Education

Meeting special needs of children in BG schools

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Children with learning disabilities used to be removed from regular classrooms, away from regular curriculum, away from regular kids. When Lorraine Flick started teaching 30 years ago, children with special needs were tucked away from her classroom. “They went away to some other teacher. I never saw them.” That is no longer the case. Those children are taught in the “least restrictive environment.” So many of those students with special needs are now in regular classrooms. “Over the years, we have found that students who are segregated or separated from their peers,” can learn in regular classrooms if given a little extra support, said Flick, a former elementary principal who is now director of children’s services at Wood Lane. How Bowling Green schools meet the needs of these children was discussed Monday evening during a panel discussion on special education for the League of Women Voters. Schools are legally bound to offer education in the “least restrictive environment,” said Bob Yenrick, executive director of pupil services for Bowling Green City Schools. If a child can “access the curriculum” with the extra help of being paired with a “para-professional” in the classroom, then that child does not need to be put in a different class. “We need to make sure we are honoring that least restrictive environment at all times,” Yenrick said. That change has consequences for schools, and challenges for teachers as well as for the children. But those challenges are worth confronting, according to the panel. Schools still have special education teachers, but now they are referred to with the politically…


Children’s author a big kid himself – advocates for underwear on head, mac and cheese in bathtub

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Todd Parr’s suggestion that kids eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub did not go over well with their parents. “Moms and dads were very mad at me,” Parr said, smiling. But mac and cheese is a recurring theme in Parr’s books for children. That and underwear. Parr talked about them both with children during his appearance as guest author at the annual Literacy in the Park event Saturday at Bowling Green State University. “His books remind us to be ourselves. That it’s OK to be different,” Tim Murnen, interim director of the BGSU School of Teaching and Learning, said as he introduced Parr to an audience of eager children and their parents. “His books remind us that everyone should wear underwear on your head at least once in your lifetime,” Murnen said. But beyond the silly subjects of food and undergarments, Parr’s underlying message was for the parents as much as their kids. It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to wear glasses, to be missing teeth, to get mad, to have a pet worm. From the stage in the busy, noisy field house, Parr read some of his books aloud to the children. The underwear book outlined the “dos” and “don’ts,” suggesting that underwear not be put in the freezer, always be worn when fishing, but never be used as bait. Each book ends with the same salutation. Love, Todd. Parr told the kids a little bit about his life. He failed art class – a couple times – but knew he wanted to be an artist. His simplistic, silly,…


Whipple resigns; BG school board needs new member

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Ed Whipple got his first teaching job, teaching English and French in Chicago Public Schools, he didn’t think too highly of the board of education. “You remember Welcome Back Kotter?” he asked. “I was Kotter. I had the Sweathogs.” But times changed, and so did Whipple, who has come to appreciate that school boards perform a valuable service. And now times are changing again, and Whipple submitted his resignation Tuesday evening from the Bowling Green Board of Education. He will be moving back to Salem, Oregon, where his life in education first began. Whipple practically grew up on the Willamette University campus, where his father was alumni affairs director.  His father later became the school’s first vice president of student affairs in 1967 – the job Whipple will be filling on June 1. But that means Bowling Green Board of Education now must find a person to fill Whipple’s seat here. “He did a fantastic job,” Board President Paul Walker said. Whipple’s resignation was accepted, “reluctantly” and “begrudgingly” by fellow board member. “It’s been a great honor and privilege to serve as a board of education member,” he said. “I thank you for the opportunity to serve.” Whipple, who was vice president for student affairs at BGSU, said as his son went through school in Bowling Green, he was pleased with staff, school leadership and the community support. “I’ve been so impressed.” Superintendent Francis Scruci said Whipple’s leaving is a hard hit for the board. “It is a tremendous loss to our district,” Scruci said. “Those are big shoes to fill….


BG high’s “Footloose” is about more than fancy footwork

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News This is not just some footloose and fancy free musical. The stage musical version of “Footloose,” a story told twice on the big screen, touches on some serious issues, said Jo Beth Gonzalez, who directs the theater program at Bowling Green High School. “There’s domestic violence,” she said, “loss of family, and death. … I actually think the stage play is richer.” And, of course, lots of dancing. It is, after all, called “Footloose.” “It’s a big dance show,” Gonzalez said.                     The musical will be on stage Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Bowling Green Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available at the center’s box office Monday through Friday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. The dancing is one of the reasons senior Logan Brown wanted to audition for the lead. He loves to dance and used to perform with his sister Lauren. Brown was excited that he would work with Bob Marzola, who is serving as choreographer. Brown has been in all the musicals during his high school career, he said.  He’s said he was “super excited” to be taking on the role of Ren Mac Cormack, a teenager from the east who ends up in a southern town where dancing has been banned. He’s an outsider “with daddy issues,” Brown said. He’s more than willing to push back against rules “that don’t make any sense.” “You just need to have fun with it,” Brown said. “There’s a lot going on.” When it was selected last…


Education learns new moves in active learning classrooms

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News It’s not even 8 o’clock yet and Susan Kleine’s morning Business 1100 class is already on a roll. As students come in, they gather Sharpie markers, Post-It Notes, tape and colored pipe cleaners from a table at the front. Then Kleine directs them to get into groups of four. The students roll their chairs, some without even getting up, around small tables, also on wheels. The assignment is to design the ideal wallet. Now students face off to question each other about their wallets, or the equivalent, how they use them and what their drawbacks and advantages are. The students, meeting on the second floor of the Education Building, are involved, though they may not be aware of it, in a movement to redesign the university classroom. Bowling Green State University is engaged in an ongoing effort to improve its classrooms. The project is part capital renovation, and part ongoing experiment. These new active learning classrooms have their share of technology, yet the emphasis is on the human touch. They are reshaping teaching on campus. “In traditonal sense, we think of the classrooms as being neat rows of students and the teacher in front of those rows spouting out information,” said Mary-Jon Ludy, who teaches nutrition classes. “If I think about that happening in classrooms today, if they’re not engaged, they either fall asleep or they do something else.” Instead of fighting those tendencies, the new active learning classrooms put them to use. Many of the classrooms have whiteboards on all walls, so students can get up work out problems and brainstorm ideas. Then…


Smith reaches for the stars at planetarium

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the stars filled the domed sky and the cardboard rocket took off into space, one of the students quietly slid over to sit in her teacher’s lap. “This was so real, one little girl thought the dome took off,” teacher Nancy Frankart said after the planetarium show was over and the lights came on. “She thought we were traveling to space.” That is music to Dale Smith’s ears. Smith has been director at the Bowling Green State University Planetarium since it opened in 1983. “I came with it. That makes me the best director they’ve ever had and the worst director they’ve ever had,” he said, smiling. Smith started focusing on the stars as a child in upstate New York. “In third grade, a friend lent me a book about planets, and I was hooked,” he said. “A lot of astronomers have similar stories. Something grabbed ahold of us.” For some, like Smith, it’s not enough to look skyward themselves. They want others to enjoy the view as well. “Something inspired us and we want to share our love of the universe with audiences.” And that’s exactly what Smith does as he turns off the lights, asks the children to put on their imaginary seatbelts, lean back in the planetarium chairs and travel through space. Last week, he took first through third graders from St. Wendelin Catholic School in Fostoria on a ride in the “Secret of the Cardboard Rocket.” This particular show tells of siblings who build a spaceship out of cardboard and spend the night in it in their…


Kenwood open Friday…with stipulations

Dear parents and guardians, We have received the most important test results and I am happy to report that there are no harmful chemicals in the water.  We however are waiting for one test which will verify that there is no bacteria in the water and we are expecting that mid-day tomorrow.  Therefore, Kenwood Elementary WILL BE OPEN for students tomorrow,Friday, April 8, 2016 with a few stipulations.  Water bottles will be made available to all students throughout the day and hand sanitizer will be provided in all restrooms until we have received the final result.  Essentially the building is following a boil alert protocol like we follow in our homes.  As I stated yesterday, the problem was simply Kenwood is an older building with older pipes that was closed for 10 days (spring break) resulting in discolored water.  We have worked with the City, the EPA, and the water testing company the past two days and are confident to allow students to come back to school.  Therefore we will have a normal day of school beginning with breakfast through dismissal.  Again, we will always err on the side of caution for the safety of our students.  Thanks for your continued support and understanding through these past two days. Bobcat Proud, Superintendent Francis Scruci


Kenwood closed again Thursday; water test results not complete

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Kenwood Elementary School will be closed again Thursday since complete test results are not back on water at the school. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci closed the school on Wednesday due to discolored water at a drinking fountain in the school. Initially it was believed the greenish colored water was due to a back flow valve failure. However, Scruci said this evening that the water problem appears to more likely be the result of the older pipes in the building going unused over spring break. The pipes went unused for 10 days during break. After being run, the water was clear this morning, Scruci said. Tests conducted this morning showed the water being fine but the full scale contaminant test results will not be available until after noon on Thursday.  Therefore, Kenwood Elementary will be closed again Thursday. All other schools in the district will be open. “Our first responsibility is to keep our students safe,” Scruci wrote in an email to parents.  “I am not willing to take any unnecessary risks and want to err on the side of caution.” Water samples were taken to a testing site in Toledo from Kenwood school and other schools in the district for baseline data. Initially the testing facility said the results would be complete in eight to 10 days, but Scruci said it was made clear that was unacceptable. “We cannot wait eight to 10 days,” he said. The district has one more calamity day left due to few snow days this past winter, but Scruci would really like the students back at…


Kenwood Elementary closed Wednesday due to discolored water

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Discolored water in a drinking fountain at Kenwood Elementary School has resulted in the school being closed Wednesday. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said this afternoon that the water fountains were all shut off after greenish colored water was noticed. City utility workers were called, tested the water, and found no bacteria in it, Scruci said. As a precautionary measure, a water testing company was called, but was unable to get to the school today. “We have the company coming tomorrow to ensure that the water is without question safe,” Scruci said. Boiler technicians and plumbers are also working on the issue to identify and correct the original cause for the discoloration, he added. Because the water was clear on Monday, it is believed the problem was caused by a boiler backflow valve malfunction. “We believe that we know the cause of the problem but until we are 100 percent certain that the water in the building is safe, we cannot put students and staff at potential risk,” Scruci wrote in an email to parents. Scruci is hopeful the school will be open again on Thursday. But that will only take place if he can be assured the water is safe for students and staff to drink, he said. “If they can’t guarantee me tomorrow that the water is safe, I will cancel school again,” Scruci said. Since the school district did not use all its snow calamity days during the mild winter, the elementary has some “wiggle room,” he said.  



Little girl makes waves saving rare dolphins

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Standing on a step stool to reach the podium, the 9-year-old told how she has taken on a nation’s prime minister and a local corporation to try to save dolphins on the other side of the globe. Calista Wilkins, a fourth grader at Otsego, has been working two years to preserve Maui dolphins, the smallest of its species, that live off the coast of New Zealand. On Thursday, Calista shared her story with the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. The serious little girl with long blond hair is not intimidated by leaders whose words praise the preservation of the dolphins, but whose actions do the opposite. Her efforts have earned her a grant from Jane Goodall’s organization to continue her dolphin-saving work. Calista was also at ease speaking to the group of Kiwanians, trying to engage them in the presentation. She showed slides of New Zealand, where the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was filmed, and asked if anyone was familiar with the small statured characters called hobbits. “The Maui dolphins are sort of like that,” she said. Though Calista has never been to New Zealand, and has never seen the Maui dolphins, she confidently explained their plight. The rare dolphins number only about 50, and risk becoming extinct by 2030 if nothing changes to reverse their fate. The black, white and gray dolphins have rounded noses, dorsal fins shaped like Mickey Mouse ears, and like to swim in groups close to the shores of the northern portion of New Zealand. Calista showed photographs of the small dolphins, including one called “Scratchy,” named…


Gloria Gajewicz honored for home grown science teaching skills

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green teacher Gloria Gajewicz was inspired through her career by her own teachers, and further by her mother’s pursuit of education. So it is fitting that she should receive an award named for the late Neil Pohlmann, an educator and BGSU professor who left his mark on science education. Earlier this month Gajewicz won the first Neil Pohlman Award given by Bowling Green State University at the spring conference of the Northwest Ohio School Boards Association meeting. Patrick Pauken, director of the School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy, said the award “is given in recognition of valuable contribution to Educational Administration and Leadership Studies at BGSU.” Gajewicz is working on her doctorate in the program. The award carries a scholarship. Pauken wrote: “The faculty selected Gloria for the award because of her endless dedication to teaching, learning, and leading in our schools. She is an excellent graduate student, as well, inspiring her classmates with her professional stories of student success. Our classrooms and schools are special places, indeed, with teachers and leaders like Gloria Gajewicz.” Gajewicz has taught science for 20 years, the last 16 at her alma mater, Bowling Green High School where she teaches biology and honors physical science. Finishing her second semester of what she expects will be a four-year process, Gajewicz’s goal is to become a curriculum specialist with her particular interest in science. She said she was inspired to pursue science by the many great science teachers she had in the Bowling Green system. That included Roger Mazzarella, “the wizard of Mazz,” in seventh grade and Bob Rex in…


BGSU orchestra takes students on tour of ‘The Planets’

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Students from local schools filled Kobacker Hall on the Bowling Green State University campus Thursday morning. They’d been invited by conductor Emily Freeman Brown to go on a journey through Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.” Given the number of people, a few coughs were inevitable as Brown and the orchestra took them on a musical tour of the solar system and along the way introduced them to the ancient deities who lent their names to the planets. Then came the last movement of the piece, Neptune, the god of mystery. “We’ll have some secret visitors,” Brown told the audience before the movement began. “Listen carefully.” And as the piece neared its conclusion, high, soft voices were softly heard offstage, ghostly, wafting over the orchestra. By the end, only the voices were heard. No violins. No harps. No brass, percussion nor woodwinds. No coughs. Hundreds of children silent as the music faded away. “That response is proof that we’re doing something good,” the conductor said after the performance. Sharing music “is fundamental to human nature.” This was not the first time Brown has led the orchestra in a performance of “The Planets” for a young audience. She did it back in 1992. Those kids would be old enough to have children of their own. How the university has presented young people’s shows has changed over the years. Brown’s first endeavor in 1991 was a trimmed down version of Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” For a number of years, the College of Music presented Saturday morning programs modeled after Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. But attendance at…


7 drug canines do sweep during lockdown at BGHS

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green High School went on lockdown Thursday morning as seven drug-sniffing dogs searched the school. At 8:15 a.m., teachers were instructed to put all student book bags in the hallway, according to Superintendent Francis Scruci. The canines then did a drug sweep of all the bags, the lockers, and all the vehicles in the parking lot. The drug sweep inside lasted about 90 minutes. The dogs “hit on” 20 lockers and 20 book bags, but no illegal substances were found. “Nothing was found internally in the school,” Scruci said. The dogs also “hit on” 15 cars in the parking lot, all belonging to students.  Those students were brought out to their vehicles, then school administration and law enforcement searched inside the cars. Marijuana was found in one car. All cars in the lot, including employees’ vehicles, were part of the sweep, the superintendent said. Scruci said no one at the high school knew about the drug sweep until 8 a.m.  – even the administration. The superintendent said the search was not the result of a reported problem, but because he believes it is a good way to promote smart choices for students. “I’ve always done it as a practice,” at the previous school districts where he served as superintendent, Scruci said. “We’re going to continue to try to educate kids on the dangers of drugs,” he said. “We want to make sure they are making the right decisions.” Bowling Green Police Major Justin White said the seven canine units at the school included BG’s dog, along with two dogs from Hancock…


BG schools did not sanction gun raffle…club cancels fundraiser

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Student groups do all kinds of activities to raise funds – sell candy bars, wash cars, sit in dunking booths. But raffling off guns? Not in Bowling Green, says Superintendent Francis Scruci. Scruci sent out an email to district parents late Wednesday afternoon explaining that a raffle was being promoted by the Bowling Green Wrestling Club. The prize was two firearms, with one being an assault rifle, he said. As of Thursday afternoon, the raffle had been canceled. The superintendent explained he did not sanction the raffle and was not aware it was being conducted. He had been alerted by a parent earlier Wednesday. “The Bowling Green City Schools does not promote guns and is not affiliated with this type of raffle,” Scruci wrote in the email. “I can assure you that if the proper procedure had been followed the raffle would have been denied for distribution through the district.” The email continued to say the Bowling Green Wrestling Club is an outside organization raising funds for wrestlers from youth to university age and exists outside of school parameters. “It’s technically not affiliated with the school,” Scruci said when reached Wednesday evening. No flyers were sent out with students, but the high school wrestling coach did send out an email about the raffle to school staff, the superintendent said. “I knew nothing about it,” Scruci said. “They did not submit anything, nor did we distribute it.” But the superintendent decided to be proactive and send out a mass email to parents. “It has nothing to do with us, but I didn’t want parents…