BG school district sees growth in state report card

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   This Bowling Green report card may make the refrigerator door. The state released its school report cards this morning – a moment that many districts await with great anxiety. Bowling Green City School District shows improvement in student achievement and gap closing for students. It also shows continued “A”s for progress and graduation rates. And overall, the district received a final grade of “B.” The state did not award overall grades last year. But if it had assigned grades, Bowling Green would definitely have scored lower last year, according to Ann McCarty, executive director of teaching and learning for BG Schools. Most importantly, Superintendent Francis Scruci said this morning, is the fact that the district continues to score high for student progress, and has shown improvement in closing the gaps for students. “We are showing progress and we are showing growth,” Scruci said. “We’re showing improvement and that’s the most important thing.” “Our goal is to make sure a kid grows at least one grade level every school year,” he said. “We’re doing straight ‘A’ work in that area.” The state report card gave BG City Schools an “A” for the growth of students from one year to the next. The district received a “B” for gap closing. That looks at how well the district meets expectations for vulnerable students in English language arts, math and graduation. “When you’re looking at measures that mean something, certainly those are areas that mean something,” Scruci said. Though there is plenty for the district to be proud of in the preliminary report, Scruci said he realizes there is still room for improvement. While B is a good overall grade, the district needs to keep aiming for an A. “Until we have that, we’ve got work to do,” he said. The district also scored two “D”s on the state report card. Scruci repeated his belief that the state report cards use a flawed system for scoring schools. “It’s a convoluted formula. It’s a formula with a flaw,” he said. At a special board meeting earlier this week, school board members questioned how the district could receive a grade of “D” in the “prepared for success” category – yet an “A” for graduation rates. That is just one example, McCarty said, of the flawed results in state testing. Bowling Green’s grade is hurt by the state’s metric measuring four- and five-year graduation rates. Since Bowling Green High School graduates students in four years, it is penalized. “We’re getting punished because we don’t have a five-year graduation rate,” McCarty said. The scoring is “unusually cruel,” McCarty said. McCarty also addressed the preliminary “D” for improving at-risk kindergarten through third grade readers. In the last three years, the district has gone from an “F” to a “C” and this year to a “D.” That lower grade is because the district has worked to identify more students who could benefit from reading help. “It’s punishing us because we spread the net wider, so we didn’t miss any students,” McCarty said. Scruci agreed that the district’s efforts sometime work against it when it comes to state report cards. “We’re our own worst enemy,” he said. “Those will be areas that we will continue to try to figure out.” The state report…

Preliminary state report card shows reason to celebrate for BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green School Board got a sneak peek at the preliminary state report card for the district Tuesday morning. If that preliminary report holds, the district will have something to brag about – receiving an overall grade of B. The state did not award overall grades last year, said Ann McCarty, executive director of teaching and learning for BG Schools. But if it had assigned grades, Bowling Green would have likely been in the “D” or “F” range, maybe “C,” she said. “This is a great reflection on the work the curriculum staff is doing” and the teachers who implement the curriculum in the classrooms, Superintendent Francis Scruci said. Scruci added that he still believes the state report card system is far from rational. “I think it’s a flawed system,” he said. But even with all its flaws, Bowling Green City Schools is excelling – scoring repeated “A”s in the categories of progress and graduation rates. “When you’re looking at measures that mean something, certainly those are areas that mean something,” Scruci said. McCarty explained that the state report cards are a “snapshot of the overall grades.” She gave a preview of the preliminary grades at last month’s board meeting. At that point, she cautioned the board that the early results might be too good to be true. But this latest sneak peek looks even better – though McCarty stressed the grades aren’t certain until the official reports come out later this week. The preliminary snapshot viewed on Tuesday gave BG City Schools an “A” for the growth of students from one year to the next. The district received a “B” for gap closing, “which is fantastic,” McCarty said. That looks at how well the district meets expectations for vulnerable students in English, language arts, math and graduation. Though there is plenty for the district to be proud of in the preliminary report, Scruci said he realizes there is still room for improvement. While B is a good overall grade, the district needs to keep aiming for an A. “Until we have that, we’ve got work to do,” he said. Board members had questions about the grades, including how the district could receive a grade of “D” in the “prepared for success” category – yet an “A” for graduation rate. That is just one example, McCarty said, of incongruous results in state testing. Bowling Green’s grade is hurt by the state’s metric measuring four- and five-year graduation rates. Since Bowling Green High School graduates students in four years, it is penalized. “We’re getting punished because we don’t have a five-year graduation rate,” McCarty said. The scoring is “unusually cruel,” McCarty said, noting that she had called that state about the issue at least seven times. McCarty also addressed the preliminary “D” for improving at-risk kindergarten through third grade readers. In the last three years, the district has gone from an “F” to a “C” and this year to a “D.” That lower grade is because the district has worked to identify more students who could benefit from reading help. “It’s punishing us because we spread the net wider, so we didn’t miss any students,” McCarty said. The board also asked about new graduation tests being required by the state. High School Assistant…

BG school board changes meeting times to make it easier for public to attend

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After multiple requests, the Bowling Green Board of Education voted unanimously this morning to change its meeting times to make it easier for the public to attend – at least for a trial period. The board held a special meeting this morning to handle some bookkeeping items, and discuss the proposed change to its regular monthly meeting times. “There has been some support to moving the board meetings to 6 o’clock,” board member Norm Geer said. The later meeting time would make it easier for those with jobs to attend. “It would allow them to observe the workings of the board.” Geer brought up the time change at last month’s regular board meeting, but the matter was tabled to give the board more time to get input from the community. The board has met at 5 p.m. for years in an effort to make it easier for school staff and administrators to attend meetings. Geer recommended a trial period for the time change. “My suggestion was that we try it for the rest of the year,” he said. So starting next week, on Sept. 18, the board meetings will begin at 6 p.m. Board member Bill Clifford mentioned an email from citizen Erin Hachtel that listed the meeting times for other school boards in Wood County. The vast majority start at 6 p.m., with only Perrysburg starting earlier at 5:30 p.m. “I’m open to the trial,” Clifford said. Geer said he expected to have public discussion about the time change at next week’s board meeting. “But most of those people know how to take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Geer said. Also at Tuesday’s special meeting, the board approved the hiring of Christine Kempf as assistant treasurer, with a base annual salary of $58,500. A total of 38 applicants expressed interest in the position, with eight being interviewed. Kempf, who is currently assistant treasurer for Fostoria schools, has 20-plus years of experience. Bowling Green School Treasurer Cathy Schuller said Kempf will be valuable in helping prepare for expected retirements next summer, and with cross training opportunities. “Her experience was outstanding,” Schuller said. “I have no doubt she’ll be a great addition.”

Chalk Walk competition changes format after cancellation

Though the Chalk Walk competition at the Black Swamp Arts Festival was canceled on Saturday, schools will still have a chance to compete. The organizers decided rather than judging the more than 5 teams’ efforts based on the designs, each team will execute their designs at their home schools and time-stamped video will be submitted along with images of the final rendering. The visiting artist Chris Fry was on hand and did discuss his work and techniques with some other saddest who were on hand. He also created his own design on the street.  

New space is at the center of BGSU’s fight against sexual assault

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Protests in spring, 2017 against the way Bowling Green State University handles sexual assault are bearing fruit. That was evident Wednesday night during a reception to mark the opening of the Center for Women and Gender Equity in Hayes Hall. The center was formerly called the Women’s Center and located in Hanna Hall.  With the retirement last year of its founding director Mary Krueger, the future of the center founded 20 years ago seemed uncertain. Then a female student came forward and made public her experience first being raped and then the way her report of her assault was handled by the university. In response, then BGSU president Mary Ellen Mazey created a task force on sexual violence.  The task force met over summer, 2017. Faculty member Maureen Wilson, one of three co-chairs of the group, said Wednesday that the group released a lengthy report with many recommendations. Mazey accepted all those recommendations. The result was the hiring of a new full-time director, Angela Clark-Taylor, and a new Title IX officer Jennifer McCary, who serves as an assistant vice president for student affairs. The new center is more than the women’s center with a new name and location. The new space is adjacent to the Violence Prevention Center that Clark-Taylor co-directs with Faith DeNardo, the director of the Wellness Center. This is an auspicious pairing, Clark-Taylor said. “Now you can access those services all in one space.” The new Center for Women and Gender Equity has a small conference room, a lounge, a smaller space that can be used for private counseling or mothers needing a place to breastfeed their babies as well as office space. Clark-Taylor said that in addition to maintaining the programming aimed at grad students, faculty and the community, the center will expand its programming for undergraduates. That will include a Friday reading group, and training on philanthropy, political action, and leadership. The new name, Taylor-Clark said, doesn’t reflect a change in the center’s mission, but a recognition of what it was at the beginning. “We want to work with everyone around gender identity issues,” she said. That includes everyone who identifies as female or male. McCary urged faculty attending the reception to consider collaborating with the center to present programs. Reporting acts of sexual violence is important — just that day faculty received notification that they are mandatory reporters. And renewed energy needs to be put in the It’s on Us and Step Up Step In programs. “We really need to shift the focus to violence prevention,” she said. Part of that will be the hiring of a student engagement coordinator. That job is about to be advertised, DeNardo said, and should be filled by January. “One of the important responsibilities is engaging men on this issue,” she said. That means finding spaces where men are comfortable discussing the issue of sexual violence with other men. All this is part of the measures called for in the task force report. McCary said that about 80 percent has been accomplished. She praised President Rodney Rogers continued commitment to the initiative. There’s a cloud over the horizon. The Trump Administration has rescinded the guidance from the Obama Education Department on how campus sexual assault accusations should be handled. These lessen the…

BG school task forces start search for solutions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green task force members put their first drops of sweat equity into the future of their school district Tuesday evening. They gathered in the hot high school cafeteria to take the initial steps toward a school building solution that two bond issue attempts failed to solve. “This is a great opportunity for the community,” said David Conley, a financial consultant hired by the school district to help find a solution. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to restart the clock.” Approximately 130 citizens signed up to serve on two task forces – one focused on school facilities, the other on school finances. When done with their work, the task forces will make recommendations to the school board of how to proceed on building issues. “You drive the train on this,” Conley said. “You can conclude that there’s no need for anything.” To help the facilities task force decide the future of Bowling Green school buildings, Conley introduced three members of Fanning Howey, a firm of architects, engineers, planners and former school administrators who specialize in schools. The firm has assisted more than 100 Ohio school districts, including Eastwood, North Baltimore and Northwood in Wood County. Three members of the firm are volunteering their time to work with the Bowling Green facilities task force. Architects Steve Wilczynski and Dan Obrynba, plus former school superintendent Tim Hamilton made their pitch to the citizens. Some citizens expressed skepticism about the firm’s motives for volunteering. Obrynba explained that this is the first time for them to volunteer on a job – however, he added that if they do a good job, they will have earned themselves a chance to work on whatever building project the district decides is right for Bowling Green. Others questioned their objectivity when it comes to deciding on renovating old buildings versus constructing new ones. Hamilton said he has been involved with the whole gambit – from fixing up and adding on, to full renovations and building new. Wilczynski estimated 60 to 65 percent of the firm’s work is new buildings, with 35 to 40 percent being renovations. “The reality is, it’s your solution,” Obrynba said. The three men said they approach each project with open minds. “We’ve not intentionally tried to find out a lot about your school district,” Wilczynski said. The task force process will work like this – the group will collect goals and visions from task force members, connect with the community, create options, then complete a plan. The process is not a straight line, Wilczynski warned. “We don’t have any idea where this is going to go – but we can help you get there,” he said. The task force will look at the physical conditions of the district’s buildings, plus determine their education adequacy. “Is the building in the way of teaching,” Obrynba said. The members will tour the schools, and talk about future possibilities. “What do you want your kids to have,” Obrynba said. The group will study enrollment history and projections, plus examine the economic issues facing the community. Above all, the task force must address the “multiple elephants” in the room – which all districts have, Hamilton said. “We will flip over every rock and stone, and figure out what’s under there,” he said….

BG school board talks open minds and meeting times

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Meeting times and mindsets were discussed Tuesday by the Bowling Green Board of Education. Superintendent Francis Scruci suggested that those citizens attending the first school task forces meeting should leave any negativity at the door. “There are no longer ‘yes’ people. There are no longer ‘no’ people,” Scruci said. “If you have preconceived ideas, my recommendation is – stay home.” The task forces will meet Aug. 28, at 7 p.m., in the high school cafeteria. More than 100 citizens have signed up to serve on two tasks forces looking at the school district’s future. The tasks forces will focus on school finances and on facilities. “You have to come with open minds and open ears,” Scruci said. Also at Tuesday’s meeting, board member Norm Geer made a motion that the time of school board meetings be changed from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. He suggested that the new time be tried as a trial run in September through December to see if it might allow more citizens to attend board meetings. “I’ve heard many people say the 5 o’clock time isn’t convenient for the general public,” Geer said. Board member Paul Walker said he believed the reasoning for the 5 p.m. meeting time was to make it easier for teachers and school administrators to attend. Geer noted the number of school staff in the audience over citizens present. Board member Bill Clifford said he had also heard from community members who liked the earlier meeting time. “We’ve had a large contingency at the 5 o’clock meetings,” though not at this Tuesday’s meeting, Clifford said. Board member Ginny Stewart said she understands the request for a 6 p.m. meeting time. However, she also noted that teachers and administrators get early starts and late meetings lead to very long days. But Stewart also said that community attendance is important. Board President Jill Carr suggested that the matter be tabled till the next board meeting, so board members can get more input from the public and so the matter can be placed on the agenda for discussion. The board voted in favor of tabling the motion, except for Clifford.

Two decades after their launch, learning communities continue to thrive

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In a few weeks, the residents of the Chapman Learning Community will help put up the beams, joists, and deck work for the first Habitat for Humanity homes built in Bowling Green. Twenty-one years ago, Tom Klein and Brett Holden were among the faculty members who framed out the concept for the Chapman Learning Community, the first learning community at Bowling Green State University. Holden, who now directs Chapman and oversees all learning community network on campus, said that 1,430 students this year will reside in Learning Communities. That’s about a quarter of all students who live on campus. Many of the communities are experiencing growth. Chapman, which is located in Kohl Hall along with four other learning communities, has about 70 students, down from a “zenith” of 300. That was too many, the director said. Since that first chain of calls was made from then President Sidney Ribeau, who had $250,000 in funding to back the idea, to Sue Crawford, dean of continuing education, to Klein to Holden to Ricketts and more, the concept has taken hold at BGSU. Holden remembers those heady early days. “We were laying the asphalt as fast as we could walk on it.” Those efforts have paid off.  President Rodney Rogers said the university has earned national recognition for its learning communities. Chapman spawned the Health Science residential community, which has evolved into the Natural and Health Science Community. Then came the community for education majors, now known as Educators in Context and Community. Then more sprouted up for arts students, music majors, Army ROTC, construction management, Global Village, French and Spanish language communities and more. BGSU now boasts 22, including a couple that are still in the pilot stage. Some are focused on particular majors, while others are open to students in all disciplines. Some require students to live within a certain dorm, for others that’s optional. The arrangement brings together students’ living arrangements and academic pursuits, and service to the local and global community – trips to Peru and New Zealand are planned for winter session. That’s the basis on which Chapman was founded and one of its attractions. Evelyn Maciejewski, a sophomore at Chapman, said she joined last year, because it seemed a natural extension of the leadership activities as a Girl Scouts and in 4-H. The learning communities, though, also address some basic concerns facing new students, feelings of loneliness and isolation. Kristin Carnegis said she joined Chapman last year because of her concerns about how she would adjust to life on at a large university. “It’s a great transition to college, and great way to meet people and be involved in the university,” said Madison Favorito, also a sophomore in the community. “These learning communities allow us to deliver a personal experience,” Rogers said. “We can make this feel like a very small environment with all the opportunities of a comprehensive university.” And they don’t wait long to get to work. Maciejewski, Favorito, and Carnegis were part of the Green Team on Thursday, helping the Office of Sustainability keep cardboard out of the waste stream. Last year the effort diverted 17.1 tons of cardboard, said Nick Hennessey, director of the office of campus sustainability. The camaraderie is real. After an orientation session Wednesday…

BG Schools losing teachers due to low salaries

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Schools is starting the school year with 25 new teachers. During their exit interviews, many of the experienced teachers said they were leaving due to the low pay. That is raising troubling red flags, Superintendent Francis Scruci said Tuesday during the monthly school board meeting. “We have teachers leaving us because they can make more money someplace else,” he said. Scruci referred to a recent story in the Toledo Blade about area school salaries for 12 districts in Wood and Lucas counties. With the average teacher salary in Ohio being $58,849, only Bowling Green and Toledo City Schools were below that average. According to information from the Ohio Department of Education, the state median salary for teachers is $56,117. The median salaries at school districts in Wood County are as follows: Rossford: $75,766 Perrysburg: $60,412 Eastwood: $59,523 Otsego: $58,221 Northwood: $53,186 Lake: $50,544 Elmwood: $50,134 Bowling Green: $48,843 North Baltimore: $39,668 While Scruci said he is pleased with the 25 new teachers hired for this school year, he is concerned about the loss of quality experienced staff. The district relies on consistency in its teaching to continue improving the state report card grades. When the district loses seasoned staff, it loses the investment made in those teachers and then has to start from scratch with new staff. “If we start over with 25 new faces every year,” it will be difficult to keep making consistent improvements on state report cards, he said. “If that happens every year, we’re in trouble.” Scruci warned that raising BG salaries will require an increase in operating funds. The district is going into negotiations this year with staff, he said. Scruci also mentioned some troubling trends that could worsen the teacher attraction and retention issue. Nationwide a teacher shortage is being predicted. So low salaries will make it even more difficult to attract and retain good teachers. “If you’re not paying, they’re not coming,” he said. The shortage has already hit some areas in the western U.S. Some of those districts have been hiring people without education degrees to teach, and others are going to four-day school weeks to save on costs. Todd Sayler, a parent at the school board meeting, said Bowling Green’s low ranking in the teacher pay numbers in the paper was “very shocking.” Sayler talked about the value of keeping good staff, and said he realized that efforts to bring up those salaries will require a levy on the ballot.

BG Schools takes steps to make buildings safer

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Bowling Green City Schools students went back to school today, they entered buildings that had been made safer over the summer. Superintendent Francis Scruci reported to the Board of Education Tuesday evening that several changes have been made and are in progress to keep students and staff safe from intruders. All school entrance doors have had 3M safety film installed. The change is not visible to the eye, but the film is designed to slow down anyone trying to break through the doors. According to Scruci, the safety film takes about three minutes to break through – which gives people inside the school time to seek safety and notify law enforcement. Ballistic shields have been added to the large windows in the middle school cafeteria. The district also made some changes in the new wing added at the middle school. Rather than have locker bays in the hallways, which give intruders a place to hide, the new wing has all the lockers lining the hallway walls. Also, the outside doors into the new wing are solid – with no windows. “We’ve taken some steps to make that a little safer,” Scruci said. In order make other school entrances more safe, bushes were removed or cut back outside school buildings. The district is in the process of installing indoor and outdoor surveillance cameras at the buildings, he said. Plans are being made with the Bowling Green police and fire divisions to make weekly walks through the school buildings – in addition to unscheduled visits. A security meeting is being planned with school staff, police and fire personnel, to talk about some type of safety training at the schools. That training may be on the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evaluate) system, or some other safety program. Scruci and the district’s head of school building maintenance, Chuck Martin, recently attended a seminar on safety and security. Many of the ideas from the seminar had already been identified and were being worked on at the district’s buildings, Scruci said. Scruci said he will be looking for grant funding for safety measures. However, he added, “if they’re just one-time grants, then the district is going to have to sustain it.” Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Scruci reported on capital improvements made to school buildings during the summer. At Kenwood, the floor of the gymnasium was replaced, and any asbestos was removed. Several carpeted classroom floors were replaced at Conneaut and Kenwood elementaries. The district also replaced one boiler system. The custodial staff was praised for keeping the middle school looking good, despite all the construction nearby at the new wing being added on. Scruci also mentioned that the district brought back an old tradition before school began, of having some teachers ride a school bus for nearly 90 minutes throughout the district. The experience helps the staff understand the journey some students take every day, plus gives them an idea of why school might be delayed or canceled when the weather conditions in the city seem fine, Scruci said.

BG board studies preliminary state report card

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ann McCarty stressed, then restressed, that the state report grades she would be showing Tuesday evening for Bowling Green City Schools were preliminary. The final grades, she said, wouldn’t be out until the end of September or early October. The preliminary grades showed mixed results – one being so good that McCarty is bracing for it to change in the final report. The district had languished in the “gap closing” category which measures the area between students with disabilities and all students. Last year, when the grade went from an F to a D, that was considered a “huge accomplishment.” This year – at least so far – the “gap closing” grade is B. “If this remains where it is, this is huge for us,” McCarty said to the board of education. McCarty also cautioned that since the district had received an A for progress the last two years, it was unlikely to hit that high grade again this year. “It won’t be an A,” she warned. In the “prepared for success” category, the district slipped from a C to a D. However, she mentioned that the school scored well on ACTs, Advanced Placement courses and graduation rates. Unlike many other high schools where students have five years to graduate, Bowling Green has a “fantastic” graduation rate after four years. The district’s overall grade is C – at least for now. “That could go up. That could go down,” McCarty said. McCarty went on to address some specific gains seen in the standardized tests for the students. Bowling Green saw “great gains” in high school algebra, along with reading improvement in several areas. Progress was also seen in biology and American government scores. McCarty credited teachers’ willingness to share lessons for the success. “That is a collaborative effort of all the teachers,” she said. McCarty then went on to report to the school board about efforts to provide equity to the district’s students. “We cannot treat all kids the same,” she said. “We meet them where they are, and we bring them to where they need to be.” An equity committee is in the third year of working to get all students engaged. To gauge feelings about school, a survey was given to staff, students and parents. While most students feel they are treated fairly and that students at school are friendly, the results showed that many students feel threatened or bullied at school. “There are a lot of districts who wouldn’t ask this because they don’t want the answer,” McCarty said. The survey also showed that the majority of students, parents and staff feel the schools are safe places. McCarty talked about the faculty’s efforts to create safe learning environments, where students and staff focus on relationships and students are encouraged to participate in the learning process. “When we’re done with this, it will be a new game for us at Bowling Green City Schools,” she said. “The days of laying passive in the classroom are gone.” Instead of “teaching to the tests,” McCarty said this type of teaching encourages students to think critically.

BG Board of Education studying school safety options

By JAN LARSON McLBAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City School officials met this week to discuss how to keep students and staff safe. A special meeting was held Tuesday afternoon, with the board going into executive session to discuss safety issues. In addition to the board and superintendent, Police Chief Tony Hetrick, Fire Chief Bill Moorman, plus some teachers and administration members were included in the discussion. “We’re looking at people who are on the ground floor of the issue,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said. “We want to try to be proactive,” he said. “It’s not something you can put on a shelf and forget about.” Because the discussion took place in executive session, Scruci did not reveal any specific details of the safety plans being considered. “This is going to be an ongoing situation,” he said. “We’re going to continue to look for ways to improve safety.” The district plans to explore grant opportunities that will pay for safety measures, rather than attempting a levy for safety expenses. However, grant funding has its limitations. “The problem with grant money is sometimes it’s only for one year,” Scruci said. The district is studying changes to its buildings as well as personnel for safety. “We will explore every part of our partnership with police to improve the safety,” he said. As the district had the new middle school designed and constructed, new safety measures were put into place. “We looked at the original designs and we made some changes to improve safety,” Scruci said. For example, the locker bays in the new addition do not stick out into the hallway, but rather are straight down the hallways. The new doors to the bus area are solid, not glass. And ballistic shields will soon be installed on the cafeteria windows. “We did things intentionally with the design,” he said. As with the other school buildings, “The Boots” will be installed on each doorway to keep out intruders. Scruci said the district will continue discussing increased safety measures with the police and fire divisions. “We’re fortunate to live in a supportive city.” “Safety is one of those things that’s going to be an ongoing conversation,” Scruci said.

Middle School expansion makes room for three grades

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wednesday is moving day for teachers at Bowling Green Middle School. After years of cramming three grades into a building constructed for two grades, the middle school will now have a separate wing for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. “It really gives us the space we need,” Middle School Principal Eric Radabaugh said last week as he walked down the hallway of the new addition. “It’s going to allow us to spread out and not be as congested,” he said. “It allows each teacher to have their own room – which I think is very important.” The new wing, with its 15 classrooms, is the one-story equivalent of the original two-story wing of the middle school. The eighth graders will get the new wing. The cafeteria is also being expanded outward toward the parking lot. The additional space will allow for 20 more tables, so all the students can eat in the cafeteria during the three lunch periods. The new exterior of the cafeteria will have bullet-proof shielding over the windows. And all the doors in the new classroom wing will be equipped with “The Boot” to keep out intruders, Radabaugh said. The middle school addition is being paid for with permanent improvement funds. “We’re fortunate the board made that decision,” Radabaugh said. The total project cost is $4.4 million, according to architect Kent Buehrer. The middle school was built in 2009 to house seventh and eighth graders. But after the district closed its older, smaller elementary schools, the sixth graders were sent to the middle school, Radabaugh said. “We have three grades in a building built for two grades,” he said. Each grade has an average of 250 students. That led to teachers having to share classrooms, plus some teachers and students having to use classrooms in the neighboring high school. Neither option was ideal, Radabaugh said. “We had to get really creative,” he said. “The teachers are really excited. The teachers coming from the high school are excited to be back in the middle school,” Radabaugh said. The original middle school was designed for future expansion, which aided in construction of the addition. The new wing has STEAM labs with collaborative learning spaces, new projectors, white boards, 3-D printers and flexible seating. The science rooms have mobile lab tables for student desks. “It’s more of a working environment for students,” Radabaugh said. The new wing also has a music room for choir classes, plus a teachers’ lounge. The wing is equipped with an updated fire alarm system, security cameras, and secure doors to the outside. The lockers are also in a more traditional configuration than those in the original middle school. The first day of school for students is Aug. 22.

BGHS drama teacher returns from India with lessons & insights

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Drama teacher Jo Beth Gonzalez got a change of scene this summer, and found happiness, or more precisely happiness curriculum Gonzalez, who teaches at Bowling Green High School, traveled to India through the State Department’s Teachers for Global Classrooms fellowship. She spent three weeks in the country where she observed, taught, and learned, and established connections she hopes to foster back in Bowling Green. She’d liked “to maintain connection with students and teachers at the high school and engage a couple of my colleagues in that as well. That’s one of my goals.” “With my kids I think what I’ll share with them is that, in my opinion, from my experience, is that drama is a way to connect kids with each other and with other people, that drama continues to be a way to share insights and feelings and help people think no matter where we are.” She hopes her Bowling Green students and those she met in India can become digital pen pals, using email, Skype, and other social media. Gonzalez said the trip was just a taste. Citing the tale of the blind men and the elephant she said “I’d need to go back to India 17 more times before I had a fuller picture. “I’m so grateful for these three weeks,” she said. Gonzalez was traveling with a group of a dozen middle school and high school teachers, part of the larger 70 in the international program. She was the only arts teacher among those going to India, and one of a very few involved in the program. Most were science and social studies teachers. The trip started Delhi to “acclimate ourselves to the culture.” While there they visited government schools, a two-year training program for teachers, a juvenile detention center, and a child welfare organization. They also met with Delhi’s minister of education, Mahish Sisodia, who is promoting a happiness curriculum. “It’s based on Gandhi’s concept that we should become centered within ourselves before we become educated,” Gonzalez said. “That concept seems to permeate Indian education.” The school day, she said, begins with an assembly devoted to various meditation practices, different mindfulness activities, and yoga.” All students practiced some yoga. The idea is to connect with themselves and with each other, Gonzalez said. “Drama by its very nature does some of that,” she said. “Students already, through drama, develop empathy. … I’d like to infuse more mindfulness practice into my teaching.” From Delhi, she and another teacher were scheduled to go to Mumbai. But the monsoons were particularly fierce, and the U.S. Embassy advised it was not safe for them to travel there. So Gonzalez joined other teachers heading to Kolkote (formerly Calcutta). There she worked at Mount Carmel, a Catholic high school for young women. Serendipitously she found out that one teacher was addressing the topic of human trafficking, which drama students at BGHS have been exploring for several years. Another teacher was engaging students in learning about water conservation, another issue Gonzalez’ students have tackled. She was also able to teach the techniques of devised theater, were actors create their own script. Gonzalez was impressed by the Indian students. She found they listened intently and absorbed what they heard. “Those students are brilliant. … Given the technological…

Facilitators found for BG school building task force

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A school architecture firm has been selected to help Bowling Green City School District residents determine the best solution for aging school buildings. The firm of Fanning Howey has identified three individuals with expertise in community engagement, school building renovation, school building construction, community-centered visioning, and the State Classroom Facilities Assistance Program, to guide the efforts of the school facilities task force. The three – Steve Wilczynski, Dan Obrynba and Tim Hamilton – will be at the first joint meeting of the task forces on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. The men have some experience working with school districts in Wood County. Wilczynski worked with Eastwood, North Baltimore and Northwood. Obrynba worked with Rossford. “They are very experienced in community engagement to identify the desires of the community,” said David Conley, a school finance consultant hired by Bowling Green Board of Education to help with the community task force process. Conley will act as facilitator for the finance task force, which has at least 64 members from the community. The Fanning Howey employees will facilitate the school facilities task force, which has at least 94 members from the community. According to Conley, the facilitators are knowledgeable about school building renovations and new construction – which was vital since the Bowling Green district is divided about the need to renovate existing sites or build new schools. “That’s going to be instantly beneficial to the facilities group,” he said. Fanning Howey has worked with many school districts around Ohio, and was one of the earliest firms to work with the State of Ohio on state funding programs, Conley said. “They can provide some real immediate feedback to the task force,” he said. Fanning Howey is volunteering to provide this service to the residents of the district at no charge. The firm is aware that the district is not under any obligation to retain them for any current or future services. According to Conley, the facilitators are also aware that they must report to members of the community facilities task force – which reserves the right to terminate Fanning Howey’s involvement in the process at any time. “They understand the dynamics of the community and they are willing to fill this role,” Conley said. Fanning Howey describes the three facilitators as follows. Wilczynski is a planner, who specializes in the planning and design process that links needs of the client with the vision of the larger community. Obrynba, a community engagement specialist, has experience passing bond issues and creating community-centered visions. Hamilton, a former school administrator, has successfully completed complex community engagement and school construction projects. The facilities group will study the condition of the district’s buildings now and consider future curriculum requirements. Ultimately, the group will decide if the district should renovate old buildings, build new schools, or a combination of the two. The facilities task force will take guided tours of the five Bowling Green school buildings, hear from state experts about facilities assessments done on the buildings, and visit other Ohio districts that have renovated old buildings and constructed new schools. The task force will work with the district’s architect on proposals and come up with cost estimates. That information will then go to the financial task force, which will figure out…