Professor accused of killing 3 in tenure dispute

Three were killed in a Feb. 12 university shooting.

Three UAH faculty members were killed in a Feb. 12 shooting.

Tragedy rocked the University of Alabama campus in Huntsville Feb. 12 when a female biology professor allegedly gunned down six colleagues, three of them fatally, in an apparent dispute over tenure.

After the initial shock, higher-education officials from across the nation are reviewing the details to see if there is anything they can learn from the latest deadly campus shooting.

Amy Bishop, 42, a Harvard-educated neurobiologist who became an assistant professor at the school in 2003, has been charged with capital murder—a rare instance of a woman being accused in a mass shooting. Bishop, known as a bright woman who some students said struggled to explain complicated topics, is also a mother of four children.

She was taken Friday night in handcuffs to the county jail, and she reportedly said as she got into a police car: “It didn’t happen. There’s no way. … They are still alive.”

Students’ assessments of Bishop varied. Some recalled an attentive, friendly teacher, while others said she was an odd woman who couldn’t simplify difficult subjects for students. Sammie Lee Davis, the husband of a tenured researcher who was killed, said his wife had described Bishop as “not being able to deal with reality” and “not as good as she thought she was.”

Davis said his wife was a tenured researcher at the university. In a brief phone interview with the Associated Press, Davis said he was told his wife was at a meeting to discuss the tenure status of another faculty member who got angry and started shooting.

Davis’ wife, Maria Ragland Davis, was among those killed, along with Gopi K. Podila, chairman of the biological sciences department, and Adriel Johnson.

Bishop had created a portable cell incubator, known as InQ, that was less expensive than its larger counterparts. She and her husband had won $25,000 in 2007 to market the device.

Andrea Bennett, a sophomore majoring in nursing and an athlete at UAH, said a coach told her team that Bishop had been denied tenure, which the coach said might have led to the shooting.

Bennett described Bishop as being “very weird” and “a really big nerd.”

“She’s well-known on campus, but I wouldn’t say she’s a good teacher. I’ve heard a lot of complaints,” Bennett said. “She’s a genius, but she really just can’t explain things.”

Amanda Tucker, a junior nursing major from Alabaster, Ala., had Bishop for anatomy class about a year ago. Tucker said a group of students complained to a dean about Bishop’s classroom performance.

“When it came down to tests, and people asked her what was the best way to study, she’d just tell you, ‘Read the book.’ When the test came, there were just ridiculous questions. No one even knew what she was asking,” Tucker said.

However, UAH student Andrew Cole was in Bishop’s anatomy class Friday morning and said she seemed perfectly normal.

“She’s understanding, and was concerned about students,” he said. “I would have never thought it was her.”

Nick Lawton, 25, described Bishop as funny and accommodating with students.

“She seemed like a nice enough professor,” Lawton said.


Win $800,000 to improve the effectiveness of rehabilitation services

The purpose of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers program is to improve the effectiveness of services authorized under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, through advanced research, training, technical assistance, and dissemination activities in general problem areas, as specified by National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Such activities are designed to benefit rehabilitation service providers, individuals with disabilities, and the family members or other authorized representatives of individuals with disabilities.


Up to $750,000 to recruit and train principals at high-need schools

The School Leadership Grant Program is designed to assist high-need local educational agencies (LEAs) in recruiting and training principals (including assistant principals) through such activities as: providing financial incentives to aspiring new principals; providing stipends to principals who mentor new principals; carrying out professional development programs in instructional leadership and management; and providing incentives that are appropriate for teachers or individuals from other fields who want to become principals and that are effective in retaining new principals. The deadline to submit a Notice of Intent to Apply is March 8, 2010.


Win up to $50,000 for excellence in children’s media

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop are challenging innovators nationwide to submit applications for their Prizes for Innovation. Applicants can apply to the Breakthroughs in Mobile Learning competition and/or the Breakthroughs in Literacy Learning: Innovate with “The Electric Company” competition.

To apply to the Breakthroughs in Mobile Learning competition, applicants should submit projects that push the current boundaries of mobile learning. The winner will receive $50,000 to put towards development of their project, as well as other supports that will help scale the project.

To apply to the Breakthroughs in Literacy Learning: Innovate with “The Electric Company,” applicants should submit ideas for a digital media experience that will promote literacy learning among struggling readers using Sesame Workshop’s revival of the iconic literacy show, “The Electric Company.” The winner will receive $10,000 and the opportunity to work with Sesame Workshop to turn their idea into a possible product that could reach children and families nationwide.


$25,000 for those who expand innovation through communities

The McGraw-Hill Companies are seeking nominations for the 2010 Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize in Education. The award recognizes notable individuals in education who have mastered the art of “scaling up,” or building upon successful programs. The McGraw Prize will honor leaders from all three levels of education: elementary, secondary, and post-secondary.  Winners will have developed programs exhibiting strong school-business partnerships, family engagement, use of cutting-edge technology, and data-driven decision making, among other practices.


Up to $300,000 to improve achievement of children with disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education has released the Steppingstones of Technology Innovation for Children With Disabilities notice inviting applications for new awards for fiscal year 2010. Grantees will develop, implement, and evaluate innovative technology approaches designed to improve results for children with disabilities. Phase one projects must develop, refine, and test the feasibility of specific technology based approaches. Phase two projects must subject technology-based approaches to rigorous field-based research to determine their effectiveness.


Michigan schools could win screen capture and recording software grants

TechSmith Corp. is donating up to $2 million in worth of screen capture & recording software to Michigan K-12 schools in support of quality and continuity of learning. A new application period begins each month. The grant program ends June 30 or when the $2 million grant pool is exhausted. The next deadline is Feb. 28.

Applicants are encouraged to apply during the first application period, as TechSmith cannot predict how long the pool will last. Grant recipients will be notified within one week of the close of each period.


Up to $15,000 to train caregivers of older adults

The Caregiving Project for Older Americans, a partnership of the International Longevity Center-USA and the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education, announced a fourth year of funding for the Community College Training Initiative grants. The grants, offered through support from MetLife Foundation, are designed to encourage community colleges to develop training programs that are both accessible and effective for caregivers of older adults.

This year, up to thirteen grants of up to $15,000 will be awarded to community colleges and other two-year institutions. At a minimum, programs being considered must have an implementation plan that’s set to begin by September 2010, with full implementation of the program to occur by Spring 2011.


Lawmakers seek to overhaul e-Rate

The new bill would provide student vouchers for internet access.

The new bill would provide student vouchers for internet access.

A new House bill seeks to overhaul the e-Rate, which provides telecommunications discounts to eligible schools and libraries, to make it a more useful tool in the federal government’s National Broadband Plan.

Introduced Feb. 9 by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and co-sponsored by Reps. Lois Capps and Doris Matsui, both California Democrats, the “e-Rate 2.0 Act of 2010” (H.R. 4619) would allow the e-Rate to help bridge the digital divide in students’ homes, fund electronic books in schools, and adjust its coverage for inflation. Under Markey’s proposal, Head Start programs and even community colleges would be eligible for some funding.

“This critical bill will help narrow the digital divide by increasing the range of the latest telecommunication services and devices accessible to low-income students, including residential broadband services and eBooks incorporated into students’ classroom lessons,” said Markey in a statement. “The original e-Rate bill that I [co-] authored has largely fulfilled its mission of linking up schools to the web. The fact that only 14 percent of K-12 classrooms had internet access at the time the 1996 bill was enacted, compared to more than 95 percent today, is a testament to that success. Now, with the expansion of the scope of technology, students need more than just web access at school, and our e-Rate 2.0 bill is intended to reflect those expanded needs.”

Bridging the divide

The bill would create a pilot program that would allow funding in the form of vouchers to eligible students from low-income families. The vouchers would be used to offset monthly service fees for home broadband service.

To be eligible, students would need to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, attend secondary schools that receive support under the e-Rate program, and already have a computer at home.

The program calls for up to $500 million per year in funding for this pilot program, which would be in effect for five years.