North schools earn gold

North Montgomery superintendent Dr. Colleen Moran announced at Monday’s school board meeting that four of the five corporation schools have received the Gold Star Counseling Award for 2017.

North Montgomery High School, Northridge Middle School, Sommer Elementary School and Pleasant Hill Elementary were selected by the Indiana Department of Education for the honor.

Gold Star schools undergo a rigorous process to raise student achievement by creating local community advisory groups that review student data, set specific student goals and commit to maximizing the time and skills of the school counselor. The official award presentation will be during the Indiana School Counselor Association fall conference at Indianapolis in November.

“We are excited to have four of our five schools selected,” North Montgomery Superintendent Dr. Colleen Moran said. “The only reason Sugar Creek did not receive the award is because it was at the time the school experienced a horrible tragedy and we felt we did not need to put the staff under more pressure.”

Moran expects Sugar Creek to receive the award next year.

North Montgomery schools join more than 200 Indiana elementary, middle and high schools to receive the award since its inception in 2004. Six years later, IDOE, in collaboration with the Indiana Student Achievement Institute, began offering professional development opportunities for schools interested in aligning their counseling program with the Gold Star model. Schools participate in a one-day workshop, followed by a series of monthly webcasts, to help them make the transformation to the Indiana Gold Star School Counseling model.

“Indiana’s Gold Star Schools collaborate with community partners to assist the school counselors in making data-based decisions to ensure that all students are successful,” IDOE School Counselor Consultant Amanda Culhan stated in a press release. “We recognize these schools for understanding the tremendous impact that school counselors can have in helping students succeed in school and also to plan for postsecondary success.”

All Indiana Gold Star schools are eligible to receive the nation’s highest recognition — the American School Counselor Association’s Recognized ASCA Model Program or RAMP Award. The award demonstrates that a school is “committed to delivering a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program.” Indiana is the state with the highest number of RAMP Award recipients in the country.

To qualify for both awards, these schools submitted an online portfolio with documentation that it meets the nine program standards found in Indiana’s Program Standards for School Counseling.

Additionally, North Montgomery personnel Brooke VanScoyoc, Carrie Woolwine, Lindsey Goane and Eileen Bormann participated in training sessions during the school year and learned how to implement the Gold Star School Counseling model. Students, teachers, parents and community members who serve on the local School Counseling Advisory Council also took part in the initiative. This group provided valuable input and feedback as the Gold Star School Counseling initiative was being developed.

North Montgomery school administrators received salary raises at Monday’s school board meeting. Each administrator will receive a $1,000 raise added to their base salary. The corporation also will pay a $1,500 performance stipend.

Classified staff, such as custodians and nurses, will see their pay increase 35 cents per hour if they are paid on an hourly basis. Classified staff members on salary will receive a $600 base pay raise. All classified personnel will receive a $1,000 stipend payable in May of 2018.

The board approved Shannon Joyce as the boys varsity tennis coach and Cat Michie as varsity cross country coach.

Officials talk wind turbine farms

Montgomery County Commissioners passed an ordinance in 2009 to regulate wind energy conversion systems. Nine years later that ordinance is being scrutinized and questioned as two wind turbine farms are trying to establish facilities in northern Montgomery County.

Several concerned citizens as well as Montgomery County Councilman Mark Davidson spoke against wind farms at Monday’s commissioners’ meeting. All of the speakers asked commissioners to consider revising the ordinance. They also encouraged officials to study data generated by numerous sources in the wake of the industry’s growth throughout the United States.

“A lot of things have changed since the 2009 ordinance was written,” Davidson said. “You know I am a property rights advocate and I believe people have the right to lease their property to whoever they want. However, I believe their neighbors have rights, too.”

Davidson called wind energy projects a “farce” and claimed wind farms are a “danger to neighbors.” He listed health issues, decreasing property values and potential harm to economic development as reasons to ban wind turbines here.

“I advise you (commissioners) to research and reconstruct our county ordinance,” Davidson said.

Resident Tisha Southwood, who has been active in the new group calling themselves “No Wind Farm Montgomery County,” has done a lot of research and believes a community forum on the topic is needed.

Commissioner John Frey has talked to six people about the concerns with the current ordinance. He admits commissioners need to do their own research and start to address the issue. Frey asked county attorney Dan Taylor what options commissioners have in regards to changing the ordinance which was modeled after the Benton County wind farm ordinance.

Commissioners believe there is a problem withe the original ordinance in the way it is written.

Commissioner Jim Fulwider said the ordinance might have problems because it was written in terms that would be consistent with a county that has a zoning ordinance.

Taylor re-iterated the same point when he spoke about county options.

“Most counties combat this issue with a zoning ordinance,” Taylor said. “Since we do not have a zoning ordinance, we are at a disadvantage in regulating vendors such as wind farms.”

Taylor cited a recent case in Rush County that banned wind farms in its zoning ordinance. It was challenged in court and Rush County won the appeal.

Davidson disagreed with Taylor and said the answer is to ban wind farms all together in a revised ordinance.

Commissioners approving the present ordinance in 2009 were Terry Hockersmith, Phil Bane and Harry Siamas.

In other business, commissioners:

• Introduced an ordinance to re-establish the Cumulative Capital Development Fund.

• Introduced an ordinance to increase the Cumulative Bridge Fund.

• Approved a resolution of recommendation to the county council regarding changes to the Local Income Tax.

• Approved a contract with Deckard Engineering to provide monitoring the county landfill with costs to be shared with the City of Crawfordsville.

• Approved a contract with Dossett Consulting with the county clerk’s office.

Officials exploring tree plan

A team of city leaders and community advocates have begun developing a coordinated plan to manage the city’s tree population.

While discussions are in the early stages, the goal is to create formal guidelines for planting new trees and properly replacing ones that need removed.

“At some point, we’ll want to put some things in city code that formally says this is what we need to do, the species we need to plant at certain areas,” said city operations director Dale Petrie, who represents the mayor’s office on the exploratory committee.

Crawfordsville Main Street president Sue Lucas approached the city with the idea last year, as a way to keep track of new trees that will be added through the Stellar projects. Mayor Todd Barton was highly supportive of the idea, she said.

Lucas was also inspired by input at various public meetings.

“We kept hearing they wanted street trees back in the downtown area,” said Lucas, who is also president of Sustainable Initiatives of Montgomery County.

The committee began meeting at the start of the year to consider options. Along with Lucas and Petrie, the group includes representatives from city planning and community development, parks and recreation and the street department.

Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power and Wabash College are also involved. The group is seeking advice from two professional arborists.

The committee hasn’t determined whether the plan will just cover downtown, or include the rest of the city, parks and trails.

“There are a lot of pieces to this that we’re still trying to navigate through,” said street commissioner Scott Hesler.

A tree inventory will help form the plan and pinpoint where certain species should be planted.

“We know more about these things in 2017 then we did in 1990 or even 2000,” Lucas said. “We know the trees to avoid that don’t work well, and there’s just an incredible body of evidence out there and resources to pull on.”

In 2005, the parks and recreation department commissioned an urban forestry management plan that included a partial inventory and recommendations on how to proceed. The plan was never implemented, but is helping guide the committee’s discussions.

The committee is also looking at research that shows tree-lined main streets are good for business.

A University of Washington study found consumers prefer to shop at places with large, fully-grown street trees. Consumers were also willing to pay more for parking in shaded business districts, according to the study.

“People are drawn to those green margins,” Lucas said. “They want to hang and they want to linger, versus a big asphalt parking lot where you’re just, ‘I’m in, I’m out.’

Coon elected FFA state officer

Owen Coon, a recent North Montgomery graduate, experienced a life-changing event Thursday during the Indiana FFA Convention at Purdue University. 

Coon was elected as vice president of the northern region. Achieving his goal of becoming a state officer, now means Coon will delay his freshman year at Purdue.

“I am excited to be a part of this new and amazing team of state officers,” Coon said. “We will be ambassadors for Indiana FFA and will travel all across the state meeting new people. This is a once in a lifetime and unique experience as we provide leadership for over 12,000 Indiana FFA members.”

North Montgomery FFA Advisor Nancy Bell has taught agriculture at the high school for 16 years. North Montgomery has had six candidates for a state office during her tenure, but Coon is the first to be elected. She has been “on pins and needles” ever since the state convention started Sunday.

“I have been devouring TUMS ever since I got here because I have been so nervous for Owen,” Bell said. “I am so proud of him and know he will do amazing things.”

Coon said the election process included up to 14 hours of interviews, which started Monday and continued into Wednesday evening. It was around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday when Indiana FFA listed the slate of officers to go before the FFA membership for a vote.

Bell admits that by Thursday her nerves had turned into excitement for Coon.

“I have known him since he first joined FFA as a sixth grader,” Bell said. “I noticed then that he was very mature for his age and he still is today. This is going to be a life-changing experience which will open us great opportunities for his future.”

Coon, who is the son of Loren and Sherri Coon of Wingate, is looking forward to the duties of his new title. He won’t have to wait long, as he and the other officers are expected to move into the FFA Center at Trafalgar by Sunday.

On Monday, the seven state officers will begin training and creating a plan of activities for the upcoming year. Coon anticipates visiting every high school FFA chapter in Indiana. The officers will provide leadership to local chapters by leading workshops and training. As a state officer, Coon will get to participate in the National FFA Convention.

A recent national trend is more urban schools are starting FFA chapters. Cities such as Chicago and New York have inner-city high schools with large chapters. Coon looks forward to working with new chapters in Indianapolis.

“I think seeing the urban school FFA chapters is going to be very educational,” Coon said. “Seeing their perspective of Indiana agriculture is something I am looking forward to. I think that experience will be educational for our team of officers.”

The last North Montgomery FFA officer was Kyle Bymaster in 1998. Bymaster happens to be Coons’ second cousin.

Coon, who is a 10-year Montgomery County 4-H member, will start his agriculture finance degree in the fall of 2018.

Music on Grant Recital

Music on Grant Studios will present its 15th annual Summer Recital at the Lane Place Gazebo at 2 p.m. Sunday. The recital is free and the public is invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets and enjoy an afternoon of music from all genres. Students of all ages will be performing on piano, drums, guitars, violins, cello, saxophone, trumpet, ukulele, tuba and voice. Highlights will include Ella Johnson playing “Orange Blossom Special” on fiddle and her sister, Louisa playing “Clocktower Bells” on cello. Sophia Johnson will be featured in the final event, a mixed string ensemble, along with her sisters and Lilly Klingbeil (pictured), Vidushi Kiran, Miss Pam and Miss Barb playing old time fiddle tunes, “Ook Pick” and “My Silver Bells.” An adult classical guitar trio will perform “Malaguena.” Several students will be playing music from the classics including Bach, Beethoven, Brahmns and Eric Satie. In case of rain the recital will be held at the Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church.