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State Journal: Four more years; Idaho dispute

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The Kentucky state school board surprised observers this month by extending the contract of Commissioner of Education Thomas C. Boysen halfway through his four-year agreement.

The deal came as most school districts are beginning to implement the bulk of the reforms mandated by the legislature in 1990, the same law that made Mr. Boysen Kentucky's first appointed schools chief.

The changes at the local level have brought a flurry of questions and complaints from districts. Some well-placed critics have also begun to target Mr. Boysen for delays in implementation of the law's technology program and his enforcement of the measure's governance mandates.

While education department officials heralded the action as a strong vote of confidence, others saw the vote as a move by the state board to stand up to the law's critics.

Observers said the board has dispensed some stern advice to Mr. Boysen, conducting a formal evaluation in closed session late last year. Others downplayed the importance of recent criticism.

"He has never been in deep trouble,'' one observer said. "He's not a 10, but he's still at 7 or 8, which is pretty good.''

Mr. Boysen will keep his $125,000-a-year job for four more years following the unanimous vote, which was greeted with relief by state officials recruited by the former San Diego administrator.

"A lot of the street talk was that he was a Californian looking to pad his resume,'' one official said. "Now there's no doubt that we will see this through.''

The Idaho Education Association is planning to appoint a statewide task force to monitor "attacks on academic freedom wherever and whenever they occur in the state,'' according to Dick Chilcote, the association's president.

The plans come in the wake of a bitter controversy in Meridian, the state's second-largest school district, over a November incident in which three teachers invited a group of lesbians to speak to some high school students about gay parenting.

After receiving complaints from parents about the presentation, the school board initially voted to discipline the three teachers.

The Meridian Education Association condemned the sanctions, calling them a violation of the academic-freedom clause in the teachers' contract.

Although the board later rescinded the punishments and asked Superintendent Bob Haley to mediate the conflict, the controversy continues to divide the community.--L.H. & M.S.

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