Running Brook, Jeffers Hill emerge as model schools As...

March 10, 2002

Running Brook, Jeffers Hill emerge as model schools

As Howard educators work to determine what is going wrong in the county's five worst-performing elementary schools - where scores on annual state performance exams are among the worst in the state - at least two other schools have emerged as examples of what is going right.

Jeffers Hill and Running Brook elementary schools serve populations similar to the schools that are most puzzling to Howard school officials - in particular, the five that posted the county's lowest scores on the latest Maryland School Performance Assessment Program exams: Guilford, Swansfield, Dasher Green, Laurel Woods and Talbott Springs elementary schools.

But at Running Brook and Jeffers Hill, principals and teachers seem to have overcome the challenges that trouble their lagging counterparts.

County Council OKs greater notice on plans

A bill that would give Howard County residents more advance notice about proposals for things such as brightly lighted gas station-convenience stores or oversized day care centers was narrowly approved Monday night by the County Council.

The measure passed by a 3-2 vote.

The bill would require community meetings before conditional-use requests - formerly known as special exceptions - are submitted. That matches a law that took effect Jan. 8 covering proposed developments that require subdivision.

Rural Legacy money unlikely to be spent on farm

Howard County's agricultural land preservation board could have forever protected Lambert Cissel's farm from development by paying him $9,000 an acre, but it declined to do so as a matter of principle.

Now, that stand - on the question of whether members of the board should stick to an established payout formula that would have provided Cissel with $6,855 an acre or yield to negotiations - appears to have cost the county a farm that officials have tried numerous times to preserve and $1.5 million to boot.

The money, which comes from the state's Rural Legacy preservation program, has to be spent by March 29. Jeff Everett, Howard County's land preservation administrator, said that is not nearly enough time to find a replacement farm.

Bounty hunter case may proceed, judge rules

Howard County prosecutors can proceed with charges against two Baltimore bounty hunters accused of holding five non-English-speaking people hostage in their own apartment late last year, District Judge Neil Edward Axel ruled after a routine probable-cause hearing Tuesday.

Everett Ambush Chambers, 26, and Darnell Anthony Brown, 29, have been charged with 28 counts each that stem from a Dec. 19 incident in a Town & Country Boulevard apartment in Ellicott City. Charges against them range from kidnapping to armed robbery to first-degree assault.

Howard County Detective Steve Lampe testified that the two men watched television, ordered the residents to make them food and drove to Catonsville with one of the female residents. The men stayed at the apartment from midnight until about 2:40 a.m., Lampe said.

Robberies, burglaries up, county statistics show

Howard County had 34 more robberies last year than in 2000, a statistic that pushed up the overall number of violent crimes in the county 5.8 percent in 2001, according to a crime report released by county police Wednesday.

Property crimes increased 8.4 percent, largely because of 311 more burglaries last year than in 2000. Thefts and motor vehicle thefts were up last year, too, although the increases were smaller.

"I'm concerned about the robbery and burglary numbers," Police Chief Wayne Livesay said Wednesday. "We're feeling a bit of a push out of Baltimore City in those areas."

A significant number of the robbery suspects have city addresses, Livesay said, and Howard police are seeing more sophisticated robbers who wear bulletproof vests and carry shotguns.

Howard aims to boost students' MSPAP scores

Howard County will reach the state's goal of at least 70 percent of its students scoring satisfactorily on the annual MSPAP achievement exams by 2005, local school officials said Thursday night, and gaps between that state standard and test performance by African-American and Hispanic students will be eliminated by 2007.

That's the crux of an ambitious plan announced by the school system's associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, Kimberly Statham, in response to a disappointing trend of flat or declining scores on the yearly Maryland School Performance Assessment Program exams.

Although 61.2 percent of Howard's children scored satisfactorily on the tests last year - the closest in the state to reaching the 70 percent standard - the composite score declined.

In other education news last week, the school board and county teachers might be headed toward an impasse in this year's salary negotiations, according to a bulletin distributed to Howard County Education Association members.

Murder-for-hire convict Raras seeks shorter term

A teary Emilia D. Raras pleaded Thursday for a reduction in the life-without-parole sentence she received for hiring a hit man in November 1998 to kill her Elkridge daughter-in-law - a woman she claimed to "love like a daughter."

The 66-year-old grandmother and her lawyers asked a Howard County Circuit Court panel of three judges to suspend all but 10 years of the sentence. The review panel likely will file its decision within 30 days.

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