Community

All the world’s a stage for Gonzalez and her students

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News At age 5, Dr. Jo Beth Gonzalez made her stage debut as a carrot. The crowd responded with laughter. “I was hooked,” she said. That former carrot now cultivates that same love of theater in students. She has planted the seed for several Bowling Green High School students, and now feels the thrill as their confidence blossoms on stage. On Thursday, Gonzalez was recognized as one of Bowling Green’s inspirational educators by the Kiwanis Club. Several parents in the Kiwanis audience talked about the difference Gonzalez made in their children’s lives. One relayed how after his first time in the spotlight, her son walked off the stage and said, “I want to do this forever.” Her students have gone on to become professional actors, playwrights and Broadway musical performers. “Jo Beth changes brains and hearts,” said Kiwanis member Scott Regan as he introduced Gonzalez. But that almost didn’t happen. Gonzalez had no intention of becoming a teacher. After her kindergarten debut in theater, she became one of those kids who built stages in the basement. She was playwright, director and actor – to anyone who would be her audience. “Teaching was not on my radar,” she said. Gonzalez wanted to be a part of theater – not a teacher. But when her efforts in theater did not go as planned, her husband Al suggested that she get her teaching certificate. That was not what Gonzalez had envisioned for herself. “I thought a degree in teaching would stick me in a box,” she said. Little did she know, that box was a ticket to theater for her and for countless children she would teach. “Teaching was hard,” but the rewards were overwhelming. She got her masters, then her doctorate, then a job opened at Bowling Green City Schools. Gonzalez guaranteed High School Principal Eric Myers that she would stay one year. “That was 22 years ago,” she said. Her inspiration every day as she enters Room 117 at the high school is the same – her love of theater and of the students. “We…

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Iler turns mistakes into learning moments for his students

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Biology teacher Josh Iler isn’t bashful about his failures. “Failure is the best thing on the planet,” Iler said with a grin. So he teaches his students at Bowling Green High School to not be afraid of making mistakes. “Embrace failure. You will screw up way more than you will ever succeed,” Iler said as he spoke to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club after being named one of the district’s inspiring educators of the year. Not one for public recognition, he titled his talk “Mr. Iler – an inspirational educator or just a guy doing his job?” To Iler, that means showing students how much can be learned from mistakes. Some of those mistakes he shared with Kiwanis – like the photo of him in the crawl space after neglecting to turn on the sump pump. “You will learn to never do that again,” he said. Or the photo of the deer that he missed because he left his rangefinder at home. “I’ll never do that again.” Or the video of the deer lungs that he inflated in his classroom by blowing into a tube – allowing students to see them expand and retract. “You may ask, ‘why is this on the failure page, Mr. Iler,’” he said to the Kiwanis. That would be because he made the mistake of inhaling through the tube, causing many in his audience to cringe. That’s part of what makes Iler an unconventional teacher. He has a natural talent with students, according to Jodi Anderson, secondary curriculum coordinator for Bowling Green City Schools. He excels at creating meaningful relationships with students, she said. That was evidenced when Iler enlisted the help of students in taming the overgrown courtyard area at the high school – building a koi pond and planting landscaping beds. Superintendent Francis Scruci said seniors came in on weekends and during their spring break to help with the project. “That’s a testament to what you do in the classroom,” Scruci said. Iler’s response was, “I don’t know any other way.” Though he’s been teaching biology…


School task force debates how community should pay for buildings

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News It’s not just the dollars and cents – but also who should foot the bill for school buildings – that the school finance task force is debating. The task force met Wednesday evening at Crim Elementary School to look at some preliminary costs for district taxpayers. The questions are many – how much should the district spend on new or renovated buildings; what type of tax should be used; and how many years should a bond issue cover. “What’s best for the majority of people,” asked David Conley, the district’s financial consultant with Rockmill Financial Inc. But task force member Barb Belleville suggested the task force view it differently. “How about how to make sure everyone pays their fair share,” she said. Another task force member suggested yet another perspective. “Can we just look at affordable ways for our community to support this,” Tracy Hovest said. No matter what type of tax is sought by the district, there will be some residents more burdened than others, Conley said. “It’s up to you all to sort of evaluate what you consider the right way for the district,” he said. “It doesn’t matter which tax structure you pick – it will burden someone more than someone else. It’s not a fair system.” Conley plugged in various numbers to calculate how much the average Bowling Green School District taxpayer would pay with different options. He stressed that all the numbers were very preliminary. “We’re just experimenting,” he said. All of the calculations were based on the goal of raising $41 million (which is the maximum amount being considered so far by the school facilities task force.) Based on that goal, the following costs to the average taxpayer were calculated: $181.50 per year ($15.12 per month) if a property tax was used, with bonds over a 37-year period.$256.29 per year ($21.36 per month) if property tax and traditional income tax both paid for half of the $41 million.$331.08 per year ($27.59 per month) if a traditional income tax paid the entire $41 million.$662.15 per year ($55.18 per…


Buttonwood Park overrun, damaged by ice jam again

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Buttonwood Park has again been overrun by ice chunks and water from its neighbor the Maumee River. This is the second time in four years that the river has unloaded ice and floodwater in the county park. “It’s a mess,” Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said during Tuesday’s meeting of the county park board. “It’s going to be a while till we get in to take a look at it.” But a park employee’s personal drone has taken photos showing the damage they can’t get to by vehicle or on foot. The images show a park sign, gate, information kiosk and some parking lot posts moved or destroyed by ice that appeared to reach eight to 10 feet high in the park. The photos also show the parking lot full of water, gravel shifted and boulders moved by the power of the moving ice and water, soccer fields covered with ice, and trees scarred by ice. Munger is hoping the damage is less than that caused by an ice jam in 2015. “The ice was feet thick then, so I hope maybe this limited devastation,” he said of the thinner ice that came ashore last week. “My hope is we don’t have major damage like that.” But Munger isn’t sure when it will be safe to enter the park, which is located where Hull Prairie Road dead-ends into the Maumee River in Perrysburg Township. “It’s a wall of ice. It’s going to be a while,” he said. “And winter isn’t over yet,” said Tom Myers, chairman of the park board. The fact that the flooding has occurred twice in four years, should give the park district pause about investing money into the park, said Denny Parish, vice chairman of the board. “I think this is a losing proposition – investing in Buttonwood,” Parish said. “I see this as a long-term problem.” Munger pointed out that the park district has no permanent structures at the park, aside from fencing and a gravel parking lot, because of the risks. Since the last flooding,…


Rover pipeline tax payments pumping into county coffers

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Pipeline tax revenue has started flowing into Wood County coffers. After much skepticism – some fueled by exaggerated tax estimates from pipeline officials themselves – the property tax payments from the Rover Pipeline project have been made to the county. And soon that money will be on its way to local schools, libraries, townships and other governmental entities. Rover Pipeline has paid a full year of property taxes in Wood County – adding up to $4.2 million, Wood County Auditor Matt Oestreich said on Tuesday. School districts will get nearly $2.7 million, county agencies will get $1 million, townships will take in $422,557, and local libraries will get $65,565. Rover Pipeline, with $57.5 million in property value, has now outpaced Toledo Edison. “They’ve become the most valuable single taxpayer in the county,” Oestreich said. And by next year, a second side-by-side Rover pipeline should be in operation – potentially doubling the tax revenue, the county auditor said. Oestreich said the hesitancy by school districts and other entities to bank on the pipeline is reasonable. “Schools are all waiting,” he said. Rover pipeline did not appeal its tax bill this year, but that right to appeal is offered annually, Oestreich said. “They can appeal next year, potentially they can do that every year,” he said. Oestreich said utilities do sometimes appeal, most recently Troy Energy located in Troy Township. The pipeline will continue to pay local property taxes throughout a 30-year depreciation cycle. The tax revenue coming in from the pipeline will lower the rates for others paying in the county. “That’s a positive for normal residential taxpayers,” said Karen Young, of the county auditor’s office. Much of the skepticism with Rover’s tax payments was due to the company’s exaggerated estimates of how much local entities would reap from the pipeline coming through the area. Some of those estimates, made when trying to woo support from local entities, went as high as $3 million a year for entities like Henry Township. However, that township will actually get $143,245 this next year. In 2015, when…


Food stamps vulnerable to possible federal shutdown

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News If the federal government shuts down again at the end of this week, local services cannot make up for the hit to the food stamp system. The federally funded food stamp program, now called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), helps feed 6,200 people in Wood County. When the federal government was shutdown for 35 days earlier this year, local officials expressed concern about how the food assistance would continue. Those officials last week warned the Wood County Commissioners that local government cannot replace the food program if it is again crippled by the federal government. Dave Wigent, director of the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services, told the commissioners that the SNAP system helps people truly in need. “The community has a bias against the poor,” Wigent said. “The majority of the people in the program are children or elderly,” he said. “They are not able-bodied men sitting at home drinking.” Many of the 3,000 households getting SNAP have family members who are disabled. “The program really does help folks who need it,” Wigent said. If the looming federal shutdown occurs again, those families will be hurting – and there won’t be enough local funding to compensate, he said. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw asked about domino effect of the shutdown. Does the loss of food stamps create even more dire straits for families, she asked. Definitely, Wigent replied. “It’s systemic. Those people don’t just go away,” he said. Problems started by a lack of food at home, tend to show up elsewhere. Children start showing up at school without lunches. Parents react to the stress of not having enough food. “Then we would have children streaming into Children’s Services,” which deals with abused and neglected children, Wigent said. When the shutdown lingered throughout January, the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services rushed to get food assistance out to local SNAP recipients, explained Laura Seifert, administrator of the Income Maintenance Unit. Workers came in on a weekend to ensure that the support got out before the federal funds were…


City and Wood Lane to swap lots in Bowling Green

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News A land swap is in the works between the City of Bowling Green and Wood County Developmental Disabilities. The city’s Board of Public Utilities agreed Monday evening to the exchange – trading with Wood Lane a lot that the city no longer needs, and getting a property that the city could use and Wood Lane no longer desires to own. The trade involves the house at 316 N. Church St., and a vacant lot at 1236 Conneaut Ave. Wood Lane currently owns the house located just to the north of the city administration building on North Church Street. The city currently owns the vacant lot on the north side of Conneaut, east of Wintergarden Road. The land swap would be mutually beneficial to both parties, according to Brian O’Connell, public utilities director for the city. Wood Lane Superintendent Brent Baer approached the city about the possibility of selling the residential facility to Bowling Green. The house has been appraised at $175,000. The parcel is attractive to city officials, since the municipal offices are suffering from a lack of space in the current building next door at 304 N. Church St. Bowling Green officials have already talked about using the city-owned space to the east of the municipal building once the Wood County Senior Center moves to its new building on South Grove Street. If a new city building is constructed along North Main Street, the Wood Lane parcel would likely provide additional parking space. Also, the lot could provide flexibility for the new building design. According to the board of public utilities, the Wood Lane lot would increase the available building area to 1.85 acres – which is a 12 percent increase in space. Until a decision is made on the construction of a new city building, the house could be rented out to provide revenue for the city. O’Connell estimated it could generate about $1,000 a month. Now for the other property on Conneaut Avenue. The city purchased the vacant lot at 1236 Conneaut Ave. in 2011, using the water and sewer…