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Noted: Palmer High yearbook controversy 

Palmer yearbook page shown

Controversy erupted at Palmer High School after students working on the school yearbook were forced to pull content on a teacher's order.

The teacher claimed the "Relationships" page showed "public displays of affection" on school grounds, violating district policy. Some students said the teacher pulled the page after making discriminatory comments about a lesbian couple featured in it. They took the story to the media, making waves nationally.

Complicating the issue, the page in question supposedly had been erased Feb. 24. But at a Tuesday news conference, School District 11 spokesperson Devra Ashby produced the page, recovered during D-11's investigation. The feature, actually spread over two pages, had a prominent photo of a heterosexual couple kissing lip-to-lip, and smaller shots including two of the lesbian couple: In the first, they were holding hands, and in the second, one was kissing the other on the cheek. Ashby said the photos — particularly the lip-to-lip kiss — broke district policy, but wouldn't comment further, saying the investigation was ongoing.

The yearbook editor has told media that the page recovered by the district was not the one in question.— JAS

County mulls road damage

Road damage caused by oil drillers' heavy truck traffic will be repaired, and oil companies sent the bill, El Paso County commissioners reiterated Tuesday in response to complaints of ruts and potholes.

County engineer Andre Brackin and Development Services director Max Rothschild reported hearing from citizens about dust and increased traffic in the rural Handle Road and Drennan Road areas near drilling operations, county spokesman Dave Rose says. County graders have done some repairs, but Brackin said that if ruts aren't repaired quickly, more extensive work could cost up to $45,000 per mile.

Commissioners directed staff to meet with drillers and find the best way to address maintenance and dust control. The county also plans a public meeting soon to air grievances over road problems caused by drillers. — PZ

Parties set to assemble

If you're active in your local political party, visited the caucuses and became a county delegate, you are expected to show up Saturday and represent your neighborhood.

Democrats head to Gallogly Events Center, 1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Doors open at 8 a.m., and the assembly begins at 9.

Republicans go to Liberty High School, near the intersection of Research Parkway and Powers Boulevard. Doors open at 8:15 a.m. for voter district meetings. The full assembly starts at 11.

There isn't as much at stake for the Democrats, with an incumbent in the White House and no local primaries. Republicans should have plenty of excitement, with several contested primaries and candidates vying for ballot position. — CH

Ice Hall gains recognition

After years of producing top-level competitors, the Colorado Springs World Arena Ice Hall has earned a new distinction as an official U.S. Olympic Training Site for figure skating. In a seven-year agreement announced Wednesday with the U.S. Olympic Committee and U.S. Figure Skating, the Ice Hall will receive more resources and access to USOC services.

"This recognition brings great honor to Colorado Springs and the World Arena Ice Hall," Mayor Steve Bach said at the announcement. "We're proud of this world-class facility and the formal designation."

Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun also took part in the announcement, along with World Arena and Ice Hall general manager Dot Lischick.

The Ice Hall, which opened in 1997 with two adjacent rinks, has continued the Broadmoor Skating Club's 74-year history. Many Olympic and national champions have trained in the Springs, from Peggy Fleming and brothers Hayes Alan and David Jenkins to current U.S. pair champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin. At the event Wednesday, Bach presented Denney and Coughlin with a Spirit of the Springs "Celebrate" Award. — RR

City lays off two staffers

Colorado Springs city government has apparently decided that it has too many communications staff. John Leavitt, the main point of contact on city government questions, and Bill Beagle, who ran the city's SpringsTV service, were let go last Friday. Both had worked for the city since 2005.

"Like departments city-wide, the Communication department was tasked with a thorough review of all processes and services with a focus on efficiency and optimization," Communications head Cindy Aubrey wrote in an e-mail. "During this review two positions were identified for elimination. We notified the two individuals in those positions on March 16. No severance packages have been executed."

While the city claims the layoffs were budget-related, the city has added to the communications department in recent months. New staff were not laid off. — JAS

Windfall for state budget

Colorado finds itself $149 million less poor.

The state's new revenue forecast this week has Republicans in the Legislature, and Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, dreaming ways to spend that money in the 2012-13 budget. According to the Denver Post, Hickenlooper wants a chunk directed into reversing education cuts, and $63 million allocated to programs for the elderly poor. Republicans want $63 million to reinstate the Senior Homestead Exemption, a property tax break for seniors who have owned their homes for 10 years. The battle should make the rest of this Legislature session much more interesting. — CH

Schultheis has heart attack

Even former state Sen. Dave Schultheis saw the opportunity for a bit of humor at his expense.

On March 14, the conservative 10-year veteran of the state Legislature suffered a heart attack. For eight hours, doctors worked to pinpoint the cause of his excruciating pain. They found two of the 71-year-old's arteries clogged, one completely. The next evening, his condition stabilized, he was on Facebook, joking with friends: "To those who said 'I don't have a heart,' there is now proof they were wrong."

Contacted by the Indy, he wrote in an e-mail, "I am overwhelmed and humbled by the numerous expressions of love and concern, appreciation of my past work in the Legislature and commitment to pray for me during this time."

He is scheduled to return to the hospital for another procedure in late March. — CH

Compiled by Chet Hardin, Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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