School funding formula progresses

JEFFERSON CITY — Negotiators from the House and Senate agreed Wednesday evening on a proposal to change the formula used to distribute state money to local schools. The revised proposal made it to the Senate floor several hours after the compromise was reached, and Senators planned to discuss the revised proposal into the evening.

On Tuesday night, the House debated its version of the bill, which seeks to address a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than half of the state school districts, for 10 hours as Gov. Matt Blunt watched from a gallery. The House eventually passed the proposal at 3:20 on Wednesday morning.

Bad weather lengthens dismissals

Students heading home Wednesday afternoon encountered more after-school traffic congestion than the usual when two tornado warnings and several thunderstorm warnings were issued in Boone County.

Heavy rain, hail — ranging in size from peas to golf balls — and flash flooding characterized the storm, said Suzanne Fred of Boone County’s Public Safety Joint Communications Center.

Pharmacists cite morals for pill bans

As arguments intensify nationwide over pharmacists’ right to dispense prescriptions based on personal beliefs, an unprecedented survey found limited access to emergency contraception, or EC, in Missouri’s pharmacies, particularly in rural areas.

In March and April, the NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri Foundation conducted its Pharmacy Access Survey of 920 pharmacies in Missouri.

Methodists to pay $6 million in rape suit

A judgment in a civil suit over the alleged rape of a choir director has saddled the Missouri Conference of the United Methodist Church with a damage award that exceeds the conference’s total available cash.

A Greene County jury last week ordered the conference, headquartered in Columbia, to pay $6 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Teresa Norris, who alleges that the Rev. David Finestead raped her in Campbell United Methodist Church in Springfield on the night of March 25, 1998. Norris kept silent about the alleged rape for more than a month before contacting the city prosecutor, said her lawyer Daniel Craig. She never brought criminal charges against Finestead, who Craig said threatened and belittled Norris so she wouldn’t talk.

Bike journey gets risky with rain

When Bike, Walk and Wheel Week was created three years ago, the idea was to have people leave their cars at home so they could get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors through alternative forms of transportation.

It was not created with Wednesday’s weather in mind. I awoke yesterday morning and noticed that it was overcast, but I didn’t think much of it. Thunderstorms had been projected two days before and that had been a beautiful day.

Collegiate comeback

Less than two years ago, college officials said that without drastic changes, Stephens College would have to close within three years.

Wendy Libby, then chief financial officer at Furman University in South Carolina, was hired as president to turn things around. During a year-long strategic planning process, which culminated in October with a five-year “Renaissance Plan,” it became clear that the institution’s success lies in Stephens being Stephens.

Flat Branch plans to go smoke-free this month

On May 27, Flat Branch Pub and Brewing will go smoke-free.

General Manager Jim Lee said that all areas inside the building, including the employee break room, will be nonsmoking, but that guests will still be allowed to smoke on the outdoor patio. Currently, the bar area and the break room are the only two areas in the building where smoking is permitted.

Columbia's city planner search ends

The city’s nearly year-long search for a new planning director ended Tuesday when City Manager Ray Beck announced the selection of Timothy Teddy of the village of Lemont, Ill., to lead the department.

Teddy, 45, will begin his new job on June 20. He’ll be paid $83,000 a year plus a $300 monthly car allowance.

Wal-Mart run turns into afternoon adventure for cyclist

Today I embarked on an errand that many of us make, perhaps on a daily basis. You guessed it. The Wal-Mart run. This simple errand becomes quite the adventure on a bike.

I live on the corner of College and University avenues, so the Wal-Mart Supercenter is just a five-minute car ride down the road. I obviously knew this would make for a longer trip on the bike. My concern was the ongoing construction on Broadway.

Area briefly

Woman held in stabbing incident

A Columbia woman has been arrested on suspicion of stabbing another woman early Monday evening.

Responding to disaster

Dealing with disasters is nothing new for Columbia-native Jeff Chinn. In the past six years, he has volunteered in more than a dozen domestic disasters with the American Red Cross and has just returned from his first international aid experience.

Chinn spent two months in Sri Lanka helping victims of the Dec. 26 tsunami. Nothing he had seen before compared to the devastation in the small island nation, which was hit by 30-foot waves in the disaster.

Legislature split on seat belts

An unusual alliance between Democrats and rural Republicans in the Missouri House on Tuesday defeated a measure that would allow police to pull over motorists for failing to wear seat belts.

The House’s 91-69 vote stripped the seat belt language from state Senate Bill 221, a larger transportation bill that would also repeal a law requiring adult motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Schools evaluate teachers’ sick days

Margaret Haxel taught from a wheelchair for two years in the Moberly School District before retiring in 2004. She needed four surgeries — one to replace each hip and knee. After two of the surgeries, she needed help, and more time to recover than her sick days allowed. Both those times, she used her school’s sick leave pool to give her those extra days.

With a pool system, teachers can donate one of their sick days to a pool and then be eligible, if necessary, to use those sick days in addition to the days they have already earned. Haxel did not remember how many days she used from the pool the first time in 2003, but the following year she used the pool for five days.

Pleas entered in ‘Doe’ case

KANSAS CITY — A judge entered not guilty pleas Tuesday for the mother and stepfather charged with killing a girl found beheaded in Kansas City four years ago.

Michelle M. Johnson, 30, and Harrell Johnson, 25, both of Muskogee, Okla., face one count of second-degree murder and endangering the welfare of a child.

House rejects bill limiting county restrictions on big livestock barns

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House narrowly defeated a bill Tuesday that would have made it more difficult for counties to impose restrictive ordinances on farms with large livestock barns.

Family farm activists and environmental groups applauded the 84-77 vote, which shot down a bill that already had been scaled back in an effort to try to pick up support. Opponents worried that it would take away control from local governments.

Retiring public works director to be honored

The city will host a reception today to celebrate the retirement of Public Works Director Lowell Patterson.

The reception, which will be held at 3:30 p.m. in the City Council chambers, will mark the end of Patterson’s 19-year career as director of the city’s second-largest department.

Q&A: Mike Jeffers

Mike Jeffers, 44, who will take over as principal at Hickman High School on July 1, is ready to immerse himself in the traditions of another school. He has worked at Truman High School in Independence for his entire 21-year career, most recently as head principal. Andy Kohl, associate principal at Truman and recently hired as principal of Rock Bridge High School, told Jeffers about the opportunity at Hickman. The prospect of change intrigued Jeffers, and the culture and customs at Hickman made it an ideal choice.

School district refines budget plans

The Columbia Board of Education identified priorities for unused money in the 2005-06 proposed budget Monday night.

Before Monday, the budgeted revenue for the 2005-06 year was $8,513,424, with expenditures totaling $8,315,000, leaving a total of $198,000 left for unidentified use.

Q&A: Andy Kohl

Beginning July 1, Andy Kohl will take over as the new head principal at Rock Bridge High School. Although Kohl enjoys hunting, sports and cars, his real passion is working with students.

Kohl said he realized his fervor for teaching at Central Missouri State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in math and education after attending Truman State. He earned his master’s degree and an educational specialist degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in educational administration. Kohl, his wife, Susan, and their three kids are looking forward to the move to Columbia. Kohl agreed to answer a few questions about his future as Rock Bridge’s new principal.

Getting time on your side

If there two things any MU student would say they need more of, they would be time and money.

And during finals week, time becomes the more valuable commodity.