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Published: Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 5:02 PM
LIBERTY TWP. — Dozens of high school students risked getting dunked Friday as they put novice engineering skills to a watery test of racing mini-cardboard boats.
The Lakota East Freshman School students paddled, splashed and floundered in the Lakota YMCA swimming pool.
They walked away wetter but wiser in the ways of structural engineering and teamwork.
“We learn the entire engineering design process from start to finish,” said Ken Kinch, instructor with the Butler Tech engineering program at Lakota East’s Freshman and high school school.
“They had to brain storm solutions … and as a group they had to put that solution to work and build their canoes out of only corrugated cardboard and duct tape. And they are learning about team work and how to be a graceful winner and a graceful loser,” said Kinch standing pool side next to some of the soaked teen participants who took a spill.
The annual event is a popular one at Lakota because it incorporates a rare tactile engineering experience as the teens — and their cardboard boat projects — either sink or swim.
The two-person boat teams have to paddle against another boat by paddling the length of the indoor pool and back with the winner moving on in the competition.
The students constructed 31 boats. Some worked and some didn’t, either sinking, collapsing or capsizing.
Regardless, said Lakota freshman Serena Clark, it’s a fun way to learn.
“A lot of teams doubted us because our boat was big and fat. And we have our repairs all right here,” she said motioning to a couple of rolls of duct tape adorning her forearm.
“We’ve been watching other people’s boats and how they messed up and how they are sinking and paddling and turning” and learned from those, said Clark, whose all-girl team was among the finalists in the races.
The Butler Tech engineering program is part of an extensive satellite system of classes offered by the career school inside high schools throughout the county.
Most recently a Butler Tech class in computer science saw a group of teens at Ross High School earned honors for inventing a mobile device app for school security, winning $50,000 in computer and digital technology for the school as national finalists.
Michael Beauchat, spokesman for Butler Tech, watched the cardboard regatta and said “I never cease to be amazed by what the teachers are doing with the students.”
“They are doing so much with technology and careers, it is just inspiring to see what the students are getting out of this. And the students love it,” said Beauchat.
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 8:00 AM
HAMILTON — When a school district needs to unexpectedly fill its top job, it’s rare to already have someone within its ranks who has done the job.
But that’s what Hamilton school officials had at their disposal when the city school board ordered now-former Superintendent Tony Orr on leave in February as the board launched an independent investigation into allegations Orr violated district policies.
Orr resigned last week under circumstances still largely unexplained by him or the school board that hired him.
Waiting on the school system’s bench was Hamilton Schools Business Director Larry Knapp, who most importantly had the titles of “superintendent” and “interim superintendent” on his resume.
Last week, after the Hamilton Board of Education accepted Orr’s resignation, board members announced at the same meeting that Knapp would continue as superintendent for the 10,000-student school system for the 2018-2019 school year.
“Because he was a superintendent at one time the board felt he would be the right person to put in that position,” said Board President Steve Isgro, when asked about the move.
“He brings 38 years of experience to this full-time role and has been in our district for the past three years,” said Isgro.
Knapp, who was Edgewood Schools superintendent from 2008 to 2010, later served as interim superintendent in Warren County’s Kings Schools.
Knapp, said Isgro, will help in preparing the next full-time superintendent — starting in the 2019-2020 school year — Michael Holbrook, assistant superintendent of instructional services.
Holbrook is also an education veteran, a former school principal and district-level curriculum administrator for Hamilton County’s Mount Healthy and Northwest school districts.
“Mr. Holbrook and his instructional staff have been very instrumental in overseeing the strides that have been made with the progress of our schools,” Isgro said. “We’re excited we can move on like this and not lose any steps.”
Under Orr’s leadership since he was hired in 2015 the district showed improvement in 18 of 23 academic areas measured by the annual state report card compiled by the Ohio Department of Education.
Knapp said he is glad to serve as a bridge leader for Hamilton Schools until Holbrook takes over after the 2018-2019 school year.
“Our whole direction with this process we have been going through is to keep the momentum going for all the good things we have going on here at Hamilton City Schools,” said Knapp, who will also continue to serve as the district’s business director through next school year.
“Our state test scores have gone up and I am very confident those scores are going to continue to climb again next year as well. Our whole push has been to continue the momentum that has been started here the last three years and keep that going,” said Knapp.
Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 2:49 PM
MASON — An 8-year-old Mason boy was abandoned for hours on a parked school bus, leading to the firing of the driver and an apology from school officials with promises to reform their absence-reporting systems.
Earlier this month, a Mason school parent put her son on a school bus expecting him to be safely transported to Mason Early Childhood Center.
But Colleen Peters, who later posted about the incident on her Facebook page, wrote her boy “fell asleep on the way to Mason Early Childhood Center. Every child got off the bus but mine.”
“The bus driver was supposed to do 2 checks per protocol to make sure no one, or anything is left on the bus. That did not happen,” said Peters.
“Also, there is a system in place to inform parents if their child is absent. In usual cases, that includes a phone call, a text, as well as an email. We did not receive that phone call, or text, or email. As far as we knew our son was safe at school,” she said.
Peters told this news outlet Wednesday that the April 3 experience was “horrific,” and she now drives her son to and from school because he is scared to get on a school bus.
Mason schools “handled it very poorly,” she said.
“I got a phone call from the principle at MECC at 2:14 (p.m.) that my son was left on the bus for the entire day. It was an unusually humid warm day temps reaching 77. My son got off the bus at 1:50pm by prying the door open that day. He didn’t know where he was, and was very scared (his words not mine),” Peters wrote on Facebook.
While trying to get an adult’s attention at the school bus parking lot, Peters wrote that her tearful boy was ignored by some adults working there as they walked past him into the garage office, she claimed.
Finally, she said, “there was a lady that went on a smoke break that found him and helped him inside (the office).”
Mason school officials apologized to Peters and said the substitute bus driver was fired and a new requirement of all student absences — unexcused and excused — will be confirmed with phone or other communications with school parents within two hours of the start of each school day.
The MECC attendance secretary responsible for confirming absences was reprimanded.
Before the end of the school day, officials said they will place a second call to all families who have not provided a reason for their child’s absence
“We hate that this child was left on the bus. There were some very serious mistakes,” said Mason Schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson, who added that school officials have offered Peters’ child counseling after the incident.
“Our practice has been that teachers are required to accurately record their students’ attendance in our student information system in the first 15 minutes of school,” said Carson.
“We’re analyzing our systems and doing more to try to reduce the opportunity for human error,” said Carson, who said the new procedures will begin Monday in the 11,000-student district, which is the largest in Warren County.
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 5:00 AM
LIBERTY TWP. — When teens think about killing themselves there is often one group that knows about it first — fellow teens.
A new program coming to Lakota Schools at the start of next school year plans to use that documented tendency as part of a nationally acclaimed anti-teen suicide strategy that is working where many others have failed.
The plan calls for directly involving students for the first time in “Hope Squads” because — as founder Dr. Greg Hudnall, a national champion for suicide prevention in schools told 80 Lakota school parents, students and officials Monday — nobody knows teens like teens.
“We’re often afraid to talk about suicide because we’re afraid it will give someone the idea,” Hudnall told the audience at Lakota East High School.
“The reality and research shows it is actually the opposite,” said the former Utah school district official, who founded Hope Squads that have since been adopted by many school districts in Southwest Ohio and nationwide.
In schools where Hope Squads have been formed, recent data analysis show that over 25 percent of all referrals to counselors have been from Hope Squad members. Of those referrals, 14 percent have been hospitalized for successful treatment, Hudnall told the audience.
The squads will consist of students specially trained to identify at-risk students, provide friendship and seek help from adults.
The “critical piece” of the Hope Squad strategy, he said, is the peer-to-peer component.
Hudnall shared a story about a Utah high school teen who came to school one day and gave his best friend his watch — a cherished family heirloom — and said he wouldn’t be needing it anymore. The friend was perplexed and didn’t have any formal adult contacts at school to turn to and share his concerns about his friend’s strange behavior. Shortly after, the boy killed himself.
“Of the people who commit suicide, 7 out of 10 will tell a friend, but the friend will never tell an adult,” he said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates for adolescent boys and girls have been steadily rising since 2007.
And the problem is especially dangerous for teen girls, according to the center’s data, which shows the suicide rate for girls ages 15-19 doubled from 2007 to 2015, when it reached its highest point in 40 years.
The suicide rate for boys ages 15-19 increased by 30 percent over the same time period.
Both Lakota East and Lakota West high schools will have Hope Squads in place when classes start in August.
But Hudnall cautioned the positives of the new program “will not happen overnight.”
He said his group’s research shows “it takes two to three years to change a school culture.”
“We can’t prevent every suicide, but we can prevent many,” he said.
Lakota East junior Alyssa Longworth is eager to start her work as a member of the school’s first Hope Squad.
“Our family recently had a suicide. Suicide is a big problem, especially for my generation and I just want to do as much as I can to prevent it from happening,” said Longworth.
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 1:00 PM
MADISON TWP. — The leader of Madison Schools in Butler County will soon be the taking a new job as Director of Campus Operations at Miami Valley Career Technical Center in Montgomery County.
Madison Schools Superintendent Curtis Philpot announced last week the current school year will be his last at the Butler County school system.
In a statement, however, Philpot did not reveal where his next position would be until announcing it Monday.
Philpot, who was appointed Madison’s superintendent in 2012, declined further comment about his new job other than identifying for the first time where it would be.
A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for Madison Schools, said the school board is beginning the process of finding a new superintendent to take over for the coming 2018-2019 school year.