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May 16, 2013

35 years and SR principal retiring
"Competitive, detail-oriented, punctual" reflect Meyer

Mary Mattingly


Principal Bob Meyer, left, likes to interact with the students during the day. He is pictured with Jessica Burris, who is a senior.

Bob Meyer walks down the hallway of South Ripley High School calling each of the 400 students by name. Not only does he know their name, he knows their story.

He'll greet them with a "Happy birthday," "Good game! "or "How's your grandma?" keeping up the strong student rapport he has developed. That's what 35 years in the community, and 34 years at the same school, will do for you. "I love hallways in between classes, seeing the kids in a different light than in the classroom," the principal said, noting he's on his third generation for some of those students.

Meyer is retiring in June. He has been the S. Ripley principal for six years, and assistant principal was for seven years, but taught US History, Health and PE at South Ripley for the other years. (His first year was at Jac-Cen-Del, but the rest has been at S. Ripley.) Meyer doesn't stay behind his principal's desk much, but is active in the community, seen at most school events, and has his name published in the phone book. Being transparent and available is important to this educator. He is South Ripley and bleeds green.

Meyer's history

A native of Aurora, and a self-professed "high school jock" he went to college and played baseball, even had a stint in the minor leagues in Cleveland, until he decided he wanted to teach. "I wanted to go into education. I've always liked kids. I had a couple of coaches I greatly admired, and I liked the lives they lead. I thought it would be a good career," he said. He was not wrong. In 1978, he got his degree from Ball State University and he and wife Roxanne moved to the area. The rest is history--Bob Meyer history.

He was an above average student himself, but that's not what defined him. "I guess the one word to describe me, even in non-sports, is 'competitive.' My wife, Roxanne, will say she sees it come out even when I drive! I don't like people to pass me. Well, I don't know about that," he says and laughs.

Supt. Rob Moorhead sees the competitive spirit as a positive. "He has always been extremely competitive and that competitive fire motivated him to push others to excel. He always wanted South Ripley to finish at the top in any competitive activity."

Moorhead was in Meyer's first class at S. Ripley. "He runs a tight ship and has high expectations for student behavior. Although his approach may appear gruff at times, he also has a great sense of humor and has great rapport with the students, even leading a congo line at the prom this year!" His education philosophy? "Gus Moorhead (former South Ripley principal) used the saying 'if it's good for kids, it's good for South Ripley and that's how I view things...And I also follow 'do unto others as you do unto yourself.' "

Meyer is also compassionate, admitting he has a soft heart for the students struggling with circumstances at home, be it a divorce, a sick mother, etc. "I've learned not all kids are equal, and I think you have to pay attention to those more needy." Teaching and education is not black and white, as his predecessor Bill Snyder, told him when he started in administration.

Meyer is respected among students and staff. Sandy Howard who has worked with him at the high school office for six years, says "he's very easy to work with." She also describes him as "detail oriented" "punctual" and "straight up." He tells it likes it is, she says. And she knows what he won't tolerate: "lying" she said, which is exactly what he said when asked. "The punishment will be much worse if I learn you lied. And I don't like talking back. That's how I was brought up," Meyer says of his late father, Millard. His mother, Isabelle is 85 and lives in Manchester, close enough for him to check in on her.

Kids do make poor choices, "because they are kids and they are young" and he will give them a break, but is not so sympathetic when it's a repeated pattern.He recognizes the four years of high school are critical in the development of a young person's life, and the role the school has, "We have them for seven hours of the day to make sure they grow up to be productive citizens." Meyer acknowledges there is more accountability in teaching - he's spent this past year implementing the RISE teacher evaluations - but is concerned few are entering the teaching field today. Only one graduating senior has expressed an intent to do so this year.

"It's a very rewarding job, but also the hardest job you could have. You put 30 kids in a classroom, with 30 different backgrounds and styles, and you have to teach them for an hour." He added, "A lot of people will blame us when something goes wrong, but we are not the parents. That is not our role." That's probably the biggest difference he's noticed in his three decades, that parents doubt the school when little Johnny or Susie does something wrong, rather than support it.

A principal's nightmare

Meyer won't miss "the unexpected things" that can happen in a school day. Meyer went through a principal's worst nightmare: the fatal loss of students. There were three this past March from a two vehicle accident, another with the death of Matt Willman, and last May, an ATV accident took the life of Emily Mathes. Two years ago student Tanner Tucker died from an automobile accident. He also lost a staff member, Michelle Riggle four years ago.

The March accident is still fresh in his mind. He went to the crash scene that morning, and met with staff to discuss their approach, leaving the duties of talking to the student body to two other principals. "Students came in upset the next morning because I didn't talk to them. They trusted me because I had been through it before with some." So he met with them the following morning."I don't think you can be afraid to let them know you are hurting, and that you are compassionate…I think at times like these they should see me more as a human being than an administrator."

What's next?

Besides working part-time in the insurance field, Meyer plans to pick up that competitive nature of his, and improve his golf game to a 4 handicap instead of 8, with a trip to Pebble Beach with son Doug soon. He had a scary bout with West Nile Virus last fall, and that helped lead to his decision to retire this year. The doctor at the time told him he was his third case, and the only one he could talk to (because the others had died). "Life is too short," the principal realized. He'll spend time in Greenwood, since both son Doug and daughter Rachel Woodall live there, and have blessed them with three grandchildren.

He has no regrets since his decision 40 years ago to become a teacher. "I'd do it again." Meyer will be missed by student and staff alike, for his organization, honesty, compassion, and pride in his school. As Moorhead said, "I think Bob Meyer will be remembered as someone who was a true South Ripley person. He has always wanted what was best for South Ripley and the students, teachers and staff members who make up the South Ripley family. I am pretty sure that he bleeds SR green, and I know he will be deeply missed at SRHS. "


The public is invited to a reception for Meyer Sunday, May 19 at the high school auditeria from 1 to 4 p.m.

Milan social studies team wins state academic finals

Cindy Ward
Staff Writer


MHS Social Studies Academics Team won first place in the state academic finals recently. There were 87 teams that competed and Milan walked away with 22 out of 25 questions correct. Left, coach Alecia Fryman, Paul Brown, Russell Pitts, Sara Pitts, Zach Meyer and coach Brenda Walter.

The Milan High School Social Studies Academics Team is now number one in the State of Indiana! The Milan team was among squads from 87 high schools who competed recently at the 27th Annual Indiana Academic Super Bowl State Finals on May 4 at Purdue University's Loeb Playhouse in West Lafayette. Milan walked away answering 22 out of 25 questions

The Milan Academic Team members bringing home the victory were sophomore, Sarah Pitts, and seniors, Russell Pitts, Zach Meyer and Paul Brown, under the coaching of Brenda Walter and Alecia Fryman. Sarah and Russell Pitts are the children of Steve and Donna Pitts, Milan. Meyer is the son of David and Teresa Meyer, Dillsboro, and Brown is the son of Jeff and Kim Brown, Milan.

Students spent months coming to school early two mornings each week, as well as attending invitationals, to prepare for the area competition in Batesville. The top six squads in the state were then selected from the area competition scores. Milan ranked third going into the state competition.

The students received their materials and study guides to go over during the course of a season. They were also given 500-600 questions that could possibly be on the test in which to study. In an actual competition, there are only 25 total questions, unless there is a tiebreaker. Once the team was selected, members divided up the study guides and each member became responsible for knowing the material in his or her possession.

In addition to spending extra study time at school, students also spent lots of time crunching the books at home. Coaches Walters and Fryman were instrumental at asking them practice questions, going over videos and helping out in other areas of study. Students also performed a lot of research on their own and presented it to each other in the mornings.

During the actual state competition, the Milan team was in second place for the majority of the time, trailing Austin High School. As it got closer to the end, the harder questions were being asked. That's when Austin finally missed a question, tying the match. When it got down to only three questions remaining, Austin missed two in a row.

The winning question for Milan was number 24, which pertained to Greek mythology, "Why did Xerxes say "my men have turned into women and my women into men?' " After that, the team knew going into the last question that they had already won. Nobody could remember what the last question was, because they were too excited.

"We probably could have gotten the last one right, but we could no longer concentrate at that point," said Russell Pitts. The competition only lasted around 30-45 minutes. All four teammates have participated on the academic team before, but this is their first time making it to state.

When asked what he liked about social studies, Meyer replied, "I like history because it give us a light as to how we came to be a people. And it helps us shape ourselves in the future so we don't make the same mistakes twice." Meyer is the senior class president, student council treasurer, a drum major, as well as participates in many other school activities, including sports. Meyer has plans to study nursing at Xavier University after he graduates.

Brown also is active in sports and loves baseball. He is a member of band where he is the drum leader. He said that social studies is his favorite subject and has always come easy to him. Brown plans on studying aviation technology at Purdue University.

Russell Pitts plans to attend Purdue University where he will study agriculture. He joined the academic team because he, too, has always liked history. His reason for wanting to study agriculture is because his dad is a farmer and he wants to continue the tradition. He did say that he plans on having another career, also, but is not sure as of yet what that will be. He is on student council, 4-H and is president of FFA.

Sarah Pitts will be leaving Milan after this year to attend the Indiana Academy at Ball State University, Muncie. This is a two-year junior-senior program for which she applied this year and was accepted. One of the qualifications to attend the academy is a score of 1500 on the high school SAT or 150 on the PSAT. She has not decided what she wants to study yet when she graduates from high school. Sarah is secretary of FFA, a student council member, 4-H member, band member, plays sports and a long list of other school clubs and activities.

The students want to thank Walter and Fryman for coaching them, as well as Linda Oelker, middle school social studies teacher, who also helped them to prepare. Students said that Oelker is the teacher who introduced them to Greek mythology when they attended middle school. They also wanted to thank Milan High School for allowing them to spend the night before in a hotel, giving them a chance to rest up and have a good breakfast before the competition. Lastly, they want to thank their parents for their support and for providing snacks for practices in the mornings.

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