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Jefferson County OhioRISE marks two years of helping young people
Posted 4/13/2024 at 3:57:05 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
STEUBENVILLE – For the past two years, friendly faces and helping hands have been present and lending some much-needed help to young people in need through OhioRISE (Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence) and its dedicated and compassionate staff.
OhioRISE Director Linda Trushel said the program kicked off March 7, 2022 with the first group of new care coordinators. As the title suggests, staff members at the forefront of OhioRISE must be willing to go above and beyond, with understanding as they work in a wide variety of communities to help children.
During a March 18 onboarding orientation at the R. Larry George Training Annex in Steubenville, JCESC CEO, Dr. George Ash welcomed the newest members of the team on behalf of the JCESC board and administration. Staff from the JCESC treasurer’s office were also on-hand to answer questions about employee benefits.
Michelle Wells of Woodsfield, Kyleigh DiCarlo of Mingo, and Amy Barcus of Toronto all bring experience working with children with special needs. They look forward to being there for the children.
OhioRISE care coordinators work with members ages birth through 21, their parents and families. 
Trushel said OhioRISE specializes in holistic care, with staff adept at coordinating behavioral, medical and pharmacy health services.
“We’re looking for somebody who’s willing to work hard,” she said. “Going beyond the call of duty to help families get the services they need so their family can be successful.”
Trushel said coordinators build a true relationship with members, and a long-term investment is called for in supporting their development through the stages of life.
Care coordinators connect members with counseling and peer-support services for young people facing the same issues.
Trushel said the care plans are individualized for each family, based on backgrounds and goals, so evaluation skills are a must for any care coordinator. Services range from helping members find a provider to navigating available services.
Members are eligible for in-patient and out-patient behavioral health care services.
A young child dealing with emotional issues can receive calming supplies and older children may be eligible for job and life skills training to discover new career paths. There are maternity benefits for pregnant members and nutritional counseling and gift cards for exercise equipment or gym memberships. Tools are also provided to help manage emotional health needs and substance misuse.
The onboarding day included training for the care coordinators in safeguarding members’ privacy.
The staff numbers about 60 and Trushel expects employees to keep growing as they meet needs in Jefferson, Monroe, Stark, Tuscarawas, Harrison, Columbiana, Belmont and Carroll Counties. OhioRISE care coordinators work with more than 700 children in the area of service at this time.
The names and photographs of every employee are listed on the JCESC website at www.jcesc.k12.oh.
“We have hired consistently every month,” she said. “We’re getting more and more services for the families we serve in each county. Some of our smaller counties like Monroe and Harrison are accessing more virtual services. We’re learning what those services are and how we can support families that live remotely.”
Trushel said they have been conducting onboardings twice a month. During their three-month orientation new coordinators will be assigned mentors who will share their experience.
Supervisor Celestine Barnes also shared information about situations they will likely encounter in practice, saying the new hires will have the opportunity to shadow experienced coordinators and gain hands-on insight about the nature of the job. She related stories such as helping install safety measures in a member’s home and helping them seek a driver’s license or employment.
“We can be very creative in the way that we help them,” Barnes said. She said a coordinator’s empathy and experience is an invaluable resource to families. Anyone interested in becoming a Care Coordinator, please apply at https://jcescvla.bamboohr.com/careers/23.
OhioRise is a Medicaid managed care program for children and youth with complex behavioral health and multisystems needs. To learn more about OhioRISE, call 740-792-4011, email [email protected] or visit the Jefferson County Educational Service Center website at jcesc.k12.oh.us. 

Photo Caption: Jefferson County OhioRISE Director, Linda Trushel, right, shares experiences with the program’s newest care coordinators Michelle Wells, from left, Kyleigh DiCarlo and Amy Barcus. OhioRISE has marked its two-year anniversary of helping young people.
Jefferson ESC a High Achiever again
Posted 3/9/2024 at 5:18:22 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
7 year High Performing
STEUBENVILLE – the Jefferson County Educational Service Center has once again proved itself a boon to its member school districts through savings on programs and services. The state of Ohio has designated the ESC as High Performing for the 2023-2024 school year. This marks the seventh straight year.
Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko said hitting this mark is part of JCESC’s mission and a sign of successful progress.
“It was a requirement of ESCs to go through this process to be deemed a high-performing ESC,” he said. “We’ve got to select five programs. We have to then look at the cost that we charge, and we have to find those exact costs from other agencies and compare their costs to ours.”
He said the ESCs must demonstrate a threshold of 5% savings. The Ohio Department of Education evaluates applications from each of Ohio’s 51 ESCs. The ODE compares prices with private service providers and determines the total percentage of cost savings.
ESC services and supports to school districts include professional development, technology, planning and administrative services. Programs are geared to help improve student learning, enhance quality of instruction, expand access to resources and maximize operating and fiscal efficiency.
JCESC Treasurer Ethan Tice said the five services submitted by JCESC were school psychologist, speech therapist, legal services, occupational therapist and alternative schools.
“They’re actually the same services that’ve been submitted in the past as well,” he said.
He said savings are based on data from 2023 for 2024.
“We’re considered a high-performing ESC this year based on data from last year,” he said. “I don’t have my data from this year because the year’s still going on.”
Tice said the total percentage saved comes to 39.38% and the total savings for the school districts came to more than $1 million.
“That’s the important thing,” he said.
Tice said the advantage to using JCESC is the ability to hire a professional to divide time between more than one school district.
“The cost is split then,” he said. “I compare what that cost is, based on what that cost would be if they hired a company.”
For example, he said attorney’s fees are another high expense, since they are often called on for tasks such as union negotiations and fees include travel, meeting attendance and documentation.
“It adds up very quickly, and when we can hire one attorney and split that cost between multiple districts, it’s a lot less,” he said.
Tice said the cost saving means JCESC makes a real difference in school district operations that impacts the individual student.
“It really makes me reflect and think about the big picture,” he said. “With all this money being saved, the districts can now use this money for other support services. At the end of the day, by us saving them money, students are benefitting.
“These dollars really do impact students,” he said.
“Every time we save a district money, ultimately they’re going to put those funds back into the district,” Tice said. “All of these things truly does come back to what we’re all here for, and that’s helping students.”
Kokiko said the Jefferson County ESC’s goal is to provide support where it will do the most good. He added school districts are dealing with various issues arising from factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and other difficulties.
“They’re looking for additional supports for their kids,” he said.
Kokiko said these programs and services will only grow in the future. One upcoming driver’s education program could start as early as this semester or with the beginning of next school year.
JCESC Governing Board President Barry Gullen also commended the hard work that made the achievement possible.
“It’s an honor to have received this high-performing distinction from the Ohio Department of Education once again. This distinction is a representation of the dedication of our JCESC employees, service districts, and Governing Board members,” he said.
Aaron Rausch, chief of budget and school funding with the Ohio Department of Education, sent an email congratulating JCESC.
“Across the state, ESCs reported significant savings to client school districts. This represents only part of the value that you and your colleagues are providing to school districts across the state,” he wrote. 
JCESC’s member schools including Buckeye Local, Edison, Harrison Hills, Indian Creek, Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Jefferson County Joint Vocational School, Steubenville, Southern Local, Toronto and Utica Shale Academy.
For more information visit jcesc.k12.oh.us or call 740-283-3347.

The Jefferson County Educational Service Center has been designated High Performing by the state for the seventh year in a row.
AI, education development tops the talk at Ohio technology conference
Posted 3/7/2024 at 9:17:38 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
VLA Tech Conference
COLUMBUS – Staff of Jefferson County Educational Service Center’s Virtual Learning Academy were looking to the future during the Ohio Educational Technology Conference. The conference, held Feb. 13-14 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, boasted more than 300 educational sessions, with many focused on how school districts can integrate new technology into the classroom.
Director Mark Masloski said technology advances swiftly and the VLA’s mission is to remain “ahead of the curve” in matters of education.
Masloski said the advent and use of artificial intelligence was a ubiquitous topic, as was ensuring the tools are used appropriately.
“Helping our students understand the ethics part of it. What’s the right and the wrong way to utilize it?”
Masloski said some districts are exploring AI use, while others are hesitant.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said, adding his staff left the conference confident they were ahead of the technology.
“We know what technology’s coming out, so we need to make sure that we’re prepared for it. That’s a huge goal of ours,” he said.
“It really solidified that we are on the right path,” he said. “I think the people that utilize it in this office was comfortable with it, understands it. I think we’ve been utilizing it the right way.”
Masloski said the science of reading was one example, adding this was not discussed during the conference itself, but the VLA has been working with other ESC departments to integrate new technology.
He said some possibilities include the use of AI drawing to assist in putting student-produced images in a report or a PowerPoint presentation. AI can also be used to quickly generate questions about a video’s content to determine if the student is paying attention.
“That’s kind of what’s made possible with AI, in the sense of the intervention and enrichment,” he said. “Students are able to be a little bit more creative in their approach.”
He said another use for AI in the classroom is to construct outlines for writing projects.
“The next day, the teacher hands them that outline, and they’re going to do some freewriting for 30 minutes without a computer,” he said. “Let’s use the AI and use it for the right tool and ask it to write prompts, and once we get that outline, let’s use our brains.”
Masloski said they also took the opportunity to pursue other avenues of professional development during the conference.
“We have a pretty strong group that went there, and we were able to openly discuss our strategies moving forward and our goals for Virtual Learning Academy.”
Scheduled conferences included how schools have adapted using digital learning during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, how students can enhance digital books with multimedia, the use of assistive technology for students with disabilities, and Zoom applications.
“We were able to come back every evening and highlight what we learned throughout the day,” he said. One staff member might attend a talk about social and emotional issues, and another could learn how people with emotional issues could employ technology.
“We’re able to bridge that together in our department through our coursework to create something unique for our kids to be engaged. With our VLA curriculum the biggest thing is the engagement of our kids,” he said. “It reaffirmed what we’re doing and how well we’re doing it.”
VLA Assistant Director Martariesa Logue said the exhibitor section was packed with more than 2,000 attendees and VLA staff had the opportunity to attend multiple, related sessions.
“It’s open to everyone in Ohio, which makes it huge,” she said, adding that all schools are invited, whether public or parochial.
Keynote speakers also talked about resources to support educator growth and ways to support students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
“It was fast paced, but we also had enough time to make those connections and to learn what’s trending in Ohio,” she said. “Data science is a new trending topic. AI was also trending there, and we are up to date on that.”
Logue said esports were another subject of interest and a coworker went to three esports sessions.
“All of our local schools are now developing their own esports teams, so it was really neat to get more information. Not only can they have teams, but you can also have curriculum so the students are receiving credit for something they’re also playing.”
She said gaming is an option for a student to earn a tech credit and elective credit.
The Jefferson County VLA has agreements with more than 180 schools and five ESCs across Ohio. 
The Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) is an online curriculum provider offering over 300 core and elective courses to students in grades K-12. VLA serves all students including those who are credit deficient, home bound, home schooled, etc.  JCESC VLA can serve as a stand-alone program or implemented within your already existing curriculum. To learn more about the JCESC Virtual Learning Academy, visit the website at https://www.jcesc.k12.oh.us/vla.aspx, contact VLA staff at [email protected] or 740.283.3347 ext. 100.

Photo Cutline: Jefferson County Educational Service Center Virtual Learning Academy staff learn about technological developments and impact in the classroom during the Ohio Educational Technology Conference.
OhioRISE Hosts Open House
Posted 1/5/2024 at 2:56:58 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
OhioRISE Open House
OhioRISE. A program which serves the community’s youth, focusing on their mental and behavioral health issues.
OhioRISE works with various local resources to provide them with appropriate care to reach a positive outcome.
OhioRISE officials gathered for an open house Dec. 12 to showcase its new location to the community. This Jefferson County Educational Service Center care management entity, is now housed within the Regional Programs Building, located at 600 Lovers Lane.
OhioRISE was previously located in the basement of the ESC annex, moving to its new site in November of 2023.
In addition to OhioRISE, JCESC programs housed within the Regional Programs Building include Engage and Help Me Grow Home Visiting.
The purpose of the open house was to provide the opportunity for community partners to see the new building and meet its staff members, officials noted.
Those attending the event were given the chance to hear all of the services OhioRISE provides to the community, in addition to touring the facility.
Assistant Director Lindsay Brandon stated the new space accommodates space for 24 coordinators, supervisors and directors.
“The program started on July 1, 2022 and have become an integral part of the community,” Brandon said. “We’ve really flourished and became a community partner, which is nice to see.”
Brandon explained the overall responsibility of OhioRISE care coordinators is to take the results from the youth’s Child and Adolescent Needs and Strength (CANS) assessment, and place them with those who can help them the most.
“The CANS assessment is a tool that gathers the child and caregiver’s story to better understand their situation and determine the best ways to provide help,” according to officials. The assessment is used to determine eligibility for OhioRISE and assist with care coordination.
She stated those at OhioRISE are a support system which helps youth and their family obtain the appropriate services they seek, such as educational, developmental disability, child protection, juvenile justice or mental heal and addiction supports.
“OhioRISE brings all of these systems together to support the needs of enrollees through care coordination,” officials said. Care coordinators assist those who have been referred to them by either a parent or caregiver, a school counselor or therapist, a court, pediatrician or child protection or developmental disability staff member.
Brandon noted the importance of making people aware that those at OhioRISE are not a direct form of crisis support, but rather, the entity which directs enrollees to the appropriate support facilities.
Care Coordinator Jamie Spencer stated, “We work with families who have Medicaid or the Ohio Medical Card and who qualifies for the program. If we feel they need therapy, mental health, physical therapy or occupational therapy, we will work with that therapist and see if they are hitting the goals they have to hit.”
“We are there to coordinate the child’s care,” Spencer continued, providing the example of dyslexia and finding the proper resources to help the child obtain the proper resources for that disability.
Discovering what the issues are can be done through the CANS assessment, she noted, saying the in-depth testing is done by answering questions and takes approximately an hour to complete.
Mary Kakascik, an OhioRISE supervisor, said each supervisor works with eight care coordinators whose duties include, but are not limited to, checking charting, providing support, CANS assessments, accompanying youth and families on visits, providing outreach on caseloads, making informational calls, answering the crisis hotline.
Kakascik said there are many responsibilities and duties which are required of the care coordinators, as OhioRISE serves eight counties.
“We each work with the FCFC and attend monthly meetings,” she stated. Meeting for Jefferson County are held bi-monthly, she added. “Six supervisors are responsible for one county each. We have three supervisors who handle the counties up north.” The counties served are Jefferson, Belmont, Harrison, Monroe, Carroll, Columbiana, Stark and Tuscarawas.
In regards to those youth suffering from substance abuse, Kakascik said OhioRISE officials support the families which choose to keep the child in their home rather than place them in a facility or hospital.
“We take them food from the food bank so they can get meals and we attend their IEP meetings,” she said of the some of the services offered to these individuals.
She said referrals come from all sorts of entities, some of which are the parents of the youth, schools, probation officers, Child Protective Services and the courts. “We reach out and set up their assessment once we receive their enrollment information,” she said.
OhioRISE will continue to help those in need, with officials saying there are a number of ways in which to contact them to begin the enrollment process.
For program referrals and general inquiries, call (740) 792-4011. Visit the website www.jcesc.k12.oh.us/CareManagementEntity.aspx or download the referral form on the mobile app, which provides a QR code.
Best Practice Grants Expand Learning at Creek
Posted 11/21/2023 at 3:53:04 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
JCESC Indian Creek BPG
WINTERSVILLE-The Jefferson County Educational Service Center disbursed more than $1,800 as part of its 2023 Best Practice Grant awards at Indian Creek Schools, allowing educators there to expand students’ minds with unique lessons.
   Janet Maxon of Indian Creek High School and Indian Creek Middle School teachers Jaime McCumbers and Michael Minor each received $660 grants during the Nov. 16 regular school board session at Cross Creek Elementary and their projects will center on the realms of history, geography and science.
  Maxon plans to use her allocation for “Class VR: Immersing Ourselves in the World,” which includes purchasing a Meta Quest 2 headset to get a virtual view of times and places in a true immersive experience.
   “Using ClassVR, students can go on virtual field trips and visit anywhere, any time and even impossible places, all directly from the comfort of the classroom. Sending your students to places around the world using virtual reality can be a reflective, realistic and immersive experience where they explore different countries, cultures and landmarks and use these experiences to further develop their verbal and written skills,” she said. “Theory-based conceptual subjects can often be difficult for students to visualize and comprehend and teachers often use demonstration and visual cues to boost engagement and knowledge retention.”
   The technology would be used by more than 120 World History students in her classroom.
   McCumbers’ fifth-grade social studies students will get a closer look at the world with “Middle School Geography” using tools to learn about directions, longitude and latitude and coordinates, the latter of which are also part of their math standards. She said her pupils will understand how to use the compass rose for cardinal and intermediate directions during lessons about magnetic and true north, plus they will use the Battleship game to practice learning about the grid system. 
  “The project is hands-on learning geography in social studies class using globes, compasses, games and more,” she added, saying the program would benefit 130 currents students as well as future classes. 
   Minor is honing his efforts on hydroponics with his “IC Hydroponic Greenhouse,” which includes creating a standard vegetable garden with plans to eventually transition to a “fish-fed” nutrient system. His eighth-grade science students would grow lettuce which would then be used in the cafeteria for school lunches, as well as other vegetables and plants that can be sold or used within the Indian Creek community. The project would also benefit the entire school from classes working with the greenhouse to enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of their labor by consuming the homegrown goods.
   “Our goal is to create a hydroponic, and standard, vegetable garden, operated all year in our new greenhouse,” he said. “Once the hydroponic system is running and students are engaged, phase two is the transition from artificially fertilized vegetables to a fish-fed system. Fish will produce the nutrients naturally and will be kept year-round in a heated fish stock tank. The fish will also be raised to sell or feed the community.”
   Meanwhile, JCESC Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko looks forward to distributing the grants each year, saying they help educators expand young minds with enriching and rewarding projects.
   “Our schools have many great teachers with innovative lesson plans and instructional strategies, and we at JCESC are happy to be able to fund many of those ideas so they may become reality for the students in the classroom,” Dr. Kokiko said. 
   JCESC has disbursed more than two-dozen Best Practice Grants this year with other recipients at Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Harrison Hills City, Steubenville City, Toronto and Southern Local School Districts and the Utica Shale Academy.
(Photo Caption: The Jefferson County Educational Service Center presented three 2023 Best Practice Grants to teachers at Indian Creek Local School Board of Education meeting on Nov. 16 for science, geography and history-based projects. Pictured is Indian Creek Middle School teacher Michael Minor with JCESC Gifted Coordinator Linda Lenzi while fellow recipients Jaime McCumbers of ICMS and Janet Maxon of Indian Creek High School were absent from the photo.)
Grants Enhance Learning at Harrison Hills
Posted 11/18/2023 at 2:49:52 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
JCESC Harrison BPG 2023
CADIZ-The Jefferson County Educational Service Center has awarded its 2023 Best Practice Grants to forward-thinking teachers at Harrison Hills City Schools.
   Educators Rebecca Agostini and Misty Barker of Harrison Central Elementary and Susan Macenzak of Harrison Central High School each gained $660 allocations to highlight STEM, social-emotional and physical science programs at their respective buildings. JCESC Director of Special Education Amber Fomenko presented the awards during the regular Harrison Hills school board meeting on Nov. 16.
   Agostini will implement “STEM: Incorporating Hands-On Learning and Critical Thinking in the Classroom” in the second phase of continued STEM and STEAM lessons. She plans to purchase STEM activities to motivate students to think outside the box, develop critical-thinking skills and incorporate other subjects such as mathematics and reading in the classroom. Among her ideas are to incorporate more centers, hands-on learning activities and creative thinking and her 110 students would benefit by being actively engaged throughout their learning. Agostini also hopes that students who normally do not excel at paper-and-pencil learning will tremendously benefit from this format.
    “The project will allow me to purchase coding activities, design building sets, brain-building activities and much more,” she said. “This project will benefit my students this year and hopefully for years to come.”
    She is a previous grant recipient and was appreciative of JCESC for their generosity each year.
   Barker hopes to meet students’ social and emotional needs through her project, “Social-Emotional Learning in Elementary Classrooms.” She plans to use social-emotional learning strategies and incorporate materials such as picture books to teach students how to deal with their emotions in the most constructive manner possible. Her vision is to form a calming corner in the classroom to refocus, as well as starting a lunch bunch for students who want to work on socialization skills throughout the school year. The project will support approximately 100 fifth-graders in her classroom but the resources may be utilized by other grade levels.
   “These needs are often overlooked, yet they are vital to student success. My vision includes teaching students how to deal with their emotions in the most constructive manner possible; setting up a calming corner where my students are able to safely go to spend a brief amount of time getting refocused; and starting a lunch bunch for students to work on socialization skills,” she continued. 
   Barker was grateful to be selected a second time for the grant, saying it was amazing to have such resources available within the community to fund classroom projects.
    Macenzak, a science teacher at Harrison Central High School, intends to enhance learning for freshmen with her project, “Using Motion Detectors to Graph Motion.”
   “With this project, students will be able to act out different motions, and with the detectors they will see what the resulting position versus time graph, velocity versus time graph and acceleration versus time graph look like,” Macenczak said. “These sensors connect directly to the students' Chromebooks to collect the data. They will also be able to make the connections with force and acceleration.”
  The project will benefit about 100 current physical science students as well as physics pupils, plus it could help more classes in the future. Macenzak, a previous grant recipient, said she was excited to receive this year’s grant because 
she has another way for students to learn science and math by using real-life, hands-on activities to see results right away. 
   Meanwhile, JCESC Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko said the purpose of the Best Practice Grants is to support teacher ingenuity and enhance learning opportunities for the students.
   “Our schools have many great teachers with innovative lesson plans and instructional strategies, and we at JCESC are happy to be able to fund many of those ideas so they may become reality for the students in the classroom,” Dr. Kokiko said. 
   JCESC has disbursed more than two-dozen Best Practice Grants this year with other recipients at Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Indian Creek Local, Steubenville City, Toronto City and Southern Local School Districts and the Utica Shale Academy.

(Photo Caption: Amber Fomenko, director of special education for the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, presented 2023 Best Practice Grants to three teachers during the Harrison Hills City school board meeting on Nov. 16. The $660 awards will help educators pursue programs for STEM, social-emotional learning and physical science. Fomenko is pictured, at left, with Harrison Central Elementary teacher Rebecca Agostini while HCES teacher Misty Barker and Harrison Central High School teacher Susan Macenzak were absent from the photo.)
Toronto Teachers Funded for Science, STEM Projects
Posted 11/17/2023 at 2:39:17 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
JCESC Toronto BPG 2023
TORONTO-Teachers in the Toronto City School District are expanding minds with science and STEM-based projects with funding from the Jefferson County Educational Service Center.
   JCESC Director of Curriculum and Professional Development Ron Sismondo presented 2023 Best Practice Grants during the Toronto school board meeting on Nov. 16 and Michelle Blazek and Jason Kodysz of Toronto Jr./Sr. High School and Nikki Wright of Toronto Elementary each received $660 to aid with their endeavors.
   Blazek’s plan is “Increasing Interest and Observations in the Natural World” by building her students’ knowledge of eclipses. She intends to hold a watch party for the total eclipse this spring and purchase special glasses for the occasion, plus she will have cross-curricular events around the day. She said eclipses have great historical and cultural significance and offer many opportunities for hands-on learning. 
    “I want to bring the eclipse to Toronto Jr./Sr. High School,” she said. “I am planning an eclipse watch party for the school for the big April 8 eclipse.”
    The activity would benefit the entire school and Blazek, a prior grant recipient, was “honored and appreciative” to earn another award.
   Kodysz is utilizing his share to create “Ceiling Periodic Table Part Two and a True Model of the Solar System.” He will complete a periodic table project from a Best Practice Grant award he received last year and add a model of the solar system to his classroom. The massive solar system will incorporate 250 Styrofoam balls representing each of the 35 worlds, including eight planets, 16 moons, eight dwarf planets, two Kuiper Belt objects and an asteroid and the lesson will benefit about 35 students for now.
  “I feel grateful that I will be able to teach the students in a realistic way in which they get to see what the universe is really like, not just simply taught from a textbook,” he added.
   Kodysz has received Best Practice Grants on previous occasions.
   Wright will promote “Magnets in STEM” with art and STEAM students in grades K-5. She said the project will benefit the learning process by helping younger students build hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Some activities include building electromagnets and using electromagnetism to build a catapult, doorbell and a compass, while others will focus on the Earth as a magnet, magnetic strength and how electricity flows through a magnet. She noted that the project also includes an introduction to circuits.
   “This grant will benefit the elementary building of around 500 students. I will use my materials in STEM class to show and learn about magnetism and real world uses of magnets,” she said. “Each grade level from kindergarten to fifth-grade will learn about topics such as identifying magnetic materials to building a model of a maglev train.”
   She also is a previous Best Practice Grant recipient and was very thankful for the opportunity again this year.
   Meanwhile, JCESC Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko congratulated the educators on their innovative concepts to bolster student learning.
   “Our schools have many great teachers with innovative lesson plans and instructional strategies, and we at JCESC are happy to be able to fund many of those ideas so they may become reality for the students in the classroom,” Dr. Kokiko said. 
   JCESC has disbursed more than two-dozen Best Practice Grants this year with other recipients at Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Harrison Hills City, Indian Creek Local, Steubenville City and Southern Local School Districts and the Utica Shale Academy.
(Photo Caption: Three Toronto City School teachers were awarded 2023 Best Practice Grants from the Jefferson County Educational Service Center during the Nov. 16 school board session to further programs in their classrooms. Pictured are, from left, JCESC Director of Curriculum and Professional Development Ron Sismondo, Toronto Jr./Sr. High School teacher Michelle Blazek and Toronto Elementary Assistant Principal Lori Rawson standing in for teacher Nikki Wright. Not pictured is THS teacher Jason Kodysz.)
Southern Local Teachers Awarded Grants
Posted 11/15/2023 at 2:01:35 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
Southern BPG
SALINEVILLE-The Jefferson County Educational Service Center presented three teachers in the Southern Local School District with 2023 Best Practice Grants to expound upon learning in their classrooms.
   Ron Sismondo, JCESC director of curriculum and professional development, awarded Southern Local Jr./Sr. High School teachers Lori Biser and Amanda Wrobleski and Southern Local Elementary teacher Katie Forbes $660 each for their ideas to enhance education during the Southern Local Board of Education meeting on Nov. 14.
   Biser’s 35 math students will benefit from her project, “Problem-Based Learning for Algebra 2,” which implements a problem-based curriculum from Math Media in her classes. She said learning method and activities will promote the development of students’ critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities and communication skills that are imperative to 21st Century education.
   “Their problem-based curriculum utilizes the ‘experience first, formalize later’ approach. Additionally, I plan to incorporate hands-on activities from All Things Algebra as student practice of the mathematical content being taught,” she added, saying this was her first Best Practice Grant award. “I am excited to have been selected to receive this grant and to try something new in my classroom.”
   Wrobleski’s project, “Hydroponics Gardening,” will benefit between 40-155 science students by helping them understand the growing process. She said her seventh-grade pupils will establish a hydroponic gardening system in the classroom to also encourage sustainability and biodiversity. Activities will include germinating seeds, creating the hydroponic system and experiencing the growth of edible plants.  
   “The hydroponics system will benefit my seventh-grade science students,” she said, adding this also was her first grant from the JCESC. “When I found out that I received the Best Practice Grant, I was both ecstatic and grateful.  My goal with the hydroponic system is to ignite learning and curiosity in this alternative planting method.”
   Forbes will implement “Early Literacy Intervention” to aid 130 Language Arts students at SLES. Her goal is to utilize the early literacy intervention space in the kindergarten and first-grade Title/intervention classrooms and provide multiple learning modalities of phonics and phonemic awareness activities and interventions for students.
   “These interventions will be utilized and offered to students who qualify for Tier II and Tier III interventions based on students' benchmark, screening and/or progress monitoring data analyzed throughout the school year,” she continued. “Any student who may require extra support throughout the school year and future years will benefit from the project.”
    She added that she was pleased to receive the grant—her first-- to provide extra support for her pupils and looks forward to utilizing the interventions so students will reach expected growth in reading and literacy and better meet their learning needs. 
   JCESC Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko congratulated the recipients on their awards and said the projects reflect new and exciting ways to bolster students’ education.
   “Our schools have many great teachers with innovative lesson plans and instructional strategies, and we at JCESC are happy to be able to fund many of those ideas so they may become reality for the students in the classroom,” Dr. Kokiko said. 
   JCESC has disbursed more than two-dozen Best Practice Grants this year with other recipients at Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Harrison Hills City, Indian Creek Local, Steubenville City and Toronto City School Districts and the Utica Shale Academy.

(Photo Caption: The Jefferson County Educational Service Center awarded three $660 Best Practice Grants during the regular Southern Local Board of Education meeting on Nov. 14 to expound upon student learning. Pictured are, from left, Southern Local Elementary teacher Katie Forbes, JCESC Director of Curriculum and Professional Development Ron Sismondo and Southern Local Jr./Sr. High School teacher Amanda Wrobleski while SLHS teacher Lori Biser is absent from the photo.)
Literacy Grant Boosts Engagement, Education
Posted 10/30/2023 at 11:09:28 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
STEUBENVILLE-The Jefferson County Educational Service Center is helping schools’ youngest students reach their potential with a recent grant award.
   JCESC Director of Grants Dr. Nicole McDonald obtained a Comprehensive Literacy Grant this summer from the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) and will utilize the $101,250 award for preschool education. JCESC and DEW, in partnership with Step by Step Learning Company, are providing funds to Indian Creek Local and Steubenville City Schools for their preschool programs. Dr. McDonald said it was the first time JCESC applied for the grant and it was a highly competitive process. 
   “The focus is to support early literacy instruction for emergent readers. The grant will fund professional development for all area Pre-K teachers in emergent literacy instructional (ELI) practices with an additional focus on qualifying schools for instructional modeling and coaching,” she explained. “Qualifying schools will also receive intensive support in parent engagement activities pertaining to early literacy.”
   She said all area schools will be welcome to join the ELI training but Indian Creek and Steubenville are receiving the modeling, coaching and parent-engagement activities. Dr. McDonald noted the instruction is geared towards emergent readers, language acquisition, vocabulary building, letter recognition and letter-sound recognition.
   She called the allocation a “remarkable development for early childhood education” and said it will empower the programs to provide enhanced literacy instruction and support to parents of preschool students, with a specific focus on improving literacy skills at home to complement school-based learning.
   “The two esteemed preschool programs, Steubenville City Schools and Indian Creek Local Schools, will receive invaluable instructional modeling and coaching from Step by Step Learning Company. This collaboration aims to equip educators with the necessary tools and knowledge to facilitate parent learning sessions, ensuring that parents can actively contribute to their child's literacy development.”
   The parent learning sessions, aptly titled "Teach Me to Read at Home," will be a key component of this initiative. Dr. McDonald said the sessions will offer parents practical guidance on how to support literacy learning at home in a way that complements their child's school education. The goal is to foster a supportive and engaging environment for young learners, helping them build strong literacy skills from an early age.
   As part of the grant program, each family will receive a comprehensive manual to accompany the three parent learning sessions. The manuals will serve as valuable resources for parents, providing them with actionable strategies and tips to enhance their child's reading and writing abilities. She said the materials will be accessible and user-friendly, ensuring that all parents can actively participate in their child's literacy journey.
   Furthermore, the grant's impact extends beyond the selected programs and will also support all area preschool programs in instructing emergent readers.
   “This inclusive approach ensures that a wide range of educators can access valuable resources and training to nurture literacy skills among their young students, helping to bridge the gap between home and school learning,” Dr. McDonald concluded. “The Comprehensive Literacy Grant initiative represents a significant stride in advancing early childhood education in our community. By engaging parents and educators in the shared goal of enhancing literacy skills, we are laying the foundation for a brighter and more prosperous future for our young learners.”
   The programs have yet to be implemented at Steubenville and Indian Creek and officials there say it plans to benefit hundreds of students in the long run.
    “The Comprehensive Literacy Grant will enhance our Success For All Curiosity curriculum by increasing parent knowledge of activities that can be done at home to build on the skills the preschoolers are learning at school, such as oral language development, letter recognition and pre-reading,” said Wells Academy Principal Tommy Kotsanis, noting that about 260 pupils will be impacted at Steubenville schools. “The grant will provide real-life literacy experiences to do at home to be able to build on developing and emerging skills through make it take workshops and informational meetings.”
   Michele Minto, director of curriculum and instruction at Indian Creek, noted that her district plans to host family engagement events during the winter and spring.
   “Our events will benefit 180 preschool students at our two elementary schools. The events we will offer will give parents the knowledge to help their child be successful in kindergarten,” Minto concluded. “Not only will the parents receive the knowledge, but they will be able to practice the skills that they learn with their own child.”
Quest Alternative School Receives STEM Grant
Posted 10/23/2023 at 2:02:40 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
STEUBENVILLE-The Quest Alternative School has received a $5,000 grant to expound upon STEM learning for students.
  The site, which is operated through the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, received the windfall for its project “A Quest for STEM,” through the Ohio STEM Learning Network Classroom Grant Program and funds were derived from Battelle, a Columbus-based company that conducts research and development, designs and manufactures products and delivers critical services for government and commercial customers. According to Battelle officials, the grant was among 233 awarded this fall to create sustainable, STEM learning projects and the program reached students in one of every seven school districts (130) across 60 Ohio counties.  

   “Every student should have access to the kind of quality STEM education that drives opportunity for families and leads to new jobs in their local communities” said Kelly Gaier Evans, director of the Ohio STEM Learning Network. “This program connects champions of STEM in local communities to a broad and deep network of STEM schools, STEM resources, and peer-educators.”

    Alternative School Director Vance Miller said officials learned of the award earlier this month and the funding will be used to acquire STEM kits for lab projects.
   “With the current climate of education and many local schools offering more STEM-based curricula, we wanted to allow our students to continue STEM-based projects and studies while placed at the alternative school,” he said. “We are learning what STEM is and how we can better utilize STEM projects within our current curriculum.”
   Miller added that students currently use various educational technology in the classroom as well as real-life problem-solving skills and solutions, noting his gratitude to JCESC Director of Grants Dr. Nicole McDonald for obtaining the funds.
   “We are very humbled and excited to receive this grant, for it will fund beginner kits for our students to learn hands-on STEM activities and projects,” Miller said. “Efforts from Dr. McDonald made this all possible, and the alternative school is very thankful for her work and support in this endeavor.”
   Quest Alternative School offers alternative placement for Jefferson and Harrison County students and is based at 256 John Scott Highway in Steubenville. About 15-20 students are typically housed at the site per day and receive the educational tools they need to learn. Meanwhile, Battelle officials stated the grant program fosters the growth of the Ohio STEM Learning Network as a public-private partnership between Battelle and the State of Ohio. Ensuring all students develop the skills to be successful in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields is Battelle’s top philanthropic priority.

   “Battelle is proud to invest in expanding the reach of the Ohio STEM Learning Network, the state’s primary vehicle for advancing STEM across Ohio,” said Wes Hall, vice president of philanthropy and education. “These grants empower educators in all corners of the state to shape the next generation of solvers.”
Preschool Training Session at JCESC
Posted 9/29/2023 at 1:38:12 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
JCESC Preschool PD
Fifty preschool teachers and paraprofessionals from Jefferson, Harrison and Columbiana counties attended a professional development session at the Jefferson County Educational Service Center’s R. Larry George Training Annex in Steubenville on Wednesday, where they listened to representatives from CHANGE, Inc. about issues affecting their young charges. Two sessions were held on child abuse recognition and prevention and the prevention and recognition of communicable diseases, which were respectively led by Danielle Stroud and Jessica Valesko. 
Career Fair Gives Options for Future
Posted 9/25/2023 at 10:18:05 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
JCESC Career Fair
WINTERSVILLE-Area students learned about options for their future during the second-annual County-wide Career and Education Fair on Wednesday.
    About 500 students converged upon the St. Florian Event Center in Wintersville for the activity, which was hosted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Training and Education Committee. There they met with about 85 vendors representing colleges and universities, technical schools, military recruiters, safety forces, trade organizations and local businesses to speak with representatives and obtain information on programs and opportunities to carve their career paths, plus they participated in roundtable sessions with experts to discuss subjects from finances to job qualifications.
   Chamber President Kate Sedgmer said numbers were up regarding vendor involvement and it provided a wide range of choices for students’ consideration. She noted that the fair was a means to showcase what’s available in the area and hopefully inspire students to build their futures at home in the Ohio Valley.
    “We had an exciting day and about 500 students came along with 85 vendors,” Sedgmer added. “There colleges and universities, military recruiters, trades and local employers and there was a roundtable discussion so students have opportunities to sit down with local employers and representatives of trades, finances and entrepreneurships. We’ve grown since last year and would like to see it become a regional event.”
   She also thanked the fair’s sponsors for their support, saying they help keep kids working locally in the future.
    Jefferson County Educational Service Center Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko, who serves as the workforce training and education committee chairman, said it was another successful venture and would likely continue each year.
   “It went well. We’ve got an increase in vendors participating and the program has grown,” Dr. Kokiko commented. “Our goal for next year is to continue growing the program and getting more students to come.”
   Several vendors said they enjoyed meeting the teens and sharing opportunities to build their future.
   “It went very well,” said Katie Parrish, admissions counselor at Franciscan University of Steubenville. “The kids have been very receptive.”
   “It’s been great to see the faces of the kids and see how we as representatives of Franciscan University can interest them in coming to Franciscan,” added fellow admissions counselor Natalia Caraballo.
   They said plenty of interest was shown in education, nursing and business administration programs, while similar interest was also found at the Wheeling University table where admissions representative Cameron Gibson was queried about courses.
   “It’s been phenomenal,” said Gibson. “We’ve had a couple interested in exercise science and athletic training since those are our most popular fields. A lot of them were definitely interested in those.”
   Vinny DiCarlantonio, human resources coordinator for Trinity Health System, was also pleased with the response.
  “It’s been really good,” he commented. “They are interested in many of our departments and there were several queries about labor and delivery, radiology and healthcare tech management.”
   SSGT E-5 Nicole Baker, a recruiter for the U.S. Air National Guard, also highlighted options to join the military while also paying for schooling. 
    “I had questions about boot camp and what’s involved and what jobs are available, but a lot of people are shocked that we pay 100 percent of their tuition,” she added. 
   Teens also had a chance to partake in a scavenger hunt to win iPads and laptops during the event. Students from Bridgeport, Brooke, Buckeye Local, Steubenville Catholic Central, Edison, Harrison Central, Indian Creek, Jefferson County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ School of Bright Promise, Jefferson County Christian School, Jefferson County Joint Vocational School, Steubenville, Toronto and Southern Local were among those in attendance. Many enjoyed the career fair and said they learned a lot about what opportunities are available to them.
  “Everyone was very professional and I thought it was very useful,” said Ron Hawthorne, a senior computer networking technology student at Jefferson County JVS and Indian Creek attendant, adding that he was interested in programs at Eastern Gateway Community College.
   “I liked the AEP program,” added Kevin Campos, a senior multimedia and design student at the JVS and ICHS. “I found it interesting, and I also liked The Ohio State University and Youngstown State University. They gave options and explained things to me.”
   Kyleigh Haines, a junior animal science management pupil at the JVS and Buckeye Local student, said she enjoyed the Hocking College program and the opportunities that were shared with her. Trinity Spencer, a fellow junior animal science student at JVS and Edison attendant, agreed.
   “I like that you were able to find out about careers and learn about different colleges,” Spencer said, noting her interest in Kent State University’s vet tech program.
   “It was fun,” said Shelley Young, a junior culinary arts student at JVS and ICHS attendant. “I got to see what courses there were to find out what I need.”
   Sponsors included Summer’s Enterprise, LLC, Interstate Waste Services, Inc., Eastern Gateway Community College, Timet- Titanium Metals Corp., Trinity Health System, Allegheny County Airport Authority and Hilscher-Clarke Electric Co. 

(Photo Caption: About 500 students converged upon St. Florian Event Center Wednesday for the second-annual County-wide Career and Education Fair hosted by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Training and Education Committee. There the students meet with 85 vendors representing colleges and universities, technical schools, trade organizations, businesses, safety forces and military recruitment to learn about options for their future.)
JCESC Celebrates First Year of OhioRISE
Posted 7/27/2023 at 1:37:30 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
OhioRISE 1 year anniversary
STEUBENVILLE-It has been one year since OhioRISE began and the Jefferson County Educational Service Center marked the occasion with a celebration on July 21.
    Representatives and supporters simultaneously gathered at the R. Larry George Professional Training Annex in Steubenville and the Canton office at the Key Bank Building for a luncheon to honor OhioRISE (Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence), a statewide initiative through Aetna Better Health that works to address children with complex behavioral health and multisystem needs. JCESC is one of 20 regional providers, or care management entities (CMEs), and covers an eight-county area known as Catchment J that includes Jefferson, Belmont, Harrison, Carroll, Columbiana, Tuscarawas, Monroe and Stark. 
    JCESC became involved with OhioRISE after looking to expand outreach services beyond grades K-12 and address issues schools face today. Officials said they noticed an increasing number of challenges surrounding mental health, substance abuse and developmental disabilities among students which ultimately could impact schools and families. Working with organizations such as the Family and Children First Council, Help Me Grow, Early Intervention and ENGAGE, as well as growing programs including alternative schools, Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) and Jefferson Health Plan, helped prepare for becoming a CME. When Gov. Mike DeWine announced that Aetna would oversee the program, JCESC leaders realized it would create access to knowledge and resources the service had to offer and would enable the regional CMEs to maintain local services for local children and families. Leaders determined that about 2,335 youth ultimately would be served throughout the region with an overall estimate of 60,000 kids statewide. 
   JCESC obtained a $1.1 million start-up grant to launch the initiative in July of 2022 and has since formed two offices on Lovers Lane in Wintersville and at 100 Central Avenue North in Canton. CME Program Director Linda Trushel said the sites employ 34 care coordinators, in addition to four supervisors plus herself and Assistant Director Lindsay Brandon.
   “Right now, we’ve helped 453 children within the eight counties,” Trushel said. “A referral is made by a provider who feels a child has a mental or behavioral health need and we can complete a CANS (Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths) assessment to determine eligibility for the program.”
    The care coordinators then find sources to assist the child so they may be successful in the community. Trushel added that aid could range from health care to even pool passes or driving lessons. Community partners include children’s services agencies, county juvenile court systems, community mental health agencies, county Mental Health and Recovery Boards, county Boards of Developmental Disabilities, schools and food banks. She noted that the program has benefitted children and their families in myriad ways.
   “The children have a person who is constantly in their lives to talk to, and it has also improved communication between the parents and children,” she said. “It also helps them with community supports and lets them continuously live with their parents. Anything is possible to support the family, and it supports them in ways that Medicaid or local providers can’t. It individualizes the needs of each family.”
    Trushel said the process to establish OhioRISE was a major one and she was thrilled to see how far it has come over the past 12 months.
   “It has been quite a year and we are blessed to have this party,” she said, thanking everyone for their efforts. “A year ago, we stood here figuring out how we could help families, and in March of 2022 we worked on the program.” 
   Meanwhile, Brandon led festivities at the Canton location where she and staff members highlighted the occasion.
   “It was a great opportunity for our staff to come together to celebrate one year of growth in this program. The staff enjoyed this time together discussing their successes and ways they can continue to grow as the program continues to progress,” she said.
   JCESC CEO Dr. George Ash was pleased to not only see the initiative come to fruition, but also to watch it grow.
  “I’m excited about what’s to come and am grateful to all of the community partners and supporters that are benefitting communities from Monroe to Stark counties,” he commented, reflecting on how he once worked with social services in the past. “It reminds me of helping with families and it made a difference in their lives. I think about the care coordinators and you are the most important to us and those families. What you’re doing is making such a huge difference.”
    JCESC Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko echoed those sentiments and said officials were working behind the scenes to make things better for coordinators.
  “I do believe you are the face of the organization and the face of the families,” he said at the Steubenville gathering. “I know you have a tough job. It’s the ones you can reach that helps you keep going. There is a lot to celebrate and this is one way to do it.”
    Dr. Kokiko also thanked the JCESC Governing Board for sponsoring the celebration and congratulated everyone involved in the initiative.
   The Ohio Department of Medicaid indicated that OhioRISE was the state’s first highly integrated care program for youth with complex behavioral health and multi-system needs. The remaining CMEs provide community mental health and substance abuse, specialty care coordination, hospital and educational services. OhioRISE is available to youth under age 21 who are Medicaid-eligible. For more information on public and partnership opportunities, contact Dr. Kokiko at (740) 283-3347 or [email protected] and Trushel for children’s referrals to the program at [email protected] or (740) 792-4011, ext. 502. More information is also listed at www.jcesc.org/CareManagementEntity. For general inquiries about OhioRISE, contact Jill Tayfel, CME relationship manager for Aetna, at [email protected]. The 24-hour crisis hotline is also available at (740) 792-4012.
(Photo Cutline: The Jefferson County Educational Service Center marked the first anniversary of OhioRISE (Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence), a statewide initiative through Aetna Better Health that works to address children with complex behavioral health and multisystem needs. JCESC is one of 20 regional providers, or care management entities (CMEs), and covers an eight-county area known as Catchment J that spans from Monroe to Stark. Representatives and supporters were invited to a celebratory luncheon in Steubenville on July 21 to recognize the initiative that currently assists 458 children and their families.)
Students Honored at ACT Recognition Breakfast
Posted 5/3/2023 at 11:11:19 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
ACT Honorees
STEUBENVILLE- Twelve students from four area school districts were honored for their major achievements during the ACT Recognition Breakfast on May 2.
   The Jefferson County Educational Service Center touted seniors from Edison, Indian Creek, Steubenville and Steubenville Catholic Central High Schools for scoring 30 or higher on their ACT exams during the event at Froehlich’s Classic Corner in Steubenville. Eleven of the 12 honorees were on hand for the eighth-annual breakfast, which was briefly shelved during the COVID pandemic but restarted this year. JCESC Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko greeted honorees, their family members and school leaders and said the students were in a very select group.
   “We are here to honor you, the brightest academic performers in the counties we serve: Columbiana, Jefferson and Harrison,” Dr. Kokiko commented. “To put some perspective on your achievement, you are one of only 12 students from the nine school districts the JCESC represents. Today, we will celebrate your hard work and dedication to reaching this benchmark.”
   Referring to the latest figures from 2021, he said nearly 1.3 million students took the ACT test and yielded an average composite score of 20.3 out of 36. A score of 30 or higher placed the honorees in the 93rd percentile of all test takers and the students’ scores ranged from 30 to 36. Dr. Kokiko added that only 4,055 students achieved the perfect score two years ago. He congratulated the youth and also recognized parents and family members who played key roles in their lives, plus he thanked school district staff and JCESC Governing Board members for their ongoing support. 
   JCESC Governing Board President Barry Gullen said he was pleased to be a part of the event and lauded students and those who positively influenced them.
   “Whatever you do, just make sure you enjoy what you are doing,” he said, advising the students to thank their family, teachers and mentors who helped them attain their success. “Congratulations! You are going to be here and you are going to guide us.”
   Jefferson County Assistant Prosecutor Cerryn Marshall was the keynote speaker and offered advice as the students forge their paths to the future. Marshall’s theme was “Life’s a Balancing Act,” and she said they will face ups and downs as they make their way in the world, but they should learn and grow from their experiences.
   “This is a major milestone in your life. Now you are moving on and it’s a balancing act. You are going on your first steps to reach your goals and dreams,” she said. “You are learning and growing.”
   She advised them to find themselves and take chances, take classes outside of their majors, join clubs and step outside of their comfort zone. Marshall said they will face failure in their lives but should learn from it and move forward; listen with curiosity, speak with honesty and act with integrity; respect others and themselves; and have fun and enjoy this time of their lives.
   Marshall also quoted inspirational leaders and closed with words from author Leo Tolstoy, who said: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
   Gullen and JCESC Governing Board Vice President William Schaefer then distributed certificates to the recipients, which included Jaycee Blake, Logan Gubanez and Matthew Whitehill of Edison; Santosh Schaefer and Lindsey Zifzal of Indian Creek; Camden Daley, Francis Desany, Kellen Marshall and Franklin Vostatek of Steubenville; and Theresa Kerker, Daniel Macdonald and Leon Zaleski of Steubenville Catholic Central.
    Blake, the son of Eric and Michelle Blake of Bergholz, received a 30 on his exam and holds at 4.0 grade point average. He plans to attend The Ohio State University.
    Gubanez, the son of Samuel and Betty Gubanez of Toronto, scored a 32 on his ACT test and holds a 4.0 GPA. His future plans are currently undecided.
    Whitehill, the son of William Whitehill of Toronto, earned a 30 on his ACT test and holds a 4.0 GPA. He plans to attend Kent State University.
   Schaefer, the son of David and Nantha Schaefer of Wintersville, gained a 36 ACT composite score and has an unweighted 3.992 GPA. He plans on attending The Ohio State University and will likely major in computer science.
    Zifzal, the daughter of Dwayne of Melissa Zifzal of Wintersville, yielded a 30 on her exam and holds a 3.98 GPA. She plans to attend the University of Cincinnati and major in mechanical engineering with hopes of participating in the ACCEND program, where she would earn both her bachelor and master’s degrees within five years and complete four co-op experiences. 
    Daley, the son of Steve and Janet Daley of Mingo Junction, scored a 32 on his exam and holds a 4.657 GPA. His future plans are to attend the University of Dayton and major in civil engineering.
    Desany, the son of Matthew Desany and Virginia Stauring of Wintersville, received a 33 on his ACT exam and holds a 4.6 GPA. His plans are to study computer engineering at Washington University in St. Louis and one day start his own software company.
    Marshall, the son of James and Cerryn Marshall of Steubenville, scored a 30 on his ACT test and holds a 4.72 GPA. He plans to attend the U.S. Naval Academy to further his education and serve our country.
    Vostatek, the son of Frank and Melissa Vostatek of Mingo Junction, received a 32 ACT composite score and has an unweighted GPA of 4.0 with a weighted average of 4.81. He will attend Ohio University as a member of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Early Assurance Program and intends to become a radiologist.
    Kerker, the daughter of Joseph and Alyssa Kerker of Bloomingdale, received a 34 on her ACT test and yielded a 4.746 GPA. She will major in biology at the University of Notre Dame with future plans to study pre-med.
    Macdonald, the son of Paul and Suzanne Macdonald of Steubenville, scored a 33 on his exam and holds an unweighted GPA of 3.9 and a weighted grade of 4.425. He plans to attend Franciscan University with a double major in psychology and Spanish. 
    Zaleski, the son of Robert and Laura Zaleski of Wintersville, earned a 32 on his ACT exam and holds a 3.788 GPA. He plans to study biology at Franciscan University. 

(Photo Cutline: The Jefferson County Educational Service Center hosted restarted its annual ACT Recognition Breakfast on May 2 for students who achieved a score of 30 or higher on their ACT exams. Pictured are, front from left, Leon Zaleski, Theresa Kerker, Lindsey Zifzal, Daniel Macdonald and Jaycee Blake. Back: Santosh Schaefer, Francis Desany, Kellen Marshall, Camden Daley, Franklin Vostatek and Matthew Whitehill. Not pictured is Logan Gubanez.)
JCESC Leads Culturally Responsive Practices Training
Posted 3/31/2023 at 11:28:06 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
JCESC Cuturally Responsive Practices Training
The Jefferson County Educational Service Center led a Culturally Responsive Practices training session with Harrison Hills City Schools’ district team on Wednesday. Amber Fomenko, JCESC director of special education, and Ron Sismondo, JCESC director of curriculum and professional development, were facilitators of the program that includes four courses: Program Introduction, Cultural Responsiveness, Socio-Political Awareness and Academic Achievement. Officials completed the second course, which introduces the importance of understanding the social and political topics that shape the lives of students, families and communities. Educators also consider how to use these topics in their classrooms in ways that are genuine to their students and provide opportunities for students to enact change in their communities. Training has been provided to Indian Creek, Toronto and Harrison with Buckeye Local slated for next year. Interested districts may contact Fomenko or Sismondo at JCESC at (740) 283-3347.
Macdonald Ready to Return to National Spelling Bee
Posted 3/15/2023 at 12:26:44 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
JCESC Macdonald Spelling Bee
STEUBENVILLE-Andrew Macdonald is preparing to return to the 2023 National Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., in May where he will face hundreds of contestants from across the globe.
   Macdonald, the son of Paul and Suzanne Macdonald of Steubenville and an eighth-grader at Bishop John King Mussio Jr. High School, was named champion of the Jefferson-Harrison Regional Spelling Bee on March 11 after correctly spelling “reggae” at Buckeye North Elementary School in Brilliant. He was among 49 contestants representing public, parochial and homeschools in the two-county area and said he is already planning to review words for the main event on May 28-June 3. He will have a six-night stay at Gaylord National Resort and National Convention Center and take part in a variety of activities in addition to the competition. More than 200 youth have participated from across the U.S. as well as the Bahamas, Germany, Ghana, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.
   He made his way to the third round of the national bee last year, but his journey ended when he was bested by the word “epiglottis.” Still, he enjoyed the environment, made friends and got to enjoy spending some time with his family during his excursion.
   “I’m really excited, probably more than last year because I know all of the experiences I’d get to have there,” Macdonald said. “The competition itself is fun, not just being on stage and participating but also watching it live. I was really hoping to go back and thankfully I’m doing it.”
   He counts English as his favorite subject at Bishop John King Mussio, thanks to his teacher, Jamie McGinnis, and said he’s always had an interest in spelling. He prepped for his first national attempt by studying word lists and practicing with his parents, plus he has viewed word apps and sites online.
   “My main goal this year was to study for the regionals,” he said. “I’ve started working on the list [for nationals].”
   Macdonald, who is the youngest of five children, said his family was proud of his achievement.
   Mom Suzanne said she was thrilled for him and he was eager to make his return.
   “He came home and said he wanted to go back, and he started studying. Everybody thinks it’s about the competition but its not. It’s a fun and educational time. I’m proud of his hard work and perseverance.”
   She added that he also got a chance to meet kids from around the world.
   “We’re excited. It’s a great experience and there are kids from all over,” she said. “It has a more international feel and he got to make friends. They had activities and he also attended workshops and field trips in Washington. It was very social and educational.”
   Rounding out the Top 10 were Erin Joyce, a sixth-grader at Bishop John King Mussio Elementary as runner-up; Ava Mizak, a seventh-grader at Bishop John King Mussio Jr. High, third place; Jocelyn Saltsman, an eighth-grader at 
Jefferson County Christian School, fourth; Susie Safranski, a sixth-grader at Bishop John King Mussio Elementary, fifth; Jonas Eddy, an eighth-grader at Buckeye Local Jr. High School, sixth; Joseph Taylor, an eighth-grader at 
Harrison Central Jr./Sr. High School, seventh; Katie Summers, a seventh-grader at Harrison Central Jr./Sr. High School, eighth; Anthony Riley, an eighth-grader at Indian Creek Middle School, ninth; and Sophia Sedgmer, a sixth-grader at Harrison Central Elementary, 10th.
   Other participants included Chyanne Crothers, a fifth-grader at Buckeye North; Aubrey Myers, a fifth-grader at John Gregg Elementary; Jocelyn Matthews, a sixth-grader at Buckeye West Elementary; Madelynn Keister, a fifth-grader at John Gregg; Anastasia Mitchell, a fifth-grader at Stanton Elementary; Evan Conn, a fifth-grader at ICMS; Jackson Gibson, an eighth-grader at Toronto Jr./Sr. High School; Melelina Santiago, a fifth-grader at ICMS;  Morgan Stock, a sixth-grader at HCES; Trenton Hess, an eighth-grader at Toronto; Mayaunna Mitchell, a sixth-grader at Harding Middle School; Manuella Petrides, a seventh-grader at Harding; Jonathan Viola, a sixth-grader at ICMS; Keeley Johnson, a seventh-grader at ICMS; Madison Taylor, a sixth-grader at HCES; Jack McCumbers, a fifth-grader ICMS; Kyle Beranek, a fifth-grader at Buckeye South Elementary; Jacob Thompson Jr., a seventh-grader at Toronto; Garen Mader, a seventh-grader at Toronto; Emilia Taylor, an eighth-grader at ICMS; Cameron Knight, a sixth-grader at Buckeye West; Janelle Cooper, a sixth-grader at Buckeye South; Lucy Wear, an eighth-grader at Heart of Mary Homeschool; Ryder Tibbs, an eighth-grader at BLJHS; Braeden Record, a sixth-grader at Toronto; Kellen Carte, a sixth-grader at Stanton; Devin Newsom, a seventh-grader at Toronto; Learynn Hanson, a sixth-grader at John Gregg; Jaydin Hilton, an eighth-grader at Harrison Central Jr./Sr. High; Nolan Greiner, a sixth-grader at Harding; Paige Maffitt, a fifth-grader at HCES; Madison Huggins, a fifth-grader at Stanton; Phoebe Goffoli, a sixth-grader at HCES; and Cole Carey, an eighth-grader at Harding.
   The Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee was presented by the Steubenville Herald-Star and sponsored by the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, Special Tactics and Rescue Training, Old Glory Embroidery, Ascent Resources, the Mingo Knights of Columbus, PNC Bank, Ohio Lottery and Gary W. Cain and Auctioneers. Serving as co-coordinators were Ron Sismondo, JCESC director of curriculum and professional development; along with Amber Fomenko, JCESC director of special education; Linda Lenzi, JCESC gifted coordinator; and Patty Ferrell, JCESC intervention specialist.

(Photo Caption: Andrew Macdonald, an eighth-grader at Bishop John King Mussio Jr. High School in Steubenville, is ready to make a return to the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee later this spring in Washington, D.C. Macdonald, who won the Jefferson-Harrison Regional Spelling Bee this month in Brilliant, made it to the third round of the national competition but is eager for another chance. He is pictured here with his trophy from the regional event.)
Aetna, OhioRISE Assist East Palestine Families
Posted 2/23/2023 at 11:29:08 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
STEUBENVILLE-Aetna Better Health of Ohio and the Jefferson County Educational Service Center’s OhioRISE program are reaching out to assist families they serve in East Palestine following the toxic train derailment in that community.
   The organizations provided cleaning supplies and other essentials for five families involved with the program that were temporarily displaced by the disaster on Feb. 3. JCESC’s OhioRISE program, which stands for Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence, is a specialized Medicaid managed care system for children and youth with complex behavioral health and multisystem needs and Aetna serves as the managed care partner. JCESC is one of 18 care management entities (CME’s) for OhioRISE and represents an eight-county region known as Catchment J that includes Jefferson, Belmont, Harrison, Carroll, Columbiana, Monroe, Tuscarawas and Stark. 
   CME Program Director Linda Trushel collaborated with Amy Swanson, Aetna OhioRISE contract administrator and state liaison, and Maryalice Surgenavic, CME supervisor for Catchment J in Columbiana and Stark counties, to aid those families so they could resume their lives with some sense of normalcy.
   “Aetna reached out to me on Feb. 15,” Trushel said. “Amy Swanson said she had been glued to the news stories on the train derailment. She was so devastated for that area of the state.”
   Swanson had wondered about community needs and whether OhioRISE members were struggling. Efforts were soon underway to order supplies including Clorox Multi-Purpose Cleaning Spray System starter kits, Mrs. Meyer’s Kitchen Essentials sets with hand and dish soap and all-purpose cleaner, trash bags and a care package of snacks to help them as they returned home. The items were delivered with a note from Aetna Better Health -- OhioRISE around Feb. 20. 
   Trushel said it was one small way to further assist those affected by the derailment.
   “This is a true random act of kindness,” she continued. “JCESC has been working with Aetna since March 2022 and this shows how much they truly care about all OhioRISE members in Ohio.”
   The OhioRISE initiative currently serves 250 families with offices located in Steubenville and Canton. Care management coordinators help complete a Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) assessment to determine eligibility and offer referrals for counseling, therapy and finding community resources. Assistance is rendered for mental health and substance use while youth with multisystem needs are often involved in community systems such as juvenile justice, child protection, developmental disabilities, education and addiction treatment. Children covered by Medicaid will obtain assistance and those with private insurance can receive a waiver for help. For more information, contact Trushel at (740) 406-0440 or go online at Care Management Entity (jcesc.k12.oh.us). A 24-hour crisis hotline is also available at (740) 792-4012.
VLA Officials to Present at Conference
Posted 2/7/2023 at 1:03:54 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
JCESC VLA at OETC Conference
STEUBENVILLE-Representatives with the Jefferson County Educational Service Center’s Virtual Learning Academy will be among the speakers during the 2023 Ohio Educational Technology Conference on Feb. 14-16.
   VLA Director Mark Masloski and VLA Assistant Director Martariesa Fiala attend with Shawn Hicklin, a science teacher for United Local Schools in Columbiana County, during the venue at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The OETC, which is presented by the Ohio Department of Education, is one of the premier P-20 state educational technology conferences in the U.S. According to the ODE, it draws more than 4,500 educational technology professionals and enthusiasts to explore the forefront of P-20 learning and innovation in Ohio. It is designed to “cultivate partnerships, promote collaboration, deliver high-quality information and make technology accessible and enjoyable for educators” and attracts teachers, curriculum and technology coordinators, administrators, higher education professors and administrators, and everyone who is interested in learning more about what’s happening in technology today. 
   Masloski and Hicklin will present on “Online Learning Dashboard:  The Unknown Feature of ProgressBook,” during educational sessions Wednesday from 1-2 p.m. while Masloski and Fiala will speak on “Looking to Track Your Students’ Offline Time? We Can Help!” on Thursday from 9:15-10:15 a.m.
   Seventy-five percent of school districts statewide utilize ProgressBook but may not be aware of the feature known as the “Online Learning Dashboard.” Masloski said school districts that use ProgressBook and engage students in online learning will gain an understanding about the tool during the session.
   “The Online Learning Dashboard in ProgressBook is the landing page for teachers' materials. You can access courses, activities, grading screens, settings screens, the recycle bin, the ProgressBook Library and more from your Dashboard,” he said.
   Among some of the important features are courses which can be linked to one or more GradeBook classes and content such as learning activities, quiz assessments and resources that students can use. Custom content may also be created in collaboration with other teachers and curriculum directors and all Online Learning Dashboard features align with state academic standards and enables blended learning. Because it is seamlessly linked to GradeBook, online assignments and grades can be managed in a single location.
  “The Online Learning Dashboard will provide everyone in your district with a meaningful student experience. Your school district can regain valuable time from tedious, manual tasks with automated grade reporting—everything from access to real-time data and ease of use to reliable, secure, and compliant processes,” Masloski noted. “Your teachers can create online assignments and quizzes to utilize during the school day, at home and even create assignments in the future. Parents will have access to the right information at the right time. They will easily access grades and course progress, and students will easily engage with online assignments and quizzes.
 This also contains amazing features that every teacher will love. This wonderful tool will help educators run an inclusive classroom by allowing teachers to assign multiple versions of the same test. One can also add many of your favorite tools you're already using into the Online Learning Dashboard via the embed feature. 
  “Using ProgressBook's Online Learning Dashboard will change your life. This is the one tool every educator needs to save time, give feedback and gamify our classes for the next generation.”
   Meanwhile, Masloski and Fiala will discuss tracking students’ offline time during remote learning with the Learning Management System (LMS).
   “LMS tracks online time when students log into their accounts and complete assignments, which accounts for their seat time. These assignments can include content, engagement activities, and assessments. What about the time students spend working outside the LMS, on a call from the school or at an out-of-school site? Educators can track students' time by adding offline time. The ODE has approved that this offline learning time can be utilized and recorded as part of student seat time,” Masloski commented.

    E-schools have learning opportunities that are not tracked by the school's online system and that take place offline or not on a computer. Schools also need to track student offline learning opportunities and have those opportunities checked and approved by teachers. These include non-computer, non-classroom learning opportunities such as reading, research, completing assignments offline, phone calls with students to discuss coursework, field trips and credit-bearing work experience. A teacher can certify these learning experiences so that the time a student spends doing them can be included in their seat time. The Virtual Learning Academy LMS supports students, teachers, and administrators to add the time students work outside the LMS. In addition to the time log, student work, including pdf activities, word documents, pictures, and movies, can be attached as evidence of the offline time.

    Per ODE, remote learning can be viewed as a continuum, depending on the unique circumstances of a school, its educational delivery partners, and the connectivity, abilities, disabilities, and ages of students. If possible, remote learning plans should include an array of learning opportunities that are both online and offline to accommodate these unique circumstances. Wherever a school is on this continuum, the Virtual Learning Academy LMS can support you in providing learning opportunities and ensuring that your students receive credit for their time.

    “This feature is not exclusive to students. School districts with the 21st or Learning Loss Grants can adapt it for use with adults within their learning community. It can be used by staff and volunteers to log their time or to support their professional development,” Masloski concluded.
(Photo Caption: Jefferson County Educational Service Center Virtual Learning Academy Director Mark Masloski, Assistant Director Martariesa Fiala and United Local School District science teacher Shawn Hicklin will be presenters during the 2023 Ohio Educational Technology Conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Feb. 14-16 and will discuss the little-known “Online Learning Dashboard” feature of the ProgressBook program and tracking students offline time during remote learning. OETC, which is being presented by the Ohio Department of Education, is one of the premier P-20 state educational technology conferences in the U.S. and draws more than 4,500 educational technology professionals and enthusiasts to explore the forefront of learning and innovation in Ohio.)
January is School Board Appreciation Month!
Posted 1/9/2023 at 10:17:44 AM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
School Board Appreciation
These past years have been some of the most complicated years in history... now is a perfect time to take a moment to say 'THANK YOU' to our JCESC Governing Board for their selfless service, unwavering commitment, and extraordinary confidence & dedication!
The JCESC staff is truly grateful to have this group of individuals leading our organization...thank you!
Grants Given at Indian Creek
Posted 11/18/2022 at 12:29:04 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
WINTERSVILLE-Teachers in the Indian Creek Local School District are focusing on many facets of improving students, and they are getting some financial aid to make it happen.
   Erin Alloggia, Alyssa Lollini and Emily Gault were lauded during the regular school board meeting at Cross Creek Elementary School on Nov. 17 for gaining Best Practice Grants from the Jefferson County Educational Service Center. Linda Lenzi, JCESC gifted coordinator, congratulated the trio and said they will each receive $660 to put their projects into practice.
   Alloggia, a preschool teacher at Hills Elementary, will use her portion to promote her project, “Enhancing Emotional Development of Children” The grant will help purchase valuable resources from Conscious Discipline to benefit more than 195 preschoolers at Cross Creek and Hills. She said teachers and support staff can utilize strategies that could change the course of a student’s life. Conscious Discipline, which was created by Dr. Becky Bailey, teaches skills for children and adults and also focuses on creating a classroom family where optimal development of all members can be achieved.

   “Through the grant, my project will impact not only the 75 preschool students at Hills Elementary, but also the 120 preschool students at Cross Creek Elementary,” she said, adding that she has received previous grants and was appreciative to earn another. “I am so thankful and grateful to be a recipient of one of the grants. Through this grant, the preschool teams at both elementary schools will now have the tools to aid the students in learning about feeling, empathy, resilience, impulse control and school family.”

   Lollini, a kindergarten and first-grade intervention specialist at Hills Elementary, aims to incorporate “Hands-on Learning for Hardworking Students.” Her plan is to purchase learning resource activities so students can learn new skills that move away from the traditional pencil-and-paper concept. She said students will not only improve upon their academic skills, but also learn how to take turns, wait and work together as partners and team members. Items within the grant range from alphabet recognition materials to math manipulatives and may also be shared with the general education teachers to use in their classroom settings. 
   “For many of my students, learning new academic skills can be hard and frustrating, which ultimately can impact them wanting to come to school and learn. My hope is that if I can make learning fun, engaging and captivating, students will be excited to learn new skills and build upon their weak areas,” Lollini explained. “This project will allow me to bring in as many hands-on learning items for reading and math as possible to give my students additional opportunities to work on different skills that step away from paper-and-pencil activities. When having activities that make learning fun and engaging, students may be more willing to participate and step out of their comfort zone. When learning is fun, the impact that it may have on students in regards to retaining the information increases because it becomes an enjoyable and memorable experience.”
   She added that the project would impact about 30 students throughout the week; however, the items will be available to general education teachers for their classrooms. She is a prior grant recipient and plans to put her latest allotment to good use.

   “I am very excited, grateful and thankful to the Jefferson County Educational Service Center for picking me as one of the recipients of this grant. I cannot wait to tell my students and begin using the different materials during my sessions with them.”
    Gault, a speech and language pathologist, will assist more than 100 speech and language therapy pupils at both Cross Creek and Hills with her project, “Everyone Deserves a Voice.” Her allocation will fund a one-time purchasing license of Boardmaker 7, which is downloadable onto a maximum of two devices, or one for each therapist to assist students with verbal communication issues.
   “Students will now have access to picture communication symbols and books that can be used as an alternative means of communication for those who are non-speaking, highly unintelligible or those who just struggle in certain instances to communicate their wants and needs,” Gault said, adding that it was her first grant award. “I am very thankful and excited to receive this grant. So many students will benefit from this project and I’m excited to implement it for many students.”                    
   JCESC Superintendent Dr. Chuck Kokiko congratulated the recipients and said the Best Practice Grants helped bring grant ideas to fruition for the betterment of student learning.
    “There are certain events or occasions that folks look forward to each year. At the JCESC, one of those events is when the board and staff can read the innovative teacher Best Practice Grant applications that have been submitted,” he added. “Our schools have many great teachers with ground-breaking lesson plans and out-of-the-box instructional strategies, and we are happy to be able to fund many of those ideas so they may become reality for the students in the classroom.  Congratulations to our winners and we look forward to seeing what unique ideas will be submitted next year.” 
   This year, JCESC awarded more than 20 Best Practice Grants to teachers at Buckeye Local, Edison, Harrison Hills, Indian Creek, Steubenville, Southern Local, Toronto and the Utica Shale Academy.

(Photo Caption: The Jefferson County Educational Service Center Gifted Coordinator Linda Lenzi presented 2022 Best Practice Grants to three educators at Indian Creek Local School for their innovative projects during the regular ICBOE meeting on Nov. 17. Pictured, from left, are Erin Alloggia and Emily Gault with JCESC Gifted Linda Lenzi while recipient Alyssa Lollini was absent from the photo.)
Southern Local Elementary Teachers Earn Classroom Grants
Posted 11/10/2022 at 1:09:07 PM by Kristina Ash [staff member]
Southern Local BPG 2022
SALINEVILLE- Three Southern Local Elementary School teachers will be sharing more than $1,000 in grant funding to provide interesting learning experiences for students. 


   Holly Davis, Karen Marquis and Tracey Richards each received a $660 Best Practice Grant through the Jefferson County Educational Service Center that will be put towards innovative classroom projects. JCESC Director of Curriculum and Professional Development Ron Sismondo doled out the awards during the monthly Southern Local school board session on Nov. 7 and praised the educators’ creative ideas. 


   “I am here to deliver three Best Practice Grants to three of your teachers,” he said. “We raised [the amount] by 10 percent to $660, or about $1,980 total. There were 45 applications and five from Southern Local. They were all good and we selected three from your district.” 


    Davis, who instructs kindergarten, plans to share her “Daily 5 in KC” reading and Language Arts project with other kindergarten classes and provide activities for hands-on, independent learning. She will purchase supplies so teachers can focus on individual student needs while keeping the children engaged. Among the choices are “Read to Self,” “Work on Writing,” “Read to Someone,” “Listen to Reading” and “Word Work,” which she said would help students become independent learners as well as better readers and writers. 


   “I have 18 students in my classroom,” she said. “I will also share the activities and supplies with the other three kindergarten classes for use in their Daily 5 rotation. 


    Davis previously applied for and received another Best Practice Grant and said she was blessed to receive the latest allocation. 


   “My students will benefit for years to come because of this grant. I am truly thankful for this opportunity. I would like to thank JCESC and Southern Local for the opportunity to apply for such an amazing program to benefit my classroom today and in the years ahead.” 


    Marquis, who instructs fifth-grade math and science, will utilize her windfall for “Creating Stories in the Sky.” She will purchase a Homestar Flux planetarium project while students work together and use problem-solving skills to construct a 16-foot-by-10.5-foot planetarium. It could be set up in the gym and is large enough for classrooms of 23-25 pupils to view constellations which could only be seen from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere.  


    “I will have all of my 44 students working to construct a planetarium. All of the elementary students will be invited to use it this spring after it has been constructed,” Marquis said. “I am so excited I received the grant because it will allow me to bring the universe to life for my students. Instead of us going to a planetarium in Pittsburgh, the students can experience a smaller version of it every year by making our own reusable planetarium here at Southern. I want the students to be able to see the universe from different aspects of the Earth. It went with this year’s theme of ‘Build, Build, Build.’ 


   She added that students also experience math and engineering on a real-life level by using them to form different shapes from triangles and hexagons and create the dome planetarium. 

   Marquis previously received a Best Practice Grant to purchase eight CUE robots that students can control through coding. The robots are used to construct projects and complete engineering tasks and challenges, while the district helped acquire eight iPads and a cart for storage. She said the iPads are extremely useful in helping students complete coding for the robots. 


   Richards, who serves as a full-day preschool teacher, plans to implement “Preschool STEM and STEAM” kits in a cross-curriculum method to assist with literacy and engineering skills. Teachers will read stories to students in a group activity, then the pupils will be able to act out the stories using puppets and complete an included STEM challenge. 


   “I am very excited to have been chosen to receive a Best Practice Grant from the Jefferson County Educational Service Center,” she said. “The goal of the project is to make a multi-dimensional approach in supporting students’ language and literacy skills as well as supporting their creative expression that will allow them to master early engineering.” 


   The project will benefit about 24 full-day preschoolers annually as well as an additional 32 students each year in half-day classes. She said this was her first such grant application and she was pleased to be chosen as a recipient. 


   “I am very thankful, excited and honored to receive this grant. I am very excited to be receiving a Best Practice Grant because I believe that it is important to teach STEAM/STEM to my students because it will help them learn skills relevant to the 21st Century, including innovation?and cultural sensitivity. Thank you to the Jefferson County ESC for giving me the opportunity to apply for this grant so I can supply our two preschool classrooms with resources that we would not normally have. I can't wait to start using these resources and improving my class.”