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Wash. Schools Chief Reveals She Has AIDS Virus

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Judith A. Billings, the schools chief in Washington state, said last week that she has the AIDS virus. But she vowed to continue working with "energy, zeal, and commitment."

"I am certainly not going to allow what is possible tomorrow to sidetrack me, derail me, depress me, or defeat me in any way," Ms. Billings told reporters at a news conference in Olympia.

The superintendent, who began serving her second four-year term in January 1993, said she would not seek a third term in the elected post but was considering running for the U.S. Congress in November.

Ms. Billings, 56, said she believes she contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as long as 15 years ago from artificial insemination using donor sperm. She became pregnant twice but miscarried.

Doctors discovered the virus nearly a year ago after Ms. Billings had suffered from a series of bronchial infections. Her condition has improved since then, according to a spokeswoman. Ms. Billings said last week that she feels fine.

Ms. Billings said she would like to remain in the public eye because her position would allow her to educate people about AIDS.

She said she was considering running as a Democrat in Washington's 9th congressional district, where she could work on issues such as health, the environment, and federal support for education.

Taking a preliminary shot at her would-be opponent, she accused incumbent Randy Tate, a Republican freshman, of serving "his own master," Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.

'Never Shied Away'

Gordon M. Ambach, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, last week described Ms. Billings as "a tremendously courageous person."

"She has never shied away from commitments to children," he said, "and she's championed unpopular causes to assure that children were served."

Ms. Billings is the vice president of the CCSSO and was the group's president last year.

She began working in the state superintendent's office in 1979, when she became the state director of the federal Title I compensatory-education program. From 1987 to 1988, she worked as a policy adviser for a subcommittee of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee. She was first elected to the superintendent's post in 1988, then was re-elected in 1992.

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