Driver in crash that killed Greenon student says he ‘fell asleep’

Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2017 @ 5:04 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 4:21 PM

A 16-year-old Greenon High School student was killed Sunday in a car crash in Enon — the third student in the district to die in a fatal accident this school year.

The driver in the crash that killed a Greenon High School student on Sunday can be heard saying he fell asleep on a 9-1-1 phone call placed moments after the accident.

However Ohio State Highway Patrol Sgt. Richard Dixon said there’s no evidence to support that claim.

“That’s the first time I have heard that,” Dixon told the Springfield News-Sun when asked if troopers are investigating the possibility.

RELATED: 3rd Greenon student killed in crash

In the phone call, the driver, Andrew Scott, 16, can be heard telling a passerby who stopped to help and called 9-1-1 that he was in pain and confused, according to a recording of the call obtained by the News-Sun.

“I don’t know what happened,” Scott said. “I fell asleep.”

Kendall “Kenny” DePhillip, a 16-year-old junior at Greenon, died after the 1997 Chevrolet Lumina went off the right side of the road, clipped a telephone pole and then hit another pole shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday, troopers said.

Scott sustained non-life threatening injuries.

The 9-1-1 caller can be heard telling Scott that he needed to sit down and described the teen to the police dispatcher as “in shock.”

MORE: Greenon mourns 3rd student death in 2 months in fatal car crashes

The dispatcher asks the caller how the crash happened and he says Scott said he fell asleep.

Troopers are looking into if speed and inattention caused the accident, Dixon said. The crash is still under investigation.

Greenon Local Schools will be closed Friday so students and staff members can attend Kenny’s funeral.

The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Enon United Methodist Church, 85 Broadway Road in Enon. A visitation will be at Greenon High School at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Kenny will be buried at Glen Haven Memorial Gardens at 8200 W. National Road in New Carlisle.

He’s been remembered by his friends as a fun-loving, kind person. He will be tremulously missed, people who knew him said.

“He was just really caring and would always help everyone if they needed help,” neighbor Anna Allison said.

Kenny is the third Greenon student to die in a car crash this year.

EXTRA: Teens may see major changes to driving laws in Ohio

Greenon Local Schools said on its Facebook page that many people have shown support for the district and Kenny’s family.

“We would like to thank all of our Greenon students, families and the community for their support this week for the DePhillip family,” the posts says. “Thank you for your support and understanding as we work with the family, our students, our staff and the community during this difficult time.”

Greenon students and the community have started to build memorials for the three young men who were killed in the crashes. At the Greenon tennis courts, cups have been arraigned in the fence to honor the three boys. Also, at the crash site that killed Kenny, a memorial has developed with flowers and balloons.

Northeastern bus safety investigation: 3 things to know

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 12:24 PM

State says Northeastern violated federal, state bus safety rules

The Ohio Department of Education has alleged Northeastern Local School District violated federal and state rules for transporting a child with a disability. Here are three things to know about it.

1. State issued letter in July

In a letter sent to Northeastern Superintendent John Kronour dated July 18, 2017, Ohio Department of Education Assistant Director for the Office of Exceptional Children Monica Drvota alleges the school violated a federal regulation for how it handled an individualized education program and an Ohio administrative code for how the school transported the student.

» READ MORE: State says Northeastern violated federal, state bus safety rules

The ODE investigation began, according to the letter, when a bus driver filed a complaint alleging the school wasn’t doing enough to prevent an 18-year-old student who uses a wheelchair from hitting his head on a window while being transported.

The student hit his head on the bus window four times before the school convened a team to address the issue, the complaint alleges.

2. District says it was working to fix issues

Kronour told the Springfield News-Sun that Northeastern was working to fix any issues with the transportation of students before the complaint was filed and the affected student is being transported safely now.

“We corrected everything in the letter, even though we didn’t feel we were in violation because we were in the process of working with the student’s parents to get any issues resolved,” he said.

3. Driver who filed complaint facing disciplinary action

Cindy Ladig, the bus driver who allegedly filed the complaint with the state, now faces disciplinary action and a possible reassignment.

The reprimand letter she received from the district says Ladig shouldn’t be given whistle-blower protection because she didn’t make a good faith effort to accurately report a violation. Her attorney, John Concannon, said the district should stop any disciplinary action against her.

The Northeastern school board will hold an executive session involving employee discipline on Jan. 18 during its regular board meeting, Kronour said. He wouldn’t confirm if it was for Ladig.

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Lack of revenue leads to deficits for WSU athletics

Published: Friday, July 15, 2016 @ 3:30 PM
Updated: Friday, July 15, 2016 @ 3:30 PM

WSU athletics budget

Our reporters closely watch your tax dollars. For past stories on Wright State University and other I-Team stories see MyDaytonDailyNews.com.

Wright State spends less per athlete than any Ohio public university offering Division I sports, but paltry revenue totals have caused its athletic department to operate at a deficit for nine straight years.

The Dayton Daily News examined the athletic budget in the wake of the financial struggles that are causing the university to cut nearly $20 million from its two-year operating budget.

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Some faculty members have called on the administration to scale back its commitment to the athletic programs, which have received subsidies from the university totaling $104.6 million since 2002.

Enough is enough, says Rudy Fichtenbaum, a retired WSU economics professor and current president of the American Association of University Professors, the faculty union.

In a letter to WSU Vice President of Finance Jeff Ulliman, Fichtenbaum said: “It is absolutely an outrage that the administration is cutting positions that are going to directly affect the quality of the academic programs that we offer to students while continuing to shovel money into the bottomless pit known as intercollegiate athletics.”

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Wright State administrators defend the spending on athletics, saying it’s a huge benefit to the university.

“We’re very responsible in terms of budget,” said Dan Abrahamowicz, WSU Vice President for Student Affairs. “The athletics program brings so much to this university that is hard to quantify with dollars and cents. The value goes well beyond the cost, it seems to me.”

Subsidies are common

The practice of subsidizing college athletics through student fees or general funds is not unusual. In fact, Ohio State is the only self-supporting university in the state — and one of just two-dozen across the nation — that operates without subsidies, according to a USA Today database of athletic finances at public universities.

But the boost Wright State provides is significant. About 78 percent of its athletic revenue comes from the institution, according to WSU’s most recent annual report, and in the last decade those subsidies have increased by 34 percent.

Statewide, only Cleveland State University sports are more reliant on cash infusions from the administration. Wright State doesn’t have football, which drives revenue — and spending — at many schools.

Not everyone wants to cut the athletic budget, which this year is $10.3 million. That’s less than what it was two years ago.

Professor emeritus Lawrence Prochaska chaired the University Athletic Council for three years and headed up a committee that reviewed the athletic department budget last year. He said Wright State compares favorably with fellow Horizon League members and other Ohio universities when the expensive sport of football is taken out of the equation.

“We told the academic senate that we thought the (budget) overrun is due to under-funding of athletics,” Prochaska said. “It’s not due to capricious financial expenditures.

“We concluded that they should give (WSU athletic director) Bob Grant a hard budget and make him live with it. They have to decide what that budget is.”

Other Ohio schools

All the athletic programs in the state are dwarfed by Ohio State, whose $167 million athletics program is carried on the backs of its football and basketball teams. OSU is part of the so-called “Power Five” conferences that enjoy lucrative television contracts. Even after OSU spent $9.8 million on team travel, $1.9 million on recruiting, $28 million on coaches’ salaries and $27.6 million on support staff in 2015, it still made enough money to send $38 million back to the university’s general fund.

But it is a different story elsewhere in Ohio. The state’s other 10 Division I college athletics programs collectively received about $160 million in university subsidies in 2015, according to state audits. The University of Cincinnati had the lowest percentage of revenue coming from its administration — 41 percent of the $52.5 million it took in.

The University of Akron provided the most money to athletics — $22.1 million — followed closely by Cincinnati ($21.7 million) and Miami University ($21.2 million).

The University of Toledo operated at a deficit in 2015, going $3.8 million in the red. Toledo and Wright State ($985,520) were the only Ohio Division I schools to report deficits.

Value vs. cost

Wright State did match OSU in one respect: It was the only other Ohio Division I school to shrink per-athlete spending, cutting expenses by 4 percent since 2009 and spending an average of $38,747 per athlete in 2014.

WSU offers 16 varsity sports.

Wright State’s athletic budget was about $10.7 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2015, the most recent figures available from the state. That accounted for about 3 percent of the university’s total budget.

An NCAA report released two years ago found that non-football Division I schools spent, on average, 6 percent of their overall budgets on athletics.

Abrahamowicz said last year’s athletics budget was $10.2 million, and the proposed budget for the fiscal year that began this month is $10.3 million.

Grant points out that WSU’s 300-some student-athletes paid $1.3 million in tuition to the university last year. Only athletes in men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball receive full scholarships.

“From the time I took over eight years ago, my charge has been to spend as little as possible while delivering as successful as possible a mid-major program as we can,” Grant said. “I think we’re doing fine. We want to do better; we need to do better.”

Martin Kich, president of the faculty union at Wright State, said there is a double standard at the school, with the academic units asked to cut their budgets while athletics is merely pressured to not overrun its budget.

“That’s ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “You’re sending the message that athletics is more important than academics. Very clearly.”

‘Crucial draw’

The push and pull between those who want more athletic spending and those who want less is not unusual for a mid-major school like Wright State.

Abrahamowicz said the university needs to define exactly what it wants from its athletics program, and fund it accordingly.

“Certainly, athletics overspends its budget, and something’s got to be done with that in the long-term,” Abrahamowicz said. But, he said, “There is no sentiment around here to not be Division I, except among some who aren’t happy with athletics.”

Koty Johnson, a WSU senior majoring in accounting and finance, said Division I sports are crucial for students seeking the quintessential college experience.

“Me and a group of my buddies go to just about every home basketball game and try to make it out to a couple of soccer games and baseball games each year,” said Johnson, vice president of the Wright State student body.

He acknowledged, though, that he isn’t aware of the cost: “I’m not 100 percent sure, honestly, about how much of my tuition goes to intercollegiate athletics.”

Grant is counting on new men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy to provide a revenue boost for the university, saying, “Our best chance for success financially really starts and ends with men’s basketball.”

Men’s basketball ticket sales, donations and corporate sponsorships accounted for more than $600,000 in 2015. That did not even cover the cost of the team’s scholarships and its $275,000 travel tab.

While the Nutter Center seats 10,500, on average just 4,355 fans attended the Raiders’ home games this past season, which is slightly below the national average of 4,744 for Division I programs.

WSU fired its coach, Billy Donlon, after the season and hired Nagy away from South Dakota State, paying him more than twice what it paid Donlon.

‘Day of reckoning’

University administrators and boosters often insist that sports programs drive enrollment, add to campus life, provide valuable opportunities for student-athletes, and help fundraising and marketing, said Ohio University Associate Professor of Sports Administration B. David Ridpath.

But athletic success can both be fleeting and expensive, said Ridpath. Perhaps the worst scenario is to be the Cinderella team in the NCAA basketball tournament because boosters, fans and administrators believe that such success can be repeated and pressure mounts to spend and build more, he said.

“That’s what drives a school like Wright State. They tend to think that being a Division I program and having that chance of getting on the cover of USA Today and being on ESPN will somehow enhance the entire university,” Ridpath said. “Really, research is pretty clear that while there might be some short-term gains in enrollment, fundraising, brand recognition, it usually trickles off after a year or so.”

Because of the costs involved, Ridpath believes the “day of reckoning” is here and more schools will do what the University of Idaho did and drop out of Division I.

“I think other schools should really consider that,” he said. “I think they’ll find it will have not one iota of the negative effect on the university. In fact, I think net gains will be positive.”

West Liberty-Salem High School: What’s changed 1 year after shooting

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 3:04 PM

West Liberty-

The shooting at West Liberty-Salem High School will mark its one-year anniversary on Saturday, Jan. 20. The event rocked the small village of West Liberty, which received national attention as one of the shootings that occurred in 2017.

Here are some of the things that have changed at the campus since the shooting and how the community is still working to heal .

» READ MORE: West Liberty still healing 1 year after school shooting

New security features added

Several new security measures have been implemented at the school since the shooting, including new windows and doors. During the shooting, many children escaped through windows that weren’t designed to open fully, making it difficult for several of them. New windows in the school now fully open in case of emergency, allowing for easier escape.

DETAILS: West Liberty school shooting suspect to stay in adult court

Classroom doors have also been outfitted with special devices that make it more difficult for intruders to enter and bullet-resistant film has been installed in all windows.

Students also must follow new security protocols, including only entering the building through one entrance.

Counselor hired to help speak to students

A counselor has been added to the staff to speak to students who might still be dealing with the after-effects of the shooting.

The Springfield News-Sun spoke with leaders at other schools that experienced a school shooting and was told many students appeared fine right after the tragedy  but then develop issues later on. West Liberty-Salem Superintendent Kraig Hissong said the school has seen a similar trend, which lead them to hire the counselor full-time.

Activities planned to give back to a supportive community

To show their appreciation to first responders, the students at West Liberty-Salem are set to host Tiger Strong Day on Thursday, Jan. 18. Many high school students will work with elementary school students to create thank you cards for the responders and medical staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus where Logan Cole, one of the victims in the shooting, was treated.

The community was important to the recovery of the school, West Liberty-Salem High School senior Taylor Henault said.

“The community was really great to us and made us feel loved,” Henault said. “We just want to give back to the community, which was so nice and supportive of us.”

They will also create chew toys out of old T-shirts for animals at PAWS animal shelter and for therapy dogs who supported the students after the shooting. The students also plan on making cookies for schools who sent positive messages.

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West Liberty still healing 1 year after school shooting

Published: Tuesday, January 16, 2018 @ 7:00 AM

West Liberty-

Saturday will mark one year since a gunman opened fire inside West Liberty-Salem High School, rocking the small community where many thought something so violent could never happen.

“I was in disbelief,” said Jacob King, whose wife owns a store on Detroit Street — the main road through the village of less than 2,000 people.

READ: West Liberty seeks mental health help after school shooting

“It was like, ‘Can it really happen here?’” he said. “It’s like you hear it everywhere else but the way it is here, you wouldn’t expect it. You expect that in a big city.”

Since the shooting, the school district upgraded its safety measures and hired a counselor to help students get through the traumatic experience. But even with the response, West Liberty-Salem Superintendent Kraig Hissong said the schools and village might never be the same.

“Everybody has been left with a new sense of normal,” Hissong said.

While the shooting was devastating, the community backing of the district and the students also inspired many, Hissong said. And now students at the school are getting ready to partake in community service this week to show their appreciation.

‘You’re not dead?’

Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 was supposed to be a day of celebration for many in the West Liberty community.

Donald Trump was set to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States and many who live in the school district voted for him. According to board of elections data, residents in the district voted for the Republican by wide margins.

But before the inauguration began, lives changed.

MORE: West Liberty school shooting suspect to stay in adult court

Police affidavits and court documents accuse then 17-year-old Ely Serna of sneaking a shotgun into school, hiding in a restroom stall to assemble it, putting on a camouflage jacket and a homemade mask that had an anarchy symbol on it, and then saying the Lord’s Prayer.

When he exited the restroom stall, he held a loaded shotgun, according to the police and court documents, saw then 16-year-old Logan Cole enter the restroom and allegedly fired at his classmate. Logan was shot in the chest and had more than 100 pellets in his body, including one in his heart.

A teacher identified in the report as Mr. Thomas then walked in, according to the affidavit, and the suspect allegedly began to shoot at him. Serna then left the restroom and allegedly began shooting at door windows before returning to Logan.

“He noticed that Logan Cole was not deceased due to seeing Logan Cole’s eyes blink,” a Champaign County Sheriff’s report says. “Ely Ray Serna stated that he exclaimed, ‘You’re not dead?’ Ely Ray Serna stated that he apologized to Logan Cole.”

Serna then allegedly handed the weapon to Logan and put his temple to the barrel, the report says, and asked Logan to pull the trigger.

“According to Ely Ray Serna, Logan Cole refused to pull the trigger,” the affidavit by Champaign County Sheriff’s Detective Glenn Kemp says.

The suspect was detained soon after by Middle/High School Principal Gregg Johnson and Assistant Principal Andy McGill.

Serna will face trial as an adult in Champaign County Common Pleas Court. He’s pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 13 felony charges, including two counts of attempted murder. His next court date is Feb. 12.

Parent-filled park

RELATED: West Liberty suspect asked victim to shoot him, report says

West Liberty resident Janet Mally remembers seeing the rush after news broke of the shooting.

“Where we live, there were cars going up and down the street with parents going out there to get their kids,” Mally said. “I couldn’t believe that was happening here.”

Hundreds of people crowded Lions Club Park waiting to hold their children after the shooting. Many at the time said they couldn’t understand why this happened and were relieved when they finally saw their child come off a bus.

“I just want to hug them and not let them go all weekend,” Jennifer Kirkham said at the time.

While the news made it around town and eventually the country, King said realizing a school shooting happened in the small town was disheartening.

“Here, pretty much everyone that goes there is on the same level,” he said. “Everyone knows everyone that goes there. You just wouldn’t expect that here.”

Security upgrades, counseling services

School leaders got to work after the shooting to make sure their students were as safe as possible, Hissong said.

New entrance policies, door lock indicators and escape windows were included in the security upgrades at the campus.

“We had a lot of that stuff in place before the shooting but until you go through something like this, you don’t know for sure if you’re prepared or if your plan is going to work,” Hissong said.

WEST LIBERTY SHOOTING: Top stories of 2017: The West Liberty-Salem HS shooting

Along with the security additions, the school hired a counselor to help students cope after the shooting.

“We still have a counselor who is on staff who is an addition that came to us and worked with us and does ongoing counseling with students,” Hissong said.

The Springfield News-Sun spoke with leaders at other schools that experienced a school shooting and was told many students appeared fine right after the tragedy, but then develop issues later on. Hissong said his school saw that, too, which is why the district continues to offer counseling to students.

School leaders were proud of how students and staff reacted during the shooting, Hissong said, and believe the school had a good response plan in place. An announcement about the danger was made over the intercom quickly and doors were locked immediately, he said.

But changes still were needed to make sure students are safe and as equally important — feel safe at school.

“The key things are obviously having a basic safety plan in place and practicing those things to help speed up reaction for everyone involved,” Hissong said. “And having a way to get out of the buildings fast is also very important.”

EXTRA: ‘Cole’s Pack’ greets West Liberty school shooting victim

Many students escaped from their classrooms last year by pushing open windows in the newly built school that weren’t designed to fully open. That was a design flaw, Hissong said, and it’s important to have escape windows in classrooms to allow students to get out when necessary. West Liberty-Salem is a combined k-through-12th grade campus and is all on one floor.

“Time is very important,” Hissong said. “You don’t have a lot so anything to make it quicker and easier, we wanted to do.”

Students are now only allowed to use one entrance into the school, Hissong said. That’s a result of the shooting as Serna allegedly used a side door to gain entry into the school before the shooting.

Indicators on the door were also added to make it easier for teachers and students to know if their door is locked or not. The school has fire doors, Hissong said, which means they can be unlocked from the inside by simply turning the knob. While this is convenient in the case of an emergency where students need to get to the hallway, it made it tougher for them to know if the door was locked during the shooting.

Now, thanks to the new indicators, determining if the door is locked or not is much easier, Hissong said.

“It gives you a very easy visual,” he said.

MORE: West Liberty school shooting suspect found competent for trial

Along with the indicators, a door barrier has been stationed in every classroom. The barriers can be easily put on a door and are the equivalent of 1,200 pounds of force, Hissong said, making it tough for someone to get into a classroom.

The school also put a bullet-resistant film on windows and classroom glass to stop bullets shot into the rooms, Hissong said. Serna allegedly shot into classrooms from the hallway. A student, Adam Schultz, was grazed by a pellet when his classroom was shot at but wasn’t injured, according to the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office affidavit.

Despite all the security upgrades, the counseling and the community support, Hissong said the shooting has taken its toll on the students and district leaders continue to help any way they can.

“There is still impacts of it and that varies among different students,” Hissong said. “Different students have been impacted and are still working through them as best we can.”

Community Support and giving back

How West Liberty and the rest of the school district responded to the shooting makes Hissong proud, he said.

EXTRA: West Liberty examines safety after school shooting

“What stands out the most to me is just the overwhelming amount of support from the community and from families from the large area that reached out to us to support us at that time,” he said.

The village was already a tight-knit community, Mally said, but after the shooting people grew even closer.

“People seemed to come together more,” she said.

To show their appreciation, the students at West Liberty-Salem are set to host Tiger Strong Day on Thursday. Jan. 18. Many high school students will work with elementary school students to create thank you cards for first responders and medical staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus where Logan was treated.

The community was important to the recovery of the school, West Liberty-Salem High School senior Taylor Henault said.

“The community was really great to us and made us feel loved,” Henault said. “We just want to give back to the community, which was so nice and supportive of us.”

They will also create chew toys out of old T-shirts for animals at PAWS animal shelter or for therapy dogs who also supported the students after the shooting. And the students plan on making cookies for schools who sent positive messages in the days after the shooting.

“The community support was a huge help getting through the process of recovery,” Hissong said.

By the numbers

17: The age of Ely Serna when he allegedly opened fire inside West Liberty-Salem High School.

2: Students struck by the gunman; one student was struck twice and seriously injured and the other was grazed and uninjured.

13: Charges Ely Serna faces in connection to the school shooting

Unmatched Coverage

The Springfield News-Sun has provided unmatched coverage the West Liberty-Salem school shooting, including digging into how safe the schools are and talking to the victims.

Coming Saturday:

The Springfield News-Sun sits down with Logan Cole and his family to discuss the last year and how the West Liberty-Salem High School shooting impacted his life and how he has impacted others.