LTES Students Perform Poetry Skits

Second-graders at Liberty Tree Elementary School (LTES) starred in their own Hollywood-style production May 29, complete with a red carpet and flashing cameras.

The students, under the direction of teacher Misty Miller, performed 10 poetry plays for an audience of parents and family members. The production included humorous skits and rhymes on topics ranging from brushing your teeth to homework.

Remembering Olentangy’s One-Building Roots

The Olentimers

The “Olentimers” — teachers, administrators, secretaries, aides, transportation personnel, food service and maintenance employees who worked in the Olentangy Local School district when it operated entirely out of one school building. Front row, from left: Linda Reda, Jodie Clark, Debbie Matix, Beth Warner, Deb Garverick, Sonya Harle, Jane Ensminger, Barb Wenzel. Middle row: Rose Bartley, JoEllen Rogers, Deborah Williamson, Sue Andrews, Marilyn LeMaster, Connie Wells, JoAnne Lane, Carol Flowers, Cindy Rooney, Elaine Eddy, Dora D’Amato, Jeff Riley. Back row: David Hinds, William Freeman, Deryll Rohda, Roland D’Amato, Dale Hartman, Sam Lehman, Ed Terwilliger, Dave Maloney, Doug Wiles, Hap Helfrich, Mike Naveau. Olentimers not pictured include: Ray Bivens, Tom Hesse, Rick Middleton, Lisa McNamara Simila, Lana Lowary, Fred Chittock, Dwight Dewese, Cathy Beck, Nancy Patterson, Heidi Steitz, Erlene Breckler, Judy Moore, Karen Winand, Linda Williams, Clarice Budd, Mark Curtis, Curt Ehlenbach, Julie Blackford, Kelvin Henry, Jill Simpson, Jane Spring, Kathleen Staten, Beth Phillips, Scott Shively, David Forney, Maureen Vaughn, Michael Miller and Lori Kipfer.

If you live in the Olentangy Local School District, chances are you’ve heard about its rapid growth — the statistics and numbers that reflect its rise from a one-building district to the eighth largest in the state. But hearing about the transformation and living through it are two very different things.

The numbers can’t tell the human side of Olentangy’s story, but a select group of people know the tale. They are the bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, aides, food service employees, maintenance crews and administrators who worked at Olentangy in and prior to 1989 — the last year the district operated entirely out of what is now Shanahan Middle School.

They call themselves the “Olentimers,” and there are more than 70 of them around today, including many who still work in the district. They recently shared their memories of what it was like at Olentangy before the growth spurt that added more than 16,000 students and 23 school buildings to the district.

Bob Thompson began his employment with Olentangy in 1980 when he was hired as the assistant principal for grades 7-12. In those days, however, staff members often took on dual responsibilities and Thompson was a man who wore many hats. In addition to being the assistant principal, Thompson simultaneously served as Olentangy’s athletic director, its director of transportation and its middle school principal. As Thompson tells it, Olentangy wasn’t exactly the ideal working environment from a facilities perspective back before Shanahan was remodeled and brought up to date. But it was all part of Olentangy’s charm.

“In those days, surrounding schools sometimes referred to Olentangy as “Old n’ Scrungy,” a nickname not totally undeserved,” Thompson said. “There was a maintenance and custodial staff of only four. The roof leaked so badly that there were buckets and trash cans quickly — but strategically — dispersed in the hallways and classrooms to catch the rain during storms … and there were roaches the size of Chihuahuas!”

Thompson and others also recalled one rather unusual feature at the school. In fact, it was the memory most cited by Olentimers. For some reason, which no one could explain, parts of the school’s hallways were carpeted. Over the years, the carpet became rippled, worn and separated from its backing, as JoAnne Lane, who was first hired to teach at Olentangy in 1974, remembered. The old carpet made for adventurous hallway trips, she said.

“If you had a cart you were rolling down the hallway, it would bounce and turn all the way down! It was so noisy,” Lane said. “It was good that in later years it was replaced with tile because it became rather dangerous.”

And while carpet was available at the school, other more traditional school building features were sometimes absent. But the staff and students always persevered, or at least adapted. “Because there was no PA system or fire alarms in the temporary module units back then, the school librarian would open her window and wave her arms at us, yelling ‘fire drill!’ Lane said.

original shanahan

The original Shanahan school building shown here in 1953.

Getting classrooms ready for students also required a bit more elbow grease in those days. That job fell to teachers like Jayne Ensminger, who was hired in 1984 at an annual salary of $17,000. “I painted my classroom and bookshelves and covered my desk and filing cabinet with contact paper because they were rusted,” Ensminger recalled. “I had to write a requisition to the school board for a set of dictionaries.”

Making do with less often made for long days, and in some cases, more Olentangy memories, as is the case for Heidi Steitz, who started her career in Olentangy in 1987. “One time I worked too long after school and couldn’t get out of my classroom because the floor outside my door had been waxed. I ended up crawling out the window! Good thing it was on the first floor,” Steitz said.

Still others recalled the teaching staff’s daily pilgrimage from the high school side of the building to the elementary side for lunch. The servings were bigger on the elementary side, said Lana Lowary, an Olentangy teacher since 1981. Often those servings included food that came straight from the cafeteria staff’s own gardens, added Dwight Dewese, a math teacher with the district since 1985.

It is that type of quaint charm that the Olentimers cite as being among their favorite memories. The traditions and personalities — the annual school board-hosted staff picnics and middle school secretary Sarah Wilson’s routine of placing a warm homemade cookie in the teacher’s mailboxes, for example — that made Olentangy such a great place to work.

The same is true of longtime district bus drivers like Jo Ellen Rogers and Linda Reda, who remember when they were required to park their buses at home after school because the district did not have enough space for its fleet of 14 buses. The district has 165 buses today.

As Olentangy was changing, so too was Delaware County. In 1989, large portions of the county were still zoned as rural agricultural, which meant a good portion of the student body was involved in farming. That aspect of the district sometimes made its way into the classroom, recalled Olentangy High School drama teacher David Hinds.

“There used to be mud in the hallways every morning because the kids worked on their farms before coming to school,” said Hinds, who has been working at Olentangy since 1985. “Some students would bring their rifles to school to show us how to clean a gun for their demonstration speeches and no one thought twice about it.”

But the most consistent theme cited by those who remember is the sense of community that came with working in a small, one-building school district. Everyone at Olentangy in the pre-growth days did, in fact, know your name.

“Back then you knew the students by name and face,” recalled Roland D’Amato, a math teacher for the district since 1987. Those students included one Gary Vernon, better known today as country music star Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts. “All his teachers kept telling him he needed to have a plan B for when he gave up his silly fantasy of being a country singer,” D’Amato said.

“Those pre-growth years were a very happy time,” added Dave Maloney, a teacher for the district since 1988. “We were small, everybody knew everybody else and the caring and real love for each other was always evident. We knew about families, did things socially and it was a closely-knit staff.”

Olentangy was truly a family of its own in those days, recalled Barb Wenzel, an Olentangy teacher since 1989. “The thing that is most memorable is the incredible closeness and camaraderie of the staff, as well as the Olentangy families.
We knew all the children and who their parents were as well as the younger siblings. The students and families also knew every teacher and many of their spouses as well.”

Given the district’s expansion since 1989, Olentangy could have been a challenging place to work. But to the contrary, it was a great place to work, said Thompson, who shared a sentiment expressed  by all of the Olentimers — pride.

“Through unwavering support, and hard work, Olentangy has become one of the best school districts in the nation, and I feel extremely fortunate to have been part of that process,” Thompson said.

And while Olentangy is no longer a small district, it has retained much of the atmosphere that existed before its fast-paced expansion. In fact, many of those same traits that made Olentangy special when it operated out of one building remain today — wonderful students, a dedicated teaching and support staff working in partnership with involved parents and a supportive community, said Mark Raiff, district executive director of academics.

“Because our growth has been so rapid, many of the staff members who worked here in 1989 are still working for the district today. Their presence has helped us maintain that sense of small-town, family-oriented schooling. We’re just a bigger family now.”

OCES Hosts Summer Reading Kickoff Party

Oak Creek Elementary School (OCES) on May 22 played host to a Summer Reading Kickoff Party for students in grades K-5. Participants purchased books and learned about various summer reading programs, including MyON, a free online resource for Olentangy students available now through Aug. 15. Students at the event also were able to read books with local firefighters and read to dogs available through the Delaware County Humane Society.

Olentangy Student Athletes Make Jump to College Sports

Congratulations to the following student athletes who recently signed letters of intent to participate in college athletics.

From Olentangy High School:

  • Seth C.: Ohio Wesleyan University, basketball
  • Natalie G.: The Ohio State University, rowing
  • Jamie R.: Lake Erie College, volleyball
  • Kasia W.: Urbana University, volleyball

From Olentangy Liberty High School:

  • Eileen B.: University of Tampa, lacrosse
  • Nick N.: College of Wooster, basketball
  • Jim P.: Williams College, cross country
  • Alex R.: Ohio Northern University, basketball
  • Jake R.: Baldwin Wallace, lacrosse
  • Shane R.: Baldwin Wallace, lacrosse
  • Bo S.: Cedarville University, basketball
  • Robert S.: University of Toledo, football
  • Bryson W.: Otterbein College, football

From Olentangy Orange High School:

  • Katelyn D.: Michigan State University, track
  • Grace F.: St. Francis, lacrosse
  • Brady H.: Valparaiso University, baseball
  • Maria N.: Walsh University, lacrosse
  • Jamie P.: Wittenberg University, softball
  • Triston R.: Eastern Michigan University, track
  • Mason R.: Murray State University, softball
  • Paul T.: Gardner Webb University, baseball
OHS student athletes who this week signed letters of intent to play their respective sport at the college level. Pictured from left are, Jamie Riley, Lake Erie College; Kasia Walczak, Urbana; Natalie Gilbert, The Ohio State University.

Olentangy High School student athletes who this week signed letters of intent to play their respective sport at the college level. Pictured from left are, Jamie R., Lake Erie College; Kasia W., Urbana University; Natalie G., The Ohio State University.

OHS Alum Changing Lives Through Biomedical Engineering

Calhoun speaks to students at OHS.

Calhoun speaks to students at OHS.

Mark Calhoun has been a busy man since graduating from Olentangy High School in 2008.

In addition to earning his bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Calhoun has begun his graduate studies in biomedical engineering at The Ohio State University, where he is developing neural biomimetic polymeric materials. He also worked on a project that changed one young boy’s life.

Calhoun returned to Olentangy High School (OHS) this week to speak to students about his accomplishments, what its like to study engineering and what it takes to be successful in college and in life.

The discussion centered on Calhoun’s work designing and building a prosthetic for an 8-year-old boy born with a short right forearm with only two fingers. The condition left the boy unable to perform things that a typical 8-year-old takes for granted, such as riding a bike or swinging a baseball bat.

Calhoun and another engineering student worked with the boy to design a prosthetic that could bend at the elbow, rotate at the wrist and open and close a hand-like mechanism. Calhoun created the arm using a 3-D printer and his engineering know-how.

In addition to his father and his own curious nature, Calhoun credited his success and interest in engineering to his time at Olentangy, where he was able to take a number of AP courses and learn from teachers like Elaine Humes.

Hoping to give back to Olentangy, Calhoun recently contacted Humes to ask if he could speak to students in her precalculus class about his experiences. The conversation resulted in Calhoun’s visit this week.

“We’re very proud of what he has accomplished,” Humes said.