Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

Today we heard from Randy McElfresh of The Ohio State Highway Patrol (513-732-1510).

He opened with a reminder that state government is now changing with the new governor coming in. The cost to run the Highway Patrol is constantly changing and will likely feel the impact of the pending changes. Their jurisdiction is solely on roads that can be traveled but never inside private property unless their help is requested by the police. Randy shared some common misconceptions about the Highway Patrol such as they don't just write tickets, sleep in the median or merely fill quotas...they have no quota for tickets.

Formed in 1933 to govern and enforce motor vehicle registration laws they've grown to also handle all issues related to motor vehicles. Randy shared with us that the main mission of the Highway Patrol is to reduce traffic related deaths. The division headquarters is in Columbus and throughout Ohio there are 88 counties, 10 districts and 56 patrol posts. The Wilmington District has 6 patrol posts...Hamilton, Xenia, Wilmington, Lebanon, Georgetown and Batavia. The patrol is feverishly working on recruitment because currently there are less than 1500 troopers in the state. They are in need of around 140 more troopers and are losing many simply because of retirement. Randy pointed out that they have been unable to find 90 qualified people for their class out of thousands tested. The patrol has a program called “Lifestat 24/7” which is designed to maximize manpower coverage during our high crash times at locations that historically have high crash problems.

The Batavia post, located in one of the busiest counties in the state, has access to 2 dogs, both sniff for drugs and 1 will chase down suspects. They have their own motor vehicle inspection unit for buses and other vehicles. In addition they even have their own video production unit for public service announcements. Staff at the Batavia post includes 1 Post commander, 4 sergeants, 17 troopers, 10 dispatchers, 2 civilian employees (a secretary and part-time maintenance person), 2 driver exam units, 2 commercial inspectors and 2 school bus inspectors. 7 units start at 6am, 1 unit starts at 6pm and 5 units start at 10pm. Each shift is covered by at least 2 dispatchers who cover multiple districts. Traffic related deaths under the Batavia Post are 2005-23, 2006-17, 2007-11, 2008-27, 2009-9, YTD 2010-16.

Randy shared the following interesting facets of The Ohio Highway Patrol:
-They protect our governor and work with the protection details of dignitaries who come to our state.
-There are 2 uniform officers who speak on behalf of their division.
-There are 3 special response teams who help with things like security at the OSU Buckeye games, serve warrants, help out much around the Columbus area, etc.
-There is a crime lab which has the best technology but not enough people to run it. Turn around time is very long unless it is a high profile case.
-The records and information unit to call up any historical information you could imagine related to motor vehicle traffic. This helps them establish schedules for coverage on the road.
-The aviation section has 15 pilots and several helicopters and planes and often they will work the 32/275 area catching folks in speed zones or people running stop signs as well as helping with searches and chases.
-There is a motorcycle section which generally runs April through November which uses lasers to write many tickets in a very efficient manner. They have been extremely helpful in construction zones.
-They handle the Drivers License Services section.
-They have a commercial motor carrier section to inspect a commercial vehicle without any kind of probable cause.
-There is a Crash Reconstruction Section to work crash sites which is on call 24/7. The Aircraft Crash Investigation Section handles crashes at the Clermont Airport, Lunken, and any other non-military crashes.

Randy encouraged us to contact him with any concerns or suggestions.

Our speaker next week is: Patsy Baughn of The Cincinnati Association of the Blind.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

Today we heard from Jill Grubb who has been with Batavia Local Schools for three years. She is now the Superintendent of the district and came to update us about the state of the district and the challenges facing them.

The district has about 2100 students and operates 3 buildings...PK-4 (built in 1916, 5 acres), 5-8 (built 1965, 10 acres) and 9-12 (built 1997, 59 acres). They operate on a $20milliion budget which comes 50% from the state state, 44% from local money, 5% from federal and 1% from other sources. Batavia has approximately 220 employees, 2100 students and costs about $114, 618 per day to operate schools based upon 178 student days. The district realizes a profit of $657k per year from open enrollment. Over the past 13 years Batavia enrollment has grown 31% while 5 local districts have lost students. They drive approximately 1500 miles per day or 250k per year with 22 buses. A new bus costs $80k and there are no state funds available to purchase buses.

Over the past year, Batavia served 216, 883 lunches. The percentage of free and reduced lunches is 52% in the elementary, 40.5% in the middle school and 32.1% in the high school (42.8% overall in the district). Additionally, we were surprised to learn that Batavia is responsible for educating and transporting any students residing in the homeless shelter. If the students remained enrolled in their original home district, Batavia must also transport them there. The district is also responsible to educate the kids in the juvenile detention center. Batavia Local is also taking on a high number of special needs children and is required to take on as many as come in (currently over 300).

Jill spoke a bit about state funding. The state operates on a 2 year budget which ends on June 30, 2011. While Batavia is trying to plan their budget, they have no idea how much will come from the state (50% of their funding) since the state has not made their decisions yet. On the local funding front, delinquent taxes from fiscal year 2007 were $109k and from fiscal year 2009 were $450k. Several local funds were lost due to the lack of new construction, smaller valuation increases, The Ford Motor Company leaving, the Duke Energy cuts and the opportunity for revisions of property values. The last operating levy passed was in 2004. Many various expenditures have been reduced over the past few years. Grant money is used for field trips and continuing education. New revenue can come from Race to the Top money, Appalachian Collaborative, etc. However there are strings to these which don't allow them to be used for operating expenses. Batavia has had 3 consecutive years of deficit spending which has exhausted their savings. State law requires them to go to the voters for money. The district is reviewing various ways to cut over $1 million.

There are several building issues which need to be addressed. Elementary issues are the boiler, the roof and the lack of air conditioning. Middle school issues are the roof, no air conditioning, one way in and one way out and the parking lot. High school issues are the roof, HVAC system needs upgraded and the parking lot.

On the plus side, Jill said many great things are happening including the achievement of an excellent rating by the district. Batavia and Williamsburg have even begun doing some things to share space and share some personnel.

There is a community info meeting at the Batavia Township Admin Building next Tuesday Nov 30 at 7pm for anyone desiring to learn more.

Our speaker next week is: Randy McElfresh of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

Today we heard from Dave Caudill works for the US State Department as the Rule of Law Section Chief of the Provisional reconstruction team in Baghdad. In 1995 he was the president of our Rotary club. He has been on duty in Baghdad. Dave works in Baghdad where he supervises several leaders and works with courts, bar associations, lawyers, etc. There is no continuing education, bar association or even law firms in Iraq, rather the lawyers sit around in a room and simply enter an appearance for the day. The people are however committed to the rule of law because of their religious heritage. Really they have had rule “by law” where the people in power were not really subject to law. What they need is rule “of law”. Many newer laws have been enacted since the US became involved in Iraq. Unfortunately their court system is more dependent upon confessions rather than facts and logic.

Dave often goes out into the “red zone” many times per day and has heard many car bombings and says “you would not believe how that sounds”. Dave does travel with a body guard and wears a vest in the streets. However, things today are better than we could have expected 3-4 years ago. We are very hopeful and are believing things will turn out well. The provisional teams will go away within the year. Eventually, there will be only 2 consulates and 3 embassy offices. Baghdad used to be a ghost town but now there's lots of commerce going on.

Much of Iraq's problems revolve around infrastructure issues like food, clean water, electric, etc. Their electrical grid is taking a hit because they are now allowed to buy more appliances and are even using cell phones for the first time to communicate with one another. Our corp of engineers is helping with this overload. Sadly, the electric overload is leading to much of the food that's put in the refrigerators going bad and causing food poisoning. There is even a developing middle class and the country simply needs to hold together while economic opportunities come in.

Iraq is forming a government that is Shia lead. The neighborhoods are much more diverse religiously. The Iraqi's are willing to “live and let live” and are ready to move forward. The United States has gotten away from buying bricks and mortar and have begun buying more generators. While we still buy things, more and more we are looking for Iraqi buy in. Many of our foreign partners are beginning to help even though we still have a significant role. The goal is to build a civilian society that is civilian lead and is dominated by civilian leaders.

Our speaker next week is: Jill Grubb, Superintendent of Batavia Local Schools.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

Today we heard from Greg Sojka, Dean of UC Clermont College. Greg took us on a tour of their new facility which was formerly the Batavia Ford Plant.

Greg gave us a handy fact sheet about the college. He shared with us how nice it is to have a leased space that is 81,000 square feet over 2 floors. They leased this space from a California company who buys auto plants and leases them to folks. All of their Allied Health programs, College of Education, College of Health Sciences, etc. are located in this facility. After finishing 2 years on the first floor, a student can proceed to the second floor and complete their bachelors degree. This fall is the first offering of a bachelors degree for Applied Technical studies. All diplomas say “University of Cincinnati”. Dean Sojka is working with several deans of local colleges to broker more bachelor degrees.

We learned that students who switch to Clifton to complete their bachelors generally achieve a 3.1 or greater grade point average. They will also be switching from quarters and begin semesters next fall. They will then offer fewer, better courses. Why semesters? Well, the Dean offered a number of reasons including: several state schools are switching, it follows the local school district schedules, it allows students to get summer jobs, text books generally are not setup for quarters, 95% of colleges do this, it makes it easier to transfer to other colleges and it is encouraging teachers to review curriculum and make necessary revisions.

UC Clermont College is student centered (smaller class sizes) and faculty focused. Many students are from Brown and Adams Counties. They have had a 70% increase in students over the last 10 years. Between this campus and Raymond Walters they are educating over 20% of the student body of UC and doing if far more economically. This space is providing Clermont College with much needed “pressure release”. Clifton has no more room to expand at their location so they also can definitely benefit from UC Clermont College. There are even some students attending this college who were former Ford employees. Dean Sojka, said they are “transforming family trees” in other words, they have students who are the first in their family to attend college. Greg desires to do a dual credit program with local schools to increase college enrollment.

Dean Sojka says UC Clermont College is focused on the 2 “A's”...Accessible, Affordable (just under $5k per year – half the cost of Clifton) and Academics needed in this community.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What We Learned At This Week's Meeting

Today we heard from Joe Baker of The Boy Scouts of America. Joe retired from IBM and began his journey in Cub Scouts prior to retiring. He was a den leader, then a cub master for 10 years. While Cub Scouts is ran by adults, boy scouts is run more by the boys. Joe is now a scout master in the Dan Beard Council and is a member of the American Legion.

Boy Scouts is designed to to build the character and integrity of our youth and prepare them to be responsible adults who participate in our society. Faith is also a big component of scouting. 2010 is the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts have 3 big outdoor adventure areas in the U.S. and are getting ready to open another in West Virginia.

Joe came today to discuss the rich history of Rotary and scouting and to discuss working together in the future. In 1918 the Rotary was the first U.S. service club to adopt scouting. Paul Harris (Rotary's Founder) and James E. West (Boy Scouts Founder) were good friends and traveled together establishing scout councils.

Another notable historical account was when a Chicago publisher named William Boyce was lost in London in the fog and was led out of the fog by a boy scout. Boyce offered the scout a shilling and the boy refused because scouts are not to take money for their service. Scouts established a program called “Do a Good Turn” which works to tackle homelessness and hunger. They have done 5.5 million hours of service so far in this program. Scouts also work on green spaces and litter prevention and control.