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Resourceful (OK, cheap) Metrorail riders in need of intellectual stimulation often dip a hand into the brown, chunky “Read, Ride, Recycle” newspaper containers—jointly sponsored by Metro and the Washington Post—to snag some light reading for their trip. But newspaper thrifties who arrive empty-handed at Judiciary Square will stay that way. In a pilot program, Metro has reduced the slot size on the recycling bins to the width of two postage stamps, frustrating those patrons who want to recycle newspapers more than just once. When asked about the alteration, a surly Judiciary Square station manager explains that inquiring minds created a roving mess. “People were taking [newspapers] from there and scattering them all over the place,” he says. Metro higher-ups offer a different line. “No, it’s not a plot against free papers,” says Leona Agouridis, Metro’s director of media relations. The real purpose behind the tiny slot is keeping other undesirable forms of paper out of the mix, explains Tony Mineart, director of circulation for the Washington Post’s single copy and retail sales. Metro gets the recycling proceeds, he says, and any trash mixed with the newsprint reduces its resale value.

Social Promotion Last Wednesday evening, parents were invited to powwow with D.C. schools chief academic officer Arlene Ackerman about the District’s controversial plan to hold back students who fail to master basic skills as measured by the Stanford 9 achievement tests. But most of the fireworks came from teachers, not parents, one of whom suggested, “You’re taking a hammer to these students’ heads and you haven’t done anything to improve the schools.” While it’s nice to see teachers who feel passionate about the future of the District school system, it should be pointed out the plan also requires that yearly performance evaluations for teachers be tied to student achievement. In addition, the D.C. Council has passed legislation that allows teachers to be demoted or fired if they don’t measure up. During the teacher’s loud protests on their own behalf, parents sat back, perhaps wondering whatever happened to “Children First.”

Copycat Crime Last month, the George Washington University law school faculty voted not to renew a three-year contract for Professor Elizabeth Glass Geltman, who has been highly criticized for using questions from a colleague’s old exam on a test she gave in the spring of 1996. According to her lawyer, Abe Weissbrodt, another professor lent Geltman his old tests and syllabuses to help her teach a property law course. Pressed for time at the end of the semester, Geltman used questions from the old exams on her new one, unaware that her colleague had intended the materials only as a guide. “She just didn’t have time to do it herself,” argues Weissbrodt, adding that Geltman may now sue the school for sex discrimination. Some faculty members and students at the school, which recently adopted a community code of academic integrity, say Geltman’s excuse rates right up there with the old dog-ate-my-homework line. “I know a lot of professors who say [to students], ‘You had the whole semester to write this paper. Don’t come to me now and say you haven’t had time to prepare,’” says Scott Mory, who heads the school’s Student Bar Association. “To say she didn’t have time to come up with an exam is laughable.”

Post-poned From the first of the year until early February, Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), a liberal advocacy group whose headquarters is located on K Street NW, received very few responses to its recently mailed fund-raising plea. “When this happens, you don’t know if the bottom [has fallen] out in your fund-raising or if your mail is sitting somewhere in the post office,” says Amy Isaacs, ADA’s national director. She got what looked like an answer when she noticed that the postmark on a bunch of incoming envelopes was three or four weeks old. Despite recent claims of improvement by the local postal service, Isaacs isn’t alone. Two weeks ago, administrators at Wilson High School mailed letters to parents informing them that teacher conferences would begin at 6:30 p.m. instead of 4:30 as previously announced. Parents who sat on their hands for two hours said the letters had never reached their homes.

Reporting by Laura Lang, Paula Park, Chris Peterson, and Jamal Watson.

Please send your City Desk tips to Elissa Silverman at esilverman@washcp.com or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.