Q&A with Karen McDaniel, Wesley Drew and Ashley Williams over new roles in school staff

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Ally Horwitz

Q&A with Karen McDaniel, Associate principal 

What role did you serve at CHS previously?

For the last 13 years here at Carmel High School, I worked in student services and in special services, overseeing everything related to the student services aspect, which is the health center, attendance, discipline, counseling and then all of the special programming in special services for our students with special needs.

How do your responsibilities as associate principal differ from those as an assistant principal? 

So basically, I’ll kind of oversee all of the different components of school that Dr. Harmas oversees, but I am just able to do that along with him in the event that, like I said, he is out of the building for various activities or events that he would like to be able to promote and represent Carmel High School in a lot of ways, and sometimes he’s just not able to do that, so it’s just being able to be that, kind of, back up to make sure everything continues to run smoothly here during the day. And I’ll just assist with a lot of different leadership roles and responsibilities and work closely with our department chairs to help with their leadership development and anything I can do to help our teachers working through our departments and I’m really excited to do so.

Would you mind sharing some of your past experiences at CHS?

I loved my time here at Carmel and one of the things I’m probably the most proud of is our ability to create a multi-tiered system with our students, so working closely with our counselors and social workers to make sure that our students’ needs are met in our classrooms and socially/emotionally. I’m really proud of our work with Culture of Care that we’ve done over the past three years and most recently through Culture of Care, where we worked when we started in quarantine and had to close our school buildings back in March, we worked really closely with the city to create the Carmel Cares Initiative, and that was just a way for our students and families to stay connected as much as they could, so our focus was to really be connected even though we were socially distanced, and we can kind of create ideas for everyone to try to, you know, stay somehow connected through different ways, whether it be sidewalk chalk and writing positive messages to one another or leaving those little hope rocks around the neighborhood with the positive inspirational message on those, or decorating your windows with something to say ‘hey, we’re all in this together,’ so we did that as well. I’ve also been really involved, in the past four years, this would have been our fourth or fifth year, I don’t remember, with our job fair. So I run the job fair every year in the varsity gym in the spring, and we weren’t able to do that this year, but we are working on what a virtual job fair might look like, so we’re pretty excited for that and planning that in the coming months. So there’s just been a lot of things that, and sometimes I forget, all of the things that you do, but my involvement and just creating programs to help students feel successful and be successful is just the most important part of any educator’s job and that’s been something I’m really proud of.

What can CHS expect from administration this year?

You can expect from us what we have brought every year, which is, our goal is for you to feel safe and be successful in this learning environment and really feeling that level of comfort of knowing that your building is safe, the people around you are helping to take care of you, and when I say safe, I don’t  necessarily just mean for the SRO presence and keeping the ‘bad guys’ out, I mean everything that we have done to help people feel comfortable with social distancing, and everything we’ve done to make sure our buildings has hand sanitizer and 6 feet apart, and our lunch tables are spread out, like, that is also a feeling of safety, and there’s also that feeling of safety of social and emotional well-being, as well. So we want our students to feel safe physically and emotionally here and if we can create avenues like we did with our STOP-IT a couple of years ago and the anonymous alert system we’ve always had, but just ways that if someone doesn’t feel safe or wants to report something that they think is not okay or is hurtful, either to themselves or others, that we can create that open line of communication. Our class meetings every year, when we have the meetings where kids come down from their English classes to the auditorium, our whole focus in that is just taking care of one another and that is the job of the administration, to make sure that we take care of everyone- we make sure that the building runs and that the bells ring, that you have lunch, you know, all of those things happen because of the behind the scenes things that administration does and I have to tell you that the administration here is amazing. We all work night and day if we need to, in fact, right before school started, we were all here, you know, weekends and sometimes 16, 17 hour days just to make sure we were still working and staying in school with all the contact tracing that was going on, so I think our goal this year as well as every other year is just to create that safe learning environment for our students and taking that word ‘safe’ so many different directions is our priority.

Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like readers to know? 

I want to just, in general, I want to thank everyone and I want to praise our students for how well they have done of social distancing, wearing masks, following the rules, washing hands, using hand sanitizer, all of the things we have asked students to do, you know, come every other day, be virtual learners- and you guys have stepped up. I can’t tell you how happy I was to be at the football game Friday night, where Mr. Inskeep, our athletic director, had painted markers in the stands for six feet so we would social distance, because it was really cool to see all the students in the student section maintaining that social distance and wearing their mask the whole time. I can’t even say that about the adults or the visiting team, but it was just really neat to see how everyone (socially distanced), and I know it’s different and not perfect, but I think students and staff both were just really happy to be here and back in school in some way, so I’ll do whatever we need to do to keep us in school, if that means that we work over the weekends or we come in and move the desks farther apart, so I just can’t speak hard enough about how hard everyone here is working, and I love that, and we’re still here- knock on wood- we’re still in school, and we just gotta keep doing it because it’s working.

Q&A with Wesley Drew, Associate Principal in Student Services

New Assistant Principal Wesley Drew stands for the camera. He is returning from a three year position at Creekside Middle School.

What led to your decision to work with CHS students?

My background, I started working at Carmel High School back in 2008, did a year at Clay (Middle School) after that and then came back to the high school and was here for about eight more years after that, took a job at Creekside Middle School and then spent three years at Creekside and I had the opportunity over the summer to come back to the high school where, you know, I had a lot of previous relationships and really this position, I think what interested me about that was that I can work with students and still have those relationships because that’s, you know it sounds cliche because it’s true, you know that’s why we all love doing this job, you know, we just love getting to work with kids.

What kind of training did you have to go through to transition ?

Right, well, the big thing that you do is you go through a Master’s program in education, and I did mine through Ball State (University), and then, from there, there’s a licensing test that you’ll do through the state for administration, and then, really, the past three years I’ve gotten some administrative experience through the department chair role, and it was kind of a short window, truthfully, where I found out about the position here at the high school about a month ago, so just inside of this month, I’ve already met our whole administrative team, and they’ve all kind of taken me up and kind of helped me along, you know, Ms. McDaniel, Ms. Borto, Ms. Wiseman, they’ve all been super helpful, because they’ll be, especially Ms. Wiseman, she and I will be doing a similar role, so I will be able to lean on her experience, and that will be really great to have.

What made you decide to apply for the assistant principal position?

Well, I mean, for one, it was the one that was available and open, but I think really for me it goes back to that chance to work with kids still, and to come back to a place that I’m familiar (with) and excited to be a part of, you know, I joke, but when I moved to Carmel back in 2008 I really didn’t know anyone here so Carmel High School became my home away from home and it’s become home for me now. My wife is from Carmel; I’ve got two kids now who, you know, will hopefully have a chance to come to Carmel and, so it’s kind of become my home now, so that’s a big piece of why, I think.

What was it like changing from working in the middle schools to now working with high school students?

Obviously there’s a greater level of maturity in high school students, although that doesn’t mean that there aren’t immature (kids), but that’s the part of growing up and being a kid, you know, it’s neat at the high school level to see (that) kids are already starting to see their potential in high school, and some of the things that kids do at the high school level are just incredible, from the competitions they (Carmel students) get involved with, be it academic or athletic, to the achievements they’re able to accomplish, and just to see all of you guys launching off into your lives, it’s just really neat to see at the high school level.

What can CHS students expect this year from student services? What changes are being made?

I think the main thing that we would always want to emphasize is that we always want to be a support for you guys and we want to be able to help students through difficult times, you know, yes, people will make mistakes and we want to focus on how do we look forward and not define ourselves by those things, and we want to help create a safe, comfortable environment for everybody, and so that’s what we view our role as, is how can we help students to have the best experience that they can in high school- that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish.

 

Q&A with Ashley Williams, new female SRO     

The official photo of new SRO Ashley Williams. She is currently the only female SRO at CHS.

What made you want to pursue police work?

My interest in public safety started in middle school. I have an older brother that is a Delaware County Deputy. This allowed me to have an inside view of police work.

Do you have any prior experience working with students? If so, what?

I was hired by the Carmel Police Department in 2008. In 2010 there were available spots to come in and work as a school police officer in the high school setting. I worked part-time in the high school for two years and worked at sporting events during that time.

Are you the first female SRO at CHS? Do you think this will make approaching SROs easier? 

There have been several females that have filled an SRO role in the past. The previous female SRO was Officer Bodenhorn. I think having a variety of SROs from different backgrounds is a positive thing. Each individual student will feel more comfortable with certain aspects of the different backgrounds of the SROs. I think overall being a female will allow some students to feel more comfortable approaching me and opening up.

What kind of training did you have to do to transition from being on the police force to SRO?

I have been with the Police Department for 13 years. During my transition into the SRO position I have completed Basic Nasro (and trained at the) IN Nasro conference, and this conference includes several break out training sessions. I also have the experience of working part-time in the high school during my years of employment.

Would you mind explaining what SROs do on a day to day basis?

Our SRO model is a triad system that includes Law Enforcement, Educator, and Informal Counselor. Each day can be different for an SRO but (a day) may include school security, giving presentations to students or staff, mentoring or informal counseling to students and staff.

Where are the SROs located in the building?

The following SRO`s are located at Door 2: Officer Lytle; Door 4: Officer Williams; Door 13: Officer Moore, and Door 21: Officer VanNatter.

What can CHS expect this year from our SROs?

Our top goal this year as SROs is building positive relationships with students and staff.  We want to make a connection with students and show them that our duties go beyond just school security.

How has the Carmel community welcomed you?

The CHS community has been friendly and welcoming. This year has been a big transition for everyone in regards to COVID-19. I think with all the changes that have been made everyone has been accommodating and welcoming.

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