Education

State funding options for schools can be slippery issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News A glimmer of hope has gotten dimmer for one state funding option for Bowling Green City Schools. During a presentation last month, one of the state funding options for school facilities looked promising … until a task force member asked more questions. The Bowling Green district is at least a decade down on the list for funding from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. So when Steve Roka, senior planning manager with the OFCC, met with the district’s finance task force and presented the option of funding through the state’s Exceptional Needs Program, it sounded worth pursuing. However, when Roka answered follow-up questions through email from task force members, the chance for funding anytime soon looked more remote. Roka said during the meeting that ENP funding typically covers only the very worst buildings in the state – such as those with dangerous electric systems. The funding can only be used for new buildings, not renovations. David Conley, the district’s consultant through Rockmill Financial, referred to the ENP as a “beauty contest,” with the ugliest building in the state winning. Roka presented the ENP option as a way Bowling Green could accelerate possible state funding. And many felt that at least one building in the Bowling Green district might be in poor enough shape to be worthy of those funds. “It sounded like we could apply for and get funding in that program,” Conley said. “It sounded good to me, too.” But when task force members asked further questions about the Exceptional Needs Program, the chances of that funding seemed to disappear. One task force member asked about the pending applications, the deadline for submission, and the timeline for a project. Roka responded that there are currently no ENP applications pending review. Roka added that the OFCC is not seeking new applications for the ENP. “Because of the number of districts eligible for funding through our primary program – the Classroom Facilities Assistance Program – ENP applications are not being received by OFCC for the current planning cycle. No determination has been made as to when OFCC will reopen the application process for the ENP program,” Roka wrote. The Exceptional Needs Program funding may have been a stretch anyway for Bowling Green School District. To qualify, a school facility must be in horrendous condition. “The building has to be putting students in harm’s way,” Conley…

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BG School Board defends openness and discusses vision

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education heard the good news first Tuesday evening. The new “Lunch Bunch” program at Conneaut Elementary is making lunchtime much less hectic. The improved district report cards have resulted in recognition from the state. And safety measures in buildings and training of staff are taking place. Then came the bad news. The board was accused of stripping the Constitution from the district’s core values, and not responding to requests for public records. The board president was chided for exaggerating the poor conditions of the older school buildings. Steve Bateson, a member of the school facilities task force, said the meetings have been very informational – with people on all sides of the issue engaging together. But he cautioned that the solution to the district’s building problems will not come quickly. “This is going to be a slow process,” Bateson said. Bateson was critical of School Board President Jill Carr making a comment during a previous meeting about watching “our buildings deteriorate before our eyes.” Bateson said Conneaut and Kenwood appear to be well maintained. After Tuesday’s meeting, Carr defended her statement of concern about the two oldest elementaries which were built in the 1950s. “I said that, and I stand by that,” Carr said. Another task force member, Brenda Pike asked the board about its “vision for the future” for students – whether that vision would include traditional classrooms or more open, flexible spaces. Board member Bill Clifford said his vision is for “all of the above,” with some more conventional classrooms and some creative spaces. Pike told the board it would be helpful to know the district’s philosophy as the task force is looking at options. Board member Ginny Stewart said she had hoped the task forces would be seeking input from district curriculum specialists. “I would hope you would engage the curriculum director,” Stewart said. While there are several teachers on the task forces, no administrative staff has yet been asked for input at the task force meetings. Ann McCarthy, executive director of teaching and learning for the district, explained to Pike that flexible learning spaces furnished with flexible seating would be better for students. “If we build a building of today, we are shooting ourselves in the foot,” McCarthy said. Stewart agreed that traditional learning spaces are obsolete when it comes to today’s educational…


Former BGMS teacher allegedly gave student alcohol

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News A police investigation of the Bowling Green Middle School teacher who resigned last month found that he reportedly gave a high school student alcohol at a downtown bar. Dylan Stark, who was an art teacher at the middle school, has been cited with a first degree misdemeanor for furnishing alcohol to an underage person. He allegedly provided an alcoholic beverage to a 17-year-old BGHS student on the night of Oct. 13, at Vice & Video, a bar at 153 N. Main St., Bowling Green. Bowling Green Deputy Chief Justin White said the investigation is now concluded. “There was a lot of speculation and a lot of rumors floating around,” but this is the extent of Stark’s wrongdoing, White said. Stark, 24, will have to appear in Bowling Green Municipal Court on the charge. He had been hired by the district in 2017. He also coached football. The police were first notified of possible criminal misconduct by Stark on Oct. 19, when Superintendent Francis Scruci reported concerns to the police division. The issue was turned over to the BGPD detective bureau. Over a period of several weeks, multiple witnesses were interviewed, as were Stark and his attorney.  A summary of the findings was presented to Bowling Green City Prosecutor Hunter Brown. On Monday, Nov. 12,  Bowling Green Police Division served Stark with the criminal citation. The school district had also conducted its own internal investigation. Stark, who was on administrative leave, had turned in his resignation to the school district after that investigation was completed, on Oct. 29. After the school board’s vote to accept Starks’ resignation, Scruci explained district officials had been given information from another teacher who had received information from students about Stark. At that point, Scruci said the investigation showed “behaviors that we wouldn’t accept in our district.” After the investigation was underway Scruci sent out an email to parents and staff asking the community to not spread rumors and to wait for the results of the investigation into Stark. Most of the allegations proved to be unfounded, but some were found to be true, Scruci said.


School task force studies deficiencies at Conneaut

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After showing citizens around Conneaut Elementary, Principal Jim Lang stood surrounded by the people who will decide the fate of the district’s school buildings. He made an impassioned plea. “I don’t care if you build individual schools. I don’t care if you build one consolidated school,” said Lang, who will be retired before any buildings are constructed. “But your children deserve better than this.” Then he added an admonition to the task force. “All I hear is the same bickering I’ve heard for the last two years,” he said. Lang had just pointed out problems in the building constructed in 1954 and currently serving 560 students. Along the tour, he expressed his frustration about those task force members most critical of the need for new schools lagging on the tour – talking in the hallway rather than listening as he pointed out deficiencies in the school building. Those problems, primarily due to a lack of space, included: A reading intervention specialist has to work with children in a small windowless room previously used by the janitor. Inadequate number of restrooms. A hallway with 150 students has three stalls for girls, two urinals and one stall for the boys. The restrooms are not ADA accessible. Inadequate staff restrooms. In that same hallway, the tiny adult restroom requires teachers to practically “do the limbo” to get to the toilet. Poor temperature control, with some rooms feeling like saunas. “They get pretty uncomfortable, pretty quick,” Lang said. The ceiling in the hallways has encapsulated asbestos, which is not hazardous unless it is disturbed. The same is true of some tile under the carpet. Some classrooms are beyond their student capacity, and have to bring in paraprofessionals to meet state standards. The projections for next year indicate there will be even more crowded classrooms. “That’s my biggest concern,” Lang said. The crowded classrooms leave little space for children to do much more than sit in their desks. Young children are not meant to sit at desks all day. “It’s not the best teaching experience,” the principal said. Water from the drinking fountains has to be allowed to run before drinking, since it otherwise has a yellow tinge. “Do you want to drink yellow water? I don’t want to,” Lang said. There is no place for children to hang their coats and hats. So if head lice…


BGSU on track to take over Mercy College by fall

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University’s acquisition of Mercy College is on pace to be completed by fall. Interim Provost John Fischer told Faculty Senate Tuesday that BGSU officials have been meeting with the nursing and health  college’s officials and students. On Monday, he said, Mercy faculty and staff received letters from BGSU assuring them that they will remain employed when BGSU takes over operation of the college. Pending state approval that will occur next fall. Completing the integration of the two institutions is expected to take up to three years. BGSU soon will file its application to transfer Mercy’s operations to the Higher Learning Commission. That application process will involved site visits to both Mercy and BGSU. In June the HLC will vote on whether to approve the transfer, If it approves, the transfer will happen within 30 days. Mercy will then become part of BGSU. But then it will take years to integrate its operations — financial aid, billing, course registration, email, and more — with the university. Fischer said that Mercy students are “very passionate” about being part of that college. Many are post-traditional students. Mercy students expressed concerns about what their diplomas will say when they graduate. BGSU officials said one of the attractions of the deal is Mercy’s success working with non-traditional students, something that’s essential for the university’s future health given the decline in the number of high school graduates. Fischer said that one change will be that senators from Mercy College will be seated in Faculty Senate next fall. How that happens will be driven by the Mercy faculty.  Fischer said that given enrollment is up at Mercy College, the transfer of operations should benefit BGSU financially. The transfer of operations was first announced in September. Mercy College has 1,300 students in Toledo and another 200 in an associate’s degree program in Youngstown.  BGSU is ending its nursing education consortium with the University of Toledo. That arrangement was ended, officials said, so each institution could explore other options that will result in the education of more nurses. The nation, they say, is facing a shortage of nurses and other health professionals. Students enrolled in that consortium will not have their studies interrupted.


No mistake about it, BGHS Drama Club’s ‘Comedy of Errors’ is hilarious

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In presenting Shakespeare’s  “The Comedy of Errors”  the Bowling Green High School Drama Club has condensed it to its silliest. The plot involves the unlikely meeting of two sets of identical twins leading to humor from slapstick to clever wordplay. Think Groucho Marx joins the Three Stooges. Directed by Jo Beth Gonzalez, the play has been edited into version that runs about an hour with the tastiest bits left in.  “The Comedy of Errors” opens tonight (Nov. 1) at 7 p.m. in the BG Performing Arts Center, continuing at the same time and place Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $7 and $5 for adults. The play, set in the 1960s, opens with the trial of Egeus (Hailey Kozey), a merchant for Syracuse, captured in Ephesus, which is off-limits to traders from his city. In pleading his case to the duke (Lauren Clifford), he tells his sad tale of family separation. In a shipwreck many years before he and his twin son Antipholus and the infant purchased as the son’s servant, Dromio,, also a twin, were parted from his wife and the other twins, who have the same names. Don’t ask. It’s Shakespeare.   Now the Syracuse Antipholus (Terra Sloane) with the Syracuse Dromio (Charlotte Perez) have gone off to find their lost siblings, and the father has gone off seeking them, and they’ve unbeknownst to each other all landed in Ephesus. And Ephesus just happens to be where the lost siblings they are seeking live. That’s just the start. Now with the Syracuse twins set loose on the street of Ephesus — which seems about the size of Bowling Green given the way people just happen to run into each other — all manner of high jinks ensue. Now this involves a high degree of suspension of disbelief for the audience who are seated close up and personal on the stage. Antipholus of Ephesus (Maddy Depinet) and Dromio of Ephesus (Hudson Pendleton) bear no resemblance to their Syracuse counterparts. Yet no one, master nor friend, nor even wife, can tell them apart. Must be because they’re dressed alike.  So when Syracuse Antipholus sends his servant off to squirrel away some money, and he meets the Ephesus Dromio he’s angry that the servant has not a clue of what he’s talking about. And he beats him about the head.  All this is reported back to…


BGMS teacher resigns amid allegations, police investigation ongoing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Middle School teacher under investigation for possible criminal conduct has resigned. After an executive session this evening, the board of education accepted the resignation of Dylan Stark, an art teacher hired by the district in 2017. Stark’s resignation came after the completion of the school district’s internal investigation into his conduct. The investigation by the Bowling Green Police Division is ongoing, according to Deputy Chief Justin White. After the school board’s vote, Superintendent Francis Scruci explained district officials had been given information from another teacher who had received information from students about Stark. The district followed up on those allegations, and on Oct. 19 Scruci turned the information over to Bowling Green Police Division. At the same time, the district continued its internal investigation. Neither Scruci nor Board President Jill Carr were specific about Stark’s conduct that led to his resignation. However, Scruci said the investigation showed “behaviors that we wouldn’t accept in our district.” Stark, who also coached football, turned in his resignation on Monday. Scruci sent out an email to parents and staff last week asking the community to not spread rumors and to wait for the results of the investigation into Stark, who had been placed on paid leave. “Every individual has rights,” Scruci said. “Rumors are dangerous. We wanted to make sure we protected everyone involved.” Most of the allegations proved to be unfounded, but some were found to be true, Scruci said this evening. Carr said the school board backed the district’s response to the accusations. “The board supports the investigation the district engaged in,” she said. A substitute teacher has been filling in for Stark’s classes. The district will now start the process to hire a replacement, Carr said. Meanwhile, the police will continue looking into the possible misconduct. “It’s still under investigation,” White said this evening.