Moran welcomes back Class of 2024 Seniors

Every year the graduating seniors go back to their former elementary schools for “Senior Parades.” It’s fun not only for the students to see their former teachers, but it’s also fun for the current elementary students to see the graduates, congratulate them and wish them good luck!

Moran’s Senior Parade was Thursday, May 30, 2024.

Field Day 2024

Our Field Day on the last day of school (Friday, May 31, 2024) was a big hit, or should we say splash!

Thank you to the Penn Fire Department for providing the water for 5th grades slip-n-slide. Even Mrs. Fox got in on the fun!

Disney’s The Jungle Book Student Performance

The student performers of this year’s school musical performance, Disney’s The Jungle Book, had a full dress rehearsal this morning for the entire school. Let’s just say they knocked it out of the park! 

The acting and singing were phenomenal! All the students and staff in the audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance. The staff director and co-directors also did a great job! Thank you Mrs. Scott (Director) 
and Co-Directors Mrs. Ginter, Mrs. Howell, Mrs. Kinney, and Mrs. Yankauskas for all your dedication.

Some of the equipment used in the production of the show was bought with a grant from the P-H-M Education Foundation.

The musical will be performed for the public Friday, May 17 and Saturday, May 18, both shows at 6:00 p.m. Tickets available for purchase at the door!

Click here for the show Program.

P-H-M’s DVT & Planetarium Renamed Arthur M. Klinger Planetarium

Mr. Art Klinger, the man credited with being the “father” of P-H-M’s DVT & Planetarium, was honored today when the facility he helped create 44 years ago was officially renamed in his honor. The new P-H-M Arthur M. Klinger Planetarium sign now hangs on the exterior of Bittersweet Elementary School, where the facility is housed. It was unveiled to cheers and applause on the afternoon of May 14, 2024. Click to watch the video below.

On hand for the unveiling and dedication were Klinger’s wife, son, and longtime friends. Also present was P-H-M Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker, Executive Director of P-H-M Education Foundation Jennifer Turnblom, members of PHMEF Executive Board, P-H-M School Board Members Jim Garrett and Ryan McCullough, P-H-M Administrators, and current Planetarium Director Melinda O’Malley. P-H-M former Superintendent Dr. Dean Speicher also attended. It was under Dr. Speicher’s leadership that Bittersweet school and the Planetarium opened in 1980. Bittersweet first grader teachers and students added to the celebration. The students made a banners to mark the occasion.


PHM School Trustee VP Ryan McCullough, former PHM Superintendent Dr. Dean Speicher, Art Klinger, current PHM Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker, & PHM School Trustee Jim Garrett

Click to see the full photo gallery on P-H-M’s website.

Klinger began his 45 year career with P-H-M in 1970.  He taught Earth and Space Sciences at Schmucker Middle School, a position held for 10 years before taking over the Planetarium as its first director. Klinger’s interests in astronomy, aviation, and space travel made him a natural for the position. He was a pilot receiving his private pilot’s license in 1974. He was a member of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association and the International Planetarium Society. Klinger even authored an Introductory Astronomy text book that was used in Penn High School and IUSB astronomy classes; the last revision was August 2020. 

It was Klinger’s interest in the space travel history and NASA that really transformed the Planetarium. Astronaut Col. James Irwin, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 15 (8th man to land on the Moon), was the honorary speaker at the Planetarium’s public dedication in February 1981. He was the first of six astronauts to visit the Planetarium over the years; a Russian cosmonaut even visited in 1994. With every visit, personalized autographed photos were donated.

The Planetarium’s Space Museum came about through a connection Klinger made with the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum because of his application for the “Teacher in Space Project” in 1984. From that connection, 47 artifacts, including 16 that have actually been on the Moon, were loaned to the museum. Klinger eventually secured autographed pictures of all flown astronauts. He even obtained the autographed photos of the scientific minds behind the “Space Race,” like Wernher von Braun and Yuri Gagarin. Klinger states that according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, P-H-M is the only public school district that not only has artifacts from the space program, but also has items that have been on the Moon. Click here to watch a video of Klinger talking about the importance of space exploration.

Klinger served as Director of P-H-M’s DVT, Planetarium Space Museum for 35 years retiring in 2015 after working at P-H-M for 45 years.

Dr. and Mrs. Thacker donated $10,000 to the Penn-Harris-Madison Education Foundation to rename the Planetarium the Arthur M. Klinger Planetarium.

This $10,000 donation is among four donations to PHMEF that Dr. and Mrs. Thacker have made as part of the Naming Rights Campaign. All recognize the contributions P-H-M employees have made to the community:

Per PHMEF’s Naming Rights fundraising initiative, 80 percent of the donation will go into Foundation’s endowment, which will in turn provide alternative and additional funding for various co-curricular and extracurricular programs. The remaining 20 percent directly funds professional development initiatives for
P-H-M teachers. Continuing the education and training of teachers is a major priority the School Corporation.

The mission of the Education Foundation is to develop alternative sources of income to support education initiatives in the School Corporation by strengthening partnerships between the community and the District. PHMEF supports education through awarding innovative teaching grants, staff development and other corporation-wide initiatives.

Moran alum, Penn’s Mr. Jeremy Starkweather, Named PHM Secondary Teacher of the Year

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week and Penn-Harris-Madison Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker is making his rounds to surprise a couple of P-H-M’s best educators with some good news.

Today, Dr. Thacker with the help of Penn High School Principal Dr. Sean Galiher and Assistant Principal Jeanie Mitchell (a former PHM Teacher of the year herself), Jeremy Starkweather was taken off guard with the news that he had won P-H-M’s 2024 Secondary Teacher of the Year honor! Local TV stations were on hand to capture it all! Mr. Starkweather’s wife, Ally who is also a teacher at Penn, was told ahead of time so she could participate in the surprise. Along with the students, a big group of fellow Penn teachers and PHM District Administrators were in the classroom to congratulate him. Click to watch the video below.

Mr. and Mrs. Starkweather are both 2013 graduates of Penn High School. Mr. Stakweather attended P-H-M’s Moran Elementary School and Grissom Middle School.

Jeremy Starkweather, PHM Secondary Teacher of the Year Jeremy Starkweather, PHM Secondary Teacher of the Year

Click here to see the full photo gallery below.

Jeremy Starkweather is wrapping up his 7th year of teaching at P-H-M; but including his time as a student, student-teacher, and now a teacher, he’s been at Penn for a total of 12 years! He’s even still on the Speech & Debate Team just like he was while in school, except now he’s the coach! Mr. Starkweather is everywhere; he serves as the Assistant Coach for the Boys Cross Country Team, Coaching Consultant for the Education Foundation’s Running is Elementary, and Vice President of the Penn Building Trades Board of Directors.

Jeremy Starkweather at RIE
Mr. Starkweather at RIE on May 6, 2024

Mr. Starkweather’s interests have carried over from his student days into his teaching career. Along with teaching English, Mr. Starkweather also teaches Debate, and has been serving as Penn’s Speech and Debate Coach since his first year of teaching. Prior to Mr. Starkweather at the helm, the team struggled to attract student participants; now Mr. Starkweather has made it cool to be on the Speech and Debate Team! The 2023-2024 school year both teams did extremely well. The Speech Team has 20 students advancing to the national tournament this summer; and the Debate Team not only won the State Championship, but a couple of the students even broke a record previously held by Coach Starkweather when he was a student!

Mr. Starkweather standing with Debate Team trophies before having his head shaved (Jan. 30, 2024)

For the first time in Penn history, the Debate Team won a State Championship. Additionally, out of all five state championship debate categories, three Penn students came in 1st place in two categories (one team and one individual) adding two more State Titles to the list. One of those wins was a student duo in the Policy category. Policy received a traveling trophy that has been around almost a century (in existence since 1928); and the last time the trophy was in Penn High School’s possession was when Jeremy and a teammate won it back in 2013 (his senior year)! How’s that for full circle? 

Until recently, Mr. Starkweather was known for his big bushy, blonde afro. However, thanks to Jeremy’s topnotch debate coaching skills, his team captains convinced him last summer, when the team was at the national competition, that if they won the State Championship, he would allow the students to shave his head. Jeremey Starkweather is a man of his word! He didn’t just allow his students to cut his hair, he let ALL the Speech & Debate students, Speech teacher Mrs. Danielle Black, and Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker get in on the action. It took over an hour to cut off 9 inches of his golden locks! Now that’s showing commitment and dedication to your students!  Click here to see that video and full photo gallery.

Speech and Debate has become so popular at Penn that Mr. Starkweather enlisted the help of his top students to see if they could create the same interest at the middle school level. Not only was there interest, there’s now Debate teams at all three middle schools with over 80 students. The past few summers Jeremy has also been offering Summer Debate Camp.

Speech & Debate Team Float in the 2024 Penn Homecoming Parade

What is Mr. Starkweather’s secret to creating such an interest for Speech & Debate? It could be that he has the best and rowdiest student club floats in Penn’s Homecoming parade; but it’s also because he quite simply cares about his students and they know it. There’s no “debating” it!

During the week of May 6 along with surprising the Teacher of the Year winners, Dr. Thacker will also surprise the honoree of Classified Employee of the Year. Monday, May 6 Dr. Thacker surprised 3rd grade Northpoint teacher Nichol Mondy with the news that she was the district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year. All winners will be officially recognized at P-H-M’s Employee Recognition & Retiree Dinner on Wednesday, May 22nd. Along with a plaque, the two Teachers of the Year will also receive a grant from the P-H-M Education Foundation to use in their classroom. Both TOY winners will go on to compete for Indiana’s Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in early Fall 2024 by the IDOE.

P-H-M Named 2024 Best Community for Music Education

Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation was named among the 2024’s Best Communities for Music Education (​BCME) in the country by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for the 11th year in a row! P-H-M is among only 17 Indiana school districts, out of about 300, that made the list.

Now in its 25th year, the 2024 Best Communities for Music Education program has recognized 583 school districts and 135 schools across the country for the outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders and their support for music education as part of a well-rounded education for all children. This recognition celebrates and recognizes K-12 music teachers in school districts who found creative ways for the “show to carry on” despite schools moving online or to in-person settings where masks were required not only for student musicians and instruments.

In P-H-M elementary schools, music class is part of the regular curriculum following state standards. Students are instructed in both vocal and instrument classes. Beginning in 6th grade, P-H-M students at our three middle schools (Discovery, Schmucker and Grissom) have the opportunity to choose choir, orchestra or band as their music elective. Students at Discovery also have the option of choosing Piano Lab. Schools from elementary all the way up to Penn High School also perform musicals.

Horizon Elementary students perform Charlie Brown Christmas
Horizon Elementary students perform Charlie Brown Christmas

Penn High School offers the Fine Arts & Communication Academy as part of its unique academy structure. The seven academy design provides Penn students with relevant and meaningful coursework taught in smaller, supportive environments where each student is known well by his teacher and peers. Nearly a third of Penn’s total 3,500 students are enrolled in the Fine Arts Academy with the majority being involved with music programs, either Choir, Orchestra, Band or another music program.

Penn High School Band students perform A Evening of Jazz (Feb. 9, 2024)
Penn High School Band students perform A Evening of Jazz (Feb. 9, 2024)

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, P-H-M answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas. Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music.

In a series of landmark studies by scientists and researchers at Northwestern University a link was found between students in community music programs and life-long academic success, including higher high school graduation rates and college attendance. In another study from the University, it was discovered that the benefits of early exposure to music education improves how the brain processes and assimilates sounds, a trait that lasts well into adulthood. Beyond the Northwestern research, other studies have indicated that music education lays the foundation for individual excellence in group settings, creative problem solving and flexibility in work situations, as well learning how to give and receive constructive criticism to excel.

2024 PHM Elementary Spell Bowl Results

Tuesday, March 19 was P-H-M’s annual Elementary Spell Bowl event. Student 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teams from all 11 elementary schools compete. Click here to see the photo gallery below.

Below is this year’s “leaderboard”:

3rd Grade Winners:

3rd gr. winners, Northpoint

  • 1st place- Northpoint with 29 points, coached by Nichol Monday
  • 2nd place- Prairie Vista with 27 points
  • 3rd place tie – Bittersweet, Horizon and Mary Frank each with 22 points

4th Grade Winners:

4th gr winners, Northpoint

  • 1st place- Northpoint with 30 points, coached by Jen Payne
  • 2nd place- Bittersweet with 29 points
  • 3rd place- Prairie Vista with 27 points

The 5th grade competition was very close with Northpoint and Bittersweet neck and neck. The tiebreaker words were: panache, soup du jour, fluorescence, pharmaceutical and Albuquerque.

5th Grade Winners:

5th gr winners, Northpoint  5th gr 2nd place, Bittersweet

  • 1st place- Northpoint with 38 points, coached by Ros Morehouse 
  • 2nd place- Bittersweet with 37 points
  • 3rd place tie – Prairie Vista and Horizon each with 26 points

Overall Bittersweet did so well that when the 5th grade team came out on stage to be recognized, the other students and parents cheered, clapped, and gave them a rousing round of congratulations!

Bittersweet team recognized  Bittersweet recognized

The teams spend weeks preparing for Spell Bowl with their teacher coaches. They may study word lists, learn about derivations (e.g., Latin roots) and rules (e.g., capitalization, pluralization), and how to spell correctly under pressure.

The format of the Spell Bowl is more like a written test. The emcee reads a word and uses the word in a sentence, the students listen and then write it on paper within a 15-second time limit. The students’ written entries are reviewed by a panel of judges and then their score is posted in front of the audience. Each correct word spelling is worth one point.

The annual event is held in Penn High School’s Center for Performing Arts to not only accommodate all the student teams, but also the students’ “fans,” which are their family, friends and other staff from their home schools!

Mrs. Cassie Scarsella, P-H-M’s High Ability Coordinator, manages the Spell Bowl and works to assure that it is a positive and enriching experience for students. Academic competition can give students confidence, increase their motivation to sharpen their skills and abilities, and expand their opportunities to receive recognition.

April 8 Solar Eclipse Information

While the Indianapolis area and south will experience 100% totality for the solar eclipse occurring on Monday, April 8, 2024, the St. Joseph County area will only experience 96%.

The Michiana area will start experiencing darkness at 1:53 p.m., lasting until 4:23 p.m., with 96% totality occurring at 3:09 p.m. and lasting just over 4 minutes.

Click to watch the video below and hear from P-H-M Digital Video Theater and Planetarium Director Melinda O’Malley as she shows us what to expect in our area.

Click here to see a Indiana Department of Natural Resources map of Indiana regions that will experience varying degrees of darkness.  Click here to also get more background information on the Great American Eclipse website.

Because the partial eclipse time is occurring around elementary school dismissal times and based on the recommendations of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the IDOE, P-H-M will have an eLearning day on April 8. Click here for more information on that decision.

Thanks to Old National Bank and P-H-M Education Foundation, all students will have a pair of eclipse glasses to use at home when watching the eclipse with their families. The glasses will be sent home the week of March 25 before P-H-M’s Spring Break.

DVT Director Mrs. O’Malley demonstrates how the eclipse glasses should be used.

eLearning Day for April 8 due to Solar Eclipse

At the P-H-M Board of School of Trustees meeting on Monday, February 26, district administration made a presentation to the Board regarding the total solar eclipse taking place on Monday, April 8. As part of the presentation, district administration announced that for a variety of reasons Monday, April 8 will be an eLearning Day. If the district has used all of its allotted three eLearning Days (we currently have used two), the day will be a Virtual Learning Day. No P-H-M sponsored field trips or planned evening activities will take place on this date. Monday, April 8 is the first day back after Spring Break (April 1-5). 

Indiana is in the path of totality and is centrally located in the United States, thus the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is telling tourists, residents, school districts and public agencies to be prepared for three days of potential impact such as, oversized crowds, gridlock traffic, communications disruptions, and even nocturnal animal confusion. Click here to see the full presentation from last night’s Board meeting.

The Indianapolis area and south will experience 100% totality; while the St. Joseph County area will experience 96%. Click here to see a map of Indiana regions that will experience varying degrees of darkness from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website. The South Bend area will start experiencing darkness at 1:53 p.m., lasting until 4:23 p.m., with 96% totality occurring at 3:09 p.m. and lasting just over 4 minutes. Because these times are around school dismissal times and based on the recommendations of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the IDOE, P-H-M will not be holding in-person instruction on April 8. 

Thanks to Old National Bank and P-H-M Education Foundation, all students in the district will receive eclipse glasses to use at home with instructions. Mrs. Mindy O’Malley, Director of P-H-M’s Arthur M. Klinger Planetarium and Digital Video Theater, and a team of teachers, are preparing grade-level eclipse information to send home with students. In the classrooms leading up to April 8, teachers will educate students about this nearly once-in-a-lifetime event; the next total solar eclipse where portions of Indiana will be in full totality will be 2099.

If parents have any questions, they should contact their students’ principals. Employees should contact their supervisor or Human Resources.

Ms. Lynn Named Culver’s Bus Driver of the Month

We’re happy to share the news that  P-H-M bus driver Andrea Enyeart, or “Ms. Lynn” as the students call her, was named Culver’s Bus Driver of the Month for February 2024!

Ms. Lynn drives for Bittersweet, Moran and Schmucker Middle School. Her positive and upbeat personality is highly valued by all in the transportation department.

The surprise took place at Bittersweet on Feb. 28, 2024 as she waited for her students to board for afternoon pick-up.

Transportation Administrators (Director Brandon Tugmon, Asst. Directors Amy Aschenbrenner and Robin Tharp) joined Osceola Culver’s restaurant co-owners Mark Nowak and Keith Remington, Bittersweet Principal Shonda Masterson, and P-H-M Education Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Turnblom to surprise/congratulate Ms. Lynn.

Thank you Culver’s and and the P-H-M Education Foundation for being valued partners to make this award possible! 

If you would like to nominate your student’s bus driver, click here to fill out the nomination form.

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