State comptroller Daniel Hynes criticized the state's decision to slash
funding for a merit scholars program and said he will seek to have the
scholarships restored in the November veto session.
The Sun-Times reported Wednesday that the Legislature failed to fund
the $6.3 million Merit Recognition Scholarship Program in the budget
signed into law last month.
Hynes -- whose office cuts the scholarship checks -- said that was wrong,
because the scholarships encouraged "Illinois' best and brightest'' to stay in the state. The $1,000
scholarships went to students who ranked in the top 5 percent of their
high school class or who scored in the top 5 percent on college entrance
exams and attended school here.
About 6,300 students would have gotten the scholarship, and some were
notified by their high schools that they were winners. The Illinois
Student Assistance Commission, which oversees the program, sent those
students letters July 13 informing them that there would be no scholarships
Hynes criticized the commission for proposing that the Legislature ax
the program's funding.
"It's important to make sure financial aid is given to families
in need, but I think it's important to reward academic achievement,''
But commission officials said many of the scholarships went to wealthier
families. The growth in such merit scholarships around the country has
been criticized by groups who say they come at the expense of poorer
students. With tuition increases across the state, the commission pushed
to increase awards to those students.
"Need-based aid and access is our main priority,'' said Kathy Rooney,
deputy executive director of the commission.
But Rooney said if Hynes can "find the money, we wouldn't oppose''
restoring the merit program.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS - George Hopkins never thought he'd see the day when
a rule about cell phones would need to be added to an elementary school's
Elementary school, that is.
That's exactly the case at FrankfortIntermediateSchool in West
Frankfort, where the
school board this summer approved an addition to the school's handbook
that limits the use of cell phones during the day for the students in
grades three through six.
Three through six, that is.
"We respond to society because we're a microcosm of society,"
Hopkins, superintendent of West
West Frankfort administrators are not alone. Most school districts
in Southern Illinois are being forced to adjust their policies because of
the increasing number of students who own mobile phones. While younger
students are starting to show up with cell phones, those in high school
continue to be the biggest users.
According to Illinois-based Teen Research Unlimited, nearly 50 percent
of kids ages 12-19 owned cell phones in 2004 - up more than 20 percent
from the year 2000. Analysts with the research firm say teen cell-phone
use has increased so rapidly because wireless companies have spent the
past few years targeting that particular market.
National statistics from 2004 show that about 40 percent of 12 to 15-year-olds
have cell phones, while roughly 70 percent of 18 and 19-year-olds have
The statistics make it necessary for schools to put in place some type
of cell phone policy.
During his 32 years in education, Hopkins has noticed that common distractions involving students
have changed from sling shots to pocket knives to cell phones and video
games. He said there have only been a handful of problems in the past,
but to even address cell phones at the grade-school level means the
school has to change with the times.
While most schools do not search for cell phones, and many do not ban
them, if one rings or is seen, it may be confiscated. Most schools are
still writing policies about the phones, as the school year nears.
Surveys have shown that parents tend to be against the banning of cell
phone possession by students in school settings. Parents want to be
But almost all schools " nationally and locally -restrict cell
phones during classroom time.
As it turns out, cell phone use isn't the only policy issues facing
school districts throughout Southern
Each year, districts have to add one more rule or regulation to their
handbooks " whether it's cell phones or dress code policies.
Matt Donkin, assistant principal at FrankfortHigh
said the school found itself defining what a "sleeve" is this
year in the handbook, because somehow kids manage to find a loophole
in each new dress code regulation.
"It's kind of like the old shell game," Donkin said, referring
to the game where the ball or shell is hidden under a cup and mixed
around. "They figure that loophole so you move it again and again."
While 95 percent of the student body dresses or acts appropriately,
there are a few that have caused administration to define a sleeve as
material that covers "under the arm and over the shoulder."
Becky Canty, superintendent of Elverado schools, said she hasn't had
any major problems to address this school year in terms of students.
Cell phone have already been addressed as well as the dress code. Still,
she said, revisions are always being made with every new fashion and
every new toy.
"There's always something new to put in your handbook," she
said. "I can envision it looking like the Oxford Dictionary one
In some cases, school districts are preparing for new regulations and
rules that aren't being brought about in reaction to the students. Instead.
It's State of Illinois that's requiring changes.
Canty said the state has issued a new rule that each child entering
kindergarten, second grade and fifth grade have to have a dental exam.
While she appreciates the need for kids to have clean teeth, the district
only learned about this a couple months ago and is now having to act
"Two months ahead of time we knew and (the state) works out the
wrinkles later," she said.
The punishment for students not having dental exams " much like
a physical " will be withholding the students' report card. But
Canty said the state had decided previously that withholding report
cards is illegal.
"Well, now they're talking about this dental thing, (which would)
make us lawbreakers," she said.
Elizabeth Lewin, superintendent of Carbondale elementary schools, has found her staff shopping for
defibrillators this summer after the state passed legislation requiring
automated external defibrillators in places where students participate
in physical activities. The state requires these, she said, but hasn't
provided the funding to put them in place. By next year, she'll have
to have five installed, at a cost of anywhere from $800 to $5,000. Staff
has to be trained, too, and Lewin has to scramble to train more than
120 staff members before school starts.
"It's always something different," she said.
Anymore she said teachers and administrators are having to go beyond
the scope of teaching children the fundamentals.
"We do keep our focus," she said. "But these other issues,
they do tax us."
Illinois Teacher of the Year and students to appear in PBS special
By Liza Roche, Courier News Staff Writer, 7/26/05
ELGIN Just off her official tour as Illinois' Teacher of the Year, ElginHigh School science instructor Deb Perryman is not slowing down
not quite yet.
On Monday, she was in Huntsville, Ala., participating in U.S. Space Camp. And today , the teacher
will be back in Elgin,
joining some of her former students in a trip to Chicago's MillenniumPark for the premier of a new documentary on PBS television
in which they are featured.
"It was a blast," said Perryman about her involvement with
PBS's upcoming series, Edens Lost & Found.
"When they called me, I was pretty amazed," she said.
PBS, which will air Edens in 2006, describes the series on its Web site as telling
"the story of inspired individual citizens in cities across the
country who are improving their quality of life and public health through
the restoration of their urban ecosystems."
The series comes in four separate broadcasts and focuses on four American
urban areas: Chicago, Los Angeles,
Philadelphia and Seattle.
In the series, Perryman is featured for her ongoing work at ElginHigh School in which she brings students to nearby Poplar Creek
to learn more about the delicate ecosystem of the area's waterways.
Through Perryman's hands-on teaching style, students are encouraged
to teach younger children while they learn. More than 6,300 younger
people were brought to Poplar Creek in the last year through the teaching
Perryman officially ended her duties as Teacher of the Year earlier
In a year that included meeting President George Bush, working on legislation
against violent video games, going to space camp and meeting with fellow
teachers, Perryman said her tenure as the state's top teachers has been
This fall, Perryman will be back for daily classes at ElginHigh School and she said she's looking forward to it.
"That's where I plan to stay, until they tell me I can't any longer,"
she said. TOP OF PAGE
DANVILLE The Illinois House of Representatives recently
passed an amendment that will help smaller school districts in the area
fill specialized teaching positions.
Superintendents from small districts have a hard time recruiting young
teachers in the specialized areas of special education, math and science.
To make up for the deficit of qualified personnel, these districts often
re-hire retired teachers. But they were only able to work in the fall.
The new bill allows retired teachers to work in either the fall or spring,
increasing a districts ability to put the most qualified teachers
in front of the kids.
Chief co-sponsor of HB 741, state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, said
the problem had become so arduous in recent years that districts were
sharing speech pathologists and special education teachers.
It used to be you could hire an English teacher and they could
teach geometry for one year, he said, adding because of laws and
requirements for No Child Left Behind, it isnt possible to shift
teachers between subjects as easily.
The days of putting a warm body in a classroom are over.
The new law specifies that only areas where serious teacher deficits
exist such as foreign language, math, science and special education
may be filled with retired teachers.
Area superintendents echo Blacks concerns of finding qualified
personnel for all the subjects.
I know in the course of the last two or three years, weve
had districts that couldnt find Spanish teachers, chemistry teachers
or physics teachers. As those teaches retire, we are looking and cant
find (qualified replacements), regional superintendent Mike Metzen
Metzen said often teachers who want to teach chemistry, for example,
come out of school expecting to teach five or six classes of that subject,
but in smaller districts, they end up teaching different subjects.
Its very, very hard, said Bill Mulvaney, superintendent
of the ArmstrongTownshipHighSchool
Those teachers can go anywhere they want to districts that pay
Here, they would have to teach four or five different classes.
Those shortages are definitely tougher for us little districts than
anywhere else in the state.
Besides better pay, younger teachers might find rural areas harder to
live in because of housing shortages and a lack of things theyre
likely to look for, such as an active nightlife scene, Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney said his district employs a retired science teacher part-time.
The arrangement helps fill the districts needs.
We only utilize one person right now. It gives us an opportunity
down the road to fill a shortage and not hire a full-time teacher and
not overpay for what we need, he said.
Jamie Dorsey, superintendent of the PotomacSchool
said special education positions are especially hard to fill.
Special ed is the only one Ive had trouble with, she
said. But weve been able to hire local people with those
qualifications in those other areas.
However, if a special ed teacher retires in the next several years,
the new law will make it easier for her district during the hiring process.
The retired teacher could take over until the district finds a permanent
replacement, she said. TOP OF PAGE
The scope of a federal probe into the pension fund for suburban and
Downstate teachers widened Tuesday with the revelation that a former
outside counsel for the fund resigned his job with his law firm because
he is under the feds' microscope.
Also publicly linked to the probe for the first time, sources told the
Chicago Sun-Times, are a former Democratic nominee for New York governor who had business before the state Teachers'
Retirement System, as well as a real-estate investment firm with which
the TRS board invested $85 million.
The new information followed a Sun-Times report Tuesday detailing how
prosecutors recently subpoenaed records from TRS pertaining to about
a half-dozen of its private-equity investments totaling more than $1
billion. One of the investments in question is with HealthPoint Capital,
a company that included prominent Chicago lawyer and Democratic power broker Joseph A. Cari Jr.
as a board member and managing partner.
Cari's law firm, Ungaretti & Harris, confirmed Monday he is under
The feds, sources familiar with the case said, also have subpoenaed
records on former TRS board members Stuart Levine and John Glennon,
and are looking into possible kickbacks involving at least one TRS investment.
Levine and Glennon currently are under federal indictment in a fraud
case unrelated to TRS.
TRS Executive Director Jon Bauman said the agency was "fully cooperating"
with investigators and that, up to this point, "the fund has not
incurred any financial losses" tied to the probe. Bauman would
not comment beyond that because "the investigation is under way
and we don't want to interfere with it."
Besides touching Cari, the probe has hit another high-profile Chicago lawyer, Steven L. Loren, even harder. A partner in the
firm of Gardner, Carton & Douglas, Loren last week "resigned
from the firm because he is the subject of an investigation by the U.S.
Attorney's office," the firm said in a memo to its 250 staff.
TRS -- which oversees pension funds for 330,000 current and retired
teachers and administrators -- severed its 13-year relationship with
Loren late last year after accusations that Levine, a close friend of
his, had been orchestrating kickback schemes involving hospital and
medical-school construction projects. Levine, who also served on the
state Health Facilities Planning Board, resigned both his state board
positions last year and was indicted on federal fraud charges in May.
Glennon was indicted last week for allegedly overseeing a sham marketing
contract at the ChicagoMedicalSchool, where Levine was a board member and Loren also did
legal work. Loren declined to comment when reached at his Highland Park home. Glennon, of Lake Forest, and Levine, also of Highland Park, have denied wrongdoing.
Cari, despite his role as a former Democratic National Committee finance
chair, knew Levine through his support of GOP gubernatorial nominee
Jim Ryan in 2002. Levine was Ryan's campaign finance chair.
At HealthPoint, a New
that helps bankroll orthopedic-device companies, Cari worked closely
with former New York state comptroller H. Carl McCall, who won the Democratic
gubernatorial nomination in 2002 but lost the general election to George
Pataki. McCall, a former HealthPoint vice chairman, appeared with Cari
before the TRS board in 2003. Neither is involved with the company now,
and there was no indication so far that McCall is a target of the probe.
A spokesman for Cari said the Democratic operative remains willing to
answer whatever questions federal investigators ask and is eager to
resume work at his downtown law practice.
"He has been an open book. He looks forward to returning to the
practice of law at U & H very shortly," said lawyer Kenneth
Jakubowski, a personal friend of Cari's.
TRS made two investments with HealthPoint in 2003 totaling $35 million.
Besides HealthPoint, the feds are looking into an $85 million investment
TRS made with JER Real Estate Partners III of suburban Washington, D.C., in May 2004, sources said. Both of those investments
involved both money TRS collected from educators and proceeds from a
$10 billion pension bond sale Gov. Blagojevich spearheaded shortly after
Attempts to reach executives with both HealthPoint and JER were unsuccessful.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Interim state schools Superintendent Randy Dunn, named
last fall as Gov. Rod Blagojevich took more control of Illinois' public schools, will take the post permanently and
serve through the 2006 election, officials said Tuesday.
The State Board of Education will meet in closed session Wednesday to
evaluate Dunn's performance. Blagojevich education adviser Elliott Regenstein
told The Associated Press Dunn was prepared to accept the board's invitation
to serve until the next gubernatorial inauguration in January 2007.
Officials didn't know whether formal action would be taken at Wednesday's
The 47-year-old educator is on leave from Southern Illinois University
at Carbondale, where he is an education professor and chairman of
the university's Department of Educational Administration and Higher
Dunn wanted to ensure SIU was comfortable with an extended stay in Springfield and "it's our understanding that that's all been
worked out," Regenstein said Tuesday.
Dunn was returning from an education conference near Seattle Tuesday and was unavailable for comment, his spokeswoman
Regenstein didn't know whether Dunn would get a raise in his $115,000
salary if he accepted the position.
Regenstein said Dunn has been central to Blagojevich's reform of the
state board, which administers an $8 billion budget of federal and state
dollars for Illinois' 2 million schoolchildren. Dunn helped eliminate a backlog
in processing teaching certificates, introduce a simpler school report
card for parents and cut red tape, Regenstein said.
Dunn was tabbed in September by a board filled mostly with new members
who Blagojevich picked after he signed a law giving governors more control
over board appointments.
State board chairman Jesse Ruiz of Chicago would not say whether Dunn had agreed to stay, but said
it would be difficult to find a replacement who possibly could be ousted
by Blagojevich or another governor taking office in 18 months.
"Everybody's very pleased and we would be thrilled to have him
stay on," Ruiz said. "The fact of the matter is that having
some consistency is a good thing for the school system and a good thing
for the Illinois State Board of Education.
Representatives from some of the Chicago area's community colleges and public universities say
if employers want a better work force in the future, higher education
standards and procedures are needed from kindergarten through high school.
"Money alone will not lead us to a level of excellence," Stuart
Fagan, president of Governors State University in University Park, said
Tuesday night at the first of three public meetings of the Illinois
Education Task Force.
NorthernIllinoisUniversity hosted the committee, appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich,
at its Naperville campus and expected to receive comments from at least
a dozen of the estimated 60 attendees.
Gery Chico, former president of Chicago Public Schools and chairman
of the task force, said another public meeting will be scheduled in
Chicago in August, as well as one downstate in September. All
the information gathered will be compiled into a report and presented
to the governor and the state Board of Education.
Fagan said improvements to the system must begin with public schools.
"Elementary schools need to send students to middle school who
can perform at that level, and middle schools need to send students
to high school who can perform at that level," he said. "Kids
without the requisite knowledge who are being passed makes it harder
for them to advance."
Christine Sobek, president of WaubonseeCommunity
said her college has partnered successfully with neighboring school
districts to implement programs to better prepare students for college.
"More than 250 students earned over 1,000 semester hours of college
credit through these partnership programs that take place in their high
school classrooms," Sobek said.
She said the program was funded through the state's P-16 program and
that the state should consider funneling more money into it and encourage
Rick Stephens, senior vice president for internal services at Chicago-based
Boeing, suggests additional emphasis be placed on helping students become
better problem solvers.
"There are large chasms between elementary and middle school and
between high school and college," he said. "I think there
is enough money for education but we have to make better use of it."
Add your two cents
The Illinois Education Task Force is accepting public input Information
should be directed to Mark Kolaz, assistant superintendent for operations,
Illinois State Board of Education, 100 N. First St., Springfield, IL62777; or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
PEORIA - When Hannah Brown's 5-year-old daughter walked off
the school bus last week limp and drenched in sweat, it was the last
Ever since, the mom has been driving her daughter and nephew to their
school, ValeskaHintonEarlyChildhoodEducationCenter. She believes District 150 kids shouldn't be exposed
to extreme heat on buses without air conditioning, and about 200 people
have taken her side.
"This heat is a killer. My biggest concern is these kids are coming
off the bus dripping wet," the East Bluff mother said Monday.
Brown has started a petition that has been signed by more than 200 people
in just five days. The petition asks the district to provide "air
conditioned buses or other relief" during extreme heat. It has
been signed by parents, community members and even district bus drivers.
The mom-turned-activist plans to present the petition at the Aug. 1
School Board meeting.
Brown's daughter, Deloris Brown-Munoz, is clear on her stance.
"I don't want to get on the bus. It's too hot," the kindergartner
None of the district's regular buses have air conditioning, but it's
required for some special education students. Those students ride in
Associate Superintendent Cindy Fischer said air conditioning isn't really
feasible, considering the district's finances. But she did say the administration
would look into other solutions. She said one remedy could be to create "heat
days" that would follow the same concept as snow days.
"With our limited resources, we have (other) priorities we're focusing
on, but at the same time, the health and safety of our kids is always
the focus," she said.
Temperatures reached triple digits Sunday and Monday but the recent
heat wave already has begun to subside. Valeska Hinton is the only school
open now, but summer school was held districtwide from mid-June to mid-July.
The first day of school is Aug. 24.
As the temperature climbed into the 90s late last week, Valeska Hinton
began sending students home with bottles of water. Principal Beth Bussan
said it helps make the bus ride more bearable.
"As we started to see the temperature rise, we started brainstorming,"
District transportation director Mike Sullivan said buses generally
aren't equipped with air conditioning. Heat is instead warded off with
features like white roofs and fans. Other local districts, like Dunlap
District 323, East Peoria District 86 and Eureka District 140, also
transport students without air conditioning.
Sullivan said outfitting a bus with air conditioning costs about $10,000.
That means it would cost about $1.4 million to cool all the district's
141 conventional buses.
Brown understands the district doesn't have the money to outfit all
the buses right away. But in the meantime, school should close when
temperatures become dangerous.
"Shut the school down, and wait until the weather subsides,"
Bus driver Theresa Hart signed the petition and even helped circulate
it. She said she won't do summer routes because of the oven-like heat.
She said fans on the buses don't help. And even when the windows are
open, her bus is much hotter than it is outside.
"You just roast in the buses," she said. "To me, it seems
like a 20-degree difference. When I get off that bus, it's almost like
coming out of the heat and going into the air conditioning."
Hart's foster child goes to Valeska Hinton and rides the bus. The 4-year-old
also has been getting off the bus lately drenched in sweat.
"I don't think it's right these kids are suffering like that. It's
too hard on them," Hart said.
When parents register their teens at Oak LawnCommunityHigh
next month they'll walk past the after-school activities table, the
registration table and, maybe, the Best Buy table.
Businesses that make a donation to District 229's Spartan Education
Foundation will get to set up tables in the school hallway during registration.
The "Back to School Business Week" will bring more donations
than the golf outings held by most organizations, foundation chairwoman
Laura Shallow said.
"Rather than just put our hand out and ask businesses to help,
we're trying to give them something in return," Shallow said. "And
parents get a chance to have a captive group of businesses in one place
to save them the time of going from store to store."
The idea is recognized as unique, but also criticized for pushing commercialism
Best Buy, OfficeMax and Office Depot are among the large retailers interested
in the program, Shallow said.
Local banks participating will either make a donation to the foundation
or offer a donation for every new account opened, Shallow said.
Area car dealers are expected to take part in the program as well, she
Some businesses, such as restaurants, will offer coupons or deals to
customers in addition to the donations.
"You might have a pizza place offering coupons for a certain night,"
Shallow said. "There aren't really any rules, the businesses are
told to promote themselves in a way to get the most out of this."
Shallow said 10 businesses have confirmed, which is short of her goal
Jerry Glaub, deputy executive director with the Illinois Association
of School Boards said schools have to get increasingly creative to raise
"There's a lot of commercialism sweeping through schools, they're
selling signs and scoreboard names to raise money," he said. "But
I haven't heard of something like this."
Shallow said she has not found any other foundations doing a similar
Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce president Jack Baker said the business
week will be a good opportunity for local businesses.
"Our goal is to bring more awareness for small businesses,"
he said. "This is a great way to get some of the local businesses
in front of the public."
Shallow said parents will be notified in advance that the businesses
will be at the school.
"Parents will know this isn't being done just to help the businesses,"
she said. "We're raising money to help the school by giving mini-grants
But Gary Ruskin, executive director of the Portland-based Commercial
Alert, said the plan is part of the ongoing encroachment of commercialism
into everyday life.
"Schools exist to teach kids to read and write and add and think,"
Ruskin said. "Something like this corrupts the integrity of public
education, making schools another huckster for lemon automobiles and
When Randy Dunn took the job of interim state school superintendent
last September, he said he would not assume the post on a permanent
On Wednesday, Dunn, 47, said he changed his mind for two main reasons.
"We're getting some things done and having some success,"
he said. "Secondly, we were getting to the point where it was going
to put the board in a bit of a box in trying to bring someone in through
a full-blown search process."
Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Jesse Ruiz said the panel
hopes to quickly work out details of Dunn's contract extension through
January 2007, then vote on it during an Aug. 11 meeting. Dunn's existing
contract pays a salary of $115,000.
Dunn, who is on unpaid leave from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, said officials there have been "gracious"
about extending his leave so he could continue as state superintendent.
He still intends to return to SIU, where he is chairman of the Department
of Educational Administration and Higher Education.
Under a 2004 law that allowed Gov. Rod Blagojevich to revamp the State
Board of Education, a state superintendent's tenure must correspond
closely to a governor's term. No superintendent's employment contract
may exceed four years.
Blagojevich's current four-year term expires in January 2007. Ruiz said
a contract with any new superintendent would have to expire at that
Dunn was hired by the board about a week after enactment of the law
that authorized Blagojevich to immediately appoint seven new people
to the nine-member panel. At that time, the governor's office said he
would recommend a candidate for the full-time superintendent's job after
a nationwide search.
Elliot Regenstein, Blagojevich's director of education reform, said Wednesday
that officials did some research into what a national search would involve.
"But it never became a priority because of the good work Randy
was doing," he said. "At some point in the spring, I think
we realized, 'Hey, listen, we've got the right person in the job right
"So we refocused on talking to the board and talking to Randy and
seeing if we could work something out where he could stay on. At this
point, we're very optimistic that's going to happen."
Board members met behind closed doors for a couple of hours Wednesday,
spending part of the time with Dunn to evaluate his job performance,
Afterward, Ruiz and other board members praised Dunn.
"Superintendent Dunn's performance has been great," Ruiz said.
"We're happy with the direction the agency is going under his leadership,
and so we want to continue on that path."
Board member Brenda Holmes called Dunn "an excellent superintendent."
Dean Clark, one of the two holdover board members not appointed by Blagojevich,
had voted against Dunn's hiring last year, saying he did not have enough
time to review Dunn's qualifications.
"I have no problems with Randy," Clark
said Wednesday. "I think he's done a great job." TOP OF PAGE
For 1st grader Tiffany Murray, there's no question that going to school
year-round at LincolnSchool in Mundelein has its benefits.
"We get to play more and see our friends more," the 6-year-old
said. "I have tons of friends."
"She's all about socializing," Tiffany's mother, Maureen Murray,
said. "She's my little social butterfly."
While most students in Lake County are about to begin their last month
of summer break, Murray and more than 400 pupils started school at Lincoln
on Wednesday. Some were coming off a six-week break, and others attended
summer school, with only three weeks of vacation.
Nationwide, year-round schools are slowly gaining acceptance, said Sam
Pepper, executive director of the National Association for Year-Round
Education. More than 2.3 million students are enrolled at year-round
But after 10 years as a year-round school, Lincoln is LakeCounty's only such school.
"People are used to the traditional calendar, and it's hard to
change that," said Principal Shawn Walker.
Advocates of year-round schools say children learn more because there
is less time off for them to forget the material and school buildings
are better utilized.
The traditional school calendar was designed decades ago so children
could be at home during the summer to help on the family farm. The country
became less agrarian, but the school schedule never changed.
Students at year-round schools attend classes for 180 days, as they
do at traditional schools. But at a single-track school like Lincoln, pupils attend school for nine weeks, then take a three-week
break. They also get a six-week summer break.
Critics of year-round schools say it's a scheduling hassle, sometimes
leaving children on vacation when there are no programs outside school
available to serve them.
"The fact is, you are changing a custom that has been around a
long time," Pepper said. "Anytime you have change, there are
going to be a lot of objections."
Last year, WaukeganSchool
60 proposed adding year-round schools to relieve overcrowding. But the
school board vetoed the idea when some parents objected, said Janet
Ring, associate superintendent for program development. Some board members
worried that students wouldn't have anything to do during their breaks,
On the first day back at Lincoln,
pupils hugged their parents, grabbed their new school supplies and hurried
off to class. Many were ready for summer to end, they said.
"I can learn more and study longer," said Noemi Hernandez,
a 4th grader. "I don't forget everything."
"They get a better education," Raul Roberto said while his
shy 8-year-old son stood close by him. "He spends less time out
After a three-week break, Tiffany Murray was so excited to start 1st
grade that she popped out of bed at
Wednesday and started packing her black bookbag with folders and paper,
"I miss school," she said. "It's really fun. I'm really
good at math."
But for Tiffany's mom, year-round school means Tiffany has less time
reviewing old material and a chance to learn more.
"They don't get that long break where they can forget everything,"
she said. "I told her she could switch to a regular school if she
wanted to stay home longer. She said she likes it." TOP OF PAGE
ROCKFORD -- A Web site that called for the firing of Rockford
School District Superintendent Dennis Thompson and urged parents to
boycott the district was created by a district teacher.
After complaints from the district, www.firedennisthompson.com was taken
down Monday night, the same day the site started getting local attention.
School Board attorney Stephen Katz informed the company that manages
the site, Utah-based Hosting Solutions Inc., that it was laden with
potentially libelous accusations about Thompson and School Board members.
The author of the Web site was Mark Thompson, according to a letter
written by the School Board's legal counsel to Hosting. Matt Peterson,
tech support employee from the company, confirmed to the Rockford Register
Star that Thompson created the site.
The Web site depicted a distorted picture of School Board President
Nancy Kalchbrenner and made "untrue, inflammatory and defamatory
allegations that Dr. (Dennis) Thompson is terrorist, racist," and
broke the law, according to the letter written by Hinshaw & Culbertson
attorney Richard Porter. The site also urged parents to boycott the
district by keeping their children home from school.
"This site was nasty," Kalchbrenner said. "If you're
not happy with decisions the district has made, that's one thing. But
there are civil ways to voice your opinion. This Web site was totally
Mark Thompson did not return phone calls to the Rockford Register Star.
A former assistant principal at KennedyMiddle School, Thompson transferred to a teaching position at RockfordEnvironmentalScienceAcademy in March 2004.
He lost an April 5 election to Nancy Kalchbrenner for the School Board's
subdistrict D seat. During the campaign, he had a Web site that contained
personal criticisms of Kalchbrenner, which she called "reprehensible."
Katz would not say if the district would seek any disciplinary action
against Thompson, citing legal confidentiality about personnel matters.
Thompson would be entitled to union representation at a disciplinary
hearing if the district takes any action against him, said Tom Morgan,
a spokesman for the Rockford teachers union.
"I think most people would agree it was a totally offensive site,"
Hosting Solutions Inc. doesn't check each of its 900,000 Web sites for
content. However, the company reserves the right to dismantle any of
its customers' sites that are discovered to contain offensive material,
according to disclaimers on the company's Web site. TOP OF PAGE
The school board president of Community Consolidated School District
168 brought up on criminal charges this week resigned
Louise Morales, charged with theft, misapplication of funds and official
misconduct in a scandal involving SaukVillage school finances, vacated her post after about 25 years
on the board and eight at its helm.
Her attorney, Kenneth Goff, said she also resigned from the SPEED special-education
cooperative board, which she also ran.
The resignations were faxed and mailed to the organizations. They were
submitted of her own accord.
"No one told her to resign, no one pressured her," Goff said.
The resignation letters purposely did not state a reason for her departure.
"I don't want it to be interpreted one way of the other,"
The CookCounty state's attorney's office charged Morales on Tuesday
with the three felonies for approving $500 checks as graduation gifts
to the daughters of Supt. Thomas Ryan.
Prosecutors called her a "puppet" and said she flagrantly
disregarded her duty to students and the public.
Goff claims his client was used unwittingly by Ryan in his scheme to
skim district money for personal use.
Morales' fellow school board members declined to comment or did not
return calls for comment Thursday.
A special meeting has been scheduled for
Monday at the district office.
A executive session is on the agenda for the purposes of personnel and
The selection of a president, chairman or chairwoman or other officer
cannot be discussed in a closed meeting, according to the Illinois Open
Parents and community members applauded the arrest and resignation,
even as they expressed concern for the 73-year-old woman with a history
of volunteer work at the Salvation Army.
"I think it was necessary, but I feel bad for her," said Dolores
Brady, who has a grandchild in the district. "She has always been
a strong person. I feel she was manipulated."
Brady's husband, Larry, said more departures should follow.
"I think it's wonderful," he said. "If we can get the
superintendent to resign and a few other people, we'd be in good shape."
Morales was the first person to be charged in connection with a grand
jury investigation into spending by District 168 leaders, including
Ryan and buildings and grounds supervisor Ed Bernacki.
The grand jury convened after a series of Daily Southtown investigative
Prosecutors indicate more arrests "are probable." TOP OF PAGE
may grow to 17,946
By Tara Malone, Daily Herald Staff Writer, 7/29/05
Days after a lawsuit accusing Elgin Area School District U-46 of racial
discrimination cleared its first legal hurdle, attorneys prepared for
the next challenge making it a class action case.
Lawyers representing four minority families who filed the lawsuit said
Thursday they will ask a federal judge to grant class action status
The move could broaden the lawsuit to include every Latino and black
child enrolled in the states second largest school district who,
the lawsuit alleges, were similarly wronged by the districts neighborhood
boundary plan unrolled last year.
All 17,946 of them.
Some 45.5 percent of the districts 39,491 students are black or
Latino, U-46 enrollment records from September show.
Our claims are typical of a huge number of people in Elgin, said Carol Rose Ashley of Chicagos Futterman and Howard law firm that represents
the Elgin families.
Attorneys for both groups appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in
Chicago before federal Judge Robert Gettleman, who this week
denied U-46s request to dismiss the lawsuit.
The complaint alleges U-46 illegally segregates bilingual students from
English-speaking children and provides Latino and black children with
less academic stability than their white schoolmates.
My ruling was not on the merits of this case, Gettleman
said in court. There is a long way to go.
The next step comes Aug. 9. School district attorneys then will reply
to an amended lawsuit filed in May, when a black family joined three
Latino families who brought the initial complaint in February.
Next comes an exchange of lists naming key witnesses and documents attorneys
from each side plan to consult.
And on Sept. 28, lawyers representing the Elgin families plan to file a motion seeking class action
District attorneys declined to say whether they would fight the request.
Both groups next will appear in court Oct. 4.
Well either oppose it or not, said Michael Hernandez,
an attorney with Franczek Sullivan, a Chicago law firm that represents U-46. We have no way
of knowing until they file the motion and we look at it.
Cases typically evolve into class action lawsuits if so large a group
of people is harmed by a policy that litigating each complaint separately
would be inefficient and costly.
Gettleman will determine whether thats the case in Elgin.
Very often its in the best interest of defendants and plaintiffs
to get everyone under the same umbrella, Gettleman told attorneys.
It is an umbrella that could span the entire district, potentially affecting
53 schools, nearly 40,000 students and more than 200,000 tax-paying
Granting class action status will make this into a districtwide
case, said Jeffrey Shaman, a DePaulUniversity law professor and civil rights expert.
When its a class action, Shaman said, it involves
more potential plaintiffs and so theres potential for greater
damage awards. The consequences are greater. TOP OF PAGE
Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, school districts must notify
parents before the first day of the following school year if a school
did not make adequate yearly progress and is in need of improvement.
Hawaiis Department of Education plans to break that provision
of the law by releasing scores on August 12, weeks after the 2005 school
year begins for the majority of Hawaiis schools.
The law says, "In the case of a school identified for school improvement
under this paragraph, the local education agency shall, not later than
the first day of the school year following such identification, provide
all students enrolled in the school with the option to transfer to another
public school served by the local educational agency, which may include
a public charter school, that has not been identified for school improvement
NCLB requires that each school district spend 20 percent of its Title
1 funds for public school choice transportation and supplemental educational
services (SES). Any remaining funds may be rolled into the DOEs
Title 1 budget only after all students wanting to participate in these
choice programs are enrolled.
Hawaiis DOE also is ignoring the NCLB requirement to
report annually the number of, and expenditures for, students and schools
that participate in public school choice and supplemental education
services and to make those numbers "widely available."
During the 2003-2004 school year, only 157 Hawaii public school students transferred to a higher-performing
school while 48,248 students were eligible to transfer under NCLB. Supplemental
education services were provided to 2,447 students from 81 schools,
even though 4,650 students applied. Consequently, 2,203 students were
turned down for services. No accounting of unused Title 1 funds is available
to the public.
Hawaiis 2005 Title 1 allocation is more than $9.5 million,
which allows for per pupil expenditures for supplemental services with
a maximum of $1,344 on Maui, $1,424 on Kauai, $1,854 on Oahu
and $1,707 on the BigIsland. The DOE reports a much lower state per pupil cap.
Other obstacles to school choice in Hawaii include the DOEs Web site no longer offering a
sample letter of notification to parents and an application to choose
a higher performing school or apply for SES. Also, the process to apply
for school choice transfers is the same as the general exemption process
and is restricted to Jan. 1 through March 1, which is months before
scores are available.
Parents say if the DOE continues to construct obstacles to school choice
for eligible students by withholding information from parents and funding
from students, they will seek assistance from the federal government
to obtain DOEs compliance with the law. TOP OF PAGE
a hot commodity
No Child Left Behind has opened up a potential $2 billion bonanza for
companies aiding students in troubled schools
By Blanca Torres, Baltimore Sun Staff, 7/24/05
Russ Miller, a tutoring company executive, says he is pretty excited
about the business these days. It's not hard to be when he sees a potential
$2 billion market up for grabs.
No Child Left Behind, the federal law enacted to improve the quality
of public schools, has given private tutoring companies a potentially
huge new source of income by requiring some troubled schools to contract
with tutors for low-income, low-performing students, using money set
aside for poor schools.
Industry revenues from NCLB-mandated services more than doubled this
past school year from 2003-2004 and are expected to grow by at least
20 percent this year. At Baltimore-based Educate Inc., one of the largest
for-profit tutoring companies, revenue from work with troubled schools
jumped 402 percent in 2004 - to $27.6 million from $5.5 million.
"We're pretty excited about that from a business perspective,"
said Miller, vice president of business development for Huntington Learning
Centers Inc., based in Oradell, N.J. "We're pretty well poised
to capitalize on [the market], and I say capitalize, but I mean helping
But the anticipated annual market of $2 billion has been only about
one-eighth that much, mostly because thousands of students eligible
for free tutoring are not signing up, according to Eduventures, a Boston-based
education information company.
Mark Jackson, director of kindergarten through 12th grade research at
Eduventures, said a high estimate of the number of eligible students
receiving services is about 200,000, or 12 percent.
"What's going on in the industry is there are companies who are
very eager to enroll students, more eager than students are to enroll
in the programs," Jackson said. "The challenge is even with the funding available,
... parents have to say, 'Yes, I want my child to take advantage of
Tutoring companies see the NCLB market as a way to give low-income students
the advantages they've offered for years to middle-class children needing
extra help in school or to students from affluent families trying to
boost their test scores to get into top colleges or secondary schools.
"This is not a get-rich-quick program," said Steve Pines,
executive director of the Education Industry Association, a trade group
for education companies. "It's wonderful that high- quality tutoring
companies have their services available to kids who normally could never
afford it. It's great."
But some educators are critical of the program because tutoring providers,
unlike schools and teachers, are not accountable under the law for the
students being able to pass standardized tests. The providers say they
ensure that most students will at least make some improvement - which
they maintain is better than nothing.
No Child Left Behind, enacted in 2002, mandates that nearly all children
in public schools reach proficiency in reading and math. The law requires
annual testing that determines how much students, individual schools
and school districts have improved year over year.
Schools that do not meet standards for two years in a row are placed
in the "school improvement" category, which means parents
can transfer their kids to a better-performing school or schools must
offer free tutoring for students.
Parents choose a tutor from lists compiled by the states. Approved tutoring
providers can range from schools, to nonprofit groups and faith-based
organizations, to small startup businesses and nationwide, for-profit
companies such as Catapult Learning, a division of Educate Inc., and
Huntington. Maryland's list of approved tutors includes more than three dozen
providers who offer small group, one-on-one or online services.
Companies don't receive a set price for the tutoring services; the federal
government provides $900 to $2,500 a year per student, depending on
the state and school district, Pines said.
Providers then determine the length and frequency of tutoring sessions
based on students' needs and the money available. Huntington, which normally charges about $40 an hour for retail
tutoring, often receives a similar rate for its NCLB services, Miller
In the three years since the program started, providers and schools
have been figuring out how to set up the services, Pines said. In some
parts of the country, parents don't sign up their children for the tutoring
programs because tutors are too far away or because kids have other
Maryland has a different problem: The state has funding for only about
12,000 of the 30,500 students who are eligible for tutoring services
- and only 6,000 are using it, said Ann Chafin, chief of program improvement
for the Maryland State Department of Education. In Baltimore, where
a high number of schools fail to meet the No Child Left Behind standards,
some children were denied free tutoring because of high demand and not
Educate Inc., which also operates Sylvan Learning Centers, started Catapult
Learning, its vendor-to-school division, about a decade ago, years before
the federal government made such services mandatory, said Jeffrey Cohen,
Catapult's chief executive. School districts have used federal money
for Catapult programs over the years.
Now, parents of eligible students can choose among a variety of providers
selected by each state, which has given tutoring companies access to
customers they would have served, Cohen said.
The issue is reaching out to them. Some providers use direct advertising,
school promotions, name recognition or word of mouth.
"It's the obligation of the providers as well as the schools to
work together," Miller said. "The money's not being spent
because we need to communicate better with parents."
Some experts said school districts have not done a good job of promoting
programs or increasing parental awareness of the services.
"We're seeing an accelerated growth, but we are causing that because
we are aggressive," said Miller.
Chafin said her office has tried to help school districts market the
services better, for example, by altering the language of letters sent
to parents from phrases like "In pursuant of NCLB regulations ...
" to "Good news! Your child qualifies for free tutoring."
"Why would we not try to make this work for our children?"
she said. "It's not a punishment. It's an opportunity."
Gloria Maddox signed up two of her grandchildren after hearing about
the program at back-to-school night at Rognel Heights Elementary and
Middle School in Baltimore last fall. She remembers educators emphasizing the free
"All you had to do was sign up," she said. The money part
is important to her. "I've talked to other parents who have to
pay, so yes," it makes a difference.
One of her grandchildren, Bria Gordon, 8, has always had trouble in
"I felt like I was the only one who didn't know math," said
Bria, who will be a fourth-grader next fall. "Every time I would
try to sit there and work it out, everybody's hands would fly in the
Bria's twice-weekly, 1 1/2 -hour sessions gave her a chance to ask questions
and work slowly. She said she started to understand math and her grades
got better. "The teachers had the time to help me figure out the
math problems," she said.
Under NCLB, school districts are in charge of monitoring how much progress
is made by students like Bria.
But there are few, if any, requirements of what the tutoring firms must
produce in terms of student achievement. Most tutoring companies tell
parents to expect some form of improvement but won't guarantee that
a child will achieve a particular score on a standardized test.
Educate, for example, says children can jump one grade level in a particular
subject after 36 hours of instruction. Huntington boasts of being able to help a child improve by two
grades after 12 weeks or 40 hours of instruction.
"Our promise is not a guarantee," Miller said. "We promise
that they will improve, but how much depends on their skill level when
they come in."
That troubles Penelope Earley, professor and director of center for
education policy at GeorgeMasonUniversity in Fairfax, Va.
"There's no accountability other than the marketplace," Earley
said. "It is quite ironic and quite paradoxical that the accountability
standards that are imposed on teachers, on schools and on districts
are not imposed on the tutoring firms in the same manner."
Chafin, of the Maryland State Department of Education, said educators
don't expect tutors to usurp their role in educating students or that
tutors alone can do the job.
"We should be giving [children who are behind] more than what they
are getting in their regular classroom to make up for the deficit,"
she said. "The challenge is to keep track of assessments."
Tutoring providers assess pupils when they sign up, and periodically
to track their progress. Those assessments are often based on the providers'
materials or curriculum - not the school district's. Some students might
show improvement, but still not be able to reach the proficient level
on state tests.
"I don't think the expectations are that we are going to take a
whole school and bring them up to standards in 10 to 12 weeks,"
Miller said. "We're not magicians, we're educators." He said
many students are behind and continue to fall behind, so just stopping
a child from regressing is progress.
Many school districts do not have the resources to properly monitor
tutoring services, said Jack Jennings of the Center on Education Policy,
a think tank in Washington.
"With companies seeing all the money they can make, there is a
possibility of a great deal of abuse," he said.
Some abuses have occurred in places like Las Vegas, where students were registered for services by more
than one provider, but only received services from one, according to
a report by the policy center. Another example from the report showed
that parents who selected online services were forced to pay for hidden
costs such as a computer or Internet access.
While acknowledging some abuses, for-profit providers say they have
to keep consumers - in this case school districts, parents and students
- happy as any other business must.
"We're directly accountable to the schools and from a fiduciary
standpoint, also to our shareholders," Cohen said. "The way
we grow our business is by providing good educational services. It's
a mission of scale. The idea is to reach as many students and school
districts as we can."
The idea of No Child Left Behind is to bring every student and school
up to a level where, presumably, the need for tutoring would disappear.
Cohen said that will probably not happen, making Catapult's business
model sustainable for decades to come. "Unfortunately, we face
a situation today where there are so many schools in distress and students
in need," he said. "I don't foresee that need going away." TOP OF PAGE
William L. Taylor is chair of the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights
and vice chair of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
Good news for public education and children of color arrived last week
from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP reports
are eagerly awaited in the education community because the organization
is highly regarded and viewed by many as "the gold standard,"
providing an objective yardstick to measure progress in learning across
On July 14, NAEP released a report on the sample of some 28,000 students
who were assessed in 2004.
The best news concerned 9-year old African American students in the
third grade. They reached an all-time high in their scores on reading
and mathematics tests. The gains narrowed the achievement gap between
African American and white 9-year old students to an all-time low.
To put the progress in perspective, it is useful to know that in 1971,
the median score for African Americans was 170; in 2004 it was 200.
In 1981, when the first major NAEP report was issued, the score for
African American 9-year olds was 189. This represented major progress
over a ten-year period and, since the improvement for whites was relatively
negligible, resulted in a significant narrowing of the racial gap.
Interestingly, in the 1970s, the greatest of these gains were made by
9-year old black students in the Southeast region of the country. While
NAEP itself offered no analysis of the reasons for the progress, many
observers (including this author) noted that, beginning in 1971, court-ordered
desegregation took place throughout the region. That factor, along with
the establishment of the Head Start program and enactment in 1965 of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), undoubtedly contributed
to the gains that these African American students were making.
Then, in the late 1980s, progress stopped and the nation began a period
of stagnation that lasted through most of the 90s. But from 1999 to
2004, there was another growth spurt, with a 14-point improvement in
reading for African American students and a 13-point gain in math. Similarly,
Hispanic 9-year olds gained 12 points in reading and 17 points in math.
Predictably, the Bush administration was quick to credit the No Child
Left Behind Act (NCLB) for much of the progress. There may be more than
a grain of truth to the administration's claim. But Darvin Winnick,
chairman of the National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises
the test, noted that many of the reform efforts were initiated by states
during the Clinton administration. He might have added that Clinton's Improving America's Schools Act was enacted in 1994
and put in place many of the school improvement and accountability provisions
NCLB strengthened the Clinton program in two significant ways: first, it required
schools for the first time to show progress for low-income and minority
students, and second, its enactment was accompanied by the largest increases
in federal education funding in the 40-year history of the ESEA.
The news for 13 year-old African Americans and Hispanics was positive
but not as dramatic as for 9 year-olds. At the high school level, NAEP
reports, "reading and math scores have remained relatively flat
since the 1970s."
State-by-state scores will be available later this year and should provide
material for examining possible links between particular initiatives
and results. Certainly there will be calls for reform at the high school
level--an issue that has been given very little attention by NCLB and
While supporters of reform should be careful to analyze the data before
making positive links to NCLB, the law's vociferous detractors have
been given something to think about too. FairTest replied to the NAEP
report by lashing out at some high school exit exams as reflecting "test
pollution," but stopped short of attacking the NAEP assessment.
(NAEP is sometimes criticized by others as having low scores because
it is not a high-stakes assessment). Other groups critical of NCLB have
been conspicuous by their silence.
It may be time for all of us to celebrate this genuinely good news,
take a deep breath, and see what we can learn that will inform future
efforts. TOP OF PAGE
State and federal governments are telling school districts to improve
reading scores. But when it comes to grading, they're not on the same
Last week, for example, Palm BeachCounty school officials learned that the district faces penalties
including potential takeover by private operators if it
again flunks under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The district
has failed to make "adequate yearly progress" the NCLB
standard three years in a row.
Horrible, right? But then Gov. Bush and state Education Commissioner
John Winn announced that Palm
BeachCounty was one of 15 districts statewide to earn an A during
the 2004-05 school year. Fantastic, right?
There are other odd examples. MartinCounty also earned an A from Tallahassee. In fact, it had the highest grade in the state. But
did Martin make adequate yearly progress under NCLB? It did not. Neither
did the St. Lucie County School District, which got a C from the state.
On the other hand, BrowardCounty was one of only two districts, out of 67, to pass under
the federal standard, but it received only a B from the state. The clashing
grades seem even stranger because both are based primarily on math and
reading scores from the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
How can a district make an A and an F on the same results? NCLB supposedly
requires districts to pay more attention to minorities and disadvantaged
students who traditionally have done poorly. A district can't pass if
even one of those groups is "left behind." But that rule has
been manipulated. More individual schools in Florida
passed under NCLB this year because the U.S. Department of Education
let the state set lower standards for some groups. Another head-scratching
fact, though, is that the state gave A grades to schools in part because
of progress among lower-performing students.
Conflicting grades would be just another example of government gobbledygook
if it weren't for looming NCLB penalties that could force districts
to transport students to new schools, provide tutors, fire teachers
or even dissolve the school board. It's impossible to justify that expense
and disruption for a district that the state says is doing A work. Shouldn't
the feds at least be on the same page as the state before they throw
the book at a school district? TOP OF PAGE
When it comes to evaluating education programs, nothing is easy - not
even calculating something that should be as simple as a graduation
rate. The 50 states each seem to have a different formula for measuring
the percentage of students who graduate and the percentage who do not.
That makes it almost impossible to compare the states to each other
and to set meaningful national standards and goals for high school graduation.
This confusion is why a seemingly arcane agreement announced July 17
in Iowa could prove to be so important. Forty-five states, including
agreed on a formula that will serve as a standard measure of graduation
The graduation rate would appear to be fairly simple to compute. If
100 students enter ninth grade and 85 graduate, then the graduation
rate is 85 percent. But life is never that simple.
Communities are not static. The 100 children who enter a single ninth-grade
class may scatter to the winds before their designated graduation date
three years and nine months later. Some may quit school at age 16, others
may leave to attend a G.E.D. program or a community college diploma
program. Others may transfer to other schools, go into home schooling,
need extra time to finish their work or even graduate early.
Those variables mean that the states see graduation rates very differently.
But that variety of opinion is not sustainable if the nation is to have
federal education programs that include strict accountability. The federal
No Child Left Behind Act begs the states to establish one formula.
There's more benefit to a standardized formula, however, than accountability.
The new formula will allow the states to see what anti-dropout programs
now work best. That's impossible with so many different ways of viewing
For example, if North Carolina uses a formula that is different from
Oklahoma, how can North Carolina officials determine whether that state's
anti-dropout programs are more effective, and thus worth emulating ?
After years of focusing public education reform on primary grades, many
states are turning their focus to the middle and high school grades.
The National Governors Association spent the last year on high schools,
and Gov. Mike Easley has launched several initiatives aimed at reducing
the dropout rate.
With one standard formula, there are hopes that the states will be able
to find the most workable ideas and borrow them from each other.
This story might sound exciting only to education bureaucrats, but it's
one that could have major implications for America's youth.
Plaudits to Gov. M. Jodi Rell for putting politics aside and doing what's
right for Connecticut's taxpayers and public school children.
Although she apparently has reservations about such a course of legal
action, the governor on Monday signed into law a measure authorizing
the state attorney general to sue the federal government over the No
Child Left Behind law.
It's an action worth taking on behalf of Connecticut and its residents.
The law imposes a broad range of unfunded mandates on the state and
its public schools. However, the U.S. Department of Education has been
totally inflexible on allowing interpretation of the law by Connecticut officials.
For example, Connecticut for many years has conducted one of the best student
testing programs in the nation. It's a model used by other states. Yet,
the federal agency has flatly refused the state's request for a waiver
not to expand standardized testing to three more grades next year as
required by NCLB.
The result will be extra testing that state education officials argue
will yield little benefit to teachers or students.
Atop that, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who first raised the
possibility of the lawsuit, says the mandates being forced upon the
state and its school districts are illegal because they are unfunded.
He pegs the cost to Connecticut taxpayers at $440 million by 2008.
Certainly, there are many pluses to No Child Left Behind in terms of
raising awareness of problem school districts and holding districts
and their schools accountable.
However, like too many mandates of government, the funding to attack
the problems hasn't been appropriated by Congress, which chooses, instead,
to shift the costs to state and local taxpayers.
Rell's signing of the legislation, approved in special session last
month, is commendable because she's a Republican governor crossing swords
with what is considered one of the hallmarks of the Bush White House.
But her action is typical of her independent thinking since taking office
more than a year ago and her emphasis on doing what right for the state
and its citizens.
Many states have clashed with the U.S. Department of Education on the
provisions of No Child Left Behind. Hopefully, some will now join with
Connecticut to move federal officials to a more flexible and enlightened
position on implementing the law. TOP OF PAGE
BY PAUL H.B. SHIN, New
News Staff Writer, 7/27/05
The number of children poisoned by pesticides at school has jumped in
recent years, according to a new study that measured the casualties
of haphazard spraying in and around classrooms.
The rate of American children being sickened by pesticides at school
jumped 39% in four years, from 5.6 out of every million students in
1998 to 7.8 per million in 2002, researchers said yesterday.
That doesn't count the untold number of children who may not know they
were exposed to pesticides at school or don't suspect pesticides caused
their sickness, said Dr. Walter Alarcon of the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health.
Using reports from three national toxic surveillance programs, Alarcon's
team tracked 2,593 people who got sick after being exposed to insecticides,
disinfectants, bug repellents and weed killers at schools.
"Pesticide exposures at schools continue to produce acute illnesses
among school employees and students in the United States, albeit mainly of low severity," said Alarcon,
whose findings appear in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
"We think there's definitely under-reporting," Alarcon told
the Daily News. "Some patients will not associate their illnesses
with pesticide exposure."
Pesticide poisoning commonly goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, because
symptoms resemble flu-like illnesses, pink eye or stomach problems,
said Dr. Allen Dozor, chief of pediatric pulmonology at WestchesterMedicalCenter.
"Little kids have very sensitive lungs and even very low levels
of chemicals can irritate and inflame their airways," he said.
In the Northeast U.S., pesticide-related illnesses spiked in 2000, rising
from 5.4 cases per million students in 1998 to 10.4 cases. It's unclear
if that was due to bug spraying in the wake of the West Nile virus.
There are no federal rules limiting pesticide use in schools. But city
public schools only use pesticides as a last resort, Education Department
spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said.
If pesticides are going to be used, "schools must provide written
notification to all parents, guardians and staff," at least 48
hours before they are used, Feinberg said. TOP OF PAGE
School crime stats
hard to decipher
Police reports show more assaults and batteries at Broward high schools,
but state figures paint the opposite picture -- showing schools are
BY STEVE HARRISON, Miami Herald, 7/27/05
State records show that Broward high schools are getting safer because
of a significant decline in violent acts during the past four years.
On the other hand, the number of violent incidents recorded by outside
police agencies at high schools is up almost 50 percent since 2001.
The disparity raises questions about how school crime data are collected
and analyzed, and whether the numbers accurately represent life on campus.
Are high schools getting safer or more dangerous -- or is the reality
somewhere in between?
''I do think schools aren't as safe as they were five or 10 years ago,''
said veteran teacher John Quillen at BoydAndersonHigh
in Lauderdale Lakes. ``Suspension isn't the stigma it once was. It used
to be when security came, a fight would wind down. But now they'll have
to physically separate the kids, and that's no easy job.''
Others are less concerned, despite a few high-profile crimes, including
one involving a student who repeatedly stabbed a classmate with a screwdriver
at Deerfield BeachHigh
student Adrea Robison, who will be a junior this year, said there are
fights at her Pembroke
Pines school, but violence isn't an overarching problem.
''The fights are all about really stupid things, and they are all really
minor,'' Robison said, while eating lunch at the Pembroke Lakes Mall
food court over the summer. ``There are always police there, and you
just walk around it.''
The Herald compared data from 11 police agencies that patrol traditional
Broward high schools with data for similar time periods that was compiled
by the state, based on reports from school officials.
The most recent comprehensive ''incident report'' submitted by Broward
school officials had numerous flaws, officials have said.
One elementary school, for instance, reported one fight during the 2003-04
school year after having more than 200 the previous year.
Such wide swings in the numbers may have coincided with the arrival
of a new principal, who may have had a different standard about what
should be reported.
District security officials, who admit that some of the incident reporting
is erroneous, have said they will provide additional training on how
to report crimes. One change, for instance, is that only administrators
-- not office managers or secretaries -- will be allowed to record data.
But the school district's chief investigator does not believe that a
jump in police reports of battery and assault means that high schools
are less safe.
''I'm comfortable that everything is OK,'' said Joe Melita, who heads
the district's special investigative unit. ``I'm not hearing from principals
that all hell is breaking loose.''
Police recorded 302 assaults or batteries at 28 School Board-controlled
high schools during the calendar year 2004. That was 79 more than in
2001. That also translates to a per-capita increase each year.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Education, using school district
data, says there were 260 ''violent acts'' at the same schools during
the 2003-04 school year, down from 363 during the 2000-01 year. That's
a 30 percent decline.
Broward and other Florida districts are required by state law to compile a list
of serious incidents, which is used to monitor school safety.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act also says that students can transfer
from a chronically unsafe school.
No Broward school has been deemed unsafe.
The Education Department's report is culled from Broward's data. Police
data are controlled by officers who patrol school campuses and are not
used in school district or state calculations.
Melita, a former principal, is sympathetic toward administrators who
are worried about keeping detailed records.
'Principals feel pressure. They are worried: `Are people going to be
afraid of my school?' But the superintendent has said you will get into
more trouble for not reporting than reporting.''
He will be scheduling workshops with principals to better train them
in reporting data.
``We want to become data-driven. These stats used to only be handled
by research services. Now we are handling that.''
It's common practice for schools around the country to underreport crime
or have inconsistent standards, said William Lassiter of the Raleigh,
N.C.-based Center for the Prevention of School Violence. Police statistics
can be unreliable because schools may encourage police officers not
to make arrests for fear of bad publicity, he said.
''There's no perfect system,'' Lassiter said. ``And law enforcement
often has discretion whether or not to determine if something is a crime.
Sometimes it's in the best interest of the school and the student not
to charge someone. Discretion can be necessary.''
Quillen, the Boyd Anderson teacher, suggests that police reports of
violence are higher, in part, due to principals being more willing to
push for police intervention.
''That used to be a stigma, but not anymore,'' Quillen said. ``I do
think we aren't as safe, but that's one explanation.''
Other incidents could be lumped into a less serious category of fighting.
The number of fights in the past four years has been stable, when compared
with the growth in the student population.
In response to growing concerns about school safety locally and nationally,
Broward high schools have increased security.
All have at least one armed police officer on campus, and at least five
schools have two. Schools that have been plagued by violence, such as
PiperHigh School in Sunrise, have hired extra security.
At Piper, new principal Anthony Taylor has added 16 security cameras,
bringing the number to 32. He also added a security monitor during the
most recent school year to what was already the largest security team
A Piper student was killed in an off-campus brawl in 2002. Since then,
the school has had two high-profile stabbings.
''I can put 100 people in here, but the focus has to be about changing
behavior,'' Taylor said. ``I recently visited a high school in Texas with
similar demographics, with only one police officer and security person
and there were no problems.''
CUTS NOT CONDONED
Schools Superintendent Frank Till said any school that reduces its security
budget would have to explain why.
had three assaults and batteries each in 2001 and 2002. There were nine
assaults and batteries in 2003 and 19 in 2004. The state says there
were four violent crimes against persons in 2001 and 2002, 11 in 2003
and 10 in 2004.
City police officers who work at the school say an increase in reported
police activity doesn't mean it is less safe, and say an increase in
the number of battery incidents could be an aberration. The officers
point to problems such as overcrowding and the difficulty of expelling
students that make it harder to ensure school safety.
Though the school district has opened four new high schools so far this
decade -- CypressBay in Weston, Everglades in Miramar, Coral Glades in Coral Springs and Monarch in Coconut Creek -- it is still struggling
to accommodate the growing high school population.
While the Broward elementary school population has stayed steady, the
number of students in Broward high schools has increased significantly
in the past five years.
A large group of students whose families flocked to Broward after Hurricane
Andrew are now in high school.
In the past four years, the high school population has risen 12 percent;
the elementary population is up less than 2 percent.
''The more people you confine in a smaller area, you will get conflict,''
observed Coconut Creek school resource officer Mike Zombek.
Though many schools have more security, the School Board has repeatedly
said it's impractical to install metal detectors at high schools, where
the student population is often more than 3,000 students.
But district officials are changing the layout of elementary and middle
schools to ''single-point entry'' schools, and the school district plans
to install biometric technology at PineRidgeAlternativeCenter.
That would require students to press their thumb or palm against a scanner
to enter, and the technology could be used at other schools.
Such systems are perhaps a decade away from being used in schools. In
the meantime, the district has no plans to dramatically boost security. TOP OF PAGE
With pressure from health advocates mounting, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and the
rest of the soft drink industry are considering a voluntary ban on carbonated
soft drinks in elementary and middle schools and restrictions on sales
in high schools.
Industry leaders are expected to vote on the issue this week during
a conference call of the American Beverage Association's board, say
several people familiar with the trade group's discussions.
The policy would mark a significant shift in strategy for the industry,
which has fought proposed school vending machine restrictions in state
legislatures and local school districts.
If the current proposal passes, it would ban soft drinks in elementary
and middle schools during the school day and require that at least half
the slots in high school vending machines be devoted to healthier drinks,
such as water and juice.
Representatives from the ABA and
the beverage companies declined to comment about the specifics of the
proposal Monday. Coke spokesman Dan Schafer said the Atlanta-based company
"would give serious consideration to any industry proposal."
While the new rules might please some health advocates, others argue
that soft drinks should be banned entirely from schools, including high
schools. Health advocates have argued that it is irresponsible to sell
sugary drinks to children at school, when there is a childhood obesity
The practical impact of the rules, if they take effect, would not be
huge. The industry already has a general practice of not selling carbonated
soft drinks to students in elementary schools, although the new proposal
would make it more official and consistent.
And in middle and high schools, soft drink companies already are selling
waters, juices and sports drinks alongside sodas because such drinks
increasingly are popular with young consumers.
Also, school sales don't represent significant revenue for beverage
companies. For Coke, schools make up less than 1 percent of sales in
However, the change would be important from a symbolic standpoint. The
industry wants to show parents that it is taking the obesity issue seriously.
In the past, Coke and other beverage companies have resisted restrictions
because schools are a good place to market to young consumers and develop
long-term brand loyalty. Also, companies don't want bans that seem to
acknowledge that soft drinks are bad for kids or that soft drinks lead
The proposal before the ABA comes
nearly one year after Canada's beverage industry instituted a ban on carbonated soft
drinks in elementary and middle schools.
The policy doesn't address high schools.
In the United
the issue was a hot topic in state legislatures this year, with 38 states
considering school nutrition bills, most of which included a vending
machine component. At least 14 laws were enacted.
The industry lobbied hard to defeat the bills, or at least to win palatable
In Louisiana, for instance, the governor supported a bill that would
ban carbonated soft drinks in all schools. Lobbyists representing bottlers
of Coke and Pepsi successfully negotiated a compromise that bans soft
drinks in elementary and middle schools, and requires that at least
half the vending slots in high schools contain healthy drinks.
State legislatures aren't the only battleground. In New Jersey, the agriculture department enacted regulations banning
carbonated soft drink sales in all schools. And some local school districts
have restricted sales.
Lawmakers in Georgia have not taken up the issue. TOP OF PAGE
charged in thefts
Clinton Twp. school official fired in 2003 is charged with money laundering,
By Christina Stolarz, The Detroit
News, 7/26/05 CLINTONTOWNSHIP -- A former CherokeeElementary
principal was charged Monday in connection with the embezzlement and
theft of nearly $400,000 worth of money and property from the school.
Richard Zaranek, a principal at Cherokee for 10 years, was charged in
U.S. District Court with three counts of embezzlement, money laundering
and criminal forfeiture.
While court records did not list what was stolen, Chippewa Valley Schools
Superintendent Mark Deldin said Zaranek stole computers, lawn equipment
and money from the school between March 1996 and March 2003.
ClintonTownship police said they confiscated the property from Zaranek's
Zaranek was fired from Cherokee in April 2003, Deldin said. The district
conducted an internal investigation and called police after receiving
a letter from the Michigan Department of Education about an anonymous
tip about missing property.
"We felt we had sufficient evidence," Deldin said of the firing.
Dominick J. Sorise, a ClintonTownship lawyer for Zaranek, did not return calls seeking comment.
Zaranek served as principal of the school for a decade. He also served
as an elementary teacher and principal at FoxElementary School
since he was hired into the district in 1973, Deldin said.
"The Cherokee community has been waiting patiently for charges
to be filed. The wheels of justice turn slow," Deldin said. TOP OF PAGE
If a student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch, then he or she
is more likely to score lower on standardized tests than a more economically
affluent peer. This is not a dichotomy that is occurring only in certain
schools; its happening across the nation.
And its clearly apparent in Montclair.
About 20 percent of Montclair students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch
because the state Department of Agriculture labels them as economically
disadvantaged. Family income levels are used to establish eligibility
for free and reduced-price meals.
Hillside Elementary, Glenfield and Mt.HebronMiddle
have the most students receiving free and reduced lunches about
414 students total.
Every one of those schools failed to meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB)
requirements last year. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the
NCLB, a law that aims to have all students at the same level on the
academic scale. School districts are held accountable for their students
educational success and could lose state funding if requirements are
There are many factors that could have contributed to each of those
schools failing NCLB requirements, but some parents and nutritional
experts have said the issue is directly related to food.
I dont think that is a coincidence, said Shahla M.
Wunderlich, a MontclairStateUniversity health and nutrition professor. Its a direct
correlation between student performance and the quality of food they
eat. Even if the student eats a lot of food, it might not be that high
in quality. The food they eat must provide all the nutrients, proteins
We are always worried about the quantity of food, but its
the quality we have to focus on.
Wunderlich, who has a masters degree in nutrition and a Ph.D.
in nutritional biochemistry and metabolism, has written for publications
about the effects of healthy and unhealthy eating.
She said students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch also
tend to have higher rates of obesity because the food they are eating
at home is not nutritional enough.
The parents of the students have very little nutrition education.
They think if they want to give good nutrition to their children, it
is going to be expensive. But thats not true, Wunderlich
For the past two years, advocates in town have been trying to change
what is offered in school cafeterias because they believe the meals
mimic offerings of fast-food restaurants.
Last year, 93 percent of third-graders in general education classes
passed the N.J. Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Test for language
arts compared to 52 percent of students who receive free or reduced-price
Director of Curriculum Terry Trigg-Scales said there are a number of
reasons why students who receive free or reduced-price lunch could have
scored lower on tests, including the fact that they might not have access
to supplementary resources. Trigg-Scales said those families could also
lack the funds to provide a number of cultural experiences that their
children could benefit from.
Trigg-Scales said, I cant say that because they are eligible
for free or reduced lunch that the quality of food has some impact.
Socioeconomically they qualify, but thats not making a connection
to the quality of food in the schools.
But she noted that food plays a role in academic achievement. The school
districts Health and Wellness Initiative has been examining the
types of food being served in Montclair school cafeterias.
Many school principals have also taken the step toward healthier eating
habits for their students by removing junk food from their respective
Studies show a direct correlation between food and academic success.
Even before a major test, schools send letters home to parents recommending
that their children eat breakfast on the day of the exam.
If students eat breakfast, they perform much better than the ones
who skip breakfast. Theres no doubt their physical and mental
health depends on the nutrients provided to them. If the food they are
provided has all the nutrients, they have everything they need to function
in school, Wunderlich said.
A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
determined that students who eat breakfast have improved attendance
in school and have increased their scores in standardized tests.
For years, Montclair school officials have taken many routes to raise the
test scores of its 6,600 students. From hiring additional math and reading
specialists to working alongside a world-renowned educational consultant,
the school district has shown a vested interest in elevating the test
scores of all its students and tackling the academic gulf that separates
African-American students from white and Asian-American students.
Besides pressure from families in town demanding that the district do
something to raise test scores, the district faces even bigger demands
from President Bushs NCLB act.
So far, there have been small increases among the test scores of African-American
and white students, though African-American students still score lower
in tests than their white counterparts. But the biggest academic gap
in Montclair is among students from modest-income homes who receive
free or reduced-cost lunch compared to middle- and upper-income students
who do not.
Jodi Godfrey, a nutritionist in town who recently completed a health
assessment on Montclairs elementary schools, said she doesnt
know how big of a role lunches served in schools have regarding academic
success for public-school students.
There are a lot of reasons why the students arent doing
so well in certain tests. But, having the students eat healthier food
in school would be one positive way to try to tackle the problem,
Godfrey said. And maybe one of the most easy ways. TOP OF PAGE
Santa Clara, Calif. - What do high school teachers do at science ethics
They watch a lot of obscure educational videos: "The Whole Truth"
(Wherein an ambitious scientist who fudges data is confronted by his
intrepid research assistant!); "Of Mice and Mendoza" (A researcher
for a pharmaceutical firm tragically learns too late that he is prohibited
by his company from sharing data with university scientists!); and "The
Cutting Edge" (A young woman must decide - to be tested for a genetic
disease or not to be tested.)
Ethics campers learn nifty teaching exercises they can take back to
their classrooms. One afternoon, counselors split campers into two groups
and had them argue a hypothetical case before a bioethics committee
also made up of campers. "It was great," said Laurel Valker,
a teacher from Pacific Coast High in OrangeCounty. "I can do an entire week's biology lesson centered
on that - and it will meet the state standard on electrophoresis."
They got ethics camp bags and coffee mugs decorated with daily reminders
like "Was I fair and just?" and "Did I do more good than
The campers reviewed the American Chemical Society's code of conduct,
("Chemists should actively be concerned with the health and welfare
of co-workers, consumers and the community.") And they took a field
trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to explore the ethical issues of studying
animals in captivity.
And wherever they went, they argued the fine points, sometimes quite
heatedly. "Can I please finish what I was saying?" said RichardLake, a MontereyCounty teacher who felt he was getting short shrift from the
camp's bioethics committee.
"I think we need a break," said Steve Johnson, the camp's
director. "Cookies will probably help to solve this ethical dilemma.
We have some nice warm cookies just outside the door."
This is the 10th anniversary of ethics camp here at Santa ClaraUniversity, a Jesuit institution near San Jose. The first year, there was a single, weeklong camp with
15 teachers, and it has grown to nine weeklong ethics camps with more
than 350 teachers attending. There are now ethics camps for science
teachers, alternative school teachers, special ed teachers, Catholic
and public school elementary teachers and high school teachers.
The camps are offered by the university's MarkkulaCenter for Applied Ethics, opened in 1986 and named for A.
C. Markkula, a founder of Apple computers. It's one of a handful of
applied ethics centers nationwide; Duke and Dartmouth also have centers. They are not meant to be ivory tower
affairs. "We bring ethics to everyday life," Mr. Johnson said.
Margaret McLean, one of 15 on the staff, has doctorates in clinical
pathology and ethical studies. She is a consultant at nearby O'Connor
Hospital, helping patients' families make hard decisions, like when
to terminate life support.
Judy Nadler, the center's government ethics specialist, said, "I
was out this morning with the Santa
district." She has been hired by the district to do management
workshops on ethical issues like conflicts of interest.
Mr. Johnson, 50, ("he invented ethics camp," Dr. McLean said)
has had a long and varied history in education, working mainly with
poor children as an English and science teacher, at elementary and high
school levels, in special education and at juvenile detention halls.
He was the principal of an urban Los Angeles Catholic high school, and
was, for years, a Roman Catholic monk.
He had a strong interest in character-based learning that would mix
the teaching of ethical values with high-quality academics, and in the
late 1990's, he saw opportunity. Like most states, California was moving to a standards-based curriculum, and to many
educators, the approach seemed highly abstract and technical. Mr. Johnson
studied those standards, and created an English literature curriculum
that required students to read eight books a year, and he tied every
daily lesson plan to a state standard.
There was a value theme for each quarter, like "Responsibility
Requires Action," with a subtheme every day ("doing what I
should do;" "doing what I say I will do;" "doing
what is best for everybody.") In the "responsibility"
unit, as they read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, they analyzed Cassius'
and Brutus's actions through those values.
Mr. Johnson developed his literary/ethics curriculum with the troubled
kids with whom he'd worked in state detention centers in mind. "They
need to learn good values - working hard, learning to get organized,
taking responsibility for their actions," he said. "They're
the group that causes society the most problems, and they're the most
His curriculum was first used at the juvenile detention hall in San
Jose in the late 1990's and has spread to nearly 400 public alternative
schools - for delinquent and neglected children - in 25 of California's
58 counties. Anne Marinovic, a teacher who attended ethics camp, said
the values part works because it is so well integrated into the curriculum.
"If you just tried to teach a value like diversity, they'd tune
you out," she said. "Because it's part of a novel you're teaching,
they see how it relates to the story and then, to them."
Paula Mitchell, director of 13 public alternative schools with 700 students
in the San
Jose area, said the number of her students passing the state
English test had gone up 20 to 30 percent since adopting the ethics
center's curriculum. "We've got away from work sheets and packets
to lessons where kids are reading books, real literature taught in a
way they can relate to."
Mr. Johnson's next project is developing an earth science curriculum
that he expects to make a debut next year. It will prominently feature
ethical issues in science. Indeed, that was a reason he started the
science ethics camp three years ago, to test his ideas.
The earth science curriculum will be taught through units based on natural
disasters - earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes. It's an approach Mr. Johnson
used with urban special education students and found effective. "Kids
love reading about natural disasters," he said.
New Jersey's commissioner of education yesterday announced plans
to resign in September to take a position at RutgersUniversity's Graduate School of Education.
William L. Librera, 59, who was appointed by Gov. Jim McGreevey in 2002,
said he had never planned to serve more than a single term.
A former district superintendent, principal, and social studies teacher,
Librera guided the Education Department's implementation of the demands
of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which mandates annual state
testing and defines teacher preparation.
During his tenure, New
also revised curriculum standards for its nearly 600 public schools.
Librera said he regretted not being able to do more to consolidate districts
or revamp school funding, which relies heavily on property taxes.
But he said he would leave office with public education in "very
good shape. We have built upon the foundations. We have made progress."
Some of that progress has come in New Jersey's neediest schools, the so-called Abbott districts,
for which the state provides the bulk of funding. Librera embraced court
mandates to provide for the Abbotts in ways his predecessors had not.
"I think that what we have are more examples of Abbott districts
achieving at suburban levels," he said. But he added there was
more work to do: "The positive examples are the exception, not
Education advocates yesterday praised Librera's leadership. Most school
officials respected him because of his long career as an educator.
"He could relate to what we were dealing with," Collingswood
Superintendent James H. Bathurst said. "We are better in New Jersey because of his direction and leadership."
Edwina M. Lee, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association,
issued a statement praising Librera for leading the department "at
a challenging time. While we have not agreed with every one of his decisions,
we always found him willing to listen to the concerns of local school
Kathryn Coulibaly, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Education Association,
lauded Librera's work with the union on a professional-development initiative.
"This is a great achievement for the commissioner, because this
program implements a way to quantify and improve the quality of professional
development," she said in a statement.
Librera, who was paid $100,000 a year, is one of several cabinet members
to announce their departures in recent months, joining the commissioners
of labor, health, personnel, banking and insurance, and community affairs.
Librera said that he felt supported by McGreevey and acting Gov. Richard
J. Codey, and that his departure had nothing to do with the coming gubernatorial
election or the current lame-duck period.
"As gratifying in my life as this has been professionally, there
have been some personal costs," said Librera, who is married and
has three grown children and two grandchildren. "It's an all-consuming
Librera, who will help Rutgers develop partnerships with New Jersey's public schools, will remain commissioner until Sept.
7. It was not clear who will lead the department afterward. TOP OF PAGE
school plan in effort to save session
Success of any bill still rests with the House's willingness to OK a
By CLAY ROBISON and JOHN W. GONZALEZ, Houston Chronicle, 7/28/05 AUSTIN - Senate leaders attempted to resurrect the special
session on school finance, already dealt a crippling blow by the House,
by offering a revised plan Thursday for making major changes in the
Their effort, however, will depend on the House's ability to find agreement
on another tax bill to pay for cuts in local school taxes, an iffy proposition
following the House's 124-8 defeat this week of an earlier tax proposal.
Action planned Monday Late Thursday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Senate
Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro announced that a revised education
bill will be heard by the committee Monday.
The measure was rewritten to meet the objections of school superintendents
and other educators whom they blamed for thwarting the Legislature's
Their announcement came after the lieutenant governor and senators spent
much of the day in a series of private meetings with Dewhurst struggling
to salvage the session.
Dewhurst needs a two-thirds vote 21 votes if every senator is
present to debate an education bill.
And most Democratic senators as well as a handful of Republicans had
been holding out against an earlier, proposed education overhaul, partly
because of opposition from superintendents.
Dewhurst said the new bill would "better address the concerns of
our educational community" and some senators.
He and Shapiro, R-Plano, said superintendents had been helpful in drafting
the revised bill, and they invited educators and superintendents to
attend the public hearing. Dewhurst said he hoped the full Senate will
debate the bill by the end of next week.
Shapiro and other members of a House-Senate conference committee were
criticized for negotiating in private a controversial education compromise
that died last week, the victim of a Democratic Senate filibuster as
the first summer special session ended.
Gov. Rick Perry immediately called lawmakers into a second special session
and then urged them to continue working, even after the House had killed
its tax and education bills Tuesday.
The Senate can try to restart action on the education and school spending
bill. But only the House, under the Texas Constitution, can initiate
action on a tax bill. And Dewhurst and Shapiro said the education overhaul
would remain linked to the effort to raise state taxes to pay for cuts
in school property taxes.
"The Senate wants to see the education reforms tied to the reduction
in local school property taxes," Dewhurst said. He noted that the
House's defeat of the earlier tax bill remained a concern.
Two provisions removed Shapiro said the new Senate education bill would
delete two provisions that had been particularly objectionable to superintendents
a uniform school start date after Labor Day and November elections
for school board members.
She said the bill, like previous proposals, would include a teacher
pay raise, more oversight of charter schools and increased accountability
standards. She said it would include the same amount of new money
almost $3 billion in the next two years for the public schools
but that superintendents would be given more "discretion"
in how some of the money was spent.
Before Dewhurst and Shapiro offered a new education bill, there was
a question whether Dewhurst had the two-thirds vote necessary to advance
a school bill, which he had originally planned to do Thursday.
Dewhurst, after much private arm-twisting, said he had enough votes,
but some senators weren't sure. Dewhurst said he feared, however, that
senators would have amended the bill to strip out all of the so-called
"reforms" in school administration, leaving only a teacher
pay raise and additional money for textbooks.
Both chambers adjourned until Monday. The 30-day session can last as
long as Aug. 19. TOP OF PAGE
Illinois State Board of Education
100 North First Street
Springfield, IL 62777