School reform debate becomes question of how much, how fast


The debate about how to achieve equity in Howard County schools has moved to what the next steps should be, when to make each change and at what cost.

That's what County Council members told school Superintendent Michael E. Hickey and school board members Tuesday at the two groups' quarterly meeting, where they discussed the report, No Child Left Behind.

The report was written in March by a 23-member committee established by Hickey and County Executive James N. Robey to study perceived inequities in county schools and what can be done about them. The report listed 70 recommendations.

For the most part, school officials agreed that the majority of the report's recommendations should be addressed, maybe not in the same way they are noted in the report, and certainly not all in the near future. The board has stopped open enrollment for next year and agreed to restudy redistricting, both major recommendations of the citizens committee.

Scaggsville man, 80, holds suspects at bay, then dies

Albert William Wessel lost a family car and then a tractor to theft in a three-day span, so he grabbed a rifle when he suspected the thieves were back for more.

The 80-year-old Scaggsville resident was holding two suspects at bay with a .22-caliber rifle when his wife flagged down a Howard County patrol officer Monday afternoon. Police called it a by-the-book protection of property.

But when police took over, Wessel collapsed. He died en route to Howard County General Hospital, possibly from a heart attack.

Michael T. Spears, 32, of Odenton was charged with two counts of auto theft, two counts of felony theft and three counts of trespassing. Officers found Wessel's stolen 1960 Chevrolet Impala in the 8400 block of Brock Bridge Road in Jessup and recovered his tractor in the 1400 block of Annapolis Road. Spears was released on $10,000 bail Tuesday.

McCarty leaves Columbia, moves back to Atlanta

A month after calling Columbia home and saying she planned to stay, former Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty has moved out of her rented town house in River Hill.

A-One Moving Co. of Annapolis packed up many of her belongings Tuesday morning to move them to Atlanta, the company said.

McCarty's ties to her former hometown became an issue during the controversy that led to her resignation last month after only 20 months on the job. Critics charged that the former Atlanta recreation and parks director and longtime city councilwoman was not committed to Columbia or her $130,000-a-year post.

Officials may not be done with murder-for-hire case

Howard County authorities appear to gathering more evidence in the murder of an Elkridge woman who was the victim of a hit man hired by her mother-in-law.

Authorities have won two convictions in the Nov. 1998 death of Sara Raras, but they appear to be focusing on another suspect, sources familiar with the case said. Officials have executed search warrants, the sources said, and have subpoenaed the victim's father-in-law and a brother-in-law to appear before a grand jury.

Howard County police spokesman Sgt. John Superson said the case was being actively investigated but declined to comment further. Prosecutors did not return calls seeking comment.

The mother-in-law, Emilia D. Raras, 64, of Baltimore County was convicted of first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder in February. She was sentenced two months later to life in prison without parole. She is appealing.

Hit man Ardale D. Tickles, 20, of Baltimore pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in March. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month, when he could get life in prison without parole.

Study of Route 32 widening little comfort to opponents

Route 32 in western Howard County is becoming congested faster than expected, but before they go ahead and widen the two-lane road, state highway officials want a panel of experts to study whether that would attract more development.

The 10-member panel, composed primarily of real estate, economic development and planning experts, will examine the project's effect on Howard County as well as Frederick, Carroll and Montgomery counties, state officials said.

Opponents took little comfort from news of the panel, although it is part of the state's Smart Growth program that seeks to prevent suburban sprawl.

The state has allocated $1.8 million for planning the widening, and $369,000 of that is to be spent in the fiscal year starting July 1, said Lora Rakowski, a highways spokeswoman. The current schedule calls for final design to start in one year, with construction later, she said.

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