On the Beat in Bluffton

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

N-B Photos: Eight city officials take oaths of office for terms beginning Jan. 1

Eight city officials took their oaths of office Wednesday. Learn more in the Thursday, Dec. 31, News-Banner. Wells Circuit Court Judge Kent Kiracofe administered the oaths. (Photos by Dave Schultz)

N-B Slideshow: A year in review--2015

A panel of current and former News-Banner reporters and editors voted on the community's top 10 stories of 2015. Learn more in the Thursday, Dec. 31, News-Banner. (News-Banner staff photos; video compiled by Jessica Williams)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

N-B Video: Library hosts piano players

Leading up to Christmas, the library hosts piano players at various times throughout the day. They've done this for a few years now. Ed Higgins of Bluffton played the piano Tuesday at the Wells County Public Library. Listen to a portion of his selection below. Players are scheduled today, Wednesday, Dec. 23, as well. (Photos and video by Jessica Williams)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What can be recycled and what can't at local facility

The Wells County Solid Waste District learned this week that the local recycling center will again accept certain glasses as recyclable materials. Below is a list of the materials the facility accepts, provided by the district's controller, and learn more in the Tuesday, Dec. 22, News-Banner.


• Paper – newspaper, paper sacks, magazines, office/computer paper, junk mail, paper board (cereal boxes, soda boxes, shoe boxes, and old/corrugated containers and books

• Glass – beer, wine and food jars

• Metal – aluminum and bi-metal beverage cans, aluminum foil wrapping baking ware, food cans, canning lids, metal baking dishes (without non-stick coating), metal food or drink lids, coat hangers

• Plastic #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – Soda bottles, naturals (milk, juice, distilled or drinking water jugs), dishwashing detergent bottles, vinegar bottles, mixed colored containers (laundry detergent or fabric softener containers, bleach jugs, household cleaner bottles), cottage cheese containers, margarine/topping containers

Not acceptable:

• Paper – waxed or carbon paper, waxed paperboard, milk, juice, fabric softener refill containers

• Metals – folding outdoor chairs with webbing still attached, water pumps, engine parts, etc.

• Plastic – plastic wrap, freezer/food bags, tableware (forks/spoons), dishes or plates, flower pots, bakery containers, no food grade plates, "clam shells," egg cartons, meat/vegetbal trays, cups made from polystyrene, packing "peanuts," toys or plastic bags

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bluffton Fire Department is selling reflective address signs

The Bluffton Fire Department is selling reflective address signs. Learn more in the Monday, Dec. 14, News-Banner. Print out the form below:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Panel studying teacher shortage meets for the last time

A committee chaired by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz met for the last time Monday, making recommendations to stem the loss of teachers in Indiana.

Among the proposals from the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Recruitment and Retention of Excellent Educators:

• Establish a mentor program for beginning teachers. (NOTE: The state once had a mentor program, but it was dropped after funding dried up. Some school districts, including the Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District, operate their own mentor programs for beginning teachers).

• Identify and fund professional development for educators and administrators.

• Recruit and retain a diverse teacher workforce.

"Great teaching and great learning go hand in hand," Ritz said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing the work of the commission and to the support of the Indiana General Assembly and the State Board of Education for these strategies developed by educators to address Indiana's teacher shortage."

Only Bluffton-Harrison in Wells County has a vacant teaching position, according to the school districts' websites. Bluffton-Harrison is seeking a seventh-grade English/language arts teacher.

Neither Northern Wells Community Schools nor Southern Wells Community Schools have open teaching positions, according to their websites.

Friday, December 4, 2015

N-B Slideshow: 2015 Festival of Trees

Here are some entries in this year's Festival of Trees. (Photos by Barb Barbieri)

N-B Slideshow: 2015 Ossian Hometown Christmas

The 2015 Ossian Hometown Christmas celebration was held Thursday evening in Ossian. (Photos by Glen Werling)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Proposal would remove schools info from newspaper publication

UPDATE: State Board of Education members voted this morning to accept the recommendation from a committee to make changes to the way schools publish Annual Performance Reports.

Original post:

A proposal from state officials calls for an end to publication in newspapers of some data on Indiana schools.

Publishing Annual Performance Report data in newspapers is burdensome, according to a memo State Board of Education members will review at their meeting today in Indianapolis, and data included in the reports could instead by published on the Indiana Department of Education's website and on websites run by schools.

The recommendation would require approval by state lawmakers. If the General Assembly voted to approve the proposal, the portion of the law requiring publication in newspapers could be removed as soon as next year.

Data in the APR, which schools are required to publish in mid-March each year, includes information on student enrollment, graduation rates, attendance rates, average class size, remediation, and the percentage of graduates going on to college.

The proposal from the state also calls for removing items on class size, remediation, and the percentage of graduates seeking a college education from the APRs.

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.

N-B Video: Teeples' train

Learn more in the latest Senior Living. (Video by Kayleen Reusser)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

State Supt., Lt. Gov. speak out about dual credit woes

With Indiana facing a new rules that would gut its dual credit offerings in Hoosier high schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann spoke out Thursday to Higher Learning Commission.

The HLC is a regional accreditation group that has put in place new rules requiring some teachers to secure more college credit to teach dual credit classes. Few teachers meet the new rules, and administrators across the state have decried the move.

The rules are set to go into effect in September 2017.

"Dual credit courses are critical to achieving Indiana’s goal of 60% of our workforce having postsecondary degrees or certifications by 2025," Ellspermann said. "We are concerned about any requirements that would limit our abilities to provide dual credit classes to all Hoosier high school students given the successful results of those dual credit courses with our current teacher requirements. HLC’s own report ranked Indiana second highest in the nation with respect to the factors that promote quality dual credit courses.”

Ritz and Ellspermann issued a joint statement.

Monday, November 2, 2015

UPDATE: Diploma proposals before SBOE tweaked


Proposals for new diplomas have, indeed, been changed.

State Board of Education members will take up the proposals at their regular meeting tomorrow morning in Indianapolis.

A six-page memo to board members from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz (linked above) outlines changes made by a committee charged with examining the new diplomas.

Among the changes are changing the title of "technical math" — an option that doesn't currently exist in Indiana high schools — to "applied math courses and/or state-approved alternatives."

"This phrase better reflects the committee's intent regarding the many course options available to meet this requirement — both stand-alone applied mathematics (e.g. Tech Math) and courses in other subjects with significant embedded math content (e.g. Precision Machining)," Ritz wrote in the memo.

Bluffton High School Principal Steve Baker plans to address the board at the meeting tomorrow to discuss the proposals.


Proposals for new diplomas for Indiana high school students have likely been changed, a spokesman for the State Board of Education said Monday.

Principals — including Bluffton High School Principal Steve Baker — asked board members last week to consider concerns about some aspects of the proposals. The board had been set to vote on proposals last week that would have required some Hoosier high-schoolers to take more math and secure more credits before graduating.

SBOE spokesman Marc Lotter said in in email Monday a committee examining the proposals met for a special meeting Friday and will present updated diplomas to the board at its meeting Wednesday in Indianapolis.

Lotter said updated information likely will be posted to the state board's website later today.

Friday, October 30, 2015

N-B Slideshow: 2015 Boo in Bluffton, Autumn Adventure

Children and their parents hit the streets of Bluffton Friday for the annual Boo in Bluffton and Autumn Adventure festivities for Halloween. (Photos by Jessica Williams and Matthew LeBlanc)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Mike Pence and Glenda Ritz Agree? Maybe.

Several times, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has called for a "pause" in accountability ahead of an anticipated drop in ISTEP+ scores this year. Each time, she's been rebuffed by state lawmakers and Gov. Mike Pence.

Maybe things have changed.

This afternoon, Pence sent out a letter to Ritz and State Board of Education members saying "teachers should not be penalized for the decline" and indicated he's working with lawmakers to draft legislation that ensures lower grades do not affect teacher evaluations and performance bonuses.

"When states transition to new academic standards and a new assessment, test scores usually decrease, which occurred in the test scores you will review this week," Pence wrote. "Given the transition Indiana has undergone this year with our academic standards and assessment, our response should reflect fairness to our students, our teachers and our schools."

In the letter, Pence does not indicate what, exactly, would be included in the legislation.

The Indiana Department of Education released a statement saying it welcomes the move by the governor but also calling him out for waiting.

"This is a welcome first step from the Governor," IDOE spokeswoman Samantha Hart said." Unfortunately, it comes after a year and a half of uncertainty and worry for our students, teachers and schools that was entirely unnecessary. Superintendent Ritz supports strong accountability as long as it is fair, open and transparent. The Superintendent looks forward to working with Indiana’s leadership to take advantage of federal flexibility for both teacher evaluations and the assignment of A-F accountability grades for the 2014-15 school year.”

Boo in Bluffton coming Friday!

Participating Businesses:
5-6 Pm
City Hall
Bluffton Police Department
Bluffton Fire Dept. (Grilling Hot Dogs – west side of City Hall)
Inventure Foods (snacks – west side of City Hall)
Bluffton Optimist (Lemonade – west side of City Hall)
Subway (westside of City Hall)
Wells County EMS (west side of City Hall)
First Reformed Church (Trunk n’ Treat in parking lost across from City Hall)
Angel Corps
Buckhorn, Inc. (beside 121 E. Market)
Alley Cuts
Freedom Riders (in front of 111 E. Market)
Star Insurance
Westaff (109 N. Main)
FCCLA (Southern Wells) (beside 109 North Main Street)
Stag Bar
Department of Child Services (221 W. Market)
PNC Bank
Todd Shalley, Co.
Wells County Library
American Legion Auxiliary (111 W. Washington St.)
Wells County Democrats (119 S. Johnson St.)
Wells County Republicans ( 125 S. Johnson St.)
1st Source Bank
Law Office of Carnall, Andrews and Crell
Wells County Land and Title
Wells Fargo Bank
Sassafras on Main
Bluffton Regional Medical Center
Bluffton Elks #796
Welches All Vehicle Repair
Wells County Historical Museum (420 W. Market)
6-7 PmWells County Historical Museum (420 w. Market)
Reed’s Do It Best
Shoe Show
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Wendy’s (free Halloween booklet to the first 100 kids good for 10 Jr. Frostys)
1st Choice Realty Group (818 N. Main)
Richard’s Restaurant
Corrective Chiropractic (360 N. Main)
Signature HealthCare (1529 W. Lancaster)
Corner Depot

N-B Links: 'I'm Not Ashamed'

Beth Nimmo, the mother of Columbine shooting victim Rachel Joy Scott, spoke to Bluffton High School students Monday morning, encouraging them to make good life decisions. She was in town to speak to various groups and to promote "I'm Not Ashamed," a movie that will come out next year – on the 17th anniversary of the Colorado school shooting – that features the story of Scott, who was the first killed April 20, 1999, by two of her classmates.

To visit the movie's website, click here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Too much testing? The president thinks so.

Educators for years have said there is too much testing for students.

Well, President Obama is joining the call for cuts to the time kids spend in classrooms testing. Over the weekend, he urged officials to set limits on the amount of tests students take.

Obama suggested limiting the time spent on tests to 2 percent of a student's instructional time in the classroom.

In Indiana, students take the ISTEP+ and the IREAD. Standardized testing in Indiana in recent years has been s source of consternation among teachers, administrators, parents and lawmakers.

Here's what the president had to say:

N-B Video: Saturday's Go Greenway Glow 5K

Runners lit up the Rivergreenway Saturday night for the Go Greenway Glow 5K. (Video by Jessica Williams)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Markle Town Council adopts 2016 budget, approves salary ordinance

The Markle Town Council adopted its 2016 budget at its regular meeting Wednesday evening. The council also approved the salary ordinance for next year. Learn more in the Thursday, Oct. 22, News-Banner. View the salary ordinance below. (Click to enlarge)

News-Banner's open records request denied

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has denied an open records request filed by The News-Banner.

The newspaper filed the request after Ossian Police Chief Dave Rigney confirmed in September he filed a complaint with the agency regarding "the actions and the comments that have been made" by the town's police commissioners.

The News-Banner had sought details about Rigney's complaint from the EEOC, which enforces federal employment discrimination laws.

The denial of the request was sent by the EEOC's district office in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Prosecutor to hold presentation on sexting

Wells County Prosecuting Attorney Andy Carnall will hold a presentation Monday, Oct. 6, on sexting at Norwell High School.

The 7:35 a.m. presentation will include discussion of sending sexually explicit photos, images, text messages or e-mails via cellphone or other mobile device.

In a letter to parents of Norwell students, Assistant Principal Kelby Weybright said it's important to educate students on the possible effects of sexting.

"Our goal is to partner with parents and our county officials in order to empower teens to make wise choices and prevent the possible consequences associated with sexting," he said.

Parents are invited to attend and should call the high school at 260-543-2213 if they are interested. Parents should arrive at the school no later than 7:35 a.m. Monday, according to the letter from Weybright.

Budgets and butterflies

Northern Wells Community Schools board members approved the district's $24.7 million budget for 2016 at the panel's regular meeting Tuesday.

But before they did that, first-graders at Ossian Elementary School gave a presentation on monarch butterflies.

Students at OES worked to hatch the insects this year, and they're now nationally recognized as a "Monarch Waystation." The butterflies hatched at the school were tagged, so it's possible they could be located as they travel to warmer climates such as southern California and Mexico.

OES Principal Susanne Tieman with first-graders at the board meeting Tuesday.

First-graders talked about how they studied the life cycle of the butterflies and also presented a video.

And then it was on to the budget.

Board members approved the spending plan, which will now be sent to the state. State officials likely will pare back the request from Northern Wells, which is what typically happens.

Take a look at what was approved last night (click for larger version):

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Does high school prepare students for college, work?

A new study finds a disconnect among parents, students, colleges and employers over whether students are prepared for life after high school.

The study comes from Achieve, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that bills itself as "an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability."

Earlier this month, the group released the results of a survey that says nearly three quarters (73 percent) of parents of students feel high school prepared their children "very well" or "extremely well" for college. In contrast, only 53 percent of students said the same.

 The chasm widened when parents, employers and college instructors were asked whether high schools are preparing students for success after high school.

The results?

Eighty-four percent of parents said they are "at least somewhat satisfied" with the job schools are doing. Fifty-six percent of employers — and only 35 percent of college instructors — said the same.

So, what does all that mean?

“Parents are more likely than faculty, employers, or even students to believe that their children are ready for their next steps upon graduation from high school,” said Sandy Boyd, chief operating officer of Achieve. “Part of the disconnect between parents and others is that parents lack the information they need to guide their students. Parents report wanting more communication from schools to better understand what their children need to be ready and how they can help.”

Among other items in the Achieve study:
  • 67% of parents indicate that they would have been more involved in their child’s high school education if they were to do it over again.
  • 60% of college students and 58% of non-students say that they would have worked harder in high school if they knew then what they know now about the expectations of colleges and the workplace.
In Indiana, state officials in recent years have increased attention to college and career readiness among Hoosier students. In fact, the State Board of Education next week will consider proposed changes to the state's high school diplomas, a move that would include putting in place a College & Career Ready diploma

Monday, October 19, 2015

N-B Photos: Elks hosts poker fundraiser for inclusive playground

The Bluffton Elks Lodge is raising money for the new all-inclusive playground on the city's south side. Learn more in the Monday, Oct. 19, News-Banner. (Photos by Jessica Williams)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Indiana's intoxicated driving statutes

Class A misdemeanors, maximum sentence of 1 year
• Operating a vehicle with an ACE of .15 or more
• Operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person

Class C misdemeanors, maximum sentence of 60 days
• Operating a vehicle with an ACE of .08 or more
• Operating a vehicle with a Schedule I/II controlled substance or its metabolite in the body
• Operating a vehicle while intoxicated

Level 4 felony, advisory sentence of six years with a maximum of 12 and a minimum of 2
• Causing death when operating a motor vehicle with an ACE of .15 or more

Level 5 felony, advisory sentence of three years with a maximum of six years and a minimum of 1
• Causing death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated

Level 6 felony, advisory sentence of 1 year with a maximum of 2.5 years and a minimum of six months
• Operating a vehicle with an ACE of .08 or more
• Operating a vehicle while intoxicated
• Operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person
• Operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person with a passenger less than 18 years old

Thursday, October 15, 2015

N-B Photos: Community celebrates all-inclusive park at ground-breaking ceremony

A large group of community members gathered Wednesday evening near Bi-County Services, Whicker Field and the Wells Community Boys & Girls Club to break ground on the city's new all-inclusive playground. Learn more in the Thursday, Oct. 15, News-Banner. (Photos by Jessica Williams)

Friday, October 9, 2015

N-B Video: Markle prepares for new library

Soil is expected to be turned next week for the new Markle library. The official ground-breaking ceremony was held Friday at the site of the former Town Hall, which is where the Huntington City-Township Public Library is to move its Markle branch to come next spring. Listen to HCTPL Director Beka Lemons talk at the gathering Friday below, and learn more in the Saturday, Oct. 10, News-Banner. (Photos, video by Jessica Williams)

N-B Video: Candlelight vigil for domestic violence victims

The Wells County Domestic Violence Task Force held its annual candlelight vigil Thursday night for victims of domestic violence. Listen to excerpts from the list of names read and learn more in the Friday, Oct. 9, News-Banner. (Video by Jessica Williams)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

N-B Numbers: 2016 county budget figures

Click image to enlarge.

Monday, October 5, 2015

N-B Video: Hear from Wells County's historical figures

The Wells County Genealogy Society had its first-ever Cemetery Walk Sunday at Fairview Cemetery. Hear from the city's first mayor, a furniture maker involved in undertaking, and a performance of "The Battle Cry of Freedom." (Video by Dave Schultz)

N-B Slideshow: Historical cemetery walk

The Wells County Genealogy Society had its first-ever Cemetery Walk Sunday at Fairview Cemetery. (Photos by Dave Schultz; video by Jessica Williams)

Monday, September 28, 2015

N-B Photos: Park dedicated in Vera Cruz

Vera Cruz officials held a ribbon-cutting for new playground equipment at the town park Sunday afternoon. Also dedicated Sunday were plaques and trees in the park in honor of longtime Vera Cruz residents Harry Baumgartner Sr. and Don Bricker. (Photos by Dave Schultz)