Maxwell “Hops” Pearce, 23, from Tuckahoe, NY, a 2nd year member of the Harlem Globetrotters, speaks to Hanover Area Memorial Elementary School students Monday morning in the school gym.

Nine-year-old Kyree Holmes gets a lesson on how to spin a basketball on his finger from Harlem Globetrotter Hops Pearce.

Hops Pearce trots around the gym at the conclusion of his visit at Hanover Area Memorial Elementary School where he presented his T.E.A.M. Up at School message.

HANOVER TWP. — Four lucky kids — plus one good sport of a teacher — joined Harlem Globetrotter Hops Pearce on the gym floor at Hanover Area Memorial Elementary School Monday morning, and soon the basketball wizard had his little group of protegees passing a red, white and blue ball behind their backs and under their knees.

The student body of fourth, fifth and sixth graders cheered like mad as Blake Siene, Mariah Trujillo, Luke Pierce and Brooke Myzick formed a “Magic Circle” with Pearce, and they ratcheted their applause up a few more decibels as English/language arts teacher Anthony Shipula and Luke did a little dance.

The fun continued as Pearce gave students Kahlil Smith, Kyree Holmes and Sariyah Edwards each a turn at having a ball spin on their fingers — and as he rolled the basketball across his own forearms and shoulders, spun it on his finger and on his thumb, bounced it off his foot, made a basket from the middle of the court and treated the audience to a final slam dunk.

But along with the basketball artistry — a preview to what fans can expect if they attend the Harlem Globetrotters appearances at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 22 — came a serious message.

“Who can tell me what empathize means?” Pearce asked the crowd. “It means to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to listen and understand what they’re going through.”

Pearce advocated a “T.E.A.M. Up” approach, urging kids to Talk, Empathize, Ask questions and Mobilize in an effort to build friendships, cut down on bullying and alert trusted adults to problems.

A standout student athlete who grew up in West Chester County, N.Y., Pearce studied finance and captained the basketball team at Purchase College in Harrison, N.Y. and came close to winning the 2018 NCAA College Slam Dunk Competition.

Before his appearance Monday morning in Hanover Area, Pearce, 23, whose given name is Maxwell, told media representatives how much he enjoys visiting schools.

“The euphoria I get from the exchange of positive energy with the students is much greater than the euphoria I get from playing. It lasts longer.”

As a small group of soloists stepped out of the chorus during a Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre rehearsal earlier this week, the women took turns singing about the joys of having your man “nice and safe in jail.”

A character named Buck — brother of Clyde Barrow of “Bonnie & Clyde” fame — who had just broken out of jail to see his wife, burst out, “I can’t believe what you’re asking me to do.”

But Blanche Barrow would not relent. “We will call the sheriff and tell him you are turning yourself in right after church tomorrow.”

OK, that might not be the most tender and romantic of sentiments, but as Chris LaFrance, who is directing “A Broadway Valentine” Feb. 14-16, explained, “I wanted to add some comedy to the mix.”

Don’t worry, there will be plenty of love ballads in this $10-per-ticket benefit, which is a fund-raiser for the soon-to-turn-100 Little Theatre.

Other numbers come from such well-established musicals as “Hair,” “Rent” and “Into the Woods” as well as newer shows such as “The Greatest Showman,” Something Rotten” and, perhaps less well known, “The Falsettos.”

“We’re all sharing the piano and teaching and conducting,” he said, noting the directors are all singing as well. Look for Bryn Smith and Major Baker to sing a duet from “Bonnie & Clyde” about the influence of fate on whom you love.

” ‘Cause you love who you love. And you can’t help how you’re made. You don’t have no say. Your heart decides. It’s that simple I’m afraid.”

As she rehearsed that number earlier this week Major Baker temporarily relinquished the keyboard in favor of vocalizing and Wyoming Valley West High School student Michaela Dennis pulled out her violin to accompany the singers.

“We’re trying to feature a lot of people in duets and quartets,” LaFrance said. “We have a lot of talent.”

A similar event four years ago raised $4,000 for Little Theatre, LaFrance said, and this year’s event is also a fund-raiser for the theatre, which will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2022.

Raffle baskets and a cash bar will also be part of the event. A meet-and-greet with the cast will follow Saturday’s performance.

Just about everybody knows the Queen of Soul sang “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Amazing Grace,” “Chain of Fools” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” And, of course, she won two of her 18 Grammy Awards for “Respect.”

But did you know Aretha Franklin sang the aria “Nessun Dorma” from the opera “Turandot,” too?

“There’s a really great story about Aretha most people don’t know,” Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic executive director Nancy Sanderson said earlier this week as she looked forward to hearing the PNC Pops perform “Respect: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin” at 8 p.m. Feb. 14 at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre.

“In 1998 she was appearing in a Grammy Award presentation and her friend Luciano Pavarotti was supposed to sing ‘Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s ‘Turandot.’ Pavarotti’s physician told him he was in no condition to sing, it would really hurt his voice if he tried. With 20 minutes to go, Aretha stepped up to the plate and said, ‘I’ll sing it.’

“The orchestra didn’t know what to expect. The audience didn’t know what to expect. Here she was, the Queen of Gospel and Soul, and she was open-minded about opera. She put her own stamp on it. It was just Aretha and this beautiful piece. It was just so beautiful.”

On Friday the Philharmonic’s local audience will hear Broadway vocalists Tamika Lawrence, Melvin Tunstall III and Jessica Hendy paying tribute to Franklin and her music — from “Respect” to “Nessun Dorma” to several surprises — as the PNC Pops orchestra plays under the baton of Melisse Brunet, who just this week signed a contract to become the Philharmonic conductor, after serving as interim conductor since 2018.

“Our musicians love to play under her,” Sanderson said. “She’s just so gifted. She just has a signature. She really makes the orchestra sound great, and there’s a respect and a very positive vibe in rehearsals.”

“We’ve had a really favorable response from patrons in the community about Melisse. She’s really creating a buzz,” Sanderson continued. “The board is really behind this decision. For about six months the board has been in conversation, and realized we know more about Melisse than we would ever know about someone who came in and conducts one time. It would be foolish to conduct a search when we had the ideal person right here.”

Brunet well-regarded in the international music community, Sanderson said, so much so that she is one of 12 women conductors selected to be part of a competition called La Maestra, which is set for next month in Paris. The women conductors hail from France, Italy, Venezuela, Bulgaria, South Korea, Indonesia, the United States and several other countries.

Tamika Lawrence has performed as a vocalist in “The Wiz Live! on NBC,” “Book of Morman” and “Come From Away” and has begun to write her own music. She has won two Grammy Awards, one for her work on the “Dear Evan Hansen” cast album and one for the soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman.”

Melvin Tunstall III made his Broadway debut in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” at the Sondheim Theatre and has appeared in more than 1,500 performances of the show. Earlier, he appeared in the European Tour of the Tony Award-winning musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

Jessica Hendy played Grizabella in “Cats” in both the original Broadway run and the 2016 revival. In New York she received rave reviews for her one-woman cabaret “A Life To Call Your Own.” Her symphonic concert work includes performances with Cincinnati Pops, Modesto Symphony, Long Beach Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony and the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.

HANOVER TWP. — Four lucky kids — plus one good sport of a teacher — joined Harlem Globetrotter Hops Pearce on the gym floor at Hanover Area Memorial Elementary School Monday morning, and soon the basketball wizard had his little group of protegees passing a red, white and blue ball behind their backs and under their knees.

The student body of fourth, fifth and sixth graders cheered like mad as Blake Siene, Mariah Trujillo, Luke Pierce and Brooke Myzick formed a “Magic Circle” with Pearce, and they ratcheted their applause up a few more decibels as English/language arts teacher Anthony Shipula and Luke did a little dance.

The fun continued as Pearce gave students Kahlil Smith, Kyree Holmes and Sariyah Edwards each a turn at having a ball spin on their fingers — and as he rolled the basketball across his own forearms and shoulders, spun it on his finger and on his thumb, bounced it off his foot, made a basket from the middle of the court and treated the audience to a final slam dunk.

But along with the basketball artistry — a preview to what fans can expect if they attend the Harlem Globetrotters appearances at the Mohegan Sun Arena at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 22 — came a serious message.

“Who can tell me what empathize means?” Pearce asked the crowd. “It means to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to listen and understand what they’re going through.”

Pearce advocated a “T.E.A.M. Up” approach, urging kids to Talk, Empathize, Ask questions and Mobilize in an effort to build friendships, cut down on bullying and alert trusted adults to problems.

A standout student athlete who grew up in West Chester County, N.Y., Pearce studied finance and captained the basketball team at Purchase College in Harrison, N.Y. and came close to winning the 2018 NCAA College Slam Dunk Competition.

Before his appearance Monday morning in Hanover Area, Pearce, 23, whose given name is Maxwell, told media representatives how much he enjoys visiting schools.

“The euphoria I get from the exchange of positive energy with the students is much greater than the euphoria I get from playing. It lasts longer.”

She’d just had surgery for an inguinal hernia, and it appeared she was having a reaction to a local anesthetic.

A glance at the monitor above her bed revealed her blood pressure was dipping dangerously low — 87/48, followed by 77/36 and 68/24.

But Joel Helcoski didn’t give up. The young man from Scranton continued to apply CPR, gently but firmly pressing down on Chloe’s chest again and again as his colleagues counted each compression.

“Do you need a break?” Amanda Hickman from East Stroudsburg said, slipping her hands onto Chloe’s chest and maintaining the rhythm.

Bystanders sighed with relief, and several admitted their own hearts had been racing as they watched the life-or-death situation unfold — though it wasn’t really life or death.

Surgical Chloe isn’t a human being but an exciting addition to the surgical technology program at Lackawanna College in Scranton.

“She’s capable of bleeding and breathing — you can hear it and you can see it,” program director Mary Lou Dotzel said, pointing to Surgical Chloe’s chest as it rose and fell.

“We can intubate her. We can perform laproscopic surgery on her,” Dotzel said, naming a few of the simulator’s features.

Programs that come with the simulator call for students to handle problems ranging from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy to anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) to fire in the operating room.

“What I like about it is, I can change the program,” Dotzel said, explaining that feature provides for an even greater variety of scenarios

Dotzel’s students use real surgical equipment such as scalpels and retractors on Surgical Chloe, and can suture her with real stitches. Before Surgical Chloe flat-lined during class on a recent Wednesday afternoon, they practiced handling the instruments during the hernia surgery. As Dotzel advised them, it sometimes became evident that a slight adjustment in the angle of a hand could make a procedure more efficient.

“Using a surgical simulator will make them that much better prepared for the ‘real world’ and that will lead to better patient outcomes, Dotzel said, adding that recent graduates of the surgical technology department have found work in Ithaca, Sayre and Allentown as well as locally with Tyler Memorial Hospital and Community Medical Center.

“We have a 100 percent CST (Certified Surgical Technologist) exam pass rate and 100 percent placement,” Dotzel said.

“Sometimes people think the only health care professionals in an operating room are doctors and nurses, but surgical technologists are part of the team,” Dotzel said, explaining the program prepares its graduates to be responsible for supplies and equipment in an operating room and to assist a surgeon by retracting, sponging and suctioning during surgery.

I woke up Friday morning, made it to the gym, had a great workout and was ready to begin my day when something was pointed out to me.

I realized I forgot to wear red on what was annual National Wear Red Day – the day to raise awareness about heart disease. It is always the first Friday in February, which is American Heart Month.

When I was younger, I surely would have rushed home, changed my attire and made sure I was the picture of red perfection, because I’d never want to let others perceive that I didn’t care about the day.

In this situation, I took a step back and thought about the day and what it’s about: raising awareness about heart disease, checking your heart health and doing things that make your heart happy.

I’ve had my heart checked regularly over the years since there’s a history of heart disease in my family, and two years ago I participated in the American Heart Association’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign.

I also try to do things throughout the month – and regularly throughout the year – that bring heart happiness to me and others.

• NEPA Sings: Auditions for the third-annual singing contest happened yesterday, and those of us involved in the event planning were blown away by the talent in Northeastern Pennsylvania that showed up to try out. The show on April 2, 2020, which is a fundraiser for CASA of Luzerne County, is going to be captivating and mesmerizing. Tickets will go on sale soon at

• Junior Achievement teaching: I’m preparing to teach a first-grade class locally using the JA curriculum that introduces youngsters to financial literacy skills and entrepreneurship from an early age. These skills are so valuable and are important to be introduced to early. The organization works mostly using volunteers, so if you’d like to consider volunteering or learning more, you can visit Prepare to be inspired.

• Best of Times Leader: Voting ends on Feb. 12, and I’m always in awe of how many amazing businesses we have locally – and how many thousands of people flock to to vote for their favorites. Of course, the most popular places sometimes win, but these business owners and employees put so much time into their chosen disciplines that they deserve the recognition the contest brings to the winners. Seeing the community passionate about places they love locally, makes the heart happy. Remember to vote at

I could go on and on, but you get the idea: we can find activities or events that make the heart happy and engage with them in full force.

Wearing red during National Heart Month is great, but so is making a list of all those things that contribute to your own happy heart and embracing those.

There’s a scene in “King Lear” when the king and his fool, or jester, are roaming a forbidding landscape in a terrible storm.

“But when he realizes that Lear is frightened, too, he forgets his own fear and tries to comfort the king,” said Talia Johnson, from Nazareth, Pa., who portrays the fool in a King’s College production of the Shakespeare tragedy. “The fool is very loyal, and it’s really touching.”

You’ll find several loyal characters in this show, which opens Feb. 20 in the George P. Maffei II Theatre, along with plenty of disloyal ones, including Lear’s famously false daughters, Regan and Goneril, who would probably be charged with elder abuse if the story took place in modern times.

Oh, but this story takes place in a harsh, medieval type of climate, a place where the Duke of Gloucester, for example, is punished by the forcible loss of his eyesight.

“There are lots of ways to maim a person,” said Michael Little, associate professor of English, who plays Gloucester. “But to gouge somebody’s eyes is pretty horrific.”

Gloucester isn’t the only character who suffers in this play, which director Dave Reynolds describes as “one of William Shakespeare’s most tragic.”

You’ve got Lear descending into madness when he realizes he shouldn’t have given his kingdom away. “He knows he’s losing it; he gets it back again by the end,” said history professor Brian Pavlac, who plays the king.

You’ve got Edgar, the Duke of Gloucester’s misjudged son, who’s on the lam and fearing for his life.

And, you’ve Lear’s his one dutiful daughter, Cordelia, who meets a cruel fate after she leads an army to fight for her father.

“Everything she’s doing is to get her father back,” said Mikayla Acree, of Parsippany, N.J., who plays Cordelia.

This production of “King Lear” is the 70th Shakespeare production King’s College has offered to local audiences, and in addition to the shows that are open to the general public, at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 20-22 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 23, the college has four matinees for high school students.

“We’re very, very proud of bringing Shakespeare to high school audiences,” said Reynolds, the director, adding that seeing a show “not on TV, but live on stage” is likely to help young people appreciate the Bard.

He wasn’t a Shakespeare fan himself, he said, until he became involved with a previous King’s College production of “King Lear,” years ago when he was a student.

Remembering that he played an attendant, Reynolds said that similar roles of messengers and flag bearers might seem small to the casual observer, but they’re not unimportant.

“No one person on stage is more important than anyone else,” he said. “We all have a part in telling the story.”

“It was just a revelation to me to get to make art with professors,” Reynolds said. “It’s a wonderful passing down of the art.”

Rounding out the cast are Ashley Surdovel as Goneril, Theodora Abah as Regan, Saroush Gharaui as the King of Fance; Chip Lemheney as the Duke of Albany; Sean McKeown as the Earl of Kent; Gabriel Gillespie as Edgar; Ryan Colonna as the Duke of Burgundy, Seth Higgins as the Duke of Cornwall, Jarrett Gabriel as Edmund, John Barrera as Oswald, Leah Peters as the doctor, and Benton Smith, Annarose McLaughlin and Ellie Freeman each having several roles.

I was telling my buddy Alner about my recent visit to a museum of history when he piped up with a remark amazing even for him.

“Alner, good buddy,” I said. “You need some education, but let’s start small. Every time you take a stroll, you’re seeing historical exhibits.”

Predictably, he bolted for his front door. But, as usual, I was too quick for him. Within seconds, we were ambling down a Wyoming Valley street, getting ready for a bit of time travel.

“You’d be the headliner at the improv,” I replied. “Take a look around you — history of all kinds.”

“It’s also our first exhibit,” I said. This is called ‘social history.’ For generations we got most of our medical care from good old neighborhood MDs who practiced out of their homes, often in little side additions, like this. They didn’t have much tech, but they were beloved figures to their neighbors.”

“Interesting,” he said with a nod. “Hey, I didn’t know they had traffic jams way back when.”

“If you look down the block, you’ll see why all these cars and buses are piled up here. It’s a railroad crossing, with gates down, and there’s a train passing by — a long, long train. The crossing delay was a daily inconvenience. Today, there’s just overgrown grass where the tracks used to be — and our delays are too many cars and trucks on the interstate. Some call that ‘progress.’ Hey, let’s go back to the present.”

“Neat old sign,” said Alner, looking at a faded ad on the side of a building I’d just pointed to. “Funny, but I’ve never heard of that brand of ice cream.”

“Actually, neither have I,” I replied. “So, let’s snap back to the past and see what it’s all about.”

“Must be good stuff,” he said. “Look at all those people carrying ice cream tubs out of the store.”

“In those days, lots of stores made their own ice cream. There were dozens of brands around here. Folks tell me it was nice and fresh because it was made on premises. Today, though, all we have to remind us of the treats our grandparents knew is the occasional old sign like this on the side of a former grocery.”

“I’m getting dizzy from all this travel,” Alner said, shaking his head. “Hey, I like that little movie theater, but I wish you’d tell me …”

“Relax, old pal,” I said, patting his shoulder. “What’s a parking lot in our day was once this neighborhood movie house. You’d get two or three showings a night – and, best of all, 10-cent popcorn. Maybe you had to wait a month for the latest flick to get here, but you couldn’t beat the convenience.”

“I guess you’re right,” he said. “History is all around us, if we just look. Hey, can we make one more trip?”

Imagine you’re in a play and “there’s a ‘dead guy’ on the couch and the ‘dead guy’ wasn’t there at rehearsal,” Chris French said. What kind of hilarious horseplay might ensue?

Imagine the Cornley University Drama Society is trying to stage a murder mystery and everything goes wrong, “from missing words to entering too soon and entering too late to set malfunctions and wardrobe malfunctions.”

That’s what you can expect if you attend the national tour of the Olivier Award-winning “The Play That Goes Wrong” Feb. 14 to Feb. 16 at the Scranton Cultural Center.

“It’s a tragedy for us,” cast member French said, speaking as part of the fictional Cornley University troupe. “And it’s a comedy for the audience.”

French plays a character named Jonathan who, in the vintage 1920s play-within-the-play, “Murder at Haversham Manor,” portrays Charles, the murder victim.

“Jonathan missed the dress rehearsal for the play,” French said, “and the reason a lot of things go wrong is because Jonathan has never rehearsed the part.”

While the haplessly inept Cornley University folks are woefully unprepared, French said that wasn’t the case at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem when he was a student there. “It was nothing like this,” he said with a laugh, adding he and his fellow students worked hard to “make everything go right.”

“One time I had to kick open a door and make an entrance and the door flew right off its hinges,” he said. “There also was a time — never work with children or animals — when we had a live goat onstage. The goat got scared and suffice it to say, the goat had to wear a little diaper.”

The touring production of “The Play That Goes Wrong” will spend Valentine’s Day weekend in Scranton, and French predicted it could be a good way to spend date night “if you’re into two-plus hours of non-stop laughter.”

“Stretch your cheek muscles before you come,” he said. “That’s what we always hear. People say afterward their faces hurt from laughing and smiling so much.”

In the wake of revelations that scores of Roman Catholic priests and religious workers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living unsupervised in communities across the country, state officials face a quandary: Should they screen former clergy members who seek licenses for jobs that put them in contact with children? And, if so, how?

An Associated Press investigation last fall found nearly 200 accused clergy members had been granted teaching, mental health or social work licenses, with roughly six dozen still holding valid licenses to work in those fields in 2019.

Since then, at least 20 states have started using church-released lists of priests and employees who faced credible allegations to screen applicants or check for current state teaching, foster care and therapy licenses — and, in some cases, have revoked credentials.

As part of the church’s attempt to be more transparent about its ongoing sexual abuse crisis, more than 170 dioceses and religious orders have publicly released lists of clergy members they found to be credibly accused of abuses ranging from rape to child pornography.

Over 5,300 priests, clergy members and a handful of lay employees — more than 2,000 of them still living — are on the lists. But because most were never convicted of a crime, the allegations of child abuse never appeared in licensing background checks, the AP’s investigation revealed.

Church and law enforcement officials have said there is little they can do to monitor or restrict the nearly 1,700 mostly former clergy members the AP found living without supervision because many voluntarily left the church or were laicized, which means they are permanently restricted from the priesthood and return to private citizenship.

For close to two decades, the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has been advocating for church officials to report allegations to law enforcement, child protection and other state agencies, but it says state agencies haven’t figured out their role in responding to the clergy abuse scandal.

“These agencies need to refocus their priorities,” said David Clohessy, the former executive director of SNAP, who now leads the group’s St. Louis chapter. “They’re here to protect the public from predators, not to make getting a license to be a shrink or doctor easier.”

AP reporters called agencies in all 50 states, determining that dozens have started discussions, checked their lists of licenses for named clergy or begun using the diocesan lists released in their areas to flag applications.

The license reviews and background check changes have come across all areas of state licensing — from foster care to education boards – in states ranging from New Hampshire to Oklahoma.

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the state Department of Job and Family Services to review how county-level child service agencies and private placement agencies could incorporate the diocesan lists into background checks used to determine where children are placed. A spokesman for DeWine said the directive came after the AP published its investigation, calling the action “warranted to protect Ohio’s children.”

Conducting a comprehensive review is complicated because no official national master database of accused clergy exists, meaning states have to choose how many of the more than 170 lists to consult.

Pennsylvania’s education licensing department has conducted perhaps the most comprehensive search of its licensing database, checking for nearly 500 clergy members’ names that were released in three state or local grand jury reports over the last decade— including the landmark 2018 Pennsylvania attorney general’s grand jury report that looked at how abuse allegations were handled in six dioceses.

The department revoked or accepted the surrender of three licenses from former clergy members and is investigating a dozen other licensees.. But the first effort did not encompass lay church employees named on diocesan lists and former priests who might have moved to Pennsylvania from other states and sought licenses.

Dylan Klapmeier, spokesman for the Montana Department of Public Instruction, said his agency checked its list of credentialed teachers against the names issued by two Montana dioceses and found no matches. He lamented the lack of a national list to further consult, noting that “there are lots of places to hide here.”

For many education or licensing departments, using the diocesan lists can be difficult because of state statutes governing what can be considered when deciding to issue or revoke a license. Some agencies allow only for criminal background checks, while others also permit a check of the state’s child abuse and neglect database.

Most of those databases include allegations child abuse investigators found to be most likely true, even if they were not prosecuted. It’s one of the few ways allegations against a priest could appear in background checks without criminal charges, though it was unclear from the diocesan lists if all church-related allegations were reported to state child abuse officials.

Joseph Smack, spokesman for the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, said his department is looking at the allegations against the priests listed by the Wilmington Diocese to determine if any of them should be placed on the Child Protection Registry. Once on that registry, a background check would indicate the accused priest was unsuitable to become a foster parent.

The AP investigation found a handful of accused priests who adopted or fostered children, even after accusations drove them from active ministry – a group that is likely larger since, to protect the privacy of children in the system, there is no searchable database for foster care licenses.

A half-dozen child and family services departments responsible for licensing and screening foster parents — including those in New Hampshire, Oklahoma and New Mexico – told the AP that they have checked the local diocesan lists to see if any former priests were approved foster care providers.

Debra Johnson, director of communications for the Washington Department of Children, Youth and Family, said her department is in the process of overhauling how it performs background checks on potential foster parents and may now include the issue of former priests in the equation.

“It’s concerning that there is no system — that these individuals do not have some level of monitoring that would protect other children from being harmed or potentially being harmed,” she said.

Among license-providers, it’s easiest for state education departments to use the lists to remove licenses or background new applicants.

At least 20 state educational licensing agencies the AP contacted had checked the credibly accused clergy lists released in their states against the rosters of licensed school workers, with at least eight finding former priests with active or expired licenses. Many of those states have acted to remove those licenses or put holds on them to prevent their renewal.

Most states declined to name the individuals they had asked to surrender licenses or to say whether any would be revoked, citing privacy statutes for disciplinary processes.

The advocacy group Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct and Exploitation, also known as SESAME, has been advocating for stricter state laws that would require reporting of sexual abuse, grooming behaviors and other misconduct by school employees and contractors to prevent them from jumping to new positions in different districts or states without unprosecuted allegations against them being known.

SESAME President Terri Miller said she sees similarities between how abusive priests were transferred between parishes and the movements of accused educators her group is trying to prevent.

“It makes complete sense that priests who abused children would migrate to other areas where they can access youth and, unless we pass laws that mandate reporting of any sexual misconduct and stop the passing of trash to other districts, we aren’t going to be able to guarantee that children are safe,” she said.

Massachusetts is among more than 30 states that don’t require a conviction to launch disciplinary investigations into the past actions of teachers, guidance counselors or others licensed to work in public schools.

Jacqueline Reis, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said people named on diocesan lists are investigated when those lists are provided to the department.

“For instance, when we learned that one of our employees was among those listed by the St. Louis Archdiocese, we checked the other names on that list, too,” Reis said.

Keith Westrich, the state’s former associate commissioner for college, career and technical education, was named by the St. Louis Archdiocese last year as having a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor made against him when he was a priest there in the early 1980s. Shortly after, Massachusetts’ education department placed Westrich on leave and launched an investigation. He has since retired, and a message left at a phone number listed for him was not returned.

It is much harder for mental health, social worker or psychology licensing boards to consider unprosecuted allegations during background checks or for removing a license. Only a handful of the boards that responded to the AP’s questions said they could consider the diocesan lists as part of a background check.

“With no conviction, I don’t believe our administrative rules would allow us,” said Tony Alden, executive for the boards of behavioral science and social work in Iowa.

But staff at several mental health professional licensing boards said they could investigate a complaint alleging previous child sexual abuse to decide whether to remove or sanction a licensed professional. Many said lying on an application that asked candidates to self-report previous allegations would be cause for removal.

While most states have not yet considered law changes, at least 20 state attorneys general are conducting investigations of how church officials handled abuse allegations, including reporting them to civil law enforcement, largely in the wake of Pennsylvania’s 2018 grand jury report.

In its 50-state review, the AP asked the attorneys general if they had considered how states could use the lists of credibly accused clergy members to better protect children.

Some said they wanted to focus on investigating any possible criminal charges, but others said they have started to consider the role they could play in eliminating the gray area for people who have been credibly accused but not prosecuted. The AP investigation published in October explored the case of former priest Roger Sinclair, who had been accused of abuse in at least two other states but who had never been criminally charged when he moved to Oregon, where he was arrested and convicted for abusing a vulnerable adult.

“This AP story … sheds light on an important aspect of clergy sexual abuse horrors—how easy it has been to continue the abuse in other states from where the initial offending conduct occurred,” Rosenblum said. “That is absolutely unacceptable, and the fact that the Sinclair case occurred right here in Oregon drives home the importance of addressing this issue.”

That would be because driver Tyler Menninga gets a thrill out of maneuvering the famous monster truck uphill and backward on just the two front wheels. Or maybe driving on just the two rear wheels. Or the two wheels on the right side of the truck. You get the idea.

“Not a daredevil. More an adrenalin junkie,” Menninga, 22, said in a recent telephone interview as the Monster Jam tour worked its way closer to its Feb. 14-Feb. 16 appearance at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre Township.

“I’m always pushing some limits. It’s kind of hard to explain over the phone,” Menninga said. “I’m always trying to do new stuff.”

Hmm. According a a news realease, “as a special fan bonus during Freestyle, a Monster Jam driver will attempt Wilkes-Barre’s first-ever, indoor arena-based Monster Jam truck back flip.”

Well … whether that will be Menninga or another driver, rest assured that when he’s behind the wheel, Menninga tries “to stay really calm. I don’t try to get my nerves too excited. If you stay level-headed, I think you drive better.”

The technique to sustaining his more-than-a-minute nose wheelie, Menninga said, is to keep applying the shift between reverse and drive. “When the truck is on the nose like that it drains the oil out of a spot in the motor.”

“We kind of do a rotation with them,” he said. “I think we’re up to 40 now. Usually about seven are in use at one time.”

Menninga has been a fan of monster trucks since he was about 3 years old and his grandfather took him to a competition in Des Moines, Iowa, where his father “worked on grooming the track and hanging the banners.”

“Tuesday and Wednesday are two of my favorite days of the week,” he said, explaining that’s when he’s back home in Iowa, working construction and driving a Chevrolet pick-up around town.

In Monster Jam’s Triple Threat Series, Menninga will be one of eight competitors “tearing up the dirt in customized, high-powered vehicles,” which include Monster Jam Speedsters and Monster Jam ATVs as well as Monster Jam trucks like El Toro Loco, Grave Digger, Monster Mutt and Alien Invasion.

They will compete for points in Freestyle — that’s Menninga’s favorite event, which he describes as “75 seconds to do whatever you want” — plus 2 Wheel Skills Challenge and several racing competitions that test agility, speed and versatility.

Fans can become part of the action by voting for the winner in the 2-Wheel Skills Challenge and Freestyle competitions via real-time, in-arena fan voting on their smartphones.

Monster Jam will be at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza at 7 p.m. Feb. 14; 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 15 and 1 p.m. Feb. 16. A pit party will be open from 10:30 a.m. to noon Feb. 15 and Feb. 16. Tickets start at $15 for the competition and $12 for a pit party pass. Tickets are available at or at the arena box office.

Congratulations! You are ready to watch the Academy Awards. You have most likely seen more than half of the best picture nominees and are planning a watch party at your house. If you are the type who must watch all the nominated films — even the short ones — you may enjoy a day of streaming some of the documentaries are available for streaming.

“For Sama,” on the crisis in Syria, is on Amazon Prime, “The Edge of Democracy” and “American Factory” are on Netflix and double nominee “Honeyland,” featuring a female beekeeper in North Macedonia, is streaming on Hulu.

You can also travel to Cinemark 20 and XD in Moosic to see the Oscar Shorts program this weekend to see the live-action and animated shorts.

You are pretty close to knowing what’s going on with the Oscars. Some of the best picture nominees seem appealing but you haven’t seen most of them. Plus, you may not have kept an eye on the recent changes and gossip surrounding this year’s field.

Luckily, Cinemark 20 has you covered. Now through Sunday, you can purchase a $35 badge for Oscar Movie Week 2020 to see seven of the best picture nominees and the shorts program. Plus, you can get 50% off any size popcorn if you have the badge and 10 bonus rewards points if you are a Movie Club Member.

Netflix titles “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story” are streaming on that platform and are not part of the deal.

You are a classic Oscars fan. You long for the days where Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin and Bob Hope had hosting duties and you lived for the dance numbers and montages. Maybe this year’s batch of nominees don’t appeal to you, but you may have seen some of the performances.

There’s no rush to see any of them. If you want to enjoy a casual day with Oscar, watch some of the best nominated performances and winners with Turner Classic Movies’ 31 Days of Oscar series throughout the month of February and early March. The Dietrich Theater in Tunkhannock will feature seven films that scored nominations during its winter festival Feb. 21 to March 12.

The Oscars may seem like a snoozefest. None of your favorites get nominated for anything beyond visual effects and sound editing, and you never even heard of most of the films up for best picture.

Don’t worry. This year’s acting field looks as though some of the industry’s most popular actors, actresses and genres will win prize. “Joker” could break through the comic book curse and pick up several trophies on Oscar night. You may even like this year’s ceremony.

PLAINS TWP. —It’s harder to put a sock on with a broken hip, even if you have a “sock donner.” And you might be surprised at the colors urine can come in, from clear to purple to brown.

If you do have to use a sock donner (a long rod with a sort of claw on the end you might want to stick to ankle socks. “It was kind of hard with longer socks,” Crestwood High School Junior Trey Zabroski said after trying the device Tuesday at the Woodlands.

He was one of about 100 students from 12 regional schools participating in Tuesday morning’s AIM HI event, short for Aspirations In Medicine and Healthcare Initiatives, an annual offering from Geisinger to give 10th and 11th grade students an idea of the career options in medicine.

Workshops included information security, physical therapy (the one with the sock donner), lab, infection control, human resources, radiology and genetic research.

Trey already has his future mapped. “I want to be a forensic scientist,” he said. But he saw a lot of value in visiting the various workshops. After all, he figured, any science is beneficial in forensics.

In the medical lab room, Geisinger lab supervisor Jennifer Swire went over an array of tests technicians do that, she pointed out, are the unseen backbone of medical treatment. “When you get sick,” she said, “We’re the ones who figure out what’s wrong so the doctors and nurses can treat it.”

Checking things like blood, urine, stool, and sputum sounds a bit like a “mad scientist,” and Swire was fine with that idea. But she prefers comparison to a crime scene investigator finding the clues that solve the health care case.

She showed plenty of images of blood under a microscope, cultures grown on Petri dishes, and test tubes of urine samples, pointing out how something as simple as the shade of color or shape of a cell can instantly tell her what condition a patient is dealing with.

“Jaundice can actually make it fluorescent, it can glow green,” she noted. “If it’s completely clear you are probably drinking too much water, overhydrating. If it’s brown you are dehydrated.

Among the Petri dishes, one had cultures grown from a cellphone that had been “washed just two hours early.” If you’re a heavy smart phone user, you may not want to know the findings: There was evidence of of “staph, strep … and feces.”

Katrina Concepcion and Emma Thomas donned gloves and did test strip samples of the faux urine. For Emma, it was a window into another aspect of a field she already intends to enter, though she plans to become a biomedical engineer and make prosthetics. For Katrina it was another step in figuring out what she wants to do as she mulls a medical career. “Now I know more about what a lab tech does,” she smiled.

PLAINS TWP. — A taste of Philadelphia has set up shop in the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino, and it replaced a ribbon-cutting with a cutting of a giant cheesesteak.

WILKES-BARRE — City Council on Thursday night approved Mayor George Brown’s $51.9 million balanced budget for this year.

Applications are now available for Luzerne County voters interested in casting their April 28 primary election ballots by mail.

PORT CLINTON — Reading & Northern Railroad announced that it has resolved its amusement tax dispute with Jim Thorpe and will resume passenger rail service to/from Jim Thorpe this Spring.

FORTY FORT — A man from Montgomery County was killed in a two vehicle crash on the North Cross Valley Expressway on Wednesday.

FORTY FORT — Ed Boyle hadn’t seen his childhood home in 84 years, but on Thursday, as he walked through the remodeled homestead of his youth, his memories were crystal clear.

DALLAS — Patrick Musto, a Dallas resident and school board member, announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for the 117th Legislative District seat, currently held by fellow Republican, Rep. Karen Boback.

WILKES-BARRE — For nearly one hour, Brandon Joseph Gambardella listened to family and friends of Anthony Bonney and how the fatal shooting of the teen has affected their lives.

HANOVER TWP. — A man wanted on allegations he attacked an ex-girlfriend when he kicked in a door at her Wilkes-Barre residence in 2016 was captured by township police.

HANOVER TWP. — Times Leader staff writer Ed Lewis was the guest speaker at Wednesday night’s Hanover Township Crime Watch meeting at the township fire headquarters on the San Souci Parkway.

KINGSTON — The Wyoming Valley West School Board continued to answer questions about the fate of the gifted program Wednesday, with one parent asking why letters advising parents that testing of their children was available were not sent home with kindergarten report cards this year.

WILKES-BARRE — A county judge Wednesday tossed a legal filing from a citizen watchdog against a Luzerne County councilman that was originally filed only a day before the most recent general election.

This is an open letter to all of our incumbent legislators on both sides of the aisle, including independents.

If you listen, you can clearly hear groaning and moaning coming from the graves of the former members of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention.

This newspaper has frequently and vocally sung the praises of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Luzerne County.

Bad enough that a tyrant is testing American democracy. Now an oligarch is trying to buy the presidency.

The death of a young Chinese doctor who was silenced by authorities when he tried to warn about the outbreak of the coronavirus has lit up the country’s social media with outrage.

Just about any time in the past half-year that any voter in Iowa or anywhere looked for the latest Joe Biden campaign news as it poured out of the Great News Funnel and onto their news screens or news pages, what they most often saw or heard following Biden’s name was “and his son, Hunter.” And then, “Burisma.”

The Senate’s acquittal of President Donald Trump closes a troubling chapter in our nation’s history and concludes with an acquittal because the process lacked any semblance of due process or evidence and lacked any semblance of a desire to get to the truth.

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Last Sunday’s front page story about Quinn Crispell by staff writer Mary Therese Biebel was more than a feel-good saga of a child with Down syndrome overcoming the many obstacles the condition can throw into a child’s path. It also shows the importance of providing all the help we can to anyone dealing with special needs.

WILKES-BARRE — Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine last week announced a ban on all forms of tobacco, vaping, and e-cigarettes at playgrounds in all state parks.

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