Star-studded; No interest

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Brenda Wolery's classmates at Turner High School, located in rural northern Montana, told her she was crazy to invite the Governor to address the school's 11 graduates at their May commencement.

But Ms. Wolery had the last laugh when Gov. Marc Racicot not only agreed to attend but brought the Governor of neighboring North Dakota along. As it turns out, Nancy Jones Schafer, the wife of Gov. Edward T. Schafer, was Turner High's salutatorian in 1968.

"We were all surprised he would come to such a small town of 160 people," said Ms. Wolery, the 1995 valedictorian.

Mr. Racicot extolled the virtues of hard work and a positive attitude in his speech before a standing-room-only crowd of about 300 people in the Turner Tornado gymnasium.

Ms. Wolery, who plans to attend radiology school this summer, said she was "honored" but not nervous to speak after Governor Racicot. Neither of the Schafers spoke at the ceremony, although they sat in the second row and visited with friends and relatives.

Earl McKinley, Turner High's principal and superintendent, said Ms. Schafer called him earlier this spring to ask if she and her family could attend the graduation. Her parents own a cattle ranch near Turner, a community about 12 miles south of the Canadian border.

"They held their hands all the way through the ceremony," said Mr. McKinley of North Dakota's first family. "They seemed to be having a good time."

He boasted that 4 percent of the nation's governors were in attendance.

Asked how he would top that, Mr. McKinley quipped: "I guess we could go for three governors."

State lawmakers who have embraced the idea that local communities want to run their own schools should consider the 600-student Plummer-Worley district in rural northern Idaho.

A school board member there resigned before last month's election, but no candidates from her area put their names on the ballot. No one even voted.

It appears that folks in that part of the district would rather sit on their porches and look out at Lake Coeur d'Alene than pore over budgets.

"There is just not a lot of interest in schools there," said Bob Singleton, the district's superintendent. "It's basically a retirement community."

The board's remaining six members are advertising for a new colleague and hope to fill the empty seat soon.

--Robert C. Johnston & Drew Lindsay

Vol. 14, Issue 37

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