2 boys sentenced for school bomb threats

Published: Monday, March 20, 2017 @ 3:03 PM


            Judge Joe Kirby sentenced two Warren County boys in school threat cases on Monday.

Two Warren County public-school students were ordered during sentencings today to write letters apologizing for making false alarms at their schools.

These are two of the most recent threats this school year at schools in Warren County.

Last year, about a dozen threats in the final weeks of the school year in the Springboro-, Lebanon- and Waynesville-area districts prompted a range of responses, including evacuations and the closing of Springboro High for one day.

RELATED: School threats growing nationwide problem

On Monday, Judge Joe Kirby ordered the letter writing during hearings held in Warren County Juvenile Court in cases stemming from threats made at Springboro Junior High School and Little Miami High School.

RELATED: Bomb threats back in Warren County schools

Both boys were also placed on probation and ordered to do 20 hours of community service, engage in counseling and barred access to weapons. Each is also required to continue reporting to a day-time program at the detention center in Lebanon until allowed to return to school, to undergo counseling and pay $65 in court costs.

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The 12-year-old from the Springboro district also received credit for six days in juvenile detention for making the threat on Feb 2 at Springboro Junior High.

RELATED: Springboro student avoids jail for bomb threat

The 14-year-old Little Miami student was also sentenced for drug abuse and given credit for 13 days spent in detention. He made his threat on March 7 at the high school outside Morrow.

DPS hires new Dunbar football coach; He says no district official told him

Published: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 6:39 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 @ 9:47 PM

UPDATE @ 9:20 p.m.:   Dayton’s school board hired a new Dunbar High School head football coach at its Saturday retreat, but that coach, James Lacking, said Tuesday night that no one from the school district informed him he had been hired, more than 72 hours after the retreat.

Tuesday was a bizarre night, as dozens of Dunbar supporters came to a Dayton Public Schools board meeting to support recently rejected football coach Darran Powell.

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Parents, players and coaches (including Powell and Lacking) crowded into a tiny sixth floor conference room with the school board. Many of them were among the 1,500-plus who signed an online petition, asking for the board to re-hire Powell.

School board members thanked the group for their interest, and encouraged them to get their issue added to the agenda for the July 11 school board meeting. But neither the board members nor Superintendent Rhonda Corr mentioned that they had already hired a coach – a fact most in the room seemed unaware of.

The online school board agenda for Saturday, June 24, actually lists a James Jacking up for consideration for the Dunbar post. Asked whether that was a typo -- since James Lacking is a current Dunbar assistant and former head coach -- school board member Joe Lacey indicated that, yes, Lacking was the hire. 

School board office manager Cherisse Kidd confirmed that all of Saturday’s personnel items had been approved.

Tuesday, Lacking said he had not received notification.

Late Tuesday night, DPS issued a notification that there will be another school board meeting at 4:30 p.m. Friday. The notice says only that the board will “vote on recommendations from the superintendent and/or treasurer.”

The only order of business for Tuesday night's meeting was a closed executive session to discuss the employment of unnamed school personnel. The school board did not vote on any hires.

The Dunbar supporters were there for the start of the meeting, but were not asked to explain their position.

Powell's contract as head coach was not renewed for the 2017 season at a school board meeting last week. 

“It’s overwhelming,” Powell said of Tuesday's turnout. “I definitely appreciate all the love and support that we’ve gotten over the past week. It just shows that we’re truly family. Dunbar is deeper than just sports. They have my back and I love them for that.”

Powell said Dunbar’s coaches from last season still have been “conducting business day to day” with the team during summer activities. Many of those coaches were there Tuesday, including Lacking, who coached Dunbar’s offensive and defensive lines.

“We’re not going to leave the kids high and dry,” Powell said. “We’re still going to continue to do it unless they bring me back or bring somebody else in.”

Dunbar had to forfeit the final two games of its 2016 season for using an ineligible star player. Investigations by both the school district and the Ohio High School Athletic Association revealed that coaches and athletic directors did not fully understand the eligibility system.

During the final game against Belmont, once the ineligibility issue was understood, Dunbar called timeout, had an emotional sideline team discussion, then ran a few plays intentionally trying to lose the game.

Dunbar’s coaches said that directive came from districtwide athletic director Mark Baker, who has denied it multiple times, but has declined to speak to the media in recent months. The school board recently gave Baker a two-year contract extension before declining to retain Powell.

OHSAA officials placed all DPS high school athletic programs on three years of probation, and pointed the finger at Baker, saying the instruction to lose the game came from him.

Nicole Robinson, whose son plays for Dunbar, said parents came out Tuesday to support the coaches and players, “to move forward in a positive manner for the upcoming football season.”

“We’ve had some ups and downs, but in terms of making sure the students had tutors and things in place to make sure they were eligible to be on the field, we’ve always come together collectively as a group to support our players and our coaches,” Robinson said.

Joseph Scates, a star wide receiver for Dunbar who has drawn interest from some of the top programs in the nation, said summer on-field work for Dunbar football “has been going great.”

“The coaching staff and coaching jobs are still kinda complicated, and that’s why we’re here today now to get things straightened out,” Scates said. “Darran is more than just a coach to us. It’s more to it than just football. He actually loves us, and has been building us and wants us to grow up and be successful young men. … We’re going the extra mile for him because he goes the extra mile for us.”

EARLIER TONIGHT 

Dozens of Dunbar High School supporters came to Tuesday night's Dayton school board meeting in support of football coach Darran Powell whose future as coach is in limbo. 

The only order of business for Tuesday's meeting was a closed, executive session to discuss the hiring of unnamed school personnel. 

But the Dunbar crowd, including players, parents, Powell and several assistant coaches, crowded into a tiny sixth floor conference room to make their presence felt as the meeting began. 

School board members thanked the group for their interest, and encouraged them to get their issue added to the agenda for the July 11 school board meeting. 

The board then went into executive session which was ongoing as of 6:15 PM. 

Powell's contract as head coach was not renewed for the 2017 season at a school board meeting last week. The board has assigned a temporary head coach but both Powell and players said last year's coaches continue to work with the team.

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School’s out, but not for some Butler County teachers

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 4:00 PM


            K-12 teachers from Butler County and other area school systems are attending summer courses in writing and mathematics at Miami University’s Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester Township. The program is designed to further develop teachers’ skills in classroom instruction. MICHAEL D. CLARK/STAFF

It’s an old joke among the teaching profession but the hundreds of area instructors spending their summer break learning new classroom techniques at Miami University’s West Chester Twp. campus still don’t think it’s funny.

“What are the three best things about teaching?” goes the joke.

Answer: “June, July and August.”

But it doesn’t apply to them, said Butler County teachers attending math and writing summer courses and workshops at Miami’s Voice of America Learning Center.

MORE: Miami University Hamilton lands top grant for city schools’ project

The school calendar year is often hectic, and time for professional development is scarce, said teachers. Summer break allows them to concentrate on professional development and completing state-mandated teacher certification classes to improve their classroom instruction and make them eligible for promotions.

“These two programs are designed for (K-12) teachers and focus on subject matter content,” said Rod Nimtz, director of the Learning Center.

“This program has inspired me to learn how to teach writing and it has been a phenomenal program for me,” said Heather Packo, a Fairfield High School special education teacher.

The seven-week summer writing program, one of the more popular professional development courses offered at the learning center since it opened in 2009, also allows teachers to meet their colleagues from other area school systems and exchange ideas, said Packo.

“It’s really interesting to see how much of a small world it really is. I’ve met teachers from other school districts,” she said.

The 20-acre learning center off of Cox Road is part of Butler County Metro Parks’ Voice of America Park and Miami built the single, 23,000-square-foot building campus to bring some of its programs closer to the heavily populated and still growing West Chester Township communities.

RELATED: VOA Park breaks ground for field house

Besides the learning center, Miami University also has a variety of summer learning programs at its two regional campuses in Middletown and Hamilton as well as its main campus in Oxford.

MORE: Miami’s main campus hosts summer youth camp

The summer math courses, which have been offered since 2009, are also popular among local teachers.

“This location is fantastic,” said Packo. “It’s smack in the middle of everyone lives and works.”

Jama Singh, a 3rd-grade teacher from Lakota Schools’ Cherokee Elementary, appreciates the learning center summer offerings because “it’s right here in the area.”

“You hear great speakers who are very inspiring and get you excited about getting back into your own classroom. And you definitely get ideas from other teachers because teachers are the best encouragers to one another,” said Singh.

The misconception about teachers and summer, said Singh, is “that teachers sit around and don’t do much of anything but we do spend a lot of time learning and learning in groups.”

“The best teachers are the best learners and these opportunities in the summer give you a fresh perspective on a lot of different ideas on teaching,” she said.

CJ grad’s mental health project helps earn Dayton Daily scholarship

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 2:00 AM


            Brianna Gavin is the most recent recipient of the Dayton Daily News Community Solutions Scholarship. She is a 2017 graduate of Chaminade Julienne High School and plans to attend the University of Dayton next fall. GRANT PEPPER/STAFF
            GRANT PEPPER

A 2017 graduate of Chaminade Julienne High School who helped raise awareness of mental illness and depression among teens is the recipient of the Dayton Daily News Community Solutions Scholarship.

Brianna Gavin received the $1,000 award after being chosen from 147 applicants.

The scholarship is “focused on volunteerism and making valuable contributions to the community,” said Ron Rollins, editor of the Ideas & Voices pages for the Dayton Daily News.

“The students who applied didn’t just have to be good students and have good grades, though all of them did – they also had to explain in their applications how they give back to the community,” he said.

RELATED: Dayton Foundation assets exceed $505 million

Gavin wrote that beginning in 2014, during her sophomore year of high school, her family endured several major events involving her parents and siblings that caused her family stability to suffer significantly.

Gavin suffered from depression as a result.

“I went through tough times that I would never wish upon anyone. I hit an all-time low,” Gavin said. “But because I went through this tough time, I found the power and the inspiration to complete such a project like I have with my capstone.”

During Gavin’s senior year at CJ, she and four peers worked on a capstone project to help raise awareness of mental illness and depression among teens. They implemented an awareness week in January, with each day having a different theme: Stress Awareness Day, Day of Gratitude, Compliment Day, Loosen Up/Lighten Up Day, and Acceptance Day.

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“The impact of the project was insurmountable,” Gavin said in an application essay. “With the stress awareness activities, the students were completing the small activities on the bookmarks handed out and just seemed happier. All of these days spread a clear awareness about the impact of mental illness on teens and how we could help each other overcome it.”

Gavin plans to attend the University of Dayton this fall, majoring in English and secondary education.

The Dayton Daily News Community Solutions Scholarship was established in 2005 to honor Mike Peters, a political and comic strip cartoonist. He began his career working at the Dayton Daily News in 1969. In 1981, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for political cartooning.

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must:

  • Be a graduating senior from a high school within Montgomery, Greene, Miami and Warren counties,
  • Demonstrate the ability to succeed academically,
  • Be accepted to attend a two or four-year accredited college or university, and
  • Submit an essay that demonstrates how they have worked to solve a community problem/need, and be able to explain the impact and/or future plans for solving the problem.

Students can visit daytonfoundation.org to apply.

Hamilton Schools holds English language ‘summer camps’

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 8:41 PM


            Teachers Cassie Davis and Katherine Droney work students on writing projects as part of Exploring Words Summer Camp, held at Riverview Elementary in Hamilton. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

For 11-year-old Zitlalik Avalos, summer break in Hamilton is about working to improve her English skills.

She and dozens of other English Language Learner (ELL) students are attending Hamilton City Schools’ first “Exploring Words Summer Camp” at two of the city schools in neighborhoods with large Hispanic and other foreign-born populations.

“English is important to learn,” Avalos said clearly and precisely.

MORE: Miami Hamilton lands grant to work with city schools

The federally and locally funded camps, which are held each weekday at Riverview Elementary and the Booker T. Washington Community Center, are a joint effort of the Butler County school system and the local YMCA.

The goal: Better English speaking students make for better performing students.

According to recent U.S. Census estimates, the Hispanic and Latino population of the 62,000-resident city has nearly doubled since comprising 2.6 percent in 2000 to 5.7 percent in 2015.

But the city school district’s enrollment of about 9,000 students for the 2016-2017 school year is higher and includes 13.6 percent Hispanic and Latino students, according to the latest Ohio Department of Education report card.

MORE: Hamilton Schools adding security guards for 2017-2018

“These programs are essential for our English Language Learners as they learn essential language skills to help them better prepare for the demands of our college and career readiness curriculum,” said Hamilton Schools Superintendent Tony Orr.

Corbin Moore, assistant director for assessment, gifted and English as a Second Language (ESL) students, said the daily “camps,” which provide breakfast and lunch to participating students, mix learning with fun.

“During morning camp session, students are exploring academic English language words through several interactive activities and lessons. Students read, research, discuss, write, create, act (drama), and present about a variety of civics-based and STEM related topics,” said Moore.

MORE: Why city staffer says Hamilton needs more college grads

Students “use Chromebooks, tablets, and other more traditional tools to read, research, write about several topics under civic and STEM education themes. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills are practiced daily by the campers to improve their conversational and academic English language skills. Campers progress will be measured through a pre and post academic vocabulary assessments … and by evaluating writing samples by word count, grammar, and overall quality,” he said.

RELATED: Longtime Riverview principal retires

Avalos appreciates the language camp, especially having teachers on hand to guide her.

“The teachers help you out with your English. Whenever you mess up in the English they don’t care too much because they know you are trying to learn,” she said.