Piqua Board of Education spotlights band, show choir, football team, retiring board member

By Sam Wildow

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PIQUA — The Piqua Board of Education held a spotlight for staff and retiring board member Andy Hite at the beginning of its meeting on Thursday, starting off with recognizing the Piqua High School band.

“We’re super proud of all of you here,” Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said.

Hite spotlighted band directors Mitch Mahaney and Wyatt Heinz for the Piqua High School band’s accomplishments this year, including its superior ratings. The Pride Pride of Piqua Marching Band earned straight superior ratings at each of their competitions.

“We are tremendously proud of the work that you guys did this year,” Hite said. The Pride of Piqua Marching Band received a superior rating at the OMEA State Competition, which hasn’t happened since 1995, Mahaney said. Additionally, they earned Best Color Guard, Front Ensemble, Percussion, and Effects.

“That enthusiasm that generated is just unbelievable,” Hite said. “I know success breeds success.”

Mahaney joined Piqua in 2006, and Heinz joined Piqua in 2019.

Board member Sean Ford highlighted Tom Westfall, director of the Piqua High School Show Choir “The Company.” “The Company” was recently named Grand Champion in the finals at the Ada Music Feast in November.

“He is a mentor to many educators in and outside the district,” Ford said about Westfall, noting how Westfall attends each year’s graduation ceremony to greet seniors after they graduate.

“Long before his school year started, he had already been working on his musicians in this year’s show choir. The PHS Show Choir had an outstanding performance for their first competition at Ada,” Ford said.

In addition to being named Grand Champion, “The Company” also received awards for Best Combo Band, Best Costumes and the People’s Choice Award. “The Company” performed with high school’s “Audio Hype” jazz band.

“This is an exceptional start to what is going to be an amazing year for this group, especially given the past couple years that he’s had to deal with with COVID,” Ford said. “Thank you to Mr. Westfall for such a great influence on the kids and the arts program at Piqua.”

“There’s a whole team of people,” Westfall said, highlighting Heinz, Ms. Haas, Laura Ray, Kyle Fisher, AJ Blankenship, Justin Fry, and others.

Westfall began teaching in the district in 1997.

The Piqua High School Vocal Department will be presenting its holiday concerts, “Home for the Holidays,” and 20th annual Cookie Walk on Sunday, Dec. 12. Performances start at 2 p.m. in the Hartzell Center for the Performing Arts, and the Cookie Walk will be held in the Piqua High School Commons.

Board member Clint Bostick spotlighted head coach of the Piqua Indians, Bill Nees. Piqua football went to the Division II, Region 8 final, losing to Winton Woods. Piqua football finished the season at 12-1 and has won 19 of its last 21 games.

Nees began his teaching career in Piqua in 1985. He was an assistant football coach until 1988 when he took over the program as head coach and continues in that role. The PHS football team had wins over their rivals, Troy 28-7 and Sidney 42-7, this season. The team has qualified for the playoffs for the second consecutive season. This year’s varsity football team hit a milestone for the school and district by winning their 700th game in school history, Thompson said.

“He’s got a program that’s incredible, and he’s not just about wins. He’s about developing better people,” Bostick said. “Football just happens to be there, but he’s excellent at it. I know you’ve got a great staff.”

“Year after year, it’s consistent,” Bostick said about Nees’ football program. “Bill, thanks for all you do for the whole community, the students, and everybody.”

The board then recognized Hite, who will be leaving the board after serving 16 years on the board. Hite will be replaced by Sean Mitchell. Hite did not run for re-election to the board, and Mitchell ran unopposed in the Nov. 2 election. Thursday was Hite’s last meeting as a board member.

“He started being on the board in 2006. He was our board president in 2013, 2014, 2018, and 2019. (He was) a vice president in 2012. He’s been on the Career Center’s board since 2006.” Thompson said, mentioning other roles Hite has had as a board member. Hite has also worked at the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency since 1993 and will be retiring in 2023. Hite has also worked with the American Canal Society, the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, Piqua Heritage Festival, and more.

“There’s lots of things that he has done for our community and our school district,” Thompson said. “We couldn’t be more sad to see you go, but we’re also very happy for you that you’re retiring and getting to do all that you want to do in your retirement.”

“It has been a wonderful 16 years,” Hite said. “I’ve had the opportunity to be with a lot of good board members. And in the process, I have learned how amazing our staff is — not just the teachers, but the support staff and everybody. It’s been quite an honor and very humbling to me to be able to say, ‘I’ve been a part of Piqua City Schools.’” Hite said that he would miss it, but he felt he was “leaving the district in good hands.”

“You’ve got a great board here, and you’ve got a great team top to bottom,” Hite said. “It’s been an interesting and very rewarding 16 years, and I thank everybody for that.”

The board gifted Hite a rocking chair for his retirement, to which Hite joked, “I’m retiring, I’m not that old.”

Other school administrators gifted Hite with cards signed by staff and students in the district.

During the rest of the board’s regular meeting, the board approved the tax budget for the fiscal year 2023 and fund to fund transfers.

Thompson presented on the bullying report. He said the district has a bullying report system on its website at piqua.org. Teachers go over that bullying report system with students twice a year.

Thompson said the district had 67 reports for the first half of the year, saying that’s average for the district.

“Seven of those were actually deemed bullying or harassment, and those were all addressed by principals,” he said. Thompson said those instances are considered resolved, but staff will continue to monitor those situations.

The board held an executive session prior to its regularly scheduled meeting Thursday evening. The executive session was for the purpose of appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion or compensation of employee, student and/or school official, and for discussion with the board’s legal counsel, of disputes involving the board that are the subject of pending or imminent court action, as permitted under Ohio Revised Code 121.22. No action was taken.

The board’s 2022 organizational meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Jan. 6.