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An old saying goes: You know you're doing the right job if you're willing to do it for free. Mary Beth Van Cleave knows she's in the right profession, so she is willing to do just that.

Ms. Van Cleave, the principal at Kelly Elementary School in Portland, Ore., has asked the district to allow her to retire and do her job without pay in order to save a teaching position.

For the past five years, the K-5 elementary school has battled wave after wave of district budget cuts. Until now, Ms. Van Cleave and her staff have dealt with the cuts without having them affect the classroom.

But with more belt-tightening on the way for 1996-97, the school is scheduled to cut at least three positions. Ms. Van Cleave proposed eliminating the school's physical-education and music teachers, and her own $66,000-a-year job. That way, she explained, the school could still maintain a reasonable class size.

Ms. Van Cleave, 58, has been an educator for 31 years and had already decided to retire in 1997. Last week, district officials approved her proposal.

The principal will get her retirement--in name only--and she couldn't be more pleased. By staying on without pay, she said, "I am giving back to a profession that has given me so much."

She is, however, a bit worried about the message she may be sending, and she wants people to understand her decision.

She said last week that she doesn't wish to make it seem as if teachers and administrators should volunteer their time to save money. "I just want to save a position."

After nearly 41 years with the Los Angeles schools, Superintendent Sidney A. Thompson plans to retire. Mr. Thompson, 64, said he will step down when his contract expires in June 1997. He was named interim schools chief in October 1992 and superintendent in July 1993. ... The Tacoma, Wash., school board has selected James F. Shoemake to head the 31,500-student district. Mr. Shoemake, the superintendent of the 13,000-student Mukilteo, Wash., district, will replace Rudy F. Crew, who left Tacoma last fall to become New York City's schools chancellor.

--Adrienne D. Coles
e-mail: acoles@epe.org

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