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IPads settle into St. Cecilia curriculum

St. Cecilia School is adjusting to its new 1:1 iPad program, which began before the start of the fall semester.

The adjustment hasn’t been difficult.

“It works amazing,” said Megan Fago, middle school science teacher at St. Cecilia. “I ten times prefer this (over paper and pencil).”

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

St. Cecilia freshmen Etta Schreiner and Braden Rutt use their iPads to take a quiz Tuesday at the school.

Each middle school and high school student was given a sixth-generation iPad in August, provided by the Diocesan Technology Office of the Catholic Diocese of Lincoln, to be used for work in the classroom and outside of school.

While each teacher uses the iPads to a varying extent, many of the teachers use apps for note-taking or online quizzes.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Middle school science teacher Megan Fago uses an iPad in her classroom Tuesday at St. Cecilia.

Fago is one of the teachers who use the iPad extensively in the classroom, using a combination of note-taking apps and Apple Classroom. Fago also uses the iPads for document sharing and for homework.

Apple Classroom lets teachers distribute worksheets and materials to each student. Teachers then can grade each assignment and quickly give students feedback. Fago said it is much more convenient to carry around her iPad than stacks of papers.

Another feature Apple Classroom provides is a live view of each student’s iPad. That lets teachers keep an eye on what students are doing while they read or do a worksheet in the classroom.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Freshman Isabelle Stroot uses her iPad in a computer class Tuesday at St. Cecilia.

“He knows I am watching,” Fago said, pointing to a live view of one of her student’s iPads with the feature on her own iPad. The student had written “Hi Mrs. Fago” using one of the note-taking applications.

If a student gets distracted while working, the teacher can lock a student out of his or her iPad.

Fago said since the students have learned that the teacher can keep tabs on what they are doing, they have been less distracted and Fago hasn’t needed to check in on them as much.

Mikayla Niederklein, a Spanish teacher, said she uses the iPads about three to four times each week for reading and document-sharing. She said she also can track students progress’ on reading assignments.

Niederklein said another benefit with the iPads becomes obvious when she need a substitute teacher. Because substitutes may not speak Spanish, she can create assignments on the iPad that require minimal guidance, like pre-recording pronunciation or using apps like Duolingo, a language-learning service.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Rilla Sullivan, a seventh-grader, uses her iPad to record date from an experiment Tuesday at St. Cecilia.

Greg Berndt, information technology and marketing teacher, said he likes knowing what tools students have. Some students might have a Mac computer or a personal computer at home — or limited access to a computer at home — and that lack of consistency made assigning some work difficult in the past.

Berndt also said the teachers are getting more comfortable with the iPads and coming up with new ways to teach students. Berndt himself likes to teach graphic design and giving out quizzes on the iPad.

Principal Sandy VanCura said the school is letting teachers decide how much they want to include iPads in their classroom. Some teachers use the iPads more than others.

The school currently is treating the iPads as another tool in its curriculum, rather than building the curriculum around the tablets. Non-electronic textbooks still are a staple in classrooms, and students can choose to do assignments on the iPad or on paper, VanCura said.

“We have some students that want to use paper and a pen or pencil, but then there’s others that are, ‘Yup, give me the device,’ ” she said.

VanCura said having a 1:1 program gives every student equal access to the same technology. The school previously had a cart with iPads that teachers had to share. The school still has computer labs that also need to be shared between classes.

“In order to provide students with greater access to technology, we felt it was important to apply for the initiative,” VanCura said. “It’s the world in which we live.”

Niederklein said she likes the 1:1 program, compared to the computer lab or iPad cart, because she can have students use their iPads anytime, and she doesn’t feel obligated to use the iPads for the whole classroom period.

VanCura said the idea for having a 1:1 iPad program was brought to her by the Diocesan Technology Office in January 2018. VanCura had to submit an application about why the program would be beneficial, and teachers had to submit possible ways to use the iPads. The school was approved for the program in late spring the same year.

The Diocesan Technology Office chose iPads because their presence is becoming more common in the workplace, compared to computers or laptops.

“There’s just more and more iPads being used,” VanCura said.

The iPads were paid for by the Diocesan Technology Office through a donor-funded program. St. Cecilia paid for a $50 insurance policy on each iPad and upgraded the provided cases. If an iPad is damaged, parents will have to pay a $50 deductible.

At the end of the school year, the iPads will be returned to the Diocesan Technology Office and reset before being returned to students the next year.

St. Cecilia is the second school in the Lincoln Diocese schools to get iPads. Lourdes Central Catholic in Nebraska City piloted the program about four years ago.

Feds propose dropping least tern from endangered list

WASHINGTON — After 34 years on the endangered species list, a tiny Midwestern bird is ready to fly free of federal protection.

Once diminished by hunting for feathers for hats and hurt by the damming of major rivers like the Missouri, the interior least tern population has increased tenfold since 1985, to more than 18,000.

The number of colonies has jumped from 48 to 480, said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which on Wednesday proposed taking the bird off the list.

The delisting started six years after the service first suggested that the species has recovered and after computer modeling showed the population will be stable.

Even conservationists and advocacy groups that often battle the Trump administration over what goes on and off the endangered list hailed the migrating bird’s recovery as an environmental success story.

“Delisting is reasonable,” Center for Biological Diversity endangered species director Noah Greenwald said. “It shows that when we actually pay attention and care, we can help species and reverse damage we’ve done in the past. We can undo part of the damage we’ve done to these rivers.”

American Bird Conservancy president Michael Parr said: “All around it’s a pretty good news situation.”

Dave Martin/AP  

In this May 1, 2010 file photo, a least tern checks her two eggs on the beach in Gulfport, Miss.

After nearly being hunted to extinction for feathers for women’s hats in the 1800s, the Midwestern population of least terns started doing better until after World War II, Fish and Wildlife Service recovery biologist Paul Hartfield said. But then dams, especially on the Missouri River, eliminated the riverside beaches that these tiny birds need.

Working with the Army Corps of Engineers, biologists concentrated on a smaller bird population in the lower Mississippi River. Changes in water management increased the size of islands and created new ones in the river, making more places for the birds to nest and live, Hartfield said.

“The least tern in the Mississippi River exploded” from a few hundred birds in the 1980s to at least 10,000 now, he said.

Greenwald credited the Army Corps of Engineers but added that “the tern has been recovered, but the ecosystem hasn’t.”

There are three populations of least terns in the United States. One in California is still on the endangered list, and the eastern one is doing fine.

Least terns are the smallest of terns, but they travel far. Hartfield said one bird was tagged in South Dakota and later was found in Japan.

“That’s how strong a flyer they are,” he said. “It’s really a tough little bird.”

They nest on the ground and feed on small fish and live quite long for their size, about 15 years, Hartfield said. These birds migrate every fall to the Caribbean and South America.

Greenwald, of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the least tern is a good example of how the endangered species law can work even as scientists warn of 1 million species going extinct in coming decades.

“We should be proud of ourselves for caring for it and protecting it,” he said. “That shows that if we put our mind to it, we can stop the extinction crisis.”

The least tern is one of four protected species — the others are the whooping crane, piping plover and pallid sturgeon — that have been taken into account over many years in management decisions involving the Platte River under terms of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Trump lifts sanctions on Turkey, says cease-fire permanent

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday he will lift sanctions on Turkey after the NATO ally agreed to permanently stop fighting Kurdish forces in Syria and he defended his decision to withdraw American troops.

“We’re getting out,” Trump said at the White House, asserting that tens of thousands of Kurdish lives were saved as the result of his actions.

“Let someone else fight over this long, blood-stained sand,” he said.

The president, who campaigned on a promise to cease American involvement in “endless wars,” took a victory lap as he lopped the American presence inside Syria in less than a year from about 2,000 troops to a contingency force in southern Syria of 200 to 300.

Lawmakers on both sides of aisle chastised the president for turning on the Syrian Kurds, whose fighters battled side by side with American troops to beat back the Islamic State group They also questioned whether the move has opened up the region to a resurgence of IS.

“I am worried that a full withdrawal will create space for ISIS to regroup, grow and gain more strength,” said Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We learned from President Obama’s reckless retreat from Iraq that power vacuums are exploited by America’s worst enemies. We do not want to repeat the same mistake. We must learn from history.”

Pablo Martinez Monsivais 

President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Washington.

Trump warned that if Turkey does not honor its pledge for a permanent cease-fire, he will not hesitate to reimpose sanctions. Earlier this month, Trump halted negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey, raised steel tariffs back up to 50% and imposed sanctions on three senior Turkish officials and Turkey’s defense and energy ministries.

“The job of our military is not to police the world,” Trump said. “Other nations must step up and do their fair share. Today’s breakthrough is a critical step in that direction.”

Trump earlier in October ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkey’s president, Recep Tayipp Erdogan, told Trump in a phone call that Turkish forces were set to invade northeastern Syria. Turkey’s goal was to push back the U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters. Turkey views the Kurds as terrorists and an ever-present threat along its southern border with Syria.

The U.S. pullout was seen as an abandonment of Kurdish fighters, who have incurred thousands of casualties as they fought with U.S. forces against the Islamic State militants.

The U.S. troops left, but the conflict was not without repercussions.

Baderkhan Ahmad 

Syrian government forces deploy near the town of Tal Tamr, north Syria, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. Russia and Turkey announced an agreement Tuesday to jointly patrol almost the entire northeastern Syrian border after the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters, cementing the two countries' power in Syria in the wake of President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Trump’s critics say he gave up American influence in the region and signaled to future allies that the United States is no longer a reliable partner.

More than 176,000 people have been displaced by the Turkish offensive and about 500 IS fighters gained freedom during the conflict.

“There were a few that got out, a small number relatively speaking,” Trump said. “They’ve been largely recaptured.”

Turkey is taking control of areas of Syria that it captured in its invasion. Russian and Syrian forces are now overseeing the rest of the border region, leaving the United States with little influence in the region.

Trump said he would “bring our soldiers home” from Syria, but then recalibrated and his administration plans to shift more than 700 to western Iraq. Those troops, however, do not have permission to stay in Iraq permanently. Iraq’s defense minister, Najah al-Shammari, told The Associated Press that the U.S. troops will leave the country within four weeks.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited the Iraqi capital on Wednesday, a day after Russia and Turkey reached an agreement that would send their forces along nearly the entire northeastern border to fill the void left when U.S. forces left. Between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf.

Under the new agreement, much of that territory would be handed over to U.S. rivals.

The biggest winners are Turkey and Russia. Turkey would get sole control over areas of the Syrian border captured in its invasion. Turkish, Russian and Syrian government forces would oversee the rest of the border region. America’s former U.S. allies, the Kurdish fighters, are hoping Russia and Syria will preserve some pieces of the Syrian Kurdish autonomy in the region.

“In the blink of an eye, President Trump has undone over five years of progress against the Islamic State,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Jury chosen in 2017 murder case

Twelve jurors and two alternates have been selected after two days of voir dire in the murder trial against a 22-year-old Hastings man accused of killing a 19-year-old man in 2017.

Opening statements will begin Thursday morning in the trial of Daniel B. Harden, who faces charges of first-degree murder, use of a firearm to commit a felony, and conspiracy to commit robbery. Harden is one of two men accused of trying to rob 19-year-old Jose “Joey” Hansen and killing him in the process in 2017.

The jury selection process continued Wednesday in Adams County District Court following the individual questioning of about 49 potential jurors and a series of questions from the judge and prosecuting attorney on Tuesday.

Corey O’Brien with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office asked more questions of the panel to determine if the potential jurors would be suited to be the finders of fact in the case.

He explained the difference between direct evidence, which someone has firsthand knowledge of based on one of the five senses, and circumstantial evidence, or evidence assumed from other facts. He warned jurors that the crime left a bloody scene that may be too gruesome for some people to handle. He also cautioned against feeling too much empathy for either the victim or defendant in the trial.

After O’Brien’s series of questions, defense attorney Clarence Mock presented his own series of inquiries to the jury panel.

“I’m not here to change your mind about any particular subject matter,” he said. “We just want to know what you think.”

Mock asked about the group’s familiarity with the social media website Facebook, their knowledge of firearms, muzzle flash and gunshot residue. He also asked about the group’s thoughts on plea deals and the veracity of testimony given by a witness who had received the promise of a reduced charge from prosecutors. Mock concluded by explaining the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof to the group and asking if anyone had trouble with the legal definitions offered.

Once both the prosecution and defense had the opportunity to ask questions of the 36-member jury panel, each side took turns using 12 preemptory strikes to whittle the group down to a jury of eight women and four men.

Using a similar process, two alternate jurors were chosen to hear evidence in the case as well as to be able to replace a member of the jury if necessary before the end of the trial.

Authorities say an attempted robbery led to Hansen’s death on Sept. 11, 2017, in the 700 block of West G Street. Hansen was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back. The conspiracy charge stems from an alleged plan between Harden and co-defendant Deante Mullen to arrange a drug deal with the intent to commit robbery.

Mullen, 21, of Lincoln and Katherine Creigh, 23, of Lincoln also have been charged in the case.

Mullen faces charges of first-degree murder and use of a firearm to commit a felony. He pleaded not guilty March 5, 2018. A pre-trial hearing in his case has been set for Nov. 12 at 11 a.m.

Creigh, Mullen’s girlfriend at the time, was charged with accessory to a felony for allegedly helping Harden and Mullen avoid arrest after the shooting. A preliminary hearing in Creigh’s case has been scheduled for Nov. 7 at 2 p.m.

First-degree murder is a Class 1A felony punishable by life in prison. Use of a firearm to commit a felony is a Class 1C felony punishable by five to 50 years in prison. Conspiracy to commit robbery is a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 50 years in prison. Accessory to first-degree murder is a Class 2A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.