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In brief: School board adopts new math program

Spokane Public Schools’ board decided unanimously Wednesday to adopt ExchangeNY as its interim math instruction for K-8 students.

The New York State Education Department designed the math curriculum using a federal education grant. The goal was to create curriculum that aligns with Common Core – the new national standards adopted in 45 states – and make it available to all school districts.

The new curriculum is a mix of demonstrating understanding of math concepts and applying the knowledge to a problem.

The program is free, other than printing costs. It will serve as the district’s math curriculum until book publishers can create a text based on the new standards.

Spokane police officer put on paid leave

A Spokane police officer previously suspended three times for misconduct is on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation.

Officer Barry O’Connell, a 20-year veteran of the police force, was put on paid leave Nov. 29. It is not a criminal investigation, Spokane Police Department spokeswoman Monique Cotton said.

Cotton did not provide additional details but said the investigation is unrelated to any of the prior three incidents.

O’Connell was suspended for three weeks without pay in 2012 after his 10-year-old daughter accidentally shot herself in the leg with his service weapon. O’Connell was found to have violated the department’s weapons policy requiring officers to properly secure their duty weapons at home.

He was also suspended in 2010 for 80 hours without pay for “conduct unbecoming” an officer and for insubordination. In 2009, he was suspended without pay for 40 hours after accusations of sexual harassment were filed against him.

Man jailed pending trial on stalking charge

Though a clinical psychologist concluded he was not a danger to the community, a Spokane man facing a federal stalking charge who was arrested after a cache of weapons and a disturbing journal was found in his home will remain in jail until his scheduled January trial date, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Brent Russ, 33, has remained in the custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Investigators allege Russ had his neighbor, a tribal police officer, under surveillance and sent her threatening letters.

Defense attorneys have elected not to pursue an insanity plea in the case, however they have signaled intentions to prove Russ was not fully aware of the consequences of his alleged criminal acts through a diminished capacity argument. A journal found at Russ’ home indicated the 33-year-old believed he was God’s wrath incarnate.

A trial date in late January has been tentatively scheduled. Russ faces a maximum five-year prison term and a fine of up to $25,000 if convicted on the stalking charge.

Help fill database of holiday-lighted homes

Have you come across a particularly festive holiday house? Does your neighbor put up enough lights to be seen from the International Space Station? We want to know about it.

We’re creating a database of holiday homes. Visit and click the “Add a location” button. There, you’ll be asked to provide an address for the festive home, as well as a brief description of the display. We’ll need your contact information, too, but don’t worry – we’ll keep that information to ourselves. The list will be posted at the Web address above, where you can see all of the addresses, sort them by neighborhood or even create maps for your own personal tour. We’ll publish a roundup of the decorated homes Dec. 21 in the Today section.

Woman missing since visiting Loon Lake

Stevens County deputies have been searching for a Tacoma woman who has not returned home after a Thanksgiving holiday weekend stay at a cabin on Loon Lake.

Deputies were called Monday to conduct a welfare check on 51-year-old Susan Yager, KHQ-TV reported.

Deputies said witnesses reported seeing the woman in a canoe over the weekend. They later found a canoe floating in the lake.

Marine deputies and dive team members searched the lake Tuesday.

The Sheriff’s Office said the search for Yager would continue.

Crews try to stabilize area around corn silo

ROY, Wash. – Emergency crews worked into the night Wednesday to vacuum up tons of spilled corn from a collapsed grain silo in hopes of recovering the body of a buried feed mill worker.

A giant metal mesh screen attached to an excavator was brought in as crews Wednesday tried to stabilize the damaged area at the Wilcox Farms feed mill in Roy, Wash.

The man in his 50s was an employee of Wilcox Farms. He was doing routine maintenance when the silo collapsed on Monday.

The grain silos mix chicken feed for the company that produces eggs sold throughout the Northwest.


Top stories in Spokane

Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.