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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Highlands Dance Teams Place High Nationally

Highlands Places Fifth in Hip Hop Finals

The Highlands Varsity Dance Team partook in two Large Varsity categories at the National Dance Alliance Nationals competition in Orlando on Saturday.

They wound up placing fifth in the Hip Hop Finals on Sunday out of 14 teams that advanced. A total of 24 teams participated in the preliminaries on Saturday.

The pom preliminaries took place Friday against 23 teams. Out of the 15 teams that advanced, Highlands finished 11th. The Finals took place on Sunday and the team finished 10th.

Contributed Photo. The Highlands Dance Team participated in the NDA Nationals over the weekend.
Highlands Principal, Matthew Bertasso, even showed up to surprise the team in Orlando to watch them perform in person. 

Varsity TV gave an in-depth breakdown of the performance:

Highlands Girls Move on in Region Tournament

Bluebirds Pull Away from Lady Indians

Highlands sophomore Emma Mallery (23) looks to pass against the Holy Cross pressure Wednesday.
The Holy Cross Lady Indians (22-10 overall) held two leads in the game's first two minutes.

But neither lasted for more than 21 seconds. Highlands senior guard Zoie Barth gave the state's sixth-ranked Bluebirds (29-4) the lead for good at 9-6 with three-pointer from the right wing with 4:31 left in the quarter. The Bluebirds gradually pulled away from there for a 72-46 victory in the 9th Region quarterfinals Wednesday to move on to the semifinals Saturday at BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University.

Highlands won its first region quarterfinal game since 2016. The Bluebirds take on Dixie Heights (21-10) on Saturday at Noon back at BB&T Arena where the 9th Region Tournament has been held since 2009. Highlands beat Dixie Heights, 52-51 in Fort Thomas on Feb. 1.

"It's just like the (36th) District tournament," said Jaime Walz-Richey, Highlands Head Coach. "We know we have to come out, be prepared, know what we're doing offensively and defensively. You have to know when your number is going to be called."

In Other Words: What Group Wisdom Can Teach Us About Suffering

FTM file photo

Most people prefer to keep their grief and suffering private.  But sometimes it rumbles into public life -  like a house fire, death of a child,  a freakish accident, a return of cancer - and reminds us of how fragile and wonderful life is. But we don't need to be told this.  We do, though, need to be reminded that everyone suffers.

Buddha said life is suffering. True. But I want to add that how we suffer is important. Intentionally or not, we learn from our suffering. We grow when we become aware of why we suffer. Our character as individuals and community are revealed through how we suffer. It does not build character; it reveals it. Whether we like it or not, we inadvertently become a model of how or how not to suffer.

All of us have had that punch in the gut moment. There’s that sudden loss of security or memory or property or life.  These are the real costs of suffering and it hurts, but it’s not the lesson. When I was told my cancer had returned, well, it was a kick to the groin moment. With steel tipped boots. Worn by a linebacker.

A chemo injection

It’s important to learn from our suffering. It’s important to open to the support and love of family friends, and community. We should not suffer silently although we often do.

Suffering prepares us for the next time. So I threw a question out on social media and received surprisingly insightful answers. The question is “What have you learned from suffering?” Here is the group wisdom of some of their responses from around our community, from around the country, and from around the world.

KC: I have learned compassion for others and to not take things or people for granted.

CH: It is temporary.

TF: That someone is always worse off than me.

LF: You’re never alone.

CR: That I’m stronger for what comes next.

PM: Sometimes you have to ask for help.

LS: How to be humble. How to receive acceptance of help and love. It also makes you feel vulnerable. You find that we really do need each other. And that feels good with the right people. And then it goes full circle, because now you know you need to step up your game to help others. It does make you stronger. It allows me to be more free to talk about needs, wants and help to others. We have a new bond with others like us.

SG: When you finally overcome it, you are able to look back and see the things you’ve learned and start to understand why they happened.

Photo: Sandy Miller

CS: That the suffering won’t last forever.  Lean on the people that love you too and it will always soften the blow.

SR: Not to judge others because of what they may be experiencing.

CM: People want to help or talk. Let them help you in any way. It can be overwhelming but most everyone has good intentions. Be an advocate to reach out to people that may be struggling with something similar.

MB: I have learned there is absolutely nothing noble in suffering. (I used to think there was.) I have also learned there is immense beauty in the surrender which suffering often seems to require.

KT: That you are stronger than you ever thought possible.

AR: Suffering is temporary, and it's just one small part of that chapter that leads you to betterment of yourself and your life.

SS: 3 things:
I never knew how strong I was until I had to fight for my life.
 That the worst moments of suffering are temporary.
 I never knew how many people really cared and loved me and my family.

JH: When confronted with suffering, you can't go over it, under it, or around it. You have to go through it to get to the other side. You find empathy in significant proportions for things you'd never thought of before. You learn to ask for help. And because you understand others' suffering after going through your own, it's incumbent upon you to help others going through their own.

RB: Things don’t matter, people do.

BD: The dark makes the light brighter.

PB: Many, many facets of APPRECIATION!

SW: Suffering taught me to cherish and honor every moment I have with my friends and family... and to always count my blessings.

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NN: You feel like you'll NEVER overcome. Then you do. And you start to believe that "anything is possible.” …Also I've always say "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it is learning to dance in the rain.”

NF: However, the scars left behind are everlasting. Through life’s uncertainties I have learned to embrace the either physical or emotional scars left behind, to inspire and try to help others. Suffering has taught me to remain humble and express gratitude so that I am not isolated and can help someone else who is suffering.

AM: Like a seed in the ground, seemingly in the dark there begins a pain that comes from within. All of a sudden the skin splits open from pressure and there is agony in the darkness. A growth, spins out from the wreckage, and what once felt like death has become life itself. Without suffering I know, very little about everything else.

ES: That asking for help is a sign of strength and not weakness.

TK: Grace.

CI: Suffering taught me forgiveness.

RS: I am stronger than I thought.

KL: Having suffered from chronic pain my entire life, the greatest lessons I have learned are compassion for others and patience.

SD: Never judge someone. You have no idea what battle they are facing. I never realized how strong I was until being strong is all I had left. During my 5 plus year cancer journey I have lost my mom and sister. I didn’t think I would be able to go on but life goes on whether you’re ready or not….You deal with it. When you ask for help it is not a sign of weakness. That one is still hard for me to grasp!

JS: I think suffering often shows me where I have misplaced priorities in my life. On my worst days I have often realized that great things I have taken for granted and what trivial things I have worried about that were inconsequential. Suffering then also leads me to believe that there has to be more than this.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Highlands Combined Teams Finish State Runner-Up

State Swimming and Diving Results

The Highlands boys and girls swimming and diving teams finished state runner-up in Louisville over the weekend with 229 points. Lexington Catholic won the combined with 333.

The Highlands boys once again finished third in the state with 194 points. Louisville St. Xavier ran away with 482 points and Lexington Catholic took second with 249.

The Highlands girls were led by Caroline Sand who won one medal.

The Highlands 400-yard Freestyle Relay team took second in one minute, 59.2 seconds. The swimmers are senior Brendan Conley and sophomores Will Griffith, Mac Russell and Jack Banks.

Highlands junior diver Finn Murphy did not repeat as one-meter diving state champion. But Murpy did finish runner-up with 443.95 points in the finals.


50 free: 20. Rachel Moscona (Highlands)

100 free: 7. Caroline Sand (Highlands) 52.67; 34. Rachel Moscona (Highlands) 56.94.

200 free: 12. Caroline Sand (Highlands) 1:56.51

500 free: 29. Sarah Redden (Highlands) 5:33.08

100 backstroke: 17. Olivia Hopper (Highlands) 59.94

100 breaststroke: 33. Evia Combs (Highlands) 1:12.64.

100 butterfly: 322. Chloe Hopper (Conner) 1:00.42

200 IM: 26. Evia Combs (Highlands) 2:16.84, 27. Olivia Hopper (Highlands) 2:17

200 freestyle relay: 10. Highlands 1:42.61 (Sutkamp, Hopper, Moscona, Sand)

400 freestyle relay: 15. Highlands 3:47.45 (Combs, Moscona, Hopper, Sand)

Diving: 18. Lauren Groeschen (Highlands) 251.55, 26. Liddy Richter (Highlands) 131.10, 31. 

Team scores: 1. St. Xavier 482, 2. Lexington Catholic 249, 3. Highlands 194, 4. Trinity 152, 5. Covington Catholic 138

Diving: 1. Logan Smith (CovCath) 518.75, 2. Finn Murphy (Highlands) 443.95, 27. Robert Arnberg (Highlands), 37. Michael Meadows (Highlands) 69.05.

50 free: 5. Mac Russell (Highlands) 21.29, 14. Jake Ryan (Highlands) 21.95.

100 free: 4. Mac Russell (Highlands) 46.85, 15. Jake Ryan (Highlands) 49.01, 25. Will Griffith (Highlands) 49.95, 32. Mason Opitz (Highlands) 51.23.

200 free: 5. Brendan Conley (Highlands) 1:41.67, 19. Sam Jones (Highlands), 31. Davis Recht (Highlands) 1:53.13.

500 free: 7. Brendan Conley (Highlands) 4:40.91, 21. Sam Jones (Highlands) 4:57.47, 30. Davis Recht (Highlands) 5:04.17, 37. Benjamin Vaught (Highlands) 5:14.93. 

100 backstroke: 33. Harrison Pawsat (Highlands) 59.40. 

100 breaststroke: 5. Jack Banks (Highlands) 57.08, 31. Tyler Brown (Highlands) 1:03.87, 37. Matt Herfel (Highlands) 1:04.86.

100 butterfly: 8. Jack Banks (Highlands) 50.96, 12. Seth Young (Dixie) 51.96, 14. Tommy Johnson (Conner) 52.74, 21. Tristen Richards (Beechwood) 54.16, 22. Parker Knollman (CovCath) 54.17, 28. Braden Chow (SK) 55.24, 33. Colten Stephany (Campbell) 56.54.

200 IM: 23. Tyler Brown (Highlands) 2:03.92, 28. Matt Herfel (Highlands) 2:06.58, 31. 

200 free relay: 4. Highlands 1:27.05 (Russell, Griffith, Ryan, Conley). 

400 free relay: 2. Highlands 3:10.05 (Russell, Griffith, Banks, Conley). 

200 medley relay: 5. Highlands 1:38.21 (Banks, Ryan, Brown, Griffith). 

Woodfill Elementary Steps Outside the Box on Parent-Teacher Conferences

Woodfill teacher Tina Reynolds, parent Stacy Sackenheim and Principal Keith Faust join three students to report on how new student-led conferences went.
By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Most parents know the drill. You take time out of your busy afternoon or evening to come to school. You sit at your child’s desk, and you talk with your child’s teacher one on one, hear how he or she is doing. Hear praise, voice concerns. It’s a good opportunity to touch base and learn how your child is faring.

Educators at Woodfill Elementary School also have welcomed the familiar opportunity for these regular meetings with parents to share student progress and goals.

Yet, this year at Woodfill conferences were very different. No one was sure what would happen. Leadership of the conferences were turned over to the students. The student-led conferences were in keeping with the school’s ongoing Leader in Me program that puts students in charge of their own learning.

Living their mission

"One of the things we are focusing on this year is truly living our mission. Our mission at the school this year is for our staff and students to communicate thoughts and ideas," explained Woodfill Principal Keith Faust.

"Our entire student body shared out during student-led conferences with their parents. It was not lost on us that this was definitely a shift, and we took a leap of faith. We asked our students to participate in student-led conferences knowing that there would be pros and cons but felt this was the best real-world example of how our students could live our mission," he said.

Faust enlisted students, a parent and a teacher to give their perspectives on how the conferences went, and to present the results at the February meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent Schools board.

The students take charge

Three students explained what they shared during the conferences.

"By doing my student-led conference, I learned that I am in charge of my learning. I used my leadership binder to help me communicate my strengths and weaknesses to my parents. My parents were very proud of me...Now that student-led conferences are over, I am going to continue to track my learning. For example, I will continue to track my WIT [writing]. My goal is to be a better writer by the end of third grade," said one student.

Another focused on communication skills. "Today I want to talk about my skills and confidence...I looked at my binder to see what things I wanted to talk about. Then I would get a partner and act like they were a student or a parent..."

"My goal for the second quarter was to become a better basketball player. I did this by practicing for 15 minutes and passing for 10 of those. And I completed that goal," said a third student. "Another thing I explained in my student-led conference is that the reason my attendance should be tracked is the first step to becoming a great student is to be there and be on time."

A parent weighs in

Some parents and teachers were skeptical going into the process.

"My initial reaction when learning that the students were going to be leading their own conferences was, I guess, less than enchanted because, as everyone knows as a parent, it’s difficult to take that time out of your schedule to make an appointment to get to school and then you are hoping to have some one-on-one time with your student’s teacher," said parent Stacy Sackenheim.

Sackenheim has a fourth and a first grader at Woodfill who both participated in the student-led conferences.

"It was surprising to see how much they were able to tell us about their own progress using their accountability binders and learning about all this information they are tracking on their own. So, I would say it was a successful experience," she said.

"I definitely think if you have a child who has an issue, you will have to carve out some special time with the teacher for that but I think that’s probably true in any situation because conferences are brief to begin with. If you want to talk about an issue, you have to schedule a separate meeting anyway," she added.

Another surprise from the conference, she added, was how much the students are learning and absorbing lessons of accountability. "I tend to be very hands on with my children...then at the end of the day I realize I haven’t left room for them to be responsible for things. Seeing all this that they track on their own on a day-to-day basis, I feel like that level of personal responsibility and accountability that they are learning through this is a survival skill they will need going forward... Overall, I feel pretty positive about it," Sackenheim concluded.

 Educators share what they learned

Teacher Tina Reynolds said some the concerns she and her colleagues had were similar to those expressed by Sackenheim. "I thought prior to these conferences that the parents would still want one-on-one conferences, and that the kids would only focus on their positives. They would not share concerns or areas of growth with their parents. But neither of those things happened," she said.

What she discovered was students were honest and focused on their goals. "I found during the conferences the parents got more information from the students than they would have from me. They [the students] were very much more academic and growth driven."

She explained. "When I’m with a parent in a conference I might say 'Well, he has a B in writing but I really think he has the potential to get an A so let’s work on that' and that’s kind of where I would stop. But the kids would go to their binders and say 'In September, on my writing piece I scored an 11,' and they would show the rubric and then say 'in October I scored a 13 because I moved idea development from a one to a two.'"

Moyer Robotics Team Named Lego® League 2019 Rising Stars

The Moyer Rocket Penguins Robotics Team celebrates tournament honors with coaches Joey Hood and Beth Lutz.
By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

The Moyer Rocket Penguins and their robot Moby took the 2019 Rising Star award at the recent Kentucky First Lego® League Championship Tournament held at Northern Kentucky University in early February.

The students, fourth and fifth graders, presented their work and shared a video of the tournament at the February Fort Thomas Independent Schools board meeting. The Rocket Penguins were one of four Fort Thomas teams that qualified to compete in the event. Team members included Robby, Cole, Emma, team captain Sophie and star member Moby the robot.

Coaches Beth Lutz and Joey Hood introduced the team and talked about the League and what the team had to do to compete in the tournament.

Hood said Fort Thomas schools have participated in First Lego® League for a few years, and students can start with Lego League, Jr., moving up through high school. For very young children, it’s mostly about playing, but within a few years they are introduced to robotics and increasingly complicated tasks and projects.

"It’s really a stepping block towards a career in engineering. I’m a parent, and I feel really fortunate to have this program available to us. The kids really enjoyed it," said Hood. 

Taking Moby into orbit

He explained this year’s tournament challenge was "Into Orbit." The team was required to identify a problem and present a solution using the theme as backdrop. The team chose boredom in space as their problem and set about ways to combat the problem for the robot they created named Moby.

"They quickly got into it and understood all the aspects of it from dopamine to habituation, deprivation, variety, choice, the whole thing. Our astronaut Moby loves this thing called a Snicker Pickle. He got bored with the Snicker Pickle and wanted to come up with something more fun. He came up with a bacon wrapped Snicker Pickle."

Lutz explained that during the competition, the students must take their robot through a variety of tasks as he "solves" his problem of getting to his pickle treat.

The students faced three judging sessions in the morning of the event, she explained. In the first, they presented their problem and solution. In the second they demonstrated their core values: discovery, innovation, impact, fun, teamwork and inclusion. Students talked through how they programmed their robot in the third judging session.

Solving problems with precision and speed

In the afternoon the team took their robot to the big game floor where they had a quick practice session and then had three rounds to put their robot through a series of tasks in a set time frame. The tasks included things the robot might do in space such as move cargo, lift things, dock.

"It was a pretty high pressured situation," said Lutz. "It required good time management, good team work, planning and a lot of precision. The team needed the ability to slow down and be really careful and precise but also move quickly, which is an important skill for a fourth or fifth grader to learn."

Superintendent Karen Cheser congratulated the students, adding "Only the top 48 [teams] make it to the state competition so to be one of four winners at the competition is quite an accomplishment. There are 32,000 First Lego® League teams internationally. We have 36 in Fort Thomas...We hope these students will go all the way up to the 12th grade."

She noted that Fort Thomas is one of the few districts in the region that participates through all grades up to grade 12. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Riverside Marketplace in Dayton Set to Close its Doors

A neighborhood grocery store known historically for its low prices, superior bakery and deli means has announced it will be closing.

Riverside Market co-owner, Nick Vaghela, confirmed with Fox 19's Amber Jayanth, that he is left with few options.

See Rob's listings. Click here. 
"We are not surviving. We have too much expenses and we're not getting much money," Vaghela told Fox 19.

He says when he took over ownership last year the store was bringing in close to $13,000 daily. Now he says their sales have dropped nearly 50 percent.

Rumors surrounding the stores closure have been circulating for months. In January, Riverside Market stated on social media that they were trying to avoid shutting down.

"As of today and tomorrow, no, we are not closing.  Sales are down (and) negative things are being said. We have lost so much business (and) if the community cannot support us and shop there, I can’t say what the future holds. I’m staying positive but you’ve seen the community posts 80% are negative things so all I can say is we are trying to keep us and running."

Vaghela says that they are considering using some of the space to open a liquor store with a few essential items.

Riverside Market has thrived in its location 118 Sixth Street for years, but after some ownership changes that is no longer the case leaving some residents wondering where their grocery shopping routines will take them. The store was formerly known as Riverside Super Value.

There are two neighboring Kroger stores, one in Newport, which is 2.2 miles away, and one in Bellevue, which is 1.0 miles away.

Lilliana Schalck | In Memoriam | 07/01/05 - 2/23/19

The shock and bitter angst of the loss of Lilliana Schalck is still settling over Fort Thomas and the region.

The 13-year old Highlands student died suddenly while traveling to compete with her cheerleading squad, Premier Athletics, based in Park Hills, Kentucky.

Schalck, was a talented cheerleader and gymnast. She was the first eighth-grader in school history to make the varsity cheerleading team for the Bluebirds.

A vigil was held Sunday night at Highlands Middle School where students, teachers and community members packed the bleachers.

Highlands Middle School Principal, Michael Howton, addressed the crowd of hundreds, letting them know that the community should come together to support one another.

"It's okay to feel grief," he said. "It's really a time to put your arm around somebody and show some support and just provide that shoulder to lean on if needed." 

An hour and a half after the vigil started, the gym began to clear. The Highlands educators that filled the gym were foundational pillars for weary students to lean on even though it was clear they were hurting as well.

"One of the kids during our vigil was saying how Lilliana was one of the first people in the lobby greeting people," said Howton. "She didn’t know what they’d do without her. I said, do what she did: be there and show that support to others."

Photos: Allen Ramsey,

Monday night, the Highlands boys basketball team played Cooper in the first round of the region tournament at NKU. The O-Zone, the Highlands spirit, section dressed in blue to honor Lilliana. But the show of support didn't stop there.

Every cheerleading squad of every other team playing at BB&T Arena wore blue ribbons to show their support. The region came together to show their support for a hurting Highlands community.

Bluebirds Fall Short in 9th Region Quarterfinals

Cooper Run in Third Dooms Highlands 

Highlands senior Ben Sisson (30) tries to block the shot attempt of Cooper's Ty Houston (21) in the 9th Region Quarterfinals on Monday.
The Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team (20-12 overall) knew it had to match the defensive intensity of the Cooper Jaguars (25-5) to earn its first 9th Region win since 2009.

The Bluebirds did that in the first holding a narrow 15-13 advantage. But the Jaguars came out sizzling in the third quarter building a 12-point lead, which was more than enough to go on to win 47-37 in the 9th Region Quarterfinals on Monday at BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University.

Highlands made just 14-of-39 shots for 36 percent including 1-of-10 from three-point range for 10 percent and 8-of-12 free throws for 67 percent. Cooper made 17-of-43 shots for 31 percent including 3-of-10 from three-point range for 30 percent.

"They hit some shots. That's what it came down to ultimately," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "They were able to stretch the lead. They're a very difficult team to come back on because they have so many guys that can handle the ball on the perimeter and create so many match-up difficulties."

The Jaguars did win the rebounding battle, 33-24 including 11-7 on the offensive glass. Cooper outscored Highlands, 15-8 in second-chance points.

In the final game of an outstanding career, Highlands senior post Ben Sisson scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds. Sisson also blocked three shots and recorded two assists. Senior Nate Roberts also had eight points, but no one else scored more than six.

Senior guard Ty Houston led the Jaguars with 19 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Caleb Hampton followed with 12 points. Cooper outscored Highlands, 1.02-.77 in points per possession.

"You have to have (solid defense), especially at this time of the year," said Tim Sullivan, Cooper Head Coach. "When you get into a region tournament, you have to physical. You have to understand that you have to sit down and guard in the half-court because if you can't anyone in half-court at this time of the year, you're going to get lit up real quick. We pride ourselves on that defensive end. I'm proud of the way our kids responded against a tough, hard-nosed (team). Kevin does such a great job with that group."

Highlands finished with three assists, three steals, three blocked shots, nine turnovers and 16 fouls. Cooper had no steals, no blocked shots, two assists, 14 fouls and seven turnovers.

Neither team scored a lot in the first quarter. Roberts made a triple from the right corner with 2:25 left to put Highlands up 6-5.

The Bluebirds did go up 15-9 after Sisson made 3-of-4 free throws with 1:20 left in the quarter. But scores by senior guard Michael Spencer and Hampton trimmed the margin to 15-13 at halftime.

Cooper started the second half with a 9-0 run. Senior guard Blaine Walters made a three from the left wing and Houston had an offensive putback to give the Jaguars a 22-15 advantage.

"We started moving the ball more," Sullivan said. "Instead of on the bounce, we started trusting it with the pass and Ty Houston woke up. We have to have (Houston) playing like that for 32 minutes because all of a sudden, he's aggressive and the others feed off that."

Walters hit a jumper with 1:50 left in the third to put Cooper up 31-19. The Jaguars led 33-22 entering the fourth quarter.

Highlands did go on a 6-0 run to trim the Cooper margin to 35-28 with 4:48 left in the quarter, but came no closer. Sophomore Sam Vinson spearheaded the run with two scores. He also recorded a steal and found senior Alex Starkey for the score.

But Cooper made its free throws down the stretch. The Jaguars hit 10-of-12 to ice the game.

"That's what a senior-lead, mature team is supposed to do," Sullivan said. "We talk about handling adversity. It's a game of runs. You can't lose your mind just because someone's making some shots. You have to figure out how to cut that out then on offense, not put that pressure on your defense."

The Jaguars extended the winning streak to nine in a row in the series. It was the only streak of eight or more consecutive losses against region opponents that Highlands did not snap. The Bluebirds did snap eight-game losing streaks against Covington Catholic, Covington Holy Cross and Dixie Heights in addition to a 17-game losing streak against Covington Holmes and a 16-game losing streak against Newport Central Catholic.

Highlands graduates nine seniors from the squad. They are Sisson, Starkey, Roberts, Will Salmon, Austin King, Tristan Thompson, Grady Cramer, Ryan Leigh and Jack Hegge.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Fire on Kellogg Avenue Seen From Miles Away

Fire at an East End recycling business sent black smoke into the air that could be seen for miles.

A fire at Cohen Recycling threw large plumes of smoke in the air Monday afternoon.

Both directions of Kellogg Avenue were closed while firefighters were battling the flames.

Driver Charged After Vehicle Crash on Grand Avenue

A car wreck that occurred at around 1:25 a.m. in the 100 block of Grand Avenue early Sunday morning ended with one man in custody of Fort Thomas Police and a few hundred without power after a man crashed his vehicle into a utility pole.

Evan Berne, 21, from Erlanger was charged with driving under the influence, criminal mischief, possession of an open container and driving with a suspended license.

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He was not hurt.

Hundreds of residents were without power and Grand Avenue was closed by police into the afternoon on Sunday as Duke Energy needed to repair the damaged utility pole.

RELATED: Driver Loses Control, Crashes into Home on Grand Avenue 

RELATED: Car Crash Fatality on Grand Avenue 

RELATED: Car Swings Across Four Lanes on Grand Avenue, Crashes into Yard 

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Car Wreck Knocks Out Utility Pole on Grand Avenue, Man Placed in Custody

A familiar location for accidents on a windy Fort Thomas road claimed another vehicle early Sunday morning.

A car wreck at around 1:25 a.m. in the 100 block of Grand Avenue ended with one man in custody of Fort Thomas Police and a few hundred without power after a man crashed his vehicle into a utility pole.

The man taken into custody was reportedly a white male in his 20s or 30s. The car he was driving had Kenton County plates.

Electrical wires from the pole were laying across the road and both directions of traffic were shut down. Duke Energy was on scene before 2:00 a.m.

Neighbors on scene witnessed the man staggering around after the crash. He appeared to be okay.

RELATED: Driver Loses Control, Crashes into Home on Grand Avenue 

RELATED: Car Crash Fatality on Grand Avenue 

RELATED: Car Swings Across Four Lanes on Grand Avenue, Crashes into Yard 

This small stretch of Grand Avenue has been the site of some high-profile car crashes over the last few years. In most reported cases, alcohol or drugs have been a factor.

Highlands Boys Basketball Prepare for Region Tournament

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior Alex Starkey (4) gets down in defensive stance in the 36th District championship Thursday.
Saturday morning brought the usual anticipation with the 9th Region basketball draws at Covington Holmes High School.

For the first time since 2014, both the Highlands basketball teams found themselves involved in it. The Highlands girls won the 36th District for the fifth straight year and the Highlands boys finished runner-up to Newport. All tournament games will take place at BB&T Arena on the campus of Northern Kentucky University.

The Highlands boys (20-11 overall) drew the 33rd District champion Cooper Jaguars (24-5) for an 8 p.m. contest Monday. The Jaguars won the region two years ago and finished state runner-up to Bowling Green. Their head coach is Tim Sullivan.

"There are eight really good teams in our regional draw and if we played the regional tournament six or seven times, we'd probably have six or seven different region winners," said Kevin Listerman, Highlands Head Coach. "Everybody that's left is good and everybody is playing well. It's going to be a really fun tournament. We have a challenge in front of us. The success of Cooper the last several years is something for us to deal with. But at the same time, we feel good about our squad and the kids that we've got."

Highlands finished 14-3 in 9th Region play including a 5-3 mark against the tournament field. The Bluebirds lost 52-41 to Cooper in Union on Jan. 15, 2019. Senior guard TJ Deere leads the Jaguars averaging 12.9 points per game with senior guards Blaine Walters and Ty Houston following at 12.3 and 11.8 points per game respectively. All three scored in double figures in the regular season meeting.

Lilliana Schalck, 13, Identified as Highlands Student Who Has Passed Away

Photo:, Allen Ramsey. 

Lilliana Schalck, an eight-grade student at Highlands Middle School, died last night in Columbus, Ohio.

The 13-year old was on the trip with her cheerleading team, Premier Athletics of NKY, when she began to complain that she was not feeling well.

She was taken to a local hospital where her health deteriorated suddenly. A cause of death has not been confirmed at this time.

The Fort Thomas Independent School District sent a message to parents to confirm the news and to let students know of resources available should they need grief counseling. A vigil is planned for 6:00 p.m. at the Highlands Middle School gym.

Schalck was a talented cheerleader, making the Highlands Varsity co-ed team as an eighth-grader.

This story may be updated.

Message from Superintendent, Dr. Karen Cheser, is below:

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Highlands Middle School Student Dies Suddenly While Attending Cheer Competition

An eighth grade female Highlands Middle School student has died in Columbus, Ohio while attending a cheerleading competition for her club squad.

The 13-year old was on the Highlands Varsity Co-ed cheerleading team that just placed 13th in the National competition in Orlando. She cheered for Premier Athletics, based out of Park Hills in northern Kentucky.

Early reports indicate that the child was taken to the emergency room by her family and her health deteriorated rapidly while there.

More information is being withheld until next of kin can be notified.

Fort Thomas Focuses on Improving Communications

Letters from Mayor, City Administrator, Economic Director Highlight Next Steps of Implementation of Comprehensive Plan

By Robin Gee, City Council Beat Editor

Improvement and enhancement of city communications has been an ongoing issue of concern for the city of Fort Thomas and the community. Discussion around the issue has been ongoing, especially in the recent months leading up to the development and adoption of the Fort Thomas Community Plan.

The city of Fort Thomas plans enhancements and new features for the city website.
At the February city council meeting City Administrator Ron Dill shared some plans for the city of Fort Thomas website and announced that the city would take over control of the Fort Thomas Community Plan website as well.

As implementation of the community plan gets underway, he assured those present that opportunities for input from the public will be available, and those opportunities will be communicated on city websites and other forms of communication.

RELATED: Letters from Mayor, CAO, Econ. Director on Next Steps for Comp. Plan 

Fort Thomas residents request progress updates

Two Fort Thomas residents addressed the council to ask where the city was on its plans to improve communications.

"I know some of you ran on transparency in the last election, and some of said you would like more community involvement from citizens," said Tiffany Huber, who lives on Hawthorne Avenue. She said she was interested to learn what is happening with some of the ideas discussed during the visioning process and in recent council meetings, especially enhancements to the city website.

"I’d like to get an update on where we are with that because I think it is so important that you have the opportunity to communicate with your constituents in a faster, more accurate way," she said.

Huber asked that a notification system be implemented by which citizens can opt in on the city website and receive updates for city meetings, events and happenings around town.

Dill said that feature has been discussed and that they were working with city staff to try and make this feature a reality.

Tom Morrison, also of Hawthorne Avenue, said he agreed with Huber’s concerns and asked if plans were underway to make the website more navigable. He asked if the site could be used to make available information on the role and function of city commissions and committees, as well as membership on these bodies. He suggested that the addition of a calendar or similar feature that would make keeping track of upcoming meeting dates easier.

Dill said city staff has been studying the issue and working on improvements such as those Morrison mentioned. This fall, a graduate-level leadership class from Northern Kentucky University offered to look at city communications as its class project. In November they presented some recommendations based on their research. In addition, the Law, Labor and License Committee has met on two different occasions to discuss and explore the issue.

While city staff has been looking at the newsletter and other forms of communication, the city website has been the primary focus and some enhancements have been implemented.

Website improvement plans underway

About plans for the website, Dill said he envisions the city website containing three sections. One would provide important information that would be updated frequently, almost in real time. This would include things that are happening citywide that could affect residents.

"For example we had a boil water issue in a section of the city last week because of the flooding. This would be used if there were accidents or closures...or for city events," he explained.

The second section would be for city business such as information on or from city committees or commissions, posting of agendas and minutes, as well as materials pertaining to upcoming meetings.

The third section would include reference materials, information about city programs and policies such as snow removal policy, leaf collection scheduling and sections of statutes or other information that would be applicable to issues in the community.

He noted that updating the site will be continuous as much as possible but that much of the work will be done incrementally because staff resources are limited. 

Taking control of the Fort Thomas Community Plan website

Dill also shared plans for the Fort Thomas Community Plan website.

"I think it’s really important to note also that the Fort Thomas Community Plan website was developed by our consulting team when we did the community plan process. We have just taken control of that as well. It’s referenced by the link on our website and will continue to be referenced. And the intention is we will use that to build from as we do the implementation phase of our community plan," he said.

Meeting minutes, agendas and other information about implementation plans and efforts will be posted regularly on that website, he added.

"Our intention is that on our website, you would find anything you are looking for city business wise and so the drive is to the website and the link off the website to the community plan...We are updating our website. We’re working on our newsletter. And we’re posting everything that we can as quickly as we can," he said.

In fact, on this past weekend following the city council meeting Dill, Mayor Eric Haas and Development Director Debbie Buckley each posted letters on the Fort Thomas Community Plan website outlining their impressions and ideas for implementation of the plan going forward.

Buckley and Mayor Haas specifically pointed out the process in the plan with regard to the central business district. All stated the importance of the public being involved in the process and providing continual feedback.

No official implementation plans have been shared as of yet. As noted above, opportunities will be available for community input as these plans are considered. Once a preliminary plan has been developed, it would then be submitted to the Planning Commission for review and recommendations.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Five Straight District Crowns for Highlands Girls Hoops

Bluebirds Record 350th Win of Richey's Tenure as Head Coach

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. Highlands senior Hanna Buecker (20) gets in position during the fourth quarter of the 36th District championship game Friday at Newport Central Catholic.
During the 30-game winning streak against 36th District opponents, only once has a team come within single digits of the Highlands Bluebirds girls basketball team.

That came in a narrow 45-44 win at Newport Central Catholic on Jan. 2, 2016. During this regular season, the average margin of victory over district opponents was just under 40 points. Highlands trumped that in a 54-point 73-19 win over Bellevue in the 36th District semifinals.

NewCath came the closest anyone in the district did this year in the championship game on its home court Friday. But it still was not anywhere close to that game on The Hill in 2016. The Bluebirds (28-4 overall) scored the game's first 10 points and never looked back recording a 61-40 victory for their fifth straight district championship and sixth in the last seven years. Their largest lead of the game was 25 points.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Highlands Falls Short of District Championship

Fourth Quarter Dooms Bluebirds

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham. Highlands Head Coach Kevin Listerman goes over strategy in the 36th District championship against Newport at Newport Central Catholic
Sophomore point guard Sam Vinson hit a three-pointer from the left corner with 7:32 left in the game to give the Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team a 54-46 advantage.

Highlands (20-11 overall) just needed to hold that lead in order to earn its first 36th District championship since 2008. But the Bluebirds did not score again until 59.3 seconds remained in the game when Vinson laid one in the left side ending a 12-0 Newport Wildcat run. The top-seeded Wildcats (24-8) held on for a 64-61 victory for their second straight district championship at Newport Central Catholic.

Emergency Response On Scene at St. Catherine School This Morning

A call to Campbell County dispatch this morning sent a hurried response of police, fire and to St. Catherine School this morning at around 9:15 this morning.

Rich Whitford of Fort Thomas Police said the initial call that came in stated that six children were unconscious.

"That initial call really had us concerned," said Whitford. "When we hear that, we have to wonder what kind of scene we are going to walk into." 

When first responders came upon the scene their attention was turned immediately to two young female students, one of which had passed out hit her head and one that felt woozy.

Whitford said that police began talking with school officials who noted that the situation is one they had seen before.

"During the winter months when the students come in for Friday Mass with their coats on, they can sometimes get overheated as they kneel or stand up too quickly," said Whitford. "School officials understood what was going on immediately and we found there was no threat."

Village Players of Fort Thomas Last Weekend of Women Playing Hamlet

Village Players of Fort Thomas moves into its second weekend with three more performances of Women Playing Hamlet by William Missouri Downs in Village Players’ intimate theater on the bottom level of the building the organization recently inherited from the Fort Thomas Woman’s Club at 8 N Fort Thomas Ave, Fort Thomas, KY 41075. The show opened February 15 to a raucous, enthusiastic house and will continue February 21 – 23 for its final weekend.

Phone: 859-905-0714 - Email: This is an advertisement.
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“In Shakespeare’s time, all the women’s roles were played by men, so turnabout is fair play!” says Steve Phelan, director of Women Playing Hamlet. “Audiences shouldn’t be scared off by the Shakespeare references. This is a really, really, really funny, accessible show with a lot of humor and a lot of heart.”

Tickets are just $20 and can be purchased online at or at the box office an hour prior to the show each night.

Women Playing Hamlet is presented by special arrangement with Playscripts, Inc.

Village Players of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, is a vibrant community theatre that has produced plays and musicals for more than 50 years. Performing in an intimate space, you will feel like you are part of the action, sitting inches from the actors on three sides of the stage.