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State Journal: Wisconsin's first Teacher; Dropout's plea

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Late last month, reporters began quizzing the superintendent of a rural Wisconsin school district on whether he would dock the pay of a 6th-grade teacher for a trip she was taking to the Soviet Union.

According to Alan Schraufnagel of the Elroy-Kendall-Wilton district, the episode was just the latest example of his system's "life in the goldfish bowl" since Sue Ann Thompson's husband, Tommy, was elected the state's Governor in 1987.

Being the employer of Wisconsin's First Lady has had its ups and downs, Mr. Schraufnagel said.

On the positive side, he said, Ms. Thompson, a nine-year veteran teacher, has taken her students and others from the rural community about 50 miles east of La Crosse to visit the Governor's Mansion, where she spends her weekends. "It's an experience they otherwise would not have," the superintendent said.

But on the negative side, Mr. Schraufnagel continued, are the media and their never-ending quest for a story.

The question of Ms. Thompson's pay arose when she announced that she and nine other members of Very Special Arts, a national group that promotes art opportunities among the handicapped, had been invited to Moscow to meet with Soviet counterparts.

Mr. Schraufnagel said Ms. Thompson's announcement was quickly followed by calls from reporters, who wanted to know if her week-long visit would be covered under her contract, which authorizes 10 days of sick leave, one day of personal leave, and three days of emergency leave.

"Of course her trip wouldn't be covered," the superintendent said. "Are you aware of any contract that would cover a trip to Moscow?"

Ms. Thompson returned to her teaching duties last week, he said, adding: "It was no big deal."

The Colorado House last month rejected a bill to deny drivers' licenses to dropouts following a lawmaker's dramatic account of her experiences two decades ago as a pregnant teenager.

According to press reports, Representative Kathi Williams told her colleagues she was disowned by her family after she became pregnant, married the father of her child, and dropped out of school.

Losing her license at that point in her life would have been devastating, Representative Williams said.

"I know when I dropped out of high school, I needed a car to go to and from work," Ms. Williams said. "I needed the car to go to the doctor. I needed the car to do all the things we do every day."--tm

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