Education

Is cursive writing out of the loop?

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Children no longer line up at the chalkboard, practicing elaborate loops for their cursive writing. Most now communicate using their thumbs on tiny keyboards. To some youth, cursive writing is as mysterious as hieroglyphics – found only in old documents, in rare love letters, or in unreadable signatures. Some see this as a natural progression, others as a tragic loss. “Everything progresses and everything changes,” said Beverly Dennis. “The world is changing and this is where things are going.” Dennis is stuck somewhere in the middle of the cursive controversy. As a genealogist who works in the Wood County local genealogy office, she sees the value of traditional cursive writing. “I think the next generations that come along are going to have a lot of difficulty reading cursive,” she said. To a person who appreciates history, that thought is troubling. “If you didn’t know cursive, it would be more difficult to transcribe these old books. There is so much of it in history.” Plus, there’s a touch of art to cursive writing that just doesn’t exist in typed words. “It’s really beautiful,” Dennis said of cursive with its fancy curves and curls. However, as a grandmother of teenagers, Dennis sees the natural evolution toward keyboards. “Cursive writing probably won’t be around long,” she predicted. “Even at my advanced age, I find myself vacillating between cursive and printing. Printing does seem to be easier than cursive.” Some educators, already feeling pinched for instruction time, see cursive as collateral damage in the fight to get better scores on standardized tests. Educational standards in most states require teachers to instruct students to write legibly. However, those lessons are usually limited to the earliest primary grades, then replaced by a focus on keyboard skills. “Any student born after 1981 is a digital student,” said Dr. Ann McCarty, executive director of teaching and learning for Bowling Green City Schools. “And it makes sense for us to focus on things that are a part of their world.” Schools are often questioned about how youth will learn to write their signatures if they don’t have a grasp of cursive writing. McCarty said that just isn’t a valid reason to dedicate classroom time to cursive. “How many people’s signatures can you actually read anyway?” It’s not the schools driving this change, but rather the schools responding to reality. “I don’t think kids encounter it anymore,” McCarty said. “There’s nothing they get in cursive, except maybe a letter from their grandparents.” There are two schools of thought, she explained. Some in education believe the tactile motion of writing helps the learning process. Others believe key strokes do the job just as well. “Everything they do is on devices,” McCarty said of today’s students. “They are starting at a very young age….


What to say to kids about so much violence? BG school district offers help

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some Bowling Green parents are struggling with how to explain the recent violence in the world to their children. Though surrounded by cornfields and isolated from much of the turmoil in the world, the children see images and hear stories of the violence. So to help families discuss these difficult topics, a community meeting will be held Aug. 11. The meeting was organized after some parents expressed their concerns about how to talk with their children about incidents like the shootings in the Orlando night club or the terror attacks in France. “A couple moms were getting their hair done, and talking about ‘I don’t know what to tell my kids,’” Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said. Scruci saw an opening for the schools to help. “If we can provide some resources,” he said. “We want to give our families a chance to ask questions. ‘What should we say? What shouldn’t we say?’” The school district is partnering with the Not In Our Town organization to host a community discussion on Aug. 11 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., in the Performing Arts Center Lobby at Bowling Green High School. The discussion will be targeted for the adults in children’s lives, and may not be appropriate for children themselves. Heather Sayler, an organizer of the Not In Our Town organization, said it is hoped that some people with counseling expertise will be able to speak at the meeting. “People who work with children on a daily basis, or when they are in crisis,” she said. Social media makes it almost impossible for youth to avoid news of violence here in the U.S. and around the world. The news lately has been full of stories about terror attacks in Europe and Asia, mass shootings here in the U.S., the killings of black men by police, and the killings of police trying to protect their communities. “The purpose of the meeting is to share ideas of how to talk to your children about the violence, answer any  questions you may have, and to give resources for parents to use to help their children better understand and feel safe,” the school district said in a press release about the event.  


Costs to cool BG schools too hot to handle

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Three of the five Bowling Green city school buildings have no air conditioning – meaning the first and last weeks of the school season can be brutal for students. Superintendent Francis Scruci has referred to the sweltering students as pools of butter sitting in the heat. “We know our buildings are hot. We know our kids melt,” Scruci said during a meeting held earlier this month. At that same meeting, high school teacher Jeff Nichols said his classroom on the second floor of the high school reached 108 degrees one day last year. And Principal Jeff Dever asked people to come experience the temperatures. “I invite any Bowling Green resident to come to our school the second day of the school year,” Dever said. The sauna like temperatures don’t make for a good learning – or teaching – environment. Cooling the schools is one of Scruci’s goals as he talks about new or renovated buildings. “That certainly is one of the obstacles we have,” he said during Tuesday evening’s board of education meeting. The superintendent has been looking for a temporary solution that might provide some relief until school buildings are renovated or replaced. But fixes are few since no ductwork exists at the high school, Conneaut or Kenwood schools. “That presents a huge challenge,” Scruci said. But Scruci 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 estimate for Kenwood Elementary called for 25 1.5-ton air conditioning units in the windows, costing $20,000 per month. That amount didn’t include the $3,500 for set up and tear down, or the added electric cost to run the air conditioning. The total for cooling the high school, Conneaut and Kenwood reached $101,500 a month. “I don’t think that’s a reasonable option,” Scruci said. “That’s not a doable number.” Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board learned the new bleachers in the football stadium are nearly complete. “We were fortunate to be on the front end of their schedule,” said Kent Buehrer, of Buehrer Group Architecture. “Some of the districts are probably worried if they can have their first home games this season.” The new bleachers on both the home and visitor sides, along with restrooms cost the district $552,255. It became necessary for the district to replace the bleachers when the existing ones were found to be rusted underneath during last year’s football season. One section normally used for student seating was closed during the season and temporary bleachers were set up in the north end zone. In other business, Scruci talked…


BG School’s state scores less than stellar

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education got the bad news first Tuesday evening. The latest state scores for the district looked dismal, with none of the grades meeting state standards for English or math. That report was quickly followed up by good news about students building robots and programming computers in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering and Math) program. The pairing of the good news/bad news was intentional, according to Superintendent Francis Scruci. “We’re going to own our score,” Scruci said about the state grades that were far from acceptable. But he wanted to make sure people also saw the great learning taking place in the district, and not put too much weight on the state scores. “It’s reckless for a community to judge a school based on a one-day snapshot,” he said. “Please don’t judge the district based on a one-day snapshot.” Ann McCarty, executive director of teaching and learning for BG City Schools, had the job of breaking the bad news. None of the grades met state standards for English. Aside from a middle school algebra class, none of the grades met standards for math. The district saw some success in social studies and science scores. McCarty did not make excuses, but she did try to explain how the low scores could have happened. First, the English and math tests were new. “You will see scores drop,” when the tests change, she said. Second, the state rubrics were released after the school year had started, making it tougher on teachers. Third, the district did not have a comprehensive assessment process to monitor programs. And finally, the district didn’t find out two of its school were in the Ohio Improvement Process until later in the year. To bring up the scores – and more importantly, improve the learning, McCarty said the district is taking several steps to: Identify instructional trends for at-risk groups of students. Create a viable curriculum for all students. Create Google sites as resources for teachers. Implement assessments for reading and math. Hold weekly teacher team meetings to discuss data and instruction. “We want to focus on academic achievement,” McCarty said. “When the learning occurs, the test scores follow.” The district’s goal is to close the achievement gap between special education and all students by no less than 3 percent each year for three consecutive years. The gloom of the state scores was followed by the success of the STEAM program, presented by Jodi Anderson. Formerly known as STEM, the acronym changed recently when arts were added to the mix. Anderson explained that the focus on science, technology, engineering and math began in the 1990s when it was discovered that U.S. students were lagging behind other nations in those subjects, and needed those skills to meet the…



BGHS ’78 grads show their class with new bobcat statue

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Poised to lift the white shroud from the object set in front of Bowling Green High School, Bill York paused to note that he’d been promised “this is not just another class of ’78 prank.” The class, known in the years since they graduated as the worst class ever, has set about turning over a new leaf. “We’re trying to establish a new reputation as the most giving class,” York said. That spirit was represented when the object, a large bronze statue of a bobcat, was unveiled. For Principal Jeff Dever, it will be “a tremendous thing for kids to come to school and see that.” And yes, he heard, the stories about the class as “the worst class that came through these doors.” What he knows is that the class has been “very generous.” “They handled this from start to finish,” he said. The project was spearheaded by Bill York. Classmate Mike Hammer, the city superintendent of public works, enlisted help from city workers to get the base of brick and concrete constructed. York said that after the class held its 35th reunion, some of the organizers talked about creating a more permanent structure. In 2014, the Bowling Green High School Class of 1978 was created. In 2015, the foundation awarded its first scholarship for $1,000 and donated a couple benches that sit outside the school. This year a $2,500 scholarship was awarded, and the bobcat was purchased and placed. The idea for the bronze mascot came from members of the class, York said. They wanted something “unique” and enduring. It should be made as it is of bronze, stone and brick. “It’ll be long lasting,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll outlast us all.” The budget for the project was $8,500. The class raised almost $12,000. York said that may mean benches or other elements could be added to the project. The bronze bobcat was purchased from the Large Art Company, from Baltimore, Maryland. York said that when they first approached the administration about how they could help the school, all the administrators knew of the class was its reputation. “We were rambunctious,” Hammer admitted. In a humorous poem penned for the occasion, class member David Kinney noted that the faculty “pushed us out the doors with cheers.” Those teachers, though, also “motivated us to give back with all our might. Now we know the kids of ’78 are all right.” At least one teacher thought so at the time. Frances Brent, who taught sixth grade, said the class, which included her late daughter Liz, was “wonderful.” “I adored them. I like ornery kids,” she said. The class is continuing its efforts. After the unveiling of the statue, some members were heading off to a golf outing to raise more scholarship money.  


BG School District considers building options

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green school officials are facing four major decisions – and none of them are easy. Does the district want to fund building projects locally or use some state funding? Should the district consolidate the elementary schools or stick with neighborhood buildings? Should the district renovate, construct new or do nothing with its buildings? And lastly, how can they get the word out to more people in order to get more educated input. “We want to know what our taxpayers are thinking,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said during another public meeting Thursday about building options. The options are many, but none will move quickly. The earliest the district will put a levy on the ballot is May of 2017. “I like May elections,” Scruci said. “I’ll tell you why. People tend to be a little more positive.” And the earliest a new school might be constructed would be three years after getting the approval from the school board. The most expensive option calls for the consolidation of the three elementaries into one central building, and major renovations to the high school. That option has a price tag of $54 million. It’s unsure how much millage that would require, but if that is the option selected, the district would not piecemeal it over different elections. “If we’re going to do it, let’s do it,” Scruci said. A less expensive option calls for a new Conneaut Elementary, and renovations to Kenwood, Crim and the high school – estimated to cost $44 million. But that brings up the question, “how much good money do we put into old buildings,” Scruci asked. Doing nothing is not a very realistic option since the school buildings are bursting at the seams, with modular classrooms being added to Conneaut this year and likely at Kenwood next year. “We are at capacity,” Scruci said. “Our class sizes aren’t getting smaller.” Projections call for enrollment to grow by 100 to 150 students in the next decade. Earlier this year, the district received the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission survey which looked at 24 systems – such as heating, electrical or lighting – at each of the five school buildings and attached renovation and replacement dollars to them. The survey found Conneaut Elementary to have the greatest needs, followed by Kenwood Elementary, the High School, Crim Elementary and then the Middle School. If the cost to renovate a school exceeds 66 percent of the cost to build a new school, then the commission considers it wise to build new. Conneaut is the only school to exceed that two-thirds threshold, though Kenwood and the high school are close. Though some school districts in the area have received significant financial help for constructing new buildings from the OFCC program, Bowling Green would not, Scruci said. The…


Park district’s historic farm looking to grow

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Deer and raccoons have long been residents of the Wood County Park District. But chickens and goats? “Welcome to the farm,” Tim Gaddie, historic farm specialist with the park district, said to the park district board members Tuesday as they held their monthly meeting at Carter Historic Farm. The farm, located on Carter Road north of Bowling Green, is unlike any other park site in the district. The site is intended to take visitors back to the 1930s, when area farms were on the verge of big changes. “It was a big transition from hand powered and animal powered farming to machine-based,” Gaddie said. The historic farm programs focus on skills that families of the era relied on for survival – food preservation, vegetable and herb gardening, rug making and woodworking. Family campfire programs are also offered. This week, a group of kids aged 7 and 8 are attending farm camp there. Next week, 9- and 10-year-old kids will be learning at the farm. But Gaddie would like to do more to make Carter Historic Farm a working farm. Last year, chickens were added to the farm, with many of the eggs being used for programming. Soon, he would like to add some goats, then gradually work his way up to sheep, dairy cows, a draft horse and mules. Gaddie can picture a time when the sheep on the farm will be sheared to create yarn that will then be used for weaving. To accomplish these goals, Gaddie is trying to grow farm volunteers. “We’re working on building the volunteer base to do that,” he said. The farm currently benefits from help from inmates of the Northwest Community Correction Center, and may soon be offering a place for juvenile offenders to volunteer. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without volunteers,” Gaddie said. Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger complimented the progress at the farm site. “I can’t say enough for the work Tim has done,” Munger said. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the park board approved the last of the pay increases that will bring park district employees up to the minimum level as determined by an outside compensation consultant. The raises range from 16 cents to $1.47 per hour. “This takes everyone up to the minimum for their positions,” Munger explained. The board also approved the park district’s 2017 statutory budget. The budget, with estimated resources of $7.14 million, set aside $1 million for capital improvements to parks and $715,000 for land acquisition. Board member John Calderonello noted the amount set aside for land acquisition, and questioned if there is a limit to how much land the park district resources can adequately maintain. Munger said before property is purchased or accepted through donations, the district evaluates the maintenance…


Community invited to discuss school buildings

The Bowling Green Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Thursday, July 14, at 7 p.m. at the Middle School Library, 1079 Fairview Ave., Bowling Green.  This is a Community Focus Workshop of the Board, with the purpose of the meeting to provide an update and solicit feedback about the Ohio Facilities Construction Committee (OFCC) Master Plan report. No action is expected to be taken.


Back to School Fair offers help to local families

United Way in Wood County is hosting the Wood County Back to School Fair in conjunction with the Salvation Army Tools for School program. The event will be held from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the Woodland Mall, 1234 N. Main St. in Bowling Green. Local organizations will provide information about the services and opportunities available to local students and their families including out of school programming, health care options, rent and utility assistance, early intervention services and more. Participating agencies include Girl Scouts, WSOS Head Start, Help Me Grow, Home Energy Assistance Program, HomeNet and Fatherhood initiative, The Cocoon, Boy Scouts, Children’s Resource Center, Wood County Health District, Wood County WIC, Wood County Educational Services Center-STARS program, and Wood County Hospital. The event is free and open to the public. Individuals interested in volunteering to plan the event, seeking more information, or wishing to make a donation should contact United Way in Wood County at 419-352-2390.


BGSU alumni back on campus & still eager to learn

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Lou Katzner was facing a class of unfamiliar student faces. That’s not unusual for the philosophy professor who has taught at Bowling Green State University since 1969, except this class included a couple students who graduated well before he started teaching here. The seven students in the class were part of the inaugural BGSU Alumni College. In her greeting to the several dozen students enrolled, President Mary Ellen Mazey said she looked for the program to grow over the years and reach more of the university’s 175,000 alumni. And she hoped their experience on campus would get them to consider how they can help future generations of Falcons. A major focus of the current fundraising campaign is scholarships, she said. And, in detailing all the building renovations underway, she said donors can have their names attached to a building or space within a building. Katzner wanted to explore the more intangible aspects of higher education. He led the graduates in a discussion of “What is the Value of a College Education?” The students ranged from Barbara Palmer, a 1954 graduate, to Sean Taylor, a 1998 graduate. At the conclusion, Katzner said: “The most important thing you can take away from college is how to learn.” That proved true for those in the class who’d made career shifts over their lives. Carolyn Christman, who graduated in 1985, has gone from being a school music teacher to a Methodist missionary. Dina Horwedel graduated in journalism in 1986 and then got a law degree. Her career has taken her around the world. Now she works for the American Indian College Fund as director of public education. She said one of her most enduring memories of her time at BGSU was advice by journalism professor Emil Dansker. He told his students that “everything is relevant,” Horwedel said. Also, “he told us to question everything.” Katzner said that approach is suffering in the current educational climate, which focuses so much on accountability. “It’s easy to get data on students’ ability to give answers. You can’t get data on how students ask questions.” That data-driven focus runs counter to what it means to be an American, Horwedel said. “We do question more. … That’s what’s made us so innovative. We find work-arounds. … It would be a tragedy if we didn’t continue to ask questions.” In the group that included several educators, Katzner’s lament about data-driven education drew sighs of recognition. “It all comes from things you can’t measure,” said Craig Bowman, who received a master’s in business education in 1981. The memories of those in the group weren’t only of the classroom. Christman said the best thing she did was join the Falcon Marching Band. She found a second family in the band. Katzner said he advises young people…


BG Schools wants citizen input on buildings

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green School District wants to hear from its residents. Do citizens want to renovate the existing buildings? Build new schools? Consolidate the three elementaries? And how much are they willing to support? “We can kick the can down the road and ignore the issues,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said to a meeting of about 40 parents and teachers Tuesday evening. But the problems are only going to get more expensive to resolve, he warned. Scruci said he will talk to any group about the options. He will meet with them anywhere they want – in offices, coffee shops or in neighborhood living rooms. The district is also conducting an anonymous survey on school facility and funding options. That survey can be done at PollEv.com/annmccarty150. The audience members who took the poll on the smart phones Tuesday evening showed a clear preference for building new rather than renovation, consolidation of elementaries, and local funding rather than state assistance. Scruci is hoping that residents will attend meetings and listen to the options before making up their minds. “I have people who have not come, but have all the answers,” he said. “We really want our community to be informed.” “We want to come up with something this community wants to support,” he said. Earlier this year, the district received the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission survey which looked at 24 systems – such as heating, electrical or lighting – at each of the five school buildings and attached renovation and replacement dollars to them. The survey found Conneaut Elementary to have the greatest needs, followed by Kenwood Elementary, the High School, Crim Elementary and then the Middle School. If the cost to renovate a school exceeds 66 percent of the cost to build a new school, then the commission considers it wise to build new, Scruci explained. Conneaut is the only school to exceed that two-thirds threshold, though Kenwood and the high school are close. Climate control is a major challenge, with some of the high school rooms peaking at over 100 degrees in the early fall and late spring. “That’s not a good learning environment, not a good teaching environment,” Scruci said. Scruci has heard from older residents who have said, “You know, when I was in school we didn’t have air conditioning.” But “it’s a different world,” he said. Increasing enrollment is a challenge, with modular classrooms already added to Conneaut, and expected for Kenwood soon. The older buildings lack energy efficiency, pose water issues, and were not built for today’s technology. Though some school districts in the area have received significant financial help for constructing new buildings from the OFCC program, Bowling Green would not, Scruci said. The district’s acreage and college population makes it look wealthier than it actually is, Scruci…


Public invited to discuss BG school buildings

The Bowling Green Board of Education will hold a special meeting to discuss school buildings on Tuesday, June 28, at 7 p.m. in the Middle School Library, 1079 Fairview Ave.  This is a community focus workshop of the board, with the purpose of the meeting to provide an update and solicit feedback about the Ohio Facilities Construction Committee (OFCC) Master Plan report. No action is expected to be taken.


BG school district hires new athletic director

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Jonas Smith served as athletic director for Dayton Public Schools, where he oversaw seven high schools and a $3.6 million renovation of the district’s Welcome Stadium. But something was missing. Smith is hoping to find that missing piece at Bowling Green City School District. “The last several years, I’ve missed being around kids,” Smith said. Tuesday evening, Bowling Green’s board of education hired Smith as the district’s new athletic director. Smith said he was attracted to the “very welcoming” community, the good schools, and the potential to build relationships. Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said he was attracted to Smith’s 20 years of experience overseeing a large program, his reputation in the state, his winning record at Dayton, and his success securing corporate sponsorships for the renovated stadium. “It’s what he brings to the table,” Scruci said. Smith will receive an annual salary of $90,000. “I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for,” Scruci said. Smith was accompanied to Tuesday’s school board meeting by his wife, LaDonna, and their two sons, ages 15 and 11. He was also joined by a former school superintendent and mentor, who flew up from South Carolina to be present for his hiring. Smith knows time to prepare for his new job is ticking away, with fall sports starting on Aug. 1. His philosophy for school athletics is “7-12,” he said. The head coaches at the high school level should have a hand in their sports from seventh grade on up. The fundamentals should be stressed at the middle school level, so the athletes will be ready for high school, he said. But he also believes athletics takes a back seat to academics, Smith said. “They are students first, athletes second,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s best for children.” Smith said he will be accessible to parents. “I have an open door policy for parents.” But he also believes in following the chain of command, he added. The new athletic director said he sees a lot of opportunity for the district. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re going to move this district ahead and do what’s right for children.” Also the meeting, the school board hired Eddie Powers to take over as head coach of the hockey team. Powers has served as assistant to retired head coach Dan DeWitt, who served more than 25 years and scored more than 500 wins. The board also learned the biggest change in the student handbook for the coming year is the reduction in allowed absences. The previous policy allowed up to 15 missed days a semester. That meant a student could miss 30 days before the issue was presented to the court, Scruci said. The new policy will cut that in half, so…


ACT*BG’s role in staging Amazing Race appreciated

From BRUCE CORRIGAN On behalf of the Bowling Green High School Bobcat Bands, I would like to thank Drew Headley, Nick Peiffer, and the entire ACT*BG committee and the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring the Amazing Race held on May 13. Their efforts planning, organizing, and advertising for this event were phenomenal. On a yearly basis, our band parents and students raise thousands of dollars to support the needs of our Bowling Green students. We have had at least 17 fundraisers this past year alone to raise money for a band trip to Florida in December. ACT*BG took care of nearly every detail of this event and raised $1,800 for the Bobcat Bands. This is greatly appreciated by the many parents and students that have been working to raise funds throughout the year! ACT*BG is an impressive group that continues to find ways to make Bowling Green a better community. They have raised funds for various causes in recent years. Additionally, they have found fun and creative ways to bring together people in the community while raising funds. The participants in the Amazing Race clearly had a blast taking part in the activities throughout the evening. In recent years our schools have had a theme of Bobcat Proud. Personally, I am feeling BG Grateful for the members of the ACT*BG committee and the Chamber of Commerce for their contributions to the Bowling Green community.