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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 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.

Clark State expands tuition discount for military families

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 3:00 PM

Clark State Community College will extend its 50 percent military tuition discount next year to members of the National Guard and U.S. Reserves, along with a smaller discount for military spouses.

Clark State already offers a similar discount to active duty members, said John Devillier, vice president of business affairs at Clark State. In the past two years, the program has provided a savings of about $19,000 for the 89 students currently using the discount.

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The expansion would provide opportunities for discounted tuition for more than 3,000 reserve personnel stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and 1,500 members of the Ohio National Guard in Springfield, along with their spouses. Members of the Guard and National Reserves outside the region would also qualify. Spouses would receive a 20 percent tuition discount.

The discount is a tool to encourage military members to continue their education and provide them with skills employers need both during and after their military service, said state Rep. Rick Perales, a former Greene County commissioner and a U.S. Air Force veteran.

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“We’re never going to get to the next level as a state unless we can train and educate the right people here,” Perales said. “This is the kind of program that does it.”

About 6,500 students attend Clark State overall, so the 89 students enrolled now make up just a fraction of Clark State’s student population, Devillier said.

Tuition at Clark State currently is $139 per credit hour, or roughly $4,200 annually for 30 credit hours. The decision to extend the tuition discount comes at a time when Clark State is also expanding its online education programs, Devillier said.

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“It’s a way for us to say thank you for the men and women who serve our country,” said Devillier, a retired Air Force colonel who previously served as commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Timothy Knight, an adjunct professor at Clark State, also serves in the Air Force Reserves with the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson. He’s served in the military since 1992, first as a member of the Ohio Army National Guard.

Military families face many challenges including being asked to move frequently and can be called up at any time. Any support to earn additional job training is appreciated, Knight said.

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“That can be a terrible disruption of everyday life, but that’s what we signed up for,” Knight said.

While Clark State will provide discounted tuition to members of the military, the college also announced earlier this month it will raise tuition $10 per credit hour beginning in the fall, pending approval of lawmakers and the governor.

The increase was approved by the college’s board of trustees Tuesday night and will be the first since a statewide three-year freeze on tuition. The additional revenue will be used to improve security and technology on the campus, as well as hiring additional faculty and staff, Clark State President Jo Alice Blondin said.

The two moves are unrelated, she said, and discussions to provide a discount for military families were in the works long before the board of trustees approved the tuition increase.

The community college has taken several steps to provide more support to military families in recent years. It became become one of the first Ohio schools to receive the Purple Heart Campus designation, denoting it actively supports and welcomes veterans and military members. It also installed an outdoor memorial on the campus to honor the memory of the nation’s fallen soldiers.

“Clark State is known for its military friendliness, but Clark State needs to put its money where its mouth is,” Blondin said.

Complete coverage

The Springfield News-Sun provides unmatched coverage of education in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories on new leaders at Wittenberg and Urbana universities.

By the numbers:

6,500 — Estimated students at Clark State

89 — Students who use the military discount program now

$19,000 — Estimated savings for military students in the past two years

Urbana U. spends $400K on new football field turf

Published: Friday, June 23, 2017 @ 5:00 PM

Urbana University has undergone major changes but remains committed to the community, its new president said, and installing new synthetic turf at the school’s football field shows it will be here for the future.

Crews have been installing about $400,000 of new turf this week. Urbana University CEO Christopher Washington said the turf is safer than the field the school played on previously. He also said the artificial turf is proof that despite change, the Champaign County university is here to stay.

MORE: Change likely to continue at Urbana University amid new leaders

“Urbana University, like many universities has gone through quite a bit of change,” Washington said. “For us, I hope that people understand this is a significant financial commitment to improve our stadiums and athletic programs. It’s an indication that we are going to stay and we will continue to invest in our facilities, resources to better support student learning.”

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Urbana University will shift to a branch campus of Franklin University. Franklin acquired the Champaign County campus in 2014 after Urbana faced years of lean enrollment and financial struggles. As part of the deal, Urbana now functions as a division of Franklin but retains its name. Franklin is a private, nonprofit institution based in Columbus.

Washington was appointed leader of the college a couple of months ago. He said the turf will improve not only safety for the players, but also the games for the fans.

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“The alternative color greens at every five yards helps you clearly distinguish the movement of the players on the field,” he said. “The colors pop. It creates a bit of excitement.”

Installing the turf is a proactive move that will help the football team, Washington said, and athletics overall at the school.

Tecumseh club helps provide sleeping mats for Springfield Soup Kitchen

Published: Saturday, June 24, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

            A man tries out his the mats made for the soup kitchen. Contributed photo

The Springfield Soup Kitchen handed out more than 15 sleeping mats thanks to the time and effort of the Tecumseh High School Jr. Optimist Club and members of the New Carlisle Church of the Brethren.

The Tecumseh High School Jr. Optimist Club is young. They began in December with eight members.

RELATED: Interfaith collaboration benefits community’s needy

Paula Crew, the Tecumseh assistant superintendent, is a member of the New Carlisle Optimist Club, and when she learned about Jr. Optimist Clubs, she wanted to start one at the high school. The new club didn’t start off with easy tasks, setting a goal to collect 10,000 plastic bags in order to make sleeping mats for the homeless.

They collected more than 55,000 bags during the course of their campaign. One class in particular collected 22,000 of those bags.

READ MORE: Health district to partner with New Carlisle Farmer’s Market

The bags were then sent Sharon Smart, a member of the New Carlisle Church of the Brethren. Smart has been crocheting for more than 10 years and began crocheting mats out of plastic bags when a friend introduced her to the idea.

A member of her church spread the word to Tecumseh High School that Smart was looking for bags.

“I had no idea the outpour would be so large,” Smart said. “They ran quite the successful program.”

Since December, Smart has made 15 mats.

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Before she can begin, the plastic bags have to be cut and rolled into balls of ‘plarn’. Then, Smart spends approximately 15 hours crocheting 750 bags into a 3x6 mat.

The mats were donated to the Springfield Soup Kitchen.

“The homeless were glad to receive them,” said Theodore Stenger, Springfield Soup Kitchen vice-president. “The mats come in handy by keeping the ground cool or hot. They also act as insulation in the winter.”

And Smart’s operation is growing; she now has about eight people helping her crochet and making the plarn.

“We can’t thank the people involved enough,” Stegner added. “People took the time to put their hands to work to make these blankets.”

Clark State wants to raise tuition for the first time in 3 years

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 1:10 PM
Updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 9:28 PM

Clark State Community College will increase tuition $10 per credit hour beginning in the fall, pending approval of lawmakers and the governor.

The increase was approved by the college’s board of trustees Tuesday night and will be the first since a statewide three-year freeze on tuition.

RELATED: Clark State gets $324K to improve safety on its campuses

The school had froze its tuition ahead of the state mandate locking it in 2015. It also implemented a tuition challenge in which students could save between 5 and 10 percent based on their academic performance and the number of credit hours they enrolled in.

The increase is contingent on the passage of House Bill 49 and approval by Gov. John Kasich.

Clark State is operating in the black and is fiscally sound, according to John Devillier, vice president of business affairs for Clark State Community College. However, the institution would like to make improvements to help its students.

The additional money will benefit students through hiring additional faculty and advisers, he said, as well as upgrades to security and technology.

DETAILS: Clark State expands degree program in growing field

“It’s solely focused on the student,” he said. “So it’s going to be security, safety, efficiencies with information technology. It’s going to hire additional faculty in some programs.”

Students will see their bill increase by an average of $160 a year, depending on how many credits they take. Clark State’s tuition will go from about $139 to about $149 a credit and will remain one of the lowest costs for higher education in Ohio.

About 6,500 students are on Clark State’s three campuses.

Students will see and feel an immediate impact with the improvements, Devillier said.

It’s Leffel Lane campus in Springfield is in a dead spot of sorts and students and staff often experience problems with cell phone service and dropped calls.

The additional revenue would bring cell phone tower repeaters to campus, which would help second-year student Kennedy Coleman Harris.

“It’s patchy in areas. When I go down the stairs. I’ll lose complete service,” Harris said. “Then I have to wait until I walk a little farther in the building to pick it back up but then it’s still kind of patchy.”

The physical therapy assistant student chose the school because it’s local and she believed it’s a better, cheaper option than other institutions. She’s OK with the increase.

“I think with them boosting it up another $10, it’s going help where we were lacking a little bit,” Harris said.

That includes student advising services, she said.

“Knowing that we are going to get more, it will be a whole lot easier to go down there and come right back out,” Harris said.

The tuition hike isn’t a done deal. First state lawmakers must approve the bill and Kasich must sign it.

“The Board of Trustees for Clark State Community College approved it under the condition that the governor would sign it into law,” Devillier said.


6,500: Students at Clark State Community College

$139.33: Current price per credit hour for students.

$149.33: New price per credit hour if House Bill 49 passes and law is signed.

$160: Average amount a student will spend extra annually if the bill passes.

Complete coverage

Springfield News-Sun digs into important stories that affect Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories about the efforts to make the region a hub for transportation research and to add degree programs at Clark State Community College.