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Wigle named principal for new Solon Intermediate

School district begins process for merging fourth and fifth grades

SOLON– The name of the school district’s new fourth- and fifth-grade center will be Solon Intermediate and its principal will be current activities director Zach Wigle.
Solon Community School District Superintendent Davis Eidahl made the announcement to school staff and parents via email June 14.
Wigle came to the district at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, succeeding Keith McSweeney, who stepped aside when the position was increased to full time.
A native of Minnesota, Wigle was the high school principal in Keokuk for three years and was named the Iowa Secondary Principal of the Year by the School Administrators of Iowa before coming to Solon.
Wigle, 36, said he was excited to be a part of creating a new school.
“The work ethic of our teachers and support staff at, not just at this level, but just in general here in Solon is pretty unique,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to be a part of leadership when you have people that are so focused and dedicated.”
Another facet that attracted him was helping build a school within the district from the ground up.
“It’s not just moving from this building to a new building like we are with the middle school,” he said. “This is creating a new school, a new culture bringing the teachers and students from different buildings together to start something new.”
It will be a challenge, he said, not only to work with staff to set the tone professionally for the new building, but on a personal level.
Wigle worked in two elementary schools for three years as a physical education teacher earlier in his career, but hasn’t served as a principal.
“For me that will be a challenge, but also something I’m very excited about because I love working with that age of students, and usually the teachers that are teaching those ages are really fun to work with as well,” he said.
The district will continue to maintain a full time activities director, Eidahl said, and Wigle will continue in the capacity through the 2017-18 school year. He will assume his new duties when the 44,225-square-foot fourth attendance center opens in the fall of 2018.

Planning for the new building has been discussed by the district’s administrative team since December, Eidahl said.
The goal has been to create an attendance center with its own identity and culture, he said, but with existing staff. Current fourth grade teachers from Lakeview Elementary and fifth grade instructors from Solon Middle School will become a new team in the $10 million facility, located on the former site of the district’s football stadium and practice field.
“Our number one priority was having high expectation for instruction and building a culture of achievement,” Eidahl said.
Eidahl said one of the more difficult decisions by the administrative team was to make room for the new principal position by eliminating a facilitator at Lakeview.
The elementary will lose about 130 students when Solon Intermediate opens, he said, and the facilitator job was created to help deal with management and discipline responsibilities as the building population grew.
“We feel we’ll be able to accommodate losing that position until we grow again,” Eidahl said.
The administrative team, he added, felt it was important for the building to have a dedicated principal.
“We did talk about Mr. (Solon Middle School Principal Mike) Herdliska taking maybe some of that, Mrs. (Lakeview Elementary Principal Jodi) Rickels taking some of that, but we didn’t want the new building to be an afterthought.”
In August, the district will begin to bring fourth and fifth grade teachers together to start the process of merging the elementary and middle school cultures.
“We’re talking a year away right now, but we really wanted to put some things in place now because we want to spend a portion of the year dedicating time to the transition,” he added.
Solon Intermediate will look a lot more like an elementary, he said, with both fourth and fifth grades in self-contained classrooms with one teacher for all subjects.
“So that will take a little getting used to for fifth grade,” he added.
The building is expected to open with about 255 students and 16 full time classroom and intervention teachers, not including instructors for physical education, music, art and media services, which will likely be shared with other buildings.
Eidahl said the district will have to create a schedule for those specials to see if they can be covered by current staff, and if not, how much additional staff will be needed. That process will start this fall, he said.

When the fourth attendance center opens, it will be one of the last dominoes to fall in a significant facility upgrade for the district.
In September of 2014, district voters approved a $25.5 million bond issue for the construction of a new auditorium addition to the high school and an approximately 75,000-square-foot, two-story fifth through eighth grade middle school on Racine Avenue immediately west of the high school.
But also a part of that long term plan was the utilization of future sales tax proceeds to adapt the existing middle school into an intermediate elementary for grades three through five.
The remodeling was abandoned when cost estimates rose to the limit of anticipated Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) funds, the sales tax revenue which will be used to pay for the fourth building. The site was designed to provide space for a future third grade wing.
The title for the new building was decided at a June 12 meeting of the Solon School Board.
“We need a name,” board president Dick Schwab exclaimed as board members reached the first action item on their agenda.
“Lakeview’s not Solon Elementary, it’s Lakeview Elementary, so we talked about are there significant names? We’ve gone down that road,” Eidahl said at the meeting. “We talked about Solon Middle School, about Solon High School, we talked about the grade levels that it will serve.”
Eidahl said because of the age of students served, the label Solon Intermediate was adopted descriptively and seemed appropriate.
“It’s probably not going to win any awards for creativity or innovation, but it’s going to be very clear, I think,” Schwab said.
“We’ve thrown a few other things out there and this seems to fit the best,” board member Rick Jedlicka added.
With no further discussion, the name was approved.