State Journal: Abstaining; Noticing

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Gov. Stephen Merrill of New Hampshire has withdrawn his nomination of a Newport businessman to the state board of education, anticipating that the state executive council would torpedo the nominee because of his views on sex education.

The executive council, an elected five-member body that is part of the state's executive branch, must approve all of the governor's nominations.

Opponents contended that the conservative views of Robert Scott would swing the state board too far to the right. Some 30 to 40 critics wrote and called council members and even sent a videotape of Mr. Scott, who is an ordained Greek Orthodox deacon, speaking about abstinence and sex education.

Supporters charged that Mr. Scott's views were distorted and that he was singled out because of his religion, noting that the executive council approved another nominee with a similar philosophy.

Opponents "painted me in very narrow-minded terms,'' asserted Mr. Scott, adding that he supports teaching students about sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, in conjunction with also teaching them about ethics.

The Connecticut legislature may void a requirement that teachers be given 90 days' notice of layoffs, in an effort to prevent teachers who ultimately retain their jobs from collecting unemployment benefits as well.

When the Hartford school system faced a budget deficit last May, it sent layoff notices to 300 teachers. About 125 collected a total of $252,841 in unemployment benefits.

But a last-minute compromise between the district and the Hartford Federation of Teachers allowed the teachers to return in September. The state billed the city for the unemployment benefits.

In response, the House passed legislation to repeal a 1945 law requiring the 90-day notice for tenured school staff. It is pending in the Senate.

"The perception is that everybody knew these people were going to be back,'' and they were intentionally "double dipping,'' said Susan Breault, a staff specialist at the Hartford local. "But they were given pink slips and advised to find employment elsewhere.''

Ms. Breault said the pending measure would still allow a teacher laid off in the summer and later rehired to get unemployment benefits. Instead, she said, teachers should be barred from receiving benefits during school vacations.

"What's really going on is that [administrators] want to get rid of the 90-day notice,'' she said.

Vol. 13, Issue 31

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