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.’ “
2016, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

Athletic, transportation officials pitch for restorations

With the district in a better place financially than in years past, departments are coming forward and asking the board for some help.
At the regular Westerville school board meeting Monday, Sept. 14, board members heard presentations about potentially revising transportation models and pay-to-participate fees.
Scott Reeves, the district’s executive director of secondary academic affairs, presented about the current status of pay-to-participate fees and their effect on athletic budgets.
As is, athletic directors get the majority of their revenue from pay-to-participate fees paid by students, and supplemental revenues come from ticket sales, advertisements, fundraising efforts and from the athletic booster groups.
“One rainy football game with low attendance can devastate an athletic department’s budget,” Reeves said.
Middle school students currently must pay $120 and high school students pay $240 for each sport they play. The fees have resulted in a noticeable decrease in students playing multiple sports, Reeves said.
For example, last year at Westerville North High School, 396 students played one sport, 127 played two sports and just eight played three sports.
Reeves said economically disadvantaged students are not exempt from the fees.
The pay-to-participate fees also must be paid by marching band members and have impacted numbers participating in band.
Board member Richard Bird said anecdotally that middle school band numbers have remained the same but high school marching band numbers have decreased.
Superintendent John Kellogg said if costs keep rising and athletic revenue continues dropping, then in the current model, the district might need to make changes to pay-to-participate.
Board members asked to see a couple economic proposals presented later.
“Extracurricular activities are known to benefit students’ total growth and if they weren’t, colleges wouldn’t place such emphasis on them,” said Bird. “Let’s try our best to reduce the burden on parents and booster groups.
Board member Nancy Nestor-Baker said the fees were put into place “when we needed draconian measures.”
“But we are still holding our families to those measures. This has been upsetting all along. It’s institutionalized classism,” she said. “It’s a lie to say middle-class families in our community can sustain this burden.”
Board member Carol French said the district’s finances are looking good now, but controls must stay in a place so board members are not continually asking voters for money.
“I don’t see all of the fees going away. Maybe some of the students need to get a job in the summer, which would teach responsibility,” she said. “For us to just say we are going to pay for everything, I’m not sure that’s the way to go. These activities are something that not every student participates in. We need to find a happy medium.”
Board President Tracy Davidson also expressed concern about student safety.
“We know kids driving other kids to sports games in their own vehicles is not safe. I would like for us to look for alternate transportation methods,” said Davidson. “I’m not saying get rid of pay-to-participate fees but there’s some things we are charging for and we might not need to right now.”
Additionally at the meeting, Becky Nitz and Chris Winesette, assistant managers of transportation for the district, also presented to the board.
They said the state mandates students may walk to school if they live within two miles of the school and the district is required to transport students in grades K-8.
In past years, the district offered transportation for students living within the 2 miles of schools. Budget cuts asked students to walk farther to bus stops and resulted in transporting less students.
Discussions were had about restoring transportation to where it was in the 2012 fiscal year, meaning the addition of 12 bus routes. But that would cost an estimated $696,000 annually for drivers, fuel and maintenance and $360,000 for to purchase four additional buses.
“This has a directly positive impact, regardless of students’ economic status. I think this is something the community has been very vocal on. This is something we should consider as a board,” Bird said.
“We need to address this issue. We made cuts back then, we now need to restore those safety standards,” said Nestor-Baker.
“These are not kids that signed up for band or football and if it creates a safer situation, this might be a valuable tool to make a difference in children’s lives,” said board member Rick Vilardo.

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.


2015, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

Church, scouts build outdoor preschool classroom

Wednesday September 9, 2015 7:52 AM

When a dilapidated building next-door was torn down, members of the Church of the Messiah United Methodist constructed a colorful outdoor learning space for the church’s preschool.

Charity Monroe, director the Ourday Preschool at Messiah, had a vision of a space that was different from a park or a playground yet offered a very natural space adjacent to the church.

“It’s a new kind of space. I think it’s a neat and progressive space for Uptown Westerville,” she said. “The community feedback has been so positive. I’ve heard several adults say they wished they could go to preschool there.”

The vision of this new area includes uses for all groups of the church, including Sunday school, vacation bible school and adult meetings. Yet, the area is furthermore intended for all who visit the church and the Uptown area.

This winter, once church members tore down the old building on the land, they began to brainstorm ideas on what to do with the space.

It wasn’t quite big enough for a parking lot, Monroe recalled, and it was very close to Westerville Cleaners.

She originally got the idea for the outdoor classroom from a magazine article about natural outdoor play areas.

With collaboration from Ron Miller, a landscape designer and church member, they got to work over the summer on transforming the space.

“A lot of churches have playgrounds and outdoor spaces and so it was a really exciting opportunity to do something different,” said Miller.

He chose to put in a wide variety of grasses in the space, in order to educate kids about all the different species. Other plant used “were especially selected because they attract birds, butterflies and bees,” Miller said.

The space also includes a unique circular sandbox, arched entrance, dry creek bed and a small bridge.

The project held a special place in Miller’s heart, he said, because both of his sons — now 30 and 32 — attended Ourday preschool.

Additionally, three Boy Scouts from the church-sponsored Troop 560 completed their Eagle Scout projects by helping build the outdoor classroom.

“They were looking for an Eagle Scout project and this just seemed like the perfect fit,” Monroe said. “They really stepped up and created something beautiful.”

With the help of local business’ donations, the boys were able to build six planter boxes, six picnic tables and six log benches.

The Cellar Lumber Company at 137 E. College Ave. contributed about $1,000 worth of the cedar lumber for the planter boxes and Almendinger Sawmill at 5501 Caswell Road in Johnstown, helped with the log benches.

“It was really rewarding to help these outstanding young men,” Miller said. “Each project was tricky but they did a perfect job.”

The next-door business, Westerville Cleaners at 40 W Main St., provided the water source to keep the outdoor classroom green throughout the installation and ongoing seasons.

“Thank you to the Church of Messiah leaders who embraced the idea from the first presentation last winter,” said Monroe.

“The outdoor classroom is now ready to welcome us all to a lovely addition to Church of Messiah. Please visit and enjoy the outdoor space.”

At the preschool fall orientation in late August, Monroe said that almost all of the 400 parents complimented the new space.

The Church of the Messiah will have an open house to celebrate the space from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.

For the future, Monroe said she hopes to add bird feeders, butterfly houses, and other things to help enhance the natural habitat.


2015, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

Intimate Westerville South cast is ‘Leaving Iowa’

Wednesday September 9, 2015 7:51 AM

Westerville South High School kicks off its 2015-16 theater season with the family comedy Leaving Iowa.

The show written to be “realistic and relatable” will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20 at the high school, 303 S. Otterbein Ave.

The play stars an intimate six-student cast and the show will also be performed at a state conference in March.

For this reason, the show is completely student designed under the guidance of Derrick McPeak, technical director.

The story centers around Don Browning, a writer who returns home and decides to finally take his father’s ashes to his childhood home. But, when Don discovers his childhood home is now a grocery store, he begins traveling across Iowa in search of a proper resting place.

“It’s got a ton of heart but it’s wrapped up in a great comedy,” said South’s theater director Matt Wolfe. “It’s challenging for students because it’s a show where the actors’ chemistry makes a big difference.”

Senior James Hagerman who plays Don Browning, said that it feels very natural to play this particular character.

“There are moments where I can attribute my own experiences to the show,” he said. “It’s a very relatable and realistic play.”

Playing a family wasn’t too difficult for the cast, since they were already such good friends, said assistant director, senior Elise Wesley.

“It’s a show about a family and we are already like a family since we’ve been in the theater program so long,” she said.

The show was cast in the spring so students could work on their lines over the summer and start building the set the week before school started.

In the show, Nic Hayman, senior, plays 12 different characters. He described how that experience has made him a better actor.

“I want all of my characters to be distinct so I’ve had to learn new voices and new mannerisms,” he said. “I want people to think, ‘Wow this is a big cast,’ when it’s actually just the six of us.”

With so many characters to play, Hayman has to do some quick costume changes backstage.

“I have less than a minute to change and I still have my microphone on so I can deliver my lines,” he said.

Wolfe said it’s a good show for the back-to-school season since it’s all about relationships.

“We’re not asking audiences to sit through a three-hour history play,” said Wolfe. “It’s the type of show where at one point, you’ll say ‘Oh, that’s me,’ or ‘My dad does that too.’ “

Tickets are $6, can be purchased at the door and the show will be at Westerville South High School at 303 S. Otterbein Ave.


2015, ThisWeek, ThisWeekNews, westerville, westervilleschools

Kile up for new challenge at Early Learning Center

Teachers have fresh faces in their classrooms and the Westerville City School District’s Early Learning Center also has a fresh, yet familiar, face.
Suzanne Kile is the center’s new director.
She started the job in July following the resignation of former director Ann Lockett, who left to pursue another professional opportunity.
Kile began her career as an elementary and middle school teacher and principal in Michigan.
She said she moved to Westerville in 2001 where she has been a teacher, principal of McVay Elementary, principal of Genoa Middle School, director of community relations and special education coordinator.
“Every job I’ve been in, I’ve thought, ‘I love this. This is where I’m going to stay forever,’ ” she said.
So far, she said she is loving her new position.
“I love having that direct interaction with the kids and their families. Being in the district for so long, I know a lot of these families and it’s nice getting to know new families,” she said.
Kile said she’ excited about her new assignment and is enjoying getting to know the pupils and their parents at the Early Learning Center.
“I love being part of the team that gets to welcome our families to Westerville schools,” she said. “During my years in the district, I have had the opportunity to work with most of the preschool staff, and they are one of the factors that drew me to the role.”
She said it’s important to keep up to date with the most recent research and literature concerning early childhood development and she is open to making changes to improve the program.
“Our teachers are phenomenal and I want to support them however I can and make sure they stay up to date on the most recent research findings,” she said.
The Early Learning Center houses 11 classrooms, holding 300 students, in the morning and afternoon, providing students with disabilities the opportunity to learn alongside non-disabled peers.
Kile said the district serves students as young as 3 and that a typical classroom is comprised of eight non-disabled students and eight disabled students.
Unlike in other districts, preschool students are taught at a central location — the Early Learning Center at 936 Eastwind Drive.
“Having everyone in one location allows us to learn from one another. Plus, it’s a really amazing space. A lot of thought went into the design of the space,” she said.
The former office building was renovated in the summer of 2013 for $588,000 to become home for the center and the district’s administrative offices.
Superintendent John Kellogg said Kile is plenty qualified for the new position.
“With 24 years experience in education, the last 14 of which have been in Westerville City Schools, Suzanne possesses the balance of leadership and academic skills required for this position,” said Kellogg, announcing the appointment.
“Her involvement and familiarity with the Westerville-area community are added benefits that will be valuable to the Preschool Program as well,” he said.
“I can’t say how much I’ve enjoyed the warm welcome from the staff and community,” Kile said. “Westerville has such strong connections and everyone really cares about each other.”