Greenon students memorialize teacher

Published: Friday, May 20, 2016 @ 7:36 PM

A high school teacher who retired from Greenon High School last year passed away earlier this month. On Friday, students honored the teacher with their memories.

Greenon students honored a popular longtime teacher who died earlier this week with a memorial and portrait of him on the school track.

Jeffrey Whitt died on Monday. He was 55.

Austin Webb, a senior at Greenon High School, drew the chalk art memorial of Whitt to say thanks to Whitt, who he described as a special teacher who had a positive impact on students.

“He was such an important teacher … He would make sure kids in the class would understand and really get down to the basics of it,” Webb said. “And it wasn’t just grades for him. It was teaching kids a lesson and teaching them about the importance of American History.”

Whitt taught eighth grade American history for 14 years at Schaefer Middle School, 16 years at Indian Valley Middle School, and coached track and football at Schaefer and Greenon Local Schools, according to his obituary.

He retired in 2015.

“Everyone knew Mr. Whitt, even kids that didn’t have him,” Webb said.

Tom Jenkins, a Greenon teacher, said Whitt mentored him for more than 20 years as an educator and a coach.

Jenkins recalled Whitt taking Clark County students to Washington, D.C. and teaching history, as well as life lessons, on the bus.

In addition, he said during the trip the group would participate in karaoke contests as well as stress the need to be a good person and a good citizen.

“He always pushed us to be better. He was very honest. He was very concerned and he wanted us to be better people. He was one of those people you have in your life that always pushes you to be better and to excel and he was always there along the way,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said a Jeff Whitt Scholarship Fund will be set up at Security National Bank in Enon. The scholarships will go to this year’s freshmen, sophomore and juniors to help them through their college career.

“These would have been the kids that Jeff would have had that he’s already left an imprint on and hopefully we can help them be successful,” Jenkins said.

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Guns in school: ‘We have to be ready in seconds and not minutes’

Published: Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 2:00 PM
Updated: Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 5:30 PM

Intruders beware: An increasing number of teachers and staff are armed in Ohio schools.

Facing the specter of having to respond to school shootings like those at Madison Junior-Senior High School in Butler County and West Liberty-Salem High School in Champaign County, more administrators and school boards are making the decision to put guns in reach of — or concealed on the bodies of — their employees.

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When school gets back in session Monday, each Mad River Local Schools building will have a number of voluntarily trained staff members able to access hidden gun safes concealing firearms, the combinations of which are known exclusively to the individual staff member and the superintendent.

The district, which serves the city of Riverside, is the first in Montgomery County to assemble an “armed and trained response team,” said Superintendent Chad Wyen. But he said the district is part of an emerging trend.

“It’s way more prevalent than people realize,” Wyen said of the district’s decision to arm employees who have undergone Ohio Peace Officer Training. “Sixty-three out of 88 counties in Ohio have a district with a response team.”

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In southwest Ohio, Wyen worked with Sidney City Schools in Shelby County, which adopted a nearly identical plan in 2013, and Georgetown Exempted Village Schools in Brown County, east of Cincinnati.

There, Georgetown Superintendent Chris Burrow oversees staff members who, starting Wednesday when school returns, will have weapons concealed on their bodies. Burrow’s staff follows a path already blazed by Edgewood City Schools in Butler County, which adopted a concealed carry policy in 2013.

Why conceal guns on the body instead of in a safe?

“It’s ultimately about putting people in place to protect the house,” Burrow said. “We hope and pray it would never be us, but at the end of the day, we have to be ready in seconds and not minutes.”

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Burrow, Wyen and John Scheu, the Sidney superintendent, each said their boards and administrations decided to be as transparent as possible about the process.

While some intimate details — types and locations of weapons and names of trained staff — are undisclosed as part of each district’s safety plan, the mere fact that students and parents know guns are in the building is more than can be said for other Ohio districts.

“We decided to be transparent,” Burrow said. “We went to training this summer, and there were districts that did not tell their communities.”

In Mad River Local Schools, staff members interviewed to join the volunteer team, then attended one of two courses offering Ohio Peace Officer Training, which is the basic requirement for becoming a police officer. The team also trained at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office gun range.

So far, Wyen said, the response has been positive. He said only one parent has called him opposed to the plan.

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Though the Ohio Education Association opposes arming teachers — police officers in schools are “a much better way to go than arming school employees,” the association declared in 2013 — Wyen and Burrow said many teachers in their districts also embraced the new firearm policy.

“We had others that just had a lot of questions, especially people who are hesitant around guns,” Burrow said. “I did have a few staff members who said, ‘I don’t know if I can work here.’”

“We worked through it,” he said. “They weren’t as adamantly opposed as they were before.”

Four years after bringing guns into Sidney City Schools, Scheu said more than 90 percent of the staff who first volunteered have stayed with the program. He said the district has no issue finding educators willing to bear arms.

“As a matter of fact, we have a waiting list.”

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Springfield schools set to hire new treasurer

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 8:00 PM

            The Springfield City School Board will vote on whether to name Nicole Cottrell the district s treasurer Thursday night. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF
The Springfield City School Board will vote on whether to name Nicole Cottrell the district s treasurer Thursday night. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF

The Springfield City School Board of Education will vote today on hiring the district’s new treasurer.

The agenda for Thursday’s 6 p.m. regular school board meeting includes a vote on Nicole Cottrell, who’s worked in the treasurer’s office for the past five years, as the new treasurer. The Springfield City Schools treasurer manages a payroll for more than 1,000 employees and a $96 million annual budget.

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“I am thankful for the opportunity to continue serving the Springfield community and excited to be the treasurer in a school district striving to ensure every student is college or career ready and on the path to achieving personal success,” she said.

Her goal is to keep the district fiscally responsible while finding innovative ways to best educate students, she said.

The school board began an internal search after current Treasurer Dale Miller announced he planned to retire on March 1 and take a job at Northeastern Local Schools, school board President Ed Leventhal said.

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“She is highly qualified and with Dale leaving relatively quickly and the fact there have been a number of other treasurer searches in Clark County, we felt confident she was the best candidate,” Leventhal said.

Miller was the third Clark County school treasurer to leave his position in a three-month span. Miller made more than $119,000 annually as treasurer at Springfield. Cottrell’s salary hasn’t been set yet, she said. Her start date is March 1 and her contract will be for three years, according to the agenda.

By hiring her, Leventhal said the district saves time and money that would have been spent looking for an outside candidate.

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“She knows our financial situation and our process,” Leventhal said.

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Superintendent: Springfield schools safe, even after gun in backpack

Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018 @ 12:01 PM

            Dr. Bob Hill, superintendent of Springfield City Schools. Bill Lackey/Staff
Dr. Bob Hill, superintendent of Springfield City Schools. Bill Lackey/Staff

Students in the Springfield City School District are safer at school than anywhere else, the superintendent said Wednesday morning.

Superintendent Bob Hill told the Springfield News-Sun no students were in danger Tuesday when an 8-year-old Simon Kenton student allegedly brought an unloaded gun to school.

“The incident was handled quickly and swiftly,” Hill said. “I’m very proud of the Simon Kenton staff for everything they did and the handling of the situation. No students were harmed. At no time were students unsafe.”

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The gun was found while a teacher prepared a student’s backpack for the student to take home, Hill said, and Springfield police were notified quickly.

Officers responded to the school about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and arrested the student, the police division said.

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The Springfield City Schools remain the safest place for students to be, Hill said.

“Your kids are safer in our building than they are on the streets or even walking to and from school or than they are (at the grocery store),” Hill said. “We have some of the most advanced security features of any of the schools in Clark County. We have spent countless dollars with public support to make these buildings secure and safe.”

Check back on with the Springfield News-Sun later today for more information.


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Witt students compete in “Shark Tank”-like program

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 3:00 PM

            Melanie Barrett pitches her product to alumni judges, from left, Scott Muddy Watters, Kyle Barger and Corey Myers as part of Wittenberg’s Tiger Tank, the school’s version of television’s “Shark Tank,” on Feb. 15. Barrett earned one of three available internships. Contributed photo
Melanie Barrett pitches her product to alumni judges, from left, Scott Muddy Watters, Kyle Barger and Corey Myers as part of Wittenberg’s Tiger Tank, the school’s version of television’s “Shark Tank,” on Feb. 15. Barrett earned one of three available internships. Contributed photo

The shark has jumped and the Tiger Tank has replaced it at Wittenberg University.

The school’s Department of Business presented its own version last week of the popular ABC television series “Shark Tank,” calling it Tiger Tank after the school’s mascot.

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Seven sets of students, 20 participants altogether, competed for internships by presenting ideas for products and services to a panel of three alumni judges: Kyle Barger, a 2007 grad who runs Champion Trading Group; Scott “Muddy” Watters, class of 1987, owner and president of Flippin Water; and Corey Myers, a strategic adviser for several organizations who graduated in 2004.

“It was a great evening with a wide variety of ideas and a big span of students, from freshmen to seniors, from a lot of programs from biology to management,” said Heath Queen, coordinator for engaged learning in the Department of Business.

Barger came up with the idea for the event and Queen and his department made it happen.

About 40 submissions were narrowed to eight finalists.

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Student pitches included a non-profit venture to alleviate food deserts with nutritious food delivered to the home; a website that donates money to a local organization of the buyer’s choice when they shop online; to-go drinks with flavors built into the side walls of the cup; and a new way to detect viruses leading to the most effective treatment based on a person’s DNA.

Watters selected Melanie Barrett for her project, Bailey’s Capes. Inspired by her late sister who spent many years using a wheelchair, her idea was for a cape that fits around the chair to keep it warm and features fun designs.

Maxim Boone and Christopher Dunne’s invention, GolfChalk, designed to help golfers get better grip on their clubs, was Barger’s pick.

Myers chose Jack Strahm and Charles Tillett’s Hot Wheels Coffee Co., a mobile coffee service that dispenses coffee out of backpacks.

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The winners will do internships where they will work with the established businesses run by the judges, learn from the alums and get advice on how to establish their products, Queen said.

Another positive Queen observed was many of the other finalists had interest from other Wittenberg alumni offering to work with them.

“There was a lot of informal mentoring,” he said.

The alumni judges said they wished there was something similar when they were undergrads and were glad to give back.

An estimated 130 people attended and included members of the community. Given the success, Queen and Barger both said Tiger Tank will likely become an annual event to encourage future entrepreneurs.

“This is just the start of something special,” Barger said.

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