LGBT+ student center opens on campus

By: Brandon Blumenherst

As the new strategic plan for the future of Purdue Fort Wayne is defined, one of its main focus is to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion. A new center on campus provides a better visual reference of the campus becoming a more inclusive place.

The LGBT+ Resource Center opened in early October in Walb Student Union on Purdue Fort Wayne’s campus.

The center serves as a space for students to hang out and study, but also serves to be a “first-stop shop” for people with questions about the LGBTQ community, said Jordan Sanderson, coordinator of the Resource Center.

“We wanted a safe space for students, but we also wanted to educate people,” Sanderson added. The center hosts multiple workshops throughout the year on various topics related to gender identity, sexuality, and LGBTQ history. The Center also has a small library filled with LGBTQ literature.

Sanderson said that the center is usually full of students either swinging by between classes or studying in the back room. However, he was somewhat surprised by the amount of people who decided to visit the office. “I didn’t expect people to come in so frequently with questions,” said Sanderson. He added that many of them were not a part of the LGBTQ community, but they were “so willing to learn, which is something we don’t see very often.”

The center opened just prior to the Strategic Planning Committee sending out a campus climate survey focused on embracing diversity, equity and inclusion. Sanderson believes that the survey is a step in the right direction and more research is needed on the campus climate to identify needs within the campus community for LGBTQ students and staff.

“With 19% of the freshman class identifying as a part of the LGBTQ community or preferring not to answer, there is a significant part of our student population who could utilize this center,” Sanderson said. Although the center is open to everyone, the demographic justification added to the need for a student center after years of having various LGBT+ groups working to represent students on campus.

Hugo Mata, a student who frequently visits the Resource Center, said that the Center is a great place to provide a safe and affirming environment for LGBTQ students and he is spreading the word about the Center.

“Whenever I meet someone in the [LGBTQ] community, I tell them about the office. It’s usually just by word of mouth that I’ve seen more students come to the office,” Mata said. In addition to word of mouth, some students stop in after walking past the office.

As one walks through the hallway, the office emanates rainbow light from the signature Pride wall and all of the rainbow décor within. The walls are adorned with pictures of LGBTQ icons including Sharice Davids, a United States Senator from Kansas, and Billy Porter, a fashion icon and activist.

Vic Spencer, the Center’s director, explained in an email that their current priorities are “to elevate the visibility of both the Center and our LGBTQ population.” They said that the center plans to “expand [the center’s] programming” to include other aspects of LGBTQ health, history, and advocacy activities.

A 2019 Human Rights Campaign report, the Municipal Equality Index, also recently rated Fort Wayne with a score of 40 out of 100. This report is “based on its laws, policies, and services of municipalities on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBTQ people.” Out of nine cities scored in Indiana, Fort Wayne had the worst score. Terre Haute scored 42, while other major cities like Indianapolis and Bloomington scored 89 and 100 respectively.

Future renovations of downtown Fort Wayne

By: Kayla Wisniewski

The Public Works Division will be replacing existing historical brick pavement from Hoagland to Webster on Butler Street. The City Council discussed the project on Oct. 22 at City Hall in Fort Wayne.

They will be constructing a new base setting, brick pavers, replacing castings, upgrading ADA ramps and repairing sidewalks within the next month.

The project will cost $1,000 a foot, which is almost $0.5 million for 560 feet. The committee explained that although it is an expensive project, it holds integrity for a historical value and will help the neighborhood property values rise.

Shan Gunawardena, the director of Public Works, explained how by improving the city of Fort Wayne, the living conditions for citizens will be accommodated for and more people will want to live there. “We want to serve the community here in Fort Wayne to a high standard where everyone feels that they live in a clean and safe environment,”Gunawardena said.

The division comprises of 11 department services which include street and traffic lighting, leaf collection, street sweeping, snow and ice control, recycling and the city’s transportation system. The Division of Public Works maintains and improves many different areas in Fort Wayne.

The Public Works Division website stated that Public Works supports the citizens of Fort Wayne as well as accommodates for the neighborhoods, businesses, and development projects.

Gunawardena said it’s important that Fort Wayne has a strong Public Works Division because the city is very large in population and has many businesses. Gunawardena explained the department really puts in the time on developing projects to fulfill what the city needs in terms of repair and stability.

Michelle Nelson, the board of Public Works manager, gave details on improvements by the Public Works Division in Fort Wayne. “Our department is always working on projects to help improve the city and continue to service the community,”Nelson said.

Some of the recent improvements were the reconstruction of the Edsall Avenue bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad, and the widening of Dupont Road with new sidewalk, trail, street lighting and landscaping. Also, the realignment and widening of State Boulevard from Spy Run Avenue to Cass Street with a new bridge, sidewalk and trail. The department is continuing to propose new projects and starting many more.

“We are excited to start this project on the historical brick pavement because the roads will be in great conditions for drivers and pedestrians,”Nelson said. The start of many of the departments projects revolves around the convenience the finished product will have. Nelson said that she believes this project will have that effect and put Fort Wayne in a better state. “The Public Works department has put a lot of time and thought into this project,”Nelson explained.

A citizen of Fort Wayne, Alyssa Krause, expressed that the Public Works Division has improved her living in the city through the road work. The road leading into her apartment complex was rough with potholes and other issues. “This year they not only filled in potholes but completely redid the road and I can drive smoothly now,”Krause said.

Krause explained how the city should be working on the time length it takes to finish the roads. “I understand it’s a long process, but I feel like they start a lot of projects at one time rather than focusing on one at a time”Krause said. She believes by funding the department more, it will help improve the way of living in the city of Fort Wayne.

The project on Butler Street is set to be completed on April 17, 2020.

Budget for the Greater Fort Wayne

By: Tze Wan Goh

Mayor Tom Henry announced the 2020 Fort Wayne City budget, which mainly focuses on public safety on Sept. 19 at the city council meeting. The aim of the budget focuses on strengthening neighborhoods and providing important and necessary services to residents, neighborhoods and businesses, according to the mayor.

The budget will contribute additional 15 new police recruits to the Fort Wayne Police Department academy class, four new police K-9 units, a new explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) robot and x-ray system for the bomb unit, which is part of the Fort Wayne Police Department’s Special Operations Division.

In conjunction to the increase budget for the Fort Wayne Police Department, there will be 480 officers patrolling the streets in the city to make sure that the public is safe. The mayor is aiming to have full target staffing for both the Fort Wayne Police Department and Fire Department with the allocated budget.

“Fort Wayne is a safe city. Our top priority is ensuring the safety and protection of residents, neighborhoods, businesses, and visitors,” Mayor Henry said. “We will continue to implement best practices as a community committed to being the very best.”

Fort Wayne’s crime rate has decreased this year, according to a joint statement released on Oct. 29 by Mayor Tom Henry and Police Chief Steve Reed. Homicide rates have decreased 44.44 percent, non-fatal shootings decreased by 16.09 percent and violent crime rates decreased by 7.3 percent, in comparison with the first three quarters of last year.

However, according to the September cumulative crime rate statistics from the Fort Wayne police department website, there were 19 homicides this year and 29 in 2018 during the years’ first three quarters, which is a decrease of 34 percent instead of 44 percent.

Joe Knepper, communications director for Republican mayoral candidate Tim Smith, stated in response that mayor Henry might be lying about the numbers, or is misleading “the public putting his election ahead of the truth,” according to News Sentinel.

Ruth Girma, a Purdue Fort Wayne student who has been living in Fort Wayne for more than 10 years, said that Fort Wayne is safe, and she did not need to worry about safety like she would when she was living in Chicago. She said that she had called the police in the past and the police officers responded efficiently by getting to where they needed to be on time and being very kind, patient and empathetic.

“To my knowledge I think that the crime rate in Fort Wayne is pretty low. There are some crimes here and there, but it is nothing compared to other big cities,” Girma said.

According to the Uniform Crime Reports released by the FBI, the crime rates in Chicago are higher than Fort Wayne. The city of Chicago, with a population of about 2.7 million, registered 27,357 reports of violent crimes – 563 of them were murder and nonnegligent manslaughter. Fort Wayne had 1,024 reports of violent crimes, including 40 for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, in a city of about 260,000.

Girma said that it is good to have extra precaution and adding more safety personnel in Fort Wayne will make people feel that they are living in a safe area. She said that this new budget will improve the safety of Fort Wayne.

“Anytime the police department gets more money, it allows the police to do more things and to do the things they’re already doing in a much better way. So, more money always helps,” said Trent Ruble, a Purdue Fort Wayne police officer.

Officer Trent gave some insights on the money allocation among the different departments in the city. “Since the city only has a certain amount of money and the other city departments have their needs as well, without knowing those needs, it is difficult to say if the police department is getting the right amount of money,” said Ruble.

Other than public safety, the 2020 Fort Wayne City budget is mainly focusing on neighborhood infrastructure and parks. Out of the $36.3 million that constitute the total budget for infrastructure projects, $23.9 million is allocated for neighborhood infrastructure projects, $1.4 million for bridges, $8 million for sidewalks and alleys, and $3 million for city park projects.

“We’re a city on the move with unprecedented momentum and excitement. By working together, 2020 will be an outstanding year in Fort Wayne as we strive for excellence in providing the best services possible to the public,” mayor Henry said.

Fort Wayne has achieved national recognition in 2019, having the lowest cost of living for four years in a row, according to Niche. It is also ranked as the 12th best run city and 10th best real estate market in the country by WalletHub, and 40th best place to live in the country by U.S. News & World Report, according to the City of Fort Wayne website.

East Allen county plans to expand trade schools

By: Jada Burtin

East Allen County will be adding another trade school to our community as they prepare for the launch of their Career and Technical Center in the 2020-2021 school year.

Trade schools have become a need in Allen County, and the United States as a whole. Construction and manufacturing industries hold the slot for one in five jobs, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD). They also predict that there will be a vast market and need for construction workers within the next ten years, estimating over 10,000 job openings within Allen County alone.

Kristi Sturtz, president at Sturtz Public Management Group and New Allen Rural Liaison attended the county council meeting on Oct.18 where she addressed the need for trade schools and what was being set in place to bring a solution to this issue.

Sturtz introduced the Career and Technical Center to the panel of council members and stated that the project will bring opportunities for students to learn skills in the trade field.

The Career and Technical Center will include the following six programs: automation and robotics, pharmacy technology, construction trades, health science, precision machining, and cybersecurity. The alternative school will also be housed there, a program designed to assist the educational and behavioral needs of students that could be difficult to accomplish in a traditional class setting.

The building will be a renovation project of the previous Meadowbrook Elementary School building, located on 1065 Woodmere Drive in New Haven, Indiana.

According to the media outlet IN Fort Wayne, Tim Wiegand, executive director of East Allen County’s Career, Alternative & Technical Education program, said that the institution is being designed to specifically accommodate the workforce needs of Allen County.

“All these programs are filling a workforce now that is really difficult to fill,” Wiegand said to IN Fort Wayne.

With the pressure of attending traditional college, many students miss out on the opportunities that trade schools offer which has caused a need for technically trained professionals.

Trade schools being offered during high school give students a head start at a potential career.
The Career Academy at Anthis has been providing students with technical and vocational training for over 30 years.

Robert Roebuck, assistant principal of the Career Academy at Anthis, gave insight on the importance of trade schools. He mentioned that studies have shown that students who attend a local career center are more likely to complete a college degree than a student who only attended traditional high school.

“Applied hands-on learning has always been the best way to teach a student, learn the theory and go practice the skills. This simple formula helps students to grow personally and professionally just like you did,” Roebuck said.

Roebuck also mentioned that finding space and teachers are their number one concern when it comes to expanding. He explained that the pay will need to increase in order to encourage teachers from different businesses and industries to work for them.

Janae Mcgill, former student of the Career Academy at Anthis, gave her perspective on attending a trade school and how it benefited her. She mentioned that attending the Career Academy gave her a head start in her career, as she currently is a licensed Cosmetologist and also a college student.

Mcgill also explained how attending a trade school saved her a lot of money.

“I only had to pay around $100-$200 for the two-year program versus paying anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000,” Mcgill said. “I also earned college credits for each year that I was in the program.”

She talked about the opportunities for networking that were provided to her through the Career Academy. Employers from different companies would come in and interview the students to prepare them for the real workforce. This also secured many students with job offers right after graduating, including Mcgill.

“Attending a trade school was one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Mcgill said. “I made many connections with other people in the same field. It also looks great on your resume.”

NACS School Board and Teacher’s Union agree on teacher raises

By: Caroline Chastain

Northwest Allen County Schools Board of School Trustees and the Northwest Allen County Educators Association reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement on Sept. 25, outlining more than $1,800 in raises for NACS teachers.

Collective bargaining is a process for teacher unions that dates back to 1973. The process is a familiar one for NACS and NACEA, although this was the first time NACS hosted a public hearing in regard to the tentative collective bargaining agreement, which took place before the board’s meeting on Oct. 14.

The process to reach an agreement begins with an analysis of state funding for the fiscal year, and then salary changes for teachers are dictated respectively. According to Lizette Downey, NACS Chief Communications Officer, this was a relatively smooth year for this process, regardless of the newly implemented public hearing.

Throughout the entire process, the school board and NACEA representatives work closely.

“We really do work together during this process. It’s in our best interest to consider the teachers in this process so that we can compete for talent and so our kids have the best quality teachers we can find,” NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel said.

The three major components of the negotiation are insurance benefits, retirement, and salaries and stipends. One of the newer focuses of this year’s agreement is on continued education for teachers.

“We have been focusing on changing the contract over the years to give an incentive for professional growth and reward teachers for their commitment to the district,” said Jim Walker, one of the teacher union’s chief negotiators.

Among the salary increases for NACS employees is an addition of $245 for continuing professional learning. Teachers with more than 5 years of experience will also be eligible for $273 in stipends.

Himsel said that this stresses NACS’s desire to employ only the most experienced and expert staff, to provide its students with the highest quality of education.

Coincidingly, teachers are now offered a stipend of $800 for earning a National Board Certification. According to Himsel, very few NACS teachers are currently Board certified, so this incentive has been put in place to encourage more teachers to work towards one.

With this agreement reached, NACS teachers will receive a minimum base salary of $41,250 this school year. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree are eligible for a maximum base salary of $66,000, and those with a master’s degree, a maximum base salary of $70,125.

Additional potential stipends are available for performance based on teacher’s annual reviews. Reviews with indication of “ineffective” or “needs improvement” are not eligible for raises, while those receiving “effective” or “highly effective” can earn up to $1,007 of additions to their salary.

NACS teachers are also seeing a raise in their pay checks by $842 because the general assembly recently reduced the amount school districts are required to pay into teachers’ state retirement funds.

Five NACS employees were contacted to comment on the raises, and none wanted to discuss the topic.

With all of these changes implemented in this year’s NACS and NACEA tentative collective bargaining agreement, teachers are experiencing a $1,849 minimum increase in their base salary. Those already at the maximum base salary will receive these increases as stipends.

NACEA President Steve Driver shared that these changes are in an effort to both reward and retain the best teachers.

“Essentially these changes make us a better school system and help our students because of how it rewards our teachers to work to their fullest,” Driver said.