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Four Midwestern teachers will be the final contenders for the 1982 title of National Teacher of the Year.

The finalists, whose names were released last week, are:

Melvin A. Miller, who teaches 7th-grade American history and 8th-grade civics at L'Anse Creuse Middle School North in Mt. Clemens, Mich.

David F. Bernard-Stevens, who teaches economics, advanced American government, and international relations at Papillion-LaVista Senior High School in Papillion, Neb.

Darlene J. Frazier, who teaches art at Boone Junior-Senior High School in Boone, Iowa.

Bruce E. Brombacher, who teaches mathematics at Jones Junior High School in Upper Arlington, Ohio.

The finalists will be visited and interviewed by officials of the contest, which is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, Good Housekeeping magazine, and Encyclopedia Britannica. The White House will announce the winner in April.

After a three-and-a-half-year hiatus from school, during which time her parents were arrested twice on truancy charges, Julia Van Daam, 11, is now enrolled in the sixth grade of the private Lincoln School in Providence.

"I wasn't satisfied with what I was learning at home," Julia said in an interview on Phil Donahue's nationally syndicated talk show. She decided to return to school, she explained, because she wanted the opportunity to socialize with other children. But she noted that her home education has placed her ahead of her Lincoln School classmates in science and French.

Julia's parents--Peter Van Daam, formerly an economist with the state attorney general's office and now an independent heating contractor, and Brigitta Van Daam, an art teacher--continue to teach their 8-year-old daughter, Jessica, at home with the aid of tutors from Brown University. Rhode Island law requires that all children ages seven through 16 be in school unless the local school committee approves of alternative measures.

Charges brought against the Van Daams in April 1979 were dismissed because the Providence school department had failed to provide a form to seek approval for home instruction. The couple was arrested again last year, but there has not been a hearing.

"Julia's going back to school indicated that we're not fanatics," Mr. Van Daam said. "It also is great proof that being out of school doesn't necessarily jeopardize or harm you."

Joan M. First has been appointed director of the National Coalition of Advocates for Students.

The coalition, in making the announcement, added that it would begin publishing training materials and lending technical assistance to citizens' groups and school systems "concerned about fair treatment and proper services to children in public schools," according to Susan Kaeser, the group's chairman.

The coalition is a national network of organizations committed to fostering students' access to the schools, Ms. First said. She said that the group hopes to promote better monitoring of students' rights in light of the diminishing federal role in education.

Charles O'Malley, formerly coordinator for private education services in the Florida State Department of Education, has been appointed to head the U.S. Department of Education's office for private education.

Mr. O'Malley, who for the past six years has served as liaison between the Florida education department and the state's private-school community, says there are not many differences between his old and new roles, "except for the enormous responsibility of working with the states."

He says his major responsibility is to increase cooperation between the public- and private-school communities.

Stephen S. Kaagan, the provost of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., has been appointed Vermont's new state commissioner of education.

Mr. Kaagan, 38, who served in the old U.S. Office of Education and in the Massachusetts Department of Education, will replace Robert A. Withey, who resigned last summer.

One of the issues Mr. Kaagan will face when he assumes the post on Feb. 1 is the controversy stirred by pending legislation that would change the way the state's schools are financed. The bill would increase the state sales tax in an effort to ease local property taxes.

Mr. Kaagan, a member of the New York Society of Rugby Referees, quipped that of all his professional experience, "the most important in taking this kind of job has to do with refereeing rugby football."

Vol. 01, Issue 14

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