Last night, I saw Beauty and the Beast at the Palace Theatre in Columbus.
|My shattered sunroof|
Whoooooosh, whoooosh, whooooosh!
“What the fuck was that?” my boyfriend shouts.
“Pull over, quick!”
I look up and my sunroof is gone.
We park on the side of I-70 and stare up in horror. What happened to the sunroof? Why are there just shards of glass left now?
Deep breaths. Breath in. Breath out.
Getting out of the car, I see black snowflakes of glass on my seat and I brush even more off my body.
My once solid sunroof now looks like crinkly aluminum foil that was viciously torn apart.
“We can’t stay here,” he yells as other cars from the interstate whip by us.
We drive off to the next exit and stop in the parking lot of a gun shop.
My boyfriend tells me to call the Volkswagon dealership I bought my car from so I do. I explain what happened and they tell me to bring the car into their service shop.
I call my dad and he tells me the same thing the dealership says. Except he asks if I’m okay.
Bits of glass sprinkle into the car as we drive to the dealership. I try not to hide my face from the glass.
We get to the dealer and the guy who sold me my car tells us that they’ll pay for the repairs and we’ll get a rental car shortly. Okay sure no problem. We wait in the waiting area lobby for an hour and nothing happens.
|Bits and pieces of glass everywhere|
We go into the service area to check on things.
“Oh, I didn’t know your name. Or where you were. So I didn’t do anything with your paperwork yet,” says the service manager. Great.
We wait 45mins longer in the service shop and listen to their phone ring and ring, always unanswered.
We move to the waiting room. A guy walks into the waiting room. “Anyone call for a rental?”
So, we get in the car he points to.
I think that he’s just going to ask me to sign some papers and we’ll take this rental car right then and there. Instead, he drives out of the dealership and I have to ask, “Where are you taking us?”
He states he’s taking us to “the office” and hands me his business card which says Avis/ Budget.
While he’s driving us, he never uses his turn signal and the car is hot and stuffy.
We get to “the office” and he turns to us saying, “Okay, now let me call Volkswagon and figure out who is paying for the rental car.”
I think, “We were just at the dealership. Why couldn’t we have asked them there?” Instead, he calls and the call to the dealership, of course, goes unanswered.
“Okay, so we’ll put this on your credit card and then Volkswagon will refund you if they choose to pay for the car,” the guy tells us.
|Some of the glass scratched my car|
I’m thinking no, no, no.
My friend calls the dealership and speaks to a sales person who is finally able to connect us to the service manager. He tells the rental car guy that Volkswagon will pay for the car.
We wait as the rental car guy fills out the paperwork and types up stuff on the computer. He says he needs my credit card to put a $1 hold on it. I hand it to him and he types away.
Two minutes later he turns to me and says, “Okay, so I need you to call your bank because I accidentally charged your card $290.”
At this point in the day, four hours later than when I initially left home, I’m not surprised anymore. All I can do is take another deep breath and call my bank. He tries to tell the bank that he wants the pending charge cancelled.
Twenty minutes more of waiting, we get the keys to a car that smells like cheap weed and is the size and shape of a hearse.
At least it’s a rental car.
On Monday, the car dealership tells me they won’t pay for the repairs because they claim a rock hit my sunroof. I know what a rock sounds like and a rock did not hit it. I honestly have no idea why it exploded. After lots of back and forth, the dealership and Volkswagon are paying for the repairs.
I should be getting my car back in a week or so (probably longer.)
Wednesday March 25, 2015 12:33 PM
|The Chip Challenge|
How would you mail a single potato chip?
Westerville sixth-graders grappled with this salty question during their advanced science classes in the fifth annual districtwide Chip Challenge.
Student teams designed compact, lightweight containers that could safely ship a single Pringles potato chip to Superintendent John Kellogg at the district’s Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Drive.
At the Early Learning Center, the potato chips were inspected to ensure they arrived undamaged and packages were evaluated and scored based on their volume and mass — the smaller and lighter the better.
The first-place winners of the challenge were Max Chambers, Reis Schrienk, and Jack Trimble from Blendon Middle School.
Heritage Middle School sixth-grade science teacher, Mary Milchen’s students came in second place.
Milchen said that her students’ favorite part was designing the containers and trying to make sure the chip wouldn’t get damaged.
“My students really enjoyed the Chip Challenge because they were able to talk with groups to solve a problem,” she said in an email. “They really liked the opportunity to test their chip and make changes to their design to ensure the chip would be kept intact.”
She said that one of her teams faced the challenge of working only with duct tape.
While having limited resources and materials was challenging, the students were thrilled to learn their chip stayed intact when tested.
The students were not able to use anything that had already been produced or designed. The shipping and packing material had to be provided by the students.
“The materials ranged from bubble wrap to cotton balls and plastic containers. They had to manipulate the items they brought in to create a new design,” Milchen said.
The project was much more than just about eating the broken potato chips.
Students learned how to find the volume of their irregular shaped packages.
“They worked very hard to use the knowledge they did have about volume to find a close estimate,” Milchen said.
The Chip Challenge is a STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — initiative.
Wednesday March 25, 2015 12:34 PM
Wednesday March 25, 2015 12:36 PM
|North Mock Trial Team celebrating their State victory|
For the first time, the Westerville North High School Mock Trial team will be advancing to the national competition in Raleigh, N.C.
North’s Team Darrow won the Ohio Mock Trial State Championship by defeating Ashland High School, from Ashland County, at the Ohio Statehouse in the televised finals March 14.
The 10 students on the North team will compete against 45 teams from the United States, South Korea and Guam at the National High School Mock Trial Championship May 14-16.
Zach Wilkerson, teacher, librarian and the team’s coach, said students were extremely excited when they won state title.
“We’ve been close to winning states before,” Wilkerson said.
“We usually win third place or something, but this time we were able to beat those other teams and win.”
The team had to win a total of nine trials and beat 32 teams in order to take home the state title.
They won cases against Danville, Sylvania Southview (defending state champions), Indian Hill (four-time state champions) and Nordonia high schools.
Wilkerson explained how Mock Trial is one of the longest seasons of any school activity. The team received its case material at the end of September and worked diligently all throughout the school year preparing arguments for both the plaintiff and defendant, as well as crafting opening statements.
“The students invest an unbelievable amount of time in Mock Trial and it’s a ton of work,” he said.
Wilkerson participated in Mock Trial in high school and said it was one of the more formative experiences in his life.
“Students learn important life skills like teamwork, reading, writing, listening, and most importantly, confidence,” he said. “They learn that if they work hard, then they can accomplish amazing things.”
The team was honored at the Westerville Board of Education meeting Monday, March 23.
“These students and advisors are now part of the Warriors’ proud tradition of state champions. They have brought true honor to the community,” said Kurt Yancey, North’s principal.
The students were individually recognized and were given a pin and certificate as they shook hands with school board members.
Board Vice President Rick Vilardo presented Wilkerson with a framed award and thanked him for representing the district so well.
Ken Donchatz, an attorney and one of the team’s legal advisers, said preparation for the national competition is underway.
“Even though the case isn’t released until April 1, we have already started learning about the new competition rules because at nationals, the rules are a little different,” Donchatz said.
The team also is coached by legal adviser Scott Longo and Tom Peet, a retired North social studies teacher.
Donchatz has supported the team for 19 years and says he invests about 20 hours a week with the students.
“But, the students put in way more time than I do,” he said. “They work on it every day.”
Donchatz said the Mock Trial program is a great opportunity for students to learn about the legal system and see what litigation is really like.
“Some of the students decide they want to go into a career in law and other students see that it’s not the right career for them,” he said.
Ohio Mock Trial, established in 1983, is Ohio’s largest high school academic competition. More than 3,500 students participate each year, representing approximately 200 schools.
Wilkerson said the team welcomes any type of student, from theatrical witnesses to razor-sharp lawyers.
“We tend to attract students who are extremely intelligent, driven and the cream of the crop in everything they do,” Wilkerson said.
North’s team members took 18 individual awards in their nine trials wins this season.
These include Jacqueline Kloos’ four Outstanding Attorney awards; senior Matt Spadaro’s four Outstanding Witness awards; senior Tristan Justice’s four Outstanding Attorney awards; senior Amy Cox’s two Outstanding Witness Awards; senior Jennifer Finklestein’s two Outstanding Witness Awards; and junior Diana Asta’s two Outstanding Witness awards.
For the competitions, volunteer attorneys write an original, authentic case involving a constitutional issue that is relevant to students’ own personal experiences.
This year’s case focused on the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
In the case, a fictional inmate was injured during a prison food fight and brought suit against the correctional institution, saying it provided an unacceptably low level of care to treat his wrist injury.
The panel of judges for the final trial included Chief Judge Edmund Sargus of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Judge Allen Goldsberry of the Athens County Common Pleas Court and Ohio State Bar Association President Lee Belardo.
Wilkerson said he thinks North has a legitimate chance to bring home the national title.
“We have a really strong group of motivated students and a great chance of winning all the way,” he said.
|The chicken marinating in a ziploc bag.|
- Chicken breast
- Bottle of Italian salad dressing
- Pound chicken breast until thickest part is even with rest of the piece. You’re supposed to use a meat mallet but I used a wine bottle because I’m classy like that.
- Put the thawed/ refrigerated chicken breasts into a large ziploc bag.
- Pour enough salad dressing to coat the chicken breasts so it can soak into the meat. I used the whole bottle because the salad dressing was only like $1.50 at Kroger.
- Let the bag-o-chicken sit in the fridge for 30mins.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or just crank it up to Fahrenheit 451 if you like that book)
- Move the chicken so the juices can soak into all the chicken. I laid it on it’s side for one half hour and then placed it vertically in my empty fresh-foods drawer.
- Don’t let the chicken sit more than two hours in the fridge.
- Put chicken in the oven. I used a 8 x 8 baking dish and I lived to tell the tale.
- Cook chicken in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the juice is clear.
- Take chicken out of oven, wait a bit, put chicken in your mouth by using a fork and then say “Mhmmmm…”
|The final meal.|
Water and sewer rates in Johnston might be increased in 2016 to offset a predicted deficit village officials said during a council meeting Tuesday, March 17.
To avoid a deficit in the 2016 water and sewer operating budget, the village will need to increase water and sewer rates by at least 3 percent next year, officials said. Increases would also be likely in future years.
Village council members did not vote on any measures, but they did listen to three potential five-year plans.
Jack Liggett, village service director, said Johnstown should have raised rates a couple of years ago, but now the need for the increase is more pressing.
The first plan would involve a 4-percent increase starting in July of 2015, a 3.5-percent increase in 2016, 5 percent in 2017 and no increases in 2018 and 2019.
The second plan would be for a 3-percent increase each year for five years.
The last plan was for 3 percent in 2015, 5 percent for 2016 and 2017, and no increases in 2018 and 2019.
If the average family uses 4,000 gallons of water each month and is currently paying $60 for water and sewer service, then the family would see a $1.80 increase, if a 3-percent increase is approved.
Mayor Sean Staneart said he favored doing a one-year plan instead of a five-year plan.
“Looking at it from a (public relations) standpoint, I hate asking for what we might not need,” he said.
Village Manager Jim Lenner, said the rate needs to be raised enough to meet expenses, however it is difficult to know what the village’s finances might look like in 2019.
Finance Director Dana Steffan, who put together the five-year plans agreed officials needed to do what’s best for the village.
Councilmembers asked Steffan to present new shorter-term plans at a future council meeting.
“Options such as a certain percentage increase for one year only might be presented,” Steffan said.
“Then we would re-evaluate the revenue and expenses situation to see if another increase would be necessary.”
At the end of the village manager’s report, council was given three options to repair Concord Road, Jersey Street and build a pedestrian bridge near Raccoon Creek.
“I field calls everyday from people asking which — Jersey or Concord — will be fixed,” Liggett said.
“I don’t have any answers to tell them,” he said.
The road repairs were tabled for later discussion whereas a decision on the pedestrian bridge needs to be given to the Ohio Department of Transportation no later than April 3.
The Raccoon Creek Pedestrian Bridge would consist of a bridge and trail construction along U.S. Route 62 from Bigalow Drive to Westgate Drive.
The Raccoon Creek pedestrian bridge would cost the village $380,600 and would partly be funded through an ODOT grant of $460,000.
The village has already invested $10,000 in engineering costs on the project over the years and another $10,000 to buy private property from an individual.
The village engineer estimated the project cost at $609,000 versus the $840,600 total ODOT estimated at the beginning of March.
ODOT presented the village with a sealed estimate, only stating the cost and not the specifics, which raised concerns, village officials said.
“It’s really difficult to write a check for a project that we don’t know exactly why the costs are so high,” Lenner said.
He said if the costs and construction bids turn out to be lower than the estimate from ODOT, then the village will be issued a refund.
The Raccoon Creek Pedestrian Bridge grant from ODOT was originally approved in 2008, but never acted upon, according to Lenner.
He said he is going to ask ODOT if it can push the project back for one more year.
At the meeting, council members tried to think of ways to fund the bridge project.
The Capital Improvement Fund does not have enough money to cover it and if they used the money from the estate tax fund, then that will lower the village’s bond rating and affect its ability to handle a potential crisis.
The estate tax fund has $750,000 in it and the council discussed renaming the fund the “budget stabilization fund” to be a more appropriate name.
At the meeting, the council members voted 5-2 against the bridge, primarily stating they did not have enough information about financial numbers such as the exact amount in the Capital Improvement Fund.
Council scheduled a special meeting to further discuss the matter at 7:30 a.m. April 1, at 599 South Main St.
Steffan said she is preparing “a detailed analysis with various options to present at the April 1 meeting and will include finite numbers.”
Wednesday March 11, 2015 11:53 AM
Westerville City Schools’ renovation and expansion of Pointview Elementary School will take an estimated 18 months to complete and cost $5.5 million, district officials said.
The renovation and expansion, carefully designed to create “inspirational learning environments,” should be complete for students’ return to class for the start of the 2016-17 school year.
The Westerville Board of Education approved plans for the project Jan. 26. The district is using funds from its continuing capital improvements levy to pay for the project.
Pointview currently is 37,000 square feet and is the only school left in the district that uses the “open classroom environment” popular during its original construction. That means most walls separating classrooms don’t extend to the ceiling. Many such “walls” at the school are bookshelves or even just bulletin boards.
Jeff LeRose, director of facilities for the school district, said officials have received feedback that students are easily distracted in the open classroom design. Teachers must teach quietly so as not to disturb others, there is insufficient workspace, and many current classrooms do not have windows. Such floorplans were eliminated through previous renovations elsewhere in the district including Annehurst, Mark Twain and Robert Frost elementary schools.
LeRose said he and his facilities team considered doing just renovations or even replacing the whole building at Pointview, but decided a combination would be most cost-effective.
“We reviewed three options: renovation only, renovation/ expansion and building replacement. After reviewing preliminary budgets associated with each option, we made a recommendation to the board to renovate and expand the existing building. The board supported our recommendation,” he said.
The building addition is planned to connect to the older part of the school through a glass hallway.
The addition will have a total of 10 classrooms, including eight 900-square-foot instructional spaces plus an art room and a music classroom.
“This is another opportunity for us to create an educational environment that inspires learning,” LeRose said. “Our goal is for Pointview to be a destination where students are excited about the experience that awaits them when they wake up in the morning.”
LeRose said in planning the project, he is working with principals to listen to their feedback as well as take into account students’ comments.
Preliminary designs of the renovation and expansion include adding windows, more storage space and providing a variety of classroom sizes.
The existing building has 21 variously sized classrooms, which the renovations will convert to 15 classrooms of different sizes.
There are nine large classrooms planned, each designed to hold approximately 25 students, as well as two midsize classrooms and four small classrooms with between 230 and 414 square feet.
Additionally, there will be an expanded media center, main office and cafeteria.
LeRose is currently in the design phase of the 18-month project and that will continue for three more months.
The plan calls for building permits to be obtained and the bidding process to start in May.
In this preliminary schedule, the school board should award a contract for the work June 22 and construction should start Aug. 20. The work is to take about 11 months.
Tuesday March 3, 2015 8:54 PM
Superintendent John Kellogg updated Westerville school board members last week on the district’s plans for all-day kindergarten, which will start this fall.
A lottery to determine enrollment in the 260 spots to be offered in the program’s first year likely will mirror the district’s current magnet school lottery.
For example, the first student selected from the lottery will choose which school they will go to for all-day kindergarten. The all-day program will be offered in six elementary school buildings that have the space, plus six classroom units at the now-shuttered Longfellow Elementary School.
Transportation will be provided but that will not automatically become the child’s future home school.
Kellogg also clarified the sliding scale of tuition that was agreed upon at the last board meeting.
The scale will be very similar to the one that is already in place for the free or reduced-price lunch program.
Meaning, those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch will not have to pay tuition for all-day kindergarten. Other families will pay up to $300 a month for the all-day kindergarten program.
“This will hopefully be easy for families to understand because of the familiar forms that will be required and it’s an easily understood benchmark,” Kellogg said.
He reported that there have been two core planning committee meetings since the last board meeting, Feb. 9.
At the planning meetings, issues including staffing, facility maintenance, food service and transportation were discussed.
Kellogg said the most complicated part of preparing for all-day kindergarten has been filling staffing needs.
He told board members at their meeting Feb. 23 that the district is looking at posting a principal position soon and hopes to fill the 10 teaching positions with internal transfer applicants as well as new hires.
Also at the Feb 23 meeting, Scott Ebbrecht, the district’s director of alternative education and assessment, shared a report on 2015 state and district assessments with the school board.
He explained how spring standardized testing was supposed to start Feb. 20 but was delayed because of a snow day that Friday.
Teachers and staff came together and made the necessary accommodations to delay the start of testing until the following Monday, Feb. 23.
Unlike in previous years, some of this spring’s standardized tests are computer-based.
From what he observed, students did not seem to be mind taking tests using computers, he said.
“About 80 percent of the classrooms I went in preferred using computers,” Ebbrecht said.
Students are primarily using the district’s 2,700 Google Chromebooks.
Ebbrecht said he was pleased to report that on the first day of testing, there was not a single technology issue that could not be overcome.
In addition to being taken on a computer, the new test features questions that could have multiple correct answers, depending on how students justify their answers.
Adjusting to the new standardized tests brought several obstacles, such as acquiring enough computers, finding available rooms, training staff, accommodating IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), and receiving delayed test results.
He said that officials originally expected to get results back from the computer-based tests in June but recently were told that they would not be available until November.
After reporting on how the new testing is going so far, Ebbrecht said the state is requiring districts to complete too much standardized testing — a sentiment expressed by school board members over the past few months.
“I believe we need to reduce how much time is spent testing. I think it’s ridiculous and I appreciate the efforts to reduce that time. We believe in assessment but not to this extent,” he said.
Board member Richard Bird echoed Ebbrecht’s frustration with the standardized tests.
“I’m frustrated at the lack of consistent communication from the Ohio Department of Education and how they continue to blame local districts,” he said. “To our teachers, thank you for struggling through this for our kids.”
Board member Carol French asked whether students could opt out of the standardized tests and Ebbrecht explained that under current law — though there have been legislative efforts to make a change — that is not an option.
However, 64 students, less than 1 percent of students taking the tests, did choose not to take the tests, he said.
School officials explained to those parents that since this is a new test, the consequences of not taking an exam required for graduation cannot be known for sure.
The students who opted out of the test will count as zeros, which could negatively affect the district in the future.
Board member Nancy Nestor-Baker said the board will continue to do whatever it can to minimize the burden of standardized testing.
“I’m angry about the position the state has put us in. I am awed by what teachers have done to prepare for this with such short notice. This is not an argument that any of us should back down from,” she said.
Despite the new standardized tests and the accompanying obstacles, Ebbrecht remained positive.
“We have executed very well under these circumstances, dealing with a new test and new conditions,” he said. “Our students are not guinea pigs. They are pioneers.”