LEES CREEK — The father of a Marine killed in Iraq is determined to raise enough funds to turf the East Clinton Astros football field and expand the running track from six to eight lanes.
Lance Cpl. Brett Wightman, an East Clinton Local Schools graduate, was one of 14 Marines killed in an Aug. 3, 2005 roadside bombing in northern Iraq. His father Keith spoke to the East Clinton school board this week and acknowledged the project will cost a lot of money. But he is not deterred.
“I know I’ve got to generate a lot of money, but with Brett’s name and what he stood for and what he died for, I think I’ll have quite a bit of companies helping out,” said Wightman.
Wightman said all Brett’s life from fourth grade up had something to do with the field, and “when he came home his coffin was right there on the 50-yard line. How fitting was that?”
East Clinton Superintendent Eric Magee related that when he and another school official met previously with Keith about the proposed project, they brought up it would be a big number to fund-raise and said something about the difficulty of logistics.
“Keith got quiet for a second, and said, ‘Boys, it can be done.’ That pierced me,” Magee said.
The superintendent added that Keith absolutely has the motivation to see it through.
“The administration here at East Clinton will support you in any way and every way that we can — to support you and Brett,” stated Magee.
Keith said he asks that the revitalized field be named in Brett’s honor and that the pee wee football team could play there free of charge.
In addition to going to private sector businesses, Wightman said the community could contribute through the purchase of pavers.
He thanked the board of education and district officials for their confidence, and said he really feels the project can be accomplished.
Wightman concluded by asking them to please have faith in him, and that he now will “start getting started.”
In other school business, Magee said the state has indicated a school construction project in the district for which the state would pay a majority of the cost likely will be approved for the state funding in July 2018.
The project would involve building a new East Clinton Middle School plus renovating the high school. East Clinton, whose middle school was originally built in 1905, is eligible for state funding assistance.
The Ohio School Facilities Commission, through which the state funds would be awarded, has said it would not take part in building a new middle school unless the project were for grades six through 12 because of the relatively small number of middle school students in the East Clinton district.
An existing bond levy will be paid off this year, and district voters may look more favorably at passing a new levy as the current one comes off, Magee has said previously.
East Clinton Local Schools Treasurer John Stanley said at this week’s board meeting that if a new levy were to pass, students potentially would be in the new middle school in August 2020.
Sabina Elementary School Principal Jennifer “Jennie” Pierson said Wilmington College had contacted her concerning its football players doing a community service activity. The college student-athletes come to the school each Wednesday, sometimes during lunch and recess, other times going to classes and reading to them.
“That’s been a positive thing for the community and the kids. They really enjoyed that,” Pierson told the board.
The board of education members met at the middle school for their meeting, and middle school students representing several groups gave presentations. Those groups included student council, Power of the Pen, and a science club in its first year.
The science club is partnering with the Invention League, which has statewide affiliates. Middle school students showed board members their inventions such as Lex Frye’s backpack with a more comfortable shoulder strap, and Timmi Mahanes’ hard-to-spill dog food bowl.
Other inventions were a mailbox modified with a drawer for easier access, a more automatic zipper for people with hand disabilities, and a head hood with strings that have lavender essential oil for relieving stress.
East Clinton Laurel Oaks aviation maintenance student Tabetha Morgan was recognized and addressed the board.
Afterward, school board President Linda Compton said the district feels very proud of Morgan, who she said is an example of “what we think our students can accomplish when they set their minds to it. We look forward to following you and seeing you achieve all these goals that you’ve set before yourself.”
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.