Brooke board honors students, staff

WELLSBURG – The Brooke County Board of Education recognized many students and staff for their accomplishments at its regular meeting Tuesday.

They included two former Brooke High School wrestling coaches, Nolan VanGilder and Frank Ferguson, who have been inducted into the West Virginia Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

A recipient of the hall of fame’s Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award, VanGuilder was a teacher at Brooke High School for more than 30 years, many of them as a mechanical drawing instructor, and head wrestling coach at the school from 1989 to 1997, producing five state champions and three OVAC titlists.

He directed many regional championships and tournaments at the school and designed the wrestling hall of fame in the school’s wrestling room.

VanGilder also was the school’s tennis coach for 25 years and golf coach for 15 years.

He thanked his wife, Shirley, and sons and the many school administrators and school board officials with whom he worked for their support over the years.

Many not familiar with Brooke High School’s wrestling program know Ferguson better for his efforts as a science teacher, for which he has been named Brooke County Teacher of the Year. But as a student at Barnesville High School, Ferguson was an OVAC champion wrestler and winner of the school’s sportsmanship award and wrestled at West Liberty State College before a bicycle accident his junior year left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Ferguson didn’t let disability hinder him from passing on his knowledge of the sport to Brooke High School wrestlers. Over the years he has assisted various Brooke wrestling coaches, aided in organizing the Brooke Classic Wrestling Tournament and served as head mat scorekeeper for the OVAC tournament for many years.

Ferguson thanked all who have supported him over the years, especially his wife, Peggy.

Also recognized were Laura Himrod, a special education instructor at Hooverson Heights Primary School; and Richard Whitehead, a teacher at Follansbee Middle School; who obtained grants for programs at their schools.

Himrod obtained a $5,000 grant from ArcelorMittal for a multi-touch Smartboard, the modern equivalent of an overhead projector screen that allows teachers to access and display information and images from the Internet.

Nicole Ennis, principal of Hooverson Heights Primary School, said Himrod and other teachers approached her about applying for the grant near the end of the last school year, their minds already on how they could use it in their classrooms in the next school year.

Melissa Figlioli, the school board’s special education director, applauded Himrod for “going above and beyond” to improve the quality of her school’s instruction.

Whitehead obtained a $500 grant from Wal-Mart for the after-school program he and other sixth-grade teachers at the school started for their pupils.

In addition to receiving help with their homework, the youth participate in a variety of activities, from sports to cooking, and receive free meals through C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc.

Valerie Smith, the school board’s curriculum director for grades 6-12, said Whitehead is “a caring and conscientious educator.”

The board also recognized Cassidy Bland and the Brooke High School boys tennis team of 2012-13 for receiving the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission’s Academic Achievement Awards.

The awards are given each year to an athletic team whose members have a 4.0 grade point average and a male and female high school athlete who individually has earned the same GPA. Good attendance also is a criterion for the awards.

Awards also are given to academically outstanding teams and athletes at the middle school level and to band members at both levels who have attained high GPAs.

Coached by Brian Cerullo, the tennis team was comprised of Ryan Mezan, Brice Hickey, Jakob Heilman, Jackson Carey, Paraag Gupta and Dalton Minger. A few have graduated and gone on to college.

Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson congratulated the winners, saying, “To be an athlete and a scholar is something special and says a lot about your self-discipline.”

The board also honored Matty Filippelli for winning the West Virginia Council for Exceptional Children’s Yes I Can! Award in the area of athletics.

The award is given to youth who have overcome disabilities to excell in the areas of academics, the arts, school and community activities, self-advocacy, technology and transition.

Filippelli has overcome developmental delays caused by chromosome 2 partial deletion, a rare genetic condition, to participate in the Wellsburg Colts football league, compete in basketball, bowling and track as a Brooke County Special Olympian and in swimming and track at Brooke High School.

He also is a manager with the Brooke Bruins football team and the efforts of several teammates to learn sign language to communicate with him have earned the team third place in the Excellent Sportsmanship Contest held through Facebook by MedExpress Urgent Care.

The award came with a $1,000 cash prize that will benefit the football team, Brooke students receiving physical therapy and other programs.

Dana Cuomo, a speech therapist at the high school, explained Filippelli isn’t deaf but sign language allows him to better communicate

Appearing before the school board and guests with the wide grin for which he is known, Filippelli used sign language to express thanks for the honor.

Cuomo noted Filippelli and the players, who have become known as the Sign Crew, also have been nominated for Liberty Mutual Insurance’s Top 10 Responsible Sports Moments of 2013 and another $1,000 cash prize.

Coached by Sean Blumette, the players are Matthew Lazear, Michael Kurcina, Justin Loughrie, Thomas Cole, Justin Elliott and Matt Hartman. Hartman has since transferred to Weir High School.

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