Health Care Hazard: Tanners feel the initial impact of new health care plan

Indoor tanning is about to get expensive. Following a July implementation of the 10 percent federal tax on ultraviolet (UV) indoor tanning services, many salons will close if they do not defer the tax to customers, according to William Klum, owner of Maineville’s Tandemonium Tanning Salon and Spa.

Collection of the “Tan Tax,” Klum said, will result in increasingly frequent closings of tanning salons that make too small a profit to remain financially stable while assuming the burden of the tax.

“Because this is a federal tax, it’ll affect everybody on a national level,” Klum said. “On the client side, they’re going to suffer, because I’m sure there [are] going to be [fewer] tanning salons for them to go to, so [it will] inconvenience them. Every tanning salon is going to pass on some sort of cost to the client. …Some of the surveys done by some of these lobbyist groups I belong to say that anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of tanning salons will go out of business.”

As more than two-thirds of tanning salon owners are female, according to, and 70 percent of clients are white women between the ages of 16 and 49, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the “Tan Tax” will largely affect women. According to Klum, this proves the tax’s discriminatory nature.

“[The ‘Tan Tax’ is] kind of set up like a sin tax,” Klum said. “There’s a tax on alcohol; there’s a tax on tobacco. What the problem is that…alcohol and tobacco [taxes cross] all the gender lines, [cross] all the racial lines…So, [they’re] just fair tax[es]. A hundred percent of [tanning salons] are small business[es]. I don’t know any tanning salons considered a large business, as far as the…government’s determination. So, right there, you’re hitting a gender-specific business owner, not to mention the client.”

The “Tan Tax,” an element of the recently passed health care bill, comes as a replacement for the originally included “Bo-Tax,” a five percent tax on voluntary cosmetic surgery. Although “Bo-Tax” was expected to raise $5.8 billion in federal revenue in the next decade, while the “Tan Tax’s” expected turnaround is $2.7 billion, according to The New York Times, David Pariser, President of the AAD, said he hopes the “Tan Tax” will deter potential customers from partaking in the dangerous trend, thus reducing the amount of health care dollars spent on skin cancer treatment; exposure of individuals younger than age 35 to the UV radiation produced by indoor tanning, according to the AAD, increases the chance of developing melanoma by 75 percent.

Alternative tanning options that avoid contributing to the risk of skin cancer may become more popular with the institution of the UV-associated “Tan Tax,” according to Klum, who said he has already seen an increase in the purchase of tanning packages that refrain from using UV light.

“I’m [also] an airbrush tanning salon; that is probably about 20 percent of my business,” Klum said. “So…I think that will only grow over time and UV tanning will be [used] less and less.”

Those customers choosing to continue use of UV-assisted indoor tanning ofter July 1, however, are willing to accept increased prices, Klum said, though they would take action to reduce the tax’s financial impact through less time spent in the tanning beds.

“For the most part, people would say that they would pay the extra ten percent,” Klum said. “Probably what they would do is tan less, or buy smaller packages.”

To stave off a decline in the number of tanning customers, Klum said he will attempt to absorb at least part of the “Tan Tax,” instead of immediately deflecting it.

“I’m going to make [the] decision [of whether to increase prices] sometime in late June,” Klum said. “I’ll look at the financials and see how much I can eat and how much I can pass on, to make it fair to everybody.”

Klum said his experience in the tanning industry has resulted in a flexible business system that adapts to varying financial situations of customers. The advent of the tanning tax will only enhance producer-consumer relationships as he works to distribute the weight of the “Tan Tax” reasonably among customers and the foundation of his business.

“I have to be empathetic,” Klum said. “This is my business — I have to make a profit, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. But, the tanning industry is kind of unique with the type of clients you have. They’re fun-loving; they’re quite warm people from all walks of life. I’m a deal-maker. Everybody’s different and they all have their own situations, so I make it the most comfortable pricing, tanning and everything. That’s just the way I am.”

Money acquired through the taxation of indoor tanning will unfairly hurt customers who had no input on the creation of the tax, according to Brandi Mosley, co-owner of Mason’s TANtalize Tanning Studio, and will ultimately fail to achieve its revenue goals.

“We [at TANtalize] feel that the ‘Tan Tax’ will cost our community, and other communities, jobs and tax revenue,” Mosley said. “In a weak economy, this large tax will hurt thousands of small, largely female-owned businesses nationwide, forcing many to close and/or lay off employees. We believe that it will cost the government more in revenue than what it raises when declining tanning revenue and administrative costs are factored in. Overall, the math does not add up.”

The “Tan Tax” addition to the health care bill, Mosley said, was not a product of thorough research and will affect Americans more negatively than the proposed “Bo-Tax.”

“We feel the ‘Tan Tax’ is completely political,” Mosley said. “[It] was added into the bill without studying its effect at all. The [‘Bo-Tax’] was lobbied to be removed. This tax on botox injections and other cosmetic surgeries would have had less impact on society and would have raised more revenue to pay for this bill.”

As tanning salons close and increase prices (unexpected consequences of the hastily inserted tax, according to Klum, by Congress), customers and the government alike will be disappointed by the “Tan Tax’s” less-than-profitable results.

“I can’t see where it will be a win-win for anybody,” Klum said. “It’s going to diminish the amount of small businesses [and] it’s going to diminish the amount of revenue that is made by those small businesses. Then, they can’t buy as many products from their vendors, and then [government officials are] not going to get what they wanted out of it. …They’re only [going] to collect 40 to 50 percent of what they were going to collect [from ‘Bo-Tax’], so the government’s not going to get their money out of it either. So, to me, it’s just [losing] all the way around.”

Published in The Chronicle (pages 1 and 5) on May 21, 2010.
Published at on July 15, 2011.

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder

Beauty is not constant: upon crossing the border into a foreign country, perceptions of beauty are noticeably different from those in America, according to senior Corina Marziano, who was born in Caracas, Venezuela.In Hispanic cultures, being beautiful is not only attributed to physical characteristics, but also to poise, Marziano said: the most attractive women in Venezuela are those who don’t fear displaying their comfort in their beauty.

“Women [in Venezuela are] all very confident in themselves,” Marziano said. “It’s easy to portray beauty with confidence in yourself. …Here, you’re not used to seeing a woman walk down a street owning it and knowing that she’s beautiful.”

There are, however, some physical elements that are emphasized in Hispanic culture to accentuate visible self-confidence, according to Marziano.

“[Men in Venezuela] really like the long legs, the skirt and the heels,” Marziano said.

Senior Laura Soria said when visiting Ecuador, where her parents are from, she noticed that the “beautiful” women there are openly sensual and embrace clothing silhouettes that highlight, instead of hide, various features of the body.

“[In Ecuador, people] very much like how women are supposed to be — shapely…a healthy weight,” Soria said. “With a lot of Latino talk shows, the women will dress very sensual[ly]: they’ll actually have cleavage, they’ll wear bright colors. They’re very into being very feminine, very flattering.”

Junior Jenny Liao said she has seen different perceptions of beauty in China, where she was born and lived for over seven years. Liao said that Chinese culture does not encourage an emphasis on outer beauty, as it chooses to instead instill a focus on education. School administrations go so far as to punish students who visit nail and hair salons, Liao said.

“Besides doing their hair, sometimes [students will] do makeup a little bit,” Liao said. “[But], teachers discourage [students going to salons]. It depends on what school you go to, but [students] can get in trouble for wearing makeup. [Chinese schools] don’t want kids to be focused on physical beauty. [Focus is on] internal beauty, more than anything. And, definitely, education is a big part of every Chinese [person’s] life. If you can’t do well in school, you don’t have much of a future in front of you.”

Adults in China, Liao said, recognize that the education system, not physical beauty, opens many opportunities for students’ careers, which will secure them a successful adult life.

“For [people in China], caring about style…doesn’t make you pretty,” Liao said. “If you are smart and you study really hard, you’re the girl that [adults]want married to their family.”

Indian culture, however, prizes many uncommon physical features, according to senior Sneha Kolli, who was born in southern India and lived there for five years.

“The most beautiful people have things out of the ordinary,” Kolli said. “If you have lighter color eyes or lighter color skin, I feel like that’s considered more beautiful. Features-wise, I know Indian people say big eyes are really nice.”

Beauty products designed to gradually lighten the skin are marketed across India, attempting to access the demographic that is active in its pursuit of beauty, according to Kolli.

“[Indian stores] have certain things you can take baths with, like powders, that will supposedly keep your skin nicer looking,” Kolli said. “[A skin-lightening product is] Fair & Lovely: it’s a beauty cream that’s meant to make girls fair. Now, they have it for men, too — it’s called Fair & Handsome. Everything is endorsed by huge celebrities.”

The entertainment industry in Georgia, according to sophomore Mancho Khakhnelidze, who has lived in both Georgia and Russia, effectively determines the specifics of beauty, because those who are deemed naturally beautiful are selected to participate in the filming of widely-distributed movies.

“If you live in Georgia and you’re [naturally] pretty, [people] offer you [roles] in shows and movies,” Khakhnelidze said. “If you’re pretty or outgoing and are involved in shows and movies, a lot of people get to know you. [Then,] people that try to be beautiful [will mimic] people with natural beauty.”

Naturally attractive features are revered in Russia and Georgia, because an emphasis is placed on character instead of looks, Khakhnelidze said.

“In Georgia, they like everything natural,” Khakhnelidze said. “If you have plastic surgery and you’re pretty, they don’t ask, but they’re like, ‘Oh, she [had] nose surgery done.’ In Russia, it’s the same thing. People don’t really look at what you look like: it’s about your personality.”

Beauty is found in keeping looks natural in Nigeria, as well, according to senior Amara Agomuo, whose parents are from the country. While light skin and eyes are viewed as beautiful and clothes are created to show off naturally occurring curves in the body, women usually choose to focus on bettering their manners and poise, Agomuo said.

“Mannerism is a big thing,” Agomuo said. “You can’t just have somebody who’s pretty: they need to make sure they’re a nice, polite lady.”

Junior Cecilia Lopez Gonzalez, from Huehuetenango, Guatemala, said that in any part of the world, every person will always possess features that are physically beautiful, because there will always be something culturally unique about them.

“All the places have something interesting [regarding physical beauty]; [it] doesn’t matter where you’re from,” Lopez Gonzalez said. “You’ll always have something that can be beautiful.”

Published in The Chronicle (page 18) on April 23, 2010.
Published at on July 15, 2011.

Freshman “Diversity Week” revamped

The refurbished schedule for the freshmen’s mornings of OGT week is a product of brain-storming and communication, according to Assistant Principal William Rice. Freshman homerooms participated in various activities aimed at raising awareness for societal issues during the administration of the OGT each morning this week, led by junior and senior Sibs, he said. In the past, the week focused on discussing diversity, but Rice said after he spoke with students who had previously been involved in executing the plans, he and a committee of Mason High School staff members decided to broaden Freshman Activity Week’s goals.Initially, Rice said he was approached by Principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart to lead the redesign of the week that, in years before, had been planned by MHS psychologist Jeff Schlaeger and multiple teachers.

“Mrs. McCarty-Stewart asked me two or three months ago to look at what was called ‘Diversity Week’ and figure out where we wanted to go,” Rice said. “In previous years, it wasn’t really administrative-led: it was a committee of teachers and Mr. Schlaeger, the school psychologist really was kind of the main facilitator on that. For a number of reasons, he had to step away from that position, this year.”

English teacher and Sibs adviser Betsy Carras said Rice then asked her for help garnering feedback from students who had been involved in assisting with the activities in the past.

“I had not been really involved in it in the past except for getting the Sibs involved in it,” Carras said. “I just kind of ran with what they wanted us to do. The kids were really involved a lot last year and the year before. So, this year, Mr. Rice came to me and said, ‘I know the students were involved and I just need to know more about it,’ because he was new. He decided he wanted to talk to some people about…all that stuff that they had done in the past, and I gave him about 10 or 15 names of students that I knew would be willing to open up and tell how they felt.”

After learning what students felt had been valuable from previous Diversity Weeks, Carras said a committee of MHS staff members, assembled by Rice, discussed what to salvage of the past activities and what to replace.

“As a committee, we were all talking about different things we thought our students could benefit from and figured out what we can do to change it up and keep what the students thought was good,” Carras said. “That’s kind of how it evolved. We went through a whole brainstorming of different topics.”

The committee originally considered organizing a mass community service project to be completed by the freshmen in MHS’ Field House, according to Rice, who said he stressed the importance of a service learning project after meeting with individuals from, an organization devoted to community service. Ideas were discussed that would have necessitated a larger group effort, but Carras said the difficulties in such tentative plans were recognized.

“We had bigger goals set, and we just thought [it] was so hard with our numbers,” Carras said. “We wanted to do a service project where the kids were actually working, [but] it just couldn’t work with our numbers. We wanted to do stuff with the special needs kids in the school, but we just couldn’t do that with our numbers. So, there [were] a lot of challenges that we had to overcome to make it work.”

Carras said the committee was limited in its community service plans because of the size of the class of 2014: the service learning project, she said, could not realistically have been collectively active, working simultaneously as one group. Instead, according to Carras, the committee decided to compile Personal Care Kits for patients at Grace Children’s Hospital throughout the week, stocking Ziploc baggies with items in individual homerooms.

The service project, Carras said, is a tangible product of a successfully orchestrated week of a myriad of activities.

“We have lots of good things [that] happen[ed], a lot of speakers [that came] in,” Carras said. “There [were] a lot of people who had great ideas that were part of it.”

Published in The Chronicle (page 3) on March 19, 2010.
Published at on July 14, 2011.

OCD affects students’ daily lives

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is more serious than most think as they casually use it as an excuse for being organized or picky, according to senior Caitlin Smith, who was diagnosed with OCD last summer. The disorder, affecting up to 1 in 100 children, according to, and 2.2 million adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is attributed to anxiety that causes “recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions), and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions)” and interferes with normal, daily life, the NIMH said.Common obsessions, or undesired visions that stick in the mind, are those that involve violence or harm occurring to loved ones; compulsions may be anything from checking to ensure that doors are closed to counting words and syllables in phrases, as Smith said she does.

“I have compulsions and obsessions,” Smith said. “My obsessions get really bad [because] I have this thing called ‘Pure O,’ which is basically all mental. A lot of people don’t know I have OCD, because I do it all on the inside. [But,] I count everything on my fingers, and it has to be in fives, because you have five fingers…[Also,] I’ve been known to leave my friends’ houses to go make sure my garage door is shut.

“It was a big red flag to my therapist, because it’s considered OCD when it interferes with everyday life or when it takes up a couple hours in a day. I’ll be at my friend’s house and I’ll make up an excuse and I’ll just leave to make sure the garage door is shut. I worry to the point where I’ll just panic.”

Junior Jessica Davidson, who was diagnosed with OCD when she was five years old, said her compulsions have changed as she has aged. Excessive actions (compulsions) associated with hygiene, she said, triggered the diagnosis; she now worries over situations and things that people have said.

“I’d wash my hands until they were raw, bleeding and cracked,” Davidson said. “I brushed all the enamel off my teeth. I went to the dentist and he was just so shocked. [Now,] I guess [my obsessions and compulsions are] more centered on social situations, everyday things. I have a lot of movies that play in my head, conversations replayed. I still do teeth-brushing a lot. It dust depends on the situation.”

Smith said acting on compulsions, however, does not appease any feelings of anxiety she has. Doing what she thinks she must do, she said, is not a solution; nor is refusing to surrender to the compulsions.

“I feel worse about myself after I do a tic,” Smith said. “I do it so I won’t have a panic attack. I don’t do it out of pleasure. If I tell myself not to do it, I’ll end up doing it more.”

To attempt to temporarily shake obsessions and compulsions from her head, Davidson said she delves into books. She said they allow her to momentarily evade anxiety.

“Reading has always been a big thing for me,” Davidson said. “It takes my mind off of things. OCD makes you terribly self-absorbed: you worry about what other people are thinking and it all comes back to you. Reading makes you not so self-absorbed and it pulls the OCD away a little bit.”

Sometimes, avoiding the effects of OCD isn’t feasible, according to Smith, and this could be detrimental to her academic career, she said.

“There’s been numerous days where I’ve missed school because I get a panic attack,” Smith said. “Or I’ll get migraines. I’ll end up just crying and sobbing because I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t come to school, because I can’t concentrate on my schoolwork, and my grades suffer because of it.”

Davidson said she is often distracted when working on assignments because of extreme anxiety. This, she said, frequently results in her inability to complete her work.

“Homework is very difficult,” Davidson said. “When I’m away from school and someone’s not teaching the subject, I’ll start to wonder if I’m doing a problem right, and then it’s so crippling that I can’t finish the assignment.”

While OCD can severely harm the ability to focus or accomplish tasks, Smith said she that she can use her counting compulsion to help her recognize good writing.

“It plays to my advantages, but it also is a disadvantage,” Smith said. “My writing was the best ever my junior year, and I play that to my OCD, because it helped me vary my syntax. [Because] I’m constantly surrounded and counting the words, reading and writing come really natural to me. I’ll just be like, ‘That doesn’t sound right. That doesn’t sound good…It doesn’t flow.’ But, I can read a whole two pages of words [and] not understand the meaning, but I can recite three lines word-for-word.”

With time, Smith said she has learned to subdue the negative effects of OCD when she knows she must forsake time spent allowing compulsions to take over to instead accomplish what will benefit her in the future.

“I’m pretty quick with [the counting] because I’ve trained myself for things like the ACT and AP classes [where] you can’t be slow,” Smith said. “I learned to mask the OCD so I could focus on my schoolwork. My OCD is my subconscious.”

After several years of struggling to overcome OCD with multiple medications (to treat both the OCD and the side effects of the various prescriptions), Davidson said she is beginning to experience a life that is less shadowed by the disorder.

“I’m actually much better now,” Davidson said. “At one time, I was probably on six medications. Five months ago, I was taken off all medication, and it made the biggest difference. I feel like a different person. [My OCD is] still present, but it’s not as bad as it used to be — not by any measure. It completely eclipsed everything else in my life. To have that taken away, I’m totally different.”

Though Smith said she could take medication or participate in treatment to suppress her OCD, she said she knows that it will never be completely eradicated.

Published in The Chronicle (page 16) on February 12, 2010.
Published at on July 14, 2011.

Life in technicolor

Being “colorblind” doesn’t always translate to seeing only black and white; this type of color vision deficiency (CVD), called monochromacy, rarely occurs. Instead, the majority of individuals with CVD (about eight percent of all males and 0.5 percent of all females, according to the National Institutes of Health) have a limited perception of color that does not consistently affect their daily lives.Sophomore Ben Tilley, who has a red and blue deficiency, said that when most people refer to someone as colorblind, they actually mean to describe one of several kinds of CVD.

“‘Colorblind’ is kind of a misused term,” Tilley said. “There [are] fancy types, like scientific terms, but I have the red-blue kind. Basically, I get my reds and pinks mixed up, and I get my blues and purples mixed up. Colors that have [red and blue in them] are also mixed up. For example, I don’t know what orange looks like.”

According to, those affected by CVD generally have a weakness or blindness in one or two hues. Protans, or people with protanomaly or protanopia, have a red weakness or blindness, respectively. Those with deuteranomaly or deuteranopia have a green weakness or blindness, respectively. Tritanopes, or those with tritanomaly or tritanopia, have a blue and yellow weakness or blindness, respectively.

Senior Ben Van Winkle, who has a red and green weakness, said he is interested in a career in medicine, but he recognizes that his color deficiency may limit him to math-based science careers, since doctors must be able to see the different colors of veins in the human body.

Originally, Tilley said he was considering joining the Air Force after high school, but he said he will have to make a different career selection because of his color deficiency.

“I thought the Air Force would be cool, but they don’t accept people who are colorblind, because of all the [colored] indicating lights,” Tilley said. “I kind of agree they shouldn’t.”

Sophomore Teddy Bow, who said he has trouble seeing reds and greens like Van Winkle, said he wanted to be a pilot after being exposed to the potential career at Virginia Beach. Like Tilley, however, he said he understands that this may not be an viable option because of the color-coding implemented in airplane instruments.

Van Winkle said he also sees complications resulting from his color deficiency in his art classes. During his sophomore year, he said, he made the sky purple in one of his pieces; he said this was unintentional, but that his teacher praised him for being so creative in his color choices. Now, Van Winkle said he usually takes more time to plan the colors used in his art to ensure he executes what he intends.

“It’s hard with fast-drying media,” Van Winkle said. “Black-and-white and shadows are easier.”

Planning and thought is required for Tilley to select his clothes each day, he said, though he usually isn’t ambitious regarding the color choices of what he wears.

“Picking out clothes in the morning [is affected by my color deficiency] — I wear a lot of bland colors, but when I do wear bright colors, I don’t really care if they match or not,” Tilley said.

Although Tilley said he isn’t greatly affect by having color weaknesses on a daily basis, he said issues arise when he is required to perform color-based tasks.

“When teachers color-code stuff, I’m like, ‘Oh, thanks,’” Tilley said.

Driving can become a problem for individuals with CVD because of the use of basic colors on signs and lights, but Tilley and Van Winkle both said they were still able to drive after being administered a color test as a precaution.

“You have to take an extra test before you get your license, but I can see,” Tilley said. “I have my temps. I know the position of the light, where it is, and I can see the arrow.”

In some situations, having a color deficiency can be advantageous, according to Tilley.

“I think color deficient people are better at telling shades than [people with] normal vision,” Tilley said.

For Van Winkle, blacks and whites are “more vivid,” he said, allowing him to perceive depth possibly better than those with normal color vision.

Tilley said that after years of trying to associate colors with objects, he has taught himself to use comparisons to correctly label colors.

“I’ve gotten used to things; I know what colors things are even though I can’t see them, because I can compare them,” Tilley said. “I’ve learned to do that. I know the fruit is orange, so when I see something that’s like the fruit orange, I know it’s orange.”

Tilley said these comparisons are necessary because as he gets older, it becomes more important for him to be able to correctly identify colors in an array of objects.

“As a child, it’s not required to know your colors,” Tilley said. “It’s one of those simple things they teach you. But as an adult, you kind of need to know your colors more.”

The discovery of a color deficiency commonly occurs when children are being taught the names of colors, like when Tilley said he was trying to learn the identity of blue.

“[I realized I was color deficient] probably [in] preschool, because books [would] say something was blue, and I would point to something that wasn’t blue and say it was,” Tilley said. “[Then,] teachers called my mom. They were probably like, ‘You’re wrong.’ They probably thought I was really stupid.”

Bow said he took an Ishihara color plate test, comprised of a circle of colored dots that form an image, letter or number, as a child, when he was a child. Eventually, he said, he “grew into” his color deficiency and, like Tilley, learned to make comparisons to objects that have their colors labeled.

Van Winkle said he learned of his color deficiency in first grade when he tried to color the sky purple and his teacher told him to make his picture more realistic. He said an argument ensued, because to him, nothing appeared incorrect in his drawing.

“[I wondered,] ‘Why does blue have two names?’” Van Winkle said.

Published in The Chronicle (pages 12-13) on January 15, 2010.
Published at on July 14, 2011.

Governor institutes cuts in public funding for libraries

Libraries in Ohio need help. Due to recent statewide budget cuts imposed by Governor Ted Strickland, public libraries are facing the need to reduce hours of operation, sizes of staff and frequency of purchasing new material.
Mason Public Library is not immune to the loss of funds, according to the library’s director, Sarah Brown. Although the library has faced budget cuts in the past, she said that these are the largest cuts it has seen.

“Ninety-eight percent of our funding comes from the state of Ohio,” Brown said. “We don’t get any kind of regular funding from the city or the township. Over the years, we have had percentage cuts of the amount of monies that came out of Columbus. This is the most severe[cut that has occurred.]”

Brown said that the library learned the specifics of the budget cuts this summer.

“We ended up at roughly around 33 percent [of our funding being cut],” Brown said. “It’s pretty drastic. The state’s fiscal year starts in July. So, we learned [that] between July and as soon as possible, we had to cut $150,000 out of our budget.”

After Strickland announced the cuts in state funding for public libraries in July, Mason Public Library had to start creating a plan for action and implementing its own cuts, Brown said.

“We’ve already laid off five staff members, and two have resigned,” Brown said. “We’ve cut 23 hours out of our schedule. We’ve cut our spending on new materials for the library, print and non-print, drastically. We’ve reduced the number of activities we have at the library — some of that was forced when the hours were cut.”

Because there is no predicted increase in funding from Ohio, Brown said the library is considering putting a levy on the ballot in May to obtain more money.

“There’s no evidence that it’s going to get any better, so the board voted to pursue a levy in the spring,” Brown said. “[But,] if the levy is successful, then we won’t see the money until the collection which would be early in 2011. If the levy goes through, we surely will be able to reinstate [the previous] hours [of operation].”

The budget cuts led to the closing of the library on Sundays, which, according to Brown, were days on which the library was highly frequented.

But, Brown said there weren’t many ways to save money — they had no choice.

“Sundays were wonderful days for families,” Brown said. “We opened at one and we closed at five, so they could go to church or sleep in or whatever they do and still get here and get things done. So, we felt very badly about that. I mean, none of this did we want to do: it was either turn off the lights and lock the doors or [lose more money].”

Senior Nisha Giridharan said she has seen firsthand the effects of Strickland‘s cuts. As a member of the library’s Teen Advisory Board, which helps decide which young adult books the library should purchase, Giridharan said she has witnessed a more selective approach among the library’s staff to buying books for public use and a motivation to find other ways to stock the library with material.

“Basically, the budgets for teens and children have gone down significantly,” Giridharan said. “[The library staff members] really want to encourage the children to read; so, I think later this year they’re going to have a school-wide book drive to try to get more books, because unfortunately, our budget’s been cut. That affects how much material we’re allowed to buy every month, and we’re being a lot more selective, now. It used to be [that] if we heard there was some interest for a book, we’d just ask to purchase it. But now [there] has to be a significant amount of people who want the book.”

Besides book purchases, the library will be cutting its schedule of organized activities and events, especially those held for adults.

“We cut back on some of our Story Hour programs and activities for the young people,” Brown said. “The only programming we’re going to be able to offer for adults now are things that we can do free of charge. For example, we offer help with your taxes in the spring. I don’t think people realize that to bring in an author or a performer, you pay for that. You get a better rate because you’re a library, but still, it’s expensive.”

Brown said she is optimistic that the library’s current cuts will satisfy those currently imposed by Ohio. If Strickland and the Ohio government cut more funding for public libraries, however, Brown said the library may have to stop getting new books entirely.

“Hopefully we can get by with the cutbacks we have in place now,” Brown said. “If the funding gets any worse from the state, of course cutbacks will be more severe. Conceivably, if it gets worse, we could just stop buying new materials altogether.”

Published in The Chronicle (page 3) on December 4, 2009.
Published at on July 14, 2011.

Credit flexibilty program to include out-of-school achievements

Students will be able to earn high school credit outside of the classroom through alternate and innovative methods by the beginning of next school year. Due to the implementation of Ohio’s Senate Bill 311, which altered graduation requirements and provisions for earning course credit, Mason City Schools is in the process of designing a plan under which students can apply to have varying experiences accepted as transcript-ready credit.

Currently, high school students are able to acquire Carnegie Units of credit, created in 1909, which allot credit based on time spent in the classroom. According to Principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart, this measurement is not applicable to 21st century students.

“[Senate Bill 311] raised the graduation requirements for high schools in hope that students will be able to meet the demands of a global society,” McCarty-Stewart said. “[As] part of that, we have to adopt a plan that allows our students to achieve credit through flexible options. With the changes in education, really, seat time does not equate to learning – there [are] other avenues to get that.”

McCarty-Stewart said the plan should be ready for presentation to Mason’s Board of Education by December. It will incorporate the ability of students to earn credit through a myriad of activities that will be indistinguishable from traditional courses on transcripts and will outline the procedure for translating activity results into credits. According to McCarty-Stewart, this process may involve presenting projects to a board that will assign grades for credit.

“We have to make sure that the policy states that students can earn credit through completing coursework, which is currently how we exist, and/or testing out or demonstrating mastery of course content or pursuing one or more educational options, which could be, for example: educational travel, independent study, internships, music, arts, after school programs [or] community service,” McCarty-Stewart said. “It’s just very open-ended.”

Because credit under this new plan could be achieved during off-school hours, like winter and summer breaks, students could meet graduation requirements more quickly than those just utilizing the Carnegie Unit of credit.

“We can’t limit the number of courses a student can take,” McCarty-Stewart said. “It very well could excel the amount of time a student is in high school. More than likely, [students could graduate early].”

Published in The Chronicle (page 2) on October 2, 2009.
Published at on July 14, 2011.