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Athletics on front burner as HCCSC board talks football field, coach

Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.
Robert Prescott

Athletics at Huntington North High School came to the front burner of the Huntington County Community School Corporation’s Board of School Trustees meeting Monday, Jan. 14, as concerns about the football field, and the introduction of a new football coach captured the interest of board members.

John Kriegbaum, of Marion, a grandson of John Philip Kriegbaum, who donated the land for the football stadium in 1927, addressed the board about his concerns over rumors the corporation may try to sell the land.

Kriegbaum’s appearance came in response to the approval on first reading at the board’s Dec. 17 meeting to file a civil lawsuit to “quiet” the title to the two Kriegbaum Field properties, to safeguard against anyone who might claim title to the parcels, roughly about seven acres. At that time, Superintendent Randy Harris said the properties are not currently for sale. Kriegbaum said he’s heard rumors otherwise.

“It would be my interest and our interest to find out why this is necessary and why it cannot stay as (his grandfather) desired it to be – an athletic field for the complete use of the school corporation,” he said. “I would assume that the (corporation’s) intent is to sell the property.”

Kriegbaum said he believed that after 90 years the valuation of the property has increased. He also said stipulations that were made in the original deed between the donor and the school corporation have been violated, including use of the field for sports on Sundays. But he said the family was not interested in taking the land back.

“We don’t want to disrupt the intended use of that facility. Our grandfather did this in good faith,” he told the board. “This needs to be tabled, in our opinion, and let go in the good faith it was designed for. … We don’t want to cause a problem, but don’t make us.”

Another person, Sharon Lofland, a Huntington County resident, also addressed the board regarding the football stadium in support of Kriegbaum’s comments.

“We’d like to know what, in the future, the school board has planned for the Kriegbaum property?” she asked.

The board thanked both people for their comments, but did not reply or address the issue during the course of the meeting.

In another sports-related item, the new high school football coach and dean of students was introduced to the board by HNHS Principal Russ Degitz.

Robert Prescott comes to HCCSC from Peru High School, where he serves as the assistant principal. He has previously coached football for 32 years, 23 of those as a head coach.

“This fall I did not coach,” he explained. “I accepted the administrative position and they did not allow me to coach over there. I missed it desperately – the relationships with the kids is what I really missed the most. So when this came open, I just called over here and it seemed like a great fit from both sides. I can’t wait to get started.”

Prescott replaces former Dean of Students Rod Richison and former football coach Rick Burnau. He will start at a salary of $79,402.30.
Prescott met with the HNHS football players on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and will begin at the high school as soon as his exit date from Peru High School is established.

In a separate item, a preliminary determination hearing was removed from the board’s agenda in regard to major renovations at the high school. Harris said after meeting with a consultant the school corporation is “stepping back” in the track of those renovations.

“The board has attempted to be very transparent in the discussion of these plans and ideas,” he said. “It is apparent that we need to take a sidestep back, and have some community meetings that make the community more aware of the possible plans for the high school.”

Harris added he did not have any dates set yet for community meetings. However, he said he would like to bring the preliminary determination hearing back to the board at a later date.

In other business:

• The board accepted a bid by Aaron Morris to lease Salamonie School’s tillable acreage, at $248 per acre for two years.

The farm ground at Lincoln Elementary School is not up for lease this year.

• A bid from Max Garwood to purchase the Northwest Elementary School property was accepted, at $185,000. The bid was over the $134,500 minimum bid set after appraisals were made of the property.

• A bid from Jeremiah Edwards to purchase the Lancaster Elementary School property was accepted, at $87,500. The bid was over the $85,500 minimum bid set after appraisals of the property.

• Elections to set the officers and organization of the board also took place at the meeting, with three incumbent members, Matt Roth of District 2, Brian Warpup of District 3 and Gary McClellan of District 5 sworn in to new terms following the November election.

All board officers remained the same, with Roth continuing as president, Warpup as vice president and McClellan as secretary. Edette Eckert was reappointed treasurer.

Board member Reed Christiansen was reappointed as legislative liaison.

The members of the Bid Opening Committee will remain Scott Bumgardner, Edette Eckert and Randy Harris.

Bumgardner was also reappointed as representative to the Common Wage Committee.

The next regular school board meeting will be held Monday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. at Salamonie Elementary School, 1063E-900S, Warren.