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Occupational hazard

A state school board member in North Carolina was forced to resign this month after the state attorney general ruled he was no longer eligible for the post because his wife works for one of the state's public school systems.

Lowell Thomas, a retired banker from Blowing Rock, was appointed by Democratic Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. in 1995 to an eight-year term on the board. Since his appointment, Mr. Thomas' wife has joined the Caldwell County district as a part-time employee.

Except for one seat created specifically for public school employees, those working for the state's 1,960 public schools and their spouses are not eligible to serve on the state board.

Board Chairman Jay Robinson had asked the attorney general earlier this month for an opinion on the eligibility of Mr. Thomas and fellow board member Eddie Davis III, after learning that their wives are public school employees.

Mr. Davis was ruled eligible, since he is an employee of the Durham public schools and occupies the seat for school personnel. Mr. Thomas would again be eligible if his wife leaves her school job before the governor names his replacement, the attorney general said.

Tobacco road

The Vermont teachers' retirement board left its tobacco-stock holdings in place this month, a move that brought strong criticism from top state officials and some of the teachers it represents.

The six-member board deadlocked 3-3 on a measure that would have divested an estimated $12 million in tobacco stocks from the $700 million portfolio that finances teacher pensions.

The Vermont affiliate of the National Education Association, which represents 85 percent of the state's teachers, has urged the board to get rid of the tobacco holdings since 1992, said the group's president, Angelo J. Dorta. He said he had received many calls from teachers upset with the vote.

The three teachers--two active and one retired--who voted against selling the tobacco stocks were unavailable for comment, but defended their actions in news reports as necessary in light of a funding shortfall in the teachers' retirement account.


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