Coaching the nation's schools

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When reporter Amanda Paulson set out to write a profile of US Education Secretary Rod Paige, she turned first to the people Dr. Paige has known the longest: his Houston neighbors and members of Brentwood Baptist Church. She learned a key fact right away: If Paige is a true believer in what he does, many people who know the longtime educator are true believers in him.

A trip to Paige's neighborhood yielded a visit with neighbor Rick Holden, who drove her around and pointed out noteworthy sights. He even dropped in at another friend's house to get him to answer some of Amanda's questions.

And when she attended services at Brentwood Church one Sunday morning, she saw a photo of Paige's confirmation as education secretary hanging prominently in one of the large edifice's hallways.

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It doesn't seem to matter that most of Paige's neighbors are Democrats who don't see eye to eye with the Republican administration to which he belongs. "Everyone who knew him personally – whether or not they agreed with his policies – very much liked him," Amanda says.

Maybe that's the coach in Paige at work. Amanda noted the case in his Washington office, where footballs signed by Eddie Robinson and Doug Williams – former coaches at Grambling State University – were lovingly displayed. Teamwork matters to the former coach at Texas Southern University. "When I asked him about teaching," she says, "at one point he sounded just like a football coach."

Paige put his skills to the test as superintendent of Houston schools. Now his team is made up of 15,000 school districts – all playing by new rules. In this week's profile, Paige says he's ready for the game.

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