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Following months of stories focusing on leaky roofs and administrative mismanagement, a new report compiled by writers at Education Week finally has something nice to say about D.C. Public Schools: At least they’re not as bad as some of Maryland’s. Too bad that’s where the good news ends. The “Quality Counts” study compares public school education in the nation’s largest urban areas and reports that—imagine this—D.C. students rank near the bottom on national standardized tests. In fact, only students in urban Maryland schools performed worse than D.C. students on standardized math and science tests. The District was head of the class on one list, though, by spending a whopping $7,327 per student, or about $2,800 more per student than the average urban school district, according to the report.

Are You Talking to Me? “The summit will stress diversity—everyone is invited and welcome to attend and participate in the enlightened discussion, including the so-called angry white males.”— press advisory for an NAACP summit on Employment Discrimination held on Jan. 17 in College Park

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Leather Bound A well-dressed couple in their late 50s strolled into the lobby of the stately Washington Plaza Hotel for a quiet lunch last Saturday and soon found themselves immersed in a crowd that was dressed up as well—all in leather. The hotel was a host of the Mid-Atlantic Leather Contest, an annual event sponsored by the D.C.-based Centaur Motorcycle Club. “The lobby of the Washington Plaza Hotel was packed with 300 men 24 hours a day, and it was the hottest pickup scene in the city,” said one smiling participant. After a little hesitation and a concise explanation, the couple interested in lunch decided to stick around. “People in D.C. are used to that sort of a thing,” suggested one leather-vested registrant from Buffalo. A manager at Washington Plaza happily added that all the contest participants “behaved like gentlemen and were very cooperative guests.”

Checks and Balances Famed Washington restaurateur Roberto Donna receives raves for what comes out of his kitchens, but some of his employees say they wish he’d be a little less creative when it comes to cooking up their checks. Wait staffers and kitchen workers at Donna’s Il Radicchio restaurant in Georgetown report that they have had paychecks from the restaurant bounce consistently since last September. “Every check I’ve ever deposited from here has bounced,” says a current employee who wishes to remain anonymous. For months, managers at the restaurant kept telling employees to deposit the checks, and after a few failed attempts they would then agree to cash the checks out of the restaurant till, even reimbursing employees for bank penalties. Several former employees—some of whom are owed up to $1,000—have now brought the case to the attention of the D.C. Wage-Hour Office. “It was so bad that people would go to the bank tellers at Franklin National Bank (the restaurant’s bank), and they would just laugh at them,” says Ben Lerman, a former employee. Too bad Zagat’s doesn’t rate restaurants for solvency.

Number Crunching In a city not known for its meticulous record-keeping, handing over confidential medical information to the District bureaucracy can be a terrifying prospect. Under growing pressure from the feds, D.C. is toying with requiring all HIV cases to be reported to the city health department. (Right now only full-blown AIDS cases are recorded.) Understandably, D.C. AIDS advocates are panicked about the confidentiality risks of pooling the names of all HIV-positive people. But last week, a subcommittee of the mayor’s advisory panel on AIDS issues agreed to recommend mandatory HIV reporting using an alternative identification system such as a number code. After all this good work, though, it remains to be seen whether the Centers for Disease Control will allow governments to substitute codes for names. In the meantime, says one longtime AIDS activist, D.C. health officials “should be jawboning and lobbying” the feds to allow for coded identities.

Reporting by Chaka Freeman, Laura Lang, Amanda Ripley, and Elissa Silverman.

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