News in Brief: A National Roundup

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For Science-Contest Winner, Focus Is Cancer Detection

Herbert Mason Hedberg, 17, who developed a new, more efficient way to diagnose cancer, won the grand prize last week in the Intel Science Talent Search contest.

Herbert Mason Hedberg

The 40 winners of the competition, sponsored by the Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel Corp., were announced on March 16. A total of $530,000 in scholarship money was awarded.

Mr. Hedberg, who lives in North Attleboro, Mass., attends North Attleboro High School and plans to pursue a career as a physician and scientist. He was given a $100,000 scholarship for winning the top honor.

A $75,000 scholarship went to second-place winner Boris Alexeev, 17, from Athens, Ga. Mr. Alexeev, who attends Cedar Shoals High School, performed research into the theory of automata, a mathematical-computation model that can be used in genetics.

Ryna Karnik, 17, won the third-place prize and a $50,000 scholarship for her patent-pending design method for constructing microchips. Ms. Karnik attends Oregon Episcopal School in Portland, Ore.

—Michelle Galley

Former Baltimore School Worker Is Charged With Bank Fraud

A former Baltimore school official has been charged with bank fraud and accused of stealing more than $220,000 from the city’s public schools.

Lewis E. Williams, 61, who worked from May 1995 through last October for the city’s school board, was responsible for arranging for the rental of school facilities and collecting payments, according to the office of Thomas M. DiBiagio, the U.S. attorney for Baltimore.

According to an indictment against him, Mr. Williams deposited 218 checks intended for the school system into a bank account that he had opened for himself under a fictitious name. He allegedly then paid himself, various businesses, and his associates some $200,000 from the account.

Mr. Williams, who was arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was scheduled to appear March 19 in court. His lawyer, Darrell Chambers, said he would plead not guilty.

—Ann Bradley

Unions, Miffed at Charters, Urge Boycott of Fund-Raiser

Unions representing teachers and principals in Buffalo, N.Y., are urging public schools not to participate in an annual fund-raising carnival because it is open to charter schools.

Carnival in the Park, which is organized by parent groups and run in conjunction with the city of Buffalo’s recreation department, was scheduled this spring to include 32 traditional public schools, and five charter schools, which receive public money but are largely independent.

But after the leaders of the Buffalo Teachers Federation and the Buffalo Council of Supervisors and Administrators urged their members not to participate, only 18 of the regular public schools plan to take part, said Michelle Stevens, a parent who organizes the event.

Philip B. Rumore, the president of the BTF, said the union was asking its members to boycott the June 5 fair because charter schools are expected to siphon $35 million from the 44,000-student Buffalo district’s $500 million budget next year.

Ms. Stevens said she was disappointed with the unions. "This wasn’t their event to politicize," she said.

—Ann Bradley

Relatively Few File to Seek Spots On Chicago’s Local School Councils

A record-low number of candidates have filed to run for seats on Chicago’s local school councils.

Late last week, 6,693 nominees had met the March 17 deadline, although some schools were still reporting their nominees. In 1998, 7,266 people ran for one of the city’s roughly 6,000 two-year council seats.

Joi Mecks, a spokeswoman for the system, said district officials were unsure why relatively few candidates emerged this year. Elections will be held on April 21 and 22.

Fifteen years ago, a sweeping school reform effort in the city led to the election of the district’s first such councils. In 1989, about 312,000 people voted for 17,256 candidates.

Local school councils are responsible for hiring principals and approving individual schools’ annual budgets. Elementary school councils have 11 voting members, including the principal, parents, teachers, and community representatives. High school councils have 12 members, with the addition of a student member.

Ms. Mecks said that the 439,000-student district launched an aggressive campaign to seek candidates earlier this month.

—Karla Scoon Reid

Washington State Student, 13, Kills Himself in Class With Rifle

A Washington state teenager stunned his small school district and town last week when he killed himself in class with a single rifle shot.

The 13-year-old middle school student, whose name was not released last week, "was clearly not someone you expected to do this. He was one of the kids you’d see out there enjoying all the things kids his age enjoy," said Rich Wilson, the superintendent of the 230-student Crescent school district in the logging community of Joyce.

The boy committed suicide shortly after 10 a.m. on March 17, pulling a rifle out of his guitar case and shooting himself just as students were preparing to leave for the next class, the superintendent said. Most students didn’t see the shooting because the boy sat in the back of the classroom and didn’t draw attention to himself before the incident, Mr. Wilson said.

Police had reported no motive for the suicide as of last Thursday. Because the boy didn’t leave a note or signal his intention to kill himself to any friends or classmates, his death is a mystery in a town where "everybody knows everybody," Mr. Wilson said.

The district resumed classes the day after the shooting, and counselors were expected to remain on hand through the early part of this week.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Gates to Donate $9.5 Million For High Schools in Oakland

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced last week that it was contributing an additional $9.5 million to help start small high schools in Oakland, Calif.

News of the grant comes 10 months after a state administrator was appointed to take over the operation of the 47,000-student Oakland district as part of a major fiscal bailout. Leaders of the city’s flourishing small-schools movement had worried that the takeover would derail years of collaboration with district officials, both to open new, free-standing schools and break up big high schools. ("Small-Schools Backers Wary of Oakland Shifts," June 4, 2003.)

Administering the grant will be the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, a nonprofit organization based in Oakland that works with districts in the San Francisco Bay area. Announced March 17, the new award will be used to bolster efforts already under way to convert three large high schools into complexes of small schools and to open five more small high schools by 2007.

—Caroline Hendrie

Vol. 23, Issue 28, Page 4

Published in Print: March 24, 2004, as News in Brief: A National Roundup
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