Orchids and onions

• ORCHID: To 14-year-old Jacob Latessa Quade of Boardman, who transformed his house into a brilliant Christmas light display for the season. The teen has 98 holiday inflatables and at least 50,000 lights. His inspiration is Clark W. Griswold from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” but Griswold can’t hold a candle — err, LED, to Quade.

• ORCHID: To Torri Rogenski, who provides health care to Christine Terlesky of Boardman, and to Terlesky, who provides emotional care to Rogenski, for the bond the two have developed. It’s a special relationship between the caretaker and receiver, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2013.

• ONION: To former South Range school board member and Boardman Center Middle School teacher Corey Yoakam, who had his teaching and principal license renewals denied by the state and other licenses revoked over allegations he treated students poorly, including making comments of racial and sexual nature to staff and students in his classroom.

• ORCHID: To David Ritchie, 82, whose 52 years on the Austintown Local Schools Board of Education makes him the longest-serving school board member ever in Ohio. Ritchie lost his 13th re-election attempt in November.

• ORCHID: To Roberta Richard and everyone else who helped coordinate the 33rd annual Gleaners Food Bank dinner on Christmas day at St. Patrick Church. Also to Families Helping Families, which again this year provided dinner on Christmas at Aulizio’s Banquet Center in Niles.

Orchids and onions

• ORCHID: To officials at West Branch Local Schools for being open and transparent by inviting public input in their discussions considering whether to allow school district teachers to be armed. The district announced the meeting and forum allowing residents to voice opinions and has been open about answering questions. It appears the board of education is listening intently and not rushing into a decision on this very controversial topic.

• ORCHID: To local state Sens. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, and Sean J. O’Brien, D-Bazetta, for being proactive in their attempts to grow the electric vehicle industry, possibly giving an edge to the Mahoning Valley. The two are sponsoring legislation to reduce some taxes on electric vehicles and charging stations. Whether the bill gains any traction remains to be seen, but we applaud the effort to grow the industry and help our Valley, which will be making the vehicles and batteries soon.

• ONION: To Niles Board of Education for scheduling a special meeting at 8 a.m. today. Early morning meetings are inconvenient and seldom well attended. Couple that with the fact that it is the last Saturday before Christmas and the meeting is certain to have low attendance. Public bodies always should focus on finding meeting times that are convenient for constituents rather than a time when they can squeeze in a meeting — perhaps with little interaction from the public.

• ORCHID: To a mother who lost her son, Ryan Giambattista, in a tragic death, but who now is carrying on his vision as an artist. Terri DiGennaro, Ryan’s mother, is chairwoman and founder of HELMS of the Mahoning Valley. She used funds donated after his death as seed money to start an art therapy program for the ill.

• ORCHID: To Lowellville Fire Department for helping the spread the Christmas spirit in the community by helping Buddy the life-sized “Elf on a Shelf” to travel around the community, sometimes perching in trees and other quirky places. The sightings are spurring lots of interest and glee among residents and kids. “We just wanted to bring the Christmas spirit in the community,” said Tonya Boggia, president of the firefighters association. Mission accomplished!

Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To retired high school choir director Craig Carson who devotes much of his time to directing “Men of Praise,” the inmate choir at Trumbull Correctional Institution in Warren. Carson has volunteered at the prison since 2002. Carson said although some of the inmates in the choir are perpetrators of violent crimes, God is a redeemer in their lives.

ONION: To Youngstown City Schools and its chief financial officer for not keeping minutes of board meetings for at least two years. Board members this week pointed out that when House Bill 70 was approved several years ago, some other responsibilities fell by the wayside. Recording and approving minutes of the elected board of education’s public board meetings should not be among them. This should not have gone on for two years.

ORCHID: : To Mahoning County school children who accepted a challenge from the Green Team of Mahoning County Solid Waste Management District to design and create Christmas ornaments using recyclables. As a result, single-use trash was converted to festive holiday decorations. What a great way to teach our kids about the importance of recycling.

ONION: To public universities that pay former public servants tens of thousands of dollars for speaking engagements. Miami (Ohio) University recently paid former Gov. John Kasich $40,000 to speak on civility. This was the governor who in 2015 warned Ohio’s public colleges and universities to cut their free-spending ways or else he would “take an ax” to their state funding. The president of Miami University’s faculty union correctly called Kasich’s speaking fee “ridiculous and outrageous.”

ORCHID: To Austintown Fitch graphic arts students that designed a “chair of honor” that will be set up in the Fitch gymnasium and, this fall, in the outdoor stadium, to serve as a remembrance of prisoners of war who never made it home. Jim Penk, Fitch athletic director, summed it up when he said, “We enjoy doing things for those who are looking out for us.”

Orchids and onions

• ORCHID: To Youngstown Police Department for donating 100 “help belts” to the Rich Center for Autism , which will be used to alert police of autism or other diagnoses. The devices are affixed to seat belts to alert first responders to a child or adult’s medical needs. That can go a long way to de-escalating encounters between police and those with autism. The devices, which also can be attached to backpacks, clearly state on the outside that the person has autism or any other diagnosis, and might be nonverbal or unable to respond to commands. What a wonderful gesture by Youngstown police.

• ORCHID: To the 11 Mahoning Valley animal shelters and rescues, along with all the families that last month took on 30 senior pets as part of November’s Adopt-a-Senior Pet month. Families looking to adopt animals often want young dogs and cats. But senior animals are just as needy and often are a better fit as calmer, more comforting pets.

• ONION: To those involved in the year-long delay in fulfilling Youngstown’s Oct. 2018 order for parts for two snow plow trucks. The city ordered two snow-plow trucks, with Concord Road Equipment Manufacturing Inc. of Painesville hired to put the plow, dump bed and salt spinner on them. The parts have been on back order, and the city expects to go through most of this winter as well — until around February — until the new trucks are ready. That’s ridiculous! The city is set, however, to get another new snow plow truck next week, its first since 2008.

• ORCHID: To Austintown Local Schools, the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Nordson Corporation Foundation for working together to create the after-school “Club Invention” for fifth- and second-graders. It gives these kids great opportunities to experiment with science, technology, engineering and math, learning about forces, physics, chemistry and the environment, all in a very fun after-school setting.

• ORCHID: To Poland firefighters, part of the Western Reserve Joint Fire District, for continuing their 17-year effort to raise money via “boot collections” for the Christmas at Our House program. Every penny collected is donated to local needy families over the holidays. Bravo!



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