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Grace Dawson, the Chicago principal who claimed a moment in the national spotlight by demoting 250 students found to be deficient in basic skills, has turned to the U.S. Navy for help in rescuing her students.

One hundred sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center are coming to her Beethoven Elementary School on Saturdays for one-on-one tutoring with the students under a "Saturday scholars'' program that also operates in 12 other Chicago schools.

Ms. Dawson said last week that the publicity generated by her actions had spurred an outpouring of offers of support for her school, including one from a man who said he would help clean up the school's grounds during his vacation.

But Ms. Dawson has not had as enthusiastic a response from the parents whose protests forced her to back down temporarily from the demotion policy.

Only seven attended special workshops set up to help them learn how to support their children's education, she reported. And more than a third of the parents failed to come to the school to pick up their children's report cards at the end of the most recent grading session.

"I knew it was only a tempest in a teapot,'' she said.

David A. Cary, a home-schooled Oklahoman who received his secondary education at his family's kitchen table, has earned a National Merit Scholarship.

Mr. Cary, an 18-year-old resident of Tulsa, is believed to be the only home-schooled student among 2,800 students nationwide who earned college-sponsored merit scholarships this year, said Nancy Giles, a spokesman for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

He scored in the 99th percentile on a qualifying examination, earning a full scholarship to Oklahoma State University, where he plans to study electrical engineering.

Mr. Cary, who received four years of high-school training from his mother, Mary Anne Cary, used curriculum materials prepared by Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C.

The Carys are among approximately 350 Tulsa families affiliated with the Christian Home Educators Fellowship.

The Nebraska Board of Education, in a change of policy, has extended the contract of Education Commissioner Joseph E. Lutjeharms by two years instead of three and instituted a new procedure that would set job targets for the commissioner each August and evaluate his progress toward meeting them the following May.

Mr. Lutjeharms had recommended the annual evaluations as a way of making his office more accountable, and to address the criticisms contained in a recent survey of state education-department employees. The survey found that many staff members considered the commissioner a poor communicator and "autocratic.''

The new contract increases the commissioner's pay from $68,840 to $76,954 for fiscal 1988-89. It expires on June 30, 1990.

A geology professor who was demonstrating an instrument for measuring radioactivity to high-school physics students in Boone, N.C., got more than he bargained for this month when the device led to the discovery of an abandoned World War II-vintage canister filled with radium.

The canister, which was quickly removed from the school, posed no danger to students or staff members, according to officials at Watauga High School.

John Callahan, a geologist at Appalachian State University, had been explaining radioactivity to the students when he turned his scintillometer, or measuring device, toward the wall. Instead of receiving no reading, as he had expected, "the thing shot up,'' said James D. Daye, principal of the high school.

When he looked behind the wall, Mr. Daye said, the professor found a soup-can-sized canister marked "Army Corps of Engineers'' and dated 1944. The container, which turned out to be a device known as a metascope, had apparently been in a supply closet since the school opened in 1965, Mr. Daye said.

State health officials took the metascope to Raleigh to dispose of it, he said.

Robert Peterkin, who has headed the Cambridge, Mass., school system since 1984, was named superintendent of the Milwaukee Public Schools this month by a unanimous vote of the board of education.

Mr. Peterkin's efforts in Cambridge to use parental choice as one means of improving schools have gained national attention.

He will assume his new post on Aug. 1.

A San Diego parents' club had been organizing trips to the nation's capital for area schools for more than 10 years without a hitch. But this month, the group's usually smooth dealings with the East-West Travel Agency went sour.

When a group of 185 students from Emerald High School in El Cajon got to Washington, they found themselves stranded, along with the 38 teachers and parents serving as their chaperones--without food, lodging, or airfare home.

"We don't know what happened to the money,'' said Marge Dean, the school's principal, of the prepaid travel arrangements. Mid-way through the tour, she said, the travelers were told that hotel reservations and their flights home had not been paid in full.

Stranded for 24 hours with nothing but what the chaperones could pool from their emergency fund, the group was rescued when the El Cajon school board voted to lend the American Heritage Parents' Club the funds needed to complete the tour. And American Airlines donated $35,000 to fly them home, said Ms. Dean.

The parents' group is considering what action to take against the travel agency, she said. Though it has not declared bankruptcy, East-West Travel has closed its doors for business. Meanwhile, the parents club is also organizing fund-raisers to help repay the $52,000 loan from the school board.

Vol. 07, Issue 35

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