When U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett went to Washington's Eastern High School this week, he wanted to make an impression on its students -- but, unlike an earlier interrupted visit, he didn't intend to "leave the mark of our presence" physically on the Eastern building.

My colleague Lawrence Feinberg covered Bennett's appearance before 1,000 at an assembly at Eastern, near RFK Stadium on East Capitol Street, and relayed this report:

"In 1959 Bennett was a student at Gonzaga High, a Catholic school on North Capitol Street , which played Eastern for the city football championship.

"Before the game, Bennett said, he and several other Gonzaga students came to Eastern, intending to 'leave the mark of our presence on the campus . . . a big G somewhere on the building.' But when the group encountered 'a number of Eastern students,' we were discouraged from doing that."

Bennett's welcome on Wednesday "was much warmer, with a big sign saying 'Eastern welcomes Secretary Bennett.' There were volleys of applause . . . as Bennett praised the school for recent improvements and hailed its principal, Ralph Neal, as 'an example of the kind of leadership we need in American schools.' "

Unmentioned by Bennett at the assembly: He was a tackle on Gonzaga's 1959 team that defeated Eastern for the city championship.

The Pothole Bandit Strikes

My colleague Ron White, who writes for the Post's editorial page, relayed a suggestion that, if adopted locally, might turn Washington into a national forest.

In Burlington, Vt., a news report says, a man who called himself the "pothole bandit" went around town one recent morning planting evergreen seedlings in every pothole he found.

The local police said it could find no charges to file against this latter-day version of Johnny Appleseed unless it could determine that he had stolen the seedlings.

More About Rhodes Tavern

There's yet another chapter in our town's most tiresome crusade. Metro Scene agrees that Rhodes Tavern (remember?) should not have been torn down. But a new crop of anonymously placed posters has sprouted on downtown signposts again attacking those economically -- but not those politically -- responsible for the deed. When is enough actually enough agitation over an irreversible action?

Honoring a Newspaperwoman

It's noted, from yesterday's New York Times, that my favorite boss, Katharine Graham, chairman of the board of The Washington Post Co., was awarded an honorary doctorate in humane letters at New York University for her leadership in "presiding over the ascension of The Washington Post into the ranks of the nation's most respected and influential newspapers."

It's noted, too, that in the democracy of The Post newsroom, nobody suggested that Metro Scene run -- or vetoed running -- this item.

Other NYU honorees included House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) and Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children's Defense Fund.