On the Beat in Bluffton

Friday, November 27, 2015

N-B Video: Bluffton lighting ceremony

Windy, rainy weather didn't stop revelers from coming out for Bluffton's traditional lighting ceremony Friday evening. And Santa showed up, too! (Video by Matthew LeBlanc)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

N-B Links: 'Brady's Hope' aims to promote a drug-free life

On Monday high school students at Southern Wells were introduced to fellow Hoosier Brady Noonkester, who is forever age 19 after dying from a prescription drug overdose in June 2012, just weeks after his high school graduation.

Noonkester's father, Dustin, spoke at all three of the county's high schools Monday and shared his son's story. Learn more in the Tuesday, Nov. 24, News-Banner.

Learn more about "Brady's Hope," an effort to promote a drug-free life, by clicking here.

Learn more about the Indiana Attorney General's task force that helped bring Noonkester to town, The Bitter Pill, by clicking here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

N-B Numbers: Jury trials, new criminal cases down for 2014

New court data released last month for 2014 indicates a drop in jury trials but an increase in “children in need of services” cases in Wells County. Meanwhile, the number of new criminal cases filed in local county courts dropped between 2013 (650 cases) and 2014 (539) – the first decrease, according to state data, since at least 2010. New juvenile filings increased between 2013 (202 cases) and 2014 (259 cases).
Learn more in the Monday, Nov. 23, News-Banner.

To explore the data, click here. The data fields give readers the option to select the year, county, court, and type of data to see.

Here is some more data:

Jury trials countywide:
• 2010: 1
• 2011: 8
• 2012: 6
• 2013: 12
• 2014: 3

Children in need of services:

• 2010:15
• 2011:17
• 2012: 42
• 2013: 57
• 2014: 92
• 2015: 60, as of Nov. 20

Friday, November 20, 2015

N-B Links: Need for Narcan is on the rise

In the throes of an opiate overdose, medics can administer a fast-acting drug that counteracts the effects, at times stopping death.
Naloxone, commonly called by its trademarked name of Narcan, has been around for decades – but local emergency personnel are administering it more now than perhaps ever before.
“It’s a wonderful drug if you’re trained to use it,” said Wells County EMS Director Rick Piepenbrink.

Learn more in the Saturday, Nov. 21, News-Banner.

To learn more about naloxone (Narcan), click here.

To watch an animated video of how the drug works in the nasal passage, click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Southern Wells principal to parents: Students will fail ISTEP

Students at Southern Wells will fail the state's standardized test this year.

That was the message Tuesday from Principal Chad Yencer of Southern Wells Junior/Senior High School.

In a letter to parents posted on the school district's website, Yencer urged parents to consider the effects of this year's more difficult ISTEP+, which was given in the spring to students in grades three through eight. The test, which is tied to things such as teacher pay and school funding, also was based on newer, tougher state education standards.

"ISTEP+ is just one measure of student learning, and in no way has it been reflective of all of your student's knowledge, skills or ability," Yencer wrote. "Many students will fail the ISTEP+ for the first time this year. Please encourage your son or daughter to keep working hard in those classes and avoid being (discouraged) about their performance.

"A failing exam this year does not mean that your student was not giving a great effort."

The Indiana Department of Education began releasing students' test scores to parents last week. Since then, school leaders across the state have been working to sift through the data.

Wayne Barker, Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District superintendent, said Monday he also expects a drop in test scores.

How big of a drop among local students' scores is unclear, but Yencer said in his letter 13 to 17 percent more students will fail the English portion of the ISTEP+ this year. The state could see up to 30 percent more failing scores on the math portion of the tests, he said.

ISTEP+ scores also are used to calculate A-F accountability grades given each year to schools and school districts.

Gov. Mike Pence and Republican state lawmakers have expressed support for measures to shield teachers from penalties on job evaluations that could result from low scores. There is no specific plan in place, however.

Bluffton-Harrison school board OK's 2016-17 calendar

A school calendar approved by school board members Monday calls for students to return to classes Aug. 8.

That's two days earlier than this year's start date but, according to Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Wayne Barker, it's normal.

School typically starts on the second Monday in August, he said, and Aug. 8 is the second Monday in August.

The calendar also includes a full-week fall break in October, a first for Bluffton-Harrison.

Other area school districts, including Northern Wells Community Schools, is considering including a weeklong fall break in its 2016-17 calendar. Its board could approve that at a meeting today at Norwell High School.

Here's a copy of the Bluffton-Harrison calendar (click to enlarge):

Monday, November 16, 2015

Northern Wells, Bluffton school districts net state school safety grants

 Two school districts in Wells County will receive funding under the state’s Secured School Safety Grant program.

Northern Wells Community Schools will receive $25,864.25 to fund its school resource officer, and the Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District will get $30,000 earmarked for equipment, according to data from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

The program is a state fund that grants money to school districts to conduct threat assessments, purchase equipment or employ a school resource officer.
More than $10 million will go to 260 schools and school corporations, Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement.

“The safety of our kids is our highest priority, and this grant program continues to be a valuable partnership between local schools and the state,” Pence said.

Funding this year for the grants comes from an original $3.5 million allocation, $3.5 million from DHS funds, and more than $3 million in unspent and unallocated funds from previous years, according to the governor’s statement.

Nearly $5 million of the awarded funding will be used to purchase equipment such as security cameras; more than $5.1 million will go to employ police officers for schools.

The full list of recipients is below.