Howard Week

February 03, 2002

Redistricting process for county schools assessed as positive

The lines are drawn. Howard County's high schools have new boundary lines and, after 10 months of bruised feelings, shuffled school districts, volumes of e-mail messages and mounds of paperwork, educators, parents and community members are expressing a common thought: Despite the rancor and long, late nights, this redistricting process - which ended Jan. 24 - worked better than any school redistricting in Howard history.

"I think it's absolutely an improvement over what existed before," said Mary Kay Sigaty, co-chairwoman of the Boundary Lines Advisory Committee, which created three proposals for the board to consider.

The Howard County school board set the new lines using a modified version of the committee's recommended "red" plan - with adjustments from Superintendent John R. O'Rourke - setting the stage for the opening of Reservoir High School and sending thousands of students to new high schools next fall.

Man, 20, is charged in first homicide of year

A Columbia man became the first homicide victim in Howard County this year when he died Jan. 25 after being shot in the head in front of the Stevens Forest Apartment Complex in Oakland Mills.

Deshawn Anthony Wallace, 23, of the 9200 block of Connell Court was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center about 8 p.m. Jan. 25 after police discovered him lying on a parking lot in the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road.

On Tuesday, a 20-year-old man with a long history of criminal arrests was charged in the killing. Police have accused Tavon Donya Sands of shooting Wallace during a botched robbery attempt that involved up to nine men. A Howard County officer arrested Sands during a traffic stop about 8:30 p.m. Monday in the 4900 block of April Day Garth.

Gail H. Bates chosen to fill House of Delegates vacancy

After a week of turmoil and uncertainty, Gail H. Bates was chosen Tuesday night to fill a House of Delegates vacancy from western Howard County after Montgomery County Republicans agreed with their Howard brethren.

Both county state central committees planned to send letters to Gov. Parris N. Glendening on Wednesday, according to their respective chairmen, and candidate Anthony C. Wisniewski agreed not to contest the decision to back Bates and not to run for the seat in November. Glendening has 15 days to appoint Bates, who is an aide to Del. Donald E. Murphy.

Schools regain No. 1 rank, but test scores dip slightly

Howard pupils' scores dipped slightly on last year's annual state achievement exams, but the county did well enough to regain its first-place rank in the state, edging Calvert County by more than 5 points.

Eight Howard elementary schools were among the top 19 in the Baltimore area. Howard had five of the top 18 middle schools in the region.

Howard's performance reflects powerful demographics. The county has the highest household income in Maryland and is among the 10 wealthiest counties the United States.

Howard Superintendent John R. O'Rourke and the system's testing director, Leslie Wilson, said the first-place rank does not mean as much to them as the 0.2 percent dip in scores and the continuing low performance at some schools.

O'Rourke wants to expand use of individual pupil plans

If some Howard County schools are stuck in the MSPAP mud - as evidenced by their stagnant or falling scores on the state's annual achievement exams - Superintendent John R. O'Rourke thinks he might have the answer: expanding an accountability program he launched last year with third-graders to include all struggling elementary school children.

The program, which requires teachers to prepare individual improvement plans, also might be broadened to include elementary school children who are not scoring below grade level, the superintendent said in an interview. Eventually, it could be extended to middle and high school students, he added.

Some county educators have mixed feelings about the prospect of developing such elaborate learning plans for all 47,000 Howard County students - especially because the first year's results have not been evaluated.

Group hopes drug court will operate next year

A specialized drug treatment court could be operating in Howard County by July next year if officials move the project forward, according to an interim report on the idea issued Thursday.

With 80 percent of the county's jail inmates and criminal defendants involved in some way with substance abuse, and 72 percent of civil cases involving termination of parental rights also affected, the committee studying the court idea believes it is needed.

For now, the 24-member work group is asking only for enough money for one coordinator to bring the concept to fruition.

Moore, 22, found guilty in death of Columbia teen

Frederick James Moore was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder in the stabbing and strangulation of 14-year-old Ashley Nicole Mason, whose bloody body was found in woods behind a Columbia Pizza Hut in November of 2000.

A Howard County jury of seven women and five men took 2 1/2 hours yesterday to return their verdict on the single-count indictment.

A second man, 19-year-old Scott Jory Brill, was convicted of first-degree murder in Ashley's death in October and is scheduled for sentencing in front of Judge Dennis M. Sweeney on March 20. Yesterday, Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. set Moore's sentencing for April 11.

Both men face a potential maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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