Welcome Valley Grads and Friends of the Akron / Mentone Communities

Two thirds of 8000 alumni of Tippecanoe Valley -- and the schools that created it -- no longer live in the school district. This blog is intended to keep us all connected, to news of our hometowns and of each other.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mentone Alumni Have Annual Banquet

Photo and details courtesy of Deb Cooper Spencer MHS '71

The Mentone Alumni held their annual banquet at noon on Sunday, June 12 at the Mentone School. This year the honor classes included 50-year-graduates, Class of 1961, 60-year graduates, Class of 1951, and 70-year graduates, Class of 1941. The oldest member in attendance was Mary Shirey (former co-owner of the Mentone Drive-In) of the Class of 1935. Also attending were a former MHS principal from the 1960's and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Gaylord Toll. A total of 116 alumni attended with many coming from out-of-state, one in particular from southern California. Entertainment this year was provided by the Hearn Family of northeastern Indiana, daughter of Mentone Graduates, Rex & Freda Witham, and her husband. The banquet is held on the 2nd Sunday of June each year and all Mentone High School graduates are welcome. Next year's entertainment will be a well-known local singer with many ties to alumni, Lonny Witham. For more information, Mentone alumni are encouraged to email mentonealumni@hotmail.com.

MHS Alumni Officers:
President - Lee Markley ‘58
Secretary - Alice (Surface) Keirn ‘57
Treasurer - Mary ( Wilson ) Boggs ‘49
Historian - Linda (Besson) Cochran '56
E-mail Coordinator - Deb (Cooper) Spencer '71

Below is a photo of the honored Class of 1961. All attendees -- and those that couldn't attend! -- are invited to share their thoughts in the comments section.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Valley Classes Meet Cubs Owner

A two-hour rain delay didn't wash out the tremendous experience that Valley teachers Ben Rogers and Darren Parker arranged for their students on April 22 in Chicago. Thanks to contributions from the community and alumni, the Sports and Entertainment Marketing and Accounting classes didn't just go to a Cubs game -- they got a business seminar from owner Tom Ricketts.

First things first … Tippecanoe Valley has a Sports and Entertainment Marketing class? How unusual is that?

“It’s a year-long Career and Technical Educational (CTE) class, with vocational funding from the state,” says Rogers. “Darren and I took some classes at Bethel for our endorsement, and we met a teacher from Concord who had done a sports marketing class and suggested a book for us to use.”

Rogers, a Fort Wayne Northrup graduate who got into teaching in 2007 after starting his career in the business field (after a series of 17-hour days on the road away from his family, he says he thought “if I’m ever going to do this, I’d better do it now.”), expanded the concept to encompass entertainment marketing as well.

This year they’ve used video-conferencing technology to have “guest lecturers” like the Chief Marketing Officer of ASCAP, as well as the Vice-President of the pro football Hall of Fame. The class posted a video of a conference with video game designer Gabe Newell on YouTube and got 108,000 hits.

Parker, who is a ’97 Valley graduate (and son of former teacher and coach Jon Parker), teaches accounting and web design classes under the CTE program, and estimates that 75 to 80% of his accounting students will go to college. But college prep isn’t the sole goal of the program.

“The state is asking schools to put students on career pathways, thinking about careers as freshmen,” Parker says. “The goal is for them to be marketable in the workplace, OR qualified for college.” He cites other offerings in Facility and Mobile Equipment management, and entrepreneurship skills.

A scheduling innovation lends extra flexibility to the efforts of CTE teachers to create unusual learning experiences. Instead of following the same schedule of seven equal periods each day, Valley follows a traditional seven-period schedule on Monday, Tuesdays, and Fridays. Then on Wednesdays, the four “odd” periods (1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th) meet for 90-minute sessions. On Thursdays, the three “even” periods meet for 90 minutes, leaving an extra 90-minute period for student resource time or to allow clubs to meet during the school day.

And the entire school spends 15 minutes “every single day” on silent sustained reading.

Rogers used a little extra ingenuity to set up the Chicago trip. After an initial email to the Cubs marketing department to explore a behind-the-scenes tour got a tepid response, “I just ‘guessed’ at the email addresses for other people in the organization, and sent the same request.” Within five minutes, the Chairman, Tom Ricketts, responded, and cc’d the marketing department. Ricketts offered to meet with the class before the game, provided them with vouchers for souvenirs and refreshments as well as a ticket discount, and arranged for them to have their picture taken on the hallowed (albeit wet) grass of Wrigley before the game.

To complete the experience, the two classes took busses to Chesterton, then rode the South Shore and the Red Line to Wrigleyville. “A lot of these students had never been out of the area, let alone on a train.” They topped it off with dinner at Giordano’s.

The tickets, travel and meals were provided at no cost to the students or the school, thanks to gifts from Kosciusko County Community Foundation, BNW Industries, Nelson Beverage, Splendor Boats, Lake City Bank and Lake City Group, Symmetry Medical, Newlin Associates, and Warsaw Area Career Center, as well as individual contributions from Charles Smith, Rick Moriarty, and Greg Hoover.

Valley becomes first Indiana school powered by wind

Visiting opponents will have yet another reason to be intimidated this fall at the football field known as Death Valley – they’ll be playing in the shadow of a 321-foot tall, three-armed robot from outer space. Or maybe it’s a wind turbine. They still remind me of War of the Worlds ...

On Tuesday, May 31, local officials and State Senator Randy Head joined forty Valley students from the four main buildings in the district to turn the first shovels of dirt, in a groundbreaking ceremony for the first project in the state to provide wind-powered electricity and extra revenue for a public school system.

The tower will rise in a field south of the middle school and west of the north end zone of the football field this summer, and should be operational by October. Why Valley? Not every school building that is situated in a favorable location for wind power owns enough land to be able to clear the surrounding tree lines. And certainly, few school districts have $2.3 million lying around to finance the upfront costs of a project that will pay for itself in ten to twelve years and generate an extra couple hundred thousand dollars a year that can go into classroom education instead of overhead in the meantime.

Not that TVSC had $2.3 million lying around. But the district qualified for a federal Clean Energy Renewal Bond that advanced the money and pays all but about one percent of the interest while the bond is paid off. The Valley board and administration was willing to do the research, and the negotiating with the local utility, to make this project work. As Senator Head (R-Logansport) said in his comments – after a wince-inducing laundry list of criticisms that he’s heard about public schools being inefficient and not innovative – “I’m proud to represent TVHS -- and point to this example that those criticisms are not true.”

The mechanics of the project, which Superintendent Brett Boggs described at the ceremony, are fascinating – and have been the subject of numerous student research projects. The turbine itself – 321 feet tall, with three 100’ blades – is being built in Germany and will be assembled by Indiana contractors coordinated by Indy-based Performance Services, Inc. It will arrive through the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes, and the Port of Chicago. The crane that assembles it will itself have to be assembled on site – after arriving on ten separate semi-trailers.

After the ceremony, school board member Mark Wise answered questions about the financial impact of the project. It is expected to produce about 70% of the electricity needs of the high school and middle school. Those schools are heated with natural gas, but depend on electricity for their lights, computers, and air conditioning – to the tune of about $250,000 a year. So the project will begin saving the school district around $160,000 a year in operating costs – which are state-funded and therefore allow the school to reallocate those dollars to the classroom.

At this point, it is not efficient to “store” wind-generated energy. It has to be used as it is generated. When the wind is not blowing, the school will continue to buy its electricity from Koscuisko County REMC … which in turn will buy excess electricity from the school after 3 PM and during summer vacations, creating another revenue stream for the school.

After a break this summer while construction takes place, next year the school will return to using the surrounding farmland for fund-raising projects – not just making hay while the sun shines, but making power while the wind blows.