Arizona education officials were in for a surprise when they arrived for a recent meeting of the state school board and saw television cameras and photographers swarming the boardroom.
The agenda for the Sept. 30 meeting was rather routine, but one of the speakers, it turned out, was not. Grammy-award-winning singer Linda Ronstadt showed up to voice her support for foreign language instruction.
The board was scheduled to vote on a proposal that would revoke a state rule requiring that elementary school children be offered foreign language courses. Ms. Ronstadt, a Tucson native, recalled making good grades in high school Spanish, but, according to The Phoenix Gazette, she said it took lessons as an adult to prepare her to sing in Spanish on albums such as the 1987 "Canciones de Mi Padre"--"Songs of My Father."
"I came here as a mother of two children," Ms. Ronstadt said. "I want them to have the opportunities I did not."
Board members put off voting on the requirement.
Carol Stewart starts this week as Gov. David M. Beasley's executive assistant for education policy, replacing James C. Carper.
Mr. Carper resigned in August, citing a desire to return to teaching and growing frustration over the "political realities" of the position he had held for just over a year. He helped the Republican governor put together a voucher plan that did not pass.
"There was never any promise that I would stay in the position for more than one or two years," said Mr. Carper, who is on a sabbatical from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
--LYNN SCHNAIBERG & CHERYL GAMBLE