School issues led breaking news stories in 2018

The hiring of two SRO’s was the leading story for 2018, and school issues also took up the number two and three positions.

2. Joe Buerkley was chosen by the Pendleton County Board of Education to return home and lead the Pendleton County School District as superintendent. The Class of 1997 PC alum, and former Southern Elementary principal and PC Director of Student Personnel for the county took over the reins on July 1.

“The first six months on the job have been wonderful, however this is a challenging time to work in public education and I am thankful for being surrounded by a wonderful group of individuals that continue to focus on the best interest of kids.  We are experiencing constant changes in our accountability system, graduation requirements, federal program requirements, and the Kentucky Department of Education. At times we do not know if we are coming or going, which is why maintaining that focus is so important,” said Buerkley about the start of his first school year as superintendent.

“We have also seen a change in our school board, however I have met with all of our newly elected board members and can assure everyone they all have the best interest of kids in mind.  The next six months should be interesting as we close out the 2018-19 school year.  We have much to be proud of in Pendleton County.  I couldn’t think of any other place I would rather be working – once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat,” he added.

3. Pendleton County teachers joined their fellow educators from around the Commonwealth in marching on Frankfort, protesting both the status of Kentucky pension systems and the funding of educational programs. The story has been ongoing through the General Session session from January through April and was a major issue in the November elections. With the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling, the process of passing the pension reform bill was ruled unconstitutional by a 7-0 vote in December. This ruling was followed by the unheralded decision by Governor Matt Bevin to call a special session right before the holidays that lasted fewer than 24 hours. The issue will again be a focal point of 2019 with the General Session poised to convene in January.

It’s an issue that causes concerns and affects Pendleton County schools.

“The pension issue has been ongoing for over a year now and it has caused a great deal of stress for many individuals.  The disrespectful rhetoric used by our governor towards teachers is inappropriate and uncalled for.  We should all respect each other and value differing opinions.  We must set better examples for our future leaders.  Regardless of your personal opinion on this issue our current teachers deserve the pension they were promised due to the inviolable contract.  If structural changes are to be made for future hires, then I hope this work can be done in a bipartisan manner to craft legislation that is positive for the commonwealth.  When crafting this legislation I hope attention is given to how our decisions now may impact the teaching profession in the future,” said Buerkley.

Representative Mark Hart felt that pension reform will be the issue that dominates the short legislative issue to start in January.

“I was very optimistic that we could put the pension issue behind us and move forward. I was eager to make some corrections from unintended consequences from legislation passed but I am afraid that pension reform is going to dominate the session,” he said.

4. While 2017 saw several Pendleton County residents arrested, 2018 saw those members involved in what federal authorities called a “conspiracy to traffic drugs,” facing a federal judge and receiving their sentences. Greg Sydnor was painted by the U.S. Attorney office as the ringleader and received a 300-month sentence. William Todd Ramsey received 120 months, Sterling T. Cole 157 months, and Nathaniel Hughes 37 months.

5. Falmouth residents opened up their utility bills in August and suffered from a severe case of sticker shock as their bills had skyrocketed. The Falmouth City Council and Mayor Ron Stinson had discussed through July about raising electric rates from Kentucky Utilities and  addressing rates for sewage and water. After residents turning to social media to express outrage, a special meeting was held where the public was able to express their concerns. The city council rescinded the water and sewage rate hikes and instead chose to phase in the rate increases, the last of which occur in the January usage. That increase will show up in their February bill. “It has been pretty calm compared to what we had initially,” said Ron Stinson, who was re-elected in November as mayor.

The top stories that rounded out the top ten were: 6. Charles Bruener’s Jr. evaded law enforcement, endangering the lives of Pendleton County residents and led to Deputy Sheriff Todd Dennie saying, “It’s the closest we have ever come in shooting someone.” He and Tiffany Thompson face several federal charges resulting from the incident. 7. Governor Matt Bevin proposed a budget that would have devastating effects on numerous Pendleton County governmental agencies. 8. Falmouth Police Officer Mark McClure made a traffic stop on a Harley Davidson with expired tags that led to the biggest drug busts in Pendleton County in 2018. Jeremy Warman and Laura Johnson face numerous charges resulting from the arrest. 9. Former Falmouth Outlook Editor Jackie Vaughn was arrested and pled guilty to drug trafficking charges. 10. A middle school student at CCMS made threats on social media against Sharp Middle School.

Other top stories that received votes were: Logan Hoppenjans and Casey Wells face charges for spray painting the eyes of Wells’s child; Dr. Shawn Nordheim resigned her position on the school board after the Falmouth Outlook raised questions on her primary residence being outside of the district she represented; two Butler men went to the hospital when a drunken disagreement ensued between a grandpa and his grandson, resulting in a struggle over a gun, and the grandson was shot; loved ones of those in Riverside Cemetery were furious when things they had placed on gravesites were removed; Lori Tristan was cited for having over 400 pot-belly pigs on her farm and failure to maintain control of them; a nine-year-old boy was struck by a truck when he darted out in front of it and toward his school bus in the early morning hours; Governor  Matt Bevin came to Falmouth to hold a two-hour town hall where he answered questions from concerned citizens and students of Pendleton County.