Charlottesville Breaking News

'Unpardonable': Faulty IT system vexes college-bound County seniors

Now is a crucial time for parents and their college-bound high school seniors, but problems with a new high-tech student information system Albemarle unveiled last year have added more stress to the process. What's more, County school officials have known about the problems since last year.

Last November, in preparation for a meeting with the central office about the new system, staff from Monticello High School brought with them dozens of complaints, one of which predicted the spring debacle.

"We can't print transcripts [with the system]," wrote one student councilor. " In January we will need to send updated transcripts to colleges that list the grades earned by seniors. Transcripts were supposed to be useable by Wednesday November 3, but that didn't happen."

According to frustrated parents, problems with the systems have adversely affected the college application process, causing transcripts to be sent out late and with mistakes.

"I was told my son's transcripts were sent out incorrectly," says Cydney Simko, whose son, Alex, a senior at Monticello High with a 4.7 GPA, has already submitted applications to 12 colleges. "I was told the tech system was new and is still being programmed as they go along."

"When I found out the first week of March that mid-year transcripts had not arrived at the colleges, I was stunned," says another Monticello High parent, who is also a County elementary school teacher. " No student’s application sho...

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Fallen airman honored at Arena

Friends, family, and public officials gathered at 1pm March 9 at the Main Street Arena in Charlottesville to remember the life of Greene County airman Zachary Cuddeback, who was murdered March 2 at the Frankfurt Airport in Germany. Cuddeback was a 21-year-old Airman First Class in the United States Air Force who died, along with another Airman, after an Albanian man described as a Muslim extremist fired shots at the servicemen in a bus.

Note: This caption was rewritten from the future to the past tense for the Hook's print edition, and for accuracy the word "airman" was substituted for the word "soldier" in the headline and other copy.

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Familial hope: After East Coast Rapist arrest, Harringtons push for DNA

"Why haven't you picked me up sooner?"

That was the question that 39-year-old unemployed truck driver Aaron H. Thomas allegedly asked investigators upon his Friday, March 4 arrest in New Haven, Connecticut. Believed to be the so-called East Coast Rapist, Thomas is not suspected in the Charlottesville killing of Morgan Harrington but is linked by DNA to at least 17 attacks from Rhode Island to Virginia over a dozen years.

One Virginia prosecutor says the arrest would have come sooner if investigators had access to a controversial tool for which Morgan Harrington's parents have been pushing: familial DNA searching.

"If it had been available, this case would have been solved in '07," says Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert, adding that several females, including the three teenage girls Thomas allegedly abducted and raped in 2009 in Prince William, might have been spared.

Connecticut does not have the familial DNA searching software which might have pointed to a relative of Thomas incarcerated for a felony in Connecticut, where several of the rapes occurred.

While Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller says "no evidence" links Thomas to the 2009 killing of Morgan Harrington or to a DNA-connected 2005 Fairfax rape, Harrington's parents hope the s...

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Dumpling v. dumpling: No buffer between buffets?

The recently opened Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet on Route 29 may have some curious company in the near future, as a place called Ultimate Buffet has laid claim to the former Charlottesville Power Equipment building next door. Sources says it's going to be, yes, a big Asian-style buffet restaurant.

How could this happen?

It may have to do with our two-jurisdiction local governments, as the Hibachi Grill happens to be in Charlottesville, while the old Power Equipment building stands in Albemarle County. Who's gonna say no to the prospect of sales and meals tax revenue for their fair municipality?

Meanwhile, across the street sits the former Asian Buffet Restaurant building owned now by the UVA Foundation (that has sat vacant for nearly six years), a seemingly perfect place (and a place Peter Chang wanted) for an Asian buffet restaurant.

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Dust and promises: Amtrak lot finally getting paved

Good-bye dust devils and potholes. More than six years after the owners of Charlottesville Union Station first promised to pave the property's dusty parking lot, construction crews have finally gone to work, ending the public feud between the owners and some West Main Street business owners, who had called the lot a health hazard and a “blight on the Midtown landscape," and who were on the verge of filing a lawsuit.

"It's about time," says Delegate David Toscano, who made paving the so-called Amtrak lot one of his top priorities for the new year. "Not only will this spruce up the area and make it more attractive to businesses, but it will increase our leverage on the State to make sure money is available for continued rail service."

Indeed, since expanded rail service came to the town–- thanks in large part to the efforts of Meredith Richards and her advocacy group, the Piedmont Rail Coalition– Union Station has gained new prominence as a transportation hub. According to Amtrak, the station served 91,707 passengers last year, over 40,000 more than predicted for 2010, making it the fifth busiest st...

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