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CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF

All in all, observers probably preferred the more direct brand of politics practiced in the Western Slope town of DeBeque. When the board of trustees there voted to fire Mayor Fred Froelich, the dispatched chief executive continued to preside over the meeting until it was adjourned. "Thank you folks for coming," he said as his former constituents filed out. "I hope you all had fun."

EDUCATION
In a March poll of University of Colorado faculty members, CU president Judith Albino got a "D" for performance--up from last year's grade of a D-minus. Quipped Albino, "I guess I'll just have to stick with it until my grade improves." That plan didn't sit well with the Board of Regents, though, which was so eager to get Albino out of the picture that it swaddled her in a golden parachute that offered her more than $300,000 for getting the hell out of Boulder. Ever the educator, however, Albino agreed to step down as president but apparently will continue to mold young minds by teaching the all-important subject of "psychiatry of dentistry" at the medical school.

Also making a soft landing was former Denver Public Schools superintendent Evie Dennis, who, it was revealed, had been given a "lifetime" retirement bonus of $400 per month when she left the district in 1993. Current boardmembers promised to rethink the arrangement. They also had their hands full dealing with the financial habits of Dennis's daughter, former East High School principal Pia Smith. The emerging young educator pleaded guilty to embezzlement and official misconduct after being accused of diverting money from checks written to the school district. She was ordered to pay $3,760 in restitution but received plaudits from the school's Collaborative Decision Making Committee. The committee members penned a letter of support lauding Smith as "a role model for students at East."

Things got more personal on the Jefferson County School Board, where factional bickering erupted into all-out war when the board president filed a complaint with the sheriff's department alleging that the husband of another boardmember had threatened him. Witnesses said the angry spouse had threatened to "cut off the balls" of the board president. The accused later defended himself by noting he had promised only to "grab" his foe "by the balls."

Parents of Highlands Ranch High School students cringed when they received letters on school stationery noting that "goodie bags" handed out at this year's junior-senior prom would contain condoms--since, according to the letters, an "astonishing" 71 percent of the students had been found to be sexually active. The prank letter, signed "Shirley Joshing," drew thirty to forty calls from outraged parents.

The kids weren't in a joking mood in tony Greenwood Village, where twenty eighth-grade students were suspended after staging two solid days of protests over an assortment of injustices perpetrated by school administrators. Reported West Middle School principal Steve Rogers, "They were mad about everything." Cherry Creek High School encountered its own brand of hooliganism when school yearbook editors allowed one girl's picture to be printed next to a caption with letters subtly shaded to spell out the word "bitch." The girl later sued over the incident.

Officials at the local schools could have taken a few pointers in discipline from a Grand Junction school-bus driver. When confronted with unruly passengers, the driver slammed on the brakes until the riders snapped to attention. But despite such innovation, the state as a whole had a long way to go before achieving the kind of educational excellence seen just across the border in Utah. There an eleven-year-old student won $500 in a national contest by belching his way through the alphabet. He concluded that the hardest letter was "Q."

RECREATION
Colorado prisoners being held in a Texas prison staged a riot this winter, breaking out lights and brandishing mop handles. Authorities speculated they were upset by the Denver Broncos' last-minute loss to the Seattle Seahawks the day before. And back in Denver, Broncos wide receiver Mike Pritchard made a pitch to join the inmates when he ran his Porsche onto a Boulder sidewalk, seriously injuring two female college students. Pritchard, one of three finalists for the team's "Man of the Year" award at the time, was taken into custody. Oddly enough, however, this year's police blotter contained as many Broncos impersonators as it did honest-to-God Broncos.

First on the ersatz roster was Alex Sanchez, a 31-year-old Westminster man who was arrested after leading police on a high-speed chase out of the Broncos' training camp in Greeley. Sanchez showed up at the camp claiming to be a quarterback prospect from Abilene Christian University, but he was unable to gain entrance to the players' dorm despite his claim that he had received a letter from coach Mike Shanahan. When police confronted the would-be play-caller, he hopped in his Honda Prelude and peeled out of the parking lot. Police caught up to him on I-25.

Sanchez was outdistanced in the faux-Broncos sweepstakes, however, by Johnny Harlan, a convicted murderer who even convinced sales managers at a John Elway dealership that he was a teammate of the boss. Harlan was arrested after allegedly scamming a trail of victims into believing that he was Naudeus Harlan, a running back with a just-signed $1.2 million Broncos contract--and then letting him drive away in brand-new cars. The 26-year-old, who shot a man to death when he was 16, is the first cousin of convicted murderer Robert Harlan, now on death row for killing a cocktail waitress.

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