Middletown school leader talks state report card with business leaders

Published: Friday, September 22, 2017 @ 4:10 PM
Updated: Friday, September 22, 2017 @ 6:00 PM

            Middletown City Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles, Jr. speaks to local community and business leaders about state report card scores and strategic plans for the district during a luncheon hosted by the school district Friday, Sept. 22, in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Middletown City Schools Superintendent Marlon Styles, Jr. speaks to local community and business leaders about state report card scores and strategic plans for the district during a luncheon hosted by the school district Friday, Sept. 22, in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

While last week’s state report card on Middletown Schools left some in the district disappointed, the school system is making significant progress in some areas, Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. told business and community leaders.

The quarterly community outreach forum was the first for Styles and is part of his proactive campaign to engage the Butler County city’s various segments as stakeholders in improving local schools.

Styles, who started in August, told the invited audience of more than 60 at the school system’s downtown office, “we want you at the table” as the district reforms toward improvement.

MORE: School report cards: Here’s how Butler County districts performed

“If you are willing to sit in on the game, then please know the door will always be open,” he told the audience after a presentation highlighting some of the better parts of the district’s latest state report card.

Weaving closer ties with the city’s business community is a critical part of any improvement in the city schools, said Styles, who described it as a “big stitch in our fabric.”

“It’s something we really want to just not talk about it, but also invest in as well,” he said.

The Ohio Department of Education’s annual report card on the state’s 609 public school systems — based on the 2016-2017 school year student testing — showed Middletown earning three Fs, a D, C and B.

MORE: Middletown school leader wins national award

Styles hour-long presentation, which included taking questions from the audience, highlighted some areas of improvement behind the major category grades.

The district’s four-year graduation rate improved from a C to a B, and since earning a 78.6 percent rate in 2012, improved to a 90 percent last year.

“That is huge and the (student) data indicates the investment we are making as a community is paying off,” said Styles, who previously was a top district official with the Lakota School system.

MORE: Top 5 things to know about state report cards

He also pointed to the district’s kindergarten through 3rd grade literacy rate improvement from a D to C grade as another area of progress to build on and a source of optimism for the future of the 6,400-student school system. Moreover, the state measurement of “performance index” improved from 67.4 to 71.4 percent in the last school year.

Rick Pearce, president of the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, said Styles was impressive and his message persuasive.

“This was Marlon’s opportunity to share with us and the community what the test scores are but also … show we’re improving in these other areas as we dive deep down into it (report card),” said Pearce.

MORE: 5 questions with Middletown’s new school leader

Pearce said his group will now try to get the business community involved in the local schools “to see how we can be part of that solution.”

Marc Bellisario, president and CEO of Primary Health Solutions, said “it was great meeting and important to reach out to the community and let everyone know what is going on.”

“The new superintendent is really trying to get the word out and I was very impressed because there are a lot of good things happening for Middletown schools,” said Bellisario.

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.

Springboro school levy group late in registering with election board

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 7:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 2:53 PM

            Less than a month before the election, the campaign to promote a substitute levy in the Springboro school district registered with the local board of elections. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF
            Lawrence Budd
Less than a month before the election, the campaign to promote a substitute levy in the Springboro school district registered with the local board of elections. LAWRENCE BUDD/STAFF(Lawrence Budd)

The Springboro schools’ substitute levy campaign established a committee with the local elections board on Tuesday, about two months after supporters began work to promote passage of a continuing substitute 7.4-mill levy.

The levy, Issue 18 on the Nov. 7 ballot, is expected to raise more than $7.9 million for Springboro school district expenses, if approved.

RELATED: Springboro schools to seek substitute levy

Before accepting or spending money promoting an issue or candidate, a campaign committee needs to be set up and a treasurer designated with the county election board, according to Brian Sleeth, director of the Warren County Board of Elections.

District Treasurer Terrah Floyd said other steps had been taken by campaign committee volunteers to establish the committee before it was formed late Tuesday at the local election office.

Sleeth said Wednesday the group filed paperwork with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

“They went to the wrong office and did the wrong form,” Sleeth said. “They set themselves up as a business.”

The committee has made no expenditures, but has had some donations, Sleeth said.

The committee is in compliance now because they filed the proper forms with the county office Tuesday, Sleeth said.

A group can establish a campaign committee through the Secretary of State’s office on state issues, but must set up the committee with the county election board on local issues, according to Sleeth.

The committee’s records will be reviewed after filing campaign finance reports following the election, a legal requirement for campaign committees. If there appears to be any violations, the case will be turned over to the Ohio Elections Commission, Sleeth said.

“We’ve never had this happen before,” Sleeth said.

Floyd and Superintendent Dan Schroer formed the committee in August with more than 40 people from the community.

“They had to start over from scratch,” Floyd said of supporters, noting she and Schroer were limited in their levy involvement during work hours. “Nobody else knew to tell them what to do.”

MORE: Springboro to seek new money after five consecutive defeats

A website has been set up, www.keepspringborostrong.org, social media and other duties distributed. Schroer is expected to speak to groups throughout the district in support of the levy.

The committee took the place of Neighbors for Springboro Schools, the committee through which recent levy campaigns have accepted contributions and spent money promoting issues.

Neighbors for Springboro Schools initially committed $1,600 to the substitute levy campaign.

“There needs be something substantial for them to start with,” board member Lisa Babb said during a Sept. 28 school board meeting.

Babb was responding to questions about the status of the campaign and why Neighbors for Springboro Schools (NFSS) had held onto more than $7,000.

Babb and resident Tiffany Carlisle then indicated NFSS decided to hold onto some of the money still in its treasury from past campaigns for future levies seeking new operating money for the district.

Voters here have rejected five consecutive levies for new money, but approved a renewal with a reduced levy in 2013.

MORE: Schools raise more money from new development with substitute levy

Substitute levies are still relatively uncommon.

School officials in districts like Springboro and Beavercreek trying to find a way to keep up with growing student populations and the costs of providing a public education are turning more to this option, added in Ohio in 2008.

People already paying property taxes on emergency levies like the one that would be replaced by the substitute levy shouldn’t see their bills go up after passage of the substitute measure.

Unlike other levies, substitutes enable districts to collect full taxes on residential and commercial properties improved after passage, unless they are exempted through tax abatements or other incentives.

Districts can actually reduce the millage levied, once the continuing substitute levy has been approved and money from new development can be counted.

Last week, Carlisle said NFSS “stands ready to assist the new campaign with any funding they request, whether it be for signs, mailings, or other campaign materials for community events.”

On Tuesday, Carlisle said, “We are currently working on finding out how to legally transfer PAC funds and plan to transfer all NFSS funds to the new campaign as soon as we can.”

Lebanon school board: No disciplinary action against superintendent

Published: Wednesday, October 04, 2017 @ 11:27 AM
Updated: Wednesday, October 04, 2017 @ 8:53 PM

            The Lebanon Warriors junior high football team practiced Wednesday as the school board met about the superintendent keeping players off the field last Friday night during the playing of the national anthem.Staff photo by Michael Burianek
The Lebanon Warriors junior high football team practiced Wednesday as the school board met about the superintendent keeping players off the field last Friday night during the playing of the national anthem.Staff photo by Michael Burianek

The Lebanon Board of Education took no disciplinary action Wednesday related to the superintendent’s decision to keep the players off the field before the varsity football game last Friday night.

The board emerged from an hour-long executive session to apologize to anyone upset by the decision and to express confidence in Todd Yohey.

“We have full confidence in Mr. Yohey as our superintendent moving forward,” Board President Chip Bonny said in a statement.

On Sept. 30, Yohey posted an apology on the district’s Facebook page for keeping players in the locker room Friday night during the national anthem. The decision prompted responses on the social network.

“I apologize to everyone who was offended by that decision. We ask for your forgiveness,” Yohey concluded in Saturday’s statement.

RELATED: High school teams weren’t responding to protests during Star Spangled Banner

The issue stems from reactions around the world and at NFL games this year since Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012, took a knee in in protest of what he called police brutality involving black men and women killed by police.

Kaepernick is not playing this year, prompting other players to kneel in support.

MORE: Fans react to report that Bengals players want Kaepernick

At Wednesday’s meeting in Lebanon, residents expressed a range of views about keeping the players off the filed during the playing of the anthem.

Rochelle Collins expressed support for Yohey’s decision, noting the importance of keeping students safe.

“We’ve never been through a time like this before,” she said.

MORE: Local players join anthem protest

Randy Lang said the players should have been given the opportunity to decide whether to take a knee during the national anthem.

“As Americans, we have a right to make that decision,” he said.

Rene Forrester said it was unlikely a riot or any violence would have resulted and emphasized the importance of free speech.

“That’s bigger than the flag, bigger than the national anthem,” Forrester said.

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Teacher Jenni Brunka expressed concern that Yohey’s job was at issue.

“What I’ve seen so far has been amazing,” Brunka said.”He has made so much progress in a short time.”

Higher Education Today: WSU engineering students analyze Mars mission

Published: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 5:44 PM

            Students in an introductory materials science and engineering class at Wright State University analyzed what it would take for humans to safely travel to Mars, live on the red planet and return to Earth. (Wright State University photo)
Students in an introductory materials science and engineering class at Wright State University analyzed what it would take for humans to safely travel to Mars, live on the red planet and return to Earth. (Wright State University photo)

Meteor strikes, temperature extremes, ultraviolet radiation and cramped living quarters – a group of Wright State University engineering students used their collective brainpower to overcome these challenges thrown up by a manned mission to Mars.

“Let’s Go to Mars!” was the final project in the spring semester introductory materials science and engineering class for sophomores taught by Raghavan Srinivasan, professor and director of the materials science and engineering program in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“There is a lot of interest in Mars – movies, books and TV specials by National Geographic and the Discovery channels,” said Srinivasan. “It is seen as the first extraterrestrial planet humans will be able to colonize.”

The students were assigned to conduct an engineering analysis of materials that could be needed to go to Mars, live there and return. The 30 students worked in teams on different aspects of the trip, including the spacecraft’s fuel delivery system, exterior shell, windows and heat shield, as well as a Mars ground vehicle and housing on the red planet. They made their presentations in April.

The presentations were well-researched, based on engineering principles and sprinkled with humor. There was a video of a rocket being launched, film clips from the movies “Gravity” and “The Martian” and a homemade video titled “Cooking With Sulfur” to demonstrate how to make Martian concrete for housing.

The fuel delivery system involved an analysis of fuel and oxidizer choices, storage tanks and delivery tubes. Stainless-steel Grade 304N was chosen as the material for the fuel storage tank because it is easily welded, relatively inexpensive to produce and resistant to corrosion. Ultra-high molecular-weight-polyethylene was selected as an outer shielding for the fuel tanks because it is less vulnerable to cracking and resistant to micro-meteor strikes.

Cramped quarters for the six-to-nine-months-long trip to Mars was also a challenge. The students recommended the spacecraft’s frame have a cylindrical shape with a large rotating ring that can provide a gravitational feel for the astronauts. The spacecraft would be assembled in space with Inconel for the high stress areas, and steel and aluminum for lower stress large structural parts. Students also suggested an outer layer of Kevlar to absorb micro-meteor impacts.

For the windows, students suggested a three-panel design with an inert gas between the panes to minimize the chances of the windows rupturing. To overcome atmospheric temperatures, changes in pressure and ultraviolet radiation, the students recommended that the outer pane be fused silica and the inner pane be made of aluminosilicate glass. They also warned that since glasses and ceramics are brittle, precise engineering is essential.

The students suggested that the spacecraft have a blunt-bodied shape to reduce the heat created when plummeting through the Martian atmosphere and a ceramic heat shield because the material has a high melting point and is unlikely to deform. Reinforced carbon-carbon and carbon-ceramic composites are ideal heat-shield materials for re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the students said. But at $2,600 for a four-by-four-inch sheet one-quarter-inch thick, “You’re not going to find it at Walmart,” one student said. “It’s not going to be a cheap project.”

Housing on Mars must provide sufficient oxygen, the ability to grow food and protection from ultraviolet radiation and temperature extremes. The students suggested using Martian concrete, comprised of 50 percent sulfur and 50 percent Martian soil.

They recommended distributing “organic bombs” around the planet to populate it with oxygen-creating plants. For the short-term, mega greenhouses could be built to grow food using human waste as fertilizer, they said.

Materials for a Mars ground vehicle must be lightweight, stable, vibration-dampening and be made of materials that could withstand extremely cold temperatures without becoming brittle. After comparing alloys of aluminum, iron and titanium, the students suggested a titanium alloy.

“I think they did quite well,” Srinivasan said of his students following their presentations. “A lot of this is beyond material that we cover in class, so they had to do research to figure out exactly what to do. The sulfur concrete – I hadn’t heard of that before.”

The project counted as 20 percent of the students’ grades. Srinivasan will teach the course again this fall semester, but the theme of the final project is yet to be determined. Last fall, the final project topic was fictional vehicles.

Wright State University became an independent institution in 1967 and spent the next 50 years growing into an innovative leader in undergraduate research. In 2017, it celebrates its 50th anniversary as an independent public university, culminating with a special homecoming celebration Sept. 29 through Oct. 1.