2015, december, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

North grad soaking up Japanese life, culture


Eighteen-year-old Westerville North High School graduate Rex Lundstrom is spending a gap year in Japan, thanks to the Westerville Sunrise Rotary Club.
In March, he won the Youth Exchange Scholarship, a merit-based program that covers the cost of room, board, tuition and a monthly stipend for one academic year of high school studies abroad. He will serve as an ambassador and represent his school, community, country and Rotary.
In Japan since August, he said he is pleased so far with his decision to live in a country with a different language and culture.
“It’s very maturing, and I’m confident that I’ll return as a more tolerant and respectful individual,” he said in an email. “I love how people maintain a positive attitude, and don’t push their problems upon other people. The formal setting creates both strict rules and consistently kind individuals.”
Lundstrom, who graduated in May, said he has not felt lost while abroad thanks to the district’s College Credit Plus program.
“I was able to take classes at both Columbus State Community College and the lovely Otterbein University. At Columbus State, my teacher was an American woman who had lived in Japan for many years. At Otterbein, my teacher was a Japanese woman, so I was able to understand culture beforehand from two unique perspectives,” he said.
He said he is close to being fluent and felt more comfortable with the Japanese language and culture than other exchange students he has met.
Lundstrom’s interest in Japanese culture stemmed from a childhood neighbor from Japan. He also loves Japanese food, including miso soup and sushi.
Among the more exotic foods he has tried — at least to an American palate — are fermented soybeans, chicken intestine, raw whale meat, raw horse meat and live squid.
Lundstrom said he has been to countries including Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico but never anywhere as culturally different as Japan.
“I’d never lived in a place where formality and respect are practiced by all, society is always humble and such a difficult language is used,” he said.
During his trip, he will have four host families, each for two to three months, which helps relieve some of the burden of hosting an exchange student.
He noted how different the school system is in Japan and was surprised students came to school at 7:30 a.m., then stayed after school at clubs until 7:30 p.m.
Read Lundstrom’s online newsletter at rye6690.com/rex.

2015, december, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Board gives Kellogg, Griffith updated contracts


The top two leaders in the Westerville City School District each received a thumbs-up and a revised contract from the school board.
The school board Nov. 23 gave Superintendent John Kellogg a new five-year contract and amended his current contract as the result of a positive performance evaluation.
Kellogg received a 3 percent raise, which is retroactive to Aug. 1 and runs through July 31, 2016, when his current contract expires. His new contract covers Aug. 1, 2016, through July 31, 2021.
Kellogg’s previous annual salary of $190,550 is now $196,266.50. Information about the value of his benefits was not available.
According to information from the district, Kellogg will continue to pay 10 percent of his required contribution to the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio. The district pays the remainder, now 3 percent.
Also, Kellogg’s required number of workdays dropped from 260 to 245 per year, and his number of vacation days went from 25 to 10 per year. He may work up to an additional 15 optional days per year at his per-diem rate.
Treasurer Bart Griffith’s contract also was amended, retroactive to Aug. 1, through its expiration of July 31, 2018. He also received a positive performance evaluation.
Griffith received an additional five days of vacation, for a total of 15 days, and a $10,000 district-paid annuity.
His current salary of $168,243 per year did not change.
Griffith will pay his own Medicare expenses; the amount previously paid by the district will become part of his salary. Sick-day severance calculations changed from 62 days in fiscal year 2016 to 52 days in fiscal 2017 and beyond, according to the district.
“Both men save us money daily, and we want to keep them as long as possible. They are the best in the business and are very concerned with saving the taxpayers money,” said board member Carol French.
The contracts were approved unanimously as part of the consent agenda for personnel items.
Land buy, curriculum
Also Nov. 23, the board agreed to purchase the property at 755 Sunbury Road. The 0.88-acre lot is adjacent to Central College Elementary School.
The district will pay Judith Holtzapfel $105,600 for the property, which includes a 993-square-foot house built in 1919, and will plant three spruce trees.
The sale price matches the current market value listed by the Franklin County Auditor’s Office.
Officials said the property would be available to be zoned for school use should the need for a new school arise.
The board also reviewed the district’s curriculum adoption process last week.
Jen Knapp, director of curriculum and instruction, presented information about the revised curriculum and instructional-materials adoption process.
The curriculum, divided by grade level and subject, will be written and developed in a four-step process reviewed every three to four years.
Based on teacher, student and parent feedback, the curriculum could be adjusted.
All courses of study will be available for review online and in print at the Westerville Public Library.
The curriculum is developed by a council comprising half teachers and half administrators. Usually, one person from each academic department and new members are selected each year.
Board member Nancy Nestor-Baker praised the process, its transparent structure and focus on teachers’ and parents’ voices.
Board member Rick Vilardo said he is pleased with the new process.
“It seems to me that in a very thorough way, we have laid out a great road map that will allow us to look at data and get significant input from all the stakeholders,” he said. “This will help us meet the needs of all our learners.”
During the superintendent’s report, Kellogg addressed the preliminary state test results that had been released the previous week. He said individual student results would be available soon.
Students exceeded state averages on all given tests except American Government, Kellogg said. This test was voluntary and did not affect students’ ability to graduate.
“There is still no excuse for Westerville students to not meet the state average on any test,” he said. “Good curriculum and instruction is test-proof. We will build a system that is test-proof.”
In other business:
* The school board unanimously approved the 2016-17 academic calendar.
Ninety-one people provided feedback during a 30-day comment period. Most comments focused around the timing of winter break, spring break and the start date of school.
The district will start school one week later, in the third rather than the second full week of August, but the amount of instructional time will not change.
* French was recognized by her colleagues for her four years of service on the board. She did not seek re-election, and her term ends at the end of the year. She served as a finance liaison and was part of the district’s effort to keep a reserve in the budget.
* The board is scheduled to meet next for a retreat at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 14 at 936 Eastwind Drive.
december, johnstown, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Deficit shown in proposed budget delays council vote


Johnstown Village Council delayed a vote on a proposed 2016 budget that showed a negative balance in the General Fund at the regularly scheduled council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 1.
As proposed, the budget resulted in a negative balance of $60,873 in the general fund, so it could legally not be passed, village officials said.
The vote on the budget was postponed until the next council meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 15 at 599 S. Main St.
Johnstown Mayor Sean Staneart recommended another Village Finance Committee meeting, which will be open to the public and held at 6:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7, at 599 S. Main St.
In the proposed budget, 5-percent salary increases for village employees were factored into the budget. The amount of each potential raise would depend on an employee’s years of service and performance, as determined by department directors.
The issue of the village having outdated and low salaries has frequently been brought up at council, with both the service department and police department losing employees to other communities that pay higher wages.
When discussing appropriations for the capital improvement fund, council members debated which roads in the village most needed to be repaired next year.
Service Director Jack Liggett said he and the village engineer, Jamie Decker, ride throughout all the village streets and take into account which roads need to be prioritized for repairs.
“Part of the decision is looking at what we can afford, what can we do to prevent road failure, how much traffic there is, and a lot of hard work goes into these tough decisions,” Liggett said.
Councilman Bob Orsini viewed the road repairs as a long-term investment that could potentially encourage new residential growth in the village.
Other matters

Village Council President David Keck said this calendar year there are 28 pay periods instead of 27. This phenomenon happens every 11 years and resulted in a re-appropriation of $80,000 into this year’s budget.
He explained that because the village has had five finance directors in seven years, there was little warning about the unanticipated expense.
“It’s a weird one time thing,” Keck said. “We discovered it and are fixing it so it won’t catch us off guard again,” he said.
Council members voted to move all 2016 regular council meetings to start at 6:30 p.m. and not 7 p.m
december, johnstown, johnstownvillage, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews

Suspects charged in CVS robbery


Monday December 7, 2015 11:13 AM

The Johnstown Police Department in conjunction with the Licking County Drug Task Force and the Licking County Sheriff’s Office arrested two people in connection with the robbery of the CVS pharmacy Nov. 23.

The suspects have been formally charged with robbery and are being held in the Licking County Justice Center while awaiting legal proceedings, law enforcement officials said.

After the robbery, police released information about a suspect to the media and received many anonymous tips from village citizens.

Using these tips, they started an investigation which led to a traffic stop of the suspect, according to Lt. Josh Boudinot.

“We can’t speak highly enough of those who came forward and gave us tips,” he said. “Those anonymous tips helped us a lot.”

So far, law enforcement officials said they have recovered only 1,149 of the 3,440 painkiller pills that were stolen. The pills recovered have a street value of more than $30,000, officials said.

One of the suspects previously had served a jail sentence for robbery, law enforcement officials said.