Ennis school board discusses memorial for Joan Schilling lifelong coach, teacher

Softball committee prepares for new athletic team

ENNIS—With homecoming festivities complete, the Ennis School Board turned its attention to the remainder of the 2018-2019 school year at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, September 12.

Elementary principal Brian Hilton gave an update early in the meeting, noting that the elementary population of Ennis Schools is currently 198 students in grades K-6, split exactly between boys and girls. Average class size is 28.

Hilton also said that Whitney Marsh had begun as school nurse at the beginning of that week, an addition to Ennis Schools that the board approved earlier this summer. 

“Seeing how it’s working, it’s hard to believe how we functioned without it,” said Hilton. “She’s a great addition.”

High school principal Mellissa Newman also provided an update, noting that Ennis High School currently comprises 118 students, while the middle school of 7th and 8th grades totals 66 students. 

Newman also touched on the success of former Olympic basketball star Chamique Holdsclaw’s presentation on mental health earlier that day. Ennis students were joined by students from Harrison Schools to engage in a dialogue about depression, suicide and mental health resources.

“They were so in tuned listening to her,” said Newman. “She was very open, very relatable. They got a lot out of it.” Holdsclaw offered two discussions Wendesday; the other was attended by students from Sheridan and Twin Bridges earlier in the day.

A particularly emotional item on the board’s agenda was a proposal to rename the Ennis Schools technology building the Joan Schilling Memorial Complex. 

The proposal was brought by Cindy Peterson and BettyKlein, in memory of Schilling who taught in Ennis for over four decades. That time included 27 years as girls’ basketball coach—during which time the team won its only state title in program history—21 years as golf coach and 14 years coaching track.

“She was amazing. It was always about the kids,” said Klein. “She was my mentor when I was a student.”

Schilling passed away from breast cancer earlier this year. Staff and board members alike shed a few tears remembering Schilling’s legacy at Ennis Schools and her constant devotion to each and every student, who she welcomed with open arms. 

The proposal was unanimously and enthusiastically approved by the board, and a commemoration ceremony of the renamed complex will take place later this fall.

Chairwoman Kris Inman noted that a committee has been created to facilitate the preparations for Ennis’s inaugural softball team. Inman and board member Karen Ketchu both sit on the committee, as well as superintendent Casey Klasna and athletic director Chris Hess. 

There are some fencing alterations that need to take place before the season gets underway next spring, and it would be ideal to have those completed before the ground freezes for the winter. The softball committee will be responsible for facilitating that construction and will spearhead a fundraising effort to finance those changes.

Other business on the Ennis school board’s September agenda included:

• A final update on the school’s weight room and storage construction project: last adjustments to flooring and doors are in the works, and otherwise the project is about finished, Klasna reported.

• The Montana School Board Association (MTSBA) will give a presentation on its bargaining process to the board at its October 10 meeting. That presentation will be followed by a training for the board members on utilizing MTSBA’s bargaining resources. 

• The development of a strategic plan: Klasna brought this item to the board’s attention, noting that such a plan would facilitate visits by board members to the school, observe in classrooms and foster staff-board relationships. 

• Hiring Kelly Leo as the new drivers’ education instructor for Ennis Schools.

• Discussion of buying a new bus. There are currently 82 students on the school bus route between Ennis and Virginia City, but normally between 65 and 70 ride the bus regularly. If that number increases by much, the current bus will not be large enough to accommodate all of the students it needs to transport. That item was tabled until October’s meeting so a survey of how many students are consistently riding the bus can be completed.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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