Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bits & Pieces: Fear

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •

Fear is a powerful emotion.

I've watched as the events which took place last weekend Paris have had a crippling effect on people around the globe.

Rational people become, well, irrational, as the fear of ISIS creeps over them like a black cloud of doom.

Decisions, some of which could have long-lasting ramifications, are being made on a reactionary basis.

People are saying things on social media and doing things in the public realm out of character, all because of one word - fear.

ISIS didn't need to attack American soil. By instilling fear through its actions in France, the organization has created a tide of panic and angst sending ripples of fear around the world.

It's causing us, as Americans, to do and say things that harken back to actions taken during WWII.

Actions, which if history has taught us anything, were not part of America's finest hour.

It has politicians and common folks alike turning against refugees - much like the American government did in 1939 when Jewish refugees from Germany and eastern Europe on the German transatlantic liner St. Louis were denied entry even as it sat off the coast of America, inches from freedom.

It has people, it seems calling for an identification system for Syrian refugees already living in the United States. Similar, it seems, to the same identification system used by Hitler to separate out the Jews from others.

It seems as if we are one step away from establishing detention centers for refugees. A decision that ultimately led to the forced relocation and detention of Japanese Americans during WWII. Several of the camps existed in the western portion of the United States. Remnants of two can still be found in southeastern Arkansas.

It all comes from fear.

Fear of how the unknown will impact our families, our friends, our lives. Fear that our country could once again know the pain and loss of hundreds, if not thousands of lives, because of an act of terror.

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

The anticipation, or fear, of an ISIS attack in the United States causes more distress for the time being, than an actual event.

Winston S. Churchill once said "Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.”

It takes courage to put aside fear.

It takes courage to choose to help the widows, orphans and the oppressed fleeing ISIS.

It takes courage to remind our leaders we have learned a great deal since WWII, so history is not repeated.

It takes courage to lend a helping hand to someone in need.

Courage is the opposite reaction to fear.

May we all choose to have courage as we face the fearfulness of the future.

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller is the managing editor of The Grove Sun. Have an idea for a column or story? She can be reached at or 918-786-2228.

Editor's Note: This was previously published in the 11.20.15 issue of The Grove Sun. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moving History: A piece of DelCo finds new home at Har-Ber Village

The cabin, which once sat on a farm near Whitewater Road, travels down Main Street in Grove on Thursday, Oct. 22, to its new home at Har-Ber Village. - Patti Elliott / Special to the Grove Sun

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •

A cabin, which once sat on a rural Delaware County farm has a new home thanks, in part to the combined efforts of volunteers with Har-Ber Village and members of the former owner's family.

On Thursday, Oct. 22, the cabin, built by William Anderson McElroy, traveled by way of a semi-trailer from its former location off of Whitewater Road to the Har-Ber Village grounds.

The 16-foot by 15-foot cabin, which housed members of the McElroy family until 1954, will now serve as the trailhead cabin for the upcoming nature trail expansion project.

As the cabin moved from Whitewater Road to Har-Ber Village, McElroy's distant relative Patti Jo Brewster Elliott, was on hand to watch.

Elliot is the granddaughter of Nellie Opal and Hugh Wilson, McElroy's step-daughter.

With the donation, the cabin becomes the first log cabin from Grove to be placed on display on the museum grounds.

The McElroy cabin in its new home at Har-Ber Village, Grove. - Samantha Edwards / Grove Sun

Patti Elliott snaps a photo of the cabin, which once housed her great-grandfather William Anderson McElroy, before the structure was moved to Har-Ber Village.  - Kayla M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

About the Donation
Late last year, Amelia Chamberlin, executive director of Har-Ber Village said Elliott contacted museum officials about the log cabin, concerned that a piece of Grove’s history might disappear.

Elliot first approached the property owners of where the cabin was located, Clint and Tootie Longan, about moving the cabin to Har-Ber Village.

Tootie Longan said the couple had discussed donating the cabin in the past, but the timing was not right. She was pleased to see the cabin find a new home at Har-Ber Village.

Chamberlin said the cabin, made of round logs instead of flat, hewn logs like most of the Village’s cabins, is in need of restoration.

She said a group of volunteers, led by Pete Churchill, vice president of Har-Ber Village board of directors, plan to work on the cabin's restoration.

Churchill said now that the cabin has been moved to the Har-Ber Village grounds, officials plan to take it apart and begin a lengthy restoration process.

Churchill likened the process to a life-size Tinker Toy project. The structure is in need of new chinking and some rotted boards need to be replaced.

Pete Churchill watches as volunteers remove a lean-to which had been added to the McElroy cabin. The lean-to before the cabin could be moved to the village. - Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller / Grove Sun

A New Use
Churchill said the structure will be used as the nature center for the revamped and remodeled nature trail - a project volunteers hope to undertake and possibly complete in early 2016.

As the nature center, the cabin will include maps of both the trail system and Har-Ber Village. Churchill said people will be able to access it year-round when completed.

"This is the beginning of a major undertaking for us," Churchill said.

Originally, Harvey Jones had created a nature trail on the village grounds. Heavy rains in 2007 and again during this past summer caused significant damage to the trails.

Churchill said the trails will be reconstructed and added to, and will be accessible year-round once completed. He said the trails will be pet friendly and contain some ADA compliant areas.

"Since the city wasn't able to compete the walking trail between Wolf Creek Park and Grove Springs Park, there isn't a walking trail in our area," Churchill said. "We plan to take our existing trail - which is a little more than a mile - and expand it into something in the neighborhood of two miles.

"This cabin will become the focal point of the project."

Churchill said he is working on the cabin reconstruction project with Richard Cannon. They anticipate using volunteers from the Grove Rotary Club to complete the project. The $1,100 needed to hire the house mover has been provided by a private donation.

Churchill said Crossland's Construction is assisting the board of directors with developing an updated plan for the walking trail. Churchill expects the board of directors will undertake some fundraising to complete the trail project.

"I think this is exciting," Churchill said. "When we started thinking about redoing our trails, at the same time we hears about this cabin.

"It's all come together, and we're to the visualizing stage. This is a neat part of northeast Oklahoma's history."

Churchill said he hopes the cabin will help students of all ages develop a feeling of how this area's forefathers lived.

"This cabin can be used to tell the story of Delaware County," Churchill said. "It dates back to pre-statehood times, and [McElroy] lived in it until 1954.

"I hope we can research this, and tell the story of the cabin and early Delaware County. It's a great story to tell and will add a lot to the history of the village."

About the McElroy Family
The cabin was built by William Anderson McElroy (b. 1862, d. 1954). He lived in the cabin with his wife Edna Wight McElroy (b. 1875, d. 1956) until he died in 1954 at the age of 94.

When the two married, Edna McElroy already had two children from her first marriage to Albert Wight: a daughter, Nellie Opal Wight, and a son, Paul Wight. When the two divorced, Edna took Nellie to live with her and Albert took Paul.

Nellie Opal Wright lived in the cabin with her mother and stepfather until she married Hugh Wilson, the seventh son of James Calvin Wilson—one of the men known to have camped at Grove Springs because it was a “good spring of water.”

Hugh Wilson set up a blacksmith shop, and another man by the name of Bill Watson, put in a store. These two businesses were the start of Grove.

This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 27 issue of The Grove Sun.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Moving beyond cancer: Couch enters 2016 'cancer free'

Carrie Couch, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Turkey Ford Elementary, has said the love and support of her "boys" husband, Ricky and sons, Brody and Cooper, have helped inspire her throughout her illness. - Courtesy Photo

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •
Editor's Note: This is a part of a series of stories highlighting those impacted by breast cancer during the month of October, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

As this year ends, Carrie Couch of Grove is counting her pennies and blessings.

She is ending the year enrolled in a clinical trial designed to help prevent the reoccurrence of breast cancer, thanks in part to an organization known as Pennies In Action.

The clinical trial, with Dr. Brian Czerniecki, is based at the University of Pennsylvania. It uses a patent's own white blood cells to create a vaccine, which is then used, as Couch describes it, to remind her white blood cells how to fight off disease.

In all, 2015 is ending better than it started for Couch, who started the year anticipating a completion of treatment for HER2-positive breast cancer.

The pre-kindergarten teacher at Turkey Ford Elementary planned to finish her radiation treatments and return to the classroom and students, hoping her days of chemotherapy and radiation were behind her.

She had already underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a bilateral or double mastectomy. She was scheduled to complete radiation treatments on Jan. 27. All signs pointed to having good reports from her oncologist.

Then things changed. As Couch returned home on Jan. 27 from her last treatment, she experienced first of at least two seizures. The first at home, the second at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital.

After an assessment at INTEGRIS, doctors transferred Couch to Joplin, where tests showed that her HER2-positive breast cancer had metastasized, causing a brain tumor. Her cancer had progressed from Stage 3B to 4.

According to doctors, HER2-positive breast cancer is a breast cancer that tests positive for a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), which promotes the growth of cancer cells. It makes cancer cells multiply at a faster rate.

Because of the high growth rate, doctors later told Couch it's common for the disease to metastasize into a patient's bones, lungs or brain.

Two days later, instead of having an end-of-treatment party with members of her bible study, Couch found herself undergoing another surgery - this time to remove her brain tumor.

Since then, she has completed 10 rounds of brain radiation and finished a year of chemotherapy treatments.

Pennies In Action

One night, while surfing a Facebook support group for breast cancer survivors, Couch saw a post about Pennies In Action and a series of clinical trials taking place at the University of Pennsylvania involving immune restoration therapy.

Couch completed the form on the foundation's website, outlining her story and treatment.

"I filled it out randomly," Couch said with a smile. "I've never done anything like this before. I just thought, 'what's it going to hurt.'"

A few short hours later Uschi Keszler, the organization's CEO, called Couch for her medical records. She indicated that Couch was a strong candidate for the study.

Couch said Keszler started the organization after talking with her grandson about the need for cancer research and funding. Her grandson gave her two pennies from his piggy bank and the idea for the group was formed.

Pennies in Action is based upon the belief that one does not have to be wealthy to have an impact on raising funding.

"The amount one person may give may be relatively insignificant, for a penny alone has little value, but many pennies make many dollars," the group's website states. "Success in funding the research and the power to make a difference can come from just a few pennies if everyone takes part in even a small way."

Since that initial phone call, Couch has made multiple trips to the University of Pennsylvania to meet with Keszler and Czerniecki.

On the first trip, which was delayed by this summer's heavy rains, staff drew Couch's white blood cells to create the vaccine. Since then, she has returned to Philadelphia six additional times to receive the shots.

On Monday, she returns to Philadelphia to have the blood drawn to create the final three shots. She will receive them in December of this year and February and June of 2016.

Funding for the first airfare to Philadelphia came from friends hosting fundraisers and through private donations. Since then, Couch has received financial assistance through the INTEGRIS Grove Hospital Foundation cancer fund.

"It's been amazing," Couch said, of the assistance from INTEGRIS.

Couch hopes the vaccine she receives in the trial will help her body continue to fight off a recurrence of cancer.

Funding for the trial, which costs up to $33,000 per patient, comes from the Pennies in Action foundation.

As of now, tests indicate there is no evidence of cancer in her body. For the next year, she will undergo a brain MRI on a regular basis to ensure the tumor does not re-develop.

Couch sees the clinical trial as a bonus treatment, rather than a replacement for chemotherapy and radiation.

"My oncologist told me if he was in my position, he would do exactly the same thing," Couch said. "I was beyond excited to get into this trial. The treatment is individualized."

Couch encourages other cancer survivors to research and find out if they may qualify for one of the thousands of clinical trials taking place throughout the country.

"Without the woman who posted this - I haven't been able to find her since then - I wouldn't know about this trial," Couch said. "You just have to find the one that fits you."

Did You Know?

Carrie Couch has received funding for her trips to the Univeristy of Pennsylvania from the cancer fund through the INTEGRIS Grove Hospital Foundation.

Monies donated to the cancer fund are used to help patients with costs associated with their treatment. One hundred percent of the funds donated to the cancer fund are used to help patients.

This story initially appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of The Grove Sun.

The Grades are In: Grove earns A's, B's on state-wide report for second year

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller /
The Sept. 22 release of the state’s third A-F report card of public school and school district performance has some Delaware County district officials rejoicing, while others are left disappointed.

For the second year in a row, the grades for Grove schools were all A's and B's, while the nearby Jay school district brought in one B-, one D and two F's.

Three area schools, Kenwood, Colcord Elementary and Oaks-Mission High School each had an F on the various report cards. A total of 183 schools state-wide received the F grade.

As a district, Grove Public Schools earned one A and three B's. The lower elementary campus earned an B+, while the upper elementary school had an A. The middle school campus earned a B while the high school had a B-.

Because of the state's grading system, the early childhood center does not receive a separate score. It is instead included in the lower elementary grade.

In comparison, in 2014, Grove schools earned two A's and two B's. The lower elementary campus earned an A-, while the upper elementary school had a B+. The middle school campus earned an A- while the high school had a B.

In 2013, Grove scored A's for the lower and upper elementary campuses, while the middle school earned a B- and the high school earned a B.

In 2012, the first year the state used the grading system, the district received on A and three B's.

Both elementary campuses received 10 bonus points for student attendance, while the middle school's attendance earned six points. The middle school also earned four additional points related dropout rates and advanced coursework. The high school earned two bonus points for advanced coursework and for year to year growth.

State-Wide View

With the testing scores release on Thursday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister indicated she has no confidence in the validity or reliability of the report cards in their current framework.

The reports are determined by Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) officials using a formula mandated by a 2013 state law.

Hofmeister release states the OSDE supports strong accountability for education, but problems with the A-F Report Cards "have seriously undermined the system’s credibility."

"Even the U.S. Department of Education has criticized the report cards and required modifications as a condition for receiving the No Child Left Behind waiver," Hofmeister said in the release which accompanied the grades.

House Bill 1823, which took effect in June, requires the State Board of Education to submit a report on the "transparency, statistical trustworthiness and credibility" of the current A-F system to the governor and legislative leaders by Dec. 31.

Hofmeister said research scientists at Oklahoma’s two leading research universities are among those currently conducting that review and will have recommendations by December.

“I am committed to a system of accountability that is accurate, reliable and meaningful,” Hofmeister said. “In its current form, the A-F Report Cards are too flawed to be useful. I am optimistic that we can have a better system.”

Grove Public Schools

While Grove Superintendent Sandy Coaly said she was pleased by the district's results, she, like Hofmeister recognizes the grading system contains flaws.

"Our administrators and teachers work hard," Coaly said. "Our teachers go above and beyond, have countless hours of professional development, but as the State Superintendent will tell you, the system is flawed. It is not a true picture. We certainly cannot put a lot of faith into it.

"I personally feel as if all of our schools are A schools."

Coaly said she hopes Hofmeister's plans to reform the system will create an equal playing field for all schools.

Coaly said much of the district's success can be linked, in part, to the efforts made by the parents - from helping with homework to ensuring students are in class every day.

Jay Public Schools

The Jay school district earned a mixture of grades, ranging from B- to F.

This year the lower elementary received an F, the upper elementary a D, the middle school an F and the high school a B-.

In 2014, three campuses earned D's including the lower elementary a D, the upper elementary a D+ and the middle school a D-, while the high school had a C+.

In 2013, the elementary and middle schools earned D's, while the high school earned an B. The upper elementary school scored the lowest, with an F.

"I don’t think it really reflects what goes on at school every day," said Jay Superintendent Charles Thomas. "I know that we have to have some type of measurement and accountability to see where we are, I just don’t think its a fair measure of where each student and teacher is in their knowledge the curriculum that’s being tested."

Thomas, like Hofmeister, questions how the system grades each school's performance.

“I think if you read all the research about the A-F report card, the system does not accurately measure the performance of the schools or the work, time and expertise those teachers have in directing those students in the classroom," Thomas said.

Turkey Ford School District

Locally, the Turkey Ford School District, which is part of the Grove transportation district, earned a C+ dropping from B in 2014 for its pre-kindergarten to sixth grade campus in rural Wyandotte.

In 2013 it had an A- on its report card. In 2012 the district received a B+.

"We're a little disappointed," said Turkey Ford Superintendent Tamyra Larson. "

Larson, like Hofmeister, questions the validity of the grades.

"I can see results of specific kids, and how we are doing for example, and I know it's not showing up in the grade," Larson said. "The public knows the school, they know what we are doing with their individual kids, they can see the growth.

"I don't like it because anyone who has been in school knows you always strive to do better. C+ isn't better than a B. However, this isn't a true reflection of student academic growth.

"It's a little bit of a morale buster and disheartening for teachers, who know they've put in all that work.

Larson said efforts continue to help students improve reading and math scores.

Cleora School District

Cleora Schools earned an A- on this year's report card.

The grade is an improvement from the B- earned in 2014 and the same score the school received in 2013.

While Cleora Superintendent Kenny Guthrie said he was pleased with the district's score, he has concerns similar to those of Hofmeister and Coaly.

"We're proud of the grade, we think it's reflective of our school, however, we don't have much confidence of the validity of the A-F report card," Guthrie said. "The easiest way to explain it, it's bad math. It just doesn't add up or make sense in a lot of areas."

For example, Guthrie said, schools are graded based upon how the students in the "bottom 25 percent" of a subject show improvement.

In one instance, involving math, Cleora students in the bottom 25 percent were considered "proficient" or already at grade level. Because they continued at grade level, but did not show improvement based upon the way scores are ranked, the district's grade was reduced.

"This is just one small component of everything," Guthrie said. "My opinion would stay the same if we had an A- or a D-.

"We have a great grade, but we don't have a lot of confidence in it."

Chloe Farmer contributed to this story.

More Information
Mandated by state law, the A to F school grades are designed to provide parents, students, businesses and communities with a clear, easily understood snapshot of how local schools are performing.

The 2015 school grades, as released by the Oklahoma Department of Education, are as follows:

A - 212
B - 497
C - 536
D - 333
F - 183

In 2014, by contrast, the state-wide grades were:

A - 284
B - 470
C - 492
D - 292
F - 196
A searchable database of the schools and their scores can be found online at

A Look At The Scores
Area schools with their grades for 2015, 2014 and 2013.

Delaware County School

Cleora: School: A- 2015, B- 2014, A- 2013.

Leach: School: C, D, D-.

Kenwood: School: F, F, F.

Mosley: School: D+, D-, D-.

Jay: Lower elementary: F, D, D; Upper elementary: D, D+, F, Middle school: F, D-, D; and high school: B-, C+, B.

Grove: Lower elementary: B+, A-, A; Upper elementary: A, B+, A; Middle school: B, A-, B-; High school: B-, B, B.

Kansas: Elementary: C-, C, D-; Middle School: D-, D+, C; High School: B, B, C+.

Colcord: Elementary: F, D, C; High School: C-, D, C.

Oaks-Mission: Elementary: D+, F, D; High School: F, B, B-.

Ottawa County Schools

Schools of local interest include:

Turkey Ford: School: C+, B, A-.

Wyandotte: Elementary school: B-, B-, C; Middle school: C, F, F; High school: B, B+, A.

Afton: Elementary school: D+, D+, C.; High school: A-, D+, B+.

Fairland: Elementary school: C, A-, A-; Middle: B-, B-, C+; High school:B-, B-, A.

This story originally appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of The Grove Sun

Investigation continues into American Grill shooting

Kaylea M. Hutson •

The investigation into the overnight shooting at the American Grill on Sunday, Oct. 11, continues, but has slowed.

Grove Police Chief Mark Morris said his detectives continue to follow up leads and are working with officials from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations to analyze evidence collected since the shooting.

Morris expects it will take some time for OSBI investigators to analyze the evidence.

During the incident, Todd Merrill, owner of American Grill, received a gunshot wound to his left leg. He told authorities that an unknown male confronted him at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, while Merrill was working late at the restaurant located at 1623 Main.

Morris said the unknown male allegedly entered the restaurant through the unlocked front door. He said the suspect apparently discovered Merrill’s presence in the restaurant as Merrill was in a hallway at the rear of the business, near the restrooms.

Morris said the suspect fired multiple shots from a gun, striking Merrill once in the left leg. The shooter then fled the scene and Merrill was able to call 911 for assistance. He was taken to Mercy Hospital in Joplin for treatment, which included eventual surgery. He has since been released and is recovering from his injury. He has not returned to work full-time yet.

Morris said it appears the suspect fled the scene without taking anything from the restaurant. He has declined to identify how many shots were fired, only stating the suspect fired his weapon multiple times.

Morris declined to identify the caliber of weapon used in the incident. The surgeon was able to recover the bullet, which struck Merrill’s leg, for detectives.

Because the incident took place in the dark, Merrill was unable to give law enforcement personnel a description beyond identifying the man’s gender. At this time the alleged suspect remains at large.

Morris said anyone with tips or information concerning this incident may contact the Grove Police Department at 918-786-6121. All information will be kept anonymous.

This story initially appeared in the Oct. 23 issue of The Grove Sun.
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