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Dept. of Education Report Uncovers Cheating Incidents

A report shows that Nebraska public schools have reported eight serious cheating incidents by school personnel during statewide academic testing since 2010.

The Nebraska Department of Education report doesn't offer specifics of the incidents, which it describes as security breaches. But it does give examples of what the agency considers a serious breach, including changing a student's answers, directly coaching a student, or providing test answers to a student.

The education commissioner wouldn't release further details due to the state's public records law.

South Platte Chambers of Commerce to Tour 17 Communities

As they look to reorganize and revitalize their organization, the South Platte United Chambers of Commerce will tour the region next month with stops at 17 different communities.

President Tim Anderson of Holdrege, Dena Beck of Minden, and Kelly Gewecke of Kearney are going out to talk about how the "new" South Platte can better fulfill its mission to furthering the area's economic and social welfare. The new action zones for the group are Tourism, Community Promotion, and Lobbying.

The central leg of the tour is scheduled for Tuesday, August 11. The scheduled visits include the Minden city office at 9 a.m.; the Hildreth Community Building at 10 a.m. and the Johnson Center in Alma at 11:15. Visits to Orleans and Arapahoe are also scheduled for that afternoon.

The South Platte region includes 22 counties located south of the Platte River in central and western Nebraska, including the Hastings region.

NPPD Warns of New Electric Bill Scam

The Nebraska Public Power District is again warning of an electric bill scam making its way to some customers.

NPPD says it's been happening lately in Norfolk. The phony caller tells the customer they are overdue on their bill and must pay within 20 minutes to avoid being disconnected. They are then instructed to purchase pre-paid cards in order to make immediate payment.

Officials say several businesses in the Norfolk area fell victim to the scam Wednesday. NPPD says if an individual is behind on payment, they will be notified on their monthly bill.

Three Arrested in Connection to Kearney Credit Union Robbery

The three men believed to be responsible for robbing a Kearney Eaton Employees Credit Union last October are now in police custody.

Two of the suspects, 29-year-old Patrick Wigley and 28-year-old Thomas Dunlap were arrested in Chicago Tuesday. Both will be transported to Lincoln by the U.S. Marshal's Office. The third suspect, 28-year-old Clifton Hudson was arrested in Kearney this week and is currently jailed on drug charges in a separate case. Hudson will be taken to Lincoln today for his initial appearance and arraignment.

According to records, on October 17, two men wearing work clothes and white hardhats entered the credit union, as one of the men displayed what was believed to be a handgun. Both suspects then jumped the teller counter, ordered the tellers and other employees into a nearby office.

The employees' hands were then bound while the suspects proceeded to remove more than $120,000 in currency before fleeing the scene on foot. If convicted, the suspects could face up to 25 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and other consequences.

Hastings Police Sergeant Retiring After 43 Years

The Hastings Police Department will soon say goodbye to one of its longest serving members.

Sgt. Steven Murphy is retiring next week after 43 years on the job. Murphy was first hired on Aug. 1, 1972. He spoke at the city council meeting last night and says he's looking forward to retirement.

"I've enjoyed every year that I've worked here. Ten years ago I picked this date to retire on. It's time to go and I'm going happy and I'm going thinking I can still do the job. My wife and I have lots of other things we want to do and it's time to move on and do those other things," Murphy said.

During his time he has served in the department's patrol division, detective bureau, drug division and administration. He says while he's seen lots of change in his 43 years, the job itself has not changed at all.

Sgt. Murphy's last day will be Aug. 7. Sgt. Brian Hessler will succeed Murphy as sergeant of administration services.

Auditorium Project Stalled While Negotiations Continue

Following Monday night's Hastings City Council meeting, city officials went into closed session for an informative meeting with the architects involved in the city auditorium renovation project.

City Administrator Joe Patterson says the council did not take any action but provided an update on what was discussed.

"What we're in the middle of with the architects is the design of the auditorium renovation. They are also designing the conference center link. That project is not moving forward as quickly as the auditorium project needs to so we were discussing the scope of the project and the fees," he said.

The project has slowed to a screeching halt. Patterson said there hasn't been much new discussion as they await potential funding and a suitor willing to build a hotel on the property.

"The developers were trying to get investors and trying to get the hotel and the college to be a part of it. We have not met with them in a very long time. The grant for the auditorium will expire and right now it's on hold until whether or not they find a hotel willing to build and find investors," he said.

The state grant expires at the end of the year but may be extended if no progress is made by that time. Patterson says after January 1st, no organization will be able to rent space at the auditorium because of the anticipated project. He says that makes it critical to move forward on the project as soon as possible.

Rollover Accident Halts I-80 Traffic Near Shelton

Eastbound traffic was backed up for two miles along I-80 near the Shelton interchange late this morning due to a rollover accident.

According to scanner reports, an eastbound vehicle overturned near mile marker 290. Initial reports indicate there were two people inside the vehicle, who received minor injuries.

Traffic was being redirected to the inside lane of I-80 by police.

CCC to Offer Workshop to Help Under-Resourced College Students

As colleges continue to see a growing number of under-resourced students, those in higher education are exploring ways to keep those lacking the financial means to continue their pursuit of a degree.

With that in mind, Central Community College is planning a free workshop next month aimed at improving current methods of teaching and finding new strategies to engage those students. Rob Czaplewski, community liaison coordinator for the college's Project HELP program explains the challenges facing those students who may come from poverty.

"I think a lot of it is the ability to balance school as well as work and home. A middle class student may have a pretty solid home life, whereas an under-resourced student may have to have some type of full-time income to pay for college or daycare. It's kind of a bigger picture than just financial resources," he said.

The workshop is designed for student services and financial aid staff, administrators and faculty members as well as any non-profit agencies in the area who work with or support potential or current college students. Czaplewski says the idea is for the college to improve its retention rate.

"The goal is to retain the under-resourced students. Maybe we can get them to class initially but to be able to retain them so they can go on and accomplish their degree, that's the most difficult aspect of it. These students don't have a lot of resources at home and can get to class for maybe one semester but to get through a 2-year degree or further can be very difficult for them," he said.

The free workshop "Engaging Under-Resourced College Students" will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 21 at College Park in Grand Island. Guest speaker Dr. Bethanie Tucker from Averett University in Virginia will share tips and strategies toward improving engagement of under-resourced students.

Registration is open online via the Central Community College website through Aug. 14.

Lightning Causes Fire Near Amherst

Lightning is being blamed for an early morning fire which destroyed about 70 large round bales of hay on a farm near Amherst.

At around 5:45 a.m., the Amherst Volunteer Fire Department was called to a farm located a mile north of highway 40 on Eagle Road after lightning struck a large round bale of hay, igniting it on fire. Firefighters from Kearney were also called upon for mutual aid after the fire spread to some other nearby bales.

No injuries were reported and no buildings were damaged in the fire.

It took firefighters about two hours to bring to fire under control.

Hastings College Alum Named Head of Sports Psychology at UNL

A former Hastings College quarterback has been named the Director of Sports Psychology at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

The department says Dr. Todd Stull will work with the more than 600 student-athletes competing in the school's 24 varsity sports. Stull says he's looking forward to the opportunities afforded to the university.

"I think probably some of the things that stand out would be No. 1, to address the mental health needs and the stressors that a lot of student-athletes face. I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with everyone from the training staff to strength and conditioning to life skills and academic folks. The third thing would be to really enhance the mental skills training," he said.

In 2010, Stull founded Inside Performance Mindroom, a private practice that combines performance psychiatry with sport science training to enhance individual, team and coaching performance. Stull becomes the university's first full-time psychiatrist and says the school is following the lead from the NCAA addressing a critical need for student-athletes.

"At the top of the list was the feeling of being overwhelmed and the mental and emotional well-being. The NCAA has positioned itself to address the issue but also put out some guidelines to meet the need. The University of Nebraska has been very proactive and trying to stay ahead of things," he said.

Stull attended Hastings College from 1982 to 1986 where he received his Bachelor's degree and was a letterman for the football science club and psychology club. He received his doctorate in medicine from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1992.

Lexington Man Injured in Rollover Accident

A Lexington man was injured in a semi rollover accident Friday morning in Phelps County.

According to the Nebraska State Patrol, 53-year-old Benjamin Weston of Lexington was traveling south on F Road southeast of Overton when his semi was forced onto the right-hand shoulder by an oncoming vehicle which had crossed over the centerline, causing the semi to overturn in the west ditch.

Weston was transported to a Kearney Hospital for treatment of injuries received in the accident.

A state patrol spokesman says the driver of the other vehicle failed to stop after the accident and has not been located.

Holdrege Man Given Probation For Assault of Father

A Holdrege man has been given four years of probation for assaulting his father.

27-year-old Garrett Beck pleaded no contest last week and was convicted of assault. Prosecutors say deputies were sent to the Gosper County home of 55-year-old Gary Beck on Nov. 29. Deputies say the elder Beck complained that his son used a wooden rod to strike his head.

Beck must serve seven days in jail each month for the first 19 months of his probation and serve 30 days at the end of his probation. But the judge also said the jail time could be waived by his probation officer.

Six Teens Banned From Buffalo County Fair

Six Kearney teens were removed from this year's Buffalo County Fair by police on Wednesday after fair officials learned they had allegedly attempted to use fake wristbands for fair carnival rides.

According to a Kearney Police Department incident report, five teens ranging from 13-18 years of age had allegedly photocopied some carnival ride wristbands for use at this year's fair.

A 17-year-old male teen was later cited for misdemeanor theft by deception after it was determined he had allegedly sold the fake wristbands at the fair.

The teens were issued trespass warnings banning them from returning to this year's fair.

Former Probation Officer Accused of Having Sex With People He Supervised

A former Buffalo County probation officer is accused of having sex with people he supervised and then lying to federal investigators about it.

56-year-old Thomas Peterson was indicted Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Lincoln on four counts of deprivation of civil rights under color of law and one count of making false statements to a government agent.

According to court documents, Peterson had sex with four people he supervised while he served as a state probation in Buffalo County. He was fired from that position on January 22, 2014.

The indictment further states Peterson had given probationers advance notice of planned drug tests and other law enforcement activities.

Peterson is scheduled to make an initial court appearance in Lincoln in August. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.

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