The most difficult job at the annual Deseret News-KSL-TV Sterling Scholar program isn't compiling the portfolios or coordinating the program. It's the judging.

"It never gets any easier," said Charles Stubbs of the State Office of Education, a judge in the visual arts for his sixth year. "I usually find that there are six or seven who are so very, very close that it could be any one of them."Stubbs was one of 36 judges - three in each of the 12 categories - who spent most of April 5 poring over student portfolios and interviewing the 15 finalists in each category. After eight hours of study, the judges selected the 12 Sterling Scholars and 24 runners-up.

To help in the selection, each judge was given a work sheet to rank the finalists as they read through the portfolios. The judges were told to weigh 50 percent of their points in scholarship, 25 percent in leadership and 25 percent in citizenship. They were also cautioned to judge on actual accomplishment, not potential.

But Stubbs said, even with the work sheet, a number of finalists end up in the same percentage ballpark in every category.

The visual arts judge said he looks for the Sterling Scholar in the impressive pool of artists by finding students who produce a lot of work ("it's like playing an instrument; practice makes perfect") that is created from real life, not copied from a photograph or someone else's work.

English judge Steve Hale thinks a tie-breaker might be the involvement in more community projects but it certainly isn't grades. The typical English finalist had "A's" in all subjects with maybe a single "B" during a four-year high school career.

Hale said, "Every one of these kids is a superlative scholar. No, not just superlative scholar, but a superlative human being. That's what makes it so tough to judge."

Music judge Avery Glenn, who has judged 15 Sterling Scholar competitions, said that applied to the music finalists too.

Music finalists included student body officers, cheerleaders, athletes and students involved in community groups. "The discipline of learning to sing or play a musical instrument spills over into other areas of their lives," Avery said.

The 1989 Sterling Scholar final judges included:

English - Steve Hale of the Utah Education Association; freelance writer Kathleen Lubeck; and Milton Voigt of the University of Utah; Speech/Drama - Dan Keeler of the State Office of Education; Art Smith of Utah State University; and Jan Snyder of KSL Radio; Mathematics - Wiliam Earl of the State Office of Education; Carolyn Tucker of Westminster College; and Stephen Wadsworth of WHW Engineering; Social Science - Mayor James W. Davis of South Salt Lake; Harden Eyring of the State Office of Higher Education; and Albert L. Fisher of the University of Utah; and Science - Jerry Fullmer of the State Office of Higher Education; Homer Pressley of Hercules Bacchus; and Byron Wilson of Brigham Young University.

Others were: Foreign Language - Tod Harris of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Translation Department; Mark Spencer of the State Office of Higher Education; and Joy Woolf of Westminster College; Visual Arts - Robert S. Olpin of the University of Utah; professional artist Al Rounds; and Charles Stubbs of the State Office of Education; Industrial Education - Wayne Paulsen of Salt Lake Community College; Richard Thorn of Associated General Contractors; and Kent Worthington of Davis Vocational Center; Home Economics - Ann Allen of Deseret News; Shirley Klein of Brigham Young University; and Mary Monroe of State Office of Education; Business Education - Larry Ellerton, Utah Power & Light; Glenn Kirk of LDS Business College; and Max Lowe of the State Office of Higher Education; Music - Avery Glenn of the State Office of Higher Education; Mitchell Morrison of the Utah Symphony; and William S. Goodfellow of the Deseret News; and General Scholarship - Ernie Ashley of The Bryman School; Lowell Baum of the Utah Education Association; and Vicki Varela of the State Office of Higher Education.