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State Journal: Help wanted; Pushing too hard?

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"Help!'' cried a small advertisement that appeared recently in The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. "Major educational foundation funded by wealthy philanthropist grant needs employees immediately!''

Claiming that 60 positions were available, the ad advised candidates to send their resumes to the KERA Foundation Inc.

The ad by a group named for the Kentucky Education Reform Act caught the eye of the state education department, according to Jim Parks, a spokesman for the department.

"If somebody was going to get a lot of money and hire 60 people,'' he observed, "it was something we were interested in as a matter of curiosity.''

The man who placed the ad, Paul A. Dawson, a high school teacher in Jefferson County, also raised eyebrows when he told a Courier-Journal reporter that he would receive at least $1 million from Walter H. Annenberg for a reform project as a part of the philanthropist's recent $500 million pledge to public schools.

Mr. Dawson's business card describes him as the executive director of the New American Schools Development Corporation in Kentucky. NASDC received a $50 million grant from Mr. Annenberg in December.

But Paige Cassidy, a NASDC spokeswoman, said Mr. Dawson has no connection to NASDC. And he is a mystery to the Coalition of Essential Schools, which also got $50 million from Mr. Annenberg.

Mr. Dawson could not be reached last week, and the Annenberg Foundation did not return calls.

In a move that has upset charter-school backers nationally, the Minnesota education department has shifted the duties of an administrator who had been a strong advocate for the state's charter schools.
Department officials said Peggy Hunter's duties were changed as part of an agency reorganization.

But advocates warned the shift could signal a change in attitude by the department toward the state's pioneering charter-school law.

"Because some people have a viewpoint that she was too strong of an advocate, they just moved her out of the way,'' said Scott Haskins, a founder of the Metro Deaf School, a St. Paul charter school.
--MEG SOMMERFELD & SARA SKLAROFF

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