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A Hopkinton, N.H., chemistry teacher pleaded innocent last week to federal charges that he planned to make cocaine in a school laboratory.

The teacher, Dana Billings, was released on a $10,000 personal-recognizance bond and will be tried Nov. 9.

Mr. Billings was indicted in August on a count of conspiracy to manufacture cocaine after 10 kilograms of an ingredient used to make the drug were seized from a school laboratory last December.

"There is no evidence that the synthesis of the drug had started, although all the chemicals needed to do so had been gathered," said Frank Maldonado of the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

The local school board granted Mr. Billings a paid leave of absence for 180 days or until his reinstatement.

"There's nothing in our contract evaluation policy about suspicion, only what one does in the classroom," said Richard Alto, principal of Hopkinton High School. "On what grounds would you fire him?" The principal called Mr. Billings "a very conscientious, very good chemistry teacher."

Jim Homan may suffer worse than the usual case of teacher's sore feet this fall, but his school is the richer for it.

Mr. Homan walked from Mobile to Milwaukee last summer to raise nearly $6,000 for the Academy of Basic Education in Brookfield, Wis., from which he graduated in 1974 and where he now is a teacher and coach.

The adventuresome 24-year-old--who once motorcycled from South Carolina to California--had planned the 956-mile hike for pleasure.

"But it seemed any time I mentioned it, people would say, 'Why don't you get some pledges?"' Mr. Homan recalled. "It made me wonder why I hadn't thought of it myself."

Walking on average 22 miles per day, camping out some nights and taking a few days off to stay in motels or with new friends, Mr. Homan completed the trek in early August after 63 days.

"I was starting to look pretty hairy, but even in the rural areas I was well received," he said. "Some people even offered me a shave."

Rhode Island has chosen Arthur R. Pontarelli as its new Commissioner of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Mr. Pontarelli, an employee of the state education agency since 1959, won over three out-of-state finalists.

He has been acting commissioner of the board since July, when Rhode Island's education administration was divided into three parts. Separate boards now oversee colleges and the state's public television station.

Mr. Pontarelli said his top priority would be maintaining "quality education" despite large reductions in federal spending.

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