by Emily Armentrout
As the 2014-2015 school year begins, Wabash City Schools begin the new year with plenty of changes. The most prevalent change will be the 4th grade students moving to O.J. Neighbours, with the 5th grade students joining the middle school culture following the closing of W.C. Mills. Other changes include new school times corporation-wide, as well as administration changes and new teachers in each school.
With the closing of W.C. Mills Elementary at the end of the 2013-2014 school year, students knew they would either be heading back to O.J Neighbours or on to Wabash Middle School a year sooner than anticipated.
“As far as the fourth grade staying here, I’m excited about that,” said O.J. Neighbours principal, Danielle Miller. “I know it seems like I’m adding 111 more students, but except for the new move-ins, they’re all students who have already been here, know the procedures, know the building, so for me it’s not going to be a big change, because they are my former students,” continued Miller.
Parents and students had no issues with fourth grade students returning to O.J. Neighbours. The same could not be said about fifth grade students moving up to the middle school sooner than expected.
“Most kids really did look forward to going on to Mills, because it was the “big kids’ school. I thought I would hear more of that, but I really didn’t. Most of the kids I talked to were excited they were going to be able to stay here,” said Miller.
“The middle school environment, I think, is a very high energy, exciting, fast paced moving environment, and that’s a little bit different than the fourth and fifth grade building,” said new Wabash Middle School principal and former W.C. Mills Elementary principal, Mike Mattern. “I’m excited about exposing some of the kids to that type of environment, but yet, still keeping them as a fifth grade unit,” he added.
Mattern, along with the rest of the middle school staff, has changed up the schedule to accommodate the addition of the fifth grade. They have worked on creating a 5th and 6th grade culture, with fifth grade students remaining self-contained as they would have been at W.C. Mills. The students even travel to lunch in their usual class lines, unlike the rest of the middle school, who is dismissed to walk on their own.
“As we’ve told the parents from the beginning, that 5th/6th culture is going to be a part of it; that upper elementary culture. We even changed the 6th grade to where they travel as cohort groups instead of just being mixed from one class to the next,” said Mattern.
Mattern believes that a 5th through 8th middle school is an exciting step for the corporation.
“It’s very exciting actually to have a 5-8 building. There are not very many of them in the state, so we have an opportunity to really revamp a culture, create an awesome community with the whole group, but still meet the needs of the 5th graders and the varied needs of the 8th graders. It will be fun.”
Students seemed to have mixed emotions about the move into the middle school. Fifth grade students Brook Westendorf, Brycen Niccum and Mason Dillon took a few minutes from their first lunch period as middle school students to speak with The Paper about their thoughts on the closing of W.C. Mills and their first day at Wabash Middle School.
“I was kind of excited, because I got to see what the older kids did, but I was nervous and scared, because I didn’t know where anything was or how to do anything here,” Westendorf told The Paper. “I feel less nervous, because a lot of my friends in my class didn’t know anything either, so we’re learning together. I do miss Mills, because there is going to be no more school there, but the middle school is bigger and I like being here.”
“I was kind of happy but kind of sad at the time,” Niccum told The Paper, “because W.C. Mills was right behind our house, so we can’t walk anymore, and there are a lot of bigger kids here, so I was afraid, but the lunch line here is easier,” Niccum added with a laugh. “I like it a lot better than Mills.”
“It’s closer to my house, so I can walk or ride with my brother,” explained Dillon, who was not nervous about his move to the middle school at all. “We haven’t had any homework yet, and lunch is better here than W.C. Mills,” added Dillon.
Another change that O.J. Neighbours Elementary and Wabash Middle School are seeing is the additions of assistant principals. O.J Neighbours’ new assistant principal, Kyle Wieland, moves over from Wabash High School, and Wabash Middle Schools’ assistant principal is Laura Sigler, the former 8th grade math teacher at the middle school.
“The nice thing is, Kyle has already been in the system. He’s familiar with what we do. He’s familiar with our goals and the direction our district is heading, so I was really fortunate when he said he wanted to get elementary experience. It was definitely an easy choice for me,” said Miller of Wieland moving to O.J. Neighbours.
Wieland is the first assistant principal in the history of O.J. Neighbours. His primary responsibilities will be dealing with discipline and handling attendance issues. He has spent 15 years in public education and is going into his fourth year with Wabash City Schools. Becoming assistant principal at O.J. Neighbours will be his first experience on the elementary administration level, but he has coached elementary level students in North Manchester and has experience with his own children at home as well.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to experience a different group of kids and see what I could do to help,” Wieland told The Paper. “Everything I have heard about the staff and what I have experienced so far, it’s just a great group of people who really care about the kids and that’s where my heart is too.”
Wieland received his bachelor’s degree from Indiana University and his master’s degree from Ball State University. He was the high school assistant principal for three years before making the move to O.J. Neighbours.
Wabash Middle School filled their assistant principal vacancy with Laura Sigler. This will be her first year as assistant principal, but this is her 10th year in education. She was an 8th grade math teacher at Wabash Middle School for the past nine years, and though she never imagined stepping away from the classroom, when a former principal suggested the administration path, she took a chance and found a new avenue to continue on in education.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I had my own little classroom set up in my basement when I was in the third or fourth grade. I made my invisible class work as I’d write on the board and I had a teacher’s edition of a science book that I would teach my invisible classes,” Sigler told The Paper.
Once Sigler decided to pursue her master’s degree, she made the decision to head into administration and never looked back. After interning as a vice principal with Wabash City Schools last year, while also teaching full-time, she made it clear she wanted to continue her educational career in administration with the corporation.
“Right after I finished my master’s degree, I was in contact with my principal and Mr. Callahan saying, ‘Look, I want a job in this corporation. This is where my heart is. This is where I feel at home,” added Sigler.
In Wieland’s move to O.J. Neighbours, a vacancy was created at Wabash High School. This position has been filled by longtime Wabash City Schools employee Jeff Galley. Galley has worked with Wabash City Schools as a teacher and worked his way up. Galley began teaching 8th grade U.S. History, then moving to the high school to teach U.S. History, World History and Civil War History. He has been with the corporation for a total of 14 years.
Galley started into education after his own teachers impacted his life in a such a way that encouraged him to want to impact students in the same way.
“I had three really outstanding teachers at Northfield who really made an impact on me. Steve Desper, Barb Bickel and Fred Griffith, they impacted me. They took the time to get to know me. They cared about me,” explained Galley.
Matt Stone, former Wabash City Schools athletic director and new chief business officer for the district feels the same way about education.
“My coaches and teachers made want me to go into education. I wanted to be like them and have the same kind of impact,” Stone told The Paper. Stone made the change from athletic director to chief business officer when Scott Bumgardner, who was set to take over the chief business officer position from recent retiree Jan Roland, resigned from the district to work at Manchester Community Schools.
Stone’s responsibilities as chief business officer will be mostly financial, but he will also be responsible for helping with buildings and grounds and the day-to-day operations of the district to help Superintendant Callahan. Stone also stepped down as Wabash High School boys’ baseball coach to take over as the girls’ basketball coach in Bumgardner’s absence.
“I’ve wanted to get back to basketball since I left as the boys’ coach. In this position (as chief business officer), it will be easier to coach basketball. They play mostly on Saturdays. Baseball was every night. It would have been really tough, especially during the time of year that you’re getting budget stuff ready, to be gone every night for three months,” explained Stone. His head coach position for the boys’ baseball team will be filled by his former assistant coach, Jack Holley.
With Stone’s move into the chief business officer position, that left a vacancy in the athletic director position, which Wabash City Schools filled with Greg Martz, a veteran athletic director with a strong coaching history. “We were really lucky to get a guy like Greg,” Stone told The Paper. “He’s been a head football coach, head track coach, and been athletic director at Frontier High School for nine years.”
Stone joked that his only advice for Martz was to “make Mrs. Fox happy as your assistant.”
Graduating from Huntington University in 1995, education is part of Martz’s family’s legacy.
“My father and mother have been in education. I had a grandma in education. So it made sense for me to follow that path,” explained Martz.
Martz has 20 years of experience in education and looks forward to being in the city school corporation.
“It’s a new challenge for me. It’s one I’m looking forward to. Wabash has had some pretty strong traditions in athletics, and I’m just looking forward to coming here and working with coaches who are highly respected,” added Martz.
With 20 years of experience under his belt, Martz was the defensive coordinator for the Norwell football team when they went to the state championship in 1999. He was the head football coach at Frontier High School for 10 years after that, and as athletic director, he has had a boys’ baseball team make it to semi-state and a girls’ softball team who made it to the state finals in 2008. In 2009, the Frontier’s girls’ basketball team won their first-ever sectional championship, which is something that excites Martz about Wabash.
“Coming here, you see how Wabash embraces traditions of the past. There’s a lot of pride and passion in this community.”
With the new year bringing lots of changes, don’t look for too many changes to come from Martz during this school year. Two changes the community can expect to see is a change to the TRC schedule in the future and head coaches deeper involvement in middle school sports.
“This will be the last year of eight teams in the TRC. Next year, we’ll be adding Peru and Maconaquah. The biggest thing people will see is schedule changes with who we’re playing, when we’re playing and that will be different. Also, I am big on head coaches being really involved in the middle school. I’m not saying that wasn’t done here, but coming from Frontier, which is a really, really small school compared to Wabash, we had to have a lot more involvement, so that will be something that I will tweak a little,” explained Martz.
With administration shifts and teacher retirements, there will be some new faces in the Wabash City Schools teaching staff as well. At O.J. Neighbours, along with the fourth grade teachers who moved over from W.C. Mills, there are five new teachers and a new paraprofessional on the roster. Alicia Draper, a former aide for O.J., will be teaching 2nd grade. Lindsey Wilson is a new 3rd grade teacher for the district, with Barbara Keffaber joining the 4th grade teachers. Krista Dean will be the new PALS teacher after her 3rd grade maternity leave coverage ends, and with Dawn Saunders move from the physical education teaching position to the secretary position at the high school, Patty Meagher will be taking over as the physical education teacher. They also add Kelly Karns to their staff as their newest paraprofessional.
Wabash Middle School will be adding three new teachers to their staff, along with the teachers who moved over from W.C Mills. Two of their three new employees are former graduates of Wabash High School. Tyler Olson, who will be teaching 6th grade math, and Rachelle Indrutz, who will be teaching 8th and 9th grade English, both went through the WCS system. Also joining the 8th grade team is Donovan Gentis. Gentis will be teaching 8th grade social studies. Brady McClure also moved over from the high school to teach 8th grade math after Laura Sigler became assistant principal.
The high school staff has a few new additions to their roster as well. Brooklyn Short, a former Wabash graduate, will be part of the math department, with Carly Vogel working in the art department. Matthew Mindach is a new addition to the science department and Erin Sapusek is the newest addition to the Wabash High School English department.
Sapusek joins Wabash City Schools from Northfield High School.
“I had fully intended to turn the job down if offered, and then I got the phone call, offering me the job, and my mouth said ‘I would love to’ before I even had a chance to think about it. I’m excited to see where my brain and heart are taking me because I think it’s going to be a great year,” Sapusek told The Paper.
With the highly publicized MSD book debate behind her, Sapusek was nervous and excited about the new school year. “These kids I’m going to have are no different than the kids I had at Northfield. I mean, we’re all basically the same. Kids are all basically the same wherever you go,” explained Sapusek. “It’s weird, because I’m the new kid in town. I don’t know what to expect, but it makes me a mess to think about it. This is ironic. The one book that was just pulled from the list at MSD – even though it was approved to go to the committee – It got pulled, it’s taught here, regularly. I get to teach it. That’s kind of fun.”
Though leaving Northfield High School was a tough decision, Sapusek is looking forward to what this district has to offer and what she can offer this district.
“I get to use both of my passions because of this Ivy Tech dual credit course. Instead of doing papers, they’re going to do public speaking or debates. ‘You mean if I teach ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, I can have them get up and we can do the trial scene?’ That’s just so cool,” Sapusek told The Paper. “We’re getting away from writing proper. There’s still a ton of writing. Writing a speech is like writing a paper. You still have to think of all the words, you just don’t have to put them into flowy sentences. We’re still going to read novels and poems and short stories. They aren’t getting out of English. They are just being assessed differently.”
Sapusek’s goal is to help her students feel comfortable in their environment, to avoid kids feeling more like getting a zero than getting up and giving a speech.
“Usually, I can get more out of your kids than you think I can. It may not be what you want, but I can get more out of them than you think,” added Sapusek.
With administration and staff changes, fourth grade at O.J. Neighbours, fifth grade at Wabash Middle School, new coaches, and familiar faces returning to the district, what other changes are happening in the WCS corporation? Just one minor change and one major change. If you call any of the Wabash City School numbers, you will now be directed to the Wabash City Schools phone system, where you can press ‘1’ for current weather related information, ‘2’ for Wabash High School and so on. This is a simple, step-by-step system, directing you more accurately to whomever you need to speak with for whatever issue you are seeking to resolve.
The larger, more noticeable change is the new corporation-wide start and end times. The individual schools used to start between 7:45 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. and end eight hours later. The entire corporation will now begin at 8:35 a.m. and end at 3:35 p.m.
“This is something we’ve talked about in the district for a while. A lot of schools have done this, because it helps attendance. Studies show that a later start time helps students. We’re interested to see how this pans out over time,” Galley told The Paper.
For more information on the changes that Wabash City Schools are going through, contact Wabash City Schools at 260-563-2151 or visit apaches.k12.in.us.