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State's Top Teacher Visits Schools in Northwest Indiana

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz took time today, during National Teacher Appreciation Week, to visit and observe activities at schools in Lake and Porter counties.  According to her website, Superintendent Ritz stopped by the Hammond Area Career Center then toured the Porter County Career Center before wrapping up her day in Northwest Indiana at  a meet and greet at the Valparaiso Community Schools Administration Building. 
Addressing teachers, administrators and the media, the state's top teacher talked on several topics including alternatives to the ISTEP and IREAD exams to gauge student growth, as well as rules that hold back students who do not pass the exams.  The superintendent said she would like to utilize growth measures saying her office will have an outreach organization consisting of 13 coordinators in nine regions to help schools with their school improvement plans.  The Times reports that the outreach coordinators will be hired from the region they represent.
Superintendent Ritz said literacy is a prime concern of hers and will be implementing a program to combat this summer by empowering organizations like the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs to provide reading in their summer programs.  The program is called "Hoosier Family of Readers," and Ritz says she will be kicking it off on May 10th from the school she used to teach at.
Ritz commented on the new law signed into law earlier this week by Governor Mike Pence that provide funding for officers in school saying that when it comes to project school children, the Department of Education leads the nation with security measures to protect students. 
The superintendent also received many questions from teachers and administrators alike and handled sensitive areas including the voucher program, when she said she is bound to carry out as part of her duties as state superintendent.  Ritz noted though clearly stated her position by stating that "public dollars should go to public schools."  She says due to current legislation, vouchers are paid for first before public schools, so in order to change that the change must happen through lawmakers.
Since it is National Teacher Appreciation Week, Superintendent Ritz said teachers need to be acknowledged more by educators as well as the community for the work they do in the classroom.   The following letter to teachers was posted on the Superintendent website:  http://www.ritz4ed.com.     You can hear the speech given by Superintendent Ritz's at the meet and greet in Valparaiso, it is available at News Audio On Demand at:  http://www.regionnewsteam.com  

A TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK MESSAGE FROM GLENDA TO EDUCATORS: 
Educators of Indiana,

In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted to take time to thank you for all that you do for the children and communities of Indiana. As a fellow classroom teacher, I know of the many hours you devote to your profession. 

Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Teaching is both a science and an art; it takes both to inspire students to learn.

Enjoy you time with students…your brief moments with them can make lasting impressions.

I chose the theme “Imagining the possibilities. Making them happen” for my tenure because of what you do everyday in the classroom. Our focus for the next four years will be about positive approaches that will impact teaching and learning…sharing the great things you do in your schools! We will empower each other to provide what we know is best for our students.

Together, we will imagine the possibilities, and make them happen!

Know that you are appreciated.

Sincerely,
Glenda Ritz
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction
Spt. Ritz  presented flowers   
Valparaiso Teachers Association and the Valparaiso Community Schools present State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz (r) with flowers.
Spt. Ritz  with flowers 3
State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz addresses a "standing room" only audience during the meet and greet at Valparaiso Community Schools Administration Building on Wednesday.
Spt. Ritz 1
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, emphasizes the point that there needs to be alternatives to the ISTEP and IREAD programs as well as rules to hold back students
(photos courtesy of Jay Stevens)
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Pence Signs School Safety Laws and Improvements to Healthcare

SEA 343 Signed
(Governor Pence Signing SEA 343, Courtesy of Senator Head's Office)
Becker SB 554 Signing 5.8.2013
(Gov Pence with Senator Becker for the Signing of SEA 554, Courtesy of Senator Becker's Office)
Along with the signing into law the jobs budget and updating Indiana's felony code, Governor Mike Pence also signed four other pieces of legislation into law Wednesday. Two of the four new laws were authored by State Senator Randy Head, of Logansport, one of which, Senate Enrolled Act 345, calls for a model plan for student restraint and seclusion in the rare instance when such actions would be necessary to protect students from harming themselves or others. Senator Head's other bill signed into law, Senate Enrolled Act 343, contains provisions to streamline the process of local government reorganization if political subdivisions choose to merge.
The other two bills signed into law was legislation sponsored by State Senator Vaneta Becker, of Evansville. Senate Enrolled Act 554 improves healthcare access for Indiana's residents by supporting new medical technologies, and requires reimbursing healthcare providers for tele-health and tele-medicine services offered to medicaid recipients. House Enrolled Act 1111 improves first responder action in emergency situations.
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Coroner Frey Educates on Reducing Infant Deaths

Coroner Frey 2
(Photos Courtesy of the Lake County Coroner's Office)
Coroner Frey 1
Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey was the honored speaker on Saturday for the American Association of University Women's Spring Luncheon, and shared with them her mission to provide education for preventable infant deaths by providing safe sleeping patterns. Coroner Frey informed the organization that in Lake County, between 2011 and 2013, their were 43 infant death, 42-percent of which were related to the infant sleeping with a parent and/or not in a crib or bassinette. Frey says the organization has donated four pack and play sleeping cribs to the Lake County Child Fatality Review team, which review fatalities suspected to be the result of abuse or neglect.
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Indiana's Felony Code Overhaul Bill Signed into Law

Felony code law signing
(Photo Courtesy of the Office of State Senator Brent Steele)
Legislation updating Indiana's felony code for the first time in more than 30 years was signed into law today by Governor Mike Pence. House Enrolled Act 1006 is aimed at ensuring Indiana's criminal sentencing policies are fair and consistent for both victims and offenders. The new law divides felonies into six levels instead of four and puts tighter restrictions on the worst offenders' ability to get out of prison early, as offenders must now serve at least 75-percent of their sentence as opposed to 50-percent under the previous law. To view the sentencing reform proportionality chart, visit http://www.in.gov/legislative/senate_republicans/images/photogallery/Steele/Different%20format%20HB%201006%20Proportionality%20Chart.pdf.
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Minor Injuries After School Bus Vs. Pickup in Union Twp

Three people were taken to the hospital for observation after a crash involving a school bus and a pick truck this afternoon in Porter County's Union Township. Union Township Assistant Fire Chief Tim Beach says they received the call shortly after three o'clock this afternoon for the crash that shut down the intersection at Sedley Road and County Road 400 North for about 45 minutes. Assistant Chief Beach says two people in the pick up and one of the 14 children aboard the school bus were taken to the hospital for minor injuries, and crews had the scene clear by 4pm.
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IN Dunes National Lakeshore Super to Retire in August

Constantine Dillon
(Photo Courtesy of the Times)
After 35 years with the National Park Service, the current Superintendent of the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore says its time to move on. Costa Dillon announced he will retire this August, and says while it will not be easy to leave, he does so with the confidence that the excellent people who work at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and those in the community who support the park, will continue to preserve and protect it for generations to come. Dillon says since 1978, he has worked in over a dozen parks in ten states, with temporary assignments in more than 30 different parks, and as had the priviledge of representing the National Parks Service in assisgnments in four other countries. Dillon has been Superintendent of the Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore since 2007.
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Governor Pence Vetoes Licensing Legislation

Gov Mike Pence
Governor Mike Pence today vetoed two licensing bills because he says they create barriers to the marketplace for Hoosiers and restrict competition. House Enrolled Act 12-42 would have required licenses for diabetes educators, while Senate Enrolled Act 273 would have created a license requirement for anesthesiologist assistants and dietitians, as well as state certification for music therapists. Governor Pence says he is willing to sign license legislation that opens new opportunties for employment or streamlines existing practices and procedures, but that these two did not meet those standards. In the last ten years, there has been a 38-percent increase in the number of Hoosiers holding a professional license, while the state's population has increased just seven-percent over that same time period.
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It Pays to Understand the Roles of Financial Professionals

State of IN
INDIANAPOLIS (May 8, 2013) – Today, Secretary of State Connie Lawson is reminding investors of the importance of understanding the distinctions between the various types of financial professionals.
“Whether you are just starting a retirement fund or need additional help with growing and managing your money, you may benefit from selecting an investment services professional. It pays to understand the differences between a broker-dealer agent, an investment adviser representative and a financial planner. Each serves a distinct role in helping with your financial future,” said Secretary Lawson.
To help investors understand these differences, the Secretary of State’s office has issued an investor advisory providing basic information on these types of financial services professionals and their obligations to investors. The advisory is available at http://www.in.gov/sos/securities/files/Financial_Professionals_IN.pdf
For example, Securities Commissioner Chris Naylor noted that anyone licensed as an investment advisor must, by law, act as a fiduciary and put the interests of his or her clients ahead of their own.
“With so many brokers and salesmen calling themselves ‘financial advisers,’ or ‘investment consultants,’ it is easy to see how investors might assume these individuals are licensed investment advisors,” Commissioner Naylor said. “That’s one reason why federal securities regulators should require all financial professionals providing investment advice to retail investors to be held to a high fiduciary standard.”
The investor advisory also provides questions to ask your financial professional and warning signs to watch for. For more information, contact the Secretary of State’s office at 1-317-232-6681 or visit us online at IndianaInvestmentWatch.com.
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Pence Signs Jobs Budget

BudgetBillSigning
(Photo Courtesy of Governor Pence's Office)
Indianapolis – Governor Mike Pence today signed the state’s biennial budget, HEA 1001, at Crawford Industries in Crawfordsville.
“This is a jobs budget, and it signals that Indiana is open for business,” said Pence. “By preserving Indiana’s strong fiscal position, increasing funding for schools and roads, and giving Hoosiers $600 million a year in tax relief, this budget will encourage investment in Indiana.” 
The historic tax relief package came through a combination of income tax relief, inheritance tax repeal and other business tax reductions. It will help every Hoosier taxpayer, small businesses and family farmers, and make the state more competitive for new jobs.
The budget addresses Indiana’s skills gap with a significant investment in dropout prevention programs and jobs training. It invests $190 million in new money for K-12 education and funds initiatives to increase career and technical education opportunities in Indiana’s high schools, ensuring that graduates leave ready for either college or a career.
The budget also includes more than $600 million for roads and infrastructure, including the first new money for local roads in a decade. It provides $25 million in seed money for a life sciences research institute that will be leveraged by private dollars and will increase growth in Indiana’s life sciences sector
Pence expressed his appreciation for the legislators who worked to craft this budget. “I commend all the members of the Appropriations and Tax and Fiscal Policy committees, and especially the leadership of Chairmen Tim Brown, Luke Kenley, and Brandt Hershman,” he said.
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Adult Male Expected to be Charged in Hobart DQ Incident

Hobart PD
No one was injured, but an adult male is expected to be charged after two front windows were broken at a Diary Queen in Hobart Tuesday night due to shots fired from a BB gun. Jeremy Ogden, 1st Sgt. Detective Division of the Hobart Police Department, says the incident occurred around 8:30pm, at the Dairy Queen on Main Street, and that a quick response by officers led to them locating the suspected vehicle, a grey-silver Oldsmobile minutes after the incident took place. Sgt. Ogden says two adult males and two female juveniles in the vehicle were taken into custody for questioning, with the subject expected to be charged with felony criminal recklessness and misdemeanor criminal mischief, confessing to the incident. Hobart Police report a search of the vehicle allegedly yeilded a BB gun, co2 canisters, and BB's.
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Gov Pence at Gov Bowen Memorial

Gov Pence at Gov Bowen Memorial
Funeral services are in Bremen this Friday (May 10) for former Indiana Governor Otis “Doc” Bowen, who died last Saturday at the age of 95. His wake is today and tomorrow in Bremen at St. Paul's Lutheran Church.
This morning, Governor Mike Pence joined Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, Speaker of the Indiana House Brian Bosma and other statewide elected officials at the Statehouse memorial for Bowen. Governor Pence signed the condolence book, which will be presented to the Bowen family on Friday, and laid a wreath near the portrait and bust of former Governor Bowen.
Governor Pence encouraged Hoosiers to visit the memorial during Statehouse hours, 8:00 to 5:00 EDT, today and tomorrow to also sign the condolence book and learn about Bowen's life and public service.
[Photo provided/Indiana Governor's Office]
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Subaru Adding 900 New Jobs in Lafayette

Indiana Governor Mike Pence joined executives from Subaru of Indiana today to announce the company's plans to expand its operations and add production of the Subaru Impreza in Lafayette, creating up to 900 new jobs by the end of 2016. The company will invest between $400-$450 million dollars to expand the facility's production capacity by about 100-thousand vehicles a year. Construction is slated to begin this fall and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. Incorporated in Indiana in 1987, Subaru of Indiana has produced more than 3.9 million vehicles since it began production in 1989. This includes a company record of 271,583 vehicles in its fiscal year that ended on March 31st of this year.
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Supt Ritz Visiting Region Schools

Indiana School Superintendent Glenda Ritz is on the road today (Wed May 08 2013), in northwest Indiana. This morning Ritz is touring the Hammond Area Career center and meeting with administrators and teachers. This afternoon, she's touring the Porter County Career and Technical Center, followed by a meet and greet with educators at the Valparaiso University Department of Education.
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Man Accused of Having Explosives in Car

In Lake County, prosecutors say a 26-year-old Crown Point man who was reportedly wearing a shirt that had "Jasper County Sheriff" on it faces multiple charges after police allegedly found two explosive devices, handcuffs, a loaded handgun, and police scanner in his car. The Porter County Bomb Unit was called to assist. According to a report in the Times today, court records state Ryan Cohn told authorities he collected police items as a hobby, and when asked about the devices, allegedly said he likes “things that go boom.” He faces two felony counts of possession of a destructive device and resisting law enforcement, and a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a police radio. He was stopped Friday after police got a report of a suspicious person and vehicle in a church parking lot in the Crown Point area, and according to nwi.com was released Tuesday after posting bond of just under five-thousand dollars.
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Citizen Cleaning Highway Finds Wallet

Here's a story to make you smile... according to La Porte Police, a citizen went to the department to turn in a wallet she found while picking up trash along Highway 35 over the weekend. There was some cash inside, and personal ID and papers, and when the owner was notified, he said it must have fallen off his vehicle while visiting a local convenience store. La Porte Police said “Another great citizen caught doing the right thing! Not only cleaning up litter to help beautify her community,” but also ensuring “someone's lost property got back to them. Terrific example setting!”
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Legal Action Against Former School Bus Mgr

Using the state’s new public accountability law, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office Tuesday took legal action against the former business manager of Lake Ridge Schools who is accused of misappropriating more than 133-thousand dollars in school funds. In Jasper County Superior Court, Zoeller’s office got a temporary restraining order freezing the financial assets – including bank accounts and vehicles –of James W. Huddleston of Wheatfield until a full audit can be completed. Huddleston resigned in April.
Here is the news release from the Indiana Attorney General's office:
RENSSELAER, Ind. – Using the state’s new public accountability law, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office today took legal action against the former business manager of Lake Ridge Schools who is accused of misappropriating more than $133,000 in school funds.
In Jasper County Superior Court today, Zoeller’s office sought and obtained a temporary restraining order freezing the financial assets – including bank accounts and vehicles – of James W. Huddleston of Wheatfield, Ind., until a full audit can be completed. Until resigning in April, Huddleston had been the business manager of Lake Ridge Schools in Gary, Ind.
The Attorney General’s motions for a temporary restraining order and prejudgment attachment were filed under a state law the Legislature passed in 2009 at Zoeller’s urging:  House Enrolled Act 1514-2009, the public accountability law.
“This new legal tool allows the State Board of Accounts to notify the Attorney General’s Office through a preliminary audit of potential fraud on public funds much earlier, and allows us to intervene in court to prevent defendants from transferring or concealing assets – preserving them to recover later to reimburse the public treasury,” Zoeller said.
The investigation began in April when the Lake Ridge School Corporation in Gary requested a special audit by the State Board of Accounts or SBoA after the school’s credit union reported suspicious transactions within a school savings account that Huddleston, the business manager, had opened without the knowledge of the superintendent or school board knowledge. Huddleston was the only authorized signature on that account.
A preliminary audit by SBoA examiners found that more than $150,000 – primarily refunds from employee healthcare and prescription drug benefit programs intended for the school’s self-insurance fund – had instead been deposited into Lake Ridge’s savings account. Huddleston had withdrawn $133,624.21 in cash and checks from the account between July 2011 and April 2013, causing the school to incur $525.85 in credit union fees. Huddleston spent the school funds on personal expenses such as credit card payments, electric and gas utility bills, medical, dental and orthodontist bills and payments to auto dealerships and wholesale stores, the preliminary audit found. State law prohibits using public funds to pay for personal items or expenses not related to government business. When school officials became aware of it, Huddleston resigned, the audit said.
In addition to the more than $133,000 misappropriated, the SBoA incurred nearly $7,000 in auditing costs. The total amount of restitution SBoA seeks from Huddleston is $141,149.15.
The State Board of Accounts conducts regularly scheduled audits of government units and, when completed, routinely certifies them to the Attorney General’s Office for collection if audits discover misappropriation of public funds. The 2009 state law allows the SBoA and Attorney General to take action earlier in the process based on a preliminary audit, when public funds would be at risk if the State waited for the regularly scheduled final audit to be completed.
In the motions filed today, the Attorney General’s Office asked the Jasper County Superior Court to freeze Huddleston’s assets, including real estate located in Wheatfield, four vehicles and any bank or retirement accounts. The Attorney General’s Office asked the court to order that Huddleston’s assets not be transferred, concealed or distributed, so that funds would be available to reimburse the school district if the court were to enter a judgment later. Garnishment of any contributions to or benefits from retirement accounts also is sought.
Based on the eventual final audit report, the Attorney General’s Office could file a complaint to recover public funds at a later date, to seek civil collection of the final amount from Huddleston in order to reimburse the school treasury.
Although the misappropriation occurred in Lake County, the State’s motions were filed today in Jasper County because Huddleston resides there. Jasper County Superior Court Judge James R. Ahler granted the temporary restraining order today against Huddleston and set the hearing on the motion for prejudgment attachment and garnishment for May 16.
There was no requirement that the school carry a surety bond or insurance coverage on its former business manager, so any judgment against Huddleston would be his personal responsibility to repay, Zoeller said.
“When a school official is accused of paying personal bills with school funds it is an egregious violation of the public trust, and my office will use all means at our disposal to claw back taxpayers’ money and reimburse the school treasury,” Zoeller said.
The Attorney General’s jurisdiction is civil only, to collect misappropriated public funds that have been misappropriated. Criminal charges, if any, would be the jurisdiction of the county prosecutor and police.
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ISP Lowell Annual Service; Patrick Memorial Sought

mem3
Lowell State Police standing formation
The Indiana State Police Lowell Post held its annual memorial service Tuesday to remember those ISP employees who have given their lives in the line of duty.  Troopers were brought to attention and the Indiana State Police Honor Guard presented the colors. Roll call of the fallen was read by Assistant District Commander, First Sergeant Terrance Weems and Area 1 Captain Ed Schroder.   Guests at the service included the family of fallen Indiana State Trooper Scott Patrick who was killed in the line of duty in December 22, 2003.
mem2
First Sgt. Weems presenting proclamation to Patrick family
The Patrick Family was presented by First Sergeant Weems a copy of the Indiana General Assembly House Resolution No. 10 Section 2 introduced by Representative Vernon G. Smith which urges INDOT to erect a memorial to Trooper Patrick at the I-80 EB to Grant Street exit in Gary.
A total of 46 Indiana State Police employees have lost their lives in the line of duty since the Department was formed in 1933.
Since the early days of the Indiana State Police, memorial services have been held each May at all Indiana State Police districts to perpetuate the memory of those who have died in the line of duty.
mem1
Sgt. Brian Schnick playing Taps
For a complete listing of Indiana Troopers killed in the line of duty and a summary of their deaths, visit the Indiana State Police website at www.in.gov/isp  and click on the “In Memoriam” link on the left side of the page.
[All photos courtesy Indiana State Police Lowell]
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Former Gov Bowen Visitation in Bremen

IndianaGovernor Mike Pence is encouraging Hoosiers from around the state to pay tribute to former Governor Otis R. Bowen by signing condolence books at a Statehouse memorial today and Thursday. Visitors will also have the opportunity to view former Governor Bowen's portrait and bust and learn more about his career and extensive background in public service.  "A dynamic leader, Governor Otis R. Bowen made innumerable contributions to the state in the areas of taxes, healthcare and government administration," said Governor Pence. "I invite Hoosiers from all corners of Indiana to visit his public memorial to pay tribute to this tremendous Hoosier and public servant."
Governor Pence will lay a wreath at the memorial today at 8:00 a.m. EDT. The memorial will be open to the public during Statehouse hours, 8:00 a.m. EDT to 5:00 p.m. EDT, today and Thursday, May 9. Doors open to the Statehouse at 7:30 a.m. EDT.   Former Governor Bowen's wake will take place in Bremen at St. Paul's Lutheran Church from 11:00 to 3:00 today and from 4:00 to 8:00 on Thursday, May 9.
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Indiana Subaru Announcement

Big job news on the horizon? Indiana Governor Mike Pence is scheduled to join executives from Subaru of Indiana Automotive this morning [at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday May 08 2013] for what state officials are calling “a major economic development announcement in Lafayette.” No other details were being released until the announcement.
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Two Say Yes, Two Say No

Based on preliminary, unofficial tallies, residents of the Munster and Wheeler/Union Township school districts voted yes yesterday in special elections to raise property taxes for school funding. In Munster, the votes were about 65-percent in favor.  In Munster, about 5,400 people cast ballots on Tuesday.  In Union Township, the turnout was a little over 1,800. A similar referendum appears to have failed by a margin of just four votes in Boone Township/Hebron, where about 11-hundred people went to the polls for the special election... and in Knox, where school officials were seeking approval for a project costing up to 16-million dollars to renovate a 60-year-old wing of their elementary school, various reports say voters said no, the construction referendum failing by about 100 votes with just over a-thousand votes cast.  You can hear each of the school superintendents discussing the referendums here online at News Audio on Demand.
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