-Chief in Charter Partnership

The Miami-Dade County teachers’ union and a school management company run by a former superintendent of the district last week announced a partnership to try to open charter schools throughout Florida.

United Teachers of Dade would govern the schools and have final say over their curricula and the enforcement of the union contract, while Chancellor Academies would manage them.

The American Federation of Teachers affiliate and the management firm hope to convert existing public schools to charters, in addition to opening new ones. They will work closely with local teachers’ organizations, said Annette Katz, a union spokeswoman.

Chancellor Academies, based in Miami, is run by Octavio J. Visiedo, a former superintendent of the Miami-Dade County schools.

The announcement followed news earlier this month that the union was joining forces with Edison Schools Inc., a New York City- based school management company, to propose 10 charter schools in Miami-Dade County. (“Miami-Dade Teachers’ Union Partners with Edison on Charter Plan,” Sept. 20, 2000.)

—Ann Bradley

Texas Charter Closes

A Texas charter school has abruptly closed its two campuses in Richardson, leaving hundreds of students scrambling to enroll in other schools.

Heritage Academy, which opened last fall, had severe financial troubles, which prompted the Texas Education Agency to send an administrator to the school Sept. 11 to oversee its operations. Three days later, Heritage’s board decided to shut down the campuses instead.

The school enrolled about 450 students in 6th through 12th grade. Most students live in the 34,200-student Richardson Independent School District outside Dallas. The state education agency is trying to retrieve student records from Heritage, an agency spokeswoman, Debbie Graves Ratcliffe, said.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Lieberman Daughter in N.Y.C. Job

The eldest daughter of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate, has been hired by the New York City board of education to help pair city schools with corporate partners.

The hiring of Rebecca Lieberman is part of an effort to expand the corporate-partnership program in the city’s 1,100 schools. Chancellor Harold O. Levy has made such matches one of his top priorities.

Ms. Lieberman, 31, will work for Fredda Plesser, who was hired in August to be the school board’s chief executive for corporate partnerships. Ms. Lieberman came to Mr. Levy’s attention when a friend wrote him a letter recommending her, said David Klasfeld, the deputy chancellor for operations.

Ms. Lieberman worked until recently as a co-director of the Office of Public Policy and Client Advocacy for the Children’s Aid Society. She will begin her new job in November.

—Catherine Gerwertz

Dallas Set for Audit

The beleaguered Dallas schools will get a top-down review of their finances by the state’s fiscal watchdog, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander.

Dallas board members asked for the review, hoping to gain public confidence in the 162,000-student system following a series of high-profile setbacks, including the firing in July of Superintendent Waldemar “Bill” Rojas after 11 months on the job.

The Republican comptroller, who is an elected official, will review every facet of the district’s operations. The comptroller’s office has conducted similar audits across the state as part of the Texas School Performance Review program.

A list of audit findings and recommendations should be ready for the Dallas board by next May. The district will contribute $200,000 to cover the cost of the audit, while the comptroller’s office will pay $600,000.

—Robert C. Johnston

Chemicals Found in Schools

Colorado health officials found dangerous and unstable chemicals in 48 of the 52 schools they inspected this year, state officials said last week.

During the past two summers, state inspectors have removed thousands of pounds of unstable solutions from schools. The inspections were launched after a high school in Rifle, Colo., was found to have chlorine gas, a radioactive uranium compound, and liquid mercury in its school labs. Bottles in some schools had labels that were 50 years old.

Cindy Parmenter, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is responsible for the cleanup effort, said the department would provide help to districts that lack the financial resources to identify and clean up any dangerous chemicals.

—Jessica Portner

Chicago To Inspect Classes

District officials in Chicago plan to carry out surprise inspections at the city’s schools to ensure that teachers are maintaining high expectations for their students. In his annual address on the state of the city’s 478,000-student system last week, Mayor Richard M. Daley said the unannouced visits would guard against grade inflation.

The Chicago schools, while seeking to curb social promotions, are giving more weight to students’ performance in the classroom. Given that shift from a strict reliance on test scores, Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas said, “we want to make doubly sure our teachers are teaching to the right grade level.”

During the visits, teams of educators will review the textbooks, lesson plans, and student assessments teachers are using to make sure they are aligned to the citywide standards. Each of Chicago’s 601 schools will be visited at least twice a year, Mr. Vallas said.

—Jeff Archer

Compton Board Gains Powers

The California education department is gradually returning control of the Compton schools to the local board, seven years after it took over the 31,000-student district. A state-appointed administrator has been running the district.

Students are making marginal gains on tests, and the district will finish repaying its $20 million debt to the state next summer. The state this month allowed the board to handle some facilities decisions, along with community relations.

Chief Deputy Superintendent Scott Hill said the board could regain complete control next July if it meets state criteria in other areas.

—Karla Scoon Reid


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