Tom Whitsel

Tom Whitsel is slated to be the next New Buffalo Area Schools director of transportation.

NEW BUFFALO — A 2007 New Buffalo High School graduate was named the district’s director of transportation on Monday, Aug. 24.

The New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education unanimously agreed to hire Tom Whitsel to succeed the retiring Ed Lijewski.

Superintendent Dr. Jeff Leslie said Whitsel was chosen from half a dozen candidates.

“He’s got some big shoes to fill with Ed’s retirement,” Leslie said, adding that Whitsel has “a history here in the district where he’s shown what his work ethic is … He just never says the word ‘no.’”

Whitsel has worked for the district as a bus driver and custodian since October of 2013.

Leslie said there have been numerous incidents over the last four years where Whitsel has stepped up to ensure that field trips, athletic events and other activities take place.

“I think he’s got the mentality to be a great administrator where he’s willing to step up and do whatever it takes for our kids,” he said.

Board Secretary Lisa Werner said she feels Whitsel is a long-term solution for the district.

“He’s well-educated (a 2012 graduate of Lake Superior State University), he’s a product of our school district, and very proud to see him take this position,” she said.

Whitsel thanked everyone for their support.

“I’m very excited to take this on, and I’m very happy to be from New Buffalo and moving up and moving on and getting this taken care of for everybody at the school I’ve been with forever,” he said.

“I always love to vote for former students,” noted board trustee Trish Newton.

Leslie reported that the new chiller unit of the air-conditioning system at the middle/high school is expected to be installed by the end of the week; that an ionization system is being added to the HVAC systems at both buildings; and that state revenues have come in better than expected (although previously announced cuts will cost the district about $100,000).

Board President Chuck Heit said construction at the elementary school that includes a new entry area is “moving forward.”

Board trustee John Haskins said as a parent he felt a lot better about putting his children back in class after meeting with principals from the elementary, middle and high schools.

In other Aug. 24 business, the New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education:

• Discussed the rules covering the wearing of facial coverings in school by students and staff, with attorney Martha Marcero of the Thrun Law Firm, saying those seeking to not wear facial coverings due to not being able to tolerate it medically need to get that authorized by a physician or a physician’s assistant.   It is advised by the state that those who refuse to wear them without such authorization go into virtual/online learning.

Leslie noted that under Phase 4 of the state’s re-opening plan all are required to wear facial coverings in the building (with the exception of a “cohort” system in classrooms at the elementary).

• Approved a first reading of Title IX regulations, with several board members questioning aspects of the altered regulations. More discussions of changes and the district’s options are planned before the final reading and adoption.

• OK’d COVID-19 clauses for the 2020-2021 elementary and middle/high school handbooks.

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