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Friday, August 31, 2018

Second “First Day” of School for Fort Thomas Independent Schools

Fort Thomas Preschool Program is 5-STAR Rated

Nearly 3,200 students went back to school after their summer break earlier this month to Fort Thomas Independent Schools and their teachers had been preparing for weeks to ensure they could hit the ground running.

First-day pictures flooded newsfeeds and school supplies sections were picked bare, but for Fort Thomas Independent School’s preschool program, they were preparing for the district’s “second” first-day of school.

Last year, Johnson Elementary's Preschool program was awarded a 5-star rating by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Department for Community Based Services, Division of Child Care and the Kentucky Department of Education.

“We strive for excellence in all of our programs, including preschool,” said Lisa Duckworth, Fort Thomas Independent School Board member.  “Our preschool program establishes the foundation of our students with a learning environment that focuses on curiosity and collaborative play.”

Sommer Rosa, Director of Special Education for Fort Thomas Independent Schools, agreed. "I love watching the students run with excitement to their classrooms and greet the new friends they will make. Their eyes are filled with wonder and delight as I reflect on all the possibilities that await them beyond those classroom doors.”

For Johnson Elementary Principal, Ashley Dikeos, having two first-days of school was a welcomed sound after a quiet summer, perhaps the last quiet summer Johnson Elementary will have for a while as they prepare to undertake a $22 million dollar renovation project this fall.

“The first day of school brings laughter, smiles, and hugs and I’m blessed at Johnson because we get two of those,” she said. “The kids are ready to be here and excited to see their old teachers, meet their new ones, and see old friends.”

Bill Bradford, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning said that the first day of school has a special feel to it.

“In Fort Thomas, we are fortunate enough to have two of those," he said.

“Welcoming the students and staff back from their respective summer breaks and engaging with them while there is a sense of excitement - and a 'buzz' - in the air is fun.  It's fun to see all the smiles, talk with students about their anticipation of the year ahead, and see the school come alive again with positive energy and activity."

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Johnson Preschool Teacher, Elizabeth Alter, said welcoming new families is always a treasured part of the first day of school. “We are blessed to be trusted by all our families with one of their most precious gifts,” she said. “Each child and family teach me something new each year!  I love learning and growing with our families and students daily."

SUV Crashes Through Window at Thornton's in Wilder

An SUV plowed through a Wilder gas station, injuring two men inside.

The Thornton's, located at 1005 Town Drive, is near the Great Escape Cinema off of Route 9.

Police say the accelerator got stuck on the driver's Toyota Highlander at about 7:35 a.m. The SUV went through the front of the store on Town Drive all the way back to the beer cooler.

According to police the driver was a woman in her 50’s.

Two men were stocking the beer cooler at the time. One was taken to UC Medical Center but he is expected to survive. The other man was taken to the hospital with some lacerations.

The driver is expected to be okay. She will not be cited.

Banners to Honor Veterans to Be Placed Throughout City

Fort Thomas honored veterans at the new Charters of Freedom monument on Veterans Day in November 2017. (FTM file)

 By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Honor a local veteran through a special city program that will display veteran’s names and images on banners throughout the city.
Barre3 Ft. Thomas. 

The banners will be displayed on light posts on Veterans Day 2018 (November 11) and from January through November of 2019. After display, they will be returned to the sponsoring families.

Sample banner image from Fort Thomas city website.
Banners will include name, branch of service, rank and a photo of the veteran. Cost to sponsor a banner is $200. The deadline for submission is September 15.

Mayor Eric Haas said he is proud of the Charters of Freedom installation created last year and reminded those present that donations are still being taken to support that project. A plaque listing donors to the Charters of Freedom will be installed soon.

RELATED: First Charters of Freedom Monument in Kentucky to Debut in Fort Thomas During Sesquicentennial

-->To sponsor a banner, residents can send a check payable to the city of Fort Thomas with a Fort Thomas Veteran's Banner Form (PDF) available on the city’s website. For additional information, contact Renaissance Manager Debbie Buckley at 859-441-1055.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

NKU Students Invite Residents to KY Senate District 24 Debate

Matt Frey invited the Fort Thomas community to a Kentucky senate debate sponsored by NKU student government.

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

It’s the season. Pumpkin spice, Friday football and, of course, election-fueled public sparring on issues affecting all citizens of the commonwealth.

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, October 2, for a debate between candidates for the Kentucky State Senate District 24 seat, incumbent Wil Schroder (R) and challenger Rachel Roberts (D). The event will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Northern Kentucky University’s Votruba Student Union.

Matt Frey, a member of NKU student government, came to the August Fort Thomas City Council meeting to formally invite the council and the community to this student-sponsored event.

"Part of our plan this year is to become more civically engaged. I’m just here to make some connections with you all and promote the event we are putting together… We want to see a packed house out there and especially with those from counties within the 24th senate district," he said.

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Frey said he was excited to represent NKU student government at the city council meeting. He is a resident of Melbourne, Kentucky, but said Fort Thomas holds a special place in his heart as the home of his family’s business, Frey Municipal Software, since 1974.

He added that the debate is only the first effort by the students to increase their active engagement in the communities served by the university.

The James C. and Rachel M. Vortruba Student Union is located on the NKU campus, Louie B Nunn Drive in Highland Heights. Parking is free, and registration for this free event is available on the KY State Senate District 24 Debate page on Eventbrite.

Woodfill Boosters, Campbell County Youth Soccer Work Together To Support Kids

CCYSL Woodfill soccer players and their coaches walk onto Highlands Soccer Field at Tower Park on a misty morning in September, 2017. Photo by Jana Albritton.

For many families, late August means cleats and shin guards, practices and games, lawn chairs and water bottles, and Saturdays spent at the soccer field. Campbell County Youth Soccer League (CCYSL) is one of the largest recreational clubs in Northern Kentucky, teaching soccer skills to more than 1,400 players each season. This year, several Woodfill Elementary teams are benefitting with paid uniforms and new equipment, thanks to the generosity of Woodfill Boosters. And children across Campbell County are benefitting from the many hours of volunteer time given by parents, coaches and community members each week.

Several northern Kentucky soccer leagues exists, and this can cause confusion, especially with younger families whose children have just begun to express interest. So we asked Adam Trice, CCYSL Woodfill sub-group rep, to break it down for us.

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• CCYSL is a recreational soccer club (non-profit) and registered member of the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association (KYSA). "It's main purpose is to provide affordable recreational soccer to Campbell County residents," Trice says. "As a recreational soccer club, teams are formed according to rules that comply with KYSA guidelines." A focus is placed on teamwork and commitment, while also working to advance soccer skills. Almost everyone associated with the league is a volunteer.

• As a recreational organization, CCYSL holds no tryouts for team placement. "All Campbell County residents who meet the birth year requirements are eligible to participate," Trice says.

• CCYSL strives to group players by their geographic locations if possible (in short, so players can be on the same team as many of their friends). As such, the organization has adopted the use of sub-group representatives that align with the local elementary and middle schools in Campbell County, Trice says. "This position is generally filled by each school individually through their boosters organization or PTO board," he adds.

• Other local leagues include Northern Kentucky Soccer Academy (NKSA) and Kings Hammer Soccer Club. "These are both select organizations that hold yearly tryouts for new participants," Trice says.

Shelley Frey has served as assistant coach and head coach for both her son's and daughter's teams for three seasons. The fall 2018 season will mark her fourth season coaching. "The league does a fantastic job of making soccer accessible," Frey says. "It allows kids to play and learn the sport without eclipsing all other activities. The non-competitive atmosphere fostered by the league enables players of all abilities to be included."

To ease the cost for students who wish to play recreational soccer, Trice worked with Woodfill Boosters, a parent-led organization focused on supporting students who participate in extracurricular activities, to secure funding for the purchase of 100 new uniforms for the soccer program. As such, beginning with the fall 2018 soccer season, Woodfill Boosters has offered to provide Woodfill soccer uniforms to all participants who play on a Woodfill team at no additional charge to parents and guardians. Uniforms cost $30 in previous seasons.

Eric Neufarth, Woodfill Boosters president, says the Boosters also supports Woodfill students by providing their field trip and district field day t-shirts, purchasing equipment for the playground and gym, paying for and dressing up as the Wildcat mascot, and providing an iPad used for PE classes and sporting events. The organization has also made donations in support of Woodfill's The Leader in Me program, has sponsored events like the Turkey Trot, and has provided food and entertainment at the back-to-school picnic, which is now incorporated with Woodfill's Readifest.

Neufarth says the Boosters raises money for these student benefits through a few key events during the school year. "Some funds come through community-building events, like the mother/son and father/daughter dances, but the largest producers for our organization recently have been the volleyball league, clinics and basketball events we host in the school's gym," he says.

In addition to the uniform donation, Woodfill Boosters now also supports the fairly new Campbell Cup Tournament, a league tournament created in 2017 that is open for CCYSL teams only."No select teams can register," Trice says. "Many of the other soccer tournaments in the area are open to all teams meaning that select teams are able to participate as well, which increases the number of teams as well as registration fees collected. The CCYSL board made the decision to keep the tournament closed to only league participants to try and promote a fun atmosphere where teams are more evenly matched as only recreational soccer teams are permitted."

Woodfill Boosters' donation of pop-up tents and benches are a welcome addition to CCYSL Woodfill teams. 

For the past two years Woodfill Boosters has supported this tournament by covering all registration fees ($100 per team) for Woodfill teams that have participated in the tournament. The Boosters also provided pop-up tents and team benches.

"My daughter's team was able to use these items during the Campbell County Cup tournament at the end of the spring season," Frey says. "With fields in full sun and 90° temperatures, the tent and availability of extra water made an amazing difference."

Through these donations and support, Woodfill soccer players are now able to play for CCYSL with only the league fees charged to parents, which is currently $60 per season for U8-U10. "With uniforms provided and the league tournament feeds covered, there is no additional charge for participation, which was not the case in the past." Trice says the goal is to increase participation without addition additional unknown expenses to the parents after they have registered.

"We typically identify needs through requests from the teachers and staff at the school, but occasionally we are contacted by Woodfill parents coaching in the leagues our school recognizes in the Fort Thomas community," Neufarth says. "This is how we were presented the opportunity to support the CCYSL teams this past year in the [Campbell Cup] tournament. Adam Trice, who not only serves on our board, but is also a coach and the school's representative for the league, approached us with the request to support our Woodfill teams in some way. After considering the impact and ability the board voted in favor of not only covering the cost of the entry for the tournament, but also purchased a collapsible bench that will continue to be used by the teams in coming seasons."

Located at the Hiland Building, 18 N. Fort Thomas Ave.
Neufarth is currently serving his second and final two-year term as president of Woodfill Boosters, but notes that the organization is also "very well led" by three additional board members, Chrissy Barlow, Andy Raaker and Adam Trice. "In addition, we are strongly supported by some amazing parent and teacher committee members and volunteers," he says. "Matt and Mandy Gessner, Rebecca Neufarth, Carrie Skirvin and Amanda Kramer, who had been a longstanding board member for several years until just recently."

Like CCYSL, Woodfill Boosters exists thanks to countless volunteer hours. "We're excited to have another great school year in front of us, and we have a new event we're just beginning to plan for later this fall, but as strong as we are, we still need support," Neufarth says. "Changes are coming as many of the existing teams' children grow older and move to middle school." Neufarth says Woodfill Boosters is actively looking for support from some new parents who are interested in getting involved at the school. "We will have opportunities to chair or support committees like our new fall event, social media, mascot scheduling and staffing, T-shirt captain and others." Meetings are currently held in Woodfill's cafeteria on the second Wednesday of every month during the school year at 6 p.m. All are welcome.

Highlands-Scott County Preview

Bluebirds Hope to Reverse Fortunes Against Cardinals

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior quarterback Grady Cramer (18) goes for the stiff-arm in the win over Campbell County on Friday.
The great Highlands Bluebirds football teams in the past won games like this regularly.

This year's Highlands squad hopes to show it is ready to do that again consistently in a battle of 2-0 teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 10 poll. Highlands, ranked fourth in Class 5A, takes on Class 6A's second-ranked Scott County Cardinals on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the friendly confines of David Cecil Memorial Stadium.

Highlands has consistently flexed its muscles defensively in its first two games allowing 145 yards rushing and 309 yards passing to go with 14 points for averages of 72.5 rushing, 154.5 passing and seven points. The 3-5 Bluebird defense has given the offense good field position with five interceptions and four fumble recoveries including three of each in the 34-7 win at Campbell County on Friday. Senior defensive back Casey Greene leads the way with two interceptions.

Cooper and Campbell County tried to rush between the tackles in addition to calling various quarterback run plays. But the Highlands defensive line in seniors Ben Sisson and juniors Conner Zell and Zach Lewin have held their points allowing the linebackers and defensive backs to come in, fill the gaps and make the tackles.

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"The one difference between those teams and this team though is same blocking schemes," said Brian Weinrich, Highlands Head Coach. "It's just that Scott County has a lot of window dressing in the back. You get guilty of looking at all of that. We're guilty of it. Every team we've seen on film this year. As soon as you start looking at all of that, you get lost."

One look at the stats shows why that needs to continue against the Cardinals. Scott County will bring its vaunted traditional Wing-T offense to town. In a 56-13 season-opening win over North Bullitt and a 58-28 win over Lexington Lafayette at home, the Cardinals rushed for a grand total of 867 yards including 601 in the win against Lafayette for a two-game total of 433.5 per game.

"What the offense is doesn't matter. If you do what you're supposed to do defensively, whatever you want to label their offense is irrelevant," Weinrich said. "You can only block so many different ways. You can only run so many routes. So if your job is to key a certain offensive lineman and he blocks a certain way, you got to distinguish. You have to respond."

The Cardinal attack starts up front with senior left tackle Bryan Hudson. The Virginia Tech commit is a four-year starter for Scott County. Senior Tyler Sammons plays center for the Cardinals.

Junior running back Bronson Brown leads the Scott County rushing attack with 303 yards rushing on 23 attempts and three touchdowns for an average of just more than 13 per carry. Senior fullback Austin Barnett has rushed for 269 yards on 35 carries and eight touchdowns for an average of 7.7 per carry. Senior running back Payton Brown has rushed for 127 yards on 16 carries. Despite those averages, veteran Scott County Head Coach Jim McKee noted some concerns entering the game.

"They are not going to beat themselves," McKee said. "They are solid in all aspects of the game from special teams to offense and defense. You have to earn everything you get. We are battling some injuries and some new kids starting so we are not really as far along as we had hoped for at this junction in the season. We are looking forward to making the trip, playing a class opponent and having fun playing this great game."

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Former Highlands Standout, Kentucky Football Assistant John Schlarman in Cancer Battle

Back at UK Media Day earlier this month, head coach Mark Stoops told reporters offensive line coach John Schlarman was battling some troubling medical issues.

This week at his weekly press conference, Stoops revealed that the former Highlands standout was in a battle with cancer.

“Coach Schlarman is dealing with some very serious medical issues,” Stoops said. “At this point, John has gone through two rounds of chemotherapy and is handling things with a very strong attitude and strong mindset and is getting the very best treatment he can. And again, just continue to pray for him. Our thoughts and prayers are with John and his family.”

Schlarman first met with doctors at UK Health, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lexington and MD Anderson in Houston followed. They recommended Chemotherapy. Schlarman received his second Friday morning.

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Schlarman comes from a strong Fort Thomas athletic family, the majority of his siblings having been inducted into the Highlands Hall of Fame. He's former four-year starter at UK (1994-97) with a degree in mathematics and a love for football and coaching, first at the high school level (Newport and Campbell County) and then college, first at Troy and now his alma mater.

Stoops noted that even with the cancer treatments, Schlarman hadn't missed a day of work.

“He’s definitely battling a very serious illness and to John’s credit, he’s been at work every day,” Stoops said. “He hasn’t missed. Matter of fact, just walking over here just now, I just saw John walking out of the building with one of our other coaches to go for a little walk and get some exercise. Last Friday he had chemotherapy all morning and he was at practice in the afternoon. So, he’s been a warrior with this and, again, we’re just thinking and praying for him and his family.”

National Website 'Thrillist' Features Colonel De Stewart

Thrillist, an online media website covering food, drink, travel and entertainment, has featured Fort Thomas' own "Colonel" De Stewart.

The company, founded in 2004 and based in New York City, interviewed Stewart at his world headquarters at the Hiland Building in Fort Thomas.

Here's the article by Rebecca Strassberg:

If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume you know who Colonel Sanders is -- maybe you’ve even eaten at one of his fast food restaurants, Kentucky Fried Chicken. But you don’t know him as intimately as Colonel De Stewart does.

“He made [spices] so mysterious, and made such a big deal out of it,” says Colonel De, a bona fide Kentucky Colonel in his own right who trained under the famous fried chicken kingpin. “And that’s what made his chicken so special.”

After all, anyone can make plain ol’ chicken. It took Sanders 11 herbs and spices to make Kentucky Fried Chicken the most recognized name in fast poultry today.

Inspired by the KFC mogul, Colonel De has been saving chicken, beef, pies, cakes, cookies -- you name it -- from flavorless fates since 2006. That’s when he and his wife started Colonel De Gourmet Herbs & Spices with just 15 items and two folding tables. “We would just take those around to wherever they’d let us set them up,” he says. The hard work quickly paid off, because today Colonel De has three locations (two in Cincinnati and one in Fort Thomas, Kentucky), 600 items including herbs, spices, blends, and sauces, and a newly opened restaurant.

'Put up or shut up'

Like many of us, watching the Food Network convinced Colonel De he could be a famous chef. Some 20 years ago, the then-new cable channel gave Colonel De an idea.

“All of these chefs were on there talking about all these crazy ingredients,” he says, “and people like myself were like, ‘Where the devil do I find that? That’s not gonna be at the big box store that I go to all the time!’”

He thought, if he was having trouble finding these things, then other people probably were, too. And, like him, they were looking for one place to find everything they needed.

But the Colonel wouldn’t enter the spice universe just yet. He needed to stick it out at his dead-end job in information technology, an industry he’d been in for over 30 years, to keep the lights on. That didn’t mean he couldn’t have fun though. The Colonel decided to pitch a cooking segment to the local public access channel in Northern Kentucky, Independent Cable Network 6. He didn’t think they’d go for it, but here’s the thing: Colonel De, affectionately referred to by customers as “the man, the myth, the mustache,” was made for television. His white horseshoe mustache takes up no less than one-third of his face. His thunderous laugh renders microphones superfluous. And his vast personal collection of suits and hats meant there’s no need for a wardrobe department. So when the Colonel got the call that ICN-6 wanted to move forward with the cooking segment, he couldn’t believe it. “I just thought, ‘Well, I guess it’s put up or shut up time,’” he says.

The segment, where the Colonel was referred to as the “Businessman Chef,” consisted of Colonel De and a rotating cast of local culinary figures chatting about food and spices, hoping to get viewers more comfortable with using new flavors at home. Soon, viewers wanted to know where and when to get Colonel De’s spices.

The Colonel’s path was clear: It was time to put up or shut up once again.

Rise and grind

Production and development at Colonel De’s is a lot different today than it was back in 2006, when the Colonel and his wife signed their first lease at the Historic Findlay Market in Cincinnati. “We opened [the store] with 100 items and I thought, ‘Boy, I got it now, man,’” the Colonel says. “You can’t come up and ask me for anything I don’t have. And the very first week, three people did.” But he adapted, and politely told customers that though he didn’t have an item just then, he’d work on developing it.

Eventually the one store became three and 100 items became 600 -- but not without some professional help and business know-how.

Among the staff at Colonel De’s three locations (Historic Findlay Market, Jungle Jim’s, and the business headquarters in Fort Thomas) are seven chefs with a cumulative 250 years of experience. Often, one of them will come up with an idea. “They’ll say, ‘You know, we don’t have anything that’s Tahitian. Don’t you think we ought to?’ And we’ll start researching and we’ll come up with something until we all say, ‘Yeah, by golly! There it is!’”

The business also works closely with chefs at the Midwest Culinary Institute in Cincinnati, a relationship that continues to generate new and creative tastes. When one of the MCI’s chefs called Colonel De complaining he couldn’t find any good tōgarashi (a Japanese spice) on the market, the team got to work. The result: the perfect blend, with just enough salt and not too much heat.

But while the more unique spices like tōgarashi are made in small batches, the Colonel says the biggest difference between today and 2006 is the volume he moves regularly. “The first time I had to order 100 pounds of salt, I was terrified,” he says. “Like, ‘Oh my god, they’ll be putting salt in my grave, I’ve got so much salt!’ And if I go down to the warehouse now and we don’t have 250 pounds, I know we’re screwed.”

Keeping track of the three tons worth of product and extensive catalogue isn’t as hard as it sounds though. Colonel De received a loan from Sam Adams’ Brewing the American Dream program, which paid for the business’s first group of iPads, allowing them to move off of pencil and paper and set up a database. With the rest of the loan money, they purchased a seed grinder. Now, instead of buying powdered ingredients (like cumin, for example, which the Colonel says atrophies quickly), he can buy seeds and grind them when needed.

The Colonel

For Colonel De, the loan meant less time at the mercy of banks, whom he says don’t truly understand what’s needed to keep a small business functioning. “[Small businesses] hire the most people in this country,” he says, “and we deserve more than the short stick that we’re given by the banks.”

Keeping capital moving has always been a struggle for the Colonel, but he’s ever-determined to continue growing. “We have done every business expansion by bootstrap,” he says, including their latest venture, Colonel’s Kitchen & Catering, Stewart’s Fort Thomas restaurant that has seen a steady stream of customers since it opened in May.

Menu items include the Flop (buttermilk pancakes with maple cinnamon butter) and Goetta Life (a biscuit sandwich with house-made goetta sausage, soft scrambled egg, tomato jam, and cheddar) among others. The featured item of the day usually highlights the same spice being highlighted in the retail store. Not sure how to cook with it? The Colonel can show you -- just like he first did all those years ago on ICN-6.

As for the name, Colonel De, it’s an official title given to community leaders by the governor of Kentucky. But you don’t become part of the Kentucky Colonels commission by making spices. The Colonel completed a nine-month leadership program in 1999, during which time he immersed himself in every facet of his community. He met with the heads of hospitals, joined a nonprofit board, even became involved with the arts. He learned to listen to the people around him and get them what they need. Today, that just happens to be really, really tasty food.

GUILTY! Shayna Hubers Convicted; Sentencing Could Begin Today

The sentencing of convicted murderer Shayna Hubers will begin Wednesday morning.

The jury deliberated for five hours Tuesday before declaring Hubers guilty of the murder of her boyfriend Ryan Poston in 2012.

Hubers shot Poston to death in his Highland Heights condominium Oct. 12, 2012, after a prolonged period of instability in their relationship. (Prosecutors showed reams of unanswered text messages from her to Poston as well as a text to a friend in which she fantasized about killing him.)

Sentencing will begin at 9 a.m. with jurors listening to witnesses. They will then make a recommendation to Judge Dan Zalla; Zalla will have the final say in her sentence.

Hubers' behavior in police interviews, during which she worried out loud no one would want to marry her and quipped that the shooting gave Poston a long-sought nose job, netted her a murder charge which resulted in a 2015 conviction and sentence to 40 years in prison.

However, one of the jurors who handed down the first conviction was a felon. That discovery made room for another trial -- one in which Hubers' defense team doubled down on its narrative of her as a desperate, terrified victim of Poston's long-running physical abuse and prosecutors reiterated their story of an obsessive, controlling young woman who preferred a dead boyfriend to an ex.

During closing arguments in the second trial, Commonwealth's Attorney Michelle Snodgrass called Hubers' killing of Poston "an execution."

Although defense attorneys argued she shot him to protect herself and killed him to end his suffering, Snodgrass said she deliberately shot him six times from fewer than three feet away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

MSN Names Highlands "Best Public High School in Kentucky"

Stacker, the "Money" section of has named Highlands the Best Public High School in the state.

In seeking to keep the decision-making process as local as possible for parents, Stacker referenced Niche data in order to list the best public high school in every state. For the purposes of their story, only traditional public high schools were taken into consideration, meaning the likes of charter schools, magnet schools, or any lottery-based or admission-based schools were not included.

Here are the categories that were ranked.

Kentucky: Highlands High School
Number of students: 992; Student-teacher ratio: 19:1
Math proficiency: 74%; Reading proficiency: 81%

Average graduation rate: 95%
Overall Niche grade: A+
Academics grade: A+
Clubs & activities grade: A+

Two Structure Fires in Newport Occur in Five-Span; Firefighter Injured

This morning, Newport units responded to two structure fires within five hours of each other.

In the fire occurring at 2:45 a.m. on Lindsay Street, two people are injured and three dogs are dead after a fire broke out in Newport Tuesday morning.

Newport Fire officials say that fire was one of two the department had responded to this morning in a five-hour span.

The other fire broke out in the 800 block of Brighton.

"While battling the second fire, a member fell through floor into the basement resulting in a May Day situation. The firefighter was quickly extricated and transported to a local hospital for medical treatment," according to a release.

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Newport officials said five area departments assisted during the fires.

Fire officials believe the Lindsay Street fire started on the first floor and then spread to the house next door.

Crews said one adult and child were taken to the hospital with minor burn injuries.Three dogs died in the fire, fire officials said.Crews are still working to find the cause of the fire.

In Other Words: Local Legendary Server Mary Ballard to Retire August 31

If you don’t know Mary Ballard then you better scoot on down to the 915 before the end of August. Mary has been taking care of this community in some form for as long as I can recall and has decided it's time to retire. 

Now I admit that I cannot be unbiased here because, well, I have known Mary for a long time and admit that I simply adore her.  I first met Mary and her husband, Craig on a high school open house. Craig, 6’4” tall and filled a doorway with his presence, entered the classroom and announced that he was “the world’s tallest dwarf.” Mary followed behind him, snickering and shaking her head. 

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Serving runs in her blood. And this is an important distinction to understand. She doesn’t just serve food, she serves people. And she takes great joy in taking care of people. She wants them to feel comfortable. 

Mary says of the 915, “This is like my home. I haven’t met anybody I don’t like. I love it here.” She has taken care of thousands of us and she has instilled that concept of servitude into her children. Her son Will Hunt, serves on the Fort Thomas police force, and her daughter Megan Doran, is a nurse. They serve the community as well. So where did this sense of servitude begin? 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Fort Thomas Farmers' Market - What's New This Week

Did you know that if 10% of the population shifted just 10% of their weekly food budget to LOCAL FOOD that it would put $56 million back into the local economy?

Ways to EAT LOCAL –

#1 - Shop the farmers’ market

#2 - Plan your menu around what’s in season

#3 - Buy staples such as meat, eggs, cheese & bread at the market

#4 - Give local foods or items sourced locally such as soaps & honey as gifts.

Join the 10% SHIFT EAT LOCAL CAMPAIGN at for more tips & tricks.

Parade Winners Honored at City Council Meeting

Mayor Eric Haas congratulates Chuck Keller, who picked up the first place Most Original award for the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy.
By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

Perhaps all Fort Thomas residents who braved record breaking heat to attend this year’s Fort Thomas Independence Day Parade deserve kudos but city council singled out a few participants who deserve special honors for their creativity and enthusiasm at the event.

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At the August city council meeting, Mayor Eric Haas handed out awards to seven groups whose parade contingents represented the best of Fort Thomas’ pride.

The Fort Thomas Education Foundation’s entry receive first place for best reflection of the parade theme, "Imagining Our Next 150 Years."

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy the Fourth of July in Fort Thomas

Some of the recipients were on hand at the meeting to receive their awards.

Neighbors Opposing Zone Text Amendment Broaden Concerns

Many who attended the August city council voiced concern over decision-making processes.
By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor 

The proposed text change to the General Commercial zone continues to draw concern and passion from residents.

The August City Council meeting drew a large crowd of those who opposed the text amendment for the third month in a row despite state restrictions on discussion of the topic.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Residents Turn Out for Zoning Change on Storage Facilities

The meeting was originally set to be a second reading of the text amendment but, due to technical issues that delayed distribution of the public hearing minutes, the August meeting became the official first reading. Council will vote on the amendment at the September 4 meeting.

While many of the residents reiterated their previous concerns, some brought up new questions about the process concerning citizen input, while others broadened the discussion to include concerns about visioning for the south side and the city in general.

Council vote set for September meeting

City Attorney Jann Seidenfaden explained the delay concerning the transcript of the public hearing held at the Planning Commission meeting in June. An outside transcriber was sometimes unable to identify who was giving testimony so a city employee needed additional time to clarify who was speaking in the minutes.

She also reminded those present about the difference between the text amendment under consideration and future issues that may come up that would involve changes to the zone map.

"When we have a text amendment, it is a change in the wording of the zoning ordinance. It’s not a change of the zone in particular. The text amendment …affects any general commercial zone in the city, not attached to any one particular property but to the entire zone, in this case the General Commercial zone," she explained.

In addition to the text change amendment, the council also heard a first reading of a zone map change on a specific property at 1960 Memorial Parkway. In that instance, Seidenfaden said, the property owner has asked for a zone change from a residential R1C zone to a Professional Office zone.

In answer to concerns about a lack of notification, she said the text amendment, since it is not tied to any one property, required notification in papers of record but did not require the same level of notification as a zone change. In the instance of a zone change for the property on Memorial Parkway, those with property abutting the address would have received notice by mail, she said.

Improving communications and questions about input

Tim Hodory of Hawthorne Avenue said he still had concerns about how the public meeting was publicized. He also expressed concern that there was only one opportunity to speak on the subject.

Mayor Eric Haas responded that the council is looking into the issue of notice for any zoning issues or other city meetings.

"There was a lot of discussion at the last meeting around the notice…The state of Kentucky has finally made some changes to allow us to look at doing notices online, on websites and other methods," he said.

He said he did not know at what stage state legislators are in on the topic, but the city staff has been collecting data and the Law, Labor and License Committee will meet soon to look at ways to improve the system of notice for all meetings.

Another resident of Hawthorne Avenue, Tom Morrison, brought up a concern about the text amendment process. He questioned the interpretation of the Kentucky statute concerning citizen input.

"I wanted to speak on the proper thought process on restricting dialog as it relates to the Planning Commission," he said. "Why are rules in place that say the only input that can go into council has to come out of the minutes of that [public hearing] meeting? Is it a Kentucky revised statute that specifically says that?"

Seidenfaden said that the statute talks about a public hearing that is to go before a Planning Commission. "It specifically says it will go to the Planning Commission and they shall hold at least one public hearing upon notice. They make a recommendation of approval or disapproval which then goes to council."

Morrison said he spoke with other cities’ officials who had differing opinions on whether public input would be allowed between the public hearing and the city council vote. He said there may be concerns about the state’s “sunshine law” that ensures against outside influence. He said that law covers meetings of council members with each other outside of the public eye but it does not cover citizen input.

The city attorney agreed that some cities handle the prohibition differently. One city, she said, allows input but then warns council members to ignore that input.

Council Member Roger Peterman added that the reason for the prohibition is to avoid a situation in which someone might try to delay the process for long periods, a tactic known as "sand bagging." The process, he said, is set up to be efficient and fair.

Another resident spoke up from the audience to say that perhaps a meeting prior to the public hearing would have made sense, to allow citizens the opportunity to learn more about what is being proposed before the final input is gathered at the public hearing.

Haas said this concern feeds into the issue of communication and notice. The city is examining this topic, he said, "As we talked about at our previous meeting, and we will be discussing, there’s better ways to provide notice for all the things that come before the city…"

South side residents weigh in

Martha Coffman presents on Fort Thomas culture and makes a plea for "the big picture."

Several of the residents who expressed concern about the text amendment at past meetings said the issue of zoning is only one part of their concerns about their neighborhood.

Mary Healy of Holly Woods Drive has been a vocal opponent of the text amendment, but she said her concerns for her neighborhood go well beyond zoning issues.

"I am not here to talk about the text amendment or zoning. I have talked about the south side at two other recent council meetings. I have lived in the south side 35 years. I personally feel the south side has been short-changed in a lot of respects."

She went on to list amenities and décor in the central and middle business districts that are not present on the south side. While she has participated in the city’s visioning process, she had concerns that visioning committees were not integrating their plans.

Haas said that issue is currently being addressed as committees are sharing their plans and working out an overall vision.

Peterman added that those on the south side of town in particular should participate in plans for the Smart Cities grant. "I encourage you strongly to get involved with this. It is my understanding that it will run from the river to NKU, and I think this can be transformative for your area."

Phone: 859-905-0714 - Email: This is an advertisement.
Teacher Martha Coffman broadened the discussion further with a presentation on the culture of Fort Thomas in general. She outlined what she believed to be the culture of the city and what was most appealing to her and other residents.

"What I’m asking you to do is to reflect on our town and what our vision is, for the whole town. We want to be a unified town and that’s what our strength is," she said.

She brought several visual aids, including photos of council members’ homes to make her point about the impact of commercialization and other decisions for the community.

She summed up with a plea to council based on the adage "Do not fail to see the forest for the trees."

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Highlands-Campbell County Highlight Video

Highlands-Campbell County Sidebar

Bluebird Defensive Averages Through Two Games: Seven Points, 227 Yards Allowed

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior defensive lineman Zach Lewin (41), senior linebacker Jackson Hagedorn (46) and junior linebacker Brycen Huddleston (1) finish off a tackle against Campbell County junior Josh Pond (14).
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands sophomore defensive back Jason Noe (22) records an interception while senior defensive back Bailey Armstrong (2) pursues. That marked one of three interceptions for the Bluebirds in the game.
The focus on containing key players in the first two games has paid off immensely for the Highlands Bluebirds football team in the second year running the 3-5 defense.

Highlands Dominates Campbell County in the Second Half, Moves to 2-0

Bluebirds #Dominate Second Half in Rivalry Win

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands sophomore Joe Buten (26) jumps forward while senior offensive linemen Will Salmon (52) watches and Trent Johnson (65) blocks.
PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands senior Nate Roberts (80) goes up for a touchdown while teammate Austin King (13) closes in. The Bluebirds trailed 7-6 at halftime, but pulled away for a 34-7 win.
Both football teams finished one drive in the first half.

That indicated a strong possibility of another tight finish like the US 27 rivalry battle between the Highlands Bluebirds and Campbell County Camels have seen in three of the past four seasons, especially at Campbell County Stadium. But the Highlands Bluebirds (2-0) hit the ground running offensively in the second half and quickly ran away from the Camels (1-1) for a 34-7 victory.

"We really found out what kind of guys we are in this game," said Zach Deaton, Highlands Offensive Coordinator. "We said at halftime, 'Hey. We're going to do what Highlands football is going to do - what we've worked on all week. We're going to execute it. We're going to get the ball on the first drive of the second half and we're going to go score.' We went. We got the ball in the first half. We scored. It was great to see guys score. I'm pretty sure we had six possessions and four scores. We need to do that in the first half. But we were in a situation in the first half where we had to come back."

Friday, August 24, 2018

Letter: Thank You to This Fort Thomas Community

By Mary Lou Keller 

I am (in spite of being married to a retired English teacher) not so good with words.

I often feel at a loss as to how to best express my feelings. This was especially true when Chuck was diagnosed with lymphoma this past January. One of the scariest and most hated words in the English language, the one that no one wants to hear, was the dreaded word we heard as explanation for Chuck's worsening symptoms. Cancer.

We were both devastated.

After multiple tests and his diagnosis, Chuck was very forthcoming about the journey he was about to embark upon. I, on the other hand, shut down. I closed myself off. I had no words to express my feelings. My fear. So many people emailed and sent me text messages offering help. They asked if I needed an ear or shoulder to cry on. My response was 'thank you, but really, I am fine'. And the truth is, I was fine. But I was also not fine if that makes sense.

I was paralyzed with fear at times. I did not keep a journal. I was unsure how to write about my feelings, let alone talk about them. I shut down, and shut people out. I just went about life like usual. I coped. I did my best to care for Chuck and myself. I came to work every day, even on his first day of chemo. That day was hard for both of us. Of course, in true Chuck Keller fashion, he came through that first round like a champ.

Each treatment was different, some harder on him than others, and the effects of the drugs injected became more evident as we went along. No matter how he felt, he stayed positive. He felt pretty good. And here’s the point to my writing this: the outpouring of love and support from hundreds of people overwhelmed us.

We are so grateful.

Emails, texts, cards and gifts, they came nearly every day along with meals and offers of food from so many people. It was just overwhelming in the best way possible. It bolstered us on hard days and both of us were overcome with emotion at the enormity of it all. So much love from our community.

Chuck wrote thank you notes to nearly everyone and though I was equally grateful, I remained rather silent. Looking back, I think I must have seemed indifferent or unappreciative, but that could not be farther from the truth. Like Chuck, I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, but I dealt best with everything by maintaining normalcy and keeping with my routine. Holding on to what was familiar in my daily life, helped keep me stabilized while the love gave us the strength to keep moving forward.

Now that the dust has settled, I wanted to take a moment to say that I am so incredibly grateful for this town, our community and our friends. The generous and kind people who are part of our lives have shown so often what makes this town of Fort Thomas a wonderful place to live.

Highlands Leads Northern Kentucky for Mr. Football Finalists

Derek Smith (1998) was a finalist for Kentucky Mr. Football. 
The Kentucky Mr. Football Award is an honor given to the top high school football player in the state of Kentucky and in the KHSAA. Awarded by a panel of sports writers and broadcasters from around the state's Associated Press, many past winners have proceeded to have successful college careers and even play in the National Football League.

Since the award was first given in 1986, Highlands High School has had the second most finalists among all schools. They have had two winners, Jared Lorenzen (1998) and Patrick Towles (2011).

RELATED: Highlands vs. Campbell County (Preview - 8-24-18)

Here are all of the northern Kentucky finalists over the years.

1996 Justin Frisk
1998 Jared Lorenzen (winner), Derek Smith
2000 Gino Guidugli, Brett Hamblen
2001 Rob Smith
2009 Austin Collinsworth
2011 Patrick Towles (winner)
2014 Beau Hoge, Alex Veneman

Newport Central Catholic 
1986 Frank Jacobs (winner)
2011 Brady Hightchew

Covington Catholic 
1987 Mike Woolf
1988 Paul Hladon
1992 Adam McCormack
2005 Drew Ellison
2017 Kam Butler, AJ Mayer

1991 Craig Wilmhoff
1994 Greg Hergott

Boone County
1994 Shaun Alexander (winner)
2007 Cory Farris

Simon Kenton
2009 Miles Simpson
2017 Matt Shearer

2013 Drew Barker

Thursday, August 23, 2018

RECIPE: Cornbread That is Almost Like Cake.

Lindsey Cooks! with Colonel De

By Lindsey Cook 

I was a swimmer for many, many moons. I swam in high school; Nancy Barre was my coach. There are quite a few kids from those swimming days that I still count as friends and see often, sometimes because our kids are swimming together. 
Swimmers are mighty weird folk. I got a theory about that. Swim practice consists of thousands of meters or yards plowing along with your head under water. 
Nobody to talk to. No coach yelling at you. No friends to chat with. No music. No planes flying overhead or the echo of balls bouncing off walls.
Just the company of your own chlorine-soaked mind. 
That’ll do something to you that can’t be undone.
Yep, swimmers are some weird people. 
For that high school team, we had to travel every so often and stay in hotels. The state swim meet was, of course, the big one.
Can you think of a better set-up? A couple dozen teenagers with a few chaperones spending a couple nights in a hotel? We were angels. We were quiet, went to bed early, refrained from snacking, walked calmly and respectfully through the hallways. 
You totally believe that, right?
Ok, maybe it was a little different. Who needs sleep when you’re young? Athletic teenage metabolisms demanded copious late-night noshing. Not only was there running, we would let strangers know they had “dropped their bounce” (I really don’t know). And the boys got shaved.
Yes. They were shaved. They didn’t shave. They got shaved; legs, arms, chests, but oddly none ever had bare armpits. I told you, ideal teenage situation.
To my knowledge there was nothing R-rated that happened with all of the sheep shearing. However, I pity the housekeeping service that had to deal with those bathrooms. 
They tended to look like the scene of a yeti explosion. And I don’t mean a cooler.
We often ate at Cracker Barrel on these trips. Always conveniently located near hotels and highway exits, it was an easy choice that everyone could, at least, kind of agree on.
I am totally over Cracker Barrel.
On the first road trip I took with my husband, I made him promise that we would never, ever, ever eat at a Cracker Barrell. It gives me the willies to think about eating there. I don’t really remember much about the food in general, not that it was terrible or wonderful. Meh. It is all the kind of stuff I love, I should like the joint. But I don’t, and I know why.
It’s the cornbread. It’s just awful.
There are some people in this world who don’t like cornbread. I don’t understand this, how do you not like cornbread? 
I have a theory about this. I got a lot of theories.
I theorize that those people haven’t had good cornbread. It is, unfortunately, not difficult to find crummy, dry, bland cornbread. 
I don’t care if it is shaped like an ear of corn. It sucks.
Don’t I remember a Loony Tunes with Huckleberry Hound turning into a pile of dust after eating some dry cornbread. If there wasn’t, there should have been. There was a Loony Tunes for every situation.
That’s it.
You know what else is shaped like an ear of corn? An ear of corn, let’s just stick with what nature gave us for that shape.
Don’t get me wrong. I love me some cornbread, and that is just why bad cornbread ticks me off. Spicy, sweet, sweet and spicy. For breakfast, lunch, or dinner. With preserves, salsa, or butter. With my Mama’s beef stew, mmmmmmmmm. That’s my favorite.
Let’s just get agree that those who don’t like cornbread are wrong and move past this little phase.
Here is the recipe that is my latest go-to for cornbread. It is sweet and oh so, dare I say it, MOIST. It is almost like cake, hence the title of this little ditty. It’s probably not the best, who am I to judge, much less anyone else really. I mean have you tasted all the cornbread recipes out there? It’s not the easiest, but good things are seldom the easiest. It is excellent, though, and simple enough.
Sweet Corn Bread