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Answer Line: Transfers available from Montessori Prep Academy available, but ...

Dec. 15, 2017 at 11:21 p.m.

QUESTION: I've heard that people who don't like the Longview school district's new Montessori kindergarten campus can transfer their children to Johnston-McQueen Elementary School, where traditional kindergarten is offered. Is that true?

ANSWER: Not entirely. Transferring isn't an option for everyone.

Longview ISD was for decades regulated by a federal desegregation order. A few years back, the district took steps to get out from under that order and has been operating under a "consent decree" in which the Department of Justice essentially determined how student transfers would be handled within the district. Basically, students attending a school where the student's race is in the majority may transfer to a campus where the student's race is in the minority, within a set of specific guidelines.

Figures the district provided as of Tuesday show Johnston-McQueen's students are 50.82 percent white, 34.77 percent black and 10.7 percent Hispanic. (That includes students up to fifth grade, because that campus houses all ages of elementary school students.)

The new East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, which is for kindergarten and prekindergarten students, is 44.66 percent black, 19.36 percent Hispanic and 32.62 percent white.

The transfer requirements say students will attend school in the geographical zone in which they live, however:

Black students at Ned E. Williams Elementary School may transfer to Johnston-McQueen. (That extends to prekindergarten and kindergarten students attending the Montessori school but who live within the Ned E. Williams attendance zone.);

White students at Johnston-McQueen may move to East Texas Montessori Prep Academy for prekindergarten and kindergarten or to South Ward, Ware or Ned E. Williams for first through fifth grades.

Siblings of approved transfer students also may move campuses;

Students who have a parent who is a full-time teacher at a particular school may transfer to that school.

Also, district spokesman Matthew Prosser said out-of-district transfer students who request "traditional pre-kindergarten and kindergarten" also may attend Johnston-McQueen.

Q: Has Congress repealed the fund that pays off women who have sexual charges against members of the U.S. House of Representatives?

A: No, but to be clear, there's not really a fund specifically designated just to pay settlements involving sexual harassment allegations against members of Congress.

The $84,000 payment you're referring to involving U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold and a claim by a former staff member was paid for under the Congressional Accountability Act as administered by the Office of Compliance. The Accountability Act applies a number of civil rights, labor and safety laws to Congress and its associated agencies. The Office of Compliance oversees dispute resolutions for complaints under those laws, not just complaints involving members of Congress but also employers and employees with the Capitol Police, Congressional Budget Office, Office of the Architect of the Capitol, Office of the Attending Physician, Office of Compliance, Office of Congressional Accessibility Services and, in some instances, the Government Accountability Office and the Library of Congress, according to the agency's web site.

The news reports I saw explained that means settlements under this process could happen in a variety of cases, for everything from pay and safety issues, to yes, sexual harassment.

I've seen discussions about changing this system — it's quite secretive, but of course we know change is often slow, and there are lots of distractions right now, so, who knows?

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.



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