Georgia public school principal suspends kids for one day to improve test results

A Dekalb County elementary school teacher, who suspended 13 poorly-performing students a day before state-wide standardized tests were administered, has resigned.

Principal Angela Jennings of Rock Chapel Elementary in Lithonia, Georgia, admitted in a memo to Dekalb County School Superintendent Ramona Tyson, that she suspended the children because she was ““worried about the effect certain students would have on her school’s chance to make annual yearly progress, or AYP.”

She said “before the CRCT, I sent a letter to the parents of 13 students advising that they would be withdrawn due to poor attendance, which would cause the school not to make AYP.”

Tyson passed the information of to the state’s Professional Standards Commission, seeking an opinion whether any ethics violations might have been triggered.

Gary Walker, of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, said the case was not the first of its kind. He said that in another county, a principal suspended 86 children before the state exam. “Yeah, they were withdrawn one day, and a day later they were reinstated. They were out one day,” he said.

No word on whether Jennings will be disciplined, as her case is making its way through the Professional Standards Commission.

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Cleveland agrees to spend $2.5 million to figure out water billing system disaster

After suffering through over 18 months of a dysfunctional $31 million water and sewer billing system, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and the city council have decided to spend $2.5 million to hire outside consultants to help get it running properly.

The city is under fire by both residents and neighboring communities that rely on the billing system, for its failure to provide timely and accurate bills.  A story in today’s Plain Dealer said that nearly 2,000 customers haven’t received a bill since the system went live in September 2009. Another 17,000 customers haven’t received their scheduled November bills.

Neighboring communities that rely on Cleveland for sewer billing services are worried about the growing amount of unbilled monies owed them, since statements are not being generated and sent to customers. One such community, the city of Solon, said last month it will implement its own system, after determining that Cleveland was doing such a poor job responding to customers and sending out bills.

A recent survey by the Plain Dealer found that leaders of 24 suburbs that use Cleveland’s water system rated its performance in meter reading, maintenance or billing as “bad” or “terrible.”

Despite its troubles, no one in city hall or the public utilities department is taking the blame, or attempting to assign ownership of the disaster. There have been no indications that any employees have been reprimanded or terminated.

Councilman Kevin Kelly, head of the council’s Utilities Committee, said he is unsure who to blame for the problems. “A lot of the problems have been so persistent and so systemic, I’m not sure who fault would be assigned to until we get in there and take a look at what’s going on with this division,” he said.

As to the consultants, Public Utilities Director Barry Withers said, “We’re not abdicating responsibility, we’re seeking assistance.”

After denying requests for an interview by the Plain Dealer, Withers responded with a statement blaming the problems on the new billing system — and on the city’s customers.

“We are aggressively working to resolve those issues . . . and have made significant improvements to the process as underscored by increased revenue collections in recent months,” Withers added.

“We also believe there must be some acknowledgement in this process of the effects of the severe recession that the nation is emerging from on the ability of people to pay their bills . . . .”

Now that the city’s new billing system is in place, the Division of Water is looking to undertake a new project — the installation of an $87 million automated meter reading system.

Information from: The Plain Dealer

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South Texas police chief pleads guilty to pot smuggling

The former Sullivan City Police Chief Herman Guerra Jr. pleaded guilty last week to helping Mexican drug cartels smuggle marijuana across the Rio Grande River starting in June 2009.

Guerra pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy with intent to distribute. Prosecutors say that Guerra helped cartel members bring about one ton of pot across the river in the Sullivan City area, on flat-bottom boats.

Federal agents picked up Guerra in June 2010 as part of “Project Deliverance,” a nationwide sweep of persons suspected of working with the drug cartels.

After his arrest, Guerra was suspended with pay, and later fired. He is currently free on bond and scheduled to be sentenced on April 20.

Guerra’s lawyer, Oscar Alvarez said, “He understands he abused a position of trust. His goal is just to undo the harm he did to the community and his family.”

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Man to stand trial for accessing wife’s email account

Leon Walker, 33, of Rochester Hills, Mich. is scheduled to go to trial on April 11 for hacking into his ex-wife’s email account, and then providing damaging information to an ex-husband. If convicted, he faces five years behind bars.

Walker was the third husband of Clara Walker, the woman whose email account was hacked. He was suspicious that she was having an affair with her second husband, who had been arrested for beating her in front of a child that she had with the first husband.

Walker used the wife’s password to get access to the wife’s Google account on a computer they shared, and found emails confirming that she was having an affair with the second husband.

Walker then provided the emails to the first husband who used them in a court filing, seeking custody of the child. Walker said he was trying to protect the child, who he was raising with the wife, from neglect.

After Clara Walker was made aware of the court filing and emails, she filed a complaint with the Oakland County Sheriff’s office, and the local district attorney issued an arrest warrant.

The charge was made under a state hacking law, which is mostly used when hackers steal information in cases of identity theft.

“It’s going to be interesting because there are no clear legal answers here,” said Frederick Lane, a Vermont attorney and nationally recognized expert who has published five books on electronic privacy. The fact that the two still were living together, and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer, may help him, Lane said.

A number of defense attorneys were surprised by the filing of the criminal charges. “What’s the difference between that and parents who get on their kids’ Facebook accounts?” attorney Deborah McKelvy said. “You’re going to have to start prosecuting a whole bunch of parents.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper says the felony computer misuse charge is justified. “The guy is a hacker,” Cooper said in a voice mail response to the Detroit Free Press. “It was password protected, he had wonderful skills, and was highly trained. Then he downloaded them and used them in a very contentious way.”

information from: Detroit Free Press

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Dallas police officer arrested for scamming tip bureau

A Dallas police officer, Senior Cpl. Theadora Ross, who was in charge of a popular tip hotline called Crime Stoppers, was arrested on Thursday for teaming up with another woman to defraud the unit out of over $250,000.

Prosecutors say Ross, 50, who ran the program since 2005, passed phony tip information to her accomplice, Malva Delley, 36, who would then claim rewards. They were each indicted with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

This is the way the tip program worked:

Informants would call a hotline with an anonymous tip about a crime. After providing the information to an operator, they would be given a tip number and password. Tipsters would call back periodically with their numbers to see if their tips resulted in a reward.

If they earned a reward, the tipster would go to a local bank, and using the case number and password, claim a reward of up to $5,000.

Ross was responsible for preparing the list of tips that were eligible for rewards, and sending the information to the bank. “These lists would include tip numbers and code words for tips that had been tampered with or altered by Ross together with legitimate cash reward tip numbers and code words,” according to court papers.

Prosecutors claim that the couple would “divide the cash, per Ross’ instructions, and deliver Ross’ share of the illegally obtained money by either directly depositing cash into Ross’ Bank of America bank account or by giving cash directly to Ross.”

The Dallas Police Department issued a statement saying that the alleged action was a “major breach of public trust.” An internal affairs investigation in the near future is expected to result in her firing.

Police official said no false arrests were made as a result of the scheme.

The Dallas Morning News

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North Miami mayor admits to handing out official police-like badges to “city volunteers”

At a city council meeting Tuesday evening, North Miami Andre Pierre apologized to the audience for ordering 43 police-like badges, inscribed “Mayor’s Staff”, which cost taxpayers $4,151.

Last week, The Miami Herald first reported the story, in which Pierre claimed that he couldn’t remember how many he ordered, and how many he handed out. The trouble with the badges, is that the mayor’s staff consists of three person, all of whom he shares with city council members.

After the council meeting, Pierre said that he provided a badge to each of the staff members, and an undisclosed number to “city volunteers,” although he refused to mention any names. He also refused to answer questions why he ordered them in the first place.

Pierre bypassed the city manager when purchasing the badges, instead asking Police Chief, Stephen Johnson, to order them. The badges are similar to a law enforcement shield and feature the Florida state seal.

At the council meeting, Pierre repeated an earlier contention that the request should have not been mistaken as an order to purchase the badges. “I never gave him a command,” said Pierre.

Critics blasted Pierre for spending taxpayer monies on the badges, which might easily be mistaken for law enforcement shields. They say the badges could be used to obtain favors or intimidate citizens.

City Manager Russell Benford was not aware of the badges until contacted by the media last week. He said he’s asked Pierre to retrieve the badges.

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Rep. Dennis Kucinich sues cafeteria over olive mishap

Rep. Dennis Kucinich has filed a lawsuit over a lunch-time incident, in which he ate a pita wrap sandwich in a House of Representatives cafeteria, which contained non-pitted olives. He is suing the four companies involved in running the cafeteria in the Longworth House Office Building for a total of $150,000.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich is suing four companies involved in running a congressional cafeteria, over an accident involving an olive.

The court documents say that Kucinich ordered the vegetarian sandwich wrap “on or about” April 17, 2008 that was advertised as containing “pitted olives.” After biting into it, he realized that it “contained dangerous substances, namely an olive pit.”

After consuming the sandwich, Kucinich incurred “serious and permanent dental and oral injuries” which required “multiple surgical and dental procedures.”

The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 3, and claims that the congressman is entitled to damages for future dental and medical expenses and to compensate him for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment. He also accuses the four firms of breach of implied warranty.

The former mayor of Cleveland, Kucinich has represented Ohio’s 10th district in the House for eight terms.

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