LOCAL NEWS

Southmont principal to retire

After nearly four decades at Southmont High School, Principal Kevin Stewart will retire at the end of this school year, effective June 30, 2016. His former assistant principal and the current Southmont Junior High School Principal Mike Tricker will replace Stewart effective July 1.

“I’ve been at it for 39 years,” Stewart said. “I think everybody has that time in their live when they want to move on to something else. And that’s where I’m at.”

The school board approved the retirement and the transfer at Monday’s meeting.

“We appreciate those years of service,” Superintendent Shawn Greiner said, “and we will certainly miss him.”

Stewart began his career at Southmont in 1977 as the Industrial Arts teacher. A little more than 20 years later, in 1998, he became the assistant principal. In 2003, he took over for Mike Hallas as the high school principal.

“Over the years,” he said, “it’s been enjoyable. You tend to forget all of the headaches and concentrate on the highlights.”

Stewart said he’s not exactly sure what the next phase of his life will look like. It will probably include doing carpentry work on the side and spending time with his three grandkids. However, he does know that the next phase for Southmont High School is in good hands.

“(Tricker) was my assistant principal for 11 years,” Stewart said, “so he’s well-versed on the building and the staff and is a super guy who will do a great job.”

In 2003, Tricker took the assistant principal position at the high school. He and his wife, Kim, had been looking for a place to raise their family, and they found they community they were looking for in the South Montgomery district.

“There was something special about this school and those who worked there that seemed to be true to my values,” Tricker said. “I enjoy working in this district. Kim and I are raising our family here and our children are educated in this district.”

Throughout his years at Southmont, Tricker said he has worked with the best of the best — with teachers and staff who have devoted their lives to the betterment of Southmont and its students. And now, he is getting the privilege of having those same students become his fellow community members.

“I truly enjoy seeing the students grow up and be part of this community,” Tricker said. “We have lived here long enough to see those former students raising their families in this community. There is a real nice connection. You get to see the kids you had in school as nice, successful, functioning adults, and I’m so proud of them.”

Greiner said the next step for the corporation will be to find a “highly qualified candidate” to replace Tricker at the Southmont Junior High School.

In other business, Greiner told the school board the corporation has been debriefing at every level regarding the electronic threat received Friday, Jan. 29. The South Montgomery central office, the administrative team and every school has been discussing what went well, what did not go as well as hoped and what can be done differently going forward.

Montgomery County Sheriff Mark Casteel will soon be debriefing with the corporation central office and will also be part of a debriefing with all three county superintendents.

School board President Brad Monts ended the meeting by commending everyone who was involved in the electronic threat situation, complementing the cooperative effort that was made throughout the entire process.

Watch where you push snow

Pushing snow into the street is one step closer to being illegal in the city of Crawfordsville.

The Crawfordsville City Council unanimously voted Monday to prohibit residents and businesses from pushing snow into city streets, alleys and parking lots.

 

“It is a sad reflection of our society today that the council has to consider this,” Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton. “There was a time when you knew right from wrong and you did the right thing. It is sad we have to consider this, but it is necessary.”

He added that people should just know that it is in no ones interest to push snow into the street.

The approval did not pass without some changes — three changes to be exact.

Councilman Scott Molin said that he was not happy with property owners being fined if they are not the ones committing the offense.

“I understand the intent,” he said.

The second change came by removing language referring to the snow as an obstruction. Councilman Dan Guard said that the ordinance should not try to define what an obstruction is.

“You can’t push the snow out there,” Guard said. “We have better things to do what define what an obstruction is.”

Guard said that the ordinance as it was written originally was arbitrary and hard to enforce.

The third change dealt with the fine structure for homeowners who push snow into the street. 

“I think the fines are too severe,” Council Charlie Warren said.

Any homeowner who commits an offense can be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $200 for each additional offense. Commercial snow removers face a $250 fine on the first offense and a $500 for all other offenses.

Councilman Les Hearson asked if the fines were in line with other communities.

“Does it have enough teeth?” he asked.

City Street Commissioner Scott Hesler said that another county in central Indiana has a $2,500 fine for the first offense.

“I would be for (the amended fines) if we knew it was going to work,” Guard said.

The council unanimously amended the ordinance all three times.

The ordinance was nearly changed a fourth time. Councilman Andy Biddle asked if there should be a permit for commercial companies.

“They could be handed the rules,” he said. “That way they know what the rules are.”

Barton said that the city could look into it, but there is a lot of gray area in creating a commercial permit. He said that the city would have to define who needs the permit, otherwise it could include “the little boy who scoops his neighbors’ driveways for $10.”

“But that is something we can look at,” Barton said.

In other business, the council approved a resolution of need for the fire station No. 2 project. Bond attorney Heather R. James, a partner at Ice Miller, said that the city will need to create a building corporation for the project. The corporation will use bonds for the project, leasing the building to the city. The lease payment will cover the cost of the bond payment.

The council will meet Feb. 22 to preliminarily approve the lease and create the building corporation. James said that the total cost of the project will not be known until April, when bids will come back on the project.

The council also passed an ordinance on first reading moving control of the Crawfordsville Municipal Golf Course back to the Parks and Recreation Department. A golf course authority board currently has control of the course.

Molin said that the decision to move control to the golf course authority was the right thing to do at the time, but moving control back to the Park Board is also the right thing to do now. Molin asked if it would make sense to create a new golf board made up of golfers to get their input on decisions affecting the course.

“Electing their own board would circumvent what we are trying to do here,” Barton said.

Hearson asked if the council should pass the ordinance on all three readings Monday night. He said it made sense to have the change of control in place before the course opens in March.

Molin blocked an attempt to suspend rules to allow the council to vote on all three readings. After the meeting, he said that he has talked to golfers and he did not want it to appear as if the council was pushing the change of authority through.

Councilman Mike Reidy and Councilwoman Jennifer Lowe were absent Monday night.

When All Bets Are Off

South Montgomery’s School Resource Officer, Jennifer Griffith, sat with students at Ladoga Elementary on Monday and asked them a simple question: Why do they have drills?

Hands raised and answers started flowing. 

For years, schools have prepared for situations they hope never happen. South Montgomery is building on that preparation by beginning to train students on what is possibly the scariest scenario imaginable — intruders and active shooters.

“What people don’t realize is we prepare for all types of crisis situations — fires, earthquakes and tornadoes,” Griffith said. “As violent intruders have become increasingly popular through the years — we don’t see any trend of that stopping any time soon — it is our responsibility to keep our kids safe.”

South Montgomery schools decided to implement an active shooter training program in January called ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. 

Corporation staff, including kitchen and janitorial staff, have already gone through training, which was also led by Griffith.  

Drills will be conducted throughout the year, but on Monday, Griffith wanted to start the student training with an open and honest conversation. 

“It’s gone very well,” she said. “They ask a lot of questions. What I really wanted out of the student training, more so than anything, was just to be personal with them. I didn’t want it to be some formal type of training. I just wanted to have more of a discussion about it and gage where I need to go with the topic based off of their questions and the things that they know.”

Before when schools would go on lockdown, teachers would lock the classroom door, shut off the lights and hide their students. The point was to make the classroom look like it was completely empty.

The ALICE program prepares teachers and students for when a good hiding spot is not good enough.

It’s in times like this, Griffith told the students, that all bets are off.

When they feel their lives are in danger, Griffith gave the students permission to do whatever they feel is necessary to stay safe. With her help, students came up with ideas as to what that might look like: an entire classroom creating chaos by running in several directions, yelling and “throwing any and every thing” at the intruder.

“It’s our responsibility to keep our kids safe,” Griffith said, “and violent intruders, unfortunately, are present in this world. Therefore, we have a duty to make sure we’re prepared for it.”

While the students seemed pretty excited at the thought of throwing books, staplers, etc. at an intruder, Griffith knows that, if this possibility were to ever become a reality, engaging in action would be much easier said than done for some students.

“We do have natural instincts,” she said, “and some people’s natural instinct is to freeze. Their mind becomes overloaded, and they can’t think past anything. Then you have the natural instinct of fighters, who will do anything to survive. And then you also have the natural instinct of getting out, to run away from whatever the danger is.”

That same natural instinct to freeze is something some staff members would have as well, but, Griffith said, that is something they would have to quickly move past.

“Our number one priority is these kids,” she said. “If you work in a school, that needs to be your number one priority. So even if your natural instinct is to freeze, then you need to overcome it mentally because you have a bigger picture that you’re in charge of.”

The goal of the ALICE program is to do whatever it takes to get everyone in the school building out of harm’s way, with the result hopefully being a complete building evacuation. Once outside, each South Montgomery school has been given a “rally point,” or a meeting spot, where buses will be waiting to take everyone to another location.

The ALICE student training can be summed up by something Griffith and the students all agree upon: It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

“If they’re not safe,” Griffith said, “they’re not going to learn. And our whole purpose is to educate these children, and if we aren’t able to do that in a safe environment, then we’ve failed them.”

Super Experience

Montgomery County has a connection to this year’s Super Bowl which is being played Sunday in Levi’s Stadium, the home field of the NFL San Francisco 49ers. 

Reece Oliver, who graduated from North Montgomery High School in 2010, is employed by the NFL team as an account executive. He will now get to see the game unfold up close.

Reece, who has also worked for the Indiana Pacers, has been employed by the 49ers for only nine months. He admits that when he landed the job in June 2015, he got excited when he realized San Francisco was going to be the host for the 50th Super Bowl.

“This job is amazing, and the 49er organization is one of the best in the NFL,” Oliver said. “I am fortunate to be here working, but then to realize we are hosting the historic 50th Super Bowl and all the other opportunities I have received, it really is mind blowing.”

Oliver will not have any official duties during the event. In fact, he said in the last 30 days, the NFL has taken control of the stadium. He and his fellow employees have basically been given a vacation from the stadium.

“You can hardly find a 49er emblem or sign anywhere because they have all been covered with NFL logos,” he said.

There is no shortage of excitement surrounding the weekend. Each 49er employee was offered the opportunity to get two tickets to the game, which Oliver jumped on. His biggest question then became who would he invite to go with him to the historic game? His first thought was to invite his brother, Ryan Podell, who is employed by the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers as a sports scientist and is only a one-hour flight from San Francisco. After Podell decided he could not make it to the game, Oliver said the next best choice was to invite his father Rick Oliver, who works at Nucor and resides in Crawfordsville. Rick boarded a flight out of Indianapolis International on Friday.

“I cannot wait for Dad to get here because Super Bowl weekend is going to be amazing,” Oliver said. “We will take part in all the activities surrounding the game. It is going to be a blast with everything that will be going on in and around San Francisco.”

For Oliver, his gig with the 49ers has already been a great experience. His job is with the stadium sales team, which means, he gets to go to any event held inside the Levi’s Stadium. He has already seen a Taylor Swift concert, the 100th PAC 12 Championship football game and a soccer game between Manchester United and Barcelona. This year, the stadium will be host to a major soccer game between Argentina and USA as part of the 100th Copa America soccer tournament. 

This past football season, Oliver won an inter-department sales contest. His prize was an all-expense paid trip with the 49er team to New York City to watch the team play Eli Manning’s New York Giants. While at the game, he met NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

 

“The trip to New York with the team was amazing,” Oliver said. “It might be the best experience I have had yet.”

Oliver grew up a die-hard Green Bay Packer fan. However, he has found room in his heart for the 49ers even though they had a tough year on the field.

“I tell everybody I am the biggest 49er fan and a Packer fan,” Oliver said. “When you see the players and coaches every day and do things like set at the lunch table with them, you quickly are reminded they are just people. They talk about family and other things just like we all do. The are just ordinary people with amazing athletic talent, and it becomes easy to cheer for them.”

Oliver said since arriving in San Francisco in June, his life has been a whirlwind. He loves his job and the people he works with. Nearly every day he reminds himself how lucky he is.

“I live about one mile from Levi’s Stadium, so I often jog beside it,” Oliver said. “When I run by the stadium, it always makes me think how thankful I am to be here.”

On Super Bowl Sunday, as Montgomery County residents gathers around televisions to see if former Colt’s quarterback Peyton Manning earns another championship ring, Oliver will be taking it all in, with his dad by his side, making more memories and being thankful for another unforgettable experience.

New art exhibit opens this week

Dr. Kathy Steele has been taking pictures since her husband, John, bought her a 35 mm camera in 1970. It is a hobby that they both enjoyed. 

Steele will have her first solo photographic show, “People, Places and Things,” opening Wednesday at the Athens Arts Gallery. The exhibit will be displayed through March 17. An artist reception is planned 6-8 p.m. Feb. 19.

Steele’s photographs have graced the cover of a national magazine, a calendar, brochures, educational publications and newspaper articles. She has exhibited in two Montgomery County Art League juried shows, three Montgomery County Art League shows at the Crawfordsville Public Library and two Salon shows at Athens Arts.

Steele retired in June 2014 after 43 years in education. During her tenure with the Crawfordsville Community School Corporation, she served as the superintendent, curriculum director, gifted and talented coordinator and elementary teacher. Currently, she volunteers around the community and is on the board of directors for Athens Arts.

“In my travels in the United States and abroad, I have been fascinated with the unique faces, landscapes and objects created by man or nature,” she said. “This photographic show will explore all three areas, each being displayed on individual walls. 

The eyes of the “People” wall will mystify you; the “Places” wall will invite you to relax and enjoy natural landscapes; and the “Things” wall will open your eyes to exotic animals, colorful flowers and bright butterflies.

Sets of cards also will be available representing all three facets of the show.

The gallery is at 113 N. Washington St.