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Community orchard takes root at nature park

A community project that has been in the works for three years is coming to fruition with the planting of a community orchard at the Elizabethtown Nature Park.

Made possible by money from the Dow Chemical Company Foundation in partnership with Central Kentucky Community Foundation, the project gained roots Tuesday as volunteers planted around 83 fruit- or berry-producing trees, bushes and shrubs.

“It was great yesterday to see what has been in the plans for a while come to reality,” Central Kentucky Community Foundation President and CEO Davette Swiney said. “We had a lot of volunteers out there and people that are interested not just planting and getting it started but interested in the ongoing work and the long-term opportunities the orchard will create for our community.”

The idea came about through discussions to find a project that would unite the community through a new opportunity.

“It also would tie in with Dow’s focus on environmental sustainability in a way to help ensure that people, regardless of where they live, have a way to connect back with the earth and our food supply,” she said.

Sean Clinning, a former Dow site leader in Elizabethtown and now in Northern Indiana, was involved in securing money from the company’s foundation for the project.

“This has been a project of ours for three years,” he said. “We’re so excited to see it get in the ground.”

In the initial planning, Clinning said the group was looking for a project that “reaches the community in a big way.”

It also offered an educational component so children can learn where food comes from and they can access to quality fruit, Clinning said.

“Our community is fortunate to have so many corporate entities who support the community in various ways,” Swiney said of the Dow partnership. “This was a special opportunity with Dow to make a significant investment in the community.”

The hope is for the children to involve their parents once they learn of the orchard and those families are willing to volunteer time toward the effort, he said.

“It’s taken us at least three years to get this far,” he said, adding the concept took about a year to develop, but then plans were put on hold when COVID struck.

Once work on the project resumed, Clinning said the planning group went to Bloomington, Indiana, to see its community orchard and glean ideas for the local version.

“We saw with our own eyes what a mature community orchard would look like,” he said.

Once planned for land on the grounds of the foundation’s Home of Philanthropy, Swiney said the group decided to find a more visible area for the project. That’s where city officials came in to grant access to land at the Elizabethtown Nature Park.

“I can’t say enough about the city’s support, encourage and adoption of this idea and embracing what it can be as part of that nature park,” she said.

The group Tuesday planted apple and pear trees along with blueberry, gooseberry, pawpaw and currant bushes.

“The thing that interested me and fascinated me … was to see multi generations involved,” Clinning said, referencing students from John Hardin High School FFA and other volunteers of various ages who pitched in. “A number of people I’ve never met before ... were more than happy to put shovels in the ground and plant trees.”

But the fruit will not produce for some time, Swiney said.

“Obviously, it will take a few years for some of the trees to start bearing fruit,” she said. “They’re small trees, but we also planted some berry bushes that will produce sooner.”

Although the trees will take time to produce, Swiney said there still is work to be done.

In the meantime, learning opportunities include pruning and fertilizing and other care needed for the orchard to thrive, Swiney said.

“An important thing to understand is it is a community orchard,” she said. “It’s about creating those opportunities for learning and for people coming together and working. It’s not a massive production.”

“We obviously want it to produce some fruit,” she added, saying the area won’t be packed full of rows of trees. “It will have more of an arboretum-type setting instead of a production-based look.”

Now that the orchard has a physical presence at the park, Swiney said she hopes it will encourage more residents to get involved.

“We would love to have people who want to be involved in the project,” she said. “There’s a variety of ways that people can connect and be part of it.”

To volunteer with the project, call 270-737-8393 or email

HCS marks 10th year of work ethic certification program

This school year marks 10 years of Hardin County Schools’ work ethic certification program.

Beginning in the 2013 school year, the program helps to solidify good work ethic standards among the district’s student population, in anticipation for their potential career once they graduate.

The program focuses primarily on “The Great Eight” work ethic standards, co-created with the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce and community and business leaders, which are attendance and tardiness, personal responsibility and accountability, academic performance, work habits and persistence, punctuality, preparedness and organization, respectful interactions/communication, cooperation and teamwork, and community service.

Each month, a district-wide standard is promoted for each school to include in its usual curriculum.

Hardin County Schools spokesman John Wright said the idea was conceived when the district took a commercial bus of community and business leaders to Great Crossing High School in Scott County, which was the school used to model the future Early College and Career Center.

Wright said leaders were on board, but said even though welding and automotive classes in high school were great, they wanted more teaching done with students to solidify the importance of good work ethic including showing up, not being late, communicating well, working together and being a good interviewee.

Under former superintendent Nanette Johnston, they began the program at the district by using methods from several other communities and school districts who were doing something similar.

A curriculum was created through Junior Achievement. Originally, the program focused on high school seniors, specifically in their English classes. Lisa Slaven, HCS transition readiness facilitator, said now the work ethic program and standards are embedded throughout all grade levels. She said they also encourage families to instill these standards in their own homes.

Wright said the first year of the program netted 50 students who earned the certification. He said for those working in the district, they were discouraged with the turnout. He said Johnston told him the program needed to continue even after she retired.

With Superintendent Teresa Morgan, the program has continued and expanded.

At the end of each school level, which is fifth grade, eighth grade and 12th grade, students work on capstone activities which include going through a mock interview with a community member. Middle schools are in their second year of having work ethic certification interviews.

Slaven said at the end of a students high school career, once they’ve accumulated enough points, they will earn a work ethic certification. This year, 528 seniors in the district will be work ethic certified.

“They’re beginning to understand, ‘I’ve gotta have these,’ ” Wright said about the certification.

In partnership with the chamber, businesses who are members guarantee to interview students who apply who have the work ethic certification. HCCC also provide scholarships to work ethic certified students each year.

“We really couldn’t have gotten it off the ground without their support,” Wright said about chamber and other community partners.

Slaven and Wright said districts from around the state, and also some from Washington and Texas, have reached out to the district to consult about the program and to potentially create a similar one.

“A lot of people want to hear about the program that we have created,” Slaven said.

Dave Puckett, community education director at Fulton Independent Schools, said he was made aware of the work ethic certification program by his superintendent, and he reached out to Slaven to talk about it.

He said they’re integrating a work ethic certification among students who attend an academy where they receive vocational training which will begin in the fall. A year later, the certification aspect will be implemented.

“It’s just one more tool that our students will have,” Puckett said.

Puckett said Slaven and the district have been helpful and upfront in providing information on how they operate the program. He said he and the district particularly like the aspect of instilling the standards from an early age, and throughout the school years.

Slaven said in the future, they’re looking to create materials for co-ops across all three high schools so there’s uniformity in how the students are evaluated.

Ultimately, Slaven said high school students have to go out of their way to earn the certification because it isn’t a requirement to earn for graduation.

“It would kind of devalue it if community members thought we’re just handing it out,” Slaven said. “There’s definitely an aspect of personal responsibility on that.”

Fiscal Court dismisses EMT charged with sodomy

A Hardin County Emergency Medical Services advanced EMT has been dismissed from his job after his arrest for third-degree sodomy stemming from a volunteer position he held with the Vine Grove Fire Department.

William Richard Nickoson was dismissed from his county job Tuesday following action taken by Hardin Fiscal Court after a closed session to discuss personnel.

The action was effective as of May 23 when he was placed on suspension without pay pending termination by the county, according to County Attorney Jenny Oldham.

The arrest came following an investigation into an inappropriate relationship police say Nickoson was having with a teenage girl, who was a member of the junior firefighter program at Vine Grove Fire Department.

Nickoson, 25, was a volunteer for the department. The investigation, conducted by Kentucky State Police Post 4 in Elizabethtown, found the relationship had been going on for a year, post spokesman Trooper Scotty Sharp said.

The girl was 15 when the relationship began, Sharp said.

In other business

Fiscal court members also passed a resolution as part of its consent agenda to assign three community members to a reapportionment commission.

The committee is a requirement by law following the U.S. decennial census to reapportion the county’s eight magisterial districts.

Judge-Executive Keith Taul said the three members appointed will represent districts most affected by the reapportionment.

Appointed are Howard Williams to represent District 1, Trina Martin to represent District 7 and Jacob Pearman to represent District 8.

Appointed to lend their expertise to the commission were County Clerk Brian D. Smith and County Attorney Jenny Oldham.

The members will be compensated $300 for their efforts and will meet at 2 p.m. May 30 at the Hardin County Government Building.

The commission’s final report is due by July 25.

Fiscal Court meets again at 3:30 p.m. June 13, when it is expected Taul will present the county’s 2023-2024 budget for a second reading and vote.

Taul said the item wasn’t on Tuesday’s agenda because of processes that needed to occur prior to a second reading.

“That took enough time that it couldn’t show up on this agenda, so we’ll get it on for our next meeting to have that second reading and approval of that budget,” he said.

Central Hardin senior Serena McNeilly, right, won four individual events in the Class 3A Region 2 track meet on Tuesday night. Teammate Autumn Callahan is in the next lane.

Kelli Bush resigns as EIS superintendent

Superintendent Kelli Bush has announced Wednesday her resignation from Elizabethtown Independent Schools, effective July 1.

“After thoughtful consideration, Mrs. Bush made the difficult decision to step down from her current role as superintendent,” a news release from the school district said.

Bush worked 24 years in the district as an elementary school teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. Bush has been the district superintendent since June 2020.

“I am sincerely grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as the superintendent of this wonderful school district the last three years. Leading Elizabethtown Independent Schools has been a privilege,” Bush said in the release.

A word of thanks was shared from Bush to her colleagues for their encouragement and support over the years in the release and acknowledged how the collective efforts of the administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents and community played a pivotal role in district successes.

“I look forward to what comes next in my personal journey,” Bush shared in an email to stakeholders. “I have been provided opportunities to continue serving in public education in roles that focus on curriculum and instruction.”

Bush is looking forward to “focusing on family, health and well-being in her transition,” the release said.

“We are grateful for Mrs. Bush’s service to our students and staff and we wish her well on her future endeavors,” said Guy Wallace, EIS Board of Education chairman.

Chase Goff has served as interim superintendent since May 1, which Bush took a leave of absence.

Goff said Tuesday that while he was unaware of Bush’s circumstances leading to her decision, he thanked her for her dedication to the students of Elizabethtown.

“We’re excited in E’town about graduation this Saturday. We have a lot of students to award and recognize,” he said. “As Mr. Wallace said, we a grateful for the years of service Mrs. Bush gave the district and we’re excited about what the future holds.”

The board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. June 5 at the district’s central office where the next steps in the superintendent search process will be discussed along with other action items.