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Enrollment energizes new principal

8/2/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

One might have thought Wednesday was old hat for Rachel Wentling, in her 13th year in the education field.

Not exactly.

Wentling is the mother of two students at Holy Family Elementary School in Hays. So enrollment lines were nothing new for Wentling, who taught at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School for 12 previous years.

But this one was indeed different for Wentling, in her first year as principal at Holy Family.

"I went through enrollment as a mom," Wentling said, "but I evaluated it as a principal."

She probably will be finding herself wearing both hats a lot this year, as her son, Jace, will be a third-grader and her daughter, Tessa, is entering kindergarten.

And Wentling insisted she still would frequent the classroom.

"I have full intentions of (visiting classrooms)," said Wentling, who remained a classroom teacher at TMP even after assuming assistant principal duties five years ago. "That's what energizes me. That's what keeps me going."

Wentling, as well as other teachers, surely were energized Wednesday with the constant movement in and out of the school cafeteria during the day-long enrollment process.

"I finally had some time to sit and talk to my staff," said Wentling, who has had a whirlwind summer after being named HFE principal in May, shortly after completing work on her master's degree at Fort Hays State University.

"And," she added, "today has been really good to meet all the families."

What with Jace having been at Holy Family since his preschool days, Wentling already knows a lot of HFE families. But there were several new ones as well.

New families at HFE

Some of those not-so-familiar faces are from the same family, including that of Troy and Tina Herrman, who enrolled three students Wednesday.

The Herrmans had been planning to send their children to high school at TMP but were unsure which of the two middle schools in Hays -- Kennedy and Felten -- they would attend.

When Hays USD 489 voted in June 2011 to close Kennedy Middle School at the end of the 2011-12 school year, Hays Catholic Schools began work on adding seventh- and eighth-grade classes to the TMP curriculum this year.

That ultimately resulted in being able to offer Catholic education from preschool through 12th grade because Holy Family runs through sixth grade. Students attending public middle school will be at Hays Middle School, formerly Felten.

"Once they closed Kennedy, we knew it was time for us to make a decision where Alex would go to junior high," Tina Herrman said of their oldest daughter, Alexandra, who will be a sixth-grader this fall.

The Herrmans, who also enrolled two third-graders, twins Nicholas and Jessica, visited Holy Family and decided to enroll there. Their youngest daughter, Kathryn, will turn 3 in September and will be able to eventually attend preschool at HFE, too.

"We had heard great things about Holy Family," Tina Herrman said. "And everybody has been very friendly, very helpful."

"Wilson was a wonderful school, too," she added, but said changing schools now was the best for their family with Alexandra starting sixth grade.

Enrollment up this year

With the addition of several new sixth-graders, HFE's total current enrollment for the 2012-13 school year is 374 -- up about 10 students from a year ago. Preschool is full, as are two grades -- kindergarten and second grade, capped at 25 students per classroom -- and two other grade levels are close to full.

Wentling was instrumental in helping start the new junior high program at TMP, and she thinks her familiarity with that project will be a plus for both schools. TMP enrollment is set for next week.

"Bill and I have a great working relationship already," she said of Bill DeWitt, principal at TMP-Marian Junior-Senior High. "That will be a real plus for our seventh- and eighth-grade connection, a good starting ground to work with."

Wentling was looking forward to working with the junior high level, but when HFE Principal Jana Simon retired in May, Wentling was contacted by several people to apply for the HFE head job.

"I was planning on it," she said of helping lead the new junior high, "but the Holy Spirit had a different plan for me."