SIDNEY — The 2018 year is coming to a close as residents will celebrate the beginning of a new year Tuesday. During the past 365 days, residents have seen changes in leadership for Sidney City Schools, grieved with parents whose young son drowned and saw the court system deal with drug-related cases.
The Sidney Daily News editorial staff has selected their top 10 stories of 2018 and added a few others which, while not a top story, deserves recognition.
No. 1. John Scheu retires as Sidney City Schools superintendent; Bob Humble named new superintendent.
In a letter to the Sidney City Schools Board of Education, Superintendent John Scheu announced his resignation as the district’s leader effective July 31, 2018. In his letter, Scheu said micromanagement by the board was a contributing factor in his decision to resign.
“It is obvious to me that the board is clamoring for a change at the top as philosophically it is evident that my decision and judgment are not in sync with the majority of the board, especially in personnel-related items,” Scheu wrote in a letter that he shared with the Sidney Daily News prior to the board’s meeting on April 16.
“I can honestly say in 19 years working as a superintendent in four different school districts, this current board is the first one I have worked for that does not need a superintendent. Micromanagement issues continue nonstop,” he wrote.
Scheu had been the superintendent of the district for eight years. He took the helm of the district when it was in financial disarray. With the support of staff, the teacher’s union and board of education, the district turned a corner to financial stability. Teachers were cut and the remaining teachers took a salary reduction so the district could make ends meet. A salary freeze was in effect for all district employees.The district was able to pass a renewal levy which added to the financial health of the district.
With Scheu’s resignation, the board began a search for a new superintendent. After hiring the Ohio School Boards Association to conduct a superintendent search, 18 applications for the position was received. The search was narrowed to six people who were interviewed by the BOE.
Forums were held which involved community and business leaders, teachers, support staff, administrators, booster leaders, PTO and students.
After the search, the board hired Bob Humble as the new superintendent. He began his new duties on Aug. 1. He was the former superintendent of Fairbanks, Ohio, Local Schools.
Humble said his job is “all about the kids” who attend Sidney City Schools. Since taking over as superintendent, Humble has recommended the closure of the Sidney Alternative School and bringing all preschool students who attend Shelby Hills back to the district’s buildings.
No. 2. Manslaughter convictions in drug-related deaths.
The opioid epidemic and drug abuse continue to be one of the top stories nationally, statewide and locally. In 2018, several people were convicted of supplying drugs to people who overdosed and died.
In May 2018, Ronald Reineke, 37, reached a plea agreement with Shelby County prosecutors in a case where he was indicted for supplying illicit drugs that lead to the overdose death of Kimberly Ann Gaertner-Pizzuti, 44, of Findlay, in 2017. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison in Shelby County Common Pleas Court. He was also fined $300 and assessed court costs.
In March 2018, Kayla Hewitt, 33, of Sidney, was sentenced to three years in prison for her role in the drug overdose death of David Lee Slagle in 2017. She agreed to a plea agreement and entered a guilty plea to one count of reckless homicide.
In November, April M. Radcliff, 37, of Sidney, was indicted for involuntary manslaughter and corrupting another with drugs by the Shelby County grand jury. She is accused of selling and providing Fentanyl to a male victim who died Aug. 12 from an overdose. The case is continuing in Shelby County Common Pleas Court.
No. 3. Six-year-old Rylan Ferguson drowns.
Friends, family and community members mourned the death of 6-year-old Rylan Ferguson, who fell into a creek at Pasco Feb. 25 and drowned. The tragedy unfolded as the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call Sunday, Feb. 25, at 5:42 p.m. that the young boy was in the creek. Because of rains that had fallen, the ground near the creek collapsed and Rylan fell into the creek.
The boy was the son of Jacob and Shauna Ferguson. Rylan’s dad jumped into the creek in an attempt to save his son.
Deputies and volunteers search for Rylan until nearly 10 p.m. Sunday night. The search began again Monday morning, Feb. 26, at 7 a.m. His body was discovered around 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Rylan’s grandfathers, Rodney Ferguson and Paul Francis, searched for the boy Sunday and Monday morning. They walked the creek’s banks from Custenborder Field in Sidney to Jackson Road, where the deputies and firefighters watched and waited as the search continued.
The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office ruled Rylan’s death was the result of drowning.
Rylan was a kindergarten student at Fairlawn Local School. A candlelight vigil was held at the school following his death. A motorcycle escort lead the funeral procession for Rylan from Cromes-Edward Funeral Home to Graceland Cemetery.
No. 4. Shelby County residents in the national news. Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart and John Scheu talk about school security and farmer Christopher Gibbs opposes President Donald Trump’s tariff.
Sidney City’s School’s security procedures gained national attention in a year where school shootings were reported across the nation.
A documentary on Public Television Stations — “G is for Gun: The Arming of Teachers in America” — premiered with a showing March 15 at CET/Think TV in Dayton.
The focus of the film was Sidney City Schools, which has had an armed first responder team in each of its buildings for five years. The action was in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in which 26 people — 20 children and six adults — were killed by an active shooter in 2012.
Former Superintendent John Scheu was one of the panel members who answered questions posed by audience members. Former Sidney High School Principal John Geuy and current teachers Wade New, Linda Carpenter, Amy Baldauf, Lori Hedberg, Scheu, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart and Sidney Police Chief Will Balling were featured in the documentary.
Teachers in Sidney City Schools receive all the training they need to be a first responder free, said Scheu. The school district purchased the guns and the safes in which the guns are stored. Each teacher is also provided a bullet-proof vest which has a patch on it showing they are a member of the first responder team.
Fox News was in Sidney in February 2018 to film segments on the security program in place for the school district.
The New York Times also reported on the district’s security measures.
John Lenhart and John Scheu were among top experts discussing schools’ security plans at the 63rd Ohio School Board Association’s Capital Conference and Trade Show in Columbus in November.
“We are very proud to be the leaders in (putting school security measures in place); certainly the first in Ohio, and probably in the top two or three in the nation of putting it together,” Lenhart said. “We were excited to be there and to present to 100 some folks about what we what we are doing.”
Lenhart and Scheu’s PowerPoint presentation included an overview of how the schools’ security came to be six years ago and what is in place today, Lenhart said. During the presentation, he said they explained the program’s “strengths and weaknesses,” as well as “the push back that we had from some folks.” The presentation was well received, he said, with several questions asked at the end of their talk, as well as continued follow up correspondence with some interested attendees.
Another Shelby County resident, farmer Chris Gibbs, achieved national attention after an op-ed piece he penned appeared in the Sidney Daily News in July 2018. The topic was President Donald Trump’s trade war and how it is affecting farmers, and other businesses, across the United States.
Gibbs wrote: “Let me be clear. I want to be supportive of the president and his policies. As a farmer, we voted for the president because he purported to represent a “can do, just get it done” attitude. That attitude is the core of farm folks. But the president’s trade war, now being supported by hush money to keep agriculture sedated, is a bridge too far for me. This week the president announced he is offering $12 billion of borrowed taxpayer monies to continue to “have farmer’s backs.” These dollars are nothing more than verification that the president’s protectionist’s trade policies are folly.
“Let me tell you a riddle. “I slept with a billionaire because he said he loved me. I expected to make love, but in the morning I realized I was getting screwed. When I went to tell the world, I was offered cash to keep my mouth shut.” Who am I? No, I’m not a model or someone named Stormy. I’m the American farmer.”
After the column appeared in the paper, Gibbs was contacted by national and international media. The Hill, The Atlantic, Huffington Post, The Week, the Guardians of Democracy, HillReporter.com and Instafeedz.com have all posted stories and links to the Sidney Daily News website. The CBS-TV affiliate in Cleveland, Channel 19, interviewed Gibbs via Skype, Monday, July 30.
Gibbs was also interviewed by the New York Times for a video in August 2018. On the Times website, the headline reads, “Opinion: I Am a Soybean Farmer Hurt by Trump’s Trader War. I Can’t ‘Take It.’” The editorial intersperses video of Gibbs on his farm in Maplewood with President Donald Trump speaking at a Florida rally about how American farmers can “take” the hit his trade war with China has caused them.
Gibbs appeared on CNN on Aug. 3.
No. 5. Industry investment: Cargill bottling line and Airstream’s new building.
Airstream, located in Jackson Center, announced a $40 million project in February 2018. Ground was broken during a ceremony in August.
“Let me start by saying how happy we are to see all of these smiling faces out here today as we mark this, certainly a historic moment in the story of this company that is 87 years old and really just reinventing itself and starting a new chapter,” said Airstream President/CEO Bob Wheeler.
The 750,000-square-foot facility, to be powered by renewable energy, will feature a new factory to consolidate the manufacturing of the iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer under one roof, a training center, museum and corporate offices. The current travel trailer plant will be converted for building the company’s tour coaches.
As a result of the expanded capacity, Airstream expects to hire additional associates, bringing total employment in Jackson Center to around 1,200 people. The $40 million project expansion is located about a mile west of the current factory in Jackson Center.
The training center will provide “a hands-on shop floor environment for earning certifications, learning new skills, and mastering new production and maintenance techniques,” according to a release.
Cargill, located in Sidney, has invested more than $10 million to install
a state-of-the-art edible oil bottling line at its Sidney crush and refinery facility. The line is the most efficient bottling technology of its kind, delivering an annual 75 percent capacity increase over previous lines.
It also allows Cargill and its customers to deliver against their sustainability commitments by reducing packaging material waste and using fully recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic.
“This investment is about raising the standard and doing what’s right for our customers,” said Ethan Theis, North American commercial leader for Cargill’s global edible oils business. “By leveraging this unique technology, we’re taking deliberate steps to operate in a more efficient, sustainable way.”
No. 6. Ponzi scheme civil lawsuits.
Several county residents have filed civil lawsuits claiming they have lost their savings in a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme operation.
The suits have been filed against Ronald Schulze, 64, of Fort Loramie.
Wanda Caudill, Sidney, filed the suit in January 2018 against Schulze and his wife, Victoria. She claims Schulze persuaded her to place her retirement savings of $190,000 into securities referred to as promissory notes. The funds were allegedly invested with Woodbridge Wealth. Caudill’s attorneys claim Schulze is not licensed to sell such securities.
Court records filed by Caudill claim there are 15 other Shelby County area residents that have invested some $2 million combined in Woodbridge accounts sold by Schulze. The names of those residents have not been disclosed.
John R. Seger, of Fort Loramie, filed suit on April 17 to reclaim from Ronald U. and Victoria Schulze, of Fort Loramie, the $353,000 he paid to establish a personal revocable trust in 2017. He is also requesting money, interest, punitive damages and court costs.
A third civil lawsuit involving embattled Fort Loramie insurance agent Ronald U. Schulze was filed in Shelby County Common Pleas Court Friday, May 11.
Barbara A. Brunswick, 149 Heitkamp Road, Minster, of Auglaize County, filed suit seeking the recovery of the principal amount plus compensatory damages on three causes of action. She claims her investment of $211,809.01 was lost two months after she entered into a contract when the company represented by Schulze filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In July 2018, Schulze filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
No. 7. Patrick O’Donnell sentenced to prison.
Former Sidney City Schools superintendent Patrick O’Donnell was sentenced in March 2018 in Logan County Common Pleas Court to 54 months in prison for his involvement regarding sexual misconduct with a minor female.
Logan County Common Pleas Court Judge William Goslee sentenced O’Donnell to six months less than the five-year maximum allowable term on one count of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony. O’Donnell will also be required to register as a Tier II sex offender for 25 years after his penitentiary release.
O’Donnell and his wife, Heather, were indicted by the Logan County grand jury in July 2017. Patrick has been indicted on 14 charges: four counts of rape, four counts of sexual battery and six counts of gross sexual imposition, all third degree felony. He was accused of abusing a 13-year-old girl since 2013. Heather was been indicted on two counts of endangering children.
As part of a plea deal with Patrick, all charges against Heather were dropped. All records against Heather as a co-defendant in the case are sealed.
No. 8. Sidney City Schools closes Alternative School and pulls students out of Shelby Hills.
Two major changes were announced during 2018 by Sidney City Schools. The first deals with the closure of the Sidney Alternative School and mainstreaming the students back into Sidney High School. SAS will close at the end of the school year. The action was approved at the Nov. 19 board of education meeting.
The Sidney High School Alternative School will be located in a large room by the cafe at the high school. It will also include the miniature stage area and two small offices adjacent to each other. There are currently 40 to 50 students enrolled at the alternative school, which is located in the Parkwood School.
The second announcement was made on Dec. 6 when the district issued a statement announcing its intention to educate preschool students in the city schools rather than at Shelby Hills Early Childhood Center. The Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities also released a statement in response to the announcement.
From Sidney City Schools: Sidney City Schools is working to develop a plan to bring preschool back to Sidney City Schools from Shelby Hills Early Childhood Center. The cost of preschool for the district was set to increase an additional $500,000 over the next four years. With the growth of the preschool and funding changes related to Ohio Department of Education rules, Shelby Hills Early Childhood Center was no longer able to sustain the previous funding model without help from Sidney City Schools.
“Ultimately, with the additional preschool cost to the district over the next four years, we will have to try and find another way to offer the service and still curb deficit spending,” said Sidney Superintendent Bob Humble.
From Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities: Sidney City Schools has indicated the decision is both a cost saving measure to their district along with the desire to serve additional children as they will be using a different model than the one currently being used at Shelby Hills. The State of Ohio’s phase out of the Tangible Personal Property Tax, which supported programs provided at Shelby Hills, is a key factor in this issue. In addition to the loss of funds from Tangible Personal Property Taxes, costs to operate Shelby Hills preschool have increased due to the number of students increasing. Since 2014, enrollment at Shelby Hills has increased more than 20 percent.
“Unfortunately, with the loss of Tangible Personal Property Tax and the significant increase in students in recent years, the funding model that has been in place for the preschool was no longer sustainable, and we requested support from Sidney City Schools,” said Leigh Anne Wenning, superintendent of the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities, which oversees Shelby Hills Early Childhood Center. “Though we are saddened by Sidney City Schools’ decision to leave Shelby Hills, we respect the decision and offer our unwavering commitment to a positive transition for children and families who will be affected.”
During the Dec. 17 Sidney Board of Education meeting, the decision was discussed further and four people spoke out against the change. Board President Bob Smith said “nothing has been set in stone. We’re still working on plans. We all care about the kids.”
No. 9. Randy Bradburn sentenced to life in prison.
Randy Lee Bradburn, 50, of Sidney, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for sex offenses against a six-year-old girl. He was sentenced in Shelby County Common Pleas Court on Dec. 10.
The case marked the first time Shelby County Common Pleas Court Judge James Stevenson has imposed a life sentence without parole that didn’t involve a murder charge.
Bradburn pleaded guilty to one count of rape, a first-degree felony, and agreed to be determined a Tier III sex offender during a plea-negotiated case.
In March 2018, Bradburn was initially indicted on two counts of rape, both first-degree felonies, and gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony.
One rape charge accused Bradburn of engaging in sexual conduct with a six-year-old from March through June 2016. The second rape charge indicated he also committed sexual conduct with a seven-year-old girl from September through December 2016.
The gross sexual imposition case accused him of having sexual contact with an eight-year-old girl, Oct. 31, 2017.
On Feb. 15, he was indicted on 10 counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor, all fourth-degree felonies.
He was charged for having pornographic images on his cell phone involving a prepubescent girl having sexual relations with an adult male. The offenses reportedly occurred in Sidney between Dec. 31, 2017, and Feb. 9, according to authorities.
No. 10. Dean Kimpel denied appeal by the Ohio Supreme Court.
In October 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled they will not hear the appeal case filed by former Shelby County Sheriff Dean Kimpel. Their decision is expected to end the ongoing legal action between Kimpel and county officials regarding the 2012 civil rights case.
According to information on the court’s website, the decision was based on their Rules of Practice 7.08 (B)(4) with no further explanation.
The rule states: “In declining to accept an appeal the Supreme Court has determined that one or more of the following are applicable after review of the jurisdictional memoranda: (a) The appeal does not involve a substantial constitutional question and should be dismissed; (b) The appeal does not involve a question of great general or public interest; (c) The appeal does not involve a felony; (d) The appeal does involve a felony, but leave to appeal is not warranted.”
The case documents can be found at www.sconet.state.oh.us.
Kimpel was twice denied requests to change his guilty plea in the case through previous decisions reached in Shelby County Common Pleas Court and Third District Court of Appeals in Lima.
He was seeking the right to withdraw his plea claiming vital evidence was not disclosed by prosecutors at the time. The original case eventually led to Kimpel being ousted as sheriff.
While these stories weren’t in the top 10 list of events for the year, they do have an impact on county residents.
• Groundbreaking for Star House, Fair Haven groundbreaking and Sargent Animal Shelter construction begins.
• New Bremen’s Lilly Wilker appears on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
• Casey’s store opens in Jackson Center; Love’s truck stop opens in Sidney; Speedway re-opens Michigan Street location with new building which includes a cafe.
• Habitat for Humanity builds first house in Sidney in more than a decade.
• City of Sidney sues landowners, including the Shelby County Historical Society, library and others, over sewer line noncompliance.
• Industrial accidents at Crown in New Bremen and Dannon in Minster.
• Former employee sues Airstream over wages.
• Drug busts continue throughout the county. In January $245,000 in cash and drugs were found in a Sidney residence.
• CEO Mark Dooley leaves Wilson Health. A nationwide search is underway for his replacement.