District honors ‘helpers’

By on December 19, 2018

This holiday season is a heartbreaking one for the Warwick School District.

In October, two high school students died from injuries suffered in a car accident caused by a 63-year-old woman who was driving erratically just as the school was dismissing. A third teen in the same vehicle is still recovering from his injuries. Then in early December, a high school student was taken to the hospital from a rehearsal for an upcoming high school holiday music program, and later died. Her death was ruled as a suicide.

Oct. 26 accident

“On Friday, Oct. 26, our district suffered a terrible tragedy. As it unfolded here on our campus, a team of what can only be described as superheroes jumped into action. Running toward the scene, functioning as and alongside first responders, communicating with families, comforting students and staff, controlling the crowd, and dealing with the media, these Warwick Warriors went well beyond the scope of their duties to do whatever they could for our students,” said Warwick School District superintendent Dr. April Hershey at the Dec. 18 meeting of the Warwick School Board.
Hershey added, “The things they experienced that day will never leave them, but I know they would all do it over again in a second in order to help our students.”

Hershey honored the first responders who were on the scene of the Oct. 26 car accident. Many of them were teachers, administrators and staff who were there to help the accident victims until emergency personnel could get there. She presented 13 individuals with Heart of a Warrior awards to thank them for their efforts that day.

“As we continue to walk through the aftermath of this tragedy, and we try to help our students, staff and community process all that has happened, I’m reminded of a story told by Fred Rogers,” said Hershey, recalling Rogers’ mother saying to him as a child when he saw scary things on the news, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers, so many caring people in this world.”
As she presented the awards to Warwick’s helpers, Hershey said, “These are the helpers. Selfless, caring, compassionate helpers. In honor of your work, on behalf of the board, I’d like to present each of you with a Heart of a Warrior award.”

Hershey will also be receiving an award for her own compassionate caring in the tragic time.

Those receiving Heart of a Warrior awards included Dr. Melanie Calender, Dr. Ryan Axe, Mark Leidich, Dr. Kristy Szobocsan, K.C. Testerman, Sid Harrison, Scott Kyper, Steve Szobocsan, Dr. Michelle Harris, Ryan Landis, Dr. Jennifer Murphy, Jackie Yanchocik and John Schofield.

Warwick School Superintendent April Hershey honored the first responders who were on the scene of the Oct. 26 car accident. Many were teachers, administrators and staff who were there to help the accident victims until emergency personnel could arrive. She presented 13 individuals with Heart of Warrior awards to thank them for their efforts on that tragic day.

Hershey also expressed special thanks and appreciation to Dr. Ron Hallett, Fred Griffiths and Nathan Wertsch for their support behind the scenes.
There has not been a clear answer as to why the accident occurred. The driver who caused the accident, Debra Slaymaker-Walker, has been charged with third-degree murder for her reckless driving that day.

Roger Stief and Donna Nicholson Stief attended the meeting to thank those who tried to help their son. Jack Nicholson, a high school junior, who died as a result of his injuries. He had been in the same vehicle with his friends, Meghan Keeney and Rylan Beebe, on their way to celebrate Meghan’s 17th birthday. Meghan died two days later, and Rylan survived with serious injuries.
“This is a very difficult time of the year for all of us,” said Donna Nicholson Stief, adding that she has been touched by the outpouring of love, caring and kindness from the community.
Early December death

The Warwick community has also been deeply touched by the loss of the 16-year-old student who died in early December. Students had been rehearsing for the holiday show presented each year by the Warwick High School Music Department’s concert choir, along with string and symphonic orchestras. The show was scheduled to be presented Dec 9 and 10, but has been rescheduled for Jan. 11 and 12, starting at 7:30 p.m. in the Warwick High School Performing Arts Center. One Warwick High School parent attended the school board meeting to ask if the school district was planning any programs to help students and their families deal with the tragedy of suicide.

“My wife and I wanted to voice our concern over the frequency of children taking their own lives,” said Matt Morgan, adding that he hoped that the school district would set up a subcommittee to explore the causes and ways to help young people who are contemplating suicide.

He was assured that Warwick is planning programs for students and parents to address these concerns. The Warwick High School student Aevidum Club was founded several years ago with the message to teens of “No One Is Alone,” in an effort to help young people seek support for depression and thoughts of suicide. It is an issue that affects schools throughout the country.
Personnel changes

In personnel matters, the school board approved the retirements of Debra Ulicny as coordinator of Secondary Student Services at Warwick School District, effective Dec. 10, 2018, and Jamie Beyerle as an English Teacher at Warwick High School, effective at the end of the 2018/2019 school year.

They also approved the appointment of Holly Kellum as a long term substitute second grade teacher at John Beck Elementary School. Kellum is replacing Alyson Kernion who has extended her family medical leave. They also approved Kristen Peterson as a long term substitute reading specialist at Kissel Hill Elementary School, replacing Lauren Leitzel who has extended her family medical leave.

Joseph Narkiewicz was rehired as assistant junior high wrestling coach (66.6%) at Warwick Middle School, replacing Jeff Rosenberger, who will be on a leave of absence.
The board also approved an overnight field trip for Warwick High School students and staff to attend the District Band Festival at Lancaster Mennonite High School from Jan. 25 and 26.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.


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