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DuBois City Police crack down on drug epidemic

Besieged with illegal drug activity, as are many communities across the nation, DuBois City Police have been relentless in their fight against drugs.

“Even though we still have so much of it, we are combating the drug problem very well right now,” said Chief Blaine Clark.

From May 16 through June 29, the city police have made some substantial drug/narcotic arrests that show “we at the City of DuBois Police Department have been, and will always continue to combat the war on drugs that plague this great community,” said Clark.

During the above time frame, the police have had 23 drug/narcotic violations, 84 suspicious persons/circumstances that have netted multiple arrests and the removal of pounds of illegal drugs from the streets of the city, said Clark.

On three traffic stops alone, the police were able to locate and seize 699.89 grams (1.55 pounds) of methamphetamine with a street value of $139,978; 301.20 grams (.661 pounds) of cocaine with a street value of $30,120; 386.13 grams (.85 pounds) of heroin with a street value of $57,919.50; and 774.02 grams (1.64 pounds) of marijuana with a street value of $15,480.40 — a total street value of $243,497.90.

The police also located an unknown white substance, unknown brown substance, suspected LSD x 2 sheets, Ecstasy x 22 pills, Xanax x 20 pills, hydrochloride x 157 pills, multiple pieces of drug paraphernalia, four hand guns and $62,046.06 in cash.

“As the Chief of Police of the City of DuBois, I am very proud of the officers of this department that work so hard and professionally to keep this city safe, and poison free every day,” said Clark. “I must add if it was not for the citizens, mayor, city council members, city manager and the state Attorney General’s Drug Task Force giving us the information and the tools that we need, as well as faith in our department, our ability to combat this issue would almost be impossible.”

“My hat’s off to Chief Clark, the entire city police department, and the police departments in our area for doing a dangerous job,” said city Manager John “Herm” Suplizio. “Our police department, along with Sandy Township’s Police Department, are fighting this crime against drugs. It is bad, and the people have to understand that it’s bad and we’re not going to tolerate it and we will keep at it every single day. We are going to investigate and look into things over time.”

Clark said although the city police are making great strides, they still need the help from the community.

“Please be vigilant. If you see something, say something,” said Clark. “If you are not sure what to do, start documenting vehicle descriptions, tag information, time of day or night, person description, etc. But please make sure you pass this information on to your local police department.”

“At the same time, make sure your doors are locked and don’t be afraid to check on your neighbor from time to time,” said Suplizio.

Clark reminded residents that these types of cases take time, so they shouldn’t give up or get discouraged.

“The City of DuBois Police Department takes all illegal activity very seriously,” said Clark.

“We know we have a problem here in this city, like many other communities, but the police have to do the proper investigation. It takes time,” said Suplizio. “But, I want to assure people that we’re not sitting down on this. It’s something that’s very important to us and it’s a problem we’re going to stay after it.”

Clark said he is going to continue to collaborate with all entities that can assist the police department with the protection and safety of everyone.

“It’s time to take our community back from these poison dealers so we can keep the motto of the city alive, ‘A Great place to Live and A Great place to Work,’” said Clark.

Sign language class at Rebecca M. Arthurs Library

BROOKVILLE — Sign languages classes are being offered at the Rebecca M. Arthurs' Library to raise awareness, and lower the stigma on deaf people. Many people make the mistake of assuming there are no deaf people in the area, when in fact the instructor of the classes knows of six in the Brookville.

The course is taught by ASL instructor Rita Woodard, who is the child of deaf adults, or CODA in the deaf community. Both of her parents are deaf, and met while attending a school for the deaf in Pittsburgh. Her first language was ASL, then she learned to speak later.

“I don’t know how anybody gets to this stage of life without knowing [ASL],” Woodard said of her experience, “but obviously here you all are, you made it here.” she joked with her class.

She is not a certified interpreter simply because she chose not to take the test and have to pay money to keep having the certificate renewed. She explained she doesn’t feel the need to pay for a certificate when she’s done this all her life. It was the first skill she learned.

She also taught her children sign language from the time they were young. She told the class that babies as young as six months old can be taught sign language because they will mimic behaviors. She and her children use it for easy communication even in their everyday lives today.

Woodard is now the power of attorney for four deaf people, two of which are her parents. She is passionate about the rights of the deaf community because its a common misconception that there are none around here. She said they are one of the most erased groups of people.

She began teaching ASL to others when she was about 16 years old, with her mother. Then once she was so old her mom passed all the teaching on to her. She now teaches under the name Sing Language 4 Me.

Until recently, most of her classes were through the Clarion library. She also teaches the staff at organizations that work with hearing impaired individuals. She hopes to expand farther out to teach more of the areas around her.

When she teaches a class she encourages all her students to take what they learn home, and teach it to someone else as well. She says the best way to remember everything is to teach someone, then they also have someone they can use their new skill with to practice.

“Don’t let anyone tell you ASL is just English. Its not,” Woodard explained.

The way she describes it is a total figurative language with your whole body. Woodard explained to her students that most deaf people socialize standing up because they speak with their whole body.

Unlike the English language which we would make full sentences with, ASL is very simplistic. She explained that what would take a hearing person about 20 words to say, a deaf person will say with three or four words in sign language.

The example she gave for this was someone saying “I have to go to the store for milk because we ran out when Johnny decided to eat cereal yesterday.” A deaf person will just sign “going to store, need milk,” because they don’t need all the details.

The first class started with learning the alphabet. Woodard told her students that finger spelling is the number one thing to learn, because many words start with a letter formation on the hand. She said they shouldn’t rely on that as a way to communicate with the hearing impaired. There are manual signs for every word. Proper nouns are the only words to be spelled out completely.

Once the class has the alphabet down, she taught them numbers one through ten. She then moved into some simple words for the class that are good to know, like “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why.” They also began to learn different words for family members like “brother,” “sister,” “son,” “daughter,” “grandmother,” and “grandfather.”

The class was encouraged to mouth the words as they signed them, as it help with communication. Woodard urged them not to try to speak full sentences though, since that’s just now how sign language works. She said it could confuse them when they were trying to sign.

Woodard kept her class light and fun as she taught. There was a large turnout for the first class, more than she had expected. The classes will continue each Wednesday for the next five weeks. They will be hearing from a guest speaker, a man with a cochlear implant, during one of their lessons.

Area school leaders mull state AG's standardized testing report

Some superintendents from Clearfield, Curwensville and Moshannon Valley school districts are not as certain as the state Auditor General that replacing Keystone Exams with the SAT or PSAT will save state taxpayers money.

In a new special report released Wednesday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Pennsylvania taxpayers are still spending tens of millions of dollars every year on the Keystone Exams, which have not been federally required for four years.

“Pennsylvania should aggressively explore using a nationally recognized test that can open new doors for students rather than continuing to spend money on an exam that is no longer required,” DePasquale said. “For less than what Pennsylvania spends on the Keystone Exams, it could instead pick up the tab for every high school student to take the PSAT or SAT.”

Federal law requires that all states administer a secondary-level standardized test; however, since 2015, when the No Child Left Behind Act was replaced, the state-specific Keystone Exams were no longer required.

But rather than phase out the state-specific tests — which at least 12 other states have done — the Pennsylvania Department of Education is still paying the tests’ creator, Minnesota-based Data Recognition Corp., tens of millions of dollars each year to administer and score the Keystone Exams.

Between 2015 and 2021, Pennsylvania will have spent nearly $100 million on the Keystone Exams.

Pennsylvania students could have instead been taking a nationally recognized test such as the SAT or ACT – which is shown to improve the rate at which students attend post-secondary education – at a lower cost than what has been paid for the Keystone Exams.

Many school district officials do not realize that the Keystone Exams, administered to all public high-school students in Pennsylvania, are not and will never be a graduation requirement, DePasquale said. Eliminating the Keystone Exams would allow teachers to spend more time instructing students on key concepts.

Moshannon Valley School District Superintendent Dr. John Zesiger said he isn’t certain that the state will save as much money as the auditor general expects.

“While I am not necessarily opposed to changing the Keystone assessment, I certainly do not think that any one assessment can accurately reflect a student’s skill mastery,” Zesiger said in a statement. “That said, my main concern with moving from the Keystone Exam, to any other measure, is that districts have made enormous investments in curricular material, teacher professional development, and even staffing practices, based on the current state-mandated assessments. If a new mandated assessment, like the SAT, were to be utilized as a measure of student, and ultimately school, performance, districts would need time and financial resources to replace materials, secure professional development, and other facets so that instruction aligns to the tested skills.

“Also concerning would be, do the SAT or PSAT, measure what Pennsylvania has established as standards, or would a completely new framework for education be required?” Zesiger continued. “Because if so, then I am not sure that the financial savings outlined in the Auditor General’s report would truly be recognized.”

Curwensville Area School District Superintendent Ron Matchock is also unsure of the Auditor General’s proposal.

“The keystone exams serve as “end of course” assessments for only three areas: Algebra, Biology and Literature. With high schools being measured for success by performance in just these three courses, it can take away from the larger educational picture of ‘what is best for the students career choice’ to make sure they are prepared for these three tests,” Matchock said in a statement.

He added that he feels most public schools are going to welcome less reliance on standardized testing in any way, because it allows schools to focus more on what is best for the students career choices and success after high school.

“We also have to keep in mind that just like the keystone exams only hits three areas, the SAT does not hit every area either and if it becomes the new measuring stick for high school performance that could have the same adverse effect of schools steering curriculum to the best chance of success for the SAT, similar to what we have now with the Keystone,” Matchock continued. “Schools have to strive to do what is best for the student, and we all have to understand any assessment put in place will have its flaws.

“From a financial standpoint, if funding can be saved from this switch and that money can be diverted into other areas of higher need for K-12 public education, then that is a win for all of us,” Matchock said.

Clearfield Area School District Superintendent Terry Struble said administration will continue to focus on quality education.

“As a top priority, The Clearfield Area School District is going to continue to provide opportunities for students both inside and outside the classroom setting. We value the urgency for students to become college and career-ready,” Struble said in a statement. “Our dedication to academic programming, extracurricular arts and sports programming, and partnership with the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center will continue to be areas of focus for providing students with opportunities regardless of what direction state testing might move to.”

Struble did say that the district was open to the state seeking other ways to bring more funds to educaiton.

“We do not have an official stance on what specific tests Pennsylvania should require, but we do value the Attorney General’s recommendation to find alternative funding streams that would help alleviate the burden placed upon Pennsylvania tax payers to implement high stakes testing of students,” Struble said.

Superintendents from Glendale, Philipsburg-Osceola and West Branch school districts did not immediately return requests for comment.

Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

The DuBois Junior League All-Star baseball team finishes off a victory lap around Stern family Field with the District 10 championship banner Thursday night after beating Punxsutawney, 14-6, for the title. With the win, DuBois advances to the Section 1 Tournament next week in Guys Mills.

'Inner Park Day' brings youth of all ages, neighborhoods together

ST. MARYS — Youth were racing across fields, throwing fastballs and enjoying fellowship at Inner Park Day Wednesday.

The event at Memorial Park on Wolfel Avenue brings all ages out for friendly competition.

Teams of blue, purple, green, orange and pink were seen covering the park grounds, throwing softballs into hula hoops, bouncing on exercise balls across the field or climbing around freely on the playground during lunchtime.

Dani Schneider was recently named manager of St. Marys Parks and Recreation. The event was created more than 20 years ago, she said, with the purpose of bringing different age groups and park players together in one location.

“The parks from different neighborhoods compete,” she said. “It has turned into a day where everyone can join in on competitions, depending on their age group.”

Summer park workers acted as the team leaders, keeping the little ones organized, on schedule and having a good time.

Groups were separated into boys and girls crews ages 5 and 6, 7 and 8, 9 and 10 and 11-14.

“The children compete against each other in a variety of 10 different activities, and are awarded at the end of the day,” Schneider said.

Lunch was provided for competitors, too, she added.

IPD is also an opportunity for area high school students to display leadership skills and provide guidance for youth.

For more information, visit “Parks & Rec St. Marys” on Facebook.