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Infighting

A prominent school-finance expert scheduled to testify last month in behalf of five New Hampshire school districts that are suing the state instead slammed the districts' lawyer for failing to pay him.

In an on-the-record, pretrial deposition, Kern Alexander, an education professor and the president of Murray State University in Kentucky, accused the lawyer, Andru Volinsky, of personally threatening him and other paid experts.

"The deponents have testified and had association with hundreds of attorneys ... in many school-finance cases throughout this country," Mr. Alexander said, "and have never encountered such reprehensible conduct."

Mr. Volinsky declined to comment on the dispute, and questioned Gov. Stephen Merrill's decision to circulate transcripts of the exchange at his bimonthly news conference.

"It's a pretty typical political ploy to prevent the case from coming to trial," Mr. Volinsky said.

Ovide Lamontagne, the state school board chairman, suggested that the districts' lawyers were experiencing a mutiny in their camp. But Mr. Volinsky said the matter was a misunderstanding, and he expects to see his experts back on his side in May, when the case is to go to trial in Merrimack County Superior Court.

Letterhead

When Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni heard last month that 27 Stockton 6th graders had signed letters supporting a bill to allow corporal punishment in California schools, she thought it curious that they would back a plan that could redden their backsides.

She also noted that the letters were typed--without childlike misspellings--on letterhead from the Stockton Unified School District. Ms. Mazzoni, who formerly served on a school board in Novato, said it usually takes a formal vote to issue such a letter.

Notes from 13 Lottie Grunsky Elementary School students were accompanied by one written by teacher Glen E. Pitts and signed by him and the students. "Please stop the liberals from robbing us of our free education and keeping criminals from responsibility and accountability," it read in part.

If "there was biased teaching going on and manipulation of children going on, that's an extremely serious issue," Ms. Mazzoni said.

The letters were written last March, but district officials found out last month, just before the bill's defeat. Superintendent Gary McHenry said officials are determining whether the teacher followed district policies. Mr. Pitts could not be reached for comment.

--Meg Sommerfeld & Millicent Lawton

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