Education

‘Buddy Benches’ to make BG playgrounds more friendly for lonely kids

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   School recess is supposed to be a fun break from the confines of the classroom for elementary students. But for some kids, the playground is a lonely place. It was like that for Aleksander Ostrowski, a third grader at Kenwood Elementary School in Bowling Green. “Aleks came to me and said he had no one to play with and just walked around” during recess, said his dad Chris Ostrowski. So the Ostrowski family started thinking about how to make the school playground a friendlier place for kids. They had heard about Buddy Benches before, and started doing some research. The bench idea got started in the U.S. by a 10-year-old boy named Christian Bucks who was apprehensive about moving to Germany for his dad’s job. One of the schools there had a buddy bench – a place where a child could sit if he had no one to play with, and other kids would take it as a signal to ask him to play. Christian ended up not moving to Germany, but he did start spreading the Buddy Bench concept across the U.S. And soon, each elementary in Bowling Green may have its own Buddy Bench. “I want all the elementaries to do it,” Chris Ostrowski said, since every school undoubtedly has children facing the awkward problem of having no one to play with during recess. The benches are intended to give kids a safe, nonjudgmental place to retreat, and to encourage other kids to reach out to them. “It really teaches kids the importance of social interaction – the inclusion, the tolerance,” Ostrowski said. The idea for the benches has actually been brewing a while at Kenwood Elementary. Physical education teacher Jeremy Koehler and Jennifer Ostrowski, Aleks’ mom and a teacher at the school, had been discussing the possibility of getting a bench for about four years. The problem of children feeling left out and alone on the playground is nothing new, Koehler said. “I’m 27 and it was an issue when I was in elementary school,” Koehler said. But the issue was money, since each bench with concrete pads costs about $1,000. “We weren’t sure where we would get the funding,” Koehler said. But together, the Ostrowskis and Koehler made a plan. Chris Ostrowski started talking to businesses and looking at fundraising, and Koehler approached the school district’s superintendent and elementary principals. The plan is to put two benches each at Kenwood, Crim and Conneaut elementaries, and one each at St. Aloysius, Bowling Green Montessori and Bowling Green Christian Academy. The total cost is estimated at $9,954. Home Depot has offered a special price on the steel benches that have the words “Buddy Bench” cut into the back. Charles Mohr Concrete has volunteered to pour pads for each of the…


BGSU setting sights on rising in U.S. News college rankings

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University continues to hover just above the 100 mark for the Top Public National Universities by U.S. News and World Report. That’s down a bit from last year, when BGSU was 101 in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges”, and lower on the list than President Mary Ellen Mazey would like to be. “There’s always room for improvement,” she said. Still she said she was pleased. The ranking puts BGSU in the top tier of national public universities, along with three of its sister Ohio institutions – Miami, Ohio University and Kent State. BGSU placed 194th on the overall National University list. The top 20 schools there are all private institutions, Mazey said, with large endowments. “We do compete with them,” she said. She feels BGSU holds its own, probably because of cost. The university was ranked 184th in the Best Undergraduate Business Programs category. Some do question the value of the rankings. “There’s a debate about it,” Mazey said. “I know some of my predecessors here didn’t put as much emphasis on it. But our parents and students look at these rankings, so therefore I think it’s important.” BGSU has been in the 90s and lower 100s for a number of years. Mazey said she was impressed with BGSU’s 92nd ranking when she arrived in 2011. “If you place an emphasis, you can move,” she said. “But then again, everyone’s trying to do that. It’s a very competitive environment. We’re going to have a greater emphasis on it this year.” The rankings are based on perceptions of administrators at other top universities, and high school guidance counselors. But looming larger are other factors. Most of those the university has already been working on. Student graduation rates, either in four or six years, count for 20 percent of the score. Attracting top quality students also is an important factor and has been an emphasis in recruiting. This fall the university boasted the best academically prepared freshman class in its history. Faculty salary and degrees, and student-faculty ratio all play a part; as do the number of small classes under 20 students, and large classes over 50. Mazey said BGSU has relatively few large sections, and she said she wants an administrator to look at the data for small classes to make sure the university is submitting the correct data. Alumni giving is a another relatively minor factor. Seven percent of BGSU alumni give money to the school. That compares to 21 percent for Miami and 4 percent for Kent. University initiatives in all these areas have been underway for several years, and were the focus of Mazey’s State of the University address early this month. “I think about this over and over and over,” she said. “My only goal is…


BGSU hosting STEM in the park, Sept. 24

From BGSU MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS STEM in the Park, a free family day of hands-on fun at Bowling Green State University, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Perry Field House, with plenty of free parking available. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in the Park will feature interactive displays and activities created by community partners, local businesses and area universities to engage children of all ages in the STEM fields. More than 140 unique hands-on STEM activity stations will be offered for individuals and families to enjoy. This event allows participants to make ice cream, dabble in robotics, launch pop rockets, pet lizards and much more. Everyone who attends the event will receive an event map, take home free STEM materials and activity ideas, and enjoy a complimentary catered lunch. Last year’s event drew more than 4,300 visitors from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. Back by popular demand is the “Science of Sports” zone, which displays activity stations that examine how fast participants can run, how high participants can jump, and how far participants can throw a ball. New this year will be a golf simulator where participants can take part in the longest drive contest. A “Roots to STEM Pre K-2” zone also returns this year, which features activities that cater specifically to younger children. The STEM Stage will once again feature super-sized demonstrations from Imagination Station and the Soar & Explore Bird Show presented by the Toledo Zoo. New activities for 2016 include the H2O Zone, where visitors can explore the science behind all of water’s amazing uses; the Food Science Zone for budding food technologists; and the Digital Arts Animation Station for getting immersed in the world of virtual reality. Activity Station hosts include BGSU’s Marine Lab and Herpetarium, Verizon, Toledo Botanical Garden, Challenger Learning Center of Lake Erie West, Nature’s Nursery, Ohio Northern University Engineering, Wood County Hospital, plus more than 80 other institutions and organizations. STEM in the Park is the brainchild of Drs. Emilio and Lena Duran, both faculty members in BGSU’s College of Education and Human Development. Inspired by Literacy in the Park, an on-campus spring event that brings families in for a variety of literacy-boosting activities, STEM in the Park seeks to increase public engagement in the STEM disciplines. According to Jenna Pollock, education program manager, “the Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education at BGSU (NWO) is committed to increasing attendance among low-income and at-risk children. For the fourth consecutive year we are able to provide transportation for families from several school districts in urban and low-income neighborhoods.” NWO organizes the free event on campus for the entire northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan community. NWO is a partnership among a number of area universities, K-12 schools, and community partners who all come together…


Black Swamp Arts Festival Update: Closing time

By BG INDEPENDENT NEWS (This is  the last of our blog posts about the Black Swamp Arts Festival. See you next year.) Every year I get that wistful feeling when Main Street in downtown Bowling Green reverts to its workaday self after the two and a half days of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. It’s like seeing the first discarded Christmas tree on the curb. The festival came off well. All those weather worries proved for naught. Saturday had intermittent showers, and late in the afternoon there were sudden hard gusts of wind, that had artists and helpers scurrying to better secure their booths. But that passed. If they gave a best of show honors for weather, Sunday would certainly be a top contender. One thing artists have consistently noted is that when it rains at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, the crowds seek cover in shops and booths and then return as soon as the rain stops. They don’t just go away. The result was Saturday wasn’t a bad day for art sales, and Sunday was far better. Ceramicist Jan Bostwick said she and her partner were “clicking our heels” over the amount of pottery she moved, and fabric artist Becca Levenson gleefully compressed her remaining stock into less than two feet of rack space. Now they’ll be back to work, producing more merchandise for their next fairs. Others didn’t fare as well. Jeweler Amy Beeler said hers were all right. That’s been true the entire season. She’d been told by veteran exhibitors that sales always get slow during presidential election years, especially when there’s no incumbent in the race. Most artists said their sales were good. Amy Craft Ahrens, co-chair of the concessions committee, said that sales in the beer garden were up dramatically on Friday, and just a little off on Saturday night. Speaking just as the festival was closing down, she said she was optimistic about Sunday given the length of the lines. Certainly the crowds seemed larger than usual for Sunday, which is not surprising, since it was a break, not just from Saturday’s showers, but the oppressive humidity late last week. It was a great day to be outdoors, noshing, looking at and buying art and taking in some great sounds. Homegrown talent was evident more than ever this year. Two Bowling Green musicians made their Main Stage debuts, Corey Baum with his country band from Austin, Texas, Croy and the Boys and Grant Flick playing with his buddies, Josh Turner, guitar, and Jacob Warren, bass. Baum’s band added a wry approach to classic country with originals that held their own next to covers of songs by artists such as George Jones. Having heard Flick before with his dad in Acoustic Penguin, his set on the Community Stage, demonstrated why he has such a…


Conneaut, Kenwood and BGHS releasing two hours early on Wednesday due to heat

At 10:15 pm Tuesday, an automated call and email went out to Bowling Green parents informing them that due to predicted heat, Conneaut and Kenwood Elementaries and BG Senior High School will all release students two hours early tomorrow, Wednesday September 7. The Middle School and Crim Elementary will complete their days normally due to air conditioning in those buildings. The text of the call and email is as follows: “Dear parents and guardians, With the tomorrow’s temperatures rising and potentially creating unsafe conditions for our students, Wednesday, September 7 Conneaut Elementary, Kenwood Elementary, and Bowling Green Senior High School will be on a two-hour early release. The Elementary schools will dismiss at 1:30pm, while the High School will dismiss at 12:32. Crim Elementary and Bowling Green Middle School will dismiss at normal times. We understand that this could create an inconvenience to you schedules but it is being done with our student’s health and safety in mind. Bobcat Proud, Superintendent Francis Scruci”


Bus driver shortage to affect BG students again this week

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After last week’s plea for bus drivers by Bowling Green City Schools, 14 people contacted the district to express interest in transporting students to and from school. But people have to go through training and background checks before they get behind the wheel of a school bus – so the school district is short on drivers again this week for some of the 1,700 students who rely on bus transportation. “Remember that it is a process from being interested to getting certified, but if everything goes well by the end of the month things should be in better shape. We will still continue to search for additional drivers,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said Monday evening in an email to parents. “With that being said, this week we still face a shortage of drivers,” Scruci wrote. So this week, the following routes will be affected: Bus #22, Tuesday morning and afternoon. Routes that will be delayed will be 8, 18 and 21. Bus #3, Tuesday Routes that will be delayed are 2 and 17. Bus #22, Wednesday Routes that will be delayed will be 8, 18 and 21. Bus #22, ThursdayRoutes that will be delayed will be 8, 18 and 21. Any time a driver can’t be found for one route, it affects other routes that have to compensate for the missing driver. That means some students are getting to school and returning home late. The district has 21 full-time drivers and 11 substitutes. The problem is that 23 full-time drivers are needed, and seven of the subs have other jobs. “They are substitutes for a reason, because they don’t want to work full-time,” Toby Snow, interim co-director of the school transportation department, said last week. The shortage isn’t just affecting regular bus transportation to and from school, but also the shuttling of athletic teams to competitions. The district is also responsible for transporting students to and from non-public schools and Penta Career Center. Bowling Green isn’t alone with its driver shortage. “We’re experiencing the same issues that a lot of schools are having,” Scruci said last week. “There are not a lot of people who want to do it.” The job pays $14.62 to $16.08 an hour, depending on the person’s experience. The driver must go through background checks with BCII and FBI, and have to get a commercial driver’s license. “It’s going to cost you before you ever get paid,” Snow said. New drivers must have a minimum of 20 hours of on-board instruction, plus attend a four-day class. “There’s a lot to it,” Scruci said. But people should not be intimidated by the size of the buses, Snow said. “If you can drive a full-size pickup truck, you can drive a bus,” Snow said. “It’s not as complicated as it looks.”  …


School bus driver shortage causing route delays

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wanted: Someone willing to get behind the wheel of a school bus as early as 5:50 a.m., to drive 60 unchaperoned students to and from school each day. Not exactly a dream job. “I’ve always said bus drivers are the bravest people I know. They turn their back on 60 teenagers,” Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said Monday. Like many school districts, Bowling Green City Schools is having trouble filling the drivers’ seats in its buses. On Tuesday afternoon, Scruci sent out an email to all parents and guardians informing them of problems the shortage might cause. Some of the solutions to the shortage will result in some late drop off times on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to the email. Following are some of the problems expected: On Wednesday, Bus 22 has no driver. Buses possibly impacted will be 4, 8, 20, 21.  This will probably delay drop off times for Kenwood Elementary students riding those buses. On Thursday, Bus 22 has no driver. Buses possibly impacted will be 4, 8, 20, 21.  This will probably delay drop off times for Kenwood Elementary students riding those buses. Also Bus 3 for the high school has no driver.  Buses impacted will be 2, 4, 8,17.  This will likely delay high school and Crim Elementary students. On Friday, Bus 3 for high school has no driver.  Buses impacted will be 2, 4, 8, 17.  This will likely delay high school and Crim Elementary students. The email from Scruci ends with this plea: “If you know of anyone interested in becoming certified to drive bus, please forward them to me.” The district has 21 full-time drivers and 11 substitutes. The problem is that 23 full-time drivers are needed, and seven of the subs have other jobs. “They are substitutes for a reason, because they don’t want to work full-time,” said Toby Snow, interim co-director of the school transportation department. The shortage isn’t just affecting regular bus transportation to and from school, but also the shuttling of athletic teams to competitions. Last week, the girls tennis team was more than 1 ½ hours late to matches on two different days. The district, which is also responsible for transporting students to and from non-public schools and Penta Career Center, delivers as many as 1,700 students each weekday. Bowling Green isn’t alone with its driver shortage. “We’re experiencing the same issues that a lot of schools are having,” Scruci said. “There are not a lot of people who want to do it.” The district tried to attract new drivers by parking a school bus out in front of the high school with a large sign stating the need for more drivers. Two people expressed interest. The job pays $14.62 to $16.08 an hour, depending on the person’s…


Mazey shares the spotlight in upbeat state of the university address

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News President Mary Ellen Mazey used her State of the University event to recap the success of the past year, and focus the university’s sights on what she sees as “a very strong” future. That included some bold goals. She told a full house at the Donnell Theatre that she would like to see the university head count, which includes all students whether full-time or taking a single course, to 25,000. That’s a 29-percent increase from the 19,352 from the current student body headcount.  She added “we envision a retention rate of 80-85 percent.” That’s up from the current 76-percent rate. A year from now, she said, she’d like that to be 80 percent. How many students the university keeps from enrollment though graduation is a key factor in how much money it gets from the state. After her talk Mazey said that given current trends, this level of enrollment could be reached by 2020. Mazey spelled out the most recent data points in her address. The university for the third year in a row is enrolling its best academically prepared class ever with an average GPA of 3.42 and an average ACT score of 22.8.  Better prepared students are more likely to stay on campus through graduation. The headcount also benefited from the new College Credit Plus program that allows high school students, and some even in middle school, to take college courses. The program, Mazey said, “has exceeded expectations.” Last spring the university had 1,286 students enrolled in College Credit Plus programs. Mazey said enrollment this fall, the program’s third semester, could exceed 2,000. The university also received $800,000 from the state to train high school teachers to teach those courses. Graduate enrollment is up 11 percent to 2,708, thanks, she said, to a variety of new graduate programs. More are on the way including a master’s in forensic science and a master’s in social work with an emphasis on gerontology. These are two areas of particular focus for BGSU. She called for the creation of “new master’s degree programs that are responsive the workforce needs of the future.” And said those programs should be offered in a flexible way to meet the needs of prospective graduate students. As BGSU enters the third year of “the silent phase” of its capital campaign, Mazey said: “…we need to work toward a goal of a $300-400 million endowment.” To do that, she said: “We need to have our annual alumni giving at 15-20-percent participation, and the faculty and staff campaign at 70-percent participation.” After her address, Mazey said, she’d like to see the current campaign to a successful conclusion even if it takes four years. She has three more years on her contract, and at the time the trustees extended her contract, she said she…


Candy, the beloved spaniel, still smiling in Carole Sarkan’s new book

By FRANCES BRENT “And Candy Smiled” was Carole Sarkan’s first book about a wonderfully hyperactive dog that lost a leg to a passing car. Carole Sarkan’s simple words and Emily Christoff-Flowers’ lush illustrations  mesh to tell a story full of the joy and energy of life embodied by one cuddly and expressively noisy dog casually overcoming a real disability. In the just published companion book, “And Candy Lived,” the message of the power of love continues. Death is never mentioned and life goes on in settings created by love, imagination and memory.  The scenes and sentiments are “So North West  Ohio,” yet touch on the universal themes of love, family and transcending sorrow. These are books to be read aloud and then savored alone for the gorgeously romantic illustrations and the sheer dogginess that touches our human psyche. We love our dogs. Think how the New Orleans floods showed that bond. To say children’s author Carole Sarkan is local is almost to re-define the term. Born and schooled in Bowling Green, she graduated from BGSU and lives in Grand Rapids. Carole student taught in Bowling City  with her former sixth grade teacher and spent her entire public school career  teaching in the BG system. Keeping the local story going, Carole, then at Crim, taught three granddaughters of her 6th grade teacher (me).  Time passed – and Carole, the one-time second grader, joined her seco And Candy Livednd grade  teacher as a colleague  at the Liberty Building. Now they are both retired and friends. Of course the wonderful illustrator, a BG treasure named Emily Christoff-Flowers, is a former classmate of Carole’s now living in Virginia. The two creative friends teamed  up to produce lovely books, the first nominated for a Caldecott award in 2013. Teaching has a strong pull on Sarkan still. She will continue to do workshops at area schools, using the two Candy books as creative spring boards. She will soon be sharing the wisdom of her teaching years as a University Mentor guiding student teachers. Books will be available locally at Calico, Sage and Thyme, various book happenings, including The Black Swamp Arts Festival, and on Amazon.com.  Learn more at www.andcandysmiled.com.


Uncooled school grueling for students and staff

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The library at Bowling Green High School was uncharacteristically popular during the first five days of school last week. It is air conditioned. But in other classrooms, the teachers were drenched with sweat and the students were drowsy from the heat. Clay Kalaf-Hughes’ classroom was the winner in the fan count – with seven working fiercely to cool the room in the early afternoon. “I get here super early, to try to get cool air in,” Kalaf-Hughes said. But it’s more of a psychological than actual relief. “It’s perception, that if it’s moving around, it’s cooling.” The temperatures – which have been measured at over 100 in some classrooms – make it difficult for even the most dedicated students to say focused in class. “It’s a struggle to have students concentrate in such a hot environment,” said Kalaf-Hughes, who teaches English and history. “It’s a real battle.” The high school is one of three Bowling Green City School buildings to not have air conditioning. Kenwood and Conneaut elementaries also have none, while the Middle School and Crim Elementary do have cooling. The first and last weeks of the school year can be brutal for students and staff in the sweltering buildings. Superintendent Francis Scruci has referred to the students as pools of butter sitting in the heat. The sauna like temperatures don’t make for a good learning – or teaching – environment. High School Principal Jeff Dever concurs. “It’s just a show stopper,” he said of the oppressive heat in the school. And that was even last week, when school was in its “honeymoon period” of the new year – a time when kids are excited about school and acclimated to heat from the summer. “Kids are attentive. They are trying,” he said. “But they are not operating at peak performance.” Dever pointed out that the hot conditions are not tolerated at most workplaces. “Almost every other building you go to in town is air conditioned.” One teacher, now retired, used to post a sign reading, “They air condition prisons.” But the solutions to cool the school are quite expensive since the building has no ductwork. Rough estimates for installing air conditioning just to the high school went as high as $15 million. So the superintendent looked for a temporary solution that might provide some relief until school buildings are renovated or replaced. He had heard of a district with a similar situation that cooled its schools with temporary air conditioning units. The company that handled the project was asked to calculate how much it would cost to cool Bowling Green’s schools for the first weeks at the beginning and end of the school year. The total for cooling the high school, Conneaut and Kenwood was estimated at $101,500 a month. “I…


Bobcat Fan Fair to celebrate BG Schools on Saturday

(From BG City Schools) The annual Bobcat Fan Fair will be held Saturday. This is free, family fun event at the High School Athletic Stadium. There will be much to see and to do. Gates open at 4:00pm and the fun builds from there. The High School band will march in at 4:30 accompanied by an antique fire truck carrying the cheerleaders. After the band performs, Board of Education member Ellen Scholl will sing the Star Spangled Banner. Mayor Richard Edwards will be on hand to cut the ribbon dedicating the new stands and Superintendent Francis Scruci will welcome everyone. The Athletic teams will then be introduced by their coaches as they parade onto the field. Fans will then be invited to come on down to the track to meet the coaches and student athletes as well as participate in many games and activities. Students from the elementary schools through middle school can win a free Bobcat Proud T-shirt by visiting each table and completing their “passport.” All students who complete a passport will be entered in a drawing to win a student “all-sport” pass for the entire school year. There will be food! The High School teachers are offering a hot dog meal (hot dog, chips, cookie and drink) for only $3.00, which will benefit their scholarship fund. Drinks and snow cones will also be available for purchase but the ice-cream is FREE! This is not only an excellent opportunity for families to spend some time together, their young students will be inspired to work hard to get to High School and participate in the many sporting opportunities. Athletics are part of the well-rounded education offered in Bowling Green. The week following is Bobcat Week with several activities being planned. Come see the new sculpture of the bobcat near the front door of the High School.  What will be painted on the spirit rock? There will be a Rally on the Green on Wednesday at 4:30 (Honk if you are a Bobcat…type of thing). Throughout the week we will be offering free sports schedules and window clings to merchants. To top it off, there will be pep rallies in the elementary and middle schools… all culminating on Saturday. All Bowling Green supporters are asked to wear the school colors, red and gray, throughout Bobcat Week and especially when they come to the first home football game on Friday, August 26 th . The Bobcats are taking on the Rossford Bulldogs at 7:00 p.m. High school football is fast-paced action – no commercial breaks, no replays…just hard hitting football. Come and join in the fun.


Reading, writing, raising funds ….. BG Schools may need to rein in fundraising

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Students not only need to conjugate sentences and calculate math equations, but they also have to wash cars, serve up pancakes and peddle candy bars. Schools have used student fundraisers for years to help support extra curriculars, but Bowling Green City Schools may be relying on them a bit much, according to Superintendent Francis Scruci. “It seems like everybody is trying to fundraise,” he said during Tuesday’s board of education meeting. “And I think it’s becoming a problem.” Scruci reported on two fundraisers going on this coming weekend, when the athletic boosters will raise money from people test driving new cars, and when the band boosters hold a couple pancake breakfasts. It’s not that the ingenuity or the volunteer efforts aren’t admirable. It’s just that people get tired of being hit up for school fundraisers he said. “In a community this size, we’re tapping into the same people all the time,” Scruci said. Just this week, the superintendent said he got a phone call from a citizen complaining that after one day of school there was already a student at her door trying to sell something to raise funds for a school related activity. It appeared to this person that the focus on the first day of school was to get the kids out hawking for support. “That’s not what’s going on,” Scruci said. Scruci praised the efforts of school booster groups and other community organizations that try to raise funds for children. “Different groups and organizations are trying to help kids,” he said. “We can’t close our eyes to the fact that not every kid can pay for what they need.” But it may be time to streamline the efforts and curtail some of the many fundraisers, Scruci said to the board. After the meeting, Scruci said the Bowling Green district has many more fundraising efforts than his last school district in Gahanna, which is much larger. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board of education heard about a new curriculum writing effort being used in the district. Dr. Ann McCarty, Jodi Anderson and Zeb Kellough introduced “Understanding by Design,” a “thoughtful way of writing curriculum.” The process requires teachers to use “backward design” to meet goals. And the goal is not to get good in school, but to give them skills that they can use. The process focuses on making students aware of why they are doing things – rather than thinking it’s just because their teacher said so. Understanding by Design is not new, McCarty said. “It is not the lastest, greatest or hottest” new program.  It works with teachers to make them think through each step of their curriculum. “The planning always begins with the end in mind.” “We’re not teaching to a test. We’re not teaching to an…


BGHS raises GPA required for student athletes

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In front of an auditorium packed with student athletes and their parents, school officials broke the news. Bowling Green athletes will no longer be able to play sports if they can’t score at least a C average in their classes. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci and new Athletic Director Jonas Smith agreed that the former standard of a 1.7 grade point average is no longer good enough to be able to play sports. Student athletes will now have to achieve at least a 2.0 GPA. “Athletics is a privilege, not a right,” Scruci told the athletes and their parents last week. While sports may be more enjoyable than scholastics for some students, the chances of athletics helping them get to college is very, very slim. Of the 750,000 high school athletes in the nation, their performance on the field gets less than 1 percent of them get college scholarships, Scruci said. So from now on, academics come first. “We’ve got to emphasize they are students first,” Smith said. According to Scruci, the new raised GPA requirement should not be difficult for most Bowling Green athletes to achieve. Last year just three student athletes were below the 2.0 GPA. “Schools exist because of academics, not athletics,” Scruci said. Though it wasn’t mentioned at last week’s athletes meeting, Bowling Green City Schools is also considering enacting some type of drug testing program. Most school districts in Wood County already do drug testing of student athletes. “We’ll be looking at it,” Scruci said, adding that any drug testing must first be approved by the board of education. Scruci and Smith also announced plans to do private fundraising to build better athletic facilities. Top on the list is an all-weather synthetic turf for the football field, a field house for all sports, and improvements to the weight room. Both men agreed that the district’s sports facilities were substandard. “Our athletes deserve better,” Smith said. Private fundraising will be done, with naming rights offered to donors. “We don’t think taxpayers should pay the bill,” Scruci said. Smith has some experience in this area. As athletic director for Dayton Public Schools, he oversaw a $3.6 million renovation of the district’s Welcome Stadium, and secured corporate sponsorships for some of the project.


Talking to kids about troubled times – how to make them cautious, not paranoid

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green mom asked for help not crossing the line between protecting her two children from “bad guys” and making them fearful of the world. “I want them to be cautious, but not paranoid,” she said, Thursday evening during a meeting to help parents talk with their children about troubled times and the violence erupting around the world. The meeting was hosted by the Bowling Green School District and Not In Our Town. “They are overwhelmed,” Rev Gary Saunders, of Not In Our Town, said of many parents wondering how to explain mass shootings and terrorism to their children. “They can’t believe that it’s happening. Yet they have the task of making meaning of this.” A panel of experts who work with children advised that parents talk with their children, and listen to what they have to say. “Children are so very perceptive and they pick up more than we adults realize,” said Ana Brown, coordinator for Diversity Initiatives at Bowling Green State University. “They are going to make meaning of things themselves if you’re not there with them,” said Christina Lunceford, assistant professor of higher education and student affairs at BGSU. Parents were told not to wait until they think their children are old enough to understand the violence. Much of today’s tragedies are not understandable at any age. But even preschoolers are soaking up bits and pieces of what they hear. “The conversations should happen at a very young age and they should be continuous,” Lunceford said. “You can’t not do it because it’s hard and uncomfortable.” In the not so distant past, parents felt they had done their duty to teach their children not to take candy from a stranger or get in a vehicle with someone they don’t know. That just doesn’t seem like enough anymore. The list of dangers seems so much longer now. “It’s really tough these days,” said Maria Simon, director of youth services at Wood County District Public Library. “This is their world. This is their future. They need to be aware of some of the things happening, but not to be scared of it.” Mindy Bahnsen, of Children’s Resource Center, advised that parents listen to their children to find out how their minds are processing news of the violence. “Keeping the conversation open is the main thing,” she said. “We have no idea what their little brain is thinking.” A good starting point can be found in books, according to Simon. “I think a book is a great tool to start opening up and talking to your kids,” she said. However, Simon explained that while there are many children’s books dealing with the difficult topics of divorce, diversity and death, there aren’t many addressing mass shootings or terrorism. “These books about how…


Community helps fill 700 backpacks for students

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Students may be anxious about going back to school in the next week or two. Some parents, meanwhile, are nervous about the costs of supplying them for the school year. Depending on the grade, the school supply list can be quite long – notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, oil pastels, markers, scissors, glue, rulers, headphones, scientific calculators – and of course, the backpack to carry it all. Cha-ching. Older kids don’t need the scissors or glue, but they’ve got school expenses of their own like flash-drives, pay-to-play costs for extra-curriculars, band uniform fees, class photos and other niceties. Cha-ching. And of course, there are back to school clothes and footwear. Cha-ching. The average cost for supplies and backpacks – with no frills included – is $85 per child, according to Shannon Fisher, social services supervisor with Wood County Job and Family Services. The total bill can be daunting for families, especially those with multiple children. To help those families unable to handle the costs on their own, nearly 700 stocked backpacks are being given to Wood County children. Wood County Job and Family Services provided backpacks full of school supplies, plus new shoes, for 500 children. And Wednesday, the United Way in Wood County and the Salvation Army teamed up to offer a Back to School Fair at Woodland Mall in Bowling Green. Those agencies worked with local churches, businesses and organizations to collect items for backpacks. “We pooled community resources to have a larger, better coordinated backpack drive,” said Michael Caniglia, communications intern with United Way. “It’s an expense that is difficult for some families.” The effort provided backpacks to 187 students in 87 local families. “They are very appreciative,” Salvation Army board member Judy Wegmeyer said of those families getting the backpacks. The same holds true for those getting backpacks and shoes from Job and Family Services. “The kids have been very excited, and the parents have been very thankful,” Fisher said. Some parents have said the help allowed them to keep up on other bills that would have been missed otherwise. Fisher said she also got to talk with a little boy who had just picked out some new shoes for school with the voucher from Job and Family Services. “He was super excited,” she said. The Back to School Fair was open to all families with children headed off to school, but was designed with low income families in mind. Several local organizations were on hand to provide information about the services and opportunities available to students and their families including out-of-school programming, health care options, rent and utility assistance, early intervention services and more. The Portage Lions Club provided vision screenings for preschoolers. Other participating agencies included Girl Scouts of Northwest Ohio, WSOS Community Action Commission, The Cocoon,…