School bus safety is in the spotlight after recent crashes. What’s being done?

Published: Sunday, January 28, 2018 @ 11:00 AM

School bus rear ended by truck in Trenton

Recent school bus crashes have Butler County school officials redoubling their efforts to assure the thousands of students they transport each school day travel safely.

The crashes this month in Middletown and Edgewood school districts were caused by vehicles colliding into buses containing school children.

MORE: Middletown school bus crash leaves minor injuries

There were no serious injuries, but local school officials cite the accidents as reminders of possible worst-case scenarios they want to avoid.

Crashes draw much attention, but the daily schoolday ritual of safely transporting school children and teens along thousands of miles of Butler County roads is the overwhelming norm, said local school transportation officials.

“Riding a yellow school bus is still the safest way for students to get to and from school,” said Chris Passarge, chief operations officer for Lakota Schools.

“Lakota continues to keep safety at the forefront of everything we do, including transportation. All of our buses have GPS and camera systems that can be used for a variety of reasons to include safety.”

MORE: Budget cuts, state law keep busing from some high schools

In Ohio, between 2012 and 2016, there were 6,606 crashes involving school buses, leading to 16 deaths and 2,317 injuries, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Nationwide, more than 20 million K-12 students ride buses each school day, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

School bus accidents are more frequent in the winter season, when roads can be hazardous due to snow and ice.

VIDEO & STORY: School bus full of students slids out of control down icy hill

Technological advancements in school bus design, digital enhancements, new procedures and enhanced training of drivers has helped enssure safe travels, said Hamilton School officials.

“All of our buses are equipped with well-trained drivers, GPS tracking systems and cameras to help ensure a safe ride for all of our students,” said Larry Knapp, business manager for the 10,000-student Hamilton school system.

“We do have accidents from time to time, but thankfully, the majority of these are at slower speeds with few or no injuries. Similar to newer autos on the road, today’s bus interiors are better designed to help minimize injuries in these types of situations.”

Pam Pratt, spokeswoman for Edgewood Schools, said the rural Butler County district – almost entirely comprised of two-lane roads – has 25 buses transporting about 2,000 students.

“We perform daily inspections on our buses along with partnering with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for periodic inspections,” Pratt said. “Other activities include bus evacuation practice drills and conducting district safety meetings with our area first responders.”

What hasn’t been modernized, unfortunately, is the sometimes-careless behavior of the bad drivers around school buses, said Knapp.

“One of the biggest challenges we face are other drivers passing our buses when the bus is stopped on a street loading or unloading students,” he said.

“When our bus lights are flashing, people are supposed to stop. I don’t know if they are just in a hurry or don’t know the law, but going around the bus certainly puts kids at risk. The more space any driver can put between themselves and a school bus will help keep everyone safer.”

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Troy lays out plans for finding new school superintendent

Published: Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 6:00 AM


            Troy City Schools Board of Education is accepting applications for a new superintendent and will begin interviewing candidates in March. Superintendent Eric Herman is retiring July 31.
Troy City Schools Board of Education is accepting applications for a new superintendent and will begin interviewing candidates in March. Superintendent Eric Herman is retiring July 31.

TROY - The Troy City Schools Board of Education will begin interviewing superintendent candidates March 19 following an application and recruiting process that included a community meeting last week for input on characteristics desired in the next district leader.

K-12 Business Consulting Inc. of New Albany is working with the board of education in the search to replace Eric Herman, who is retiring July 31. Herman has been with the district 20 years, serving as interim superintendent in summer 2010 and superintendent in March 2011. He served as an assistant principal; principal; director of curriculum and technology; and assistant superintendent over the years.

The deadline for applicants is March 9.

The process of reviewing candidates and making recommendations to the board was outlined by consultants Dennis Leone and Lawrence Butler, both former school leaders. The company is being paid $17,900 for its services through hiring of a new superintendent, said Jeff Price, district treasurer.

“We’ve learned a lot here,” Leone told around 20 people, including three former board of education members, attending the community meeting.

The consultants spent the day in the district, including meeting with students and administrators, before the community meeting. Among topics of discussion in the community was the district bond issue for new elementary schools that failed in November.

Several meeting participants said a major issue with the failed proposal was lack of communication. Others discussed the proposal to move from neighborhood elementary schools to two buildings at one location. The offerings of different opportunities at the various school locations today was pointed to as a concern by some participants.

Among questions discussed were district strengths. Participants pointed to tradition, community involvement, fiscal responsibility, a strong community foundation, neighborhood schools, a wide range of opportunities for community involvement and a great draw for staff.

“The hiring of a new superintendent is also an opportunity. It is an important time, a transition,” Leone said.

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Want to be a substitute teacher? Northmont seeking help

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 4:32 PM

Northmont City Schools logo. CONTRIBUTED.
Northmont City Schools logo. CONTRIBUTED.

Finding substitute teachers is harder than usual, Northmont City Schools leaders said.

The district is currently accepting applications for substitutes for all grades, pre-Kindergarten through grade 12, with a bachelor’s degree in any subject.

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Northmont serves the Clayton area and has seven schools total, with a learning center.

The district is trying to be proactive in finding additional substitutes. Officials noted a lack of education majors graduating college, making it difficult to find subs.

If you are interested, visit the school district’s website for the application and requirements from the Ohio State Board of Education. For additional information, contact Northmont City Schools at (937) 832-5011.

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3 alleged threats and lockdowns add to tense week for schools in Butler County

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 4:14 PM

Kings Schools are 1 of a few area districts using an anti-shooter device to keep students safer in classrooms.

Just days after a horrific mass school shooting in Florida, three Butler County school systems faced their own threats of violence.

A Hamilton High School student was arrested Thursday for an alleged social media threat, and a Middletown High School student was questioned by city police Friday after allegedly fighting with another student and then, according to fellow students, saying he would go home and return with a gun. Multiple Middletown schools went on lockdown after the report of the threat on Friday.

On Thursday, a Ross High School student, who allegedly posted on social media he could “beat” the casualty toll of the shootings at the Florida high school, which left 17 dead, was arrested and remains in custody. That Ross teen now faces felony charges of inducing panic.

MORE: Hamilton student arrested for threat

MORE: Middletown High School questioned by police after threat

MORE: Ross High School student arrested and jailed after threat

The alleged threats were part of an extraordinarily tense week of school security concerns as the nation remains shaken by the Parkland, Fla. school killings.

“We take all threats seriously and will continue to work together with the Hamilton Police Department to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” Hamilton High School Principal John Wilhelm said in a statement.

“Simply put, we will show zero tolerance for any threatening behavior.”

The scene outside of Middletown High School was emotionally tense after the threat became known to school parents, who were alerted by their children ordered to stay in their classrooms during Friday’s lockdown.

Police rushed to the school and closed down the school’s doors, keeping anyone from leaving or coming in, said Middletown Police Major Scott Reeve.

Reeve said parents were “very sensitive” about concerns of deadly school violence after a former student gunned down students and staff members at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones predicted on Thursday the school shooting would produce “copy cats” during a Facebook video he posted.

MORE: Butler County Sheriff calls for armed guards in schools 

Jones also renewed his call from years ago, lobbying Butler County school officials to allow armed personnel – perhaps retired military veterans or retired police officers – to patrol local schools to deter attacks.

In Warren County, the Kings Schools has been a leader in school security measures by using a simple metal device currently employed by only a handful of southwest Ohio school systems. Portable door wedges that secure heavy classroom doors from being pushed or blasted by gunfire into opening hang by each classroom in the 4,500-student, suburban district in Deerfield Township.

Kings Schools is one of only a handful in Southwest Ohio to use door security devices designed to be installed during active shooter attacks. The Warren County district made the devices available to all its classrooms in 2014.(Staff Writer)

Dubbed “Bearacades” and made by an Ohio company of the same name, the door stop, which is quickly and easily secured by a sturdy metal pin inserted into a hole drilled into a school’s cement under flooring, transforms classrooms into safer havens from active shooters loose in a school building, officials said.

“The Bearacade gives us that tool and that option to make sure we can lock down and keep our kids safe, and it’s going to buy us a lot of time to get those (police) authorities here to help us against an armed, active shooter,” said Dustin Goldie, a veteran Kings High School teacher.

But, said Bill Cushwa, Founder/CEO of Bearacade, “there is no magic solution. Bearacade units are one added layer of safety.”

“Getting out and away is always the ideal situation. That is why all response protocols lead with run, avoid or get out,” said Cushwa. “But, as demonstrated in Florida, if there isn’t enough information, the way out is too dangerous, or you are on an upper floor, locking and blocking the entry into your space is the next best option.”

Kings senior Chris Lane said he and his classmates – many of whom are trained in how to install the door devices - appreciate the school district’s extra security efforts.

“It (door device) is really appreciated around here, especially after what happened (in Florida) because it shows us that the teachers want to keep us safe,” said Lane.

Staff Writers Rick McCrabb and Wayne Baker contributed to this story

VIDEO: See an active shooter drill where a Kings teacher uses a special security door device @journal-news.com

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Wright State faculty angered by planned cuts; ‘terrible decisions’ loom

Published: Friday, February 16, 2018 @ 1:52 PM


            Wright State University
Wright State University

Wright State University’s Board of Trustees voted 7-1 to enact a mandatory furlough policy Friday, even as frustrated professors confronted the university’s leaders about proposed “draconian” cuts they say will erode the institution’s educational quality.

Wright State faces declining enrollment and higher health care costs while it grapples with the outlines of millions of dollars in cuts to avoid deficit spending and being put on a state fiscal watch, officials said.

“We must continue to be realists together while we maintain our passion for this university,” Douglas A. Fecher, chairman of the Board of Trustees, told dozens of faculty members and others gathered for the board meeting Friday. “We simply do not have access to the same level of resources that we once had in the past.”

RELATED: Wright State budget forum becomes negotiating table for faculty union

Fecher said ignoring the economic situation will not make it go away.

“It will demand more hard choices and hard sacrifice,” he said. “Terrible decisions remain and they must be made.”

Last June, Wright State cut nearly $31 million out of its fiscal year 2018 budget in response to years of overspending, and to raise its reserve fund to $6 million. WSU needs to cut an additional $10.5 million because of enrollment issues, and to cover additional scholarship and fellowship costs, this newspaper has reported.

Members of the American Association of University Professors and faculty members rallied against the cuts Friday, saying they have diminished Wright State’s core mission of education by reducing instructors and classes and creating uncertainty and anxiety among faculty, staff and students.

Senate Faculty President Travis E. Doom told the board he and other faculty members have had questions from students about whether they would be able to complete their degree programs and how the cuts would impact their studies.

“This term, the university remarked in a prepared statement that there is no chance that Wright State University is going to close,” he said. “The fact that the university felt the need to make this statement is chilling. The fact that our community thought this was newsworthy is horrifying.”

The AAUP has said the administration has offered a three-year contract with no raises, reduced benefits and higher health care costs amounting to a pay cut.

Nearly 90 percent of AAUP members eligible to vote have voted yes on a strike authorization if a deal is not reached, according to the union. Unresolved bargaining issues include employment security and furloughs, teaching workloads, maintaining summer teaching opportunities, and proposals that would cut pay and health benefits, the labor organization says.

RELATED: Wright State considering employee furloughs if finances don’t improve

Dan Slilaty, a WSU mathematics professor and AAUP member, said Wright State had gone on a “budget-cutting spree” that protects administration and trustee priorities and “slashes” the university’s core mission.

He said about 580 faculty members who teach at the university account for about 17 percent of its budget.

“What we the faculty demand is that all future cuts to the university’s budget be made in the irresponsible, multi-million dollar athletic budget and the extreme salaries and bloat of the upper administration and in risky side ventures,” he said to audience applause.

“If a strike is the only way in which meaningful shared governance is going to happen, if a strike is the only way to stop this reckless disregard for the core mission of the university, then I will vote for a strike, and I believe my colleagues will as well,” he added.

Wright State has made no decision on furloughing employees, but the policy enacted Friday allows the university to impose unpaid days off work for non-union employees should they become necessary.

Any furloughs of AAUP members would have to be contractually negotiated, said Marty Kich, president of the Wright State chapter of the labor organization.

The university and the AAUP are headed to fact-finding in April, he said.

RELATED: Wright State swimming, diving supporters hire consultant to try to save teams Wright State Trustee Bruce Langos, the sole no vote on enacting the policy on mandatory furloughs, said non-bargaining unit support staff have taken enough cuts.

He added the university should spend more time finding new revenue sources.

“I think we have a high probability that we’re going to end up on fiscal watch and we need to make sure that we’re focused on that revenue growth,” he said in an interview. “We can’t put the entire problem on the backs of the employees. We need to be generating revenue.”

David M. Butkovinsky, a long-time WSU accounting professor and AAUP member, told trustees the cuts would hurt both students’ education and the retention and recruitment of faculty.

“The majority of the faculty believes the administration is using the threat of fiscal watch as a convenient excuse to reduce faculty compensation even though by the administration’s own admission, that threat has passed,” he said.

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