Deputies guard Xenia Twp. school after death threat

Published: Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 11:20 AM
Updated: Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 11:20 AM

The Greene County Career Center notified parents Monday about a threatening message found on a bathroom stall wall Dec. 11. The message, scrawled in ball-point pen and located inside a stall, threatened to kill people Dec. 18.

Ron Bolender, public information administrator for the GCCC, said school officials immediately contacted deputies, who started to investigate. Security will be beefed up at the school Tuesday.

“We have cameras throughout the school, but we can’t have them in restrooms - especially the stalls,” Bolender said.

The notification to parents was delayed due to the Connecticut tragedy.

“There was discussion about sending the call out Friday, but that would have heightened emotions even more,” Bolender said. “It’s not really connected to what happened Friday, but it certainly intensifies the emotion. We take it seriously, regardless, and had steps in place before that happened.”

Bolender said the message was reported by a student. About 600 students are enrolled in the main campus at 2960 W. Enon Road in Xenia Twp.

He said the career center is constructed more like a college campus than a traditional high school, with two buildings and a number of outside entrances.

“We do keep them locked down, and all outside labs with overhead doors are fenced in with locks,” he said. “Since Columbine; that was the turning point in ramping up security system and having cameras.”

As for whether he expects students to stay home Tuesday in response to the treat, Bolender said the school respects how each family approaches attendance.

“The safety of our students and staff are paramount,” he said, “I can’t emphasize that enough.”

New teacher evaluation system forces TSD to experiment

Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

OXFORD — The Talawanda School District is trying a one-year experiment as it looks for creative ways to deal with a new teacher evaluation system in Ohio.

Jeff Winslow, one of the district’s instructional leaders in the Office of Teaching and Learning, is serving half-time in that position for this school year, while also serving as assistant principal at Bogan Elementary half time.

“I have two offices, two phone numbers and two buildings,” Winslow said with a grin. “I used to be a teacher assigned to the curriculum department. Now, I’m an assistant principal assigned to the curriculum department.”

He is primarily assigned to Bogan Elementary, but some of his time is also being spent at Kramer.

“It came about because of a mandate from the state legislature to change the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, referred to as OTES. The legislature mandated that every teacher be evaluated two times a year under a specific format. It takes an administrator about five hours to evaluate a teacher,” he said. “It was estimated that would add 11 weeks of work (for administrators).”

That was the impetus for the district to give Winslow a split contract, making him a half-time assistant principal to take some of the load of teacher evaluation.

Winslow said it was made plain that this was a one-year experiment to implement the evaluation process. After that, it will be studied to see if the hiring of an additional administrator or some other course of action will work best for the long-term to conduct those evaluations.

He said other retired administrators are being paid to deal with some of the day-to-day school operations, such as discipline and bus operations and administrators, even including Superintendent Kelly Spivey, are being included in the evaluation process.

He did, say, however, that he does not exclusively do evaluations. His assistant principal time does include many of those duties which usually are a part of a building administrator’s job. It’s giving him a grounding in the role, something he aspires to in the future.

Of course, his absence from part of his time in the curriculum office means additional work for the others there, but they are managing, he said.

“We’re a team — the administrative team and the curriculum team — and we work as a team. We all work together and collaborate. The curriculum team is willing to pick up some slack because I’m now half time. The team thing is very important to me,” Winslow said.

District Director of Curriculum Joan Stidham said the curriculum staff has been rearranging responsibilities this year but said even the half-time loss of Winslow has been difficult.

“It is a loss for the department to have Jeff go,” she said. “He’s a great curriculum person, but it is a great opportunity for him to do this.”

Winslow said he believes in the evaluation process and is happy to be part of it, assisting teachers to become better in their profession.

“The rubric is good,” Winslow said.

That rubric includes 10 areas in which teachers are to be evaluated and they must cite examples of things they did that support their meeting each one.

The evaluation is a five-step process: The teacher must do a pre-assessment looking for those examples; the administrator then reviews that and meets with the teacher and visits the classroom to observe the teacher in action; that administrator then writes an evaluation based on both of those parts and meets with the teacher for a discussion of the whole process and the examples of actions which illustrate mastery of that area.

This process must take place twice in the school year to provide a benchmark and opportunity to measure progress.

With 217 staff members in the district, the process will demand a great deal of time on the part of administrators.

Winslow said he is excited about the opportunity to serve as an assistant principal. In addition to the teacher evaluation part of the job, he has a role in the day-to-day operation of the Bogan building, working with both students and teachers.

“I like the job. It’s satisfying to know I helped people solve problems throughout the day,” he said. “People like someone who helps them solve problems. I feel almost like it’s being a coach.”

He is also helping with the teacher evaluations at Kramer, which has the district’s largest elementary staff.

“I really want to stress how deep and rich this process is, but it is time-consuming. I’m here to help,” he said. “It’s great. It’s awesome.”

The new evaluation process caused stress to many before the start of the school year, Winslow said, but most at Talawanda are finding it a valuable tool to look at their own performance in the classroom and finding the things they are doing right as well as improving on other parts of their work.

“People were stressed early but the pre-assessment allowed them to reflect on their own work,” Winslow said. “Talawanda has good teachers. Some districts are balking, but Talawanda has always been about what is best for the kids and will make it work. Everything Talawanda does is all about students — how to get students to grow, how to get students to learn.”

His role is rewarding, he said.

“I’m having fun,” Winslow said.

Improving safety of walking, biking to school focus of program

Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013 @ 12:00 AM
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

OXFORD — National Walk/Bike to School Day Oct. 9 became an opportunity to look at the routes those activities take to Kramer and Talawanda Middle School with an eye to making them safer for more than just one day a year.

Volunteers from a partnership between the Talawanda School District and the city of Oxford welcomed walking and biking students to both schools that morning and then spent part of the day performing an environmental survey looking for hazards to students on their way to school.

Oxford Planning Commission Chair David Prytherch has been a prime mover of the Safe Routes to School effort and was on hand to greet students and parents as they arrived at school on foot and on bikes.

National Walk/Bike to School Day at Kramer drew 98 walkers and 23 bikers. When they arrived, they were invited to sign a banner in front of the school’s message board and were given a sticker and Clif Kid snacks.

Kramer physical education teacher Heidi Eckerle doubled as crossing guard out in front of the school, helping students to cross the street safely and was impressed with the numbers who arrived on foot or on bikes.

Between trips into the intersection with her “Stop” sign, she said, “We’ve had twice as many as usual. …Maybe more than that. Probably triple at least.”

She was kept busy stopping traffic to escort kids across the street.

“It’s usually not that busy. It’s important parents see the routes children take to school,” Eckerle said. “This is not your typical Kramer morning.”

She said there are usually more like six to eight arriving on bikes. That morning the bike rack was full by the time school opened.

Health and Wellness Coordinator Amy Macechko encouraged participation in the day’s activities, handing out the stickers and greeting students to invite them to sign the banner. Walking or riding bikes to school is part of a healthy lifestyle to get kids more active. The next phase of the day’s activities was important to that goal, she said.

“We have to make biking and walking safer,” she said.

After all the students were safely in the school building, Prytherch met with volunteers who were about the conduct a “walking audit” on the neighborhood. Volunteers had earlier done the same thing on sidewalks around the middle school and some were planning to go back to that area later in the day to expand the area being covered.

Before they left to walk the area around Kramer, the volunteers did a brief recap of what they had seen as possible problems on the Kramer grounds.

Among those problems were such things as the bike rack being full before school started and the need for more storage, vehicle conflict with pedestrians as they entered the school’s parking lot as well as vehicle conflict with bikes and even pedestrian conflict with each other as people moved in different directions.

One observer noted the crossing guards were “overtaxed” dealing with the volume of people and also having to leave the area to get in the building for their own classes. The design of the intersection at the school entrance was also questioned since it is not wide enough for buses to turn easily and it was also noted there is no flashing “School Zone” lights at the approach to the school.

As the volunteers prepared to walk the sidewalks in the neighborhood, Prytherch said this was the stage where they should look for problems and possible solutions, not thinking about costs but just the best possible way to handle the issue. Once the problem areas are recorded, they will consider solutions and costs.

Safe Routes to School is a national program that empowers communities to make walking and bicycling to school safe and provides grant money for some of the work. The walking audit and upcoming report are intended to document the problems and set the groundwork for that grant application.

“In November, we hope to have a summary of all facets of the walking audit,” Prytherch said. “It will be good to see what the potential could be.”

TSD Treasurer Mike Davis was present and reminded participants that the work has special significance at Kramer because he expects money to be approved by the state next month to build a new Kramer Elementary School.

That will give the district the opportunity to design the grounds and traffic flow to best facilitate safety at the school during the design stage.

Kramer and the middle school are the focus of the Safe Routes to School initiative because they are the most walkable in the district. Parents of students in those buildings are invited to complete a survey as well as to report problems getting to those buildings by going to the district’s Web site at: www.talawanda.net/healthandwellness/saferoutes.

Hot, humid conditions in early-week forecast

Published: Monday, August 26, 2013 @ 5:09 AM
Updated: Monday, August 26, 2013 @ 5:09 AM

Today will begin sunny with the possibility of a few afternoon clouds later in the day.

Above normal afternoon highs for this time of the year with temperatures reaching into the upper-80s with increasing humidity throughout the day.

Tonight’s temperatures will stay rather mild with lows in the upper-60s.

On Tuesday we will see a mix of sun and clouds with warm and humid conditions. Temperatures will again see highs in the upper-80s, but heat index values will be in the lower-90s.

There is a slight chance of a shower or thunderstorm northeast of the Dayton area, but most of region will remain dry.

A better chance for scattered showers and thunderstorms comes on Wednesday.

The day will be partly sunny, warm and humid with the chance of scattered showers and storms.

“Right now I expect upper-80s for our temperatures, but with the humidity it will definitely feel like the lower 90s,” said Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs

Students learn as much away from desk

Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013 @ 5:22 PM
Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2013 @ 5:22 PM

Spending time outside of the classroom may be just as educational as being in class.

Becoming educated and learning how to be a good person extends far beyond what students learn with the Perrin Promise program located at the Perrin Woods School in Springfield.

Sara Dixon, Director of the Perrin Promise program says: “I think it’s easier to help build healthy kids than to undo things later in life. Kids at Perrin Woods School will spend 40 hours a week in school learning writing, reading, and arithmetic. But sometimes, it’s the time they spend out of the classroom that can mean the most.” Dixon continued: “They’re looking at the whole children, a whole child, not just thinking of the academic needs but thinking about what they need for their future to be healthy.”

The Perrin Promise is an after-school program, made possible through an annual $200,000 21st Century grant. Kids spend 15 hours a week getting extra help in specialized tutoring.

“Students can join a book club and participate in other programs which partner with the community. It’s about teaching kids what are good role models and how to become a good adult” says Dixon. “A lesson that can sometimes be difficult depending on the parent situation at home.”

“Many of these kids do not have fathers who are actively involved on a day to day basis or at least a regular basis in their lives to provide them with the guidance and support from a male that they need,” says Eli Williams, Director of Urban Light Ministries. “Programs begins in October and run after school Monday through Thursday.”

It’s the second year for Perrin Promise, and school officials hope even more kids will get involved.

Dixon commented: “We saw kids grow academically, socially, emotionally and we also are going to be able to provide some things for families as well.”

Sign up begins September 3rd., 4th., and 5th. Contact Perrin Woods Elementary school for inquiries.

Jessica Heffner contributed to this story.