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Back to School

Posted August 15, 2012 in Winterset

Winterset historically has baulked at the “in with the new, out with the old” theory, and, instead, will opt passionately to rally in favor of keeping the old as something new.

Susie Meade replaces Mike Wells as the Winterset School District Superintendent. Meade comes to Winterset from the Ankeny school system where she previously served as assistant superintendent.

A great example of this would be the old/original high school building at 110 W. Washington. Built in 1920 and dedicated as the “new” Winterset High School building on April 15, 1921, this stately structure, after standing tall for nearly a century, was in jeopardy of losing its merit of worth — no one seemed to know just what to do with the aging behemoth.

Fortunately, the night in shining armor, in this case, turned out to be the educational system itself. Those four brick walls lent themselves perfectly as the new central hub and backbone of the school system. It only required a moderate amount of remodeling for the old Winterset High School building to resurface in January 2011 as the new Madison County Career Academy/Administration building.

 The educational icon now houses the school system’s administration staff, plus a wide variety of academy classrooms designed to teach students employable skills. The academy is a collaborative effort of local schools that focus on vocational training that earns students both high school and college credits while learning skills such as culinary arts, electrical and building trades, and certified nursing assistants (CNA) skills. This year the academy offers two additional classes: a Network Plus tech course that delves into computer hardware basics, and the Early Childhood Development/education classes where students will balance their studies between the academy classroom site and the more interactive elementary classrooms.

Culinary arts is one of the new classes offered at the Madison County Academy. Remodeling the old home economics area provided a modernized space complete with a teaching culinary kitchen and dining room.

The multi-level structure also houses the CRISP (Community Resource in Service to People Inc.) organization; and the child and adult care food programs. This still leaves additional rooms for school board meetings and other special events.

New superintendent
When the new high school doors opened that very first day in 1921, it was Mr. M. R. Hassel who stood at the helm as Winterset school’s superintendent. Hassel proved to be very instrumental in setting the bar high for all future superintendents of the Winterset schools.  At the start of this year’s school season, for the first time, a woman will take over the reins and accept the educational challenges that come with the 21st Century. Dr. Susie Meade replaces Mike Wells who has taken a position at Cedar Falls School District. Meade comes to Winterset from the Ankeny school system where she previously served as assistant superintendent. She and her husband lived in Des Moines, and he has commuted for the past four years to his office at Winterset Agriland — FS, while she has commuted to the Ankeny schools.

“It is so nice to become a part of this community and a school system with third, fourth and even fifth generations who know these walls and the rich history,” says Meade.

Meade also says she believes the Madison County Career Academy is what sets Winterset’s School District apart.

“There are a lot of unique opportunities here for the students, and together we can align and harmonize the Winterset High School curriculum to the Iowa Core curriculum,” says Meade.

And history begets history…
John N. Hartley, class historian, wrote in the 1921 WHS Boomerang, Volume One…
“We were beginning our Freshman year. We had taken our respective seats on the west side of the big assembly and awaited in joyous anticipation — what was to follow. We were green at this new game. The Sophomores were the seasoned troops, while the Juniors were the experienced and roughened veterans. The Seniors were the Generals; clad in the beautiful and gorgeous robes of intelligence and integrity. They were, to us, supermen.”

Four years later, Hartley wrote… “We shall now pass on with the many others who have gone forth from these doors, to the waiting arms of disappointment, poverty, and suffering; or to riches, happiness and health. We leave you, old school, with a deeply rooted determination that we shall never cause you to regret that you harbored us; while, within these walls, we were laying the foundation that may carry our deeds eternally to be carved in the great Hall of Fame, ‘America.’ ”

Hello, goodbye… it’s back to school time
As a result of a very large retiree pool, there will be dozens of new faces on staff this year, all filling a variety of voids throughout the working school system. The district will say goodbye to Molly Clark, as she retires as junior high principal, a positions she’s held since 1986. Winterset also welcomes Kate Wharton, former assistant principal of Hoover, as she steps in to take over for Clark.

Phase III nears completion
The last of the school’s three-tier improvement project comes to an end as the final construction wraps up on the new cafeteria expansion at the high school. The additional space will house four new and much-needed student classrooms and, at the same time, resolve the overcrowding issue in the cafeteria that came on the heels of period cuts and subsequent combining of lunch periods.

The last part of the school’s three-tier improvement project will be finishing soon. The additional space will provide four classrooms and help solve the overcrowding issue in the cafeteria.

“We dropped in a corridor adjacent to the Henry Miller Auditorium, and three of the four new classrooms will be housed there. The fourth classroom is a specialty classroom and is adjacent to the cafeteria,” explains Randy Jeffs, Director of Operations.

Unfortunately, the expansion phase required the removal of the existing and very popular showcases that expanded one entire wall of the cafeteria. However, according to Jeffs, the Alumni Association has already stepped up to the plate on this and provided the necessary funding for spectacular, new oak display cases to be constructed by local craftsman Mark Ellwanger.

These new cases will go on display now in the old chorus room where the risers have been leveled to make way for a showroom of the school’s treasured memorabilia — a true homage to the many successful school programs throughout the system. The new room also provides space for a designated concession stand area to be used during future school activities.

Wer ist dein Lehrer? (This translates to“who is your teacher?” in German.)
Another something-new this year will be the addition of High School German language class, which will be taught by Heather Riley. Riley is part of the shared teacher program working with other nearby districts.

Closing the digital divide
The one-on-one laptop initiative also continues this year with the addition of approximately 517 new personal Macintosh laptops assigned to high school students. Last year, the fledgling program was launched as nearly 280 personal laptops were issued to the junior high students. Cheryl Fletcher, another new face this year as the new tech coordinator, looks forward to working with the students and their teachers as they integrate technology into their lesson programs.

“Good teaching is good teaching. We can never replace that, but we can offer students tools to enhance those teachings,” she says. “The personal laptops will help to extend the content of the classroom textbooks by offering valuable research capabilities, and/or live visual demonstrations.”

Mr. ‘C’ leaves big shoes to fill
Randy McDonald has been a familiar face in the school system for 21 years, serving in the classroom as science teacher, in the gym as physical education instructor, and on the mat as wrestling coach.  But this year marks his greatest challenge as he takes over for Gary Christianson as activities director for grades 7 through 12.

“I’m really looking forward to continuing to build on the relationships for athletics and activities, and continuing the excellent traditions already in place,” says McDonald.

Some of the duties of the activities director include class sponsorships in clubs, fine arts, athletics, drama, speech, outside classrooms.

“I’ve got a full plate,” says McDonald, “and a lot of procedures and protocol to still learn, but it’s going to be a fun and exciting challenge, one that I will look forward to, every day.”

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