The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 28, 2013

State in brief 1/29/2013


Pa. denies proposals for cyber schools

PHILADELPHIA – State education officials denied applications for eight new cyber charter schools on Monday, citing significant deficiencies in their planned curricula, finances and overall operations.

The proposals left Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis questioning the would-be operators’ ability “to maintain a long-term, viable educational program for the benefit of Pennsylvania students.”

“The proposals submitted by the applicants lack adequate evidence and sufficient information of how prospective students would be offered quality academic programs,” Tomalis said in a statement.  

Court to weigh secrecy of turnpike lawyers

HARRISBURG – The state Supreme Court on Monday announced it would hear arguments in March about a dispute between the attorney general’s office and the turnpike commission over disclosure of records in a public corruption investigation that has lasted more than three years.

The turnpike commission wants the high court to overturn a decision by a grand jury supervisory judge who had sided with prosecutors who want access to communications between the agency’s lawyers and the commissioners or employees.

The commission argues that those exchanges are protected by lawyer-client privilege, while the attorney general’s office says their disclosure is needed to keep the government honest.

Aide says judge told her to ditch files

PITTSBURGH – The chief of staff for former state Sen. Jane Orie has testified the senator and state Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, the legislator’s sister, both told her to remove political material in files the aide took home in the early days of a corruption investigation.

Jamie Pavlot testified Monday she took the files out of Orie’s legislative office on

Nov. 1, 2009, because they related to political activity that Orie’s state-funded staff had done for the senator and Melvin – then a Superior Court judge about to be elected to the state’s highest court two days later.

“Anything political of mine I want you to pull out of those boxes,” Pavlot said Melvin told her, echoing Sen. Orie’s words in a three-way call Pavlot said she received at home that Sunday.

Pavlot’s testimony was the first revelation in her daylong testimony about political work that Orie’s staff allegedly did when Melvin lost a race for the Supreme Court in 2003 and again in 2009, when she won.

Earlier, Pavlot had testified that the former Republican lawmaker told her, “You need to follow that as though I were telling you myself,” whenever Melvin or the judge’s aide and sister Janine Orie needed her help for campaign work.

Melvin, 56, and Janine Orie, 58, of Pittsburgh’s North Hills suburbs, are on trial on theft of services, conspiracy and other charges for allegedly misusing Melvin’s former Superior Court staff and Sen. Orie’s former staff – both of which were taxpayer-funded – to campaign for Melvin.

Melvin is suspended because of the charges she faces and Janine Orie is suspended as Melvin’s aide.

Jane Orie, 51, is serving 21/2 to 10 years in prison and resigned from office after she was convicted last year of using her state-paid staff to work on her own campaigns.

Man jailed after fight with at bookstore

GREENSBURG – A man has been jailed on charges that he fought with state troopers and tried to disarm them of their stun guns when they responded to a disturbance at a Greensburg bookstore.

Online court records don’t list an attorney for 38-year-old Michael Haugh, of Apollo, Armstrong County, who was arrested Saturday evening.

That’s when troopers from the Greensburg barracks say they were called to the Barnes & Noble store on Route 30 in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County.

Police said Haugh was wanted for making unspecified threats and fought with two troopers who tried to subdue him, grabbing for their stun guns in the process. Instead, both troopers stunned Haugh and arrested him, but not before about $500 damage was done to a store display.

Haugh faces a preliminary hearing Feb. 5

Bucknell admits SAT scores inflated

LEWISBURG – The president of Bucknell University said an internal investigation has revealed that school officials falsified students’ average SAT scores.

Mean SAT results for incoming freshmen were overstated by an average of 16 points between 2006 and 2012, according to President John Bravman. The motive behind the misrepresentation is unclear, he said, though college entrance exam scores often figure into national rankings.

Bravman disclosed the problem in a letter Friday to students, staff and alumni of the selective liberal arts school in central Pennsylvania.

Bravman attributed the inaccurate figures to officials who no longer work at Bucknell.

School makes students ask for toilet paper

MAHANOY CITY – An eastern Pennsylvania high school says vandalism forced it to create a policy in which toilet paper has been taken out of the boys’ bathrooms.

Boys at Mahanoy Area High School in Schuylkill County now must go to the school office to request toilet paper and sign it out. Principal Thomas Smith said that’s helped solve a major problem of bathroom vandalism that’s been going on for two years.

Smith said boys must sign out the toilet paper and then sign it back in. But the Republican-Herald of Pottsville reported some parents are protesting the policy.

Parent Karen Yedsena said some students are too embarrassed to go to the office to get toilet paper and are going home sick instead.

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