WHS peer autism team draws praise

Murphy speaks out about SCOL situation

By Gary Huffenberger - ghuffenberger@civitasmedia.com

WILMINGTON — The Wilmington City Schools (WCS) coordinator of special education and pupil services spoke Monday about how involved the members of the WHS Peer Autism Team are when they’re among students with autism.

“These students have shown a great excitement and motivation toward working with our students with disabilities,” said Natalie Harmeling.

Those peer autism relations have occurred in various situations, including the classroom, field trips, basketball games and holiday parties, Harmeling said.

“They’ve taken on leadership roles, and become independent with their communication and interaction with our students [with autism],” she added.

Harmeling said she sees a lot of natural teaching ability from the peer autism team members.

WCS Superintendent Ron Sexton related that a parent of a multi-handicap student told him the 2015-16 academic year has been her son’s greatest year in high school because of what the team members have done.

“How important it is going to a ballgame as a multi-handicap student and sitting in the stands with your peers. So, thank you,” the superintendent remarked during Monday’s school board meeting.

This is the fourth year for a peer autism team at WCS, starting with grades 3 through 5.

The 2015-16 WHS Peer Autism Team is comprised of Allison Brooks, Chloe Millam-Smart, Isabel Thomas, Drezden Beam, Bridgette Thompson, Sarah Waln, Keeley Allen, Ryan Hottinger, Cassidy Maynard, Mollie Roehm, Camryn Barton, Sydney Wright, Madison Adkins and Sabrina Bowman.

They were introduced and publicly recognized at the board meeting. The two school staffers who lead the group are Cindy Morris and Emily Schmetzer.

Later, Harmeling presented WHS student Andrew Thompson with a certificate recognizing him as the Clinton County recipient of an Ohio Region 14 State Support Team / Hopewell Center’s Exceptional Award.

Describing him as “outgoing, mature, hardworking and kind,” Harmeling said Thompson organizes lost and found items at the school, makes lunchtime announcements about the items and also volunteers as an aide in the front office.

In WCS personnel action, Holmes Elementary Principal Carrie Zeigler was awarded a three-year contract Monday by the school board.

Wilmington Middle School Principal Jeffrey Sherby received a one-year contract. And James Schutte, WCS supervisor of buildings and grounds, received a three-year contract.

The board of education accepted three resignations, effective this summer: Denver and East End Elementaries music teacher Margaret Roeth, Holmes Elementary teacher Jennifer Wygladalski, and East End Elementary intervention specialist Brooke Osterbrock.

After a recommendation by Sexton, the board voted 4-0 to adopt a resolution to join the Southern Buckeye Athletic & Academic Conference (SBAAC), while at the same time maintaining membership in the South Central Ohio League (SCOL).

As a result, Hurricane student-athletes will compete in the SBAAC beginning in fall 2017, as News Journal Sports Editor Mark Huber reported in the Tuesday print edition.

Clinton-Massie and East Clinton school boards took similar official actions last week to join the SBAAC, in the wake of five current SCOL schools announcing they will leave the SCOL.

After the WCS board’s vote, board Vice President Steve Murphy said he appreciated the extra work the superintendent, high school principal and athletic director had done in a short period of time so that the board could make an informed decision.

After saying such league changes are never easy, Murphy added, “It’s too bad we had to be put in that situation by a bunch of classless people that were in our league. But you know sometimes that’s the way cowards do things. [It’s] Water over the dam; we’re going to move on and make the best of it.”

In other board news:

With the arrival of 10 new school buses, WCS has one former bus for sale, one bus to be sold to Fairfield Local Schools, while the eight others were sold to Cardinal when WCS received the new buses.

The board approved renewing a contract with Sodexo for food service management for one year.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.

Murphy speaks out about SCOL situation

By Gary Huffenberger