Rhonda Miller

Reporter

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015.  She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.

She has worked at Rhode Island Public Radio,  as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke, Virginia, and at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rhonda’s freelance work called Writing Into Sound includes stories for Voice of America, WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn., NPR and AARP Prime Time Radio.

She has a master’s degree in media studies from Rhode Island College and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University.

Rhonda enjoys quiet water kayaking, riding her bicycle and folk music. She was a volunteer DJ for Root-N-Branch at WUMD community radio in Dartmouth, Mass. 

Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy

Kentucky is taking a new step to stop the recent increase of opioid overdose deaths.

A new website allows a person to enter a city or ZIP code and quickly find a pharmacy that has the life-saving drug naloxone, often sold under the name Narcan, that can reverse the effects of an opiod overdose.

The website www.KyStopOverdoses.ky.gov was launched on Nov. 2. 

Van Ingram is executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. He says the website is something requested by many families in the state.

“I’ve heard from a number of parents of a young person with an opioid use disorder and heard their frustrations in not being able to find it, and going around from drugstore to drugstore and places not carrying it.”

Families desperate to get help for loved ones with an opioid addiction now have a new way to buy time while hoping for a recovery.

"We needed to provide people a resource where they can quickly and easily find where naloxone is available in their communities,” said Ingram.

Rhonda Miller

The race for the 23rd District seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives has a bull’s eye on it. The district covers Barren County and part of Warren County and has an open seat with the retirement of Democrat Johnny Bell.

Republican Steve Riley is facing off against Democrat Danny Basil in a race that could help decide whether the Kentucky House will remain the last legislative chamber in the South controlled by the Democratic Party.

Basil and Riley spoke to a group of students from Glasgow High School at Glasgow City Hall about issues of interest to the young people now and in the future.

”If I’m fortunate enough to be elected, education is one of my priorities in the legislature," said Basil.

Riley and Bail take turns speaking on issues like careers, roads and taxes, and taking questions from the students. The scene is far removed from the nastiness that’s been dominating the presidential race. The candidates are polite and admit that they agree on the importance of some issues, like education and economic development, even if they differ on how to reach their goals.


Yager Materials

A high school career coach in Daviess County is making sure students are aware of job opportunities created by the Ohio River. 

About 50 students from Apollo and Heritage Park high schools will go to the Owensboro Riverport and to Yager Materials, a company that builds and repairs barges.

Jeremy Camron  is the college and career readiness coach at Apollo High School. He says the Nov. 9 field trip called “Who Works the Rivers?” gives students a close-up look at, “…what it’s like to be a deckhand or a crane operator, or how you can become an electrician or an engineer on barge motors. All of those jobs may start in the $20,000 range, but their top end wage range is somewhere close to $100,000. You know, a riverboat captain is making $150,000 a year.”

The field trip includes a career fair at the Owensboro Museum of Science and History, where about a dozen companies will speak to students about river-based jobs. Camron says opportunities for river jobs are right in the students’ backyard.

“We’re fortunate that we’re located right on the Ohio River and we have a massive river port that’s developed, as well as Yager Materials that does a lot of work with barges. So there are a lot of high quality jobs for kids who just have a high school diploma want to go straight to work.”

The field trip is sponsored by RiverWorks Discovery, a program based at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa.

Daviess County

Daviess County is expecting a record turnout on Election Day that could go as high as 70 percent of registered voters.

Daviess County’s chief election officer, Richard House, says the anticipated high voter turnout is due to a combination of national, state and local races that are generating a lot of interest.

“I think both sides are really polarized as far as the presidential race is concerned. We have several State House races here in Daviess County that are competitive. We’re going to have a new mayor. We’re going to have new city commissioners. So we have a lot of local interest in this race.”

Lots of candidates have stepped up to the plate in Daviess County. Five are running for mayor of Owensboro. Ten people are running for four seats on the Owensboro City Commission.

“We also have our first family court judge and there are four candidates running really competitive races,” said House. “That’s a non-partisan office and it’s the first time we’ve ever had a family court judge. So that’s been drawing a lot of attention.”

Expectations of high voter turnout are leading Daviess County to add 30 poll workers for the Nov. 8 election. The county is estimating that 50,000 voters could cast ballots on Election Day.

House said the voter turnout in previous presidential election years was about 68 percent in 2008 and 63 percent in 2012.

Ohio County Schools

Three Kentucky school districts are sharing a $450,000 state grant to expand preschool programs.

Owensboro, Daviess County and Ohio County will each get $150,000 to upgrade preschool offerings, especially for at-risk children.

Cheston Hoover is director of district programs for Ohio County Schools. He says the school district is partnering with Audubon Area Head Start to give more children a solid educational foundation.

“We’re a very large county and in some of the communities within our county, the child care, preschool, early education services are pretty limited.  And so we’re looking to expand one of those from a half-day to a full day.”

That expansion will be at the Horse Branch Elementary preschool program. Hoover says part of the funding will be used to add a staff member in the classroom and a recruiter to identify more eligible children.

“There’s lots of research that shows that full day Head Start and preschool benefits the child academically and socially. It’s also a benefit for parents to where their child can receive those services throughout the school day and not have to find another service for either the first or second half of the day.”

Owensboro will add a new full-day preschool class at Estes Elementary.

Daviess County Public Schools will partner with the Owensboro Family YMCA to expand preschool services to children who don’t speak English at home and those in foster care.

Rhonda J. Miller

A Bowling Green LGBT rights advocate told the Bowling Green City Commission Tuesday that it’s time to get in step with communities across the nation and pass a fairness ordinance.

Supporters want members of the LGBT community protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Western Kentucky University legal history expert Patricia Minter points to the Municipal Equality Index released Oct. 17 by the Human Rights Campaign.  The index rates LGBT inclusion in cities across the nation.

Bowling Green got a score of 17 out of a possible 100, the worst score of the eight Kentucky cities rated. Minter says that low HRC rating casts a shadow over the city in both human and business terms.

“HRC is a well-respected civil rights organization, and what we know is that Fortune 500 companies, S&P companies, companies that are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, all look at HRC indexes when they’re deciding where they’re going to relocate, where they will look for employees.”

Kentucky Office of Homeland Security

Kentucky cyber security leaders are compiling information from a simulated cyber attack in order to update plans in the event that a power grid goes down or sensitive data is stolen from businesses or state agencies.

The test cyber attack took place Oct. 12  with more than 50 leaders from utilities, police, business and government.

John Holiday is executive director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security. He says one issue identified early in the test attack was information sharing.

"If an attack happens, how do we get that information to the decision-maker without screwing up the investigation, without giving too much information out there where the bad guy gets wise and he starts adjusting his protocol to damage the investigation?”

Kentucky Wesleyan College

Kentucky Wesleyan College received a $3 million gift from an Owensboro dentist who was not a graduate of the school.

Dr. Willard Gillespie died in July at age 92 and designated the money to the college in his will. Kentucky Wesleyan College President Bart Darrell said the dentist often spoke of his support for the school’s mission.

“We really do combine, and this is something that Dr. Gillespie really believed in, we really do combine the practical career end game type education, but at the same time, everything we do is guided by what we call the Wesleyan Way, four principles of honor, support for each other, competition with integrity and then love for each other,” said Darrell.

Darrell said the dentist appreciated the school’s dedication to providing career training and the importance the college places on character building, integrity and community.

Institute of Southern Jewish Life

A synagogue in Owensboro, Kentucky is preparing to hold services for the High Holy Days that begin at sundown on Oct. 2. 

The synagogue was built in 1877 by 13 founding families. There are currently seven member families, as well as a few non-members who participate.

The effort to keep the synagogue functioning is led by two Jewish members who open the doors for a Friday evening study session. Through those open doors have come several non-Jews drawn to the Jewish teachings.

“Come let us welcome the Sabbath. May its radiance illumine our hearts as we kindle these tapers,” said synagogue President Sandy Bugay, as she recently lit the candles that mark that start of the Jewish Sabbath that begins at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday.

Bugay led the Hebrew blessing for the half-dozen people gathered around a table in a meeting room at the synagogue:

Simpson County Schools

The Simpson County School District is seeing a rise in the number of students who don’t speak English as their native language.

The overall percentage of the district’s 3,000 students who don't speak English as their first language remains small, but has more than doubled in the last couple of years.

Superintendent Jim Flynn said the need to add staff for those students became clear.

“We’ve really increased from probably having about 15 or 20 students to now we’re somewhere between 40 and 50 students.”

The district has added another teacher this academic year for English Language Learners, to go along with another part-time teacher working with ELL students.

Flynn said the ELL teachers travel among the county schools from pre-K through high school. He says some of the students they help have had breaks in their formal education.

ADANI

The Daviess County Detention Center has a new state-of-the-art body scanner to help cut down on contraband.

Jailer David Osborne says Daviess County has problems common to most jails and prisons – the continuing and increasing amount of contraband being smuggled in, especially drugs.

“It seems that nowadays people are getting smarter about how they try to smuggle it and most of the time now it’s actually in body cavities. Even in the jail, once they’re in here, they just keep it stored there, if you can imagine, in balloons or in plastic bags or whatever.”

The body scanner is similar to the machines used at airports, but it has two views from different angles to help detect hidden drugs or other items.

The scanner has advanced technology called DruGuard. The software component outlines the part of the body of the person being scanned where drugs may be concealed.

Osborne says the scanner is especially important for inmates who leave the jail for work assignments,  where they sometimes try to arrange drug deals.

“You name it, they’ll smuggle anything in and everything in here , you see, is valuable. And it’s dangerous, because it causes the inmates to want to fight each other to get that drug. Or when they get high it causes problems for our staff."

Osborne says the $150,000 scanner is an important step to increase safety. He says the new technology may eventually allow the jail to do away with strip searches.

Daviess County Emergency Management

The first solar-powered weather siren in Daviess County is taking the emergency warning system a step forward in green technology.  The siren is at Shively Park in Owensboro.

John Clouse is deputy director of emergency management for Daviess County.  He says all 40 sirens in the county are powered with battery back-up and this first solar one is a test project.   

“So charging that with solar energy versus an electrical charge from one of the companies just seemed to make sense. We have a lot of sunshine and the new solar technology is very good at being able to collect and generate energy even on cloudy days now.”

Clouse said the solar-powered siren is tested regularly and so far, so good.

“To this point it’s been working great. We have had no problems with it at all. We test the sirens usually about three times a week, most notably on Friday at noon when we have the audible test. The siren has been behaving as it should since it’s been installed.”

Daviess County Public Schools

Some students in Daviess County Public Schools are taking part in a first-year program aimed at helping those who are new to the U.S.

The Newcomer Program is launching this year at Apollo High School and College View Middle School.

Students at other Daviess County schools who qualify for the program take a school bus to the Newcomer Program and spend the day there. 

Jana Beth Francis is assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Daviess County Schools. She said the goal is a balance between basic English language skills and immersion.                                  

“They spend half the day in the Newcomer Program and then the other half of the day they are integrated into the regular school, where they get a chance to be with English-speaking students and start to get some of their core classes.”

Orchestra Kentucky

Orchestra Kentucky is beginning a national search for its next executive director. 

Darrell Edwards left the post with the Bowling Green-based group earlier this month after 12 years on the job.

Orchestra Kentucky Music Director Jeffrey Reed credits Edwards with helping transform the group, which began as a chamber orchestra doing about six concerts a year.

“When we hired Darrell we had just existed for three or four seasons, so we were in our infancy. He gave us experience and vision, helping us realize we really could step out and grow the organization.” 

In the past 12 years, Orchestra Kentucky’s annual budget has increased from $50,000 to $900,000. The group now does about 15 concerts a year that include classical and popular music.

Ohio County Economic Development Alliance

Ohio County is launching an innovative business center with the goal of bringing  new jobs that have most of the commuting done online.

Chase Vincent is executive director of the Ohio County Economic Development Alliance. He says the business incubator is a way to offset the expense of bricks-and-mortar for startups.

“The concept of an incubator is that they come together and share experiences and advice and learn together. It dramatically increases their rate of success for becoming a long-standing business in the community.”

Vincent points to the increasing popularity and viability of remote work as confirmation of the timeliness of the Ohio County project. He says all the pieces are in place for the incubator. 

“We were recently approved for $100,000 from the Ohio County Fiscal Court to purchase property in Hartford to be used as an incubator, training center and co-work space.”

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