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MOTHER KNOWS BEST: Tucson Unified School Board President Mary Belle McCorkle provided the necessary vote to install her inexperienced daughter as principal at Dietz Elementary School. Lisa McCorkle has no experience as a principal or even assistant principal. She has been what TUSD calls a school improvement facilitator--someone who is supposed to help students with better achievement--at Drachman Primary and Richey Elementary schools in the past year.

TUSD's see-no-evil, hear-no-evil counsel Jane Butler naturally saw no problem with this nepotism. Mary Belle, herself a former TUSD bureaucrat, cried out: "How can I vote against my own daughter? If I don't have faith in her, who will?" Wah!

Business as usual at TUSD. Two years ago, board member Joel Ireland worked his brother into a plum job as assistant principal at Catalina High Magnet School. Yet Joel was slick enough to step out of the room and stay out of the vote. Now Joel tells the Tucson Citizen that he shoulda had the guts to stick it out and vote for his bro--just as McCorkle rescued her daughter.

Keep in mind, TUSD is the second largest school district in the state. No wonder Tucson remains a small town. It's what radio buffoon John C. Scott calls "incestual."

APPOINTMENT BOOK: We've heard a lot of rumors floated--and we've floated a few ourselves--about potential Arizona appointments in a Bush administration.

These days, it looks like Gov. Jane Dee Hull and U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl are both staying put. There doesn't seem to be a spot for Hull and Kyl is needed in a narrowly split U.S. Senate.

Congressman Jim Kolbe doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon, either. For a moment, it looked as though Kolbe might land his coveted spot as U.S. trade representative (a job he'd be well-qualified for), but we hear he ain't gonna get it. Don't rule Kolbe out for a future appointment, though; entering his ninth term, he's wearying of running for office every two years.

State Superintendent of Public Education Lisa Graham Keegan has a pretty good shot of landing that Education Secretary post. Keegan has moved from downplaying her chances to "no comment," which could mean the process is heating up. Keegan would be lucky to escape Arizona before the dismaying AIMS mess gets any uglier.

If Keegan gets the nod, Hull will get to pick her replacement. We could see the job going to former state lawmaker Keith Bee, who represented District 9 in the Arizona House and Senate. Bee, who has recently been positioning himself for a run for the education office, would have an easier time winning the seat as an incumbent. Hull owes him a favor or two, since he was able to get his brother Tim Bee into the District 9 Senate race this year and knock off Hull foe Bill McGibbon, who lost the GOP primary.

BEING CHARITABLE: Even though we haven't been visited by any ghosts showing us a miserable past and grim future, we still find ourselves with a strange feeling of charity as the holidays approach. On the off chance you're struck by the spirit of the season--or need a last-minute tax deduction--here are a few local outfits that could use a helping hand.

First off, there's the state's charitable tax credit. Taxpayers can make contributions of up to $200 to a long list of organizations and deduct the amount from their tax bill next year, so it doesn't cost you a thing. For more information on the charitable tax credit or for a list of qualifying organizations, call or visit the Department of Revenue's website at www.revenue.state.az.us/index.html.

One of our favorite charities is the Boys & Girls Club of America. And we're not alone in this regard: Microsoft's Bill Gates recently announced that he was making his largest charitable donation ever, an astonishing $100 million in goods, services and plain old money to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. While we applaud the efforts of caring people everywhere who give aid and comfort to wayward adults and infirm seniors, the softest spot of one's heart must be reserved for those who cannot--and certainly should not have to--fend for themselves, the children.

Gates wants every kid in America to be computer literate and, toward that end, will be putting dozens of computers (with the latest software) in every B&GC branch in the country. Microsoft will also be providing support services.

This is all well and good, but kids do not live by screen savers alone. The greatest strength of the Boys & Girls Club lies in the human interaction among staff, members, extended households and volunteers. It is truly a community effort, one aimed at giving shelter and direction to young people, and providing a bridge between the despair of what is and the promise of what might be.

On any given afternoon at a Boys & Girls Club branch, you'll find latchkey kids and would-be artisans, future athletes and solid students. It is a meeting place and a melting pot, a gathering where time is used wisely (if sometimes whimsically), and lives are shaped and nudged in the right direction.

This takes more than computers. It takes building space and athletic equipment. It takes books and games and supplies for arts & crafts. But most of all, it takes dedicated people. And all of that takes money.

The club is one of those places that will never go out of business, because even if there weren't broken homes and throw-away kids, it would still be a place where youngsters would want to gather, to hang out, to play ball, and to become better people.

Financial donations can be made directly to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson, Inc. at 5901 S. Santa Clara Ave. For more information, please call 573-3533. (Donations are especially welcome this time of year as club branches provide Christmas assistance to needy families in their respective areas.)

While many of us are stuffing ourselves with holiday feasts, plenty of folks are going hungry in the Old Pueblo. The Community Food Bank, which hands out enough food for 28,000 meals a day, is running about 30,000 pounds behind last year's levels. Put together a box of non-perishable food items or just make a tax-deductible contribution. For info about making a donation, call the bank at 622-0525 or visit www.communityfoodbank.com.

Blood supplies are tight at the American Red Cross, particularly in the type O-negative bucket. Donations typically dry up at the end of the year, so help out the friendly vampires at their headquarters at 4601 E. Broadway. If that's not convenient, there will be three or four blood drives across town every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Special bonus: free T-shirts for all donors! Call 917-2820 or 1-800-GIVELIFE for the location nearest you.

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