School board votes to renew tax levy

In their first meeting of the new year, Bluffton school board voted to renew the half-percent income tax to be voted on May 4, 2010. The tax increase would begin in January 2011 after the current half-percent income tax expires.

The money from the income tax levy will collect about $600,000 for the school district. Cuts in state funding has decreased the money given to Bluffton Schools by $40,000 this year and $80,000 next year.

Bluffton Schools superintendent Greg Denecker said that the school district will continue to be transparent with how they are spending the money collected from the half-percent income tax. The money is to be used for permanent improvements to the school; a permanent improvement is one that will last five or more years.

“With these funds we will continue to maintain and provide a nice learning environment for all students,” said Denecker.

In another move during the Monday night school board meeting, the board voted to request a waiver to delay the implementation of all day, everyday kindergarten for the 2010-2011 school year.

The request to delay the implementation of all-day kindergarten is in effort to balance the school district’s budget. Last year, Bluffton Exempted Village Schools finished more than $30,000 in the black. Superintendent Decker added that he was confident that the waiver would be approved by the state.

The school district has been consistently performing at high levels and recently received the state’s highest honor, “Excellent with Distinction”. School officials do not believe that all-day, everyday kindergarten is a critical component of their students’ success.

“Studies about full-day and half-day kindergarten are out there and they go either way,” said Denecker. “If we were told we had to, then we would implement all-day kindergarten.”

Even if all-day, everyday kindergarten was required by the district, parents would still have the choice to send their child to half-day or full-day kindergarten.

In other school board news, the district plans to roll out a new alert system, Rhino Alerts, for parents. The system will allow information to be e-mailed or texted to a cell phone. Users may subscribe by visiting The schools will release more information later this month to parents about the new alert system.

Also, the district signed off to participate in a federal grant competition, Race to the Top. The grant is a competition among states and the winning state would receive $200 to $400 million to be distributed to all districts. The second step of the grant application process is in April.

In addition, new leadership was elected for the year 2010. Jeremy Scoles is the new president and Renee Smith is the new vice president.


Bluffton Hospital ranks first

Bluffton Hospital has the highest overall rating among hospitals in the area, according to a new Web site from The Ohio Department of Health.
The state’s Department of Health has launched a new Web site designed to provide helpful information that can play an important role in an evaluation of hospital quality, along with other sources including doctor recommendations.
The information on the Web site is collected from hospitals through an electronic data collection system twice a year on October 1st and April 1st. The Web site will be updated twice annually on January 1st and July 1st.
“The report is a great attempt to take a lot of complicated information and circumstances and get it into somewhat comparable data for the public to be informed and have another element from which to make decisions,” said Bluffton Hospital Chief Administrative Officer, Bill Watkins.
The two major indicators, patient rating and the percentage of patients who would recommend the hospital, are collected from random surveys. HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) is a national, standardized survey of hospital patients. The information allows consumers to make fair and objective comparisons between hospitals, and of individual hospitals, on ten important measures of patients’ perspectives of care.
-       Communication with nurses
-       Communication with doctors
-       Responsiveness of hospital staff
-       Pain management
-       Communication about medicines
-       Cleanliness of hospital environment
-       Quietness of hospital environment
-       Discharge information
-       Overall rating of hospital
-       Willingness to recommend
Bluffton Hospital has an 89% patient rating and 88% of patients would recommend the hospital to others.
This data in this report is another confirmation of the level of commitment Bluffton Hospital its associates, medical staffs and volunteers have made to quality care and service. The confirmation comes when comparing this data coupled with this hospital receiving the Summit Award for service from Press Ganey in November 2009. We are proud to provide local access to this level of hospital care based on our patients’ feedback.
The information is available by visiting The Ohio Department of Health’s Web site at

Top 10 local high school sports stories of 2009

2009 was a great year for our three local high schools. Records fell, memories were made and great teams made their mark on history. In no particular order, here are the top 10 stories of 2009.  
Pandora boys track team second at states
Tom Hochstetler took second in the 800, third in the high jump and teamed with Ross Diller, Derek Morrison and Sam Spallinger for fifth in the 4x200.  Spallinger finished third in the 100 and 200 and second in the long jump.  The boys were also regional champs.  
Bluffton Girls track teams wins NWC
A grand team effort contributed to the first girls team title.  Meet winners included Lindsey Bassitt, Bonnie Stratton, Lydia Guagenti, and Julia Wenger.  The team finished third at both districts and regional meets as well.   
Cory-Rawson football team makes playoffs
For the first time since 2003, the Hornets advanced to Week 11.  After starting the year 0-2 C-R hit their stride, defeating past nemeses Hardin Northern and Liberty Benton before falling to Ada in the playoffs.  The Hornets finished the regular season at 7-3.
Pirates boys soccer in regionals
For the first time since 1999, the boys soccer team advanced to the regionals.  Bluffton fell 2-1 to Ottawa Glandorf in the regional semifinal.  The team advanced by gritty defensive play and showed lots of heart and guts as they won three consecutive shootouts to advance through the tournament.
PG’s Sam Spallinger breaks 87 year-old record
Junior Sam Spallinger shattered an ancient Putnam County League long jump mark at the PCL meet in May.  The previous record was held by Owen Lowe, who set the record as a freshman at Continental in 1922.  Lowe leaped 21 feet, 10.5 inches.  Spallinger broke the mark with a jump of 22 feet, 2 inches.   
Bluffton ACME team makes state tournament
Bluffton made their first trip ever to the ACME state baseball tournament in July.  The squad had a sparkling summer and picked up a growing fan base as they progressed through their season.
Bonnie Stratton signs with North Florida
Bonnie Stratton accepted a full ride to Division I University of North Florida for track & field.  Stratton was a five time state champion at Bluffton and holds school records in the 100,200, 400 relay and 800 relay teams.   
Rockets basketball 19-4
Pandora enjoyed a dandy basketball season last year, going 17-3 in the regular season before losing in the district final to eventual State Runner Up Kalida.  The names of Sam Maag, Josh Lee, Tyler Gratz, Tom Hochstetler and Nathan Lee should hold a special place in the hearts of  Rocket fans everywhere for their great season.
PG freshman Ellie Braidic second at state meet
Ellie Braidic took second place in the pole vault at the state track meet for PG.  The freshman vaulted 11 feet 4 inches.  
Jaden August All-Ohio, All Time Leading Scorer
The senior went out with a bang in his final game as he scored the Pirate’s lone goal which also went down as #48 in the record books perching him atop the all time boys soccer scoring list.  He eclipsed Ethan Reichenbach who set the record in 2007.  Jaden was also named second team All-Ohio for his 2009 season.


BHS grad honored

KODIAK, Alaska – The Helicopter Association International announced their “Salute to Excellence” award winners for 2010 recognizing a Coast Guard Kodiak Air Station HH-65 helicopter crew for the Eurocopter Golden Hour award which will be presented at the HAI “Salute to Excellence” banquet Feb. 22, 2010 in Houston. One of the recipients, Petty Officer 3rd Class Blaize Potts, is a Bluffton native.

Lt. Jason Smith, pilot, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Blaize Potts, aviation maintenance technician, stationed in Kodiak along with Lt. Greg Gedemer, pilot, and Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Thiessen, aviation survival technician, now stationed at Barber’s Point, Hawaii, won this award for their heroic rescue of a crewman from the fishing vessel Kodiak suffering from a severe head injury, 90 miles west of Cold Bay, in blizzard conditions Jan. 30, 2009.

“I'm happy to have helped execute a mission that resulted in the saving of a life,” said Potts. “It is a very rewarding feeling.”
Faced with low clouds, limited visibility and severe ice conditions, the helicopter crew navigated around 90 miles of islands and rocks covered in clouds and snow using GPS and radar to transit safely to the fishing vessel.

Once on the scene, the crew faced the challenge of hoisting the crewman from the pitching and rolling vessel. With high antennas and rigging on the Kodiak, the hoist had to occur 75 to 100 feet above the vessel.

On the first hoisting attempt, the rescue swimmer was lowered, but due to blizzard conditions and the position of the aircraft he hit the vessel’s crane before aborting. The helicopter crew then found a safer hoisting location away from the crane and other obstacles.
The second hoist was successful and after rescuing the crewman, the helicopter crew battled blizzard-like conditions to transfer the patient to Cold Bay emergency medical personnel.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Blaize Potts is a 2001 Bluffton High School graduate. His family no longer lives in the Bluffton area, but Potts considers himself to have been raised here. His father, Tim Potts now lives in Dunedin, Florida. His mother, Anita Richard lives in Maumee, Ohio. He also has a sister, Lauren Potts who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He says he is enjoying his time at his third unit, in Alaska, as he did his time at his first and second units, Honor Guard, Washington, D.C. and Airstation Miami, Florida, respectively.

“I try to keep in contact with friends as best as possible in Bluffton, but for everyone else that continues to make Bluffton a great small town, I wish them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I would like to visit again sometime this summer as I haven't been home in almost three years,” said Potts.

The “Salute to Excellence” Awards program, now in its 49th year, recognizes outstanding achievement performed by individuals or companies in the international helicopter community. For information about the 2010 “Salute to Excellence” Awards banquet and ceremony, visit

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