South takes lead on Ladoga Park renovation project


NEW MARKET ­— Reconstruction underway at Ladoga’s public park took center stage at Monday’s school board meeting as the board stamped their final seal of approval on the project.

The monumental project, a collaboration between Southmont Schools, Clark Township and the Town of Ladoga, will entail demolition of existing public playground and park structures and full replacement with newer equipment and design.

In the words of corporation attorney Dan Taylor, a key resource for the project’s preparation, Southmont has served as both a “catalyst and a leader” through its initiation and execution. As outlined in the memorandum, Southmont serves as the project’s lead agency, overseeing its preparation, advancement and completion. A specific timeline was not given, but the board expects to move swiftly and efficiently in order to expedite the park’s use and enjoyment by Ladoga Elementary students and Clark Township citizens alike.

Meanwhile, Dr. Stephanie Hofer shared abundant words of gratitude during her superintendent’s report.

“I’m officially one week into my job as superintendent, and I have had nothing but warm welcome,” Hofer said. “I’ve already met with the union, I’ve met with the sheriff, I’m getting ready to meet with the mayor, and everybody’s been so kind.”

She also thanked Amy Reeves and Kristin Paris for their hard work in their roles regarding the Ladoga park’s reconstruction and welcomed new school staff.

Briefly discussed was operations director Mike Tricker’s upcoming retirement, previously effective June 30, 2025, which since last month’s meeting has been expedited to July 9 of this year. Trustee Jake Watson addressed Tricker’s family members, who attended in lieu of his own presence, thanking Tricker for his service to the school district. President Daryl Hutson echoed these thoughts.

The board once again voted 7-0 to approve the consent agenda, which included Tricker’s new retirement date as well as the hiring of six new staff members: Zach Higbee, elementary PE teacher at Ladoga and Walnuelementaries; Linsey Hannum, high school science teacher; Lindsey Ballinger, substitute nurse for maternity leave at the junior-senior high; Sandra Johnson and Stephanie Acker, instructional assistants at the junior high; and Susan Fox, sixth grade English/language arts teacher at the junior high, for whom a revision to the agenda was made.

Also approved as part of the agenda were stipends for the following personnel: Desson Hannum, varsity football coach, $8,000; Jeremiah Sparks, varsity assistant football coach, $3,500; Mitchell Dehne, varsity assistant football coach, $3,500; Baylee Adams, varsity assistant football coach, $3,500; Bryce Adams, varsity assistant football coach, $3,500; Ken Dooley, varsity assistant football coach, $3,500; Bill Whalen, varsity girls’ golf coach, $3,000; Dave Williamson, varsity assistant girls’ golf coach, $3,000; Shelley Allen, varsity cross country coach, $3,000; Katrina Burris, varsity assistant cross country coach, $1,500; Benjamin Razo, varsity boys’ soccer coach, $4,000; Logan Phillips, varsity assistant boys’ soccer coach, $1,500; Nathan Poynter, varsity boys’ tennis coach, $4,000; Joe McCutchan, varsity assistant boys’ tennis coach, $1,500; Chris Cox, varsity assistant boys’ tennis coach (volunteer); Michael Byrum, fall weights and conditioning, $1,726; Megan Shaw, varsity cheerleading sponsor, $1,500 (fall) & $1,500 (winter); Jennifer Calder, JV cheerleading sponsor, $750 (fall) & $750 (winter); Angie Williams, varsity girls’ soccer coach, $4,000; Grace Armas, varsity assistant girls’ soccer coach, $1,500; Erin Barry, varsity volleyball coach, $5,000; Bella McIntyre, varsity assistant volleyball coach, $2,000; Lauren Witherspoon, JV volleyball coach, $1,654; Malik Gayler, junior high boys’ soccer coach, $1,500; Alison Burris, junior high assistant cross country coach (volunteer); Jarrett Todd, 8th grade football coach, $2,500; Jud VanCleave, 7th grade football coach, $2,500; Cole Thomas, 7th grade assistant football coach, $2,000; Jennifer Hale, junior high girls’ soccer coach, $1,500; Elliot Franklin, junior high boys’ tennis coach, $1,500; and Josh Gray, junior high girls’ golf coach, $1,000. A separate vote was taken on the recommendation of Amy Reeves as junior high cross country coach in the amount of $1000 from which trustee David Reeves abstained and which was approved 6-0.

Extra duty recommendations were also approved for the following: Bryce Adams, spring concessions, $800; Kelley Hopkins, IHSAA softball sectional worker, $100; Katy Yoakum, IHSAA softball sectional worker, $120; Erin Barry, IHSAA softball sectional worker, $40; and Bella McIntyre, IHSAA softball sectional worker, $40.

Touched upon were semiannual Neola policy updates, and also included in the consent agenda were recommendations to liquidate the school’s Coca-Cola trailer, student and adult meal pricing, the approval of administrative contracts for the upcoming school year, and the commencement of pre-bargaining effective Aug. 15.

Next month’s regular school board meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Aug. 12 in the corporation board room.