A pianist who's electrified audiences worldwide visits Akron today thanks to the LeBron James Family Foundation. Lang Lang is a household name in China and Europe -- and likely Akron too after his fingers tinkle the ivories and he talks with students at Miller South. On top of his status as a piano prodigy add "superstar" along the lines of rockers with powerful performances on the keys. He's hit the big time -- playing with orchestras in London, Berlin, and Vienna. And now Miller South.

In a letter to parents, Akron Schools noted Lang has been described as a master of the piano and among "...the most exciting young keyboard talent" in the world.

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(Akron Public Schools) We have an exciting opportunity for your Wheels for Education/Akron I Promise Student broughtto you by LeBron James and his LeBron James Family Foundation for this Friday! Lang Lang, a Chinese concert pianist who has performed with leading orchestras in Europe, the United States and his native China, will now perform for your student.

Lang Lang has given recitals and concerts in many major cities and was the first Chinese pianist to be engaged by the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and some top American orchestras. A Chicago Tribune music critic called him "the biggest, most exciting young keyboard talent I have encountered in many a year of attending piano recitals". Lang has been praised by musicians and critics around the world – the conductor Jahja Ling remarked, "Lang Lang is special
because of his total mastery of the piano... He has the flair and great communicative power."

It is often noted that Lang successfully straddles two worlds – classical prodigy and rock-like "superstar", a phenomenon summed up by The Times journalist Emma Pomfret, who wrote, "I can think of no other classical artist who has achieved
Lang Lang's broad appeal without dumbing down."

Date: Friday October 10
Time: 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Location: Miller South School for Visual and Performing Arts: 1055 East Ave, Akron, OH 44307

Lang Lang has agreed to play for a period of time and the remaining time will be interactive with the students and time for Q&A.

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An Akron middle school was secured for about 45 minutes Friday afternoon as Akron police looked for a suspect nearby.

Roswell Kent Middle School was closed to outside entry at just before 2 this afternoon. The all-clear was sounded at 2:40 PM.

While police were looking for a suspect, no one was allowed inside the locked doors at Roswell Kent.

It's the latest incident of police activity near an Akron school.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2014 04:26

APS, City Diverge Over Case Future

The future of Case Elementary School is still up in the air, but plans for the school's rebuild were approved by the Akron school board on Monday.

It's part of "segment 5" of APS school construction, the next step in a plan that's gotten smaller over the years due to declining enrollment.

Superintendent David James recommends rebuilds of Ellet High School and Case Elementary, and shared that vision with board members in a presentation.

James says both schools can be rebuilt on existing sites, with Case students using the district's "swing space" during construction.

"With Case, we have some swing space availability at 400 West Market, because King is gone out of there since they're in their new building," James says. "And then, tear down Case and rebuild it on its current site."

But the city of Akron took Case off the list at a review board meeting earlier Monday.

James' presentation called for a rebuilt two-story Case on its existing site.

Board members in closed-door executive session approved moving ahead with Superintendent James' plan, to get the process rolling.

School board president Lisa Mansfield says she hopes the city and the district can easily resolve issues about Case's future.

James says the school facilities update is tied to state enrollment projections, which are down again this time.

"And so they look out to 2020-21, and their projection is that we'll have a little over 19,000 students," James says.

James says it's hard to make projections for clusters like Kenmore, with low enrollment in buildings there...in many cases below state minimums to allow for new construction.

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Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James talks with WAKR's Ray Horner about the first day of school district-wide.

 

Published in WAKR RAY HORNER
Thursday, 28 August 2014 09:22

APS: First Day Of School

Thousands of students in Akron had to wake up a littler earlier today ... it's the first day of school for Akron Public Schools.

Superintendent David James says he's optimistic about enrollment this school year, even though afinal head count is weeks away.

"That is always a difficult issue because we never know who is going to show up until after Labor Day, so we'll do head counts this Friday, next Friday and the following Friday and look at staffing in our buildings," said James.

School security is top-of-mind.  James says school resource officers have completed some additional training.  There is also a new security-related policy that parents will notice if they stop by a school building.

"This year when you go to you school and you want to sign out your child or bring something to your child, we're going to ask to see a photo ID," said James.

James planned to stop by several school buildings today, including Firestone High School and Kenmore High School - both have new principals this school year. 

 

Published in Local
Sunday, 24 August 2014 16:46

King CLC Opens In Akron...Finally

A long-delayed Akron school is ready for students.

King Community Learning Center will finally open this week for the 2014-2015 school year. The school on Memorial Parkway on Akron's west side held an open house on Sunday.

Principal Mary Dean says there are both tech and comfort improvements at the new school.

"Our interactive smart boards, white boards in the building," Dean describes to AkronNewsNow.com, "the ability for the teachers to move those desks around and make tables, to change the learning environment for their students...the lights, of course, air conditioning is very nice, especially this time of year when it's hot and humid."

That's quite a change from the former King CLC on the same site, says retired teacher Debbie Hendryx.

"After summer vacation we would come back and there would be mold on the carpet in the basement, and it had to be cleaned up before the kids could come," Hendryx says. "I taught on the second floor, third, fourth and fifth grade, and it would be in the 90s, up to 100 degrees."

Mark Vopat remembers those days as well. His daughter attended King Elementary and is now in high school.

Vopat's son will attend the new King CLC. At first, Vopat says he was disappointed the school wouldn't remain in the old building. But his mind has changed after seeing the results.

"The fiber optic and the Internet and all the stuff that's already there," Vopat says, "and then you just add on to that all the little details...the lockers in the classrooms, the drinking fountain, all that stuff that's in the classroom instead of out, so the kids don't have to leave."

A number of touches from the old King Elementary were also brought over, such as the terra cotta sign at the building's entrance.

The new King site has been plagued by construction delays. King students have been going to classes at the Akron Public Schools swing site on West Market Street while waiting for the new building.

PREVIOUS ANN COVERAGE:

4/8/13: APS: Water Issues Could Further Delay King CLC Opening

8/12/13: APS: King CLC Delays, Problems Stack Up

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Some early state report card results are in for Akron Public Schools, and changing state standards have APS officials frustrated.

Assistant superintendent Ellen McWilliams says the preliminary report card results from the Ohio Department of Education show some good early signs, such as a market improvement in third grade reading results.

"We had 600 students that were at risk for retention at the beginning of the year, and we have that down to 11 students as of today," McWilliams tells AkronNewsNow.com, "and we're still waiting for the summer state testing results back, so that might even go smaller."

But the Akron district fell short of many more rigorous state benchmarks, including in math scores. That means, for example, although the Akron schools' graduation rate actually improved to over 78 percent, the state report card grades that an "F".

Akron school board president Lisa Mansfield says it's tough to explain a state report card "F", which doesn't mean what you might think an "F" means.

"We know what an 'F' is. An 'F' means 50 percent or lower," Mansfield says. "And that's not what an 'F' means on the state report card. An 'F' can mean all kinds of different things depending on what the scale is for any given number."

McWilliams says the Akron district has been practicing for the reality of online testing for math and language arts. She says that'll help when the more rigorous online assessments take hold in the coming school year.

The final 2013-2014 state report card will be issued next month.

Published in Local
Tuesday, 12 August 2014 04:34

Akron Schools Name New Treasurer

The Akron Public Schools have named a new treasurer.

Replacing retired 21-year veteran Jack Pierson is Ryan Pendleton, who has been chief financial officer and chief operating officer for Barberton schools for the past nine years.

Pendleton says that he's focused on how handling the budget relates to student success, no matter what size budget it is.

"Whether it's a $40 million budget, or all funds, a half-a-billion dollar budget," Pendleton tells AkronNewsNow.com, "having the experience to put those resources to work for students is the ultimate gauge of success."

Akron school board president Lisa Mansfield says Pendleton "rose to the top" of a list that started at 27 candidates.

"Try to understand the state funding formula and our constant changes and how they're changing things around," Mansfield says. "I think he'll be a great communicator for us."

Pendleton says as he starts as Akron's treasurer, he'll spend a lot of time getting to know the district.

"I'll understand and get to know Akron's history, understand the treasurer's office and the different departments, and make those relationships," Pendleton explains. "Those are the most important things to me in my first 30, 60 (days), even the first few months."

Pendleton won't officially start as treasurer in Akron until September 1st, but will already meet with his staff starting today.

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Akron Public Schools will be looking at spending about $2 million to fill a number of new and changed positions in the coming school year.

Monday night, the Akron school board accepted recommendations of superintendent David James.

Those recommendations include a new dean of students at Kenmore High School.

James says that adding a dean will help the school fix some issues.

"Making sure we're increasing our attendance rate," James tells AkronNewsNow.com, "and also there to help with climate issues as we go into the new school year."

"Climate" is not building temperature, but school district language for dealing with behavior issues...something Kenmore has had in recent months.

Other positions include adding data specialists to support testing, and instruction coaches for English language and arts to support new texts.

James also recommended new gifted and talented program teachers, with more testing unveiling more students who need that teaching attention.

"And because of that increase, we need to have more gifted (program) teachers to handle those," James says, "so that's the reason for wanting to add three new gifted teachers."

The Akron district is moving closer to picking a new treasurer, to replace now-retired treasurer Jack Pierson.

That could come as soon as Wednesday, when four final candidates will make presentations to school board members.

Pierson's last official day on the job ended at 5 PM on Monday. He'll take over as treasurer of the Howland school district in Trumbull County.

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Retiring Akron Public Schools treasurer Jack Pierson gave his final monthly report to school board members on Monday.

Now, it's time to start the difficult task of choosing who succeeds him.

School board president Lisa Mansfield says that possible candidates are being evaluated.

"We are in that process even as we speak, we have people standing by, they're going to review some applications with us," Mansfield tells AkronNewsNow.com. "

Mansfield says they'll pick a replacement for Pierson "sooner rather than later", but says there's no rush to find the right person.

"We're not going to willy nilly hire someone," Mansfield says. "We want to make sure that we get someone who's highly qualified. This is a very important decision."

Pierson's last report shows an increase in the district's cash balance, due to lower staffing costs and some more money coming in.

But he once again warned of income being affected by state changes, and the growing amount of money lost to charter schools.

The board picked an interim treasurer to keep the finances going until Pierson's permanent replacement is hired.

Mansfield says the district hears all the time how fortunate they've been to have Pierson at the financial controls of Akron schools.

"When we go places, we've had people say to us, 'you have Jack Pierson, you're in good shape'", Mansfield says. "So, we're going to miss him greatly and he's very difficult to replace."

Four students at Akron's Roswell Kent Middle School are being recognized internationally for their research, and were recognized Monday night at the Akron school board meeting.

The GLOBE Learning Expedition will hear their report next month in New Delhi, India.

Mai Lor is going to India...she'll be an eighth grader at Roswell Kent this year.

She describes the project comparing "heat islands" in urban and rural areas in Ohio, New York and Greece.

"We collected data on asphalt," Mai Lor tells AkronNewsNow.com, "because (asphalt) absorbs heat faster."

Roswell Kent science teacher Steven Frantz says students line up for independent study program.

"I have it for the kids during my lunch break," Frantz says, "and they beg to get into it. I have a line of kids wanting to get into the program."

He says one reason the program is so popular, is that students get to do things like present research at international competitions.

Mai Lor, Hong Ai, Norn Htaw and Wendy Vargas make up the local team, one of just five honored nationwide.

A former APS student honored worldwide continues giving back to the district where he attended school as a kid, before heading to St. Vincent-St. Mary.

LeBron James may have been playing pro basketball in Miami the past four years, but he's certainly been no stranger to the Akron Public Schools.

School board members Monday night accepted the latest gift from the LeBron James Family Foundation - $50,000 to fund technology camps for third grade students.

School board member Rev. Curtis Walker Sr. says LeBron's letter announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers showed his ties to APS students.

"(It shows) what he really thinks about our community, his family, his hopes and dreams," Rev. Walker tells AkronNewsNow.com, "and he has transferred that, and has had an impact on our lives and our students."

Rev. Walker and other board members say LeBron "never left" as far as the Akron schools are concerned.

The board also accepted nearly $200,000 in donations from the GAR Foundation, much of it to help attract more highly qualified candidates to become principals.

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