2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Board might slash costs by 37 percent

Friday October 16, 2015 5:37 PM

Parents may see lower pay-to-participate fees as soon as this winter.

Westerville school board members are prepared to approve proposed changes to the current pay-to-participate fee model.

A resolution will be introduced at the next board meeting to suspend the current fee schedule and implement a tiered model, similar to that of the Gahanna-Jefferson Public School District.

For a high school athlete, it would cost $150 for the first sport, $75 for the second sport and the third sport would be free. For middle school, it would be $75 for the first sport, $50 for the second sport and the third sport is free. There also would be a family cap of $300.

Currently, high school students pay $240 per sport and middle school students pay $120, with no family cap.

The new fees would be a 37.5 percent reduction.

Participation in clubs, theater programs and co-curricular activities such as band, choir or orchestra would be free under the new model.

Now, more than 33 clubs such as yearbook, Key Club and fishing charge a $15 fee. The theater program as well as co-curriculars are $50.

The changes would take effect for winter sports and next school year for clubs and co-curriculars because students have already paid their fees for the year, said Scott Reeves, the district’s executive director of secondary academic affairs.

In a presentation at the Monday, Oct. 12, school board meeting, Reeves said 17 of the 19 Ohio Capital Conference districts charge pay-to-play fees, with the average being $170 for high school and $120 for middle school. Eight of those districts have some kind of a family or individual cap.

All of the board members were in favor of lessening the burden on Westerville families.

“For some of these kids, sports is the reason they are staying in school. I agree it would be nice to lower the fees even more, but I’m very excited to say to the community that we are now able to make a difference for families,” said board member Rick Vilardo.

Rob Rothney, president of the Central athletic boosters, agreed some students have stayed in school because of football or soccer.

“To have a reduction in pay-to-play would be significant for us. That would bring tears to parents’ eyes,” he said.

School officials said the current fee model has hurt spring sports such as track and field because students can’t afford another sport.

“Part of the impact of these fees is that we are seeing less kids doing three sports. That was the norm growing up in my day,” said Superintendent John Kellogg. “I think we should give our families some breathing room and suspend this current model and then evaluate it annually.”

Also Monday, board members approved a resolution to investigate refinancing old bonds.

Dave Conley, president of Rockmill Financial Consulting, described potential scenarios for refinancing a 2006 bond in December to potentially secure a lower interest rate.

“This would mean a possible reduction in property taxes, however the money potentially gained would not go into the general fund,” Conley said.

“Here, we have the opportunity to do something of value for our taxpayers and our financial base and I appreciate that we are in this position,” Vilardo said.

The board’s next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Drive.


2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

District three-peats, earns another state audit award


For the third year in a row, the Westerville City School District earned the Auditor of State Award with Distinction.
State Auditor Dave Yost stopped by the district office Sept. 22 to present the award, which recognizes the audit for July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014.
According to Yost’s office, the award recognizes local governments, school districts and other public entities that have a “clean” audit report, meaning it was filed on time and there are no findings for recovery, material citations or weaknesses, significant deficiencies, single audit findings or questioned costs, among other issues.
District Treasurer Bart Griffith said his department could not take all the credit for the award.
“Anyone in the district who handles money played a role in helping us earn this award,” Griffith said.
“They follow the procedures we have in place and handle the money correctly,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without them. We have a great staff who really care about what they do.”
He noted the treasurer’s staff does a good job working with all the other staffs that handle money.
“They are the ones who bring it all together,” Griffith said.
“They pay all the bills, process the purchase orders, keep track of all the records,” he said.
“Without everyone doing their part — secretaries, food service, athletics and everyone else that works with the business side of the school district — this award would not be possible,” said Greg Viebranz, the district’s executive director of communications and technology.
“Good finance is important to everything government does,” Yost said in a release.
“We can’t expect sound budgetary decisions by the board and superintendent unless the books are clean and accurate,” he said. “It is with great pleasure that I present the district with the Auditor of State Award with Distinction.”
Griffith said he aims to earn the award again next year.
2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Media center debuts with up-to-date amenities

Wednesday October 7, 2015 8:33 AM

A summer of hard work has resulted in a new Center for Inspiration multimedia center at Walnut Springs Middle School.

Even though school has been in session for a while, district officials still wanted to have a formal dedication. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Sept. 17 for students, staff and school officials during a tailgate to celebrate the new 7,000-square-foot library space.

Superintendent John Kellogg, school board President Tracy Davidson and members Richard Bird, Nancy Nestor-Baker and Rick Vilardo were on hand, as were Principal Becca Yanni and library media specialist Jean Trimble.

During the first week of school, students already had checked out three times the number of books as they did a year ago, according to information from the district.

Contractor GHM Inc. completed $374,538 worth of renovations (approximately $65 per square foot) approved by the school board Feb. 9.

The renovations were part of the district’s five-year capital improvement plan, which is funded by a permanent improvement levy approved by voters in 2009.

Yanni thanked the district, the school board, Kellogg, Jeff LeRose, Triad Architects, the construction team and Trimble for their vision for the Center for Inspiration.

“To be inspired is to be influenced with the spirit of something. This space magnifies that spirit for our students and staff,” Yanni said. “The students of Walnut inspire us each day. They are making middle school matter and making each moment count.”

The design concept evolved from a media center to a multimedia center that includes music, art and literature.

The back corner has a small room for a television studio and a green screen so students can star in and produce in the school’s WOLF TV, as well as a “maker space” for creative projects such as 3-D printing and die-cutting.

The space offers amenities such as coffeehouse-style furniture, booth seating, club chairs wrapped around a three-sided virtual fireplace, and a high-tech audio system.

There also are two offices, a computer bar, an outdoor learning environment and a flexible classroom that opens to the main area via two glass garage doors.

So far, students are loving the new space.

“The Center for Inspiration is like Panera Bread, but with books,” eighth-grader Madison Morrison said. “It’s a fun and comfortable place to do homework, research and do some reading.

“The maker space is also great for anyone who enjoys building or wants to use their imagination and add some more fun to your day,” Morrison added.

“The Center for Inspiration is an inspiring, comfortable place that has really cool opportunities for students to grow. I go in there every other day as much as I can,” seventh-grader Emylee Preston said.

Walnut Springs has about 950 students in grades 6-8.

The school opened in 1965 as Westerville Junior High School, the first junior high in the district. The name was changed to Walnut Springs Middle School in 1967, based on a recommendation from the Citizens’ Advisory Council.

Past projects to create inspirational educational spaces have earned national recognition for the Westerville City School District.


2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

7th-grader already an entrepreneur with ‘Em’s Gems’

Emily McGeorge, a seventh-grader at Heritage Middle School, doesn’t need to take any business classes. She’s getting firsthand experience.
She has been running her own jewelry business and selling her jewelry at Pure Roots, 18 N. State St., for more than a year now.
She’s occasionally sold her “Em’s Gems” at special events, such as an Aug. 29 special sale outside the Sunny Street Cafe, 644 N. State St.
Emily estimates she’s made more than 500 pieces of jewelry to sell.
For the Aug. 29 sale, which she prepped for by creating more than 100 pieces, she donated 10 percent of her profits back to Sunny Street Cafe so the restaurant could donate the funds back to a charitable cause of its choice.
“It’s very generous of them to let me borrow their space to sell my jewelry,” she said of Sunny Street owner Megan Ada.
“I wanted to give something back,” she said.
Before Emily began making jewelry, she had a duct tape crafting business she called “Tape It Up.”
She handmade bracelets, rings, lanyards, backpacks and pillows — all out of duct tape.
Then one year, for Christmas, her grandmother gave her a beading kit. Her business changed.
“I started playing with the bead kit and thought, ‘This is so cool,’ ” she said. “So the next day, my mom took me to the store and I bought some special tools and more beads.”
Emily visited her great-grandmother’s home and friends noticed the jewelry she was wearing.
“My friends placed orders for me to make them jewelry and I thought, ‘I’m going to need a bajillion more beads to make all these!’ “
In addition to using beads, she also incorporates stones she finds into her jewelry.
“Our family went to Michigan for vacation and I found all these neat-looking rocks. I polished them, wrapped wire around them and used leather strips to make necklaces.”
In August 2014, she worked with the owner of Pure Roots and started selling her creations there.
She explained that most months, when she sells $30 worth of jewelry, she will net $18 from the sales at Pure Roots. Emily estimates she spends about 20 percent of her profits on materials.
In addition to selling her jewelry in Pure Roots, she also makes custom jewelry.
“A friend from my dad’s country club placed an order for like 100 pieces, so I’m starting to do more bulk orders, but they are still all original creations.”
Stephanie McGeorge, Emily’s mother, is the assistant principal at Westerville North High School.
She said she is proud of Emily for getting real life experience while doing something she loves.
“I love that she is learning experience to budget her money and time while also finding a way to make money at something she loves,” her mother said. “She balances the hectic schedule of sports, school (and) her jewelry making.”
McGeorge praised Emily for valuing the importance of giving to others, especially in terms of donating some of her profits.
One of Emily’s favorite pieces is a bracelet she wears herself. It features birthstones — each of her parent’s with her own in the middle.
Her father, Collins McGeorge, is a regional sales manager for Industrial Magnetics Inc.
On top of running her jewelry business Emily is a member of the seventh-grade volleyball team at Heritage and a Student Ambassador. She plans to try out for the school softball team in the spring.
“Usually, I go to school, go to volleyball, eat dinner, do my homework and then make some jewelry,” she said.
“I like being busy but sometimes it can be tricky to find time to hang out with friends.”
Emily said she sees her enterprise getting bigger and better as she progresses more into the jewelry-making business.
“I don’t feel like I have enough to fill a whole store yet. But my goal in life is to get my jewelry in as many stores as possible.”
Next project? An e-commerce website.

2015, johnstown, johnstownindependent, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Fire department open house set for Saturday

Come out and meet local firefighters at the fourth annualMonroe Township Fire Department’s open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, at the station, 24 S. Oregon St.
New this year at the open house will be a Christmas Tree safety demonstration.
“We’re going to light two trees on fire, one that has been watered and one that’s dried out, in order to show people the importance of watering their Christmas trees,” said Josh Martel from the Johnstown-Monroe Fire Department.
“We want to bring awareness to what can happen when trees get too close to an ignition source and become dried out.”
The fire department’s open house kicks off fire prevention week which is Oct. 4-10.
Fire Chief Dudley Wright said firefighters will be visiting elementary schools that week to teach students about fire safety.
“We try to bring fire safety into the forefront and engage the community,” Wright said. “It gives us an opportunity to interact with people in non-crisis situations.”
There will also be a search and rescue trailer from the Ohio Fire Academy there for community members to walk through and get a sense of what it’s like in a smoke-filled environment.
The fire department’s new rescue fire truck will be on display, “to show the community what they have been supporting us for,” Martel said.
At the Open House, there will be free Whit’s Frozen Custard and food from US 62 Barbeque.
Children can paint a wooden fire truck, try on fire turnout gear, watch fire extinguisher demonstrations and meet Sparky the robotic fire dog.
Usually about 150 people attend the open house, Martel said.
The Monroe Township Fire Department was founded April 1, 2000 when Monroe Township took over the Johnstown Volunteer Fire Department at the private fire department’s request.
It is a combination fire department meaning the staff consists of 13 full-time, 20 part-time, and 10 volunteer personnel.
2015, apeks, johnstown, johnstownindependent, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Students, others can get hands-on manufacturing experience

Monday September 28, 2015 11:04 AM

Johnstown’s Apeks Supercritical is hosting a Manufacturing Day, also known as MfgDay, Oct. 2 for students and the public at 150 Commerce Blvd.

Student participants will have an opportunity to work hands-on with one manufacturing area of their choice — welding, pipe and tube fitting and bending, machining or electrical controls assembly.

“It’s a great opportunity for parents, teachers, students or anyone who wants to learn about manufacturing,” said Andy Joseph, Apeks owner and president.

“It’s not a course,” Joseph said. “It’s a hands-on experience. There’s nothing better than creating something with your own two hands.”

This is the first year Apeks Supercritical is participating in MfgDay, a nationwide event where manufacturers open their doors to high school and middle school students to promote engineering and manufacturing careers.

“Previously, we didn’t have the physical space to host students,” Joseph said.

“We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and now in our new manufacturing facility, we have the space,” Joseph said.

Apeks Supercritical will host students from noon to 4 p.m. and open the doors to the rest of the public at 2 p.m.

At 1 p.m. Mayor Sean Staneart and Village Manager Jim Lenner will speak to students about what manufacturing means in terms of bringing tax dollars to the village, thus allowing for new roads and infrastructure to be built.

Joseph said they are expecting more than 200 students so far from Johnstown-Monroe schools and Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County.

“The point is to promote manufacturing for tomorrow’s employers,” Joseph said.

“A lot of other companies that participate focus on computers and automation and we wanted to focus on the hands-on basic practices of manufacturing,” he said.

“You need to understand the core basic fundamentals of manufacturing in order to be competitive.”

Apeks Supercritical will have several stations set up for the students to get real world, hands-on exposure to manufacturing processes.

Students will learn the basics of arc welding from experienced professional welders and will be able to make an arc weld on a stainless steel coupon which they can then keep.

“I’m betting 99 percent of these students have never welded before,” Joseph said.

“That’s okay. This an opportunity to weld something, keep it and show friends or family what they made,” he said.

When he was younger, Joseph had the chance to shadow at his dad’s company when there was an open house. It was his first experience with manufacturing and he said it influenced the rest of his life.

Additionally, two stations will be set up to give students an opportunity to learn about machinery to drill, tap, debur and inspect a threaded hole in stainless steel.

“Students will get to drill a hole in metal and feel what handling the machine is like,” Joseph said. “It won’t just be pressing a button.”

For those who want to learn about mechanical tube fitting and assembly, they can learn bending applications from seasoned experts and will get to measure, cut, bend and assemble tubing according to a sample part.

To get more information about electrical controls assembly, students can learn the basics of programmable logic controls from an automation expert.

Students will assemble control wires and program the PLC to put a “Knight Rider-esque” light bar in action.

Visitors should wear appropriate attire for a manufacturing facility, such as long pants, closed toed shoes, no loose clothing, and no headphones. Safety glasses, food and refreshments will be provided.


2015, johnstown, johnstownindependent, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Johnstown to seek loan for Oregon/Williams storm sewer repair

Monday September 21, 2015 11:53 AM

At the regular Johnstown Village Council meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15, council members voted to ask the Ohio Public Works Commission for a $135,000 loan for capital improvements to the Oregon/Williams storm sewer.
The storm sewer collapsed in May and Johnstown Service Director Jack Liggett said repairs must be done immediately.
Village officials tried to keep the loan repayments low and made the loan term as long as possible.
The loan interest rate will be 0 percent over 30 years and payments will come from the capital improvement fund.
Furthermore, village officials announced plans to close U.S. Route 62 near Westview Drive and Bigelow Drive at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 in order to erect the pedestrian bridge. They intend to re-open the road by 6 a.m. the next day.
If weather prevents construction crews from erecting the bridge on the intended night, they will push the erection to the next weekday night with a favorable forecast, officials said.
In her report to council, Village Finance Director Dana Steffan said the village might need to think about a future income tax increase to place before voters.
The recent tax credit repeal passed in April was not enough to to sustain the village in the future, Steffan said.
As of now, the village cannot afford to pay employees competitive wages, she said.
Since the beginning of the year, three water/sewer employees and one police officer left the village for higher paying jobs.
Steffan hiring and training costs have hurt the village budget and productivity level.
“Two finance directors before you, we were advised to raise income taxes,” said Carol Van Deest, a councilwoman. “Thank you for addressing the elephant in the room.”
Police Chief Don Corbin answered questions from council members about teenagers loitering outside City Hall in Bigelow Park late at night.
“We can’t make them leave,” Corbin said.
“We get reports of vandalism there, but if we don’t see the destruction occurring, we can’t do anything about it,” he said.
“We do go out there a lot. In the past two weeks, we have been out there 20 or 30 times.
“I would like to see that park close at 10 p.m. so then we would have a reason to ask the kids to leave,” Corbin said.
The land is not entirely owned by the village, which complicates the issue.
Monroe Township Trustees have control of the building and land adjacent to Bigelow Park, and the Village Council controls the land adjoining the 20 foot strip of land next to the building.
Regarding Concord Road repairs, AEP has yet to remove its poles from the construction site.
Liggett and Village Manager Jim Lenner are working with contractors to discuss alternate plans for the sidewalk.
Lenner stated he does not want to hold up this project anymore.
Also, an amendment was made to the village budget to add $33,000 from the water and sewer reserve fund into the water operations fund.
“I need money to buy chemicals,” Liggett said.
“In fact when this passes, I’m buying chemicals at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning,” he said.
“This was a budget cut from last year that we had to make,” Lenner said.
“Jack asked for this money, but I took it away from him and he was right. He needs it.”
The next regular Village Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 6 at 599 S. Main St.
2015, johnstown, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Sept. 26 wine-tasting event to raise funds for food pantry

Monday September 21, 2015 11:49 AM

Johnstown community members can help those in need while sampling wines and cheeses, Saturday, Sept. 26, at the third annual charity wine tasting from 6 to 9 p.m. at the home of John and Ann Lodder, 1238 S. Watkins Road, Alexandria.

Proceeds will benefit the Johnstown-Northridge Community Food Pantry, an organization close to the heart of Mrs. Lodder, the event’s organizer and founder.

“I knew there was a need for help at the food pantry and we wanted to find a unique way to give back,” Lodder said. “It was really a grassroots effort and when the first one in 2013 went so well, we kept doing it.”

The event is like a mature food drive, she said.

“It’s a way for adults who can’t physically be at the food pantry to give back and support the community,” Lodder said. “There’s still a lot of hungry people in Johnstown and the Northridge area.”

Tickets include eight, 1-ounce pours of wine and plenty of food, hand-picked by Lodder.

“We try to offer a variety of wines, usually four reds and four whites, both dry and sweet,” she said. “We also make sure no one leaves hungry.”

Lodder said she hopes to feature a chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, moscato, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and a dessert wine.

Once the wine selections are finalized, Lodder researches and chooses cheeses, spices and pasta to pair with the wines.

“We are just regular people who enjoy sharing wine with others and want to give back to the community,” she said.

“We’re not the Wexners or anything, but we’ve always felt blessed to have spent 20 years doing what we love in landscaping.”

The Lodders own Lodder Landscaping, 1238 S. Watkins Road in Alexandria.

In years past, about 25-30 community members have come out and Lodder said she hopes more people from Johnstown and Alexandria come out.

At the wine tasting, there will also be a live auction of items donated from Wyandotte Winery, Lodder Landscaping and other local businesses.

Tickets to the wine tasting are $25 and Lodder recommended people buy tickets ahead of time.

Checks can be made payable to Johnstown-Northridge Food Pantry.

For more information, to donate an auction item or to buy tickets, call 740-924-2086.


2015, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

High school students mark 9/11 anniversary

Wednesday September 16, 2015 9:12 AM

Students of Westerville Central and South high schools took time Friday to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Westerville South High School displayed 3,000 tiny American flags in front of the building to commemorate the 3,000 lives lost on 9/11.
The student group Young Americans for Freedom organized the effort. They meet every Wednesday throughout the school year in the classroom of science teacher and club adviser Beth Eddy.
“We’re hoping that people will remember or reread the stories of courage, self-sacrifice and love among those who perished that day. We believe that 9/11 highlights the value and sacredness of human life,” Eddy said.
At Westerville Central’s annual 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony at 8:30 a.m. Friday, the entire student body gathered in the cafeteria/commons area as well as up the stairs and into the second-floor hallways to watch in silence as an honor guard consisting of 15 to 30 policemen, firefighters and military personnel carried a flag from one end of the building to the other.
“It is a way for all of us to come together as a Warhawk family and honor all of those that lost their lives on that terrible day as well as those that worked to rebuild our country,” said Central Principal Todd Spinner.
The ceremony that began in 2006 came about organically, Spinner said.
“The ceremony started when I was having conversations with members of my social studies department and we were discussing ways in which we could look at how to remember the terrible tragedy in 2001 and how we can honor those that lost their lives and those that worked to save lives,” he said.
The first year the ceremony was held outside along Mount Royal Avenue but since was moved inside to take weather concerns out of the equation.
Every year, the ceremony grows, because more and more people want to be involved and help to honor those who lost their lives and also pay tribute to the first responders of Sept. 11, 2001, he said.
“Our students do a great job of paying tribute to all those men and women present in uniform on that day, and talking with them once the ceremony is over,” he said.
“Many times it is a simple handshake and a ‘Thank you.’ “
2015, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

Westerville teachers get new contract

Thursday September 10, 2015 1:28 PM

The Westerville Board of Education approved a new contract with the Westerville Education Association in a special meeting this morning, Sept. 10.

The contract between the board and its teachers union is retroactive to Sept. 1 and remains in effect through the 2017-18 school year.

The three-year agreement includes base salary increases of 2 percent each year, a $900 annual one-time payment not included on base salaries and the addition of one step on the supplemental contract salary schedule, according to a press release issued Thursday by Greg Viebranz, the district’s executive director communications and technology.

All other salary schedule step increases for experience and additional education remain the same, as does the benefits package available to WEA members, the release said.

Treasurer Bart Griffith said the total cost of the contract over three years is projected to be about $20 million, the majority of which was accounted for in the district’s latest five-year financial forecast, according to the release.

The newly approved contract replaces the WEA’s three-year contract that expired Aug. 31. That pact included salary concessions made by WEA to help the district address financial challenges it was experiencing in 2011, Viebranz said.

Westerville Board of Education President Tracy Davidson in the release said board members believe the new contract is fair and equitable and addresses several critical issues brought to the table by both the WEA and board.

“We’re extremely pleased that both parties were able to come to an agreement that not only recognizes the valuable role our teachers play in educating the students of Westerville City Schools but (also) allows the district to remain on a positive financial trajectory while maintaining its financial promises to the community,” she said in the release.

The first portion of the special board meeting this morning was a closed executive session for the purpose of discussing negotiations. Immediately following the closed session, the board voted 4-0 to approve the contract, which was approved by the union earlier this week. Board member Nancy Nestor-Baker was unable to attend the 9:30 a.m. special meeting.

For more details on the new contract, check out the Sept. 17 edition of ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion.