West Side News & Notes
County unveils new website design
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County’s redesigned website was unveiled Nov. 16.
The new website retains all information from the previous version, but it’s presented in a new, more efficient design, county officials said. The address is still www.co.summit.oh.us.
County officials said the county has had a website since the late 1990s. The original site was redesigned in 2000 and again in 2002. The newest design marks the first time the site is entirely hosted on a county server, officials added. The new site was designed by the county’s Department of Communications, which also helped the county save money, officials said.
The new design features an intuitive search engine, access to social media, one-click functionality to reduce font size and screen size, and ease in printing and emailing pages and documents, officials said.
The site includes a new look for some of the county’s offices with information on the site, while some kept their previous design. Officeholders are responsible for the information and content in their area.
Officials added that the site features about 1,200 pages of information and generates about 218,000 hits per day.
IRS seeks volunteers for free tax prep programs in Ohio
COLUMBUS — Recruitment is under way throughout Ohio for volunteers and partner organizations for the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) free tax preparation programs.
Volunteers must receive training and achieve certification during the next two months to be ready for the start of the 2013 tax filing season.
The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free tax help to seniors, as well as to low-to-moderate income and disabled individuals. Partner organizations set up free tax preparation sites in local communities, where volunteers meet with and assist qualifying taxpayers. Some VITA or TCE sites might offer a “self-prepare” option for people to do their own taxes for free using web-based tax preparation software. Volunteers will be needed in all these sites during the upcoming filing season.
While volunteers are needed for tax preparation, help also is needed for a variety of other roles. These include greeter/screener, interpreter, site administrator/coordinator and computer specialist or troubleshooter. Tax preparers, quality reviewers and tax coaches need to complete specialized tax law training and certification in order to assist others with their tax returns. Training is free, and the hours are flexible, according to IRS officials.
Details are available on the IRS website, www.IRS.gov, at key words “Tax Volunteer.” To volunteer with or host a community VITA/TCE site, email TaxVolunteer@IRS.gov.
Falls residents can marry, renew vows with mayor
CUYAHOGA FALLS — Residents of Cuyahoga Falls wishing to get married or renew their wedding vows Dec. 12 (12/12/12) are invited to be a part of the city’s December Bicentennial event.
The Bicentennial Committee will host the 12/12/12 Wedding Day Dec. 12 from 4 to 8 p.m. in the Conference Center at the Natatorium, 2345 Fourth St. Couples will be able to have Mayor Don Robart officiate a civil wedding ceremony on a decorated stage. Following this short ceremony, there will be a professional DJ on site, a spot for photographs, light refreshments and a special treat for the bride and groom.
All that is required is proof of residency and a valid marriage license issued from the Summit County Probate Court.
Robart also will provide vow renewal ceremonies. Proof of residency and a copy of the couple’s marriage license or a current document showing marital status are required.
The ceremonies will be by appointment only. Contact Becky English, assistant to the mayor, at 330-971-8205 or email@example.com to set up an appointment or for more information.
Patrol reminds motorists of importance of safety belts
COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Highway Patrol encourages all motorists to buckle up.
In 2011, nearly 65 percent of the people killed on Ohio’s roadways were not wearing a safety belt. During the first three months of 2012, safety belt citations by Ohio troopers were up 19 percent over 2011, and during this time, unbelted traffic fatalities decreased by 16 percent, according to the patrol.
“It’s simple — safety belts save lives and reduce injury in crashes,” said Col. John Born, patrol superintendent. “It is the easiest thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and your friends.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, safety belts save more than 13,000 lives every year and remain the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself in a crash, the Patrol noted.
According to Ohio’s 2010 Observational Seatbelt Survey, 83.8 percent of motorists were found to be in compliance with Ohio’s safety belt law. This is an increase from the 72.9 percent observed in 2002.
Ohio’s safety belt law remains a secondary violation; however, troopers continue zero-tolerance enforcement when motorists are stopped for other violations and are found not wearing their belt, according to the patrol.
A complete statistical analysis can be viewed at www.statepatrol.ohio.gov/doc/Safe ty_Belt_Bulletin_2012.pdf.
Area groups help farmers expand availability of local produce
PENINSULA — Countryside Conservancy and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) are partnering again to offer a variety of educational programming to specialty crop growers across the state.
Building on a 2011 study released by The Ohio State University’s Center for Farmland Policy Innovation, the two‐year project focuses on utilizing conventional distribution outlets, like grocery stores and restaurants, to increase the amount of local fruits and vegetables available to consumers and create new market opportunities for specialty crop growers.
While most local food systems’ advocacy and education has focused on direct‐to‐consumer sales at farmers’ markets and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, almost 90 percent of food is purchased at retail outlets, such as grocery stores, according to Countryside Conservancy officials.
The project is funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the state of Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the provisions of the Specialty Crop Block Grant.
Beginning in January, the collaboration will provide both business and production skills workshops and webinars that will help growers meet the challenge of diversifying their markets beyond direct‐to‐consumer outlets.
Additionally, OEFFA and Countryside Conservancy will work with regional distributors on developing best practices for working with small to medium‐scale growers, with a focus on keeping farm identity intact from field to final outlet. This will make it possible for grocery store customers, as well as restaurant diners, to feel connected to the farmers.
As more information becomes available, including program dates and registration information, it will be posted to www.cvcountryside.org and www.oeffa.org. Growers interested in receiving information on the upcoming workshop and webinar offerings are encouraged to visit these websites or contact Beth Knorr at Countryside Conservancy at 330-657‐2542, ext. 228, or Mike Anderson at OEFFA at 614-421‐2022, ext. 209. Chefs and grocers interested in sourcing local produce also are encouraged to contact OEFFA or Countryside Conservancy to learn how to participate in the project.
Project to boost student engagement shares results
AKRON — My Voice-Ohio, a three-year project aimed at increasing student engagement in education, has released its first results based on a statewide survey.
The report’s first-year findings are based on responses from nearly 54,000 Ohio students in grades six through 12, more than 9,800 students in grades three through five and more than 2,700 school employees.
Akron Public Schools (APS) was one of six demonstration districts, with high school students and staff from Firestone, Garfield, Kenmore and North high schools participating in an Aspirations boot camp, focus groups and special training.
To read the full report, which was produced by the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations, in partnership with The Pearson Foundation and The Ohio Department of Education’s Office of Educational Reform, visit www.akronschools.com/news/press-releases/files/MyVoiceReport.pdf.
“Our goal is to create an educational environment that supports students’ self-worth, engagement and sense of purpose as a means to their academic, personal and social success,” said Michael Corso, Quaglia’s chief academic officer. “We want to ensure that young people’s voices are not only sought but heard. We want to make each and every person in school feel valued and appreciated and guarantee students and teachers are meaningfully engaged in the learning process.”
According to APS officials, findings from grades six through 12 include the following:
• Belonging is experienced in some form by the majority of Ohio students in their schools; but, in other ways, a sense of community is lacking.
• Heroes are present in most Ohio young people’s lives, yet student-teacher relationships in general are in need of improvement.
• In general, sense of accomplishment is reported at moderately high rates in Ohio schools; still, some indicators of this condition are less than ideal.
• Rates of fun and excitement experienced by Ohio students in their schools are, at best, modest.
• Most indicators of curiosity and creativity are moderately high, yet many students in Ohio are uninspired by their schools, and most fail to see its relevance to their everyday lives.
• Results for spirit of adventure were mixed; some suggest that students are highly invested in school, while others show signs of fear of failure and inadequate support.
• Some indicators of leadership and responsibility suggest Ohio students are confident, though most students fail to report their school environments adequately foster this condition.
• Of all the conditions, confidence to take action shows the highest agreement across the statements, suggesting students in general in Ohio are confident in themselves and their futures, are goal-directed and are prepared to work hard.
Specifically in Akron, students and staff created action plans based on their My Voice Survey results.
Firestone students, for example, set a goal to get to know students who aren’t in their classes in order to improve a sense of belonging and, ultimately, achievement.
In general, younger students reported positive relationships in their schools but fared only slightly better than older students when it came to being engaged in school and felt they didn’t have enough opportunities to make decisions and demonstrate their abilities, according to APS officials.
Kathleen Folkerth and Stephanie Kist contributed to these reports.
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