Lakota digital learning efforts grow with membership in national group

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 12:36 PM

            Lakota Schools has applied for and joined the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, district officials announced Thursday. Lakota is the only school system in Southwest Ohio to become a member of the national organization and is one of only two in the state to be part of the group. The membership will open resources from across the country for advancing Lakota’s expansion of digital learning among its 16,500 students. MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF
Lakota Schools has applied for and joined the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, district officials announced Thursday. Lakota is the only school system in Southwest Ohio to become a member of the national organization and is one of only two in the state to be part of the group. The membership will open resources from across the country for advancing Lakota’s expansion of digital learning among its 16,500 students. MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF

Lakota Local Schools has been invited to join an elite, national organization pushing for digital learning.

Butler County’s largest school system is now part of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools for its recent efforts in expanding high-tech learning among its 22 schools and 16,500 students.

STORY & VIDEO: New Lakota leader pushes digital outreach

The district recently added Superintendent Matt Miller to its top leadership, and in the few months since starting Aug. 1, Miller has rapidly expanded Lakota’s digital footprint.

He pushed the creation of the district’s first Twitter account, started conducting regular online public chats with top district officials, and is pushing sweeping innovation in classrooms.

League of Innovative Schools officials described themselves as a non-profit “national network of forward-thinking K-12 school district superintendents who together solve the challenges facing our schools through innovation and technology.”

The league, which requires an application by school districts seeking to join, has 93 members in 33 states and Lakota is only the second school system in Ohio — and the first in Southwest Ohio — to become a member.

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According to Lakota officials, the district “was selected from a competitive national pool of applicants based on its leadership, evidence of results, innovative vision for learning, and commitment to collaboration.”

Joining the national league is both an honor and an additional resource in modernizing Lakota classroom learning, said Miller.

“We are very excited to join this prestigious organization and collaborate with like-minded districts across the country. The League of Innovative Schools fosters relationships among forward thinking educators, encouraging innovation in the classroom to best meet the needs of students,” said Miller in a statement announcing the membership.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of Lakota Schools — for the students, staff and the community — as we strive to engage our kids every day through innovative teaching methods and the use of educational technology,” he said.

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The advantages for Lakota students include shared digital learning resources from other members across the country.

“Being a member of the League of Innovative schools puts Lakota on a national stage — we are being recognized as a leader in innovative teaching. Other benefits include the opportunity for collaboration between like-minded, forward-thinking leaders in education and being part of working groups throughout the year,” Miller told the Journal-News.

“Great ideas come from collaboration. Our teachers are a testament to that. Being a member of the League of Innovative Schools allows us to tap into other districts throughout the country that are thinking outside the box – finding innovative ways to best teach our children,” he said.

Miller, whose former district Mentor Schools in northern Ohio is the other member in the state, was a nationally recognized advocated for digital learning, which attracted the Lakota school board into hiring him.

Lakota Board of Education Vice President Todd Parnell described the joining national organization as “a big deal.”

“It shows just how far Lakota has come,” said Parnell.

Sidney man guilty in marijuana in the mail scheme

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 4:37 PM

A Sidney man accused of participating in a scheme to mail marijuana pleaded guilty Friday in Miami County Common Pleas Court to an amended charge.

Darrell Branscum, 34, pleaded guilty to felony attempted drug possession, reduced from conspiracy to commit drug possession. 

As part of the plea agreement prosecutors agreed to recommend an 18-month prison sentence. 

Branscum was arrested in Piqua in February following an investigation that included postal inspectors and the Miami County Sheriff's Office. 

Sheriff Dave Duchak said the investigation was sparked by a tip that several pounds of marijuana would be sent from California to addresses in Piqua and Sidney. The packages were intercepted. 

A presentence investigation was ordered and sentencing scheduled Jan. 2. 

A charge of conspiracy to commit drug possession against a co-defendant, Taylor Massie, 25, of Houston, is pending.

New study finds ‘alarming’ 76 percent decline in insect populations

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 5:16 PM

Ants (Photo by Nurcholis Anhari Lubis/Getty Images)
Nurcholis Anhari Lubis/Getty Images
Ants (Photo by Nurcholis Anhari Lubis/Getty Images)(Nurcholis Anhari Lubis/Getty Images)

Insects are in serious danger. Insect populations have decreased by about 76 percent in nearly 30 years, according to a new study.

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from Germany recently conducted an experiment, published in PLOS One, to determine how much populations had declined and why. 

To do so, they measured the total flying insect biomass, the weight of the insect catch, by using tent-like nets called Malaise traps. Those were deployed in 63 nature protection areas in Germany over the course of 27 years. 

After analyzing the results, they found that flying insect biomass had decreased by 76 percent and up to 82 percent in the summers during the time of the study.

In fact, the scientists say their findings suggest “the entire flying insect community has been decimated over the last few decades,” the study read. 

Scientists noted the drop occurred regardless of the habitat type, but changes in weather, land use and habitat characteristic were not the reason.

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Despite the unknown explanation, researchers say the dip is “alarming” as the disappearance of “field margins and new crop protection” have both been associated with insect decline.

“Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services,” the study read. 

That’s why researchers hope to continue their studies to pinpoint the exact cause and ways to prevent it. 

“There is an urgent need to uncover the causes of this decline,” the study said, “its geographical extent, and to understand the ramifications of the decline for ecosystems and ecosystem services.”

Miami County man guilty of sexually abusing child

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 5:14 PM

Sean L. Pratt, Miami County Jail
Sean L. Pratt, Miami County Jail

A Monroe Twp., Miami County, man accused of sex offenses against a child under age 10 pleaded guilty Friday to five felony charges in a plea deal that recommends 30 years in prison.

Sean L. Pratt, 35, originally was charged with rape and gross sexual imposition for alleged sexual conduct and sexual contact with the child in June 2014.

Those charges will be dismissed in county Common Pleas Court in exchange for guilty pleas to two counts of felony sexual battery and three counts of felony gross sexual imposition.

Sheriff’s office reports said the victim told a friend of the sexual abuse. A parent then notified investigators. The initial charges were filed in late summer 2017. 

In exchange for the pleas, prosecutors agreed to recommend a 30-year sentence. The maximum Pratt could receive would be 31 years. Judge Jeannine Pratt told him she is not required to follow the sentencing recommendation. 

She accepted Pratt’s guilty pleas, ordered a presentence investigation and scheduled sentencing for Nov. 27. 

At sentencing, he will be classified as a Tier III sex offender on the sexual battery charges and a Tier II offender on the gross sexual imposition charges. The Tier III classification will require him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life following prison release.

Sugar can fuel cancerous cells, study says

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 5:07 PM

Al Barry/Getty Images
(Al Barry/Getty Images)

Different types of foods have been linked to cancer, including saturated fats and processed meats. Now, scientists say sugar can fuel the disease, too. 

>> Read more trending news

Researchers from universities in Belgium recently conducted a nine-year experiment, published in Nature Communications, that revealed how sugar stimulates the growth of tumors. 

They explained that healthy cells receive energy through aerobic respiration, a process that transforms digested food into energy molecules. To complete the process, oxygen is required so that carbon dioxide can be released.

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On the other hand, cancerous cells get energy from fermenting sugar, which causes tumor growth. This is called the Warburg effect.

For the study, they examined the correlation between “the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness” by observing the sugar fermentation of yeast, which is similar to that of cells. They both “share the unusual characteristic of favoring fermentation of sugar over respiration,” the study read.

The scientists not only confirmed that sugar causes tumors to grow, but that it also makes cells multiply faster. They believe the sugar produces more of the most common cancer-causing genes, also known as Ras proteins, which fuel aggressive tumors. 

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“Our research reveals how the hyperactive sugar consumption of cancerous cells leads to a vicious cycle of continued stimulation of cancer development and growth. Thus, it is able to explain the correlation between the strength of the Warburg effect and tumor aggressiveness. This link between sugar and cancer has sweeping consequences,” co-author Johan Thevelein said in a statement

While the researchers do not understand why the cells react this way to sugar, they think their findings can help treat cancer with low-sugar diets. 

“This research in yeast and human cells has led to a new very valuable scientific hypothesis,” the authors wrote. “The next step is to find out whether these results also apply to patients.”

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