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Federal File: Face the music; No respect; High office

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When White House officials announced that President Bush would be visiting the Mashpee Middle School, the Massachusetts town began making preparations.

"We assumed they would want the national anthem and 'Hail to the Chief,"' Principal Charles P. Liberty said, so the school band began rehearsing.

But when Presidential staff arrived, he said, they told him that a high-school, college, or military band always played at such events and his students would not do.

"They didn't mind my band playing in the pre-program, but as far as 'Hail to the Chief,' that would be on national TV, so they wanted to make sure it would be up to a certain standard," Mr. Liberty said.

But then "a big storm brewed around here," he said, and irate parents began calling Washington and appearing on local television.

As a result, a high-school band that had been invited by the White House played the national anthem, but the junior-high band played the Presidential tune as Mr. Bush entered the auditorium.

The Education Department was rated one of the "least respected" federal agencies in a recent survey of former federal executives.

The Council for Excellence in Government, a nonpartisan organization of former senior officials, surveyed 250 of its members for Fortune magazine.

They rated 89 agencies, some of them parts of large departments, on quality of management, staff, and service, and return on the tax dollar.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs received the lowest overall rating, 2 on a scale of 5, while E.D. was one of four agencies scoring 2.3. The National Security Council ranked highest, followed by the Federal Reserve System and the National Institutes of Health.

"The top-rated agencies are all older, more established agencies for which a political consensus exists about their mission," Frank A. Weil, chairman of the C.E.G., said in a statement, while low scorers tend to be newer and "have suffered from declining resources and high turnover."

Harry M. Singleton, who last week lost his bid to become the District of Columbia's Congressional delegate, admitted during divorce proceedings that he had smoked marijuana occasionally while he was an assistant secretary of education.

The admission by Mr. Singleton, who headed the Education Department's office for civil rights during the Reagan Administration, was disclosed by The Washington Post shortly before the election.--J.M.

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