Have you been following the Supreme Court case about middle school strip searches? The case stems from a 2003 Arizona middle school incident where a 13-year-old girl was stripped to her skivvies by two female school administrators, who’d been tipped off by another student that the girl had prescription-strength ibuprofen. You know, Advil. But the school officials found absolutely nothing, even after making the child pull aside her bra and panties to check. Now we have the spectacle of Supreme Court justices grappling with “crotching” – yeah, the word was new to us too – and “ick factors,” as incurring audience laughter over their verbal missteps. After Chief Justice John G. Roberts noted that searching a bra for contraband “doesn’t seem as outlandish as the underpants,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said, “In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day. We changed for gym, O.K.? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear.”
Well, the New York Times’ account of this case is certainly more entertaining than the usual courts coverage, but we can’t help but be alarmed that a child was strip-searched at school – on nothing more than a classmate’s say-so. Is it just us? Click “comments” and tell us your thoughts.
Here are the latest East Bay school headlines, in case you missed ’em:
A grand jury has issued a grim indictment of the Mt. Diablo School District’s former superintendent and board, saying its leadership and financial dealings – bills paid without board approval, payroll tax penalties and improper handling of contracts – put the school district in jeopardy. According to reporter Theresa Harrington’s story, the grand jury concluded that superintendent Gary McHenry – not the board – controlled board agendas, that he withheld financial information from trustees, and that his actions stymied the exchange of information between departments, where several staff members have resigned. Read the rest of this entry »
Need to catch up on local school headlines? The Antioch School Board is meeting Monday to discuss whether to launch an independent investigation into how administrators handled the case of Carmen Dragon Elementary School teacher James Carlile, who was arrested last month for allegedly downloading child pornography. On his work computer. At school. A Times reporter will be liveblogging from the meeting on Monday morning.
The education world’s abuzz over Oregon’s Oakridge school district, which just announced it is joining 40 other school districts across that state by converting to a 4-day school week. Same number of classroom hours – classes will start earlier and run later – but kids will get 3-day weekends every week. It’s not just a cost-cutting measure, administrators said. Other districts report that when they went to the shortened week, teacher attendance went up and student discipline improved. We’ve heard similar reports from colleges too. New York’s SUNY Canton, which plans to shut down its campus on Fridays, estimated the savings in electricity and fuel bills alone at $250,000. Other colleges say they saw enrollment rise, and staff absenteeism and turnover plummet with the change. What do you think?
Big news on the school fronts today. Over in Mt. Diablo, the contentious tenure of superintendent Gary McHenry came to an end after nine years when he decided to resign earlier this week. Reaction to his departure is mixed, though his decision to walk away is not entirely surprising. McHenry has shouldered the blame for deep financial troubles within the district, as well as dissatisfaction within the ranks of the teachers. A new makeup on the board has rendered his decision making almost obsolete. As recently as last month, McHenry’s decision to lay off six vice principals was overturned by the school board in favor of letting district office administrators go instead. Dick Nicoll will serve as interim superintendent until a replacement for McHenry can be found.
Meanwhile, West Contra Costa’s school board voted Wednesday night to close four schools, despite protests from an audience of 1,000 concerned parents and students. The four schools closing next year are Lake Elementary in San Pablo, Castro Elementary in El Cerrito, Adams Middle in unincorporated Richmond and El Sobrante Elementary in El Sobrante. The board elected not to close Shannon Elementary in Pinole until the 2010-2011 school year, in hopes that it can find a way to prevent the closure. For other changes affecting the district, read Kimberly S. Wetzel’s story in the Times.
Well, this week sure whooshed past. Here are the big school headlines, in case you missed ’em:
That peanut butter recall has impacted 162 California schools now, including 12 in Contra Costa and 9 in Alameda counties, where peanut butter cookie dough may have been tainted with salmonella – but no one has gotten sick.
Fireworks over in Mt. Diablo-land, where Superintendent Gary McHenry had recommended eliminating six vice principals as part of his budget cuts. Instead, the school board – with a new majority comprised of Gary Eberhart, Paul Strange and Sherry Whitmarsh – not only rejected that proposal, they told him to eliminate six directors or assistant directors from the previously Teflon-coated district office. And they cut his most trusted aide too. Reporter Theresa Harrington said it was “a visibly deflated superintendent” who left the board meeting, railing that the move was “somewhat vindictive and retaliatory and I’m going to see what action I can take to address it in whatever form is appropriate.” Um, “vindictive”? Really? Looks more like the board is trying to keep cuts as far away from children as possible, in a district that’s already faced year after year of painful cuts, teacher layoffs and jettisoned student programs. Now they’ve cut some $5.8 million from next year’s budget. That number needs to rise to $6.6 million … and those six district administration jobs alone will trim $600K. Read the rest of this entry »
We’ve been woefully behind in posting Bay Area school headlines, so hold onto your hats, here come the latest … about imaginary money, IRS audits, murder and more…
In West County, where community members are still aghast over the sudden decision to shutter schools right after a successful parcel tax election, board members are dealing with other issues too – including the possibility of moving children out of two seismically-challenged middle schools, Portola and Adams, which are already on the closure list. Meanwhile, the City of Richmond (!) has offered to buy school district land in a $3 million move designed to keep schools open. It’s a stunning offer. Who knew Richmond had the money? Um, they don’t, says reporter Katherine Tam: “City officials don’t know where they will get the money to buy the land, and they have just three weeks to find it.”
Big news out of West Contra Costa where trustees announced a tentative school closures list that includes 13 campuses – 10 elementaries, Kennedy High and Adams Middle in Richmond and Portola Middle in El Cerrito. About half are expected to make the final list and odds are on Kennedy High and El Sobrante and Coronado elementaries being among them, says schools reporter Kimberly Wetzel in this morning’s paper. As expected, the news did not go over well – hundreds of Kennedy High students marched in protest this morning – but the district is faced with an enormous budget shortfall, and closing eight, underenrolled schools could save $3.4 million. The chances of a happy ending to this story are slim.
Meanwhile in East County, shocked school officials and parents just received word that their state construction grants have been frozen. That $20 million was supposed to help revamp Pittsburg High, replace aging portables, and renovate schools in Brentwood as well. This story has more details.
These are bizarre times for schools. Down in San Ramon, they’re fretting over coyote sightings. One was spotted sleeping under the marquee at Pine Valley Middle School (perhaps he missed the bus). Others have been seen at Bollinger Canyon, Live Oak and Quail Run elementary schools, and in the parking lot at California High. Ya know, they probably heard about San Ramon’s high test scores and were checking out interdistrict transfers for the pups.
Meanwhile, West Contra trustees are proceeding with their plans to shutter underenrolled schools, despite, says reporter Kimberly Wetzel, “impassioned and sometimes hostile pleas from hundreds of people asking members to reconsider.” According to Richmond police, some 600 to 800 people showed up at a public hearing Wednesday night – and very very early Thursday morning – to plead their schools’ cases, even though the board has not released a closure list yet. They’re expected to release a list of as many as seven schools – five elementaries, two middle or high schools or any combination thereof – next week. But many attendees were irate because the closure discussions only occurred after Measure D, a school tax, had passed. “Now that you got your Measure D,” one Pinole Valley teen said, “you don’t care about us anymore.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Parenting the Young Athlete”
Dec. 13 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Loma Vista Adult Center, 1266 San Carlos, Concord, Room B-1.
A two-hour Mt. Diablo adult ed workshop for parents of young athletes covers when and how to support your child, communicating with the coach, athletic development and the importance of having fun. Call 925-685-7340, Ext. 2771.
“Childhood Matters: The Joy of Pregnancy”
Dec. 13 from 9 to 10 a.m. on Green 960 AM and streamed live on www.childhoodmatters.org. Nurse Rona Renner and nurse practitioner Barbara Dehn of Women Physicians OB/GYN Medical Group and a Women’s Health Expert on NBC’s iVillage, discuss prenatal care.
“Middle School Matters”
Dec. 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Prospect Sierra School, 960 Avis Dr., El Cerrito
Speaker: Clinical psychologist and UC professor Dr. Rick Ferm leads a free symposium on middle school relationships and happy, connected families. Students in grades 4-7 are invited to attend with their parents – there will be science, math and art activities for them. (For more info, call 510-528-5800, ext. 230.) Read the rest of this entry »