News in Brief

Universities try to entice dropouts to come back, graduate

FRANKFORT (AP) — Kentucky’s public universities are trying to recruit former students who left without a degree to come back and finish.

A statement from the Council on Postsecondary Education says universities are reaching out this fall through an initiative called Project Graduate and trying to entice those with 80 or more credit hours to return and get a bachelor’s degree.

Project Graduate advisers are reaching out to former students through various means, including mail, phone calls and social media. In addition to catering programs toward working adults, campuses are offering different incentives such as waiving application fees and personalized academic advising.

Council President Bob King says campuses need to re-engage former students and help them graduate because it’s the right thing to do and because the state is trying to improve the quality of its workforce through higher education.

Data-processing company opens 2 plants

ANNVILLE (AP) — Two new facilities for a data-processing company are expected to bring hundreds of jobs to a Kentucky region.

WYMT-TV reports that Senture opened two plants in eastern Kentucky on Monday. Senture chairman Bill Deaton says the company expects to house 150 people at the Annville facility in Jackson County and 700 people at the Williamsburg facility in Whitley County.

Jackson County Judge Executive Shane Gabbard says the plant will provide an economic boost, as the county has struggled with attracting stable jobs. Gabbard says the Senture plant in Annville has a five-year contract.

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers says new jobs mean residents won’t have to move out of the region to gain employment.

Judge strikes down Ky.’s medical review panel law

LOUISVILLE (AP) — A state judge has struck down a Kentucky law requiring a panel of doctors to review medical malpractice lawsuits before they go to trial.

Multiple media outlets report Franklin Circuit Judge Philip Shepherd ruled Monday the law was unconstitutional because it makes it more difficult for people to file lawsuits. His order banned the state from enforcing the law.

The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the law earlier this year. It went into effect June 27. Supporters included State Sen. Ralph Alvarado, a medical doctor who said it would cut down on frivolous lawsuits.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin told the Lexington Herald-Leader the state would appeal the ruling.

Hearing set for judge who refused to handle gay adoptions

FRANKFORT (AP) — A panel says ethics charges will proceed against a Kentucky judge who declared his conscientious objection to handling adoption cases involving gay and lesbian adults, despite his resignation last week.

News outlets report the state Judicial Conduct Commission announced Monday that a hearing for Judge W. Mitchell Nance is scheduled for Dec. 15, a day before his resignation takes effect. The 66-year-old Nance has presided over family court cases in Barren and Metcalfe counties in rural south-central Kentucky.

The commission said Nance’s April order, which he said was motivated by religious convictions, violated several ethics provisions. That included a rule barring judges from showing bias based on sexual orientation. Several civil rights groups had filed a complaint against Nance.

Nance’s attorneys argued for charges to be dismissed after he resigned.

Businessman puts Ind. water park idea on hold

CORYDON, Ind. (AP) — A Kentucky businessman who proposed building an amusement park in southern Indiana featuring an aquarium, a water park and a dinosaur museum has put that project on hold.

Louisville, Kentucky-area businessman Ed Dana recently notified Harrison County officials that he had dropped his $5 million funding request ahead of a planned late October county council vote.

Dana also said he had not received “the right welcome vibe from community leaders” for his proposed 200,000-square-foot, four-part amusement park. He had pitched the project for southern Indiana after failing to sell it to officials in nearby Louisville.

Harrison County Councilman Gary Davis tells The Courier-Journal of Louisville that county officials had several questions about Dana’s business plan that were never unanswered, including the total project cost and funding sources.

Black students disproportionately disciplined in district

LEXINGTON (AP) — An annual report produced by Kentucky’s education department found roughly twice as many black students as white students were suspended in the school district serving the state’s second-largest city.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported on Sunday that black students constituted 22.4 percent of the Fayette County public schools’ population during the 2016-2017 school year, while white students made up 52.2 percent. The annual School Report Card found black students received nearly twice the number of both in-school and out-of-school suspensions as white students.

NAACP education chair Shambra Mulder urged school board members to formulate new discipline practices and policies, and suggested placing a psychologist in each school.

County director of Student Support Services Faith Thompson says the board recently hired a Culture Responsive Teaching and Learning Coach to address the disparity.

Regional events highlight students’ tech skills

FRANKFORT (AP) — State education officials say more than 7,000 Kentucky students will showcase their innovative ideas and technological savvy at regional events in coming weeks.

The events are part of the Kentucky Department of Education’s Student Technology Leadership Program. The regionals have had four straight years of substantial growth, and officials say this year’s events will welcome an additional 1,000 participants.

STLP students create projects, products or services and demonstrate their learning by competing in various categories.

Categories include instructional, technical or community service projects; digital content creation such as digital art, photography, design, programming, app development and robotics; and technical services such as student help desks and network engineering.

Students from 111 districts and more than 460 schools have registered to attend the eight regional showcases throughout November and December.

Closed Evansville casino riverboat heading for New Orleans

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — The recently closed Evansville casino riverboat has left its longtime Ohio River dock and will be making its way to New Orleans.

The former Tropicana Evansville boat was moved Monday to a nearby marine services dock so its smoke stakes could be removed for the journey south. The riverboat opened in 1995 and closed a couple weeks ago as Tropicana opened a new $50 million on-shore casino.

The Evansville Courier & Press reports the riverboat’s new owner plans to turn it into a floating jazz club and restaurant.

Dozens of people gathered to watch the boat leave the dock. Former riverboat captain John Vize says he’s glad it will be getting a new use.

Fire damages county’s emergency management building

SANDY HOOK AP) — A fire has significantly damaged the emergency dispatch and ambulance services building in a Kentucky county.

Elliott County Emergency Management director Jim Skaggs tells news outlets the fire started on Monday sometime between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. Skaggs says the EMS side of the building is as a total loss.

Two dispatchers and an EMS crew were inside the building when the fire started. No one was hurt.

Crews were able to move three ambulances before they were damaged.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

Skaggs says a temporary dispatch center has been set up, and ambulance services are still running.