Big week for Indian Creek

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on May 8, 2018?

Denise Todoroff does.

“On that evening, when we gathered at Crossroads Christian Church for the watch party, I remember when (Superintendent) T.C. (Chappelear) announced that we had passed the levy, I knew I was in shock and couldn’t believe it.”

Todoroff, who has been the treasurer and chief financial officer of the Indian Creek Local School District for 20 years, was sharing memories of the night voters passed the levy that allowed the district to leverage money from the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission that has allowed the district to transform its facilities.

She shared those sentiments Wednesday night, during the dedication of the new Cross Creek Elementary School on Bantam Ridge Road, and Thursday, when a similar ceremony was held at Hills Elementary School in Mingo Junction to show off the renovations that have been made at that building.

Up until that 2018 primary election, getting voters in the district to pass a levy for construction of new facilities had been, well, a daunting challenge.

With the exception of the vote that allowed for the construction of Indian Creek Middle School in Mingo Junction, which opened a decade ago, residents of the district, which was formed in 1966 through the consolidation of the Cross Creek, Wayne and Mingo Junction districts, have consistently not voted in favor of new buildings. Wintersville and Mingo high schools were folded into Indian Creek High School in 1993.

“For the past 55 years, there have been various attempts at levies, and some have been heartbreakingly close and some haven’t been,” Chappelear explained Wednesday.

That changed on that May evening more than three years ago.

“We’re just so fortunate to have such a great community and have people who care and are willing to pour their hearts into this district,” he added. “I hope that everyone knows that this 2018 win was the culmination of the efforts of the last 55 years. On May 8, 2018, the Indian Creek community spoke and said they were willing to bear the expenses for world-class facilities for their children. The product of that commitment is what we see here tonight.”

What the voters approved was a 6.1-mill, 37-year levy. That $45 million generated locally allowed the district to get another $18 million from the commission. And residents of the district are getting a lot for their money — the new Cross Creek school, a new high school that is scheduled to open in the spring and the renovations to Hills.

Still, based on the history, district officials and supporters in the community figured it would be a tough sell — but they were determined to make it happen.

“A few years ago, we were sitting in the living room and watching the election results of an earlier levy, and I said ‘Goodness, this failed again — can you believe this failed again,'” said Anthony Mougianis. “I was so angry, and I said that we can’t let this happen again to our community.”

Mougianis, the owner of Apollo Pro Cleaning and Restoration, and Jeff Greco, pastor of Crossroads church, helped to direct the campaign committee that came together to fight for the passage of the levy.

“The first thing people think is that it’s going to cost me something,” Mougianis said. “Yeah, it’s going to cost you something. If you want excellence in your community, if you want to live in an area that is valuable, your school system had better be top-notch. We always had great teachers, we always had a great curriculum — we missed out on the fiscal part. Now, today, we can sit here and truly celebrate the efforts of so many people. We were relentless in our efforts to make this work.”

What district residents saw Wednesday and Thursday evening was impressive. While Cross Creek is welcoming the first pupils through its doors, Hills has been serving students since 1968. Both buildings are now state-of-the-art and offer pupils a modern learning environment.

Being able to show off the buildings was, officials noted, a reason for celebration.

“When you think about the roots of Indian Creek, you go back to the Wayne Wolves, the Wintersville Warriors and the Mingo Indians,” remembered Dr. John Figel, a longtime member of the school board. “It takes me back to a time when we were making some very difficult decisions and bringing our communities and students into one solid district.

“I will tell you, at that time that was a difficult decision for all of us,” he continued. “Going back to 1993, when we started as one, I often wondered, did we make the right decision? There were a lot of people in our communities who were doubting us, and there were some difficult times as we were moving forward. Now, looking at this and seeing where we are today, there’s no doubt in my mind that those decisions were the right decisions.”

The renovations to Hills and the new elementary and high school buildings are giving the district a new sense of energy. When you add in the middle school it all means the district has been the beneficiary of a lot of construction during the past 15 years or so.

And that has not gone unnoticed.

“I’ve been with the district for 22 years, and with the exception of the middle school, time after time I’ve seen levies fail,” said John Belt, the assistant superintendent. “Most administrators in the state never get to be involved in a single building project. When all this is done, I will have been involved with four.”

And while the schools that were dedicated are impressive and demonstrate to residents of the district that their money is being well spent, Belt is confident there’s more excitement to come.

“Just wait until you see the high school,” he said.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)


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