Editor’s note: This is a copy of a letter submitted to Ottumwa School Board President Carol Mitchell.
Understanding that the school district is deliberating the naming of the elementary southside school and two streets, I have several suggestions. The Ottumwa district schools have traditionally been named for principals or significant historical persons. Two outstanding citizens, one an elected school board member, Jack Staebler, and one an educator, Willis Ahrens, greatly contributed to making our school district the strong, viable institution it is today. Both are posthumously deserving to be honored in some manner.
Service on a school district’s board of directors is one of the most significant elected offices in preserving our republic. Jack honorably served the Ottumwa Community School District from the early 1970s until his untimely death in 1984. Because of the passage of time, perhaps none of you were privileged to know him, but there are many who still remember his contributions.
Jack was a beacon of light in this district. He was knowledgeable regarding budget and finance, employee/employer contracts and school law. His guiding principle always was “What is good for the children?” He honorably served as the board president for a number of years.
Jack was not only a respected leader in this community but among other board members throughout the state. Jack exemplified all the fine attributes to be found in a board director.
Many children knew him as “Santa Claus.” Every Christmas season, Jack donned his beautiful “Claus Suit” and visited all the Kindergarten classes ...
Willis Ahrens was a respected educator not only in our district as well as statewide. He faithfully served not only as a teacher and a principal but very capably as its curriculum director for a number of years. Willis exercised fairness and common sense in his decision making with the children’s best interest being his utmost concern. Much time has passed since his retirement, but he is remembered by many.
Because you, the elected board of directors, represent the citizens of this school district, we ask that you seriously consider my request.
If you decided not to name the new school or streets for either Jack or Willis, perhaps you would consider naming a special room such as a library or a gymnasium for them. If so, a suggestion would be to have a plaque with background information by the door entrances ...
Ottumwa school board director, 1978-87
past board vice president and president of the board