Kevin Willis

News Director

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio.  He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.  He is a broadcast journalism graduate of WKU, and has won numerous awards for his reporting and feature production.  Kevin grew up in Radcliff, Kentucky and currently lives in Glasgow.

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Education
2:32 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

WKU's Ransdell Among Members of Group Supporting Common Core Standards

WKU President Gary Ransdell
Credit WKU

The Presidents of Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education and Western Kentucky University are among those joining a nationwide coalition in support of the Common Core State Standards.

CPE President Bob King and WKU’s Gary Ransdell are pledging their support to the group Higher Ed for Higher Standards. Along with Dr. Ransdell, four other university presidents in Kentucky joined the group: Eli Capilouto of the University of Kentucky, Tim Miller of Murray State, Michael Benson of Eastern Kentucky, and Wayne Andrews of Morehead State.

Nine Kentucky Community and Technical College presidents are also members of the coalition.

The goal of the Common Core is to create consistent educational standards across states and to make sure those graduating high school are ready to enter either post-secondary education institutions or the workforce. Higher Ed for Higher Standards say it believes Common Core standards will help universities reduce the number of students who have to enroll in remedial classes once they’re on campus, as well as increase graduation rates.

“I agree with the Council on Postsecondary Education and with the Kentucky Department of Education, in that these standards set a level of expectation of our students, and of their teachers, and of their parents for support, that we need to keep our country up with world education standards," said Dr. Kris Williams, President of Henderson Community College and a member of the coalition.

Opponents of Common Core says the standards present a “one size fits all” approach to education. Last month, the Indiana Board of Education voted to scrap the state’s Common Core program and implement a new set of educational standards.

You can read NPR's FAQ page about the Common Core standards here.

Sports
2:43 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Crystal Kelly, Ron Bevars Among KHSAA Hall of Fame Class of 2015

Crystal Kelly during her playing days at WKU.
Credit WKU Athletics

A former WKU basketball star is being honored for her prolific high school career.

Crystal Kelly is a member of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015, which was announced Sunday.

Kelly was named Kentucky’s Ms. Basketball in 2004, after leading Sacred Heart to three straight state championships. Kelly went on to become WKU’s all-time women’s leader in points and rebounds, and was taken by the Houston Comets in the 2008 WNBA draft.

Another member of the KHSAA Hall of Fame Class of 2015 is Ron Bevars, who coached at North Hardin High School in Radcliff for 38 seasons. Bevars retired in 2013 after racking up 805 wins, the fourth-most in Kentucky high school basketball history.

Bevars led North Hardin to three Sweet 16 semi-finals appearances, and lost the 1982 state championship on a half-court, game-winning buzzer-beater by Laurel County’s Paul Andrews.

Education
2:53 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Kentucky School Districts Getting Ready for Implementation of New Science Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards officially go into effect at the beginning of the next school year in Kentucky.

School districts throughout Kentucky will spend the summer putting the finishing touches on new science curriculum. State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday announced this week that what’s known as the Next Generation Science Standards will be implemented this fall.

Kentucky is one of 26 states that recently worked to develop the new standards.

Next Generation puts greater emphasis on subjects such as physical science, life sciences, earth science, and engineering.

Some school districts across the state have gotten a head start in getting the new standards in place.

“In Barren County, we have already started the implementation, with about half of our grades having made the transition last year, and the other half to make the transition this year,” said Scott Harper, director of instruction and technology for Barren County Schools.

Jennifer Davis, director of elementary and secondary programs for Bowing Green Independent Schools, says the content that students will experience next school year goes beyond learning basic scientific concepts.

“With the new standards, it’s not just a focus on core ideas, but also engineering practices, concepts as to how science is applied in the real world,” Davis told WKU Public Radio. “It’s really about how to teach kids to think scientifically.”

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Politics/Environment
11:35 am
Fri June 6, 2014

Kentucky Climate Policy Czar Still Going Through Over One Thousand Pages of New EPA Rules

John Lyons, Kentucky's assistant secretary for climate policy
Credit Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet

The man who will help lead Kentucky’s effort to meet new air pollution standards says his office will stay above the political battle surrounding the issue.

Kentucky’s assistant secretary for climate policy, John Lyons, faces the unenviable task of combing through 1,400 pages of material that spell out the new federal carbon emissions rules announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency. The regulations have been denounced this week by both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates as well as business leaders who predict doom for the state’s coal industry and overall economy.

Lyons, whose office is part of Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet, told WKU Public Radio that new federal air quality rules have been impacting the state’s energy policies for several years.

“This is the only latest in a string of environmental regulations that we have to evaluate. Of course, the politics play into that, and those things are what they are. But this Cabinet has to assess those rule-makings, and how best to adopt them—or challenge them in some cases, which is not unprecedented. We’ve challenged rules before, and likely will again at some point.”

While the new EPA standards call for a 30 percent reduction in the nation’s carbon emissions by 2030, Kentucky’s specific goal is a cut of 18.3 percent.

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Politics
10:28 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Grimes Responds to McConnell on Debates, Wants Events in Fall and Live Audiences

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes
Credit Offices of Sen. McConnell and Sec. Grimes

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has formally responded to Senator Mitch McConnell’s proposal for debates.

In a letter sent to the Republican Senator and made public Thursday, Grimes points out a few areas where the two candidates disagree.

Sen. McConnell invited his Democratic opponent to participate in three Lincoln-Douglas style debates, with no audience, props, or notes. In her response, Grimes says she believes audiences  should be allowed to attend the debates.

Grimes went on to say in her letter than in order protect the integrity of the debate process “it is important that none of the debate hosts or moderators has endorsed either candidate or served as a surrogate for either campaign.”

Grimes and McConnell also disagree on the timing of the debates. McConnell wants three events, with all of them held before Labor Day.

Grimes said she believes at least one event should take place in the fall. The Secretary of State also confirmed she has accepted an invitation by KET to debate in Lexington.

Environment
5:50 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

As Land is Cleared for New Gas-Burning Plant, TVA Leaders Say Paradise Will Easily Meet EPA Rules

The Paradise Fossil Plant in Drakesboro currently has three coal-burning units. By the spring of 2017, that number will be cut to one.
Credit Tennessee Valley Authority

Construction crews have cleared about 60 percent of the land needed to begin building a new natural gas facility at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County. The new plant is scheduled to open by spring of 2017, and will take the place of two coal burning units currently in operation at the TVA facility.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the future site of the new gas-burning unit, Transition Manager Billy Sabin said this week’s announcement of new E.P.A. regulations on power plant emissions won’t impact the Paradise Fossil Plant, because the TVA had already decided to reduce carbon emissions at a much faster rate than what the federal government is now seeking.

“We will have a reduction of about 50 percent of coal. Because Unit 3 will continue to run, it’s going to burn about 2.7 to 3 million tons of coal a year,” Sabin said. “So it’ll be about a 50 percent reduction from what we do now.”

Sabin says the excavation stage of the new cleaner-burning gas plant project will be completed by early 2015, with construction of the facility following. He says the new facility, known as a combined-cycle gas plant, has several advantages over the older coal-burning model.

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Politics/Environment
11:39 am
Tue June 3, 2014

McConnell Unveils Bill Countering New EPA Emissions Standards

The E.P.A standards announced this week would mandate power plants reduce carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030.

Senator Mitch McConnell is making good on his promise to introduce legislation that would block new rules announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The E.P.A. rules call on power plants to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030. The move has been slammed by Republicans and some coal-state Democrats who describe the standards as federal overreach that will harm the nation’s economy while doing little to actually halt climate change.

The E.P.A says the regulations will help clean the air and establish the U.S. as a leader in the fight against climate change.

Sen. McConnell has introduced what he’s calling the Coal Country Protection Act. According to McConnell’s office, the legislation would mandate the Secretary of Labor to certify to the EPA Administrator that the new regulations will not lead to a loss of jobs.

Also under the measure, the Director of the Congressional Budget Office would have to certify that the regulations would not result in a loss of gross domestic product in the U.S.

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Regional
4:29 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Study Looks at Costs of Three Owensboro-Area Interstate Plans

A sign welcomes visitors to Owensboro.
Credit City of Owensboro, KY

A new study is attaching cost estimates to proposals that would provide an interstate spur for the Owensboro region.

The study, commissioned by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, looked at plans for an I-69 spur-designation for the Audubon Parkway, and an I-66/I-65 spur for the Natcher Parkway.

Among the key findings of the study:

*The cost for upgrading over 23 miles of the Audubon, from Henderson to the U.S. 60 interchange at Owensboro, would run between $14 million and $15 million. Such a move would require the Pennyrile Parkway to be upgraded to I-69 status at the western end of the Audubon.

*Obtaining an I-65 spur status, by upgrading 72 miles of the Natcher Parkway stretching from I-65 in Bowling Green to U.S. 60 in Owensboro, would cost $66 million to $76 million.

*Upgrading U.S. 60 and 72 miles of the Natcher would cost as much as $148 million. The consultants advised against trying to designate U.S. 60 as a spur, citing high costs and the surrounding residential area.

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Politics/Environment
3:04 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

McConnell and Grimes Blast New EPA Regulations on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes
Credit Offices of Sen. McConnell and Sec. Grimes

Both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate candidates are denouncing new federal guidelines related to greenhouse gas emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that power plants will have to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030.

While Republican Senator Mitch McConnell and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes have exchanged harsh words about who is best to represent the commonwealth in Washington, they both believe the EPA’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants represent a federal overreach that will harm Kentucky’s economy.

Calling it a “national energy tax” imposed by the Obama Administration, Sen. McConnell said he will introduce legislation to block the new rules.

In a statement released to the media Monday by McConnell’s office, the Louisville Republican said the EPA regulations would lead to “higher costs, fewer jobs, and a less reliable energy grid.”

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Regional
3:05 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Bowling Green Bosnian Community Coming Together to Help Balkan Flood Victims

Brickyard Cafe is one of several Bowling Green restaurants participating in the effort to help flood victims in the Balkans.
Credit visitbgky.com

Members of Bowling Green’s Bosnian-American community are uniting to help family and friends in Europe who have been impacted by flooding.

Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, and Serbia have been devastated this month by the worst flooding to hit the Balkans in over a century. In response, Bowling Green residents of Bosnian descent are working to generate funds for those who have lost everything in the high waters.

Recent WKU graduate Mersiha Demirovic says the effort has allowed local Bosnian-Americans to look past ethnic divisions and unite under a single cause.

“Rather than just one group coming together to organize the event, we have members of several different ethnic groups from Bosnia coming together to help with this event,” she told WKU Public Radio.

A flood-relief fundraiser Saturday in Bowling Green is designed to generate money to purchase medical supplies for those impacted by the flooding.

“We found a company in Louisville that said they would ship six to eight tons of medical supplies to Bosnia, but we just have to pay for shipping,” said Djana Salihbasic.

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