American presidents are used to the problem, but it's a first for the Fairfax County School Board.
On Tuesday afternoon, a special courier from the Embassy of Saudi Arabia dropped off a "memento" of Appreciation from Saudi Arabian Crown prince Fahd at the office at school construction chief Alton C. Hlavin.
The "memento," encased in a blue, velvet covered box, was a handmade solid gold and silver incense burner from Mecca, inlaid with eight precious and semiprecious stones that appear to be rubies and turquoise.
The ornate gift was accompanied by a letter from Saudi Arabian Ambassador Ali A. Alireza that said the incense burner could be displayed in Terraset Elementary School's "library or another appropriate place."
"Putting this incense burner on display at Terraset would be like putting a lit Coke machine in the hall," remarked school Supt. S. John Davis, in the sense that it would attract vandalism and theft.
The crown prince sent the gift in response to receiving from Hlavin a flattering photograph of himself at the dedication ceremonies of Reston's futuristic Terraset elementary, for which the Saudis provided a $665,000 grant to install a solar energy system.
"I sent the photo as a little act of kindness," Hlavin said. "It was thoughtful of the crown prince to respond, although it was in a somewhat overwhelming fashion."
"It's gotta be worth at least $100," Hlavin joked. School officials have estimated the incense burner's value at between $5,000 and $8,000.
The problem now is what to do with the object. Davis asked the school board for suggestions at the board's regular meeting Thursday, but after three hours of dealing with test scorers, personnel matters and other regular school business, none of the 10 members was able to come up with an idea.
"The only definite thing is that it should be displayed somewhere," Hlavin said. "It would be a real injustice to stuff something this beautiful away in a safe like it is now."