children

Preschoolers celebrate crowning achievement in reading

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Ken and Pam Frisch did their part to help their granddaughters earn their crowns. The granddaughters, Sophia Kulik, 3, and Savannah Kulik, 4, are among the 23 preschoolers who have met the mark in the Wood County Public Library’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge. The Frisches said they read to the girls, and then logged in the number of books. They were so impressed with the program that they stepped up to help fund it through their Frisch Family Fund. Both have backgrounds in teaching, “so reading has always been important and pretty special,” Pam Frisch said. “The library has been an important part of our family,” Ken Frisch said. Their daughters volunteered as teenagers, and now their granddaughters share that connection. Saturday, the library celebrated the first year of the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten. As part of the festivities, the children who’d reached the goal received cardboard crowns. Cassie Greenlee, who works in the Children’s Place, said 23 have met the goal. Julia Kulik, Sophia and Savannah’s mother, said the girls earned their crowns last summer. They started in May, and by August they’d notched 1000 books. “It was a lot of reading,” she said. “They love it.” The girls go to story times at the library. “Everyone in the children’s department is so great and so supportive.” Sophia will pile up picture books to her waist when she wants to read, her mother said, and that’s all the time. The grandparents said the girls go through phases in what they want to read. Right now Sophia is captivated by dinosaurs. But “we’re equal opportunity readers,” Pam Frisch said. The two-hour celebration featured a number of schools, programs and agencies that support children. Most had dinosaur-themed activities in honor of guest author Shari Halpern, whose “Dinosaur Parade” will be given to each child who signs up for the 1000 Books program. Halpern got her own start as an author-illustrator when she was a child. She enjoyed drawing and coloring. “I loved getting a new box of crayons.” She was always making things for school projects or her dollhouse. Going into art “was a given,” she said. Becoming a children’ book illustrator was her goal from the time she learned in college that it was a career opportunity. Halpern has been working in the field since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1991. Halpern’s work is rooted in her home life. As part of her short presentation, she showed a video tour of her studio made by her daughter. The studio’s shelves store vintage lunch boxes, stuffed animals, family photos and more. Halpern said her three children, now teenagers, are a source of inspiration, whether it’s their love of dinosaurs, cats, or trucks. Halpern said the 1000 Books program is “fantastic.” “I’m so impressed with all these little kids reading all these books,” she said. “It’s a really great thing.” The youngsters’ enthusiasm was evident from the start of her presentation. Halpern was showing the kids the illustrations for “Dinosaur Parade,” when one little guy chimed in with a request: “Will you read that book to us?”


Wacky Olympics & more as parks & rec summer programs begin

From BOWLING GREEN PARKS & RECREATION Bowling Green Parks and Recreation summer programs kick into gear this week. WACKY  SUMMER OLYMPICS WEEK Boys & Girls, Age 6-12 June 11-June 15  8:00AM–12:00PM $61 Resident $70 Nonresident PRESCHOOL WACKY  SUMMER OLYMPICS WEEK Boys & Girls, Ages 3.5-5.5 June 11-June 15  8:30AM–11:30AM $51 Resident $60 Nonresident Campers will get to compete in some traditional and also some  nontraditional wacky games and contests.  Sure to be fun for everyone involved!  NOTE:  Parents and non camper families are invited and encouraged to come participate in our Family Fun Wacky Olympic Picnic hosted by BG Parks & Recreation Staff on Thursday, June 14th from 6:00pm to 7:00pm.  Families can bring their picnic dinner and participate in some fun and wacky competition against other participants. 5 DAYS OF FUN AFTERNOON DAY CAMPS Boys & Girls, Age 6-12 June 11-June 15  1:00PM–5:00PM 61 Resident $70 Nonresident Have your child get to experience a little of everything that Bowling Green Parks & Recreation has to offer in this weekly afternoon camp offered at City Park and get to enjoy plenty of supervised fun at the BG City Pool and Waterpark (weather permitting).  Each day of the week has a different theme.  Kids will report to the Veteran’s Building each day and go to that day’s activities from there as a group. MONDAY FUNDAY  AT THE BG CITY PARK Activities include camp games & ice breakers and  supervised pool & splash pad play (weather permitting).   In case of  inclement weather, the kids will play games and do  arts & crafts projects at the Veteran’s Building. TERRIFIC TUESDAY AT THE VET BUILDING Kids will learn about the importance of health and   wellness and get some guidance on making healthy choices, and participating in some fitness focused   activities as well as get to play various games. WET & WILD WEDNESDAY AT  THE BG CITY POOL & WATERPARK Supervised pool & splash pad play (weather permitting).   In case of inclement weather, the kids will play indoor games and  watch a movie at the Vet building THRILLER  THURSDAYS AT THE VET BUILDING Kids will decorate cupcakes & cookies according to a theme and get to watch a movie while they enjoy their snack as well as get to play various sports and games. FRIDAY FUNDAY AT THE BG CITY PARK & POOL Kids will play their favorite fun outdoor games like  capture the flag, hide behind a tree, tag, etc. followed by supervised pool & splash pad play (weather  permitting).   In case of inclement weather, the kids will play indoor games and  watch a movie at the Vet building OUR NATURAL WORLD Boys & Girls, Age 6-8 June 11-June 15   9:00am–12pm $51 Resident $60 Nonresident Come explore the natural wonders of the Wintergarden/St. John’s Nature Preserve! Our nature camp offers a variety of activities to engage campers in the out-of-doors as they learn about plants and animals through hands-on lessons, hikes, games, and arts and crafts projects. Daily themes will engage the children and focus attention on specific nature subjects. Nature’s Nursery, a local animal wildlife rehabilitation center, will visit with their animal ambassadors and an educational program. SAFETY TOWN Boys & Girls, Age 4.5-6 (who have not attended Kindergarten yet) June 11-June 22  9:00am–12pm 8:00am-10:00am or 10:30am-12:30pm $46 Residents $55 Nonresident Every child needs to go through this program, where they…


1000 books program gets new readers off to royal start

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Some local royalty will be crowned on Saturday. About 20 local preschoolers who have “read” 1000 Books before Kindergarten will get crowns of their own as part of the celebration Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Wood County District Public Library. The 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program was launched last year, and it’s been a success, said Children’s Librarian Maria Simon. About 800 children are enrolled, with more being signed up each day. She hopes more will join on Saturday, moving the library closer to the goal of having 1,000 participants. The program encourages reading 1,000 books before children enter school. That’s not 1,000 different books. These are toddlers, and they may want to hear the same book over and over again, and then yet again. A book read aloud to a group by a child care provider or library staff member counts as well. Simon said she intentionally kept the record keeping simple. Just tally the books, without worrying about titles or minutes spent reading. Everything can be done online at wcdpl.readsquared.com. Every child who is enrolled gets a free book, and then they get stickers along with way to celebrate each 100 read. When they get halfway through, they get to pick a book from the library’s collection, and a bookplate noting their achievement is put in the book. At 1,000 they get a crown. For the inaugural year, the children received a book by Denise Fleming, who was the special guest author at last June’s kickoff celebration. Starting in Saturday, the children will receive Shari Halpern’s book “Dinosaur Parade.” Halpern will give a presentation at 11 a.m. Saturday and then sign books. Simon said both Halpern and Fleming were very supportive and enthusiastic about the program. Some of the older participants do enjoy seeing their numbers go up and up. But for most the biggest benefit of the program is the time spent with parents, or grandparents or childcare providers reading. And to get a 1,000 books read, it takes all of them. One child told, Simon that if it wasn’t for his two grandmas, he wouldn’t have read all those books. Simon said she enjoys watching children develop their taste. They get to explore the library’s large selection of picture books. They find characters they like, or realize they prefer funny books. Then after every 100 books, they get to pick a favorite in which their name can be included. “That’s been really fun to have those conversations,” Simon said. The program is collaborating with the Wood County Early Childhood Task Force. “It’s really a community partnership,” Simon said. That’s helping to draw children into the program who may not otherwise visit the library. They learn about it from their childcare providers, or at the doctor’s office or through Jobs and Family Services. It encourages people to come to the library and discover the resources that the library offers, not just for children but adults. On Saturday a number of area agencies, programs, and pre-schools will be on hand for a resource fair. The cost of the program was picked up by the Friends of the Library in the first year, and now the Library Foundation is paying the costs, Simon said.  


Courthouse tour lays down the law for BG students

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There was a bit of disorder in the courts  Monday as Bowling Green sixth graders got a close-up view of “Lady Justice.” They sat in on a court case, they offered ideas for new laws, and they met with the sheriff. And as a bonus, they learned a bit on how the county handles emergencies. The kids were awestruck by the court proceedings, and suitably impressed by the grand Wood County Courthouse. But kids being kids – they sometimes found a different focus than the intended. For example, as architect Heidi Reger pointed out the intricate stone work on the front of the 1896 courthouse, she asked the students to find the faces and animals carved into the stone. “They liked to tell a lot of stories in the stones,” she said. But during one group’s tour, Reger had some competition from above when one of the Peregrine falcons roosting in the courthouse clock tower snatched a bird for breakfast. It wasn’t long before a burst of feathers came floating down from the clock tower. Once inside the courthouse, the students got to listen to cases presented to the Sixth District Court of Appeals. The lesson there might have been that real court cases aren’t necessarily as exciting as those portrayed on television. But the students sat respectfully with little fidgeting as a case was argued about who was responsible for paying for roadwork and causeway maintenance for Johnson Island. Though the legal arguments were tedious, technical and long-winded, the students sat quietly. One court constable suggested that the sixth graders were likely intimidated by the panel of three robed judges, or by the ornate courtroom with its stained glass ceiling. After sitting through the governmental arm that rules on the law, the students heard from state legislators that make the laws. State Senator Randy Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, both R-Bowling Green, talked about their routes to the statehouse. Gardner started out as a teacher, and Gavarone as an attorney and part-owner of Mr. Spots – which seemed to impress the students. Gardner stressed to the students that they are the bosses of state legislators. “If you live in Wood County, that means you’re our boss,” he said. “We listen to you.” Both talked about bills they sponsored that involved kids – such as legislation against bullying, requiring vision screening for students, and allowing students with asthma to carry their own inhalers at school. Gardner also talked about legislation introduced by students, like the bill designating the white-tailed deer as Ohio’s official state animal. “It came right from students,” specifically sixth graders who believed Ohio should have a state animal, he said. “It was really pretty cool.” Currently, other students in Ohio are working on legislation creating an official state dog. Gardner asked the students to guess the breed under consideration. The guesses included mainstream German shepherds, golden retrievers and Chihuahuas, and more specialized Pomeranian-husky mixes, pit bulls, and Tibetan spaniels. As it turns out, Gardner said he believes it’s a Labrador retriever being put up for the position. Gardner asked the students what laws they would like enacted. One suggested a bill against animal abuse. Done that, Gardner said. Another suggested that fidget spinners be allowed in school. Not…


Studying up on ‘neighborhood’ vs consolidated schools

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some Bowling Green area voters find the school levy numbers disturbing – not the monetary numbers but the numbers of students that would be using one centralized elementary if the levy passes. While some have protested the costs of the 5.7-mill levy spread out over 37 years, these citizens object to the merging of three elementaries into one centralized building. Supporters of the change say it will enable the district to provide consistency and equity in resources and opportunities for young students. Critics say students learn better in “neighborhood schools” as opposed to “factory schools.” Both sides of the issue have presented their rationale. And as with most controversial issues, there is plenty of data to support both points of view. Kimberly Christensen, of the Bowling Green State University College of Education and Human Development, said research shows pros and cons for smaller neighborhood schools and larger consolidated schools. Centralized schools offer “higher educational quality as a result of the wider menu of educational experiences” they can provide, Christensen said. There is more consistency and greater equalization, she said. In a building where all the grades are consolidated, the educational teams can offer more connected and integrated lessons, she said.  The children benefit from having all the support staff and specialized teachers in one location, she added. For example, if a student needs to see the school therapist, the child won’t have to wait days until the therapist makes rounds to that school building. And consolidated schools have higher fiscal efficiency, she said, since there are fewer redundancies. Smaller schools, Christensen said, tend to do a better job of making students feel connected. Studies have documented better relationships are likely to occur in smaller settings. “Students feel supported and cared for,” she said. Some research has shown reduced rates of student participation in extra-curricular activities in larger schools, Christensen said. And there are concerns about kids getting lost in the largeness. “Are you going to see some left out of the process,” she said. However, the latest trend seen in school districts seems to offer the best of both educational worlds, Christensen said. Districts are working to create small schools inside big consolidated schools. “If you create that environment, it makes the larger school seem smaller,” Christensen said. With this model, students can benefit from academic teaming, access to all support staff, and more connectedness at the same time. “As long as you can create that kind of intimacy of a small school in a bigger school,” she said. “It’s going to be so important to do that.” Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci has said from the beginning that the new building would be divided into three different schools – one wing for K-1, another for grades 2-3, and one for 4-5. But opponents believe that 1,500 elementary students at one site is just too big. Supporters of smaller schools don’t deny that Bowling Green’s elementaries are currently lacking. They, however, would like to see the district spend money on improvements to the existing schools rather than building a new one. Those supporting the levy believe sinking more money into the 60-plus-year-old elementaries is not a good investment and is just kicking the can down the road. A consolidated elementary would mean…


Foster family opens home and hearts to 19 children

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some parents dream of becoming empty nesters. Quiet dinners, no pediatrician appointments, less hectic households. But Chris and Melanie Feather, of Grand Rapids, felt something was missing when their four boys grew up and moved on. So they took a bold step – bigger than buying an RV or a warm weather winter retreat – they became foster parents. “We had empty rooms,” Melanie said. “We really felt that was something we needed to do.” That was seven years and 19 children ago. “I love kids. I could probably do this forever,” Melanie said, giving a sideways glance at Chris to check his reaction. It took a few seconds, but then her husband’s straight face broke into a big silly grin. The couple, who was recently named Wood County Children Services Foster Parents of the Year, has taken in children ranging from newborns to 17-year-olds. So they now have four adult children, one adopted, plus six biological grandchildren, and “a lot of honorary” grandchildren. “I always think there’s somebody else out there who needs us,” Chris said. “There are a lot of kids who need love,” Melanie said. “They come in as strangers and leave as family.” “Or they don’t leave,” Chris said, referring to all the kids that stay in contact with the Feather family. “It makes my heart happy,” Melanie said, smiling. The Feathers readily admit the job of foster parenting isn’t easy. It ranges from fun and a blessing, to frustrating and nearly maddening – and that can be all in one day. But they try to stay focused on the goal. They are in this to get kids through rough patches in their lives that are no fault of their own. Some children don’t want to be removed from their families, no matter how bad that environment might be. “Some of the kids are mad they are in foster care,” Melanie said. She and Chris explain to the children that they realize they aren’t their parents. “But we’ll be their mom and dad as long as they need us to be.” Chris, a school bus driver and farmer, learned early on what many kids need. “The kids just want an adult’s attention,” he said. They want consistency and unconditional love. They have chores, like cleaning their bedrooms, setting the table, unloading the dishwasher. “Some of them just appreciate having a regular meal,” Melanie said. “They want somebody to talk to, who listens to what they say,” she added. And they seem to appreciate the fact that the Feathers make a big deal out of the kids’ birthdays and holidays, Chris said. Melanie, who works in the fiscal department at the Wood County Educational Service Center, at first struggled with handling girls after raising four sons. She would caution the girls that her hair styling skills were lacking, unless she consulted the Internet. Over the years, the couple has learned to “never say never.” “After the first teen, we said we’d never do that again,” Melanie said. But that didn’t last long. “We said we’d never take more than two,” at once. But they now have four foster kids, ranging from age 4 to 15 ½. There have been times that the Feathers have nearly given up on some…


Students petition for flexible seating to allow fidgeting

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   So much for stiff, hard-backed chairs in this Crim classroom. The students in Amy Kenyon’s fifth grade had enough of the uncomfortable traditional seats. They wanted flexibility – and they took action to get it. “I read an article about it,” Chasey Walker said. “So I started a petition.” “It helps us concentrate more,” another student chimed in. “Most definitely,” Dylan Krupp said. It all began when students in Kenyon’s language arts classroom were working on non-fiction reading and opinion writing. They took their lesson a step further. “We’ve made a petition,” they informed Kenyon. “And I thought – oh no,” their teacher said. Kenyon advised the students that their petition would need to be backed up by an essay. “This group then grows,” Kenyon said of the students pushing for flexible seating. Maddy Baldonado and Isa Wan started working on a persuasive essay, while Dylan began researching the costs of non-traditional seating. “I was stuck,” Kenyon said with a big grin. “I can’t tell them not to research.” The students even recruited Isabella Nardone, from another classroom, to help their cause. “They bring her in because she’s really good with words,” Kenyon said. The students researched the value of flexible seating, which allows kids to fidget and use up energy that builds up if they are forced to sit still in rigid chairs. Kenyon agreed that some students’ brains work better when their bodies are moving. “As long as the students are working, they can be comfortable,” she said. The students were so committed, they used free time on their mission to get a grant for flexible seating. “They worked on it on their own time, before school, during recess, they ate lunch in class,” Kenyon said. Dylan’s research turned up all kinds of non-traditional seating – bungee cord chairs that allow children to sink into a web of stretchy cords, wobble stools that give kids the ability to wiggle around, standing “stability discs” that allow kids to wobble, camp chairs, stools low to the floor, bouncy bands under desks that allow for foot movement, and even bicycle pedals under a desk. “I was so impressed,” Kenyon said of their dedication. Then came the next step. The students had to present their proposal to interim Principal Gary Keller. “He thought it was really good,” Kenyon said. “I almost cried. They were so good.” Then came an even bigger trial. They had to present their case to Superintendent Francis Scruci. The young activists made their pitch. “You’re fidgeting in class and just want to get out of this hard plastic chair,” their presentation began. “Kids sometimes can’t focus and want to mess around during class. They need a break in school. Flexible seating allows kids to be focused and to be comfy.” “An uncomfortable student is a distracted and unproductive student,” the students said. They compared uncomfortable seating to an empty stomach. “As the countdown to lunch approaches, the sound of his or her growling stomach will make it impossibly hard to hear the teacher’s voice. An uncomfortable chair can have the same effect.” Scruci was suitably impressed. “Francis looked at them and said, ‘You have a voice. I want to hear your voice for the remainder of your years here,’” Kenyon…


Spring weather arrives in time for Earth Day event

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After weeks of cruel winter-like weather, Mother Nature graced the region with springtime just in time for Earth Day. The sunshine was a perfect backdrop Sunday afternoon for kids learning about nature, recycling and energy at the ninth annual community Earth Day celebration. The fun lessons included serious messages, such as: An estimated 20 pounds of food per person, per month is thrown away in the U.S. Trees in public spaces in Bowling Green intercept more than 7.4 million gallons of stormwater each year. The Wood County District Public Library bookmobile runs on compressed natural gas, which is an abundant, low-cost, green alternative to gasoline or diesel. Turning off the water faucet when brushing teeth could save 5,480 gallons of water a year. The yard outside the Montessori School in Bowling Green was covered with kids learning about helping Monarch butterflies, protecting Lake Erie, planting trees and saving the Earth. Many of the children signed pledges that gave them specific ideas of how to help the Earth. To be a “Clean Water Superhero,” kids agreed to shorten their showers, pick up litter, adopt a storm drain and turn off the water when brushing teeth. Some agreed to “pick up pet poo,” to prevent bacteria from getting in water sources. The lesson, according to Bowling Green Sustainability Coordinator Amanda Gamby, is that kids can make a difference. “We can do things individually at home to help,” Gamby said. Kids learned about the importance of dragonflies, flower pollination, and nature’s food chains. They also learned how much energy is takes to operate small household appliances. With the help of Jason Sisco, engineer with the city of Bowling Green, kids pedaled a bicycle to get an idea of how hard they had to work to create enough power to run light bulbs, then a radio, a hairdryer and a fan. Children got to plant saplings and sunflower seeds to take home. They learned about the need for humans to protect Monarch butterflies. “I’m trying to get everybody excited about Monarch butterflies, and how to help them,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “Monarch populations have been plummeting for several years,” so much so that they are now on the endangered species list, she said. The reason is because the butterflies need milkweed plants for reproduction. “We’ve done such a good job getting rid of milkweed,” Stutzman said. She is trying to get Bowling Green residents to plant butterfly weed, which will attract the Monarchs back. Several Bowling Green State University environmental education students had stations set up for interactive learning. One site had three ecosystems of Lake Erie, the Maumee River and the Great Black Swamp – and children were asked to put wildlife where it belonged. “We want them to get a better idea of what’s around them, native plants and animals,” said BGSU student Carmen Highhouse. Another station examined the effects of oil spills on water and waterfowl, and discussed how solar and wind power don’t raise such risks. Oil was put into water and onto feathers, and different efforts were made to clean up the water, using sponges or skimmers. “We’re showing different ways to clean up oil,” BGSU student Piper Jones said. “We…


Facts are what ignites author & illustrator Don Tate’s imagination

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Perry Field House at Bowling Green State University Saturday hosted scores of future Don Tates. Tate, a prolific illustrator of children’s books who has turned his talents to writing as well, was the guest author for Literacy in the Park. The Austin, Texas-based author and illustrator started out just like all the kids who raised their hands when he asked: Who likes to draw? He’s been drawing since before he could remember, and showed a picture he made when he was 3 of his mother, and baby sister, and some poop falling out of the infant’s diaper. Even then, he liked to include realistic details. When he was a kid growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, Tate said he particularly liked non-fiction, including the “Family Medical Guide,” which had pictures of bloody ulcers and pus-filled toe sores. And when he turned to writing his own books, as well as illustrating them, he turned to non-fiction, writing about strongman Eugen Sandow and early African-American poet George Moses Horton. Those themes were among those reflected in the dozens of activities available to children throughout the field house. Nothing, though, about pus or bloody sores. Still the activities showed how literacy is intertwined with construction, natural science, art, drama, and nutrition. Tate encouraged his young listeners to follow what they loved whether it was dancing, theater, or soccer. Tate said as a child he wasn’t as good at basketball as his father would have liked. He instead wanted to make puppets. He realized he could make a simple puppet with patterns and cloth. He wasn’t satisfied. Using an old wig his mother gave him, he made a more elaborate puppet modeled on the Muppets made by his idol Jim Henson. His mother loved it, but Tate’s father wasn’t impressed. “Your son is making dolls,” he told Tate’s mother. Young Tate persisted drawing, painting, doing macramé. His work progressed along the way and led to a career in illustration. He’s illustrated more than 50 books, including work by such notable writers as Jack Prelutsky and Louis Sachar. When he decided to write a book, he did about 30 drafts of “It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw.” It’s a true story of a man, born into slavery, who became a renowned folk artist. Then he showed it to a published author, who loved it, and told him it needed to be rewritten. That happened twice more. But every time he rewrote it, the book got better, Tate said. A published book doesn’t just happen. When it was published, it was a success and won awards. His book on the strongman Sandow, considered the father of modern body building, was also based on fact as well as the author’s personal experience. As an adult, Tate decided to take up body building, and despite early disappointment, he went on to win trophies. Tim Murnen, BGSU faculty member coordinating the event, said bringing in Tate was a bit of a risk. He doesn’t have the name recognition of past guest authors. But he took a different path to a career in children’s literature. He went to a trade school for high school and then community college. It was a story he shared Friday with students at Penta Career Center….


873 pinwheels show extent of child abuse and neglect

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The spinning pinwheels planted in the ground by giggling children tell a very different story than it appears at first glance. “Without alarming the kids, we let them know this is something to help other children who need help,” said Susie Dunn, who brought out children from Dunn’s Kiddie Kare to plant the pinwheels in the ground. The 873 pinwheels represent the number of child abuse and neglect investigations conducted last year by Wood County Children’s Services. This year the blue and silver pinwheels bear testament along Ohio 25 where motorists will easily see them, in the front yard of Thayer Ford/Nissan, 18039 Dixie Highway, Bowling Green. The annual display of pinwheels is part of Child Abuse Awareness Month in April. The display serves as a reminder that not all children have carefree and loving lives. “We continue to run record levels of investigations,” said Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Last year’s numbers dropped slightly from the 894 cases in 2016, but the severity of the cases continue to worsen. The pinwheels are a visual reminder that the public needs to notify authorities about child abuse and neglect. “We depend on the community to report child abuse,” Wigent said. In addition to the countywide pinwheel field, individual displays are once again being planted in communities to show the number of cases in each school district. “It’s everywhere in Wood County,” said Sandi Carsey, administrator of Wood County Protective Services. Area schools will have displays on their campuses, with the number of pinwheels indicating the number of families in the district assisted by Wood County Children’s Services. The breakdown per district is: Bowling Green – 198; Eastwood – 45; Elmwood – 46; Lake – 55; North Baltimore – 75; Northwood – 72; Otsego – 54; Perrysburg – 146; and Rossford – 90. The pinwheels will be on display throughout the month of April. Some of the continuing high numbers seen in abuse and neglect cases may be due to public education efforts, Carsey said. “I think people are more aware now to call us,” she said. Another reason may be increases in drug abuse. “The reports are very serious that we’re getting,” Carsey said. “We have parents overdosing in front of their children. It’s everywhere.” Carsey noted the recent creation of the Addiction Response Collaborative through the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The program responds to opiate overdose cases. “We’re hoping that will help stem the tide,” Carsey said. Last year’s investigation numbers included the following cases: physical abuse, 250; sexual abuse, 136; neglect 392; emotional abuse, 25; dependent, 16; families in need of services, 54; and other, 21. Drugs were involved in 209 cases; 97 involved opiates.


More grandparents take over raising their grandchildren

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Parenting children the first time around is hard enough. Doing it again as a grandparent is even more daunting and exhausting. But more grandparents are finding themselves in the role of parent with their grandchildren. So on Wednesday, Bowling Green City Schools hosted a Grandparent Resource Night at Kenwood Elementary. “We have a lot of grandparents out there in the district raising their grandchildren,” said teacher Jonelle Semancik. “They don’t know where to turn for help.” Kenwood Principal Kathleen Daney said she previously worked in Lucas County, where a Kinship Caregiver program exists to help grandparents who find themselves as parents again. “There’s nothing here to support the grandparents,” Daney said. “And every year there are more and more.” So Daney asked Judy Paschalis, who previously coordinated the Kinship program in Lucas County, to share her expertise in Bowling Green. “It’s desperately needed everywhere,” Paschalis said of support for grandparents. “It’s one of the most complex family situations.” Paschalis said in 2010, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of children were being raised by their grandparents. That number has continued to increase, she said, with drugs and alcohol being the cause 99 percent of the time. “I can say I know what you’re going through – because I really do know what you are going through,” Paschalis told the audience of grandparents. She and her husband have been raising their 9-year-old granddaughter since she was 4. The job is tough for so many reasons, one being emotional. “It’s no fun having a grandchild cry because she wants her mommy,” Paschalis said. “She’s really angry at me because I’m not her mommy.” And when parents don’t show up for planned visits, the grandparents are left picking up the pieces again. So these children have lots of “trauma” and more “worries” than most children. There’s also the expense of becoming a parent again in later life, when incomes are fixed. “And then, of course, you have to buy new clothes and shoes every three months,” Paschalis said. Then, there’s the stigma that comes with raising grandchildren – as if their failures with their own children caused them to desert the grandchildren. “You didn’t do so hot with your children,” Paschalis said. “People can make them feel bad about that if they let them.” But Paschalis urged grandparents to disregard that judgment. “You have no reason to be ashamed,” she said. Paschalis stressed that services are available to grandparents parenting again. There may be cash benefits, Medicaid and child support. If they can’t get custody, they at least need power of attorney. “There is help out there that you may need,” she said. And since school has changed a lot since they first parented, they need to be persistent in asking questions. Don’t let educators use acronyms. “It’s intimidating to people,” she said. Paschalis said her granddaughter’s grades are poor, so she has learned to ask for assessments and seek help. Paschalis suggested a support group be formed for grandparents and another for the grandchildren they are raising. “They need something to help them through their pain and suffering,” she said of the children. Even something as simple as an occasional spaghetti dinner can be good for the kids and save the grandparents from having…


Conneaut students suffer chemical burns likely from toilet seat cleaner

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ten to 11 students at Conneaut Elementary suffered some type of chemical burns suspected to be caused by a cleaning product used on the school’s toilet seats. An email was sent out to Conneaut parents this morning alerting them to the situation. Principal Jim Lang explained that on Wednesday, four or five students reported to the school office complaining that the back of their legs and/or backsides were itching. The nurse examined the students and could see nothing more than irritation from where they had been scratching. The students were offered hand lotion, since it was thought the irritation was a result of dry skin. Then this morning, the school was notified by two parents who reported their children had experienced what appeared to be chemical burns from exposure to a toilet seat. By the end of school today, Lang said a total of 10 to 11 students were reported to have the red raised welts. Most, if not all, of the affected students were at school today, the principal said. “We immediately began an investigation by contacting the distributor of the cleaning products we use who assured us the product was widely used and safe for the intended purpose of disinfecting hard surfaces including toilet seats. They did suggest this could be a case of cross-contamination of chemicals or cleaning supplies,” Lang wrote to parents in the email. The directions on the cleaning product suggest that it can be sprayed onto hard surfaces and then left to air dry. “We immediately closed the bathrooms involved,” the principal said. The facilities were cleaned again with new materials. “I have instructed our custodial staff to not use it on any surface the students will come in contact with,” Lang said when reached at the end of the school day. “We will continue to investigate this matter and will take all precautions to continue to provide a safe environment for all of our students,” Lang said, urging that any parents with concerns contact him.


BG students to join National School Walkout against gun violence

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Alyson Baker is sick of hearing about students being slaughtered in their schools. She’s not alone, so Baker and other students at Bowling Green High School are organizing a walkout to coincide with the National School Walkout on March 14. “It has a lot of us really shaken,” Baker said last week. “We’re scared and we’re fed up. We don’t want to see anybody in schools hurt because of gun violence.” The National School Walkout is planned for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. on March 14, to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than Tweet thoughts and prayers in response to gun violence in schools and neighborhoods. The walkouts are based on the following beliefs: Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school. Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day. Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that address the public health crisis of gun violence. Students want Congress to pay attention and take note: many of them will vote this November and many others will join in 2020. Bowling Green’s walkout will be held on the front lawn of the high school. The public will be able to join in the event. Organizing the Bowling Green High School walkout are seniors Alyson Baker and Luther Shinew, and sophomores Keanu McClellan and Jadyn Lundquest. The local youth are being inspired by their fellow students in Parkland, Florida, who have responded to the shootings at their school with eloquence and ideas. “I’ve been to protests before, but I’ve never really led a protest,” Baker said. “It’s just so important. Now’s the time to talk about gun control.” The National School Walkout makes the following demands of Congress: Ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Expand background checks to all gun sales. Pass federal gun violence restraining order law. Fund government research on gun violence. Promote safe storage. Though young, the students are feeling empowered by their numbers. “I think this walkout is definitely going to say something,” Baker said. “I don’t think our government can ignore it. The U.S. is covered with little pins” signifying all the school walkouts. “I feel like this is something that needs to be brought to their attention,” McClellan said. “School is supposed to be the safest place.” Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci and High School Principal Jeff Dever have told the students that they won’t stand in the way of the walkout. “We can’t deny these students their First Amendment rights,” Scruci said. “I’m supportive of the protest to get some attention” on the problem of school violence. Adults in the community can join in the walkout as long as it is a peaceful event, the superintendent said. While Dever does not like students leaving their classes, he supports their rights. “First of all, I don’t want to deny anyone’s First Amendment rights,” Dever said. But he added, “Our business here is to educate kids.” No matter how well organized, the walkout will be chaotic for the school. And…


Daddies and daughters put on their dancing shoes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ben Otley tried to brush up on his Macarena dance moves Friday. But in the end, it didn’t really matter if his arms went up when they should have gone down, or if his hips went right when they should have gone left. It just mattered that he was there at the annual Daddy Daughter Dance at the Bowling Green Community Center. “It’s just a great time to spend with my girls to make memories,” Otley said as he waited for dinner with his daughters, Reagan, 12, and Maggie, 8. Maggie took off across the dance floor to show her ballet and gymnastic skills. Her dad opted to sit out that trial. “If I did, I’d have to go the hospital,” Otley said. Both girls had already posed for photos with their dad, and were waiting for a chance to dance. “Some of the girls don’t want to have their dads on the dance floor,” Reagan said. But it appeared Otley’s dance card would be full for the evening. As the 75 dads and daughters gathered in the gymnasium, the room filled with little girls in glittery dresses, sparkling shoes, and fancy hair buns. At one table, Michael Abraham and his daughter, Angellica, 8, tried to put beads on a string to make a bracelet. “I wanted to spend time with my dad,” Angellica said. “He works all the time.” Abraham, who works as a quality engineer at Jeep, was struggling to complete the bracelet, while Angellica was looking forward to dancing with her dad. “I usually step on his feet,” she said with a grin. In the kitchen, George Nicholson and his crew from Campus Pollyeyes were making pizza, pasta, breadsticks and salad for the annual dance. “They ask me to do this every year, and it’s a lot of fun,” Nicholson said. This was the second year for Beau Holley and his daughters, Morgan, 6, and Erika, 8, to attend the event. “The girls like getting dressed up and seeing their dad dressed up,” which doesn’t happen very often, Holley said. “And eating pizza is always good.” The girls were there for more than pizza. “We get to spend time with Daddy,” Morgan said. Holley was setting the expectations high for his performance on the dance floor. “I’m the best dancer you’ve ever seen,” he said with a smile at his girls. “Sort of,” Erika replied with the same grin. Jeff Peters and daughter Raylie, 5, came decked out with a yellow rose boutonnière for Dad and a matching wrist corsage for daughter. The pair was working diligently on completing the handmade bracelet. “We’ve dropped it twice already – almost a third,” Peters said as he secured the bracelet on Raylie’s wrist. Raylie had plans for the next portion of the evening. “I want to dance with my dad a lot,” she said. That meant a busy evening for Ivan Kovacevic, events coordinator with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. His job duties Friday included disc jockey. He was expecting to get a lot of requests for popular Disney music, theme songs from movies like “Frozen” and “Moana,” and of course every dad’s favorite – line dances. Mike Meeker and his daughter, Jazmin, 7, were loading up on carbs…


BG district scrutinizes safety after Parkland shooting

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In response to growing violence at schools across the nation, Bowling Green City Schools had each classroom equipped with a “Boot” last year. The “Boot” was created by Rob Couturier, of Michigan, after his daughter was the victim of a violent attack. The “Boot,” is a rectangular-shaped plate of quarter-inch thick industrial steel. Secured by two steel pegs, the plate can withstand 16,000 pounds of pressure and keep doors closed to intruders. The safety mechanism has been installed in more than 100 public schools and 18 private schools in the region. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci rests a little easier knowing every classroom in the district has a mechanism to keep an intruder out and keep the students safe inside. However, Scruci also realizes nothing is completely safe. “Anytime we’re talking about student safety, there is always more you can do,” Scruci said Thursday, the day after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed at 17. “We want to make sure kids are safe. But we can’t with 100 percent certainty,” he said. “We don’t have the resources to make them as safe as possible.” But in the case of the Parkland shooter, who reportedly went door to door to classrooms, the “Boot” would keep him from entering rooms. “That’s the beauty of the ‘Boot.’ He’s not getting in there,” Scruci said. In addition to the “Boot” on classroom doors, the Bowling Green school district also relies on students and staff to point out troubled students, hold training drills at the school, and work with local police on responding to threats. By law, every school must hold a lockdown drill at least once a year. “We just had a meeting and discussed that we need to do it more often,” Scruci said. “We don’t ever want to think this is a new normal, but we want people to be prepared.” Of course, the school district can’t prepare for every possibility, he said. The accused shooter in the Florida school pulled a fire alarm first, reportedly to have easier access to students leaving their classrooms. “Regardless of how many times we practice, you don’t know what to prepare for,” Scruci said. “We could prepare for 100 scenarios, and there would still be another 100 other scenarios we didn’t think of.” The school staff is also trained in ALICE, which urges people to leave the building safely if they can. If they can’t escape, they are trained fight back with anything available. At the suggestion of Couturier, the district’s hallways and classrooms have improved signage so police can more easily identify areas of the schools. Police are aware of the lockdown drills and have floor plans for all the schools. “We can’t say enough about partnering with our police department,” Scruci said. The police and sheriff departments also have one “Boot” installed at each office so they can train on it. Special keys coded for each building allow law enforcement to access rooms barricaded by the “Boots.” At least 60 percent of the “Boots” were purchased with donations from the community. Couturier has also said if the district renovates or constructs new buildings, his company will reinstall the equipment at no charge. Each school also requires visitors to be buzzed in at the…