The (Munster) Times. October 18, 2018

Student safety trumps teacher popularity

In loco parentis.

It's a common legal doctrine meaning "in place of the parents."

The phrase frequently is used to describe the obligations of teachers and school administrators to watch over the safety of schoolchildren when those children are at institutions of learning and away from their parents.

The concept has grown in importance as the body count of students and staff in mass school shootings throughout the country has grown.

Right now, it's the primary doctrine we all should be considering in the controversial case of a man, who appeared to be carrying a gun, entering Lake Central School property earlier this month.

Getting lost in the controversy of a popular teacher retiring — some argue forcibly because of the way the incident was handled — is a true issue of safety and security for the schoolchildren involved.

On Sept. 21, sometime shortly after 4 p.m., Daniel Lee Buckley, a previously convicted felon who appeared by some witness accounts to be irate, cursing and carrying what appeared to be a silver handgun holstered to his side, entered Lake Central school property near auto shop area.

Multiple students told police they believed they saw a silver handgun before Buckley returned to his vehicle, deposited the possible firearm and then returned to the auto-shop area to complain of a student he believed had been driving recklessly.

The mere presence of Buckley, 40, of Dyer, on school property should have been enough to trigger school security protocols.

He didn't belong there.

Some students even reported to a School Board member, who happened to be visiting the auto shop at the time, that they believed they saw a gun or the outline of a gun on Buckley's person.

That elected school board member, Janice Malchow, told a public meeting of the board Monday that she told those students they should report it if they saw a gun.

Her statement should perplex all of us.

By Malchow's own admission, students did report their suspicions of a gun — to her, at the school.

Yet it wasn't until later on in the evening of Sept. 21 that the superintendent or school administrators learned of the incident involving Buckley, school officials have said.

It should have been a code red situation of a school security breach, immediately reported to school administrators and police.

The auto shop teacher, Dennis Brannock, would be placed on administrative leave for his alleged handling of the situation.

Ultimately, he submitted a letter of resignation, some argue a forced resignation, which was accepted by the School Board this past weekend.

Vocal students and parents, who valued Brannock's teaching, have protested his departure from the school, defending the veteran educator.

That's their right, and by all accounts, Brannock was a cherished teacher at one of the Region's biggest high schools.

But no amount of popularity changes the fact that a security breach occurred and wasn't handled with any kind of deserved urgency.

According to St. John police, Brannock failed to promptly report the incident to authorities. School officials confirm it was a breach of protocol concerning a potentially armed man entering school property.

An irate Buckley was allowed to interact with students, apparently unchecked by any adult and not immediately reported, according to accounts.

In this recent case, Buckley now faces criminal charges for allegedly impersonating a Sauk Village police officer while on the school grounds.

But police didn't find out about the matter until the next day, according to court records.

Buckley wasn't tracked down by police until three days later. He wasn't charged until Tuesday — more than three weeks after the incident.

The needle of urgency over the clear security breach didn't begin moving until hours after the school encounter with Buckley was over with.

The school district must review ways to improve the safety of its children.

Parents must realize that school security trumps educator popularity.

In loco parentis must be treated as a supreme and urgent duty — not just a Latin phrase in legal doctrine.


South Bend Tribune. October 19, 2018

Kostielney is still best choice for St. Joseph County commissioner

In the race for St. Joseph County Commissioner in District 1, incumbent Republican Andy Kostielney is facing Democrat Tim Swager.

Kostielney is associate director of the Robinson Community Learning Center, where he's worked for the past 15 years. Swager works for Fremont-based Swager Communications, which builds communications towers.

Swager says public health is his number one issue. Whether its lead-poisoned children or opioid addictions, Swager believes the county needs to increase funding, and find new sources of money, in those fights.

He believes the county needs to tread carefully in its use of tax increment financing and is calling for more transparency in contracting. He also argues the leaf pick-up problem can be solved by having the county return to running its own program, which he believes can be done for $1 million within three to five years.

Kostielney said the county has explored bringing the program back in-house, but the move doesn't make sense with the added expense of manpower and equipment. He added that other tasks the county highway department does would suffer if leaf pick-up were added to its responsibilities.

The county recently voted on a budget that provides long-overdue raises to Health Department employees and has also committed money to a "lead crisis fund." Kostielney has also advocated for economic development opportunities and building infrastructure to create attractive development sites.

Property tax caps, which have been incrementally phased in here, will take full effect in 2020, causing a sharp decline in tax revenue. Kostielney, along with other county officials, has been preparing for years to make sure the county is on sound fiscal footing when the tax caps take full effect, so his knowledge of helping to shape the budget is important.

Kostielney has not shied away from difficult issues since he became District 1 commissioner in 2009. He has taken the lead, and much of the heat, on leaf pick-up, an issue for which there are no easy options or answers.

We don't agree with Kostielney on every issue, most notably his stance on a county health insurance broker and turning away possible opportunities to save money. And just last week, we criticized him and fellow Commissioner Deb Fleming for authorizing the expenditure of thousands of dollars for the design of a new county logo.

But while Swager may have a bright future in local politics and has interesting ideas for leveraging his business background for the benefit if county government, he has not yet articulated a strong overall set of plans or changes for the county.

The incumbent commissioner has the knowledge and experience that can serve county residents well on a host of complex issues. We believe he can still provide strong, even-handed leadership to the county.

The Tribune endorses Andy Kostielney for District 1 County Commissioner.


The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. October 20, 2018

Founder dies, but his 'sweet little nudge' will live on

In this angriest of campaign seasons, it's important to stop and remind ourselves that most Americans are good and kind people. And some are truly inspiring.

Consider Todd Bol. You might not recognize his name, but you've no doubt seen what he inspired. Bol created the first Little Free Library - the small book boxes you'll find across Fort Wayne and elsewhere. More than 75,000 are in place across the country and in 88 countries.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Bol died Thursday at 62, just a few weeks after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Margret Aldrich, who wrote a book about the movement he started, told the newspaper Bol was "always looking at how the world could be a better place and believed that people were really how to achieve that."

The Hudson, Wisconsin, man built the first library in 2009.

He used wood from an old garage door, installing it on a post on his deck as a tribute to his mother, who had welcomed neighborhood kids to their home with a sandwich and homework help.

Bol visited Fort Wayne in 2015 at the invitation of the Downtown Rotary Club, which installed 100 of the libraries around the city as part of its centennial celebration. Several organizations followed suit, including the University of Saint Francis' Educators in Action, the Fort Wayne Fire Department and the Fort Wayne/Allen County NAACP.

The Free Little Library founder told the Rotarians his ambitious project might never have happened if he hadn't been laid off and waiting for a non-compete agreement to expire. He first tried to sell the book boxes at craft fairs, but then decided to give them away, hoping they would become neighborhood resources.

"l set a goal of 2,150 - to beat the number of Carnegie Libraries in the country," Bol told the Star Tribune. "I want to see a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand."

Little Free Library was established as a nonprofit organization; Bol was its executive director. Official libraries have designated stewards to care for them.

In a recent interview with the Minneapolis newspaper, Bol said he could share thousands of examples of people "fixing their neighborhood one book, one child at a time."

"Kids reading and people reading to them, you know, it changes everything," he said. "It changes the whole attitude of what is valued in a community. A Little Free Library is this sweet little nudge."


(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. October 21, 2018

Hopeful signs about the election

Hints from early voting suggest that extra efforts to get out the vote may be paying off

Election Day remains 17 days away, but some promising signs of stronger voter participation have emerged in Vigo County.

The community desperately needs to revitalize its civic engagement. Turnouts for elections in 2014, 2015 and 2016 ranked among the sparsest in Indiana and broke local records for all-time lows. It is still far too early to declare a turnaround in that dubious situation, but efforts to bring more people into the democratic process appear to be fruitful.

A total of 2,252 residents had taken advantage of the early-voting opportunity to cast ballots in the 2018 midterm general election as of Thursday evening, the county clerk's office reported Friday. Those folks voted at the Vigo County Annex, which opened for early voting on Oct. 10 and will be the only early-voting site available until six other county vote centers open on Oct. 30.

Thus, in the first seven days of early voting at one site, more than 2,000 residents showed up and voted. And, 13 more early-voting days remain before Election Day on Nov. 6.

In 2014, the main early vote center was the Vigo County Courthouse, rather than the annex. Only 1,198 citizens cast ballots at the courthouse during the entire early-voting period before that year's Election Day.

That boost is not the only positive sign.

Debbie Hensley, director of the Terre Haute Transit Authority, confirmed Wednesday that the city will offer free bus rides to the polls on election day. The city offered free rides to the polls (and any other destination on regular routes) for last May's primary election. The response was light, but the offer was not heavily publicized. Still, the transit authority admirably set up the program after a debate over a Vigo County School Corp. proposal to bus students to the polls — an idea that, sadly, died after a controversy arose about its necessity. That debate raised questions of whether elderly, low-income and disabled residents needed election day transportation more than teenage first-time voters.

So, the city stepped up with the free election day bus rides for the primary. Now, they will repeat the gesture for next month's general election. Buses will start running, as usual, at 5:45 a.m. Residents with questions can call the transit office at 812-235-0109.

Concentrations of elderly, low-income and disabled residents are prime areas that can benefit from free bus rides to the polls. Seniors living in public housing complexes such as Garfield Towers, Warren Village and Liberty Village do not have a vote center nearby. With effective advance notice, seniors there and elsewhere in the city — as well as needy teens — could take advantage of the free transportation to one of the 20 county vote centers open on election day.

Several Garfield Towers and Warren Village residents also participated in voter registration events last month. The 12 Points/Northside Brown Bag Project — a volunteer group that supplies free lunches to residents at those facilities through community donations — conducted the drive, with help from the League of Women Voters of Vigo County. Two dozen residents registered or filled out absentee ballot applications, said Jack Meany, a Brown Bag Project organizer.

Such outreach to residents is crucial if Vigo County hopes to develop a strong level of civic engagement and shed its low-voter-turnout stigma. More is necessary, though. The actions by the city transit, volunteer groups, the League of Women Voters and early voters should serve as models for similar other efforts throughout the county. Voting is an expression of democracy and community spirit. A high voter turnout would tell the world that Vigo residents care about their community.


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