Yoder to replace Neff as coach

NAPPANEE — When legendary Wa-Nee teacher and coach Steve Neff announced that the 2013-14 girls basketball season would be his last at NorthWood High School, it was a very bittersweet occasion.
The administration and school board were faced with what could have been a very daunting decision.
How does one go about selecting a candidate that would be worthy of continuing a victorious momentum spanning nearly four decades?
Who would be able to carry the proverbial torch for an enduring program of class and competition that includes nearly 650 wins, almost two dozen sectional championships and a state title?
Thankfully, the answer was within easy reach. With the resounding support and approval of the entire NorthWood community, along with Neff himself, Adam Yoder was chosen to be the successor, in a unanimous vote from the Wa-Nee Community Schools Board of Trustees during a meeting on June 10.
Yoder has served as both head coach and assistant coach in various capacities for NorthWood over the past decade.
His coaching career extends to a regional scope as well, in having worked with his alma mater, Bremen High School, from which he graduated in 1998.
Most recently, Yoder received accolades as Coach of the Year for inspiring the NorthWood girls golf team to a state championship, something that has never been accomplished in the school’s history.
Yoder will continue serving as the girls junior varsity coach during the 2013-14 year, while his official capacity with the varsity team will be that of coach-in-waiting.
NorthWood High School Athletic Director Norm Sellers spoke with the board about the process through which Yoder emerged as the best and most qualified choice to lead the squad in the 2014-15 season.
Sellers talked about Yoder’s tenure at NorthWood, and the influence he has had while working with youth within the field of athletics and beyond.
“Adam is an outstanding teacher at NorthWood High School for the past nine years, (and he) has been a part of the NorthWood girls basketball program for the past six years,” Sellers said. “He has had extensive successful basketball coaching experiences prior to coming to NorthWood.”
Because Yoder and Neff have formed such a close and unique partnership in coaching over the years, Yoder has already mastered much of what is required to fill such an integral leadership role, Sellers said.
“Adam has been in charge of our summer girls basketball program for the past three years and has taken our girls teams to numerous camps and tournaments to compete,” Sellers said. “Adam has also been instrumental in developing game plans that have led our girls basketball program to the regional championship three out of the last four years,” Sellers continued. “Another characteristic that has rung true throughout this process is Adam’s ability to care for kids outside the realm of athletics.
“In my observations and conversations with Adam, I can verify that he has an undying love for the sport of basketball and NorthWood student athletes,” Sellers said. “Make no mistake about it, that we both understand the pressure that comes with replacing a legend like Steve Neff, but I am confident that Adam will be able to fill this role confidently.”
Yoder himself was on hand to address the board, taking time prior to his remarks by shaking the hands of each member before proclaiming his gratitude.
“Everyone has been so supportive of me as I’ve pursued my dream to be basketball coach,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough. I really appreciate all your faith in me. I’m very excited.”
In the near future, Yoder added, he’s more than happy to work alongside Neff in his finale season.
“Of course, it’s still a year away. We’ve got a lot of winning to do,” Yoder said.
New NWMS Assistant Principal
With the recent administrative changes at NorthWood Middle School, a vacancy was created for the position of assistant principal/athletic director.
Bart Rice, who had previously served in that post, is now the NWMS principal, replacing the retiring George Roelandts.
Rice was the one who addressed the board on behalf of the hiring committee, which was comprised of about a dozen staff members and administrators for the middle school.
Rice said that there were 21 applicants expressing an interest in the position, with five moving on for further interviews.
As the selection process narrowed, Rice indicated that the committee opted to give an endorsement to NWMS educator Kyle Martin.
“All of his references were checked and he was seen as someone they would all hire if they had the chance,” Rice told the board. “There was not one reference that had any reservations or concerns about his ability to fill this position.”
The board subsequently voted in favor of the recommendation to hire Martin, then allowed him the opportunity to express his thoughts.
Martin thanked the members individually with a round of handshakes before speaking.
“This was a decision where the timing worked out well for me,” Martin said. “I had taught and coached for 10 years and I had gone back to school for my administrative degree.
“It was time for me to move on and do something different, yet I can still be helping kids,” he continued. “It’s always been my passion. I’m extremely honored to have this position, and I look forward to getting started.”
Attendance and Enrollment
Director of Curriculum Jim Bennett presented the board with some attendance statistics for the third grading period of the 2012-13 school year.
The numbers were encouraging overall, with each of the five district schools posting a daily average attendance rate of 95-97 percent.
Members were disappointed, however, to see the projected enrollment for the 2013-14 year, with an estimated regional drop of just over 100 students.
“Obviously, this is not good news,” said Superintendent Joe Sabo, noting that a loss of students translates to a loss of funding.
The members speculated on several plausible theories to account for the downward slip, the most likely factor being the continued uncertainty of the economic climate.
The most significant gap was visible at the high school level, with speculation ranging from Amish youth not pursuing high school studies to dropouts to students relocating outside of the district. Other students have taken use of the voucher program and transferred to parochial schools.
The board expressed optimism that the recent developments in the recreational vehicle sector might be a lure for families to return to Wa-Nee.
Bennett said that the first official student count will take place in September, so the picture will be clearer then as to enrollment trends.
Other Student Reports
 Sabo shared some additional reports with the board, one of which detailed the successes of the alternative school, designed for students who have difficulty assimilating to a traditional classroom routine.
Of the 58 total students participating, 29 were classified as seniors, 17 as juniors, along with two sophomores and 10 freshmen.
Twenty-four of the scholars earned a diploma, with six others reaching their goals as outlined in their individual service plan, or ISP.
Eleven fell short of satisfactory ISP progress, with one making considerable progress toward their ISP.
Eight others transferred out or returned to other schools, five more dropped out and three were expelled from the program.
 The other report featured the outcome of random drug tests administered during the 2012-13 school year.
Over nine different dates of testing, 160 total students were tested.
Fifteen of the tests had a positive reading, with 13 of those results attributed to prescription medications.
One senior male tested positive for cannabinoids and nicotine, while a junior female tested positive for cannabinoids.
Both were subjected to disciplinary action.
Staffing Changes and Other Items
Several changes in staffing issues were approved by the board, including:
- hiring Sarah Chupp, eighth-grade math teacher at NWMS;
- hiring Leslie Yoder, temporary guidance counselor at NWMS;
- hiring Trevor Shields, social studies at NWHS, all effective Aug. 14;
- hiring Roy Slagle as a summer custodian, effective June 3;
- the resignation of Sharon Lechlitner, second-grade teacher at WES;
- the resignation of Doug Steele, part-time custodian at NWMS;
- the resignation of Hannah Brown, part-time custodian at WES;
- the resignation of Amy Schwartz, full-time cafeteria and summer custodian at NWMS;
- and the resignation of Scott Mikel, NWHS boys track head coach, all effective May 31;
- the transfer of Connie Swihart from media assistant to media clerk at NWMS;
- the transfer of Karen Graybill from cafeteria manager to full-time cafe worker;
- and the transfer of Gina Royster from part-rime cafe worker to full-time cafe worker, all effective Aug. 14.
A public hearing was also held regarding the renewal of the contract between the school corporation and Superintendent Joe Sabo.
No one from the public was present to voice concerns, so Sabo’s contract was extended for a three-year period, July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2016.
The board also approved advertising for bids for another phase of the ongoing construction and renovation efforts taking place throughout the district.
This latest project will focus on reworking former office space at NWHS that will be vacated when the new office wing is completed.
Plans call for the space to be dedicated for the use of special education classrooms and functional skills studies, along with a new dining area for the faculty.
 Also included in the next level of renovations will be a new boiler for Wakarusa Elementary School. Bids will be accepted until 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 10.
The next school board meeting is 6 p.m. Monday, June 24 at the administration building.