Charlottesville Breaking News

Glitchy system: Inside the student software debacle

Why did Albemarle County school officials commit nearly $2 million to a software system that has proven faulty, despite multiple complaints from teachers that using it was a "waste of time," and an admission from one County school official that it was "glitchy, to say the least"?

At a time when school systems are facing budget cuts, losing teachers, and seeing classroom size increase, spending on technology has soared. Indeed, terms like "digital learners" and "data driven education" have captured the imaginations– and purse strings– of school administrators.

Just recently, the Charlottesville School Board announced that it will spend $2.4 million on new tablet-type laptops for students. According to a recent article in the New York Times, education, technology, and big business are now entangled to the tune of $1.89 billion a year, the amount that schools spent on software for classroom use in 2010. Spending on hardware, researchers say, was likely five times that amount.

However, according to experts interviewed by the Times, there is very little specific evidence that using technology in the schools enhances learning.

“There is insuff...

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How did you commemorate 9/11?

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Caravati charged: Former mayor arrested for spouse assault

Details of the incident that resulted in a domestic violence charge against former Charlottesville Mayor J. Blake Caravati did not emerge Friday, September 16 when he appeared in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. His arrest, however, has already sent shockwaves through the community.

"It's a sad situation," says current Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, who though never serving in office alongside Caravati, knows him through Democratic political circles.

First elected to City Council in 1998 after launching his campaign from the grounds of the railroad station on West Main Street, Caravati told prospective voters he hoped to locate a transit center on the site. Two years later, he assumed the mantle of mayor.

During his mayorship, Caravati took an active role in infrastructure issues. Although he admited surprise when, during his term at the helm, Martha Jefferson Hospital suddenly announced that it was leaving downtown, Caravati was mayor when Council launched the redesign of the Downtown Mall with a $369,000 contract to a Philadelphia design firm. He would win acclaim from some citizens for eventually reversing his earlier stance in opposition to the controversial road that would link downtown and U.S. 29, the Meadowcreek Parkway.

Caravati won reelection to a second four-year Council term in 2002 even as his ticket-mate made history for becoming the first Democrat in a generation to suffer defeat to a Republican. Yet...

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Snap: Jefferson School collects big checks

The long-anticipated Jefferson School renovation officially kicked off September 14 with the ringing of a school bell by a former student and donations of $67,000 to the $18-million rehab project.

The largest donor was Union First Market Bank, which loaned the project $12 million and presented a check for $50,000. Kjellstrom and Lee is doing the construction, and that company kicked in a $15,000 donation. And an organization called The Links contributed $2,000 to the African American Heritage Center, which will be housed in part of the old school.

Work on the historic African-American school is expected to be completed in the fall of 2012, when its tenants will include the city's Carver Recreation, Piedmont Virginia Community College, and the Piedmont Family YMCA.

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Horsin' around: Galloping Grandfather keeps on riding

Harry de Leyer can fly. Photos of him soaring over seven-foot jumps atop champion steeds line the walls of his trophy-filled farmhouse in Dyke. A painting of him over the fireplace depicts that same pose: airborne.

When the Dutch-born horseman took an $80 workhorse he'd rescued on its way to the slaughterhouse to the prestigious National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden– and won– in 1958, his legendary status was assured.

That horse and de Leyer are the subject of Elizabeth Letts' just-released book, The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation, which debuted at number 10 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Of course for de Leyer, it's the third time he and his thoroughbred-butt-kicking workhorse have been the subjects of books.

Just as the story of Snowman is awe-inspiring, so, too, is de Leyer's tale of coming from war-ravaged Holland to the United States with a bride and $160 in his pocket to work at a tobacco farm in Greensboro, North Carolina. From there he parlayed his equine skills into the annals of horse history.

"My father had a brewery," says de Leyer, "and the beer was all delivered with horses. Horses were always around me."

By the time he was seven years old, de Leyer was competing in horse shows against adults. "There was...

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