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.

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.