Dallas Observer staff writers Kaylois Henry and Thomas Korosec have been named winners of the Benjamin Fine Award for Education Reporting, a national honor presented by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
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Kaylois Henry won in the non-daily newspaper category for "Academy of dreams," an April 11, 1996, story that detailed the checkered career of Fred Hampton, who tried to start a prep school for black youths in Dallas using the phony name "Yileeh Amani Sha." Henry tracked the mysterious "Mr. Sha" to his hometown of Milwaukee, where he was under investigation by the district attorney's office for fraud involving Wisconsin state school vouchers.
Fred Hampton disappeared from Dallas soon after Henry's story appeared, evidently taking with him the deposits dozens of Dallas parents had paid to guarantee places for their children in Hampton's school. He showed up next in a Houston jail; Milwaukee authorities had ordered his arrest for fraud.
Thomas Korosec also won in the non-daily category for an October 3, 1996, cover story titled "Last in the class: Why nobody will erase the board at Wilmer-Hutchins, the worst-run school district in Texas." Korosec dispelled an old myth--that the poor state of Wilmer-Hutchins schools stemmed from the area's relative poverty. Instead, Korosec detailed the petty maneuverings of Wilmer-Hutchins' board of trustees, who were known not only for cussing and throwing things at each other during board meetings, but for making rash personnel decisions that ended up costing the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A total of 12 Benjamin Fine Award winners were named Monday, as well as several honorable mentions. Deborah Anderluh of The Sacramento Bee won the grand prize.