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Highland BOE member celebrates 25 years on board

2/5/2009 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Marks

Nancy Wingenbach
Photo courtesy of Nancy Wingenbach
MEDINA COUNTY — When Nancy Wingenbach was appointed to the Highland Local Schools District Board of Education in 1984, she didn’t think she would become one of the board’s longest serving members.

But this year commemorates her 25th year as a board member.

District Superintendent Catherine Aukerman commended Wingenbach, calling her “an invaluable member” of the board.

“She has remained a strong advocate for the district, its students and staff,” said Aukerman. “Her knowledge and professionalism have been a guiding force on the board for many years, and she has unselfishly devoted countless hours to ensure the success of our district. It is an honor to work with someone of her character.”

Wingenbach ran unsuccessfully for a board seat in 1983. She was appointed the following year after a board member resigned. She said she doesn’t think any other member has served on the board as long as she has.

A former Florida resident, Wingenbach relocated to Hinckley in 1975 with her husband and children, where she still resides. She was widowed in 2005 after 38 years of marriage.

Wingenbach has worked in education most of her adult life after earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Florida State University. She began a career in education in 1964 as an English teacher at Cocoa Beach High School in Cocoa Beach, Fla., she said.

When her children were young, she participated in the Highland district’s PTA, or Parent Teacher Association (now known as the Parent Teacher Organization, or PTO).

This past July, she was appointed superintendent of the Orange City Schools District. As superintendent, she said it offers her a unique opportunity “to participate in both levels of service — school board member and administrator — bringing into play perspectives from both arenas.”

Wingenbach, who earned a master’s degree in reading specialization and a Ph.D. in curriculum/instruction and gifted special education at Kent State University, also has worked as the coordinator for gifted education in Lorain County, the Cuyahoga County coordinator for gifted students, as curriculum director for the Independence Local School District and as director of educational programs for Orange City Schools. She also serves on the Medina County Career Center Board of Education and the International Board of Directors for Destination Imagination, a creative problem-solving organization.

Wingenbach said when she was appointed to the Highland board, district personnel were divided over priorities, with the superintendent caught in the middle. One group was pushing for a new wrestling room, she said, and the other side was more focused on academics.

While she said this is “a very simplistic explanation for a couple of years of district turmoil,” she said it still is challenging today “trying to balance the diversity of needs — financial, academic and community expectations — [and] making sure that we are all focused on the success of the students.”

She said she takes pride in the transformation of the Highland district from “a rural bedroom community” to a suburban cluster of schools of excellence.

She said she has “always kept in mind that the success of the district is related to all of the members of the administration and staff.”

She said no one board member “can make that big a difference. It has to be the board as a whole, a coordinated effort.”

Her four-year term is up for re-election this year, and she said she probably will not run.

With six grandchildren and one on the way, she said “Travel is a big part of my life.”

With the remaining time she has on the board, she said she will “support the strengthening of the academic offerings that incorporate 21st-century skills preparation for our students.”

She added she also wants to continue fostering “the collaborative spirit” within the Highland community.

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