Rhonda Miller

Reporter

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015.  She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.

She has worked at Rhode Island Public Radio,  as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke, Virginia, and at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rhonda’s freelance work called Writing Into Sound includes stories for Voice of America, WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn., NPR and AARP Prime Time Radio.

She has a master’s degree in media studies from Rhode Island College and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University.

Rhonda enjoys quiet water kayaking, riding her bicycle and folk music. She was a volunteer DJ for Root-N-Branch at WUMD community radio in Dartmouth, Mass. 

Jess Clark/WFPL

School districts across Kentucky are in high gear as they prepare for a return to in-person classes.

But on top of recovering from the COVID-19 upheaval of changing schedules and virtual instruction, there’s another wrinkle in the preparation.

A state education leader said there’s an unusually large number of vacant positions.  

The Kentucky Education Association represents 44,000 teachers and other school employees, including cafeteria workers and custodians. 


Facebook/Daviess County Public Schools

After a tumultuous year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kentucky school districts are preparing for a more traditional in-person setting as the new academic year approaches.  

One district in western Kentucky that has 70 open slots is hoping a Saturday job fair will help fill some of those positions. 

Daviess County Schools Human Resources Manager Courtney Payne said the number of open positions is not unusual because this is always a busy time of year for hiring. 

“There may be a few more positions than a typical year, nothing drastic. But we’re seeing a significantly lower number of applicants.," said Payne. "So that has been the biggest struggle that we have faced with Daviess County Public Schools, is the number of applications coming in.”


Western Kentucky University

The president of Western Kentucky University announced in a statement Wednesday that he will not recommend the Board of Regents take action to remove or change the names of any of the university's buildings or academic colleges.

Caboni's statement was in response to the WKU Naming And Symbols Task Force Report and Recommendations.

Among the high-profile buildings and colleges Caboni said he would not recommend for name changes are Ogden College, named in honor of Robert Ogden; Potter College, named for Pleasant J. Potter; and Vanmeter Hall, named for Charles Vanmeter.

Owensboro Public Schools

As schools across Kentucky plan to welcome students back for in-person learning during the new academic year, many districts are scrambling to hire teachers and other staff.

One western Kentucky district has the added challenge of hiring for new positions created to address the impacts of COVID-19.

The human resources staff at Owensboro Public Schools is in high gear as they try to fill 20 vacant teacher positions, and 15 for instructional assistants as the Aug. 11 opening day rapidly approaches.

School district spokesperson Jared Revlett said hiring is in-progress for a variety of jobs across the district.


Rhonda J. Miller

For thousands of people in Kentucky, the highly effective COVID-19 vaccines have allowed life to return to mostly normal. 

But for “long haulers” like Army Staff Sgt. Noah Cole, who contracted COVID before vaccines were widely available, the devastating impact on his health threatens to destroy his dream of a military career. 

A native of Williamsburg in southeastern Kentucky, Cole, 28, joined the Army a year after graduating from high school. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Staff Sgt. Cole at Fort Campbell, the Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. 


University of Evansville

Higher education leaders are grappling with how to keep students safe amid the changing nature of COVID-19, like the new Delta variant of the virus.  

A college in southern Indiana will require random testing for those who are not vaccinated. 

The University of Evansville has a coronavirus task force that has been meeting regularly to develop the school’s COVID-19 safety guidelines for the fall semester.

Spokesperson Julie Bryant said one major part of new policy applies to all unvaccinated full and part-time employees and students.


Nelson County Sheriff's Office

A prayer vigil will be held on Wednesday evening  in honor of Crystal Rogers, a Bardstown woman who hasn't been seen or heard from since July 3, 2015.

Rogers was  reported missing on July 5, 2015.  

There’s also the unsolved case of Rogers’ father, who was killed 16 months after his daughter’s disappearance.

Years of investigation by police, and for the past year by the FBI, have failed to find Crystal Rogers’ body or solve the case. 

Rogers’ mother, Sherry Ballard, said the community has been supportive in remembering her daughter, who had five children.


Rhonda J. Miller

The time we're living in now might be thought of as “pandemic recovery.”

After 15 months of shutdowns, stress and isolation, Kentucky is open for business and there's a welcome return to social activities. 

Schools will be fully in-person for the new academic year in the fall.

But the anxiety many children experienced during the pandemic is not likely to be washed away in the water parks and swimming pools of summer. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Tanner Steelman, a licensed clinical social worker who is mental health supervisor for Bowling Green City Schools


Kentucky Wesleyan College

A small private college in Owensboro set July 1 as the date for all faculty and staff to have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Now, the school is easing its stance a bit for those who are not yet vaccinated. 

Kentucky Wesleyan College said it’s requiring the coronavirus vaccination so it can offer a safe, residential experience for students, keep faculty and staff safe, and serve as an example for Owensboro community. 

President Tom Mitzel said there’s been a good response to the required vaccination. 

“Right now, we have about 90% of the faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated," said Mitzel. "The rest of that percent are those who are requesting either a medical or religious exemption, or got their shots late and are not fully vaccinated.” Mitzel said the college will work with faculty and staff who need more time to complete the required doses.


Facebook/Kentucky Wesleyan College

Colleges across the Bluegrass State are developing a range of COVID-19 safety plans as students return to campus for in-person classes.

The deadline for required vaccinations is Thursday at one campus in Owensboro.

Kentucky Wesleyan College set a July 1 deadline for all faculty and staff who work on campus to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

School leaders said the mandated vaccination is now part of the private college’s employment policy. 


Bowling Green Warren County Humane Society

Humane societies across Kentucky are struggling with a constant problem that multiplies during breeding season: too many animals and not enough space.

Animals can’t be adopted fast enough to slow the crisis of overcrowded shelters. 

Breeding season for dogs and cats is generally from mid-May through the end of September. That intensifies the relentless demand on shelters across Kentucky.

Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society Director Lorri Hare said she constantly gets calls from other shelters hoping to find space to send animals.  

“So, Butler County is at max capacity. Logan County is at max capacity. Grayson County is at max capacity. Allen County is at max capacity. It’s everywhere," said Hare.  "We have people even call our shelter from Tennessee wanting to know if we could help. And unfortunately, we don’t like to say no, but we can’t. ” 


Community Action of Southern Kentucky

After more than a year of isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults will soon be able to return for meals and socializing at senior centers in the 10-county Barren River region. 

All of the 13 senior centers in the Barren River Area Development District will re-open for meals and activities by July 6, with a few of the centers welcoming local residents back on July 1.

Kathy Fugate is senior center director for Community Action of Southern Kentucky. She said the 15 months the centers were closed during the pandemic was an especially difficult time for vulnerable elders.


SouthernStar.com

An energy company based in Daviess County broke ground Tuesday on a solar project that will generate enough electricity to offset the facility’s annual power demand.

Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline will install a solar array at its corporate headquarters off State Route 56 in Owensboro.  The solar panels will be located on four acres in a field adjacent to the headquarters buidling. 

The project will make Southern Star’s headquarters, with 200 employees, the first known “net zero carbon-based energy facility of its size” in Owensboro. 

“Southern Star is committed to reducing its carbon footprint in all communities we serve," said President and CEO Jimmy Staton. "We are proud to mark the beginning of this journey in Owensboro.”

Andrea Robinson

As Kentucky emerges from the isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on mental health and domestic violence is rising to the surface. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with Andrea Robinson, who was recently named president of the board of the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Robinson is executive director of Oasis, a domestic violence service agency in Owensboro. During the past year, when the pandemic was raging, Robinson says Oasis received half as many calls as it did the previous year and that just increased concern for victims of domestic abuse.

Facebook/ConCon's

It's the first full week that businesses across Kentucky reopened with no mask, social distancing or capacity requirements.

Some changes made to meet the challenges of the pandemic turned out to be good for business. 

Along Russellville Road in Bowling Green, one visible change made during the pandemic is a white tent installed in front of a little diner named ConCon’s

Owner Connie Blair said she had to adapt quickly to the requirements of the pandemic. She didn’t have any indoor dining for nine months

“I never shut the doors, not at all. I put in the drive-up window in six hours after it started and I put a PA system outside,” said Blair. “You know, they just cracked their window and waited for me tell ‘em to pull up to the window and pick their food up.”

She said the changes that saved her business are going to stay. 


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