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, november, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Craft show fundraiser will feature homemade wares

Wednesday November 25, 2015 1:51 PM

Anyone looking for handmade gifts this Christmas might find potential purchases at the 18th annual Gingerbread Cottage Craft Show, a fundraiser hosted by the Westerville South High School Instrumental Music Boosters.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 5 at the school, 303 S. Otterbein Ave.
The Gingerbread Cottage has more than 100 vendors selling handmade items, as well as brand-name items such as Avon, Scentsy, Pampered Chef and Tupperware.
Lynn Rideout, who has coordinated the event for five years, said it has been successful because it’s a combination of supporting students in the music program and offering gift items that cannot be found in stores.
Visitors can find handmade holiday ornaments, wreaths, artwork, photography, American Girl clothes, sock monkeys, pet treats, jams and much more.
Rideout said this year, vistors will see more woodworking and glass vendors.
There will be 14 different jewelry vendors but they are all unique and different, Rideout said.
“If you’re looking for jewelry, you’ll find what you’re looking for, plus four other trinkets,” she said. “We work hard to select quality vendors who offer a variety of products.”
There will be a concession stand that will serve homemade loaded baked potato chowder, chicken tortilla soup, chili and pulled chicken sandwiches, along with macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, pizza, fruit, muffins, doughnuts and coffee.
The band students will perform Christmas music in the afternoon. There also will be a bake sale table and children’s activity table with face painting and crafts.
There will be a raffle table with items donated by vendors, such as themed baskets, gift cards to local shops and handmade quilts.
Rideout said the most popular raffle item is “Cold Hard Cash” — a $100 bill frozen in a block of ice.
The music boosters group supports more than 150 students in the concert band, wind ensemble, jazz band, Westerville Indoor Drumline and the marching band at Westerville South.
“I firmly believe in the music program and what it does for students. I experienced this amazing and welcoming environment when my daughter was in band,” Rideout said. “I’ve always been impressed by how music can bring them together and how much they support each other.”
The music boosters pay for things such as music equipment, uniforms, equipment trucks, drill writers, arrangers and rights to music. The Gingerbread Cottage Craft Show raises one-third of the group’s operating budget for the year. Rideout said that is enough to reduce every student’s band fee by $100.
A full list of vendors and their categories may be found online.
Entry fee is $3 for ages 12 and older. Strollers are welcome. Parking is free.
Visitors who bring a canned good to donate to the Westerville Area Resource Ministry will save $1 on the entry fee. There is a coat check.
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.
2015, november, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Program empowers girls through running

Wednesday November 18, 2015 4:16 PM

A group of students at Pointview Elementary School trained for a 5K race while learning about empowerment through the new Girls on the Run club.

School secretary Molly Bussard is one of the club leaders.

“We want to empower and strengthen as many girls as possible. It’s a great program for all girls,” she said. “I wish I had something like this growing up.”

Girls on the Run is a national nonprofit program for girls in grades 3-8. The mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a curriculum that creatively integrates running.

Participants from Girls on the Run clubs across central Ohio participated in a 5K at Columbus Commons in downtown Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 14.

The club at Pointview started last year, after Bussard’s daughter was involved in the club at Alcott Elementary School.

“When she did that 5K at the end, I was so impressed. I didn’t know she was capable of that,” she said. “I thought to myself, this is a chance to start this great club at Pointview so I coordinated with other teachers and it continues to grow.”

Eleven girls participated last year. The same number took part this year.

Bussard runs the club with Pointview teacher Amanda Oakes.

“As a runner myself, I enjoy helping the girls get excited about being active and feeling healthy,” Oakes said.

But it’s not all about the race at the end.

“We finish up the season with a community impact project, so that the girls can experience helping and giving back to others. Last season, we decorated flower pots and delivered them to a local nursing home,” Oakes said.

This year, they will assemble care packages for female military service members.

The girls also explore issues such as bullying, handling emotions and what real beauty looks like.

For example, in one of the discussions about handling gossip, the girls played the classic “Telephone” game and learned that words and facts often get misinterpreted each time they’re told.

The girls often go running in Huber Village Park.

“It’s not a competition so everyone goes at their own pace,” Bussard said. “It’s all about doing your best.”


2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Levy renewal could help keep district in black


According to the Westerville City School District’s updated five-year forecast for fiscal years 2016-2020, as long as a renewal levy is passed in 2016, the district will be in the black.
District Treasurer Bart Griffith presented the forecast at a Westerville Board of Education meeting Monday, Oct. 26.
In fiscal 2018 through fiscal 2020, there is a decrease in revenue because the district is not allowed to project revenue from a levy renewal.
The forecast shows Westerville’s emergency operating levy must be renewed before the end of calendar year 2017 or the district will lose about $16 million per year.
In the updated forecast, $3 million was transferred from the permanent improvement fund into the general fund for supplies, materials and technology.
The budget reserve fund still holds a 45-day amount of $19 million.
This year, the district received 7.5 percent of its funding from the state, but in future fiscal years, the district is expecting to receive just 3 percent.
“We’re trying to be conservative with these numbers in our five-year forecast,” Griffith said.
The school district treasurer’s office is required to biannually present the updated five-year forecast to the board.
The new five-year forecast has $370,000 appropriated for the current fiscal year, to be used on the purchase of four new buses and additional bus routes.
There’s also an additional $450,000 allocated for new staffing each fiscal year and 2 percent annual increases in salaries factored for fiscal 2019 and 2020.
Board President Tracy Davidson thanked Griffith for the presentation.
“I appreciate how you’re being proactive, not reactive, and thank you for being conservative,” she said.
The forecast did not reflect new pay-to-participate fees that were approved unanimously.
For high school, the first sport now costs $150; a second sport is $75; and the third is free. For middle schools, the first sport will be $75, the second sport $50 and the third sport free.
Also added was a family cap of $300 for high school and middle school co-curricular, extracurricular and club fees.
The following fees will be eliminated starting in the 2016-17 school year:
* Co-curricular fee of $50 for marching band in middle school.
* Extracurricular fee of $15 per club in middle school.
* Co-curricular fee of $50 for marching band, orchestra and choir in high school.
* Extracurricular one-time fee of $50 for high school theater
* Extracurricular fee of $15 per club in high school.
The board will review all student fees, fines and charges annually.
Other matters
The board recognized individuals as Fall A-plus Award-winners, including: Jim Cowman from Westerville South High School, Holly Hughes-Carroll from South, Vicki Jarrell from the district’s Early Learning Center, Rodney Johnson from Genoa Middle School and Diane Tisdale from Genoa Middle School.
2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Puritan witchcraft trial headed to Central stage


Westerville Central High School students are getting into the Halloween spirit of witchcraft with their fall play, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
More than 25 students star in the creepy drama, which will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 29-31, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1.
Theater Director Megan Corbin said it is a privilege working with the group of students.
“They’ve done very well tackling very difficult language and a mature theme,” Corbin said. “We’ve had a lot of fun with the fact that we’re opening the show on Halloween weekend.”
The earthy set, with artificial trees, a prison cell and a courtroom, was designed by a tech crew of 30 students.
“It’s a set that’s creepy and dark, but still true to the story,” Corbin said.
The historical drama about the Puritan purge of witchcraft in Salem, Mass., was the winner of the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play.
A young farmer’s wife is accused of witchcraft by a young servant girl and when the farmer goes to court to save his wife, he also is accused of witchcraft.
Senior Patrick Petrilla, who plays Reverend Paris, said the language in the play was quite tough to master.
“It’s all old-timey and like Old English,” Petrilla said.
“It’s difficult because it’s English, but we don’t talk like that anymore so it’s tricky to wrap your head around,” he said.
Sophomore Noah Martin, who plays Danforth, noted this is one of the first dramas they’ve done at Central.
“I like doing dramas,” Martin said. “We can be more than just funny and it really challenges us.”
Senior Kaylee Showalter, who plays Elizabeth Proctor, said she and a lot of students already were familiar with the play.
“We knew who we wanted to audition for and had a better idea of how to act the role,” Showalter said.
Tickets cost $6 and the play is rated PG-13 with some elements not suitable for very young children.

2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Westerville South play lets small cast shine


Westerville South High School is bringing some southern flair to Ohio with its fall show, The Miss Firecracker Contest.
Performances are scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Oct. 30 and 31, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1, in the auditorium of the school, 303 S. Otterbein Ave.
Tickets cost $6, but the performances have limited seating so advance reservations are suggested.
Theater Director Matt Wolfe said he selected The Miss Firecracker Contest because it features challenging female characters, exposes students to a lesser-known show and has an intimate six-person cast.
“(The playwright) Beth Henley writes challenging literature for high-schoolers and I wanted to introduce her to the students,” he said. “It’s a play where the comedy isn’t slapstick but rather comes from the relationship between the characters.”
Wolfe said unique for this show, there will be three rows of audience members on stage.
“It’s part of our pursuit to engage the audience and let them experience the show from three different angles,” Wolfe said.
Junior Julia Grant, who plays Elain, said this way, it’s easier to make the audience laugh as well as notice characters’ little eye rolls.
The show is about Carnelle Scott, who wants to be Miss Firecracker, just like her cousin Elain was. When Elain comes back to town, she brings her eccentric brother, Delmount, with her and Carnelle’s seamstress, Popeye, falls madly in love with him. Together they face their unhappy pasts and turn toward a better future.
Senior Elise Wesley, who plays Popeye, said she liked working with such a small cast.
“It’s better than being in, like, a huge musical because we’ve grown closer with each other. Sometimes in bigger productions, cliques form but in this small of a group, cliques can’t form,” she said.
Sophomore Caroline Warrick plays Carnelle, a role she learned to appreciate.
“On paper, she looks like such a two-dimensional character because she’s a girl and she wants to win a beauty contest. But when you dig deeper, you see she’s actually looking for acceptance and a place to belong,” she said.
The cast started working on the show in late September and Warrick said it took a lot of self-motivation to memorize the lines.
“We couldn’t just learn the lines during our two-hour rehearsals. We really had to learn them on our own time,” she said.
Students also had to master Southern accents, but they can reuse them later this year when South puts on To Kill a Mockingbird and Big Fish.
2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Cotter, Lawson say local control vital to district’s future

Wednesday October 21, 2015 9:48 AM

Regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 3 election, the Westerville Board of Education will have some new members next year.
Of the four candidates for two seats, only one — Richard Bird — is an incumbent. He was appointed in June 2014 to complete the term of longtime board member Cindy Crowe, who died after a lengthy struggle with ALS.
The other three candidates are Jim Burgess, Gerrie Cotter and Greg Lawson.
Bird and Burgess were profiled in the Oct. 15 edition of ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion.
Gerrie Cotter
Cotter, 45, has lived in the district for 12 years. She has a 13-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son who attend Westerville City Schools.
Cotter said she has had a lot of positive feedback and support with her campaign.
“So many residents have offered keen insights into the community and ideas that they have on ways to continue to improve the school district,” she said in an email. “I’ve enjoyed meeting people at community and school events as well as going door to door.”
She is employed as a project manager for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. She previously served as a Genoa Township trustee.
At a candidates forum on Sept. 24, Cotter said the changing academic standards and testing required by the state is one of the most pressing issues facing the district.
“We need to maintain as much local control as possible on these issues,” she said. “As a board member, I would seek teacher and community input as we consider new curriculum to implement the state-required academic standards and testing changes.”
Her vision is to continue to improve the quality of education available in Westerville. She said she plans to look for ways to increase the district’s current momentum by identifying ways to restore and improve programming options in a fiscally responsible way.
Cotter earned a bachelor’s degree in French and international studies at West Virginia University.
She has volunteered at Fouse Elementary School and Blendon Middle School, the Business Advisory Council, Our Community Our Schools, Habitat for Humanity and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Greg Lawson
Greg Lawson, 37, is a Statehouse liaison and policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute and serves as a researcher with the global consulting firm Wikistrat.
He said the district must work on shaping curriculum that gives students knowledge and a flexible mindset. He also wants to focus on keeping money in the Westerville district.
“I’m looking out for the taxpayers. I think all spending should be prioritized into the classroom and we should be looking at using private vendors for some non-classroom services,” he said.
Lawson previously served on the board for a charter school; he said the background would enable him to bring some of those ideas to Westerville.
“My vision for Westerville is to bring new ideas on getting students excited to learn,” he said in an email. “I think bringing in a little of ‘sports attitude’ to academics can get students to perform well, but in a fun way that keeps them engaged.
Lawson likes the idea of starting “academic pep rallies” in order to get students excited about taking standardized tests and as a way to give them an incentive to learn.
Lawson’s wife attended Westerville North High School and the couple’s three children will start school in the district soon. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the Ohio State University.
Lawson said the community does not know when the next recession might hit so a budget-stabilization fund is important.
“I want to assure that the district remains on a fiscally solid footing, even through any potential economic downturns,” he said. “This includes bolstering our ‘rainy-day fund’ so that we can confront any economic downturns without big cuts to programs or tax hikes on taxpayers.”


2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Zombies will take stage in ‘Night of the Living Dead’

Friday October 23, 2015 1:10 PM

Zombies will invade Westerville North High School from Oct. 22-24 with performances of Night of the Living Dead.

Director Tina Gleason said she chose Night of the Living Dead because she is a fan of film-noir movies and wanted to give students a platform to show their skills.

“This play allows us to get more students involved, especially in terms of help with special-effects makeup,” she said. “The makeup artists have been able to practice and photograph their work for their portfolios.”

Performances are scheduled at 7 p.m. on Oct. 23 and 24. Tickets cost $6 each and can be purchased at the door or in advance online.

The production is not suitable for young children. It lasts for approximately 80 minutes with no intermission.

More than 78 students are involved in the play, with 35 members of the “zombie squad” and 17 students in the cast.

The play was written by Lori Allen Ohm and is based on the original film by George Romero and John Russo.

In the show, a mysterious radiation has transformed the unburied dead into flesh-eating zombies and seven people are trapped in an isolated farmhouse, held hostage by the ravenous horde.

Actors got a chance to learn stage combat, a skill Gleason said would help them in their future acting careers.

“The stage is a fantastic platform to do everything you can’t do in real life, such as combat,” she said.

Many students were learning stage combat for the first time and found it quite challenging.

“Dear Lord, this is hard,” sighed freshman Nick Martz during a rehearsal. “I don’t have to fake being out of breath because it’s exhilarating but exhausting.”

Martz described his character, Ben, as a guy who is thrown into the zombie apocalypse and takes on a leadership role but starts to deteriorate throughout the show.

This is Gleason’s first time directing a show at North, after the previous director Kim Mollohan stepped down.

“My directing style is to make it a creative process for the actors,” she said. “I try to describe my vision to them and ask a lot of questions so we can find a creative middle.”

Senior Taylor Crumrine said it was a little scary to have a new director, but she is rising to the challenge.

“I think it’ll prepare me for next year when I go to college and I’ll have a new director there. At least here, it’s the same stage and same people,” she said.

Crumrine’s character, Helen Cooper, the mother of the household, is one of many characters who faces off against the zombies.

“I actually get really scared and freaked out,” she said. “I mean, there’s hands coming in at me through the windows.”

Senior Nick Alvord plays Harry Cooper, Helen’s husband.

“He’s a stubborn, grumpy old man who doesn’t want to listen to anyone,” Alvord said. “It’s basically me in real life, so it’s kind of an easy role to play.”

Alvord said his death scene is his favorite moment in the show because he has the chance to be creative.

“It’s a gore fest. I’m attacked by a daughter, shot by another character and then I fall down the stairs,” he said.


2015, october, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville

Marching Warriors’ show centers on building a home

Friday October 23, 2015 1:10 PM

In this year’s competition show, Westerville North High School marching band members are showing audiences what it means to build a home.

The show, “To Build a Home,” explores the themes of constructing a house as well as figuratively creating a home.

The first piece of music employed is John Adams’ The Chairman Dances, which has a lot of mechanical sounds that symbolize the construction of a house, according to band director Jordi Vilanova.

The show also includes the ballad Home from the 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz, and closes with the song To Build a Home, which Vilanova said “wraps up everything.”

Throughout the performance, the color guard uses a large prop of a house plus flags that feature blueprints, houses and hearts.

The 85 marching band students began practicing at the beginning of May. Rehearsals continued throughout the summer, leading up to band camp in the third week of July at Canter’s Cave 4-H Camp in Jackson.

The leaders of the band worked together to craft a mission statement for the season: “Because we are a family with a common goal, the 2015 Westerville North Marching Band will be the best we can be by combining our strengths ‘To Build A Home.’ “

Vilanova said the band’s motto is “Be your best” and this advice has helped the students succeed.

“The kids are always really hardworking and I’m very fortunate to have dedicated kids,” Vilanova said. “We’ve been relatively successful year after year and I know they’ve got what it takes to succeed.”

The marching Warriors will compete at the Colerain Invitational in Cincinnati at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24. They also will present the show during halftime of the home football game against Westerville South on Oct. 30.

The Westerville North marching band will finish its season at the Mid-State Band Association championships on Nov. 7 and are scheduled to travel to Walt Disney World Feb. 10-14, 2016.