Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2004

School Board names JDHS principal

JUNEAU - The Juneau School Board on Tuesday confirmed the appointment of John Norman as interim principal at Juneau-Douglas High School.

Norman, who owns a fishing lodge at Aleknagik, is expected in Juneau by the start of the school year, which is Aug. 25, said Superintendent Peggy Cowan.

Norman is an education consultant and a retired, award-winning Alaska secondary principal. He replaces Deb Morse, who leads the Juneau School District's facilities planning. The district will search for a permanent replacement in the upcoming school year.

Victim pleads for assailant's release

JUNEAU - Arguing that John P. Watson had served enough time in jail for sexual assault, his victim cried Wednesday when she learned he was going back to jail.

The woman, identified in court procedures and court paperwork by her initials, told Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins that Watson had served enough time in the year since the arrest.

She said she was tired of members of her family not talking to her because Watson was behind bars.

But after accepting Watson's agreement to plead guilty to third-degree sexual assault, Collins imposed five years with two years suspended and placed him on probation for three years. He will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Originally, Watson was charged with first- and second-degree sexual assault of the woman, who was 46 at the time.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner said the case would have been difficult to prosecute.

"I think the court has a sense of that now," he added, referring to the sobbing victim behind him.

Watson told Collins he had a prepared statement but decided against reading it. "I know this isn't going to happen again," he told the judge.

"I hope what you say is true, Mr. Watson," she answered. "The prior criminal record points to a bleaker picture."

School Board adjusts student entry ages

JUNEAU - Kindergartners must be 5 on or before Sept. 1 to enter school that year, under a Juneau School District policy that conforms to a new state law.

The Juneau School Board approved the policy Tuesday. It applies this school year.

The policy also requires students to be 6 on or before Sept. 1 to enter first grade that year. The previous date for kindergartners and first-graders was Aug. 15.

The change doesn't affect many children. But it means that children born between Aug. 16 and Sept. 1 can now attend those early grades without waiting a further year.

This year, kindergartners start the school year on Aug. 30. Children in grades one to 12 start on Aug. 25.

Anchorage toughens anti-panhandling law

ANCHORAGE - Panhandlers who touch, block, follow or swear at those they beg money from in Anchorage could be fined up to $300 or enrolled in a rehabilitative program.

City leaders trying to curtail aggressive panhandling passed the new rules that would also prohibit begging from people standing in line or at bus stops, banks and automated teller machines.

Anchorage Assemblyman Dan Sullivan said the new ordinance is meant to provide police a tool to cover a gray area between panhandling and assault.

"I'm hoping not to cause a false impression that panhandling will go away overnight, because it won't," Sullivan said.

The new law sets an escalating penalty for numerous offenses, with a maximum $300 fine.

A panhandler can choose community service and a rehabilitation program. The program is optional, Sullivan said, but a judge can order a rehab depending on the history of an offender.

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