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Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - November 18, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania USA WEEKEND HARRY POTTER PUZZLERS FREE INSIDE IN LIFE: A HOLIDAY BOX OFFICE PREVIEW ► PAGE DI ^ wonderful time of the year for grocers Altoona Mirror © Copyright 2001NOVEMBER 18, 2001 $1.50 newsstandMany factors influence test scores By Jay Young Staff Writer Fifth-grade teacher Susan Richardelia cautiously struck a match and lit vanilla scented candles in her classroom to set the scene for taking a test. There was fresh fruit available. Children in the halls wished her students the best of luck on this important day. Educators are catering to students like ■ How area schools fared this year compared with last / Page A7 never before because higher scores in the high-stakes assessment testing could mean more funding. Schools that received good news last week when the state Department of Education released the 2000-01 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment reading and math scores did more than assess students. Ifs one of the greatest chances for schools to shine in their communities. Schools with substantial gains over previous scores are eligible for a portion of $36 million in performance funding the department expects to release in the upcoming weeks. Each student in fifth, eighth and lith grade is tested in reading and math. Hollidaysburg and Altoona students con sistently were above the state’s average in scores released recently. Educators attribute some success to the atmosphere created during testing days. Richardelia had done research on relaxation therapy and learned burning vanilla helps create a nonthreatening atmosphere. “We do whatever we can to make the test accommodating to the kids," she said. ‘‘I wanted to do whatever I could to ease the anxiety level.” Her then-Logan Elementary class helped boost their school’s score over students from the previous year. The students were so enthusiastic about the experience they requested the vanilla scent on nontest days. That was several years ago. Richardelia now is a second-year principal at Ebner Elementary, where math and reading scores also increased. Please see Testing/Page AG Presents of mind ■ In wake of uncertainty, retailers say shoppers are looking harder for the perfect holiday gift. By Craig Williams Staff Writer November traditionally is the beginning of the holiday retail season. But this year area businesses say something is different. It could be that the weather still seems like early fall instead of a seasonal winter. It could be that each day seems to bring news of another company layoff or more evidence of a slowing economy. But what seems to stand to many shopkeepers is how the Sept. ll terrorist attacks and the subsequent war has shoppers reexamining what holidays mean to them. “The crowds are coming in earlier this year, and more families are shopping,” said Joy Weidel, associate marketing director at the Logan Valley Mall. Weidel said the big department stores also are focusing their marketing efforts on “friends and family” sales. Earlier this month, J.C. Penny Co. Inc. found success with that type of a sale, which was the store’s most profitable event of the year. Store manager Bill Crouse said shopping together has a special appeal. “At this point, it looks pretty good, and sales have been brisk,” he said of the early holiday shopping season. The season kicks off in earnest on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when retail stores’ registers really start ringing. By some estimates, the gift-giving season makes up near- Mirror photos by Gary M Baranec Retailers have seen an early jump on shopping this year as consumers re-examine what the holiday season means to them. Above: Vi Worley of Greenwood buys Christmas gifts at Wal-Mart in Plank Road Commons. Below: Missy Reese of Flinton waits in line at Kmart, Altoona, to purchase items for Christmas. mood,” said Brian Miller, executive team leader of the Target store on Sierra Drive. “I believe everyone is going to be more giving this year because of the tragedies. Families are coming together. I see it in my church. The church is fuller now.” It’s not that sales figures are much different than last year, when home entertainment prod ucts, women’s apparel and jewelry were at the top of gift-giving lists. It’s just that personal gifts have become more personal. Don Beerbower, manager of Beerbower Jewelers in Hollidaysburg, said customers are looking longer and harder to make their purchases special. Please see Presents/Page A9 ly one-quarter of all retail spending. With the economy slowing, air travel at a crawl and national security a daily uncertainty, many store managers say the buying public is reassessing what is important in life and staying closer to home. “People are more in a family WAR ON TERRORISM ► Pages Bl, B2 Hijacker letter found By Melissa Eddy The Associated Press FRANKFURT, Germany — Authorities have found a package containing a lengthy letter from Sept. ll hijacker Ziad Jarrah to his girlfriend, telling her he would not return from the United States, German prosecutors confirmed Saturday. Fra uke Scheuten, spokeswoman for the federal prosecutors office, said a package containing the letter had been sent to Germany by Jarrah, suspected of flying the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. The package was returned to the United States, where authorities discovered it, she said. Besides the letter, which Scheuten described as a love letter bidding his girlfriend farewell, the package also contained papers about Jarrah’s flight training, she said. “I have done what I had to do,” the German weekly Der Spiegel quoted the letter as saying in a Saturday release of its Monday edition. “You should be very proud because it is an honor and in the end you will see that everyone will be happy.” According to Der Spiegel, the four-page letter is dated Sept. IO, and authorities believe it was written hours before the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were carried out. Please see Hijacker/Page A5 LIONS PREVAIL State mum as welfare reform deadline nears BY JEANETTE KREBS capitolwire.com Families will reach the five-year welfare cutoff in a few months, but advocates say the state has yet to say how it will help those in danger of losing benefits. As many as 8,500 adults are moving toward the five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance that will begin March 3. The state has the ability to exempt up to 20 percent of families on assistance. Under the federally mandated welfare reform plan, the state has the ability to exempt up to 20 percent of families on assistance. But so far, the state Public Welfare Department has not given any details of who will be covered by the hardship exemption. Members of the state Welfare Coalition say they are concerned by the department’s silence. A meeting was planned for Friday to discuss the upcoming deadline with the department, but officials canceled it and did not reschedule. “We are very concerned about it,” said Rachel Canning of Just Harvest, a public policy and anti-hunger group near Pittsburgh. Canning, whose organization is an advocacy, religious and labor group in the Welfare Coalition, said the department already should have made public its policy on those who will be exempted. Please see Welfare/Page A9 Mi ■MMI BEU VERY Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 287-4480 BIG FOUR 8    7    (6    ll ■ Lottery numbers, A2 WEATHER Mostly sunny, 63° ■ Forecast, A2 HOT-A DS. Qom We're white-hot! Altoona iHtrror I THE GREAT COMBINATION Call us today...Make money today. Ask for THE GREAT COMBINATION of MIRROR CLASSIFIEDS and HOI -ADS Phone (814) 946-7422 or fax us at (814) 946-7547 DLOCAL Hospitals A13 Obituaries A13 Opinion AS Politics A4,12 □nation m World news B4 Strange Brew B3 I 13 smuts Outdoors CS Scoreboard CB □ in Astrograph 04 Movies D3 Puzzle 04 Stocks    E2,3 CDs, Mutuals    E4 Travel D6 •J* ncnmmnmm Couples    Q2 Yesteryear    G3 I y Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich Much-maligned quarterback Matt Senneca stars in Penn State's victory over Indiana University Saturday at Beaver Stadium. For coverage, see the Mirror’s Penn State Extra, Pages Cl,2,13,14 ;

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