Dru Johnson, second from right, leads a cheer with those in attendance at the Van Wert City Schools Board of Education meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center Lecture Hall. (DHI Media/Erin Cox)
Dru Johnson, second from right, leads a cheer with those in attendance at the Van Wert City Schools Board of Education meeting on Wednesday afternoon at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center Lecture Hall. (DHI Media/Erin Cox)
VAN WERT —Van Wert Elementary School has been named to the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators’ Hall of Fame for 2017.

The news was given on Wednesday afternoon during the Van Wert City Schools Board of Education meeting where about 75 members of the Van Wert Federation of Teachers attended as the union submitted its intent to open negotiations, recognized Superintendent Ken Amstutz before his retirement at the end of the school year and as the organization prepared to host U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Thursday.

Van Wert Elementary School Principal Kevin Gehres gave the announcement that the school was given the designation on Monday along with only eight other schools in the state.

The elementary school had to fill out an application and then a site visitation team came on March 13 to make sure what was said on the application was true.

“It has everything to do with recognition that what we’re doing within those walls of Van Wert Elementary School is being recognized not only as good things that our staff are doing every day, hard work that our students are doing every day, it has to do with that recognition that somebody outside of our district sees it,” Gehres said.

The Van Wert Federation of Teachers has been busy preparing for the visit from DeVos, but it took the time to submit its letter of intent to open contract negotiations on Wednesday.

“As an organization we feel like we consistently work together and make sure that we’re not in a position where we’re in a school district where it’s ‘us versus them’ as an administration and a teaching staff,” President of Local #4088 Jeff Hood said.

Hood and the union members also took the meeting as an opportunity to thank Amstutz for his dedication to the district by giving him cards and gifts.

“We’d like to recognize Ken for the many contributions he has made over the past 10 years to Van Wert City Schools,” Hood said. “Under his leadership many new programs and initiatives have been established. More importantly it’s the attitude that Ken has continuously displayed. He has always had time for everyone associated with Van Wert City Schools.”

“There’s no problem that is too small for Ken Amstutz,” Hood continued. “The bottom line is Ken is a guy that really cares about the people he represents and works for and has been a great educational leader.”

After a standing ovation, a visibly emotional Amstutz simply said, “It is truly an honor.”

The Van Wert Federation of Teachers is also the organization responsible for extending the invitation to DeVos to visit the public school district Thursday. Amstutz thanked the union for organizing the event.

“I would like to thank the district. Ken and his staff have been incredible with all of the preparation and work that goes into a one day visit,” Hood said as he addressed the Board of Education on Wednesday. “Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, we are very excited to have her on our campus as well. She’s an outstanding educational leader and without her involvement none of this would have ever happened. We’re excited and can’t wait for tomorrow to be here.”

The Board of Education and the guests at the meeting also heard a presentation from four Van Wert Middle School students who are members of Cougar Leaders, which is the student leadership team for sixth through eighth grade students.

“Each grade level works with a group in the community,” Jamie Burenga, an eighth grade student and member of Cougar Leaders, said. She noted that the sixth grade leaders worked with 4-H, the seventh grade leaders worked with the YWCA and the eighth grade leaders worked with Central Insurance.

The other eighth grade students presenting on Wednesday were Grace Doctor, Angelo Tomasi and Dru Johnson. They explained the mission of the Cougar Leaders and the events and activities the group helps with. The leaders can be elected by classmates or selected by teachers and staff to help make the leaders a diverse group of students.

In other business, Board members accepted the resignation of Myrna Hamrick, a high school English teacher, effective May 31 for the purpose of retirement. Hamrick has been with the district for 32 years.

High school English teacher Caitlin Walker’s resignation was also accepted by the Board.

Supplemental contracts approved by the Board were Drew Golden for high school baseball assistant coach and Rob Adams for high school girls basketball head coach.

The next meeting is set for 5 p.m. May 17.