Harford Week

January 19, 2003

School board weighs changes in sex education

The Harford County Board of Education is scheduled to vote next month on changes in the middle-school sex education curriculum to include material on sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy that would bring the school system in line with most others in the state. A committee recommended the changes in the fall after finding that Harford lagged behind most other systems in its curriculum. A committee was asked by the school board last year to research what other counties were teaching in the middle schools.

Administrators also considered a long list of questions posed by middle-school pupils in class about sexual situations, diseases and pregnancy in their decision to update the curriculum, said Sue Garrett, supervisor of career and technology education, who works with the advisory committee.

The board is scheduled to decide on the proposed changes at its Feb. 24 meeting, and parents can comment on the plan at that meeting or at its Jan. 27 or Feb. 10 meetings. The Harford public schools Web site (www.co.ha.md.us/harford_schools) includes information and a link for comments.

County's economy features diversification

During 2002, Harford "continued its emphasis on the diversification and growth of technology-related industry, and of industry in general," said J. Thomas Sadowski, the county's director of economic development.

Some of the areas being targeted for this year include advanced and engineered materials, automotive design and testing, information technology, materials testing, biotechnology scale-ups, and technical services.

One of the hooks Harford continues to use in its fishing for technology is Aberdeen Proving Ground, the military test and evaluation facility that has seen its allocations increase since the terrorist attacks of September 2001. There are still discussions about whether the proving ground will house a new anti-terrorism facility.

Elements of the award-winning Water's Edge residential and commercial real estate project in Belcamp have come to fruition, giving further credibility to the U.S. 40 revitalization.

Kmart to close store in Joppatowne

Kmart Corp. announced that it is closing its Joppatowne store as part of its bid to emerge from bankruptcy.

The store on Joppa Farm Road is one of 326 to be closed nationally by the discount retailer. Two other stores in Maryland -- one in Catonsville, the other in Westminster -- also will be closed.

Massey resigns post as council administrator

After four years as Harford County Council administrator, James Massey has accepted a position as a management analyst with the county's Office on Aging.

Massey's last day with the council is officially Feb. 28, but he will be out on medical leave until then recuperating from recent surgery.

Suspect in girl's death to face U.S. charges first

Jamal Kenneth Abeokuto, a Baltimore man accused of killing his girlfriend's 8-year-old daughter and dumping her body in a wooded residential area in Joppatowne in December, will be tried on extortion charges before he faces a state murder charge that could bring the death penalty, federal prosecutors said.

The decision to keep Abeokuto in federal custody surprised some authorities, including the state's attorney in Harford County, where Marciana Ringo's beaten body was discovered.

"I don't know why they are going forward with federal charges when there is a state capital murder case," Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said, noting concerns about whether state prosecutors and defense attorneys will have full access to Abeokuto.

"If he gets a federal sentence -- and who knows where the U.S. marshal or Bureau of Prisons is going to ship him -- how easy will it be to get him back?" Cassilly said.

But Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio said his prosecutors would try their case as a way to possibly secure a 20-year federal sentence in addition to whatever punishment Abeokuto could face in the state system if convicted. DiBiagio said he has assured Cassilly that federal authorities would fully accommodate state prosecutors.

Harford woman awarded $4 million in damages

After 10 days of testimony and less than two hours of deliberations, a Baltimore County jury awarded $4 million last week to a 35-year-old woman who said she has suffered chronic pain and partial paralysis since 1998 because a doctor in Fallston General Hospital's emergency room delayed sending her for back surgery.

Linda McAlexander, a Harford County resident who worked as a real estate loan processor, had an established diagnosis of lumbar disc disease when she went to the emergency room in June 1998. She said that Dr. Peter Sitaras, a neurosurgeon, should have recognized the emergency nature of her symptoms -- a significant increase in pain and numbness, followed by an inability to move her left leg and an inability to urinate -- and should have sent her for surgery immediately.

Trial starts for 2 men in warehouse shooting

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