Police: Arrest may resolve other
break-ins in Clarksburg
by James Fisher
Staff Writer

    Police say two Clarksburg residents, who are in the county jail on bond after their arrest Monday on charges of breaking and entering, may be connected to a series of other break-ins in late March.
    Lisa Marie Hern, 34, of 655 W. Main St. is being held on $32,500 bond and Robert Glen Palmer, 32, of Koupal Towers, is being held on $45,000 bond.
    Clarksburg police arrested Hern and Palmer just minutes after the pair allegedly knocked down the fence at Lowe’s Lawn and Garden Center on Emily Drive and removed a power washer and tiller about midnight Saturday. The two also allegedly broke into an automotive repair shop on West Pike Street about an hour before. Police say there are similarities between Saturday’s break-ins and others that occurred March 29.
    The Colonial Village office complex, Subway Sandwich Shop and the Milford Street Dairy Queen were all broken into in March. Small amounts of money were taken from each location. “Certain things fit the patterns and they could be related,” Clarksburg Detective Jason Snider said. “Our investigation into it is continuing.”
    Saturday, witnesses observed the pair using a car to knock down the fence, Snider said. Officers Jesse Menendez and S.E. Audia were dispatched to the scene and observed the vehicle traveling west on U.S. Route 50.
    The stolen items were so large the pair was unable to completely shut the rear driver’s side door, Snider said. Officers searching the vehicle found a folder containing a checkbook that belonged to Pro Transmission Service, located at 911 W. Pike St. and an undetermined amount of cash. Officers checked the automotive shop and observed that the garage door had been broken into.
    Hern and Palmer were charged Saturday with one count of breaking and entering. Monday, Snider obtained warrants for Hern and Palmer for the Pro Transmission Service breaking and entering.
    If convicted, the pair each face possible prison sentences of 1-10 years in the state penitentiary for each charge.

FBI officers honored for lifesaving efforts
by Paul Leakan

    From helping to save a woman’s life to leading efforts to keep guns out of the wrong hands, FBI employees in Clarksburg were kept busy last year.
    On Monday, the Criminal Justice Information Services Division made sure to show 69 select employees that their efforts have not gone unnoticed during the fifth annual Assistant Director’s Awards for Excellence Program.
    As soon as FBI Officers Jeffrey Owens and Robert Mason took the semicircular stage, the crowd stood and erupted with applause. The crowd knew that the two men helped save a life and had earned the Exceptional Heroism Award.
    Officers Owens and Mason were on a routine traffic patrol on Feb. 4, 1998, but would soon find themselves in a situation that was anything but routine.
    A tractor-trailer was engulfed in flames on Interstate 79. A woman was trapped beneath the trailer as plumes of toxic smoke began filling her car. The officers, working together as a team, sought ways to keep the woman from suffocating.
    Officer Mason smashed the car’s window with his expandable baton, allowing fresh air to funnel into the car. Mason then climbed into the car and covered the woman with his jacket. He broke another window for better ventilation. The woman was rushed off to the hospital to receive treatment for multiple injuries. The woman, Connie McCoy, survived.
    It was later discovered that she was an employee at the FBI complex in Clarksburg. “It’s a miracle she actually lived,” said David R. Loesch, deputy assistant director of the FBI Clarksburg complex. McCoy shared her appreciation for the two officers’ valor by walking on stage and giving each of them a hug.
    Before the two men were honored for their efforts, more than 40 employees were given awards for putting together a nationwide system that checks the backgrounds of prospective buyers of firearms.
    The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, also called NICS, got off to a rocky start when it first began on Nov. 30, 1998. Gun store owners had a difficult time getting through to the FBI call center, which screens the history of potential gun buyers.
    But the FBI and more than 500 trained personnel were able to fix the problems and make the system work much more efficiently.
The development team and program office for the system truly deserved to receive a Special Achievement Award, according to James E. Kessler Jr., NICS section chief.
    “We were starting from zero here,” said Kessler, who received the Excellence in Management Award. “We had to start from nothing and build something. They were extremely self-sufficient.”
    James DeSarno Jr., assistant director in charge of the complex, is proud to work with so many talented employees.“These are truly the cream of the crop. Each and every day there are employees here that do amazing things. Sometimes their services mean the difference between life and death.”

Barbour, Randolph on short list for new jail
by Troy Graham

    Two sites are still in the running as possible locations for the Tygart Valley Regional Jail, including one in Belington and one along the Barbour-Randolph County line, after the state Regional Jail Authority cut the list of sites down from six Monday.
   Eliminated from contention were locations in Tucker and Taylor counties, and Philippi and Huttonsville, said Steve Canter-bury, the Regional Jail Authority’s executive director.
    The Belington site and the Morris Farm site, which is just across the Barbour County line in Randolph County, will have to be studied to determine which is more suitable for the 300-bed jail, he said.
    The facility will house prisoners from Pocahontas, Barbour, Randolph, Taylor, Tucker and Preston counties. If there are problems at either of the two sites, the authority will go back and start the selection process over, Canterbury said. “We’re not obligated to choose one or the other,” he said.
    The jail authority will work with local development officials at each site to judge their willingness to help with the construction costs and to evaluate their overall economic plan for the jail.
    Regional jails in other areas of the state have created economic booms, often because the jails bring infrastructure like water, sewer and roads to the rural areas where they are located.
    A regional jail outside of Charleston created an explosion of hotels, restaurants and retail stores when it was built along Corridor G to Logan County, Canterbury said. The development there “wouldn’t be there if we hadn’t done our thing,” he said.
Canterbury wants similar development with the other regional jails.
    He is also going to need some help from local officials to pay for the jail’s infrastructure. There simply isn’t enough money in the budget to pay for water, sewer and roads, he said. But, local development agencies have access to infrastructure grants, he said.
Canterbury said he hopes to make a decision on one of the sites, or decide to start the process over, by June.

State students put to the test
by Gail Marsh

    Most state students will spend several mornings this week taking standardized achievement tests to help the state Board of Education determine how well those students are learning.
    Though the Stanford-9 tests are not the only way to assess a student’s progress, student scores are used to help determine whether a county school system is fully accredited by the state. And educators say that sometimes the pressure to score well can take away from the real purpose of the test.
    “All too often we lose the focus of what the test is supposed to do, and instead look at how well other buildings or other counties are doing. The tests are meant to show us how well an individual child is faring,” said Carl Friebel, administrative assistant for planning, research and evaluation for Harrison County schools.
    The Stanford-9 achievement tests are given to all students in the state in first through 11th grades. Kindergarten students will take the Metropolitan Readiness Test, an abbreviated version meant to show areas where students may need help. Only the scores of students in grades three through 11 count toward accreditation at the state level.
    The multiple-choice tests include sections on reading, language arts, math, spelling, science, social studies and study skills. Friebel said students prepare for the test by reviewing past lessons and following the normal classroom routine.
    “We teach the state’s instructional goals and objectives, which focus on the same kinds of materials that are covered on the test. If students are doing well in class, they will have a good chance of doing well on the test,” he said.
    Friebel said that standardized tests are just one way to indicate how a child may be doing in the classroom. Teacher opinion, daily classwork, homework and other test grades are all important in assessing a student’s progress, he said.
    “A teacher can get a better picture day by day of how well a student is achieving rather than by a one-shot, standardized test,” he said.
    Therese Wilson, director of student services and assessments for the state Board of Education, said the Stanford-9 test may not measure everything a student knows, but the test can have value as a teaching tool.
    “People forget that the purpose of the test is to help teachers see what Billy doesn’t know so they can teach him in that area. The individual test results can be an instructional tool to give teachers a better idea of what they need to teach,” she said.
    With Harrison students just returning from spring break, a number of schools spent time before the break working to help prepare students for this week’s test schedule. Besides reviewing course work, the faculty at Lincoln High School is offering incentives to students who improve their scores, including a chance to win cash prizes, season passes to home games and movie tickets.
    “We work all year with the students, giving them tips and working on areas where they may have weaknesses. Our scores were up considerably last year, so we expect our students to do well again this year,” said Sharon Brisbin, assistant principal.
    On Monday, students at Norwood Elementary School took a sample test to help them prepare for this week’s test. Principal Phil Brown said the students take the test in the mornings and the rest of the day is left open to do art work, storytelling and other leisure activities.
    “There’s a lot of pressure put on us by the state, but we try not to convey that to the kids. We let them know that this is an important evaluation, but it’s just a test and not the end of the world,” he said.


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Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999