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It isn't just the prospect of being blindfolded or tied up that has Diana M. Fessler angry--it is the idea of being silenced.

The Ohio state school board member fired off a letter last month to the governor and state legislators, complaining that "team-building" exercises at state board retreats wasted taxpayers' money. She cited a January retreat where participants assembled puzzle pieces and traced a path across a mat on the floor--and where, "after dinner, some board members were roped together."

But a bigger concern, wrote Ms. Fessler, was the board's discussion of a "speak with one voice" policy that would require its members to support a resolution once it was adopted. It would be "absurd" to pretend that the 19-member board and the state education department were "just one big happy family," she wrote. "As an elected official, it is my responsibility to speak on the behalf of those who elected me--not to be an echo of the board."

Board President Virginia Milner Purdy defended the team-building exercises and said all individuals had the right to be heard at board meetings.

But Ms. Fessler noted that the board skipped a planned discussion of the one-voice policy at a meeting held after she wrote her letter. Since then, she said, various legislators and local board members have supported her. "This has provoked a response that has certainly exceeded any expectation that I would have had," she said.

Crying Wolf

It was a 1990s version of a big-bad-wolf story, and Miriam Hutchinson wasn't buying it.

Miriam and her 4th-grade classmates in Albuquerque, N.M., wrote Gov. Gary Johnson last spring questioning his opposition to a plan by federal wildlife officials to reintroduce captive wolves into the wild.

What they got back were form letters assuring them that there were "a lot of wolves in New Mexico that live in the wild," and warning, "tell your mom and stay away" if you see one.

"Neither statement is true," Miriam fired back. It turns out there are no wild wolves, leading to a correction from Gov. Johnson and the man who wrote the reply, Lt. Gov. Walter D. Bradley.

--Jeanne Ponessa and Caroline Hendrie

Vol. 16, Issue 01

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