Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Winds vs Chimney Rock Villa

Even as the clouds thickened and swirled, some didn’t believe a tornado would dare swoop down on Bayard.

Bayard travels the route of tornado watches and warnings every year; it’s a ‘rite of spring’. Yes, the winds do blow but tornadoes never show.

However, this year, no one reminded a wayward EF1 tornado, with 86 – 110 mph winds, about that refrain as it carved up Bayard’s northwest corridor. It raised havoc with habitats, trees, electricity, and modes of transportation.

But the Panhandle banded together and played “we shall overcome”.

When the lights flickered at Chimney Rock Villa, Administrator Kim Burry, accompanied by MDS Coordinator Jill Araujo, hurried to the back of the Villa to shut off the servers. Araujo, who’d come to the Villa when she heard the sirens, saw residents “hunkered down” in the nursing station and television room, prepared for the worst.

As she and Burry reached the rear of the Villa they felt the building shift, and the outside and inside double doors pulsated and blew open…

Later, in retrospect, Burry talked about that day. “The whole day had been different. For no particular reason the residents med lists were printed earlier than usual, and on the spur of the moment I’d called Information Technology, IT, to learn how to shut the servers off.

“All this in the morning before any tornado watches were issued.”

…Feeling the building shift the two ladies rushed back up front; shutting off the servers became an afterthought that never materialized. Everyone was physically ok and no hysteria. Burry walked outside and saw trees on the ground and a gap over assisted living where the roof used to be; “when I saw “Outerkirk’s house reality set in. People were beginning to show up to help and I smelled gas, but we couldn’t evacuate because of downed wires.

“A shed that stored 12 oxygen tanks stood undamaged as did the medical records building, but the garage housing the Villa’s car was in a heap. I found out later damage to the car was minimal.

“Since the tornado, we’ve been told we lost three roof top heating and cooling units, and five are being further tested for damage.

“Inside, an air conditioner blew out of a kitchen window into the middle of the floor; there was wind damage inside the building, and the ceiling in the dining room partially collapsed. Two resident rooms in assisted living were destroyed.”    

As news that a tornado struck Bayard’s Chimney Rock Villa spread over the Panhandle’s news wires, Regional West’s emergency team, in Scottsbluff, called Burry to offer their help placing residents in other nursing homes across Western Nebraska; forty-five of them needed a new, though temporary, place to call home.

The City shut off the gas and power, so people could leave and enter the Villa.

Araujo appreciated it when Gage Norman helped assess the damage and keep everyone calm. “It was good having the male influence to help us check everything.”

She remembered people asking what they could do, past employees as well as people who had friends or relatives living at the Villa. “Everyone just wanted to help.”

With the memory her eyes filled with tears. “With God’s help we were prepared when the storm hit. Just the way everyone responded to the emergency.”

Burry agreed, and “the fact when we checked residents we didn’t find a scratch on anyone. We made binders for each resident that contained their meds and any other special instructions, so they’d be taken care of no matter where they went that night. We also put wrist bands on them.

“We made an ‘all points’ call to anyone representing the school; we needed a temporary place for twelve residents.” (On a walkie talkie Superintendent Miller responded and sent a school bus to pick them up. Burry was later told volunteers were there to help when they arrived at the school.)

“By this time I’d calmed down and was on automatic pilot, doing whatever was needed.

“When all was said and done we had residents going to six different facilities, throughout Western Nebraska. They’ll be at those units until the Villa’s repaired and the State inspects and okays their return.

“To speed things up, we’re thinking about blocking off assisted living, which has the most damage. That would mean 37 of the 45 we house could return quicker. The eight who were in assisted living won’t return until the unit’s completely functional, and inspected.

“We have staff visiting our residents to help with their care and keep them in touch with familiar faces. We’re sending them ‘We miss you cards’ along with a picture of ‘Peanuts’, the Villa’s dog.

“We hope to have everyone back in a month, and we’ll have a “Welcome Home” festivity to celebrate.

Dan Waechter is the Villa’s transportation specialist; he takes resident’s wherever they need taken, doctors and therapy, etcetera.

“The day of the tornado I was to pick up two residents, at 5:45pm, who were in Scottsbluff for dialysis. Kim told me not to go but to stick around the Villa; she might need my help if bad weather set in.

“For now, the residents were safe in the Bluffs.

“Later, I went outside and didn’t see any funnel clouds but baseball size hail started to fall. My mother’s at the Villa so I went back inside to see if she was staying calm.  

“Again, I started to go outside to check on things, but now the wind was probably blowing 100 mph. I turned around and went back.

“As soon as I could after the tornado hit, I went outside to get the van and helped take residents to the school. The streets were full of people, some helping, others sight-seeing. The sight-seers were in the way of city officials and others who were trying to help.

“After taking some residents to the school, I went back to the Villa and began a long night of taking residents to their temporary homes, wherever that would be. A school bus also helped with the transfers.

“The staffs at our various destinations were waiting for us and they treated our residents like kings and queens. Our residents handled it well. Some were confused about what was happening, and it was subdued on the bus.

 “It wasn’t fun. I fought 45 -50 mph winds all night. After the last stop I headed west and the adrenalin stopped flowing; I realized I was tired. I fought the wind and sleep until I pulled into Bayard at 4a.m.

“At home I sat in my favorite chair to unwind. The thought hit me, ‘It could have been so much worse.’”

Post Script: The overseers of the State of Nebraska’s Long Term Care Facilities commended the leadership and staff at Chimney Rock Villa for a job well done. All 45 residents were placed in 4.5 hours with no accidents or a fall; seldom does something that efficient occur…

Many kudos to the crew at Chimney Rock Villa; Bayard thanks you.   

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Tornado's also Affect Schools

On Sunday, June 11th, reports of bad weather coming Bayard’s way began to filter through tools of mass media. With a school board meeting scheduled for Monday the 12th, School Board President Kim Kildow and Superintendent Travis Miller talked about a backup plan for the meeting; just in case.

In the words of Superintendent Miller, “Cut off time for cancelling the meeting was Monday at 4pm.; at that time radar showed a storm coming from the Fort Collins area. Beings all board members said they could attend a meeting on the following Thursday, we decided to reset it for that date, and all members were texted of the change.”

However, shortly before 7 p.m. Monday night, under a tornado warning, sirens blaring, and his family in the basement, Superintendent Miller wondered if all the board members received the cancellation text, and maybe someone was at the school waiting for the cancelled meeting to start.

He drove to the school watching swirling clouds and sensing the not-so-normal atmospheric conditions; the schools parking lot was empty. He returned to the safety of his underground cove and like many other people weathered the storm cuddled under the basement steps with his family. 

As we talked he expressed thanks for help from both inside and outside Bayard’s city limits. “On Tuesday we received a call from the Bayard Fire Department offering to remove fallen trees from our yard, part of one that fell on our garage, and I noticed the Gering fire Department removing fallen trees in our neighborhood. 

“It made me think of a safety project we started at the high school four years ago. It’s called Community Emergency Response Team; we call it Teen CERT. It’s the only one in Nebraska.

“Student’s put emergency kits in each classroom, and each kit contains what’s needed in emergencies. Things like water, snacks, flashlights, ropes, first aid kit, fluorescent vests, a walkie-talkie, etc. We used walkie-talkies instead of cell phones because cell phone batteries go dead.

Also, the walkie-talkies are programmed directly to the police and fire departments.

“Anyway, for some reason, I’d taken one of the walkie-talkies home on Monday, and after the tornado we heard over that walkie-talkie that the Villa needed the school to open up so they could bring residents, as part of the Villa’s roof had blown off.

“I left to open the school, and by the time I arrived 13 other people were arriving to help. We got a call the Villa needed a school bus to bring a dozen residents and staff to the school; they got the bus.

“We used the fluorescent vests from the buckets for the help to wear, and we had flashlights if we lost power. It’s funny how things work out.

“We put the residents in the library. Each resident had a binder with their meds and other instructions. Volunteers brought cots and mattresses and set them up. Everything went smoothly even though none of us had any training for this sort of thing.

“The residents were at the school until 1:30 a.m. and then transferred elsewhere.”

I sat like a capital L in my chair, “Well, don’t stop now this is interesting.”

With tired eyes Superintendent Miller smiled. “At 7 a.m. the next morning school and city staff met at the fire hall. The crises team had staff available at the school for anyone who needed it, and the City asked the school to activate Teen CERT.

“Fourteen students showed up to help, which is amazing because I figured students would be helping at home.”

Mrs. Heather Oliverius joined our conversation. “We broke the students into teams and they spent all morning going door-to-door to see if anyone needed help. One student had a step counter and said she had 12,000 steps by noon.

“After lunch the Teen CERT team went to the golf course and spent the afternoon helping clean up. Regional Emergency Manager Ron Liel, from Sidney, remarked how well the kids worked and he didn’t know who all to thank. ‘The trees were mysteriously removed.’”

Superintendent Miller rejoined the discussion. “Everything went well. We had phones, people, and relationships with city officials. Much of the trust developed through fire prevention meetings, and other face-to-face gatherings.

“The results of the Teen CERT effort are self-evident.

“I’m humbled that the police department and Villa felt comfortable trusting the school. Everybody involved helped.”

However, Superintendent Miller is not satisfied; after he read last summer’s Hazard Mitigation Plan it confirmed to him that what Bayard needs and what Bayard has is not one in the same. For starters, to be fully accessible to the community during emergencies the school needs back-up generators.

In addition, Bayard needs a tornado shelter facility, (The night of the tornado Minatare had 150 people in their town’s shelter built with FEMA funds.)

If Bayard is to be prepared for future needs the work not completed is a necessity.

We had this interview at the school before power was fully restored; thus, no lights. Nevertheless, afterward the interview it was bathroom time. A flashlight sat on the edge of a counter to aid in that purpose. (You fill in the blanks.)

The flashlight sat in stoic silence; a reminder that no matter who we think we are as a society we’re still human, and sometimes we’re served a dose of humility.

In many ways the days following Bayard’s tornado has given our community a dose of humility. In many ways it’s been a long time coming.     

Thus, our community humbly thanks our sister communities, from the deepest depths of our hearts.

God bless.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

BPS: About Hiring Teachers

During a recent interview with BPS Superintendent Travis Miller, I asked about the hiring process for teachers. He said to come with him because he was about to go pick a couple of ripe ones.

I followed him outside to the hiring-plot.

Organized in straight and weed free rows, he pointed to labels for Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic instructors. I asked about other rows because I was too far away to read the labels. They were for 
History and Science teachers, along with other subjects.

Attached to a vine, two teachers were gently thumped to make sure they weren’t hollow, but solid with maturity…

Then I awoke from my dream where I’d written a Golden Book about a school administrator’s wish list.

On a more serious and awesome note, educating Bayard’s school-aged children is the top priority at BPS. Thus, their well-honed teacher-hiring process weeds out any broad-leaf impostors whose lofty claims include shady references instead of pure sunlight.

To appreciate the process, stroll with me through the interwoven intricacies of hiring a teacher at BPS.

To reach the greatest number of qualified applicants, BPS uses a variety of teacher recruitment sources:

·        BPS employees may know qualified teachers looking for a new school, so staff is emailed about upcoming teacher openings at BPS.
·        BPS posts job openings on the Bayard Public Schools Website, along with posts on Twitter and Facebook, which covers Nebraska and neighboring states.
·        BPS emails Nebraska Workforce Development about classroom openings.
·        BPS advertises in the Bayard Transcript, Star Herald, and, occasionally, the Omaha World Herald.
·        BPS posts on the Nebraska Department of Education’s “Teach in Nebraska” website.
·        BPS posts at all Nebraska colleges and some in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota.   

The school use emails and social media as much as possible to help cut postage costs.

An applicant submits a packet that includes a letter of application, current resume, three letters of recommendation, transcripts from each college/university they attended, copy of their teacher’s certificate, completed application form, and a signed consent form.

After reviewing the application packages, next are in depth interviews and background checks for selected candidates.

The packet reviews and interviews are conducted by Superintendent Miller and Principle Perlinski, for BHS, and Superintendent Miller and Principle McLaughlin, for BGS. The interview consists of 30-40 questions.

The respective BPS Principals take the lead in the hiring process.  

The interviews stress building relationships with staff, students, and parents and following school procedures.  The interviewers look for intangibles, what activities the applicant would want to sponsor, their career goals, and being involved in the community.

The goal is to make the applicant feel comfortable in the BPS environment and make BPS an attractive place to start their career, along with presenting Bayard as an inviting place to raise their family. This is the first step to encouraging tenure.

To ease tension, the interviews are kept as humane as possible. (Bright lights are no longer used.)

The credentials needed to teach at BPS helps applicants realize the responsibility they accept if they sign a contract, and it allows Bayard Schools to attract, train, and retain above average personal.    

Over the past few years, states have increased the minimum standards for students to have a ‘teaching’ major. For a teacher’s degree, most colleges now require students take special math, reading, and writing courses. 

This puts pressure on both new teachers and schools, as both now expect more from the other. For the applicant and school it means interviews and decision making takes on added responsibility.

Hiring teachers is no different than most other activities, there are winners and losers. Someone will hear “you’re hired,” while someone will hear “not at this time.” Because situations change, and just because someone wasn’t hired for an opening now, it doesn’t mean they won’t qualify for an opening at BPS at a later date.

To help alleviate a sometimes uncomfortable situation, and keep doors swinging both ways, BPS gives each “not at this time” applicant a little packet that contains a bottle of water, should they get thirsty driving home, an orange with black print Bayard Public School pen, and a Chimney Rock pin that hopefully elicits pleasant memories of Western Nebraska.

Neat idea…   

A Bus Driver's Bible

No matter how well we take care of the respective bodies, whether they’re humans or school buses, frames and other integral parts wear out and the time comes to put the structure out to pasture, or even further.

Such a situation faced BPS this year as the transmission in one of the school buses began to grind its gears and the kids on board inquired with choruses of “What’s that noise.” (Pretend you’re a bus driver and explain transmissions to a bus-full of grade school children.)

Then, too, the suspension on the bus was about shot; the kids liked that and didn’t care that they bounced around on country roads, so they didn’t ask why. The bus wasn’t insulated, so many varieties of noises caromed throughout the interior, and that says nothing about windows that wouldn’t stay all the way up …you get the cold snapshot.

Besides, the vehicle was over ten years old, and studies show when school buses get that old it costs the district bundles and gobs of money, just to keep them running.

So, a 2014 Blue Bird 47 passenger school bus replaced the old bus and now roams the highways and byways of Bayard-land.  

Besides no “whatsat” mechanical grunts and groans, the bus seats more passengers, has higher back seats, which studies show are safer for kids sitting in them, and has two attached stop signs, instead of just one.

It’s a needed replacement.

On the same level of importance as a sound bus is a sound bus driver. Along with the bus, that person has contact with the same group of kids two times a day, five days a week, to say nothing about special events.

According to school bus driver Bill Ferrero, “School bus drivers must have a CDL license, a passenger bus and air brake endorsement, have passed an air brake test and had an 11 hour training class.

That’s all impressive, but includes nothing about dealing daily, in his case, with 27 energetic grade-schoolers on a school bus somewhere on the winding, rutty, roads of Morrill County, hopefully in the Bayard School District.

He needs a whole bunch more than a mechanics manual.

Ferrero said that along with a young student’s exuberance and positive attitude, drivers must deal with them after they’ve had bad mornings, a traumatic day at school, or are simply responding to life as youngsters do, by letting it all hang out.

He emphasized. “Even though I have to deal with unacceptable behavior while keeping both hands and eyes on the road, for teaching purposes I try to discipline with an explanation of why the offending kids shouldn’t do thus and so.

“Every day is a learning experience for them and me.”

He remembers that whenever he drives a school bus, in his mind and hands, he holds the lives of the children on board, both mentally and physically.

“School is sometimes a crisis situation and I must deal with the kids with that in mind. I become their friend and confident. Some days they want to talk about something specific and some days they just want to talk.”

He’s learned to listen.

“When they feel safe enough with me to just want to talk, I feel I’ve met the challenge.”

He thinks the challenge for control is to keep children focused, and the best way to do that is playing games.

“We do tongue twisters, tell jokes, stories, and sing songs. Yankee Doodle is a favorite and with each verse we sing faster and faster.

“The time of Kindergarten through second grade is special. They like to sit up front and sing their hearts out and ask questions. Once, a child asked me if I stayed on the bus all day.”

He’s found out kids love to learn and he teaches things like what’s Valentine’s Day about. He tells them it’s not about candy; it’s about love. That gives him a chance to talk about what love really is.

“I don’t have to rehearse or plan anything, I just need to stay aware of what’s going on and some opportunity will present itself. Regardless, I’ve learned to love and respect the kids.

“I’d also like this opportunity to thank to Ron Dudden, the schools transportation director. He’s in charge of bus maintenance. He changes the oil, keeps the buses clean, and does minor repairs, like making sure all the lights are functional. As a bus driver I appreciate his work.

It takes more than one sound chassis’ to get kids to school 5 days a week, for nine months.



Saturday, May 27, 2017

BPS: Camaraderie Turns the Wheel

Camaraderie: Comradeship, intimacy, sociability, fellowship, and for emphasis throw in brotherhood. Add a variety of students, a dash of curriculum, pinches of educators, and proper proportions of administration, board, staff, and activities.

Pour the blend into two buildings and mix at high speed for approximately nine months, for 13 years.

Suggestion: For three months each year remove mixture from the buildings and set aside to settle. If the above recipe is adhered to, after three months the mixture will sense its looming lack of stability and voluntarily return to the two buildings, for another nine months of camaraderie.

On paper the process of school-camaraderie seems achievable, and it is, but not without occasional slips between the cup and the lip.

The activities in the mixture are varied and diverse, and each has a distinct and definite purpose. 

Things like classes, recesses, after school programs, sports, music, a variety of talent-on-display programs,  parent-educator confabs, and in-house educator conferences, to name a few.

These are scheduled, and, for the most part, controllable, but missteps can happen when different varieties of humanity, with conflicting mindsets, are added and expected to co-exist. The mixture is occasionally volatile.

When added, the mixer may clog-up or splatter a too-runny mixture over the edges of one of the buildings. No matter the consequence it needs cleaned up, and the recipe adjusted. Post haste.

For two years I’ve been invited into the inner sanctums of the process of educating Bayard’s younger generations. I’ve been given books to read about the process of educating, I’ve attended numerous meetings, and I’ve had the pleasure of speaking, one-on-one, with many personages within BPS’ educational structure.

I’ve interrupted, asked dumb questions, subjected them to my unsolicited opinions, gone online for more information about a subject, and, occasionally, sat, listened, and took notes, keeping my mouth shut.

Nevertheless, over this time period, the constant I’ve encountered within YOUR BPS is the camaraderie that flows within the system pointed toward YOUR child and their education, both socially and book-learning.

It’s camaraderie that extends beyond the hours the staff is at school.

BPS really cares for your child’s education. I’ve sensed that intimacy no matter the educational vein we discussed. Never were names mentioned; camaraderie needs no prompts.

Rest assured parents, your children are in good hands with BPSState.

Now you know the story behind the results. Let BPS know you appreciate their camaraderie that flows between the banks of your child’s education.

It’s only because they care.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Mother'a Cup is Full

Whether it’s the prophetic one they held when they were born, the real one from which they drink, or the proverbial one that fills with daily cares; a mother’s cup is forever full.I'm sure it mimics the cup in the 23rd Psalm and overflows, especially in motherhood.

To see and sense that glowing hallowed cup hovering over a Mother defies explanation.

A newborn searches for Mother, latches on, and stays there til death do they part, and sometimes beyond.

What are the traits that bond?                                                                   

Is it the togetherness, the warmth, the hug, the smile, or the mouthed “I love you?” Is it shared sand in the sandbox, or the cookie dough in their hands, or discipline applied with love?

Whatever, it’s real.

The realness is memories that morph into adulthood. At family gatherings the “Mom, you remember when thus and so happened,” or “Mom, you remember when you said this or that,” or “Mom, you remember when we did such and such?”

It always comes to “We” because “We” goes hand-in-hand with Mother, both literally and figuratively speaking.

“Mother” is perpetual…”You’re just like Mother.”  “You sound like your Mom.”  “You do that just like Mom did.”  “You’re a chip off the ol’ Mother block,” and so on.

It’s this year’s Mother’s Day and thoughts still linger from last year’s Mother’s Day.

Mothers, we thank you for the memories. We’re from you and forever we’re part of you.

Have a great day.



Monday, April 10, 2017

BHS: It's Student Shine Time

“It’s like being a Swiss Army knife in a Fishbowl.”

Sitting behind his desk with a sorta straight face, those metaphoric words of imagery flowed from Superintendent Travis Miller:

(Along with students that tread the manicured hallways of BPS, methinks he referred to April being BPS Student Recognition and Achievement month)

Where to begin?

In BGS reading program, students set goals of reading a predetermined number of books during the semester. This year, to add suspense, the grade school teachers and administrators dangled an additional challenge; could any student read 500,000 or even a million words during the semester?

Well, three sixth graders grabbed the bait and unwound the lines of words wrapped around a large reel of book titles.

On Literacy Night, Treasure Whiteley, Cambree Schmaltz, and Elizabeth Hoskovec received their million word Certificates of Achievement. (Unfortunately, their eyes were too tired to read what the certificates said.)

Next, on April 11, starting at 5:30 and 7:00 pm, respectively, Student Showcase and the Spring Concert exhibited the inborn creative tendencies of BPS students. The events outlined what’s inside the participants; what flows naturally and needs no prompting to pour forth.

At Student Showcase, literary patrons felt the inner murmurings of a poet’s heart while reading a student’s artistic penning. Likewise, do-it-yourselfers probably envisioned every angle of every cut on every wood project, sanded to the softness and smoothness of a cat’s coat. You marveled at the range of imaginations with Ag shop projects, the science fair, and honed art work.

This all came from kids who, at home, probably can’t figure out how to make their beds in the morning. Go figure.

That evening, sometime before 7 pm, after viewing artistry in motion, hordes of aesthetic Bayardites traipsed across Eighth Street to hear the harmony that would fill the auditorium in fluid motions.

They wouldn’t be disappointed.

Through the melodious overtures of the annual Spring Concert, musical-telepathy arrived. The Babic’s displayed the fruits of their musical heritage.

Like buds of spring that deck barren branches, so vocal chords and instruments adorned the inner chambers of BHS, while choreographing musical fantasies into the psyches of the attendees.

The tapping of leather-clad pedal extremities matched drumming digitals that kept time with the sweet-sounding angelic overtures that whispered from the stage.

Yes, the month of April engulfed east Eighth with examples of ambition, fortitude, and imagination that streams from the inventive souls of the future of Bayard.

Thank you.