Education

BG Schools struggling after suicide, parent meeting planned

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Bowling Green School Board heard about some tough subjects Tuesday evening – a high school student taking his life, a bomb threat at an elementary, and the need for more modulars at overcrowded schools. Counseling has been available for students and staff affected by the loss of a classmate Eric Baer, Superintendent Francis Scruci said. “These events leave us with many questions, and very few answers,” Scruci said. Next week, the district plans to offer some type of program for parents, focusing on the potential signs of suicide, how to discuss the topic with children, and resources available in the community. The particulars on the meeting will be released once determined. Scruci thanked the Bowling Green Police Division for ongoing communication with the district, and Children’s Resource Center for helping provide counseling for students. The superintendent also updated the board and community on the hand-written pipe bomb threat mailed to Kenwood Elementary last week. The letter was opened after school ended for the day, and the police division had the building secured within minutes, then searched the school with a bomb-sniffing dog. The police division then provided additional security at all the schools the remainder of the week. “Bowling Green Police Division is a great partner,” Scruci said. While he praised the local emergency response, Scruci publicly criticized the comments made on Facebook by school critic Grant Chamberlain on the bomb threat. Chamberlain advised parents to remove their children from Kenwood due to the “downward spiral” of the elementary. “As if the staff of Kenwood was responsible for getting a pipe bomb threat in the mail,” Scruci said. “It is not a failing school,” the superintendent said. “This negativity serves no purpose. It’s important for the community to support and not tear down.” Scruci’s comments were met with applause from those attending the school board meeting. Also at the meeting, the board approved the leasing of two modular classrooms to ease crowding. One will be placed at Conneaut Elementary, the other at Crim Elementary. The modulars cost $1,600 per month, with the district paying $246,355 to lease them for 60 months. Board member Paul Walker questioned the need for such a long lease. But Scruci said even if the district passes a levy to build new elementary space, that won’t be ready for at least three years. “We have no guarantee what the community will do,” Scruci said of the building issue going on the ballot. Also at the meeting, the board accepted the retirements of Conneaut Principal Jim Lang, and high school teachers Margaret Maidlow and Ellyn Stout. In other business, the board: Heard from Scruci that the district is working with the city on creating a bike path to connect the middle and high school with City Park and the community center. “That would be a tremendous benefit to our students,” he said.Voted to purchase two Bluebird school buses for a total of $185,938.Recognized art students for their success in the Ohio Art Education Association competition and duck stamp contest. Those students were Madison Bosworth, Lucy Nomaguchi-Long, Katelynn Rashley, Rafif Almaghrabi, Payton Myers, Kamryn Spencer, Etta Gallaway, Guo Wells-Jensen, and Molly Barber.Recognized students who participated in the All-State Choir performance: Lexie Bechstein, Julia Barnett, Finley Hughes, Corinna Kramer, Tess Challu and Cole Boswell.Recognized the achievements of swim team members Zane Kirchner, Darrin Kirchner, Jack Burroughs and CJ Layne. Coach Gary Layne was also recognized as Division 2 coach of the year.Approved a student trip for DECA members to Orlando, with costs paid by Penta, student contributions and fundraisers.Approved a trip for…

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BG preschool program more than a nicety – not a waste of funds

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Young children with developmental and physical disabilities learn and play side-by-side with “typical” children in Bowling Green City Schools preschool program. For some of these children, this is the only time in their education where there is complete integration with other children of all abilities. “The research shows it’s very important that preschoolers with special needs benefit from being with typical developing children,” Melanie Garbig, executive director of pupil services, explained at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. The preschool program has been the target of some school critics, who have questioned why the district spends taxpayer money on the program. Garbig answered that question – because the district is legally required to do so. The school district has offered preschool for ages 3 to 5 since 1994. The program was first located in the old central administration building, then the Jordan Family Center, then Crim Elementary, and now at Conneaut Elementary. Garbig was principal of Crim when the program was housed there. “It was great to have the preschool in Crim,” she said. There are currently four preschool classrooms in the morning and in the afternoon, with a maximum of 16 children – eight with special needs and eight typical peers. “We have a lot of specialists who help develop the children,” Garbig said. There are speech language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists. The services “can make them grow like little flowers,” she said. Bowling Green’s preschool program earned the Ohio Department of Education’s 5-Star rating last year. “That means we had met all the qualifications for a preschool program,” Garbig said. “It was actually quite a feat.” The program tracks the students’ progress with Early Learning Assessments. The district is finding that all the early intervention is paying off for many students with special needs. “It really results in students not needing IEPs (Individualized Education Program) when they enter kindergarten,” Garbig said. For those who question the value of such an integrated preschool, Garbig showed a video of an economist talking about the impact of early childhood education on the economy. “Why should I pay more taxes to pay for other people’s children,” he asked. Because, to not do so would be short-sighted, he answered. When other people’s children get more education and skills, everyone benefits, he said. That is the return for having early intervention. Not to mention, the district is required to provide services to students with disabilities starting at age 3, said Emily Mennitt, school psychologist. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires the district to identify children with special needs, then provide them with an education. “We are responsible for what is called ‘child find,’” Mennitt said. That means the district must evaluate any child with possible learning disabilities. The district gets lots of referrals from the following sources: Early intervention programs like Help Me Grow, which works with children from birth to age 3.Parents who are concerned about their child’s development.Pediatricians who have concerns about a child.Local private preschools.Head Start at the Jordan Family Center. The preschool guarantees these children will not fall through the cracks. “Their child will not be without services,” Mennitt said. By law, once identifying children with special needs, the district must offer a Free and Appropriate Public Education, she explained. And that means an inclusive education. “Children are fully included,” despite physical or learning disabilities, Mennitt said. “Everybody is included and working together.” Family engagement is also required, with educators forming long-term relationships with parents, she said. The district receives state funding for special needs students. Other typical students are charged…


BG sees some students leaving Kenwood for private schools

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News It’s not a mass exodus, but so far, 12 families have applied to remove their children from Kenwood Elementary School and place them in private facilities. Eight of those 12 children are incoming kindergartners. The requests to leave Kenwood came after the state declared the elementary to be an EdChoice school. That designation means parents of Kenwood students can access scholarships for their students to attend parochial or private schools. For each child leaving Kenwood, the school district loses $1,900 per year, Superintendent Francis Scruci said after Tuesday’s board of education meeting. The private schools taking in the students get “scholarships” of $4,650 a year for K-8 grades, and $6,000 a year for 9-12 grades. Scruci repeated his assurances about Kenwood Elementary. “Kenwood is not a failing school,” he said. “The staff is working very hard to provide a quality education.” The EdChoice designation came a couple months after school officials got the good news from the state that all the buildings in the Bowling Green School District had been removed from the Ohio Improvement Process, based on progress the district made in student growth. District-wide, Bowling Green was recognized for its improvements. However, the district was then informed by the state that Kenwood had been designated an EdChoice school. The data used to declare Kenwood as EdChoice were the K-3 literacy results from 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2017-18. Any district getting a D or F grade in two of those three years made the EdChoice list. The “flawed” state testing system failed to take into account the progress made at Kenwood that got the building off the OIP list, Scruci said. Even if Kenwood sheds the EdChoice designation in a few years, the expenses could linger. According to Scruci, the state program allows parents of kindergartners to take them out of the public school and place them in private facilities all the way through graduation. “We’ll play by the rules of the state and we’ll dig our way out of it,” Scruci said. But losing the state funding for the students leaving won’t help. “That makes our task very difficult,” he said. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the economic demographics have changed for many students who go to Kenwood. “We do have a poverty issue in this district. I know we’re not supposed to talk about that,” he said. “Those kids are coming to us less prepared.” “Do we have struggling readers at Kenwood? Absolutely,” Scruci said. “Are we doing work to address this? Absolutely. Every kid can learn and every kid deserves an education.” Last month, Scruci assured parents that Kenwood is delivering the same quality educations that have been provided in the past. “If I had a child of elementary age, my kids would go to Kenwood, and I’d be very comfortable with that,” he said. Board President Ginny Stewart asked anyone with concerns to spend some time in Kenwood classrooms. “It’s heartbreaking that we are evaluated on this flawed system,” she said. “It’s disconcerting.” Board member Norm Geer echoed the praise for teachers. “I think we appreciate how hard elementary teachers work,” he said. Kenwood Principal Kathleen Daney asked those at the board meeting to reach out to state legislators about the report card system. “This district will be losing money based on a very, very small piece of the picture,” she said of the K-3 literacy testing, which may soon be removed from the state testing program. Grant Chamberlain asks board about EdChoice designation. But some citizens wanted more answers from the board about the EdChoice…


BG school board piecing together puzzle of levy funding

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News The Bowling Green Board of Education is faced with a complicated jigsaw puzzle – with the pieces changing as time passes. If the board proceeds as in the past, the district voters will see 20 tax issues in the next 25 years. If the board tries to combine issues and stretch them to continuing periods of time, the number of tax issues could be cut to seven in 25 years. And it would mean the end of the district having to ask for the same money over and over. However, Bowling Green voters have traditionally supported levy renewals – so trying to make the district’s finances more secure could backfire and result in putting them at risk. Meanwhile, the board was just given its marching orders from the school task force groups. So the board needs to win support for a ballot issue for buildings – at the same time the district has to renew two ongoing levies before they expire. “It’s gut check time,” David Conley, financial consultant to the district from Rockmill Financial, told the board during its special meeting on Saturday. Here are some of the puzzle pieces the district has in play. Recommendations from task forces Though the building recommendations aren’t exactly clear, it appears the task force will be suggesting the board work toward two new elementaries at the Conneaut and Kenwood sites, and renovations plus expansion at the Crim site. The finance task force recommendations were more crystal clear. The members want the board to use a combined property tax and income tax to raise $40 million for the elementaries. In an effort to reduce long-term interest costs, the task force suggested the levy duration be 30 rather than 37 years. The task force also asked that the board put the building issue on the ballot this November, since delaying the efforts will inevitably increase the construction costs. Setting aside money for big-dollar maintenance costs The suggested combined issue of a 1.76-mill property tax with a 0.25 percent income tax will result in a surplus of about $325,000 a year. The finance task force stressed that  those funds be put toward ongoing major capital repairs on the new facilities – or be used to pay off the project early. “It also gives us some breathing room in case of a recession,” Conley said. But this piece of the puzzle was questioned by one board member, Norm Geer, who asked if it might be better to cut the amount of the requested property tax. That would result in having less for long-term maintenance. Board member Bill Clifford objected to the idea that major maintenance funds were “fluff.” “We will need it,” Clifford said. Superintendent Francis Scruci agreed. “We don’t want to be in the same place we are now,” with not enough to cover big repair expenses, Scruci said. Conley said it can cost a district up to $1 million to replace the roof of a school building. But Geer continued asking that the property tax and income tax more reflect the actual cost of the school construction, with the property tax portion being lowered. “Do we need all that from the maintenance perspective,” Geer asked. “We’re still going to have future needs,” Clifford responded, saying that not having ongoing maintenance funding would “hamstring” future school boards for the district. Conley said there is a reason for the extra. The state recognizes that – requiring districts to have even more on hand for maintenance if they are given state funding for buildings. “It’s just good financial sense,” Conley…


Test your trivia knowledge, while raising funds for schools

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Few people are bonafide geniuses. Sometimes it’s good enough to just be a whiz with superfluous information. Here’s a quick test to see where you stand with trivial trivia … What was the name of cowboy star Roy Rogers’ palomino horse? This one’s a little tougher. What’s the name of the horse used by his wife, Dale Evans?Dendrophobia is the fear of what?How many people have walked on the moon?What three-word parting catchphrase is engraved on voice actor Mel Blanc’s gravestone?What animal has the fastest metabolismWhat are the only two countries in South America that do not border Brazil?Who was the first man to appear on the cover of Playboy magazine? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know the answers. There will be many more at the eighth annual “Trivia Night” to raise money for the Bowling Green Schools Foundation. Teams of eight people will once again compete on March 30 to be named local trivia kings. Because the event has outgrown its former location, this year’s event will be held at the Junior Fair Building on the Wood County Fairgrounds. Doors open at 7 p.m., with the trivia questions starting at 7:30 p.m. “We’re trying to grow the event, trying to expand it,” said Drew Headley, one of the organizers – and the guy who is looking up all the trivia questions again this year. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a brainiac to be on a team. But it does help to have a grasp of useless knowledge, Headley said. “I try to make them challenging,” he said of the questions. There were 25 teams last year. “We packed it,” Headley said. So the new location will allow for more to join in. “We’ve got room for more.” The trivia contest will follow categories similar to those in the Trivial Pursuit board game – geography, science and technology, sports, music and literature. “A general knowledge of many topics is good,” Headley said. “It’s very competitive. People really get into it,” he said. “There may be a little trash talk between teams – but it’s all in fun.” Winners of each round will be able to select a specific teacher or educational group to be given a couple hundred dollars. But the big goal is to raise about $15,000 again for classroom grants and student scholarships. Last year the fundraiser paid $10 for each student attending fifth grade camp, and helped pay for the 1BookBG books. The money raised at Trivia Night has been used for teacher mini-grants for items such as special art projects, COSI on Wheels visits to school, math games to go with curriculum, and living history demonstrations, according to Paul Reinhart,  president of the school foundation and fifth grade teacher at Conneaut Elementary. Participation requires a $50 donation per person. The event will offer Pizza Pub 516 pizza and other items, plus desserts, beer, wine, pop and water. Businesses and organizations are also being sought to sponsor the event. “We’re actively recruiting trivia round sponsors,” which will be acknowledged during the event, Reinhart said. The school foundation used to hold “tasteful affairs,” such as elegant dinners in local homes. But then the raucous trivia nights were tried – and stuck. “It’s a loud and boisterous evening,” Reinhart said “It’s a great time.” The trivia night is “friendly competition,” but there are rules such as no using a smartphone to get answers. Team members, however, are allowed to huddle and discuss the questions. Anyone wanting more information can contact Drew Headley at 419-601-2082, or headleydrew@gmail.com. Team registrations can…


School task force agrees board should try $40 million issue for elementaries

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News A small miracle of sorts occurred in the Crim Elementary cafeteria Tuesday evening. After months of long meetings peppered with strong opinions, the school financial task force found a path forward. Not just with a simple majority – but with an undeniable consensus. By a vote of 29 to 5, the task force voted to ask the Bowling Green Board of Education to put an issue on the ballot to raise an estimated $40 million for the district’s elementary buildings. Financial consultant David Conley informed the task force of something many of them already knew. By time the district spends about $40 million on its elementaries, and then deals with its aging high school later, it will have spent more than the original $72 million bond issue that voters turned down. “In essence, we’re looking at the same $72 million,” task force member Richard Chamberlain said. No, Conley said. “It’s going to be $100 million when it’s all done. It’s inevitable. Everything goes up in price,” Conley said. After the ballots were tallied Tuesday evening, the results showed that the 29 who wanted the board to proceed voted as follows: What type of bond issue would you recommend? Combined property tax and traditional income tax: 21Only a traditional income tax: 5Only a property tax: 3 What term would you recommend? 30 years: 2037 years: 9 Would you recommend using additional funds for maintenance of the new buildings? Yes: 25No: 4 Would you recommend the district apply for the state’s Expedited Local Partnership Program? Yes: 28No: 1 Would you recommend the property tax and income tax appear on the ballot as a: Combined issue: 26Separate issues: 3 When would you recommend placing the issue on the ballot? November 2019: 19March 2020: 6November 2020: 4 The financial task force’s conclusions will be presented to the Board of Education on March 26. The facilities task force – which narrowed the building selections to four options – will also present those results to the board. “We haven’t had the most perfect facilities process,” Conley said. David Conley leads task force. One of the top choices of the facilities task force called for $37.7 million to build a new Conneaut Elementary, a new Kenwood Elementary, and renovate Crim Elementary. So the finance task force used that as a starting point, then decided to bump up the cost to $40 million taking into account the effect of inflation on construction, and the cost of maintenance to the buildings. “There’s absolutely no perfect way to do this,” Conley said of the process to find a path to fund school buildings. “The goal is try to be as equitable and fair as you can be.” Conley warned that the latest estimates for construction inflation costs have jumped to somewhere between 10 and 15 percent a year. The district isn’t allowed to hire an architect till the funding is approved by voters, he said. So even if that occurred this fall, construction wouldn’t start until 2021, and would take up to four years to complete. Some task force members questioned the idea of giving the district a cushion for maintenance and capital improvements to buildings. Some asked that language specifying that use be placed in a resolution. And some said they preferred to see any additional amount be used to pay off the bonds early. Conley stressed to the citizens that they are in charge. “We’re not victims as taxpayers,” he said. “You have an obligation to make sure they do what they say they are going to do.” Conley also reminded…


BG Chamber offers scholarships

From BOWLING GREEN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE The Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce is accepting applications for the High School Scholarship and Collegiate Scholarship.  Both Scholarships will award the recipient $2,000. Application forms and all guidelines are available on the Bowling Green Chamber website at www.bgchamber.net. or at the Chamber Offices located at 130 S. Main St.  These scholarships are open to students with an affiliation to a BG Chamber Investor.  This includes attending a school that is an investor, if a parent/guardian or grandparent works for an investor, or applicant is an employee of and investor.  Refer to the application for further criteria requirements. Deadline for Scholarship Applications is March 29 at 5 p.m. (Must be postmarked no later than March 22, 2019 if mailed.)  No late or emailed applications will be considered.