Ferry schools mourning loss of teacher

DEATH always yield sadness. Some more painful than others.

The Martins Ferry School District is currently dealing with one of gut-wrenching proportions. The district lost one of its most beloved and highly respected teachers on March 9. That is the day Jeannie (Boehm) Splenda died unexpectedly.

She was just 48. Jeannie positively impacted countless students’ lives during her teaching career. She had much more to give. Unfortunately, death can come calling much too soon.

Her positive, giving and selfless lifestyle was not contained just in her fifth-grade classroom. Jeannie made a positive difference in anyone that came into her life.

She was a teacher’s teacher, a loving mother and individual who made everyone feel better, no matter how bad she may be feeling.

Jeannie was such an integral part of the Ferry school system that a memorial service was held at the school campus Friday morning.

“Jeannie would do anything for the kids or the school,” said Middle School Principal Mike Delatore. “She would work all summer long preparing curriculum and class projects for her students.

“She would sing the national anthem for the school events while also writing and directing plays,” he added. “Jeannie would always brighten your day. She was one in a million.”

Jeannie began teaching at Ferry schools in 1999. In her 13-year tenure, she made a lasting impression.

“Mrs. Splenda was a very innovative math teacher and excelled in her field. She spent a great deal of time preparing her craft so that each student was engaged and learning,” said Ferry District Superintendent Dirk Fitch. “But just as important, she was someone any student or staff member could go to if they were having a difficult time.

“Mrs. Splenda would search out those students that may be experiencing difficulty and try to make the time they spent in school the best part of their day,” he added. “Although she is now gone, we that remain can honor her memory by being the best we can be whether that is a student or educator.”

In addition to her teaching duties, Jeannie was involved in a myriad of activities. She was on the parish council at Martins Ferry St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a member of the Secular Franciscan order and a book club member.

“Jeannie was truly one of a kind when it comes to education. The energy and enthusiasm she portrayed when she was teaching seemed endless. She certainly shared her faith in God through her kindness and caring for anyone she met,” said Vicki Falcone, Martins Ferry’s guidance counselor. “In education today this is a critical attribute for teachers. Too often we are the only positive force some of our students experience in their daily lives.

“Jeannie made sure that she touched all of her students in many ways. She was more than a math teacher to them,” Falcone added. “She was someone who genuinely cared for the total student.”

Teachers shoulder the responsibility of molding and shaping students, helping to determine their lifelong course. Jeannie Splenda did it as well as anyone.

I have had the opportunity to talk to several of her former students since her death. They all sang her praises in glowing terms, reaffirming that she was a teacher like few are.

I never had the opportunity to meet Jeannie. For that, I will always be disappointed.


A BELLAIRE native is the new president of the Noble County Chamber of Commerce.

Terry Rataiczak was recently elected to that post. He is owner of Kinetic Networking and Fatlink, an Information Technology consulting company and Managed Services Provider dedicated to providing innovative and effective solutions to a wide range of businesses.

Terry also designed the massive OVAC website and still maintains it. Terry’s dad, Tom, is the czar of the 50-team conference.

Terry, a Bellaire High and Wheeling Jesuit graduate, is also on the executive committee of the chamber of commerce in Marietta. Terry’s parents and sister all reside in the Rock Hill section of Bellaire.


RENO SACCOCCIA and a former Ohio State quarterback will be honored at the 32nd Annual Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction and Recognition Awards Ceremony.

The inductions will be held Saturday, May 12 at 11 a.m. in the Great Hall of the Sen. John Heinz History Center and Sports Museum in Pittsburgh.

Saccoccia, the ultimate successful coach of Steubenville Big Red, will receive the 2012 Coaches Ohio Achievement Award. It signifies his leadership, determination, fortitude and success with Steubenville football.

MEANWHILE, Cornelius Green, former Ohio State standout QB, will be inducted into the Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame. He had NFL cups of coffee with the Cowboys, Seahawks and Jets while also playing in the minors with the Columbus (Ohio) Metros.

Green will be joined by three other hall enshrinees: Mark Capuano (N.C. State linebacker), Wesley Cates (Western Michigan running back), and Carl Crawley Jr. (California U. of Pa. defensive tackle and kicker.)

Capuano had a tryout with the Steelers before playing with the Sto-Rox Rangers; Cates was in the Browns’ and Lions’ camps before playing with the Columbus Metros while Crawley Jr. was a Wheeling Ironmen performer after tryouts with the Steelers and Seahawks.

Saccoccia, who has three state grid titles on his Big Red resume, is one of four award recipients. Robert J. Garritano is the recipient of the Ray Mansfield Award for significant contributions to youth and community. Former Steelers’ great Robin Cole is receiving the 2012 Leather Helmet Award for demonstrating caring and commitment, and significant contributions, to charitable causes. Jack McCurry will receive the 2012 Coaches Pennsylvania Award for his North Hills High success.

Anyone wishing ticket information, call Tom Averell at 412-327-8586.


THE BELLAIRE Chamber of Commerce held its monthly luncheon meeting Thursday at the public library. The chamber is growing stronger, as it boasts healthy coffers and a booming membership. The chamber now has 97 members, up 20 from a year ago.

TIMING IS everything. I had a per chance meeting with former Martins Ferry and Ohio University grid great Chad Brinker. He stopped by Purple Rider Stadium Thursday afternoon to pay a visit to his former high school coach Dave Bruney while I was in the complex named after Bruney. Chad is now in the Green Bay Packers’ front office. He is still in prime-time physical condition. Chad was in the area en route to Morgantown to take part in a Pro Day workout Friday. Chad was to examine draft-eligible Mountaineers. Chad says the Packers keep him quite busy as he works in both the pro and collegiate aspects for the legendary franchise.

A RECENT survey revealed the median age of American residents is 37. Ohio is a little older than the norm at 38.8. West Virginia is much older at 41.3. Alaskans and D.C. residents are the pups at 33.8.

NEARLY TWO weeks after the primary election in Ohio, a scattering of political signs can be found long roadways in several local communities.

OHIO GOV. John Kasich appears to be taking a liking to Eastern Ohio. After delivering his State of the State address at Wells Academy in Steubenville, the first-term Republican governor returned to the Ohio Valley Tuesday. This time, he was in Cadiz in conjunction with the opening of a MarkWest field office. Kasich may be making Eastern Ohio a priority, but he has a lot of schmoozing to do to capture local support after his passionate anti-union fight last year.

I WAS disappointed to see Luke Johnson step down as Barnesville head football coach. Luke was one of my favorite coaches to deal with in my reporting duties. The former Mentor High grid great was professional and approachable when dealing with the media. He brought a toughness to the Shamrocks’ grid program while also have a great rapport with his players. His 2006 team that went 10-0 and made the state playoffs will always be remembered in the Land of the Pumpkins as a special magical squad. Luke also had a successful run as the Shamrocks’ head mat boss. We wish Luke the best in his future endeavors and we hope a return to coaching is in his future.

IT WAS noted at Monday’s Martins Ferry Board of Education meeting that the football stadium at the Dave Bruney Athletic Complex is being used by the Wheeling Jesuit University lacrosse team. It a positive move by both entities. WJU gets to play at a state-of-the-art facility while the Martins Ferry School District picks up a nice rental stipend.

Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleaderonline.com