Northeastern school board plans to keep high schools split

Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 @ 11:14 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 4:34 PM

The Northeastern Local School Board will ask voters to support a bond issue for two new schools in the district.

The Northeastern Local School Board likely will ask voters to support a bond issue to build two new pre-kindergarten through 12th grade schools, keeping the district’s high schools split.

The board voted 4-1 Wednesday night to allow Superintendent John Kronour to ask the Ohio School Facilities Commission for money to build the two schools. The schools are projected to cost about $116 million.

READ MORE: Northeastern board members debate $100M new school plans

The school board has debated for several years whether Northeastern should consolidate the district’s two high schools. The district is the second largest in Clark County and the last here to have multiple high schools. The school board held several community forums on the issue, and last week said the feedback they got indicates that the best chance at new buildings is to keep the district divided.

“I can speak for every one of us that we read (emails) carefully and considered all aspects of every one of them,” board member Steve Schwitzable said. “There was nothing that caused me to change my mind. I am still of the opinion I think one high school building is the best educationally, financially. But I don’t think it will pass and I think we can do very well with two pre-k through 12th buildings.”

The plan would call for one school to be built in Northridge close to Kenton Ridge High School and the other will be built in South Vienna near Northeastern High School. That’s contingent on voters approving a $77.5 million bond issue this November.

The state likely will kick in $38.5 million if the bond issue passes.

RELATED: Northeastern to survey residents on $100M new schools plan

School Board President Chris James and board members Joel Augustus, Jill Parker and Schwitzable voted for the two new schools. James and Parker said they believed two schools were the best option for students in the district, while Augusts and Schwitzable said they believed one high school was likely better for education, but they didn’t think that voters would approve a bond issue asking to consolidate schools.

This option was supported over a second option to build three new school buildings in the district. That would have included two new pre-k through eighth-grade buildings and one new high school, costing the district about $123.8 million — about $83.8 million would have fallen to taxpayers to cover.

That plan was supported by board Vice President Jeff Caivano, who said he wants to consolidate the high schools to offer more opportunities for students. He called the decision to build two new buildings instead of the one high school an “awful mistake.”

EARLIER COVERAGE: Northeastern residents split on $100M plan for new schools

He said picking the two building option because voters would be more likely to support it wasn’t a good idea and that the board has a responsibility to choose the best option for the students regardless of public opinion.

“Neither one of these plans are going to be easy to pass,” he said. “I feel it is our job as a board not to sit back as a board and say, ‘We know it’s not best academically, financially, but we think this is going to pass.’”

Caivano said if the two schools combined, he believed it could be the crown jewel of Clark County offering students a competitive curriculum along with saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in staffing and services.

“Let’s build an academic powerhouse,” he said before the vote.

The vote doesn’t put the bond issue on the November ballot, it was only to prompt Kronour to start the process with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to get money for the schools. Board members will have to vote again later on a bond issue.

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.

Springfield native says therapy lets son with autism’s singing shine

Published: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 @ 1:30 PM


            Sean Piper
Sean Piper

A Springfield native wants local leaders to take steps to create an environment where kids and adults with special needs can thrive.

Monica Chadha Piper, a Catholic Central graduate, is aboard certified behavior analyst. Her teenage son, Shawn, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.

She spoke this week to the Springfield Rotary Club about Applied Behavior Therapy, a method that she said has helped her son to blossom. She went back to school to study the form of therapy after her son was diagnosed and received a master’s degree in the field.

RELATED: Two Clark Co. organizations celebrate 65 years helping disabled

“ABA is the one that we saw really brought a lot out of him,” Chadha Piper said in her presentation.

She now lives in Frisco, Texas, but her parents, Amrit and Shashi Chadha, still live in Springfield. She said she wanted to share what the therapy has done for her family with her hometown.

In ABA, a therapist works with a child breaking down tasks into incremental steps, she said. When a child learns a new step, they’re rewarded.

“They learn things in very small incremental steps and you reward them for each small step until they reach a larger goal,” she said.

It can take several months for a child with autism to learn a task like washing your hands, she said, but the therapy worked for her son.

READ MORE: Clark County gets $1M, first-of-its-kind program to treat kids

“He still needs a little bit of help but for the most part he’s doing it by himself,” she said.

The therapy has also allowed Shawn’s talents to shine. He has done well in music therapy, can sing in perfect pitch, she said, and has sung at several charity and sporting events recently. He sung the national anthem and “God Bless America” at Rotary.

“It’s fun to see him blossom,” she said. “Kids with special needs have a lot to offer and contribute. They have gifts that we don’t always necessarily know they have.”

The ABA therapy often can be paid for by insurance, she said. Springfield can create an environment for these children to thrive, she said.

“I want us as a community to find them if we can and nurture them,” she said, “and try to help as many kids and adults with special needs as possible.”

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

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 4:33 PM
Updated: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 4:33 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.

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.

Kendal “Kenny” DePhillip, a junior, died while a passenger in a car that crashed shortly before 4:30 p.m. Sunday on Fowler Road between Rebert Pike and Broadway Road in Clark County.

MORE: Greenon boys killed in crash remembered as compassionate

The district is taking the death of another student hard, Greenon Superintendent Brad Silvus said.

“Everyone is in shock as expected,” Silvus said. “We are trying to address it as best we can with students, the staff and with the community. The word I have heard a lot is devastation.”

A 1997 Chevrolet Lumina driven by Andrew Scott, 16 and also a Greenon High School student, went off the right side of the road Sunday, clipped a telephone pole and then hit another pole, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers said. Scott sustained non-life threatening injuries, troopers said.

“Driver inattention, lack of familiarity with the roadway and speed all are being considered as factors,” state patrol Sgt. Richard Dixon said.

Drugs or alcohol don’t appear to be factors in the crash, highway patrol Sgt. Shane Meddock said on Monday.

“Both occupants wore seat belts,” he said. “The roadway was dry. Speed is something we’ll have to calculate and reconstruct.”

RELATED: Greenon student killed, other injured in Enon crash

Neighbors who were close to the crash ran to the aide of the teens but said there was nothing they could do.

“I heard just a real loud noise and looked out the window and I saw a tire rolling down the street,” Mike Brooks said.

He said he spoke with the driver who told him that DePhillip was in the passenger seat. He said it was clear DePhillip was seriously hurt.

“Just knew it was bad,” he said.

DePhillip was remembered by friends Monday as someone they could count on.

“He was a very caring person,” neighbor Anna Allison said. “He always made people smile and laugh when he needed to.”

Classmate Emily Pogue also described DePhillip as a happy person.

“He was just a really kind-hearted person … His smile and laugh would make everyone smile,” she said. “It was contagious.”

That’s the type of stories the Greenon superintendent said he has heard about DePhillip, too.

“When I was talking to the kids, you could tell all the positive that Kenny had in his life,” Silvus said. “He was a very energetic young man.”

DePhillip was a member of the Greenon marching band and was on the swim team.

His death follows a crash in August that killed David Waag and Connor Williams, both Greenon students. The boys were honored by the community numerous times including with vigils, a public funeral and a program before a football game.

READ: Greenon community grieves for 2 athletes killed in crash

NASCAR also honored the boys with a decal on one of the race cars.

Greenon was just starting to get back to a sense of normalcy following the tragic deaths of Williams and Waag, Silvus said, and now will mourn again.

“We are doing the best we can,” Silvus said. “Right now our main goal is to get kids talking and express their emotions. Make sure they are taking care of themselves and being here to support them.”

The area near where the boys crashed is one of the more dangerous rural areas in Clark County, according to the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee data.

The ranking takes into account crash frequency and severity of the crashes to measure how hazardous the area is. Rebert Pike close to Fowler Road was ranked 29th most dangerous between 2014 through 2016, according to a report. The study didn’t measure Fowler Road.

People need to slow down when in the area, neighbor Brooks said.

“It’s unbelievable how fast cars go down this road here … This road should be 35 at maximum because of the curves and the hills,” he said.

Greenon Local Schools closed Monday due to the tragedy. Counselors were available to students. About 25 students took advantage of them, Silvus said.

A candlelight vigil is planned for DePhillip at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the high school. Community members and students mourned the death of the teen.

Stacy Arnett, a parent in the district, said his daughter has had a tough time grasping the loss.

“Terrible. She is not ready to eat,” Arnett said. “She is not ready to do anything. She knows she’s going to have to go back to school and it’s incredibly awful.”

Funeral arrangements for DePhillip haven’t been announced and his family declined to comment on Monday.

By the numbers

3: Clark County teens killed in car accidents since the start of the school year

2: Months since the last crash killed two Greenon boys

29th: Ranking for the area near Rebert Pike and Fowler Road for dangerous rural roads in Clark County between 2014 and 2016 by the Transportation Coordination Committee.

In-depth coverage

The Springfield New-Sun digs into important public safety stories, including recent coverage of how healthy schools are and the most dangerous intersections in Clark County.

Urbana school board candidates debate future of city schools

Published: Saturday, October 14, 2017 @ 6:00 AM


            Urbana Middle School, Urbana High School. Bill Lackey/Staff
Urbana Middle School, Urbana High School. Bill Lackey/Staff

Challenges facing the district, completing construction on new schools and community relationships were among the issues debated this week by several candidates running for Urbana City Schools board of education.

Nine people are running for three spots on the Urbana school board this November and two more are running for another two-year position. Early voting has begun and the election will take place Nov. 7.

Those seeking one of the three seats are current school board members Tim Lacy, Alyssa Dunham, Darrell Thomas, as well as former school board members James B. Arter and John M. Birkhimer, and newcomers Nicole (Nikki) Blair, Elizabeth DeWitt, Jeffery Michael Hepp and Amy Shaloo Paul.

MORE: Urbana buys $925K property for new elementary school

Those running for the unexpired term of Warren Stevens, who was killed in a car crash last year, are Sarah Finch and Laura Reed.

Finch couldn’t make the candidates forum Wednesday night but said in a statement read at the event that she’s running because she believes she can be a good public servant.

“I believe a person should go into a position with an open mind to make the best decisions for all involved. I’ve always been a supporter of the Urbana City students, the operations and the administrators,” Finch said.

Reed attended and said that the school district needs to do better. She criticized the recent grades the district scored on the state report cards and said there’s no reason Urbana isn’t doing better.

“I believe in education and I believe in public education,” she said. “If we have strong public schools we open the door for all of our students to reach dreams and goals.”

The candidates took questions from the audience on a range of topics including what their opinion was of the challenges facing the district in the next four years and if they believed they could get along with other school board members.

The candidates running for the three positions had, for the most part, similar ideas. A synopsis of what they said their platforms are below.

READ: Clark, Champaign County schools score low on state report cards

James Arter

Arter said his few decades of experience will help him be the best school board member as possible.

“This is what I do and this is what I know,” he said. “This is where my passion lies.”

He said schools are important and he hopes to use his experience to help future generations of Urbana.

John M. Birkhimer

Birkhimer said he finds it sad that the community no longer supports the schools like they used to, and said if elected he would work to improve relations with residents and the district.

“I have no agenda than other to try to be a good board member, a supporter of this community and schools,” he said.

He said he will also support the staff members any way he can.

Nicole Blair

Blair said her strength is working in groups and problem-solving.

“I want parents to understand they can be involved at every level and every aspect of their child’s education,” she said. “I really believe the key of a successful district is to have families weaved into that district.”

When parents are involved in education, she said, a district will be successful.

EXTRA: Urbana see savings after low bids on school construction projects

Elizabeth DeWitt

Dewitt said her goal is to re-establish the importance of the city school district to Urbana.

“Over the last few years, I have seen the community involvement and pride dwindle,” she said. “The community is losing faith in the district and are either moving their children out of the district or open enrolling. We need to regain the support of the community.”

Being transparent, communicating and standing as a unified team will help bring back the community.

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Alyssa Dunham

Dunham couldn’t make the event.

She said through a spokeswoman that her goal is to make sure the community knows what is going on in the district and to improve enrollment.

“With the new school buildings, we hope to get back students that we lost so that we can get more open enrollment then what we are losing in the district,” the spokeswoman said.

Jeffrey Hepp

Hepp said the district isn’t doing enough to let residents know what is going on in the schools.

“I believe we lack transparency and communication in the district,” he said, adding that many are confused and uninformed about the decisions that have been made.

He said the district should re-focus its attention on increasing the level of the programs it offers now to make sure they’re the best they possibly can be before the board tries to implement new programs.

Tim Lacy

Lacy is a current school board member and said he’ll continue to ask questions to make sure students are getting the best possible education.

“I got a policy that I am responsible for,” he said. “One thing my dad taught me is if you believe in something, you have to stand up for it. If something is not being handled it’s my job to bring it to light and let the other board members know.”

He isn’t someone who will just rubber stamp ideas without thoroughly exploring the issues, he said, and he hopes the community will allow him to continue to work on behalf of the students.

EXTRA: Urbana to open $25M new high school after spring break

Amy Paul

Paul has a positive outlook of the school district now and said the current staff is working hard to make sure students get the best education possible.

“Urbana is a district that has been showing great growth,” she said. “We also meet the needs of many different populations of students. As a potential board member, (the goal) is to continue to foster that growth. Working with community, administration, staff and students. We need to work to move forward.”

Paul is a principal at a Simon Kenton Elementary School in Springfield and said that experience can help her as a board member.

Darryl Thomas

Thomas was appointed to the board late last year and spent this year learning the position and understanding that a lot goes into making good decisions for students.

“Our focus needs to be the kids and the future of this country,” he said. “Since I have been on the board, I have served as vice president and I love this community.”

Working with legislators and setting the school up to be successful into the future will be his goal if elected, he said.