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State Journal: In the dark; Board seat scramble

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Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Ohman of Wyoming is upset about two undercover drug operations at state schools this fall that left her in the dark.

During the investigations, informants posed as students at high schools in Lyman and Pinedale. The sting operation at Pinedale resulted in four arrests on drug-related charges.

The operations were "joint operations'' with the cooperation of local police and the final approval of local school superintendents, according to Tom Pagel, the director of the state division of criminal investigation.

"The superintendents were involved from the beginning,'' said Mr. Pagel. "It's not like they didn't know what was going on.''

Donald Wright, the superintendent of schools in Sublette County, which includes Pinedale, said the plan was suggested to him by state and local officials.

"Under the circumstances, I didn't object to the agent's presence,'' Mr. Wright said.

But Ms. Ohman said she found out about the sting operation only by reading the paper.

"I don't understand law-enforcement strategies,'' she said, "but I would hope that when youth are involved, deception would be a last resort.''

While Ms. Ohman said she was disappointed over the use of the agents, she had no legal guidelines to take action against the operation.


Georgia voters last month approved a constitutional amendment that, in principle at least, provided for all 34 of the state's local boards to be elected and for all of its local superintendents to be appointed by school boards beginning in 1994.

The amendment was designed to bring uniformity to a a patchwork of different selection mechanisms. But it also appears, in the short run, to have created a patchwork of complex legal questions.

In Marietta, for example, both Cathy Lipsett and her would-be replacement, Otis Brumby Jr., are claiming the same school board seat. Local law calls for Ms. Lipsett's term to expire Jan. 12, but the amendment calls for all appointed board members in office this year to serve through the end of 1993.

State Superintendent of Schools Werner Rogers has asked the state attorney general for word on what Marietta should do.

Gary Wolovick, a legal assistant to the state board of education, said many other districts also are facing their own vexing snafus as a result of the amendment.

"The situations are usually unique to the county or school system'' and, therefore, may need to be resolved case by case, he said.--S.K.G. & P.S.

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