The First Decade

Compiled by Thomas P. Hannan

The Ohio Middle School Association traces its beginnings to a conference held in April, 1973, at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. This conference was a result of the encouragement of the Midwest Middle School Association (now the National Middle School Association), which was promoting middle school activity in the various states of the Midwest. The conference committee of Tom Hannan, John Blight, Ron Hager, and Doug Theaker brought 120 educators to this one-day session which became the first statewide middle school conference.

In a follow-up to that session, a meeting of interested middle school educators was held in June at Big Walnut Middle School for the purpose of forming a state organization. As a result of this June meeting and an August meeting at Edwards Middle School in Brunswick, the Ohio Council of Middle School Education was formed with Bob Justice serving as chairman and Rollin Krabill as secretary-treasurer.

During this formative period, the organization was guided in a somewhat informal manner by an executive committee. From the beginning, the organization was committed to be open to all individuals—teachers, administrators, parents, university personnel—interested in the middle grade student. The organization has always considered itself special in that its existence is based on the client served rather than the personal interests and/or benefits of its members.

Growth during these early years was slow, but steady. Efforts were made to gain recognition by other educational organizations. A member of the OESA TEPS Commission sat in on several early board meetings. Several members met with State Superintendent of Schools, Martin Essex in December of 1973 and the elementary principals association asked to have an OCMSE representative sit on their Middle School Committee.

1974 marked the beginnings of more formal organization as a constitution was written and approved and Howard Moon was appointed as Executive Secretary for $200.00 a month for a six-month period (with a provision that the salary would be paid as long as there were sufficient funds in the treasury). This arrangement lasted for about a year until Howard moved to a new job out-of-state. The first organization-sponsored conference was held at the Ramada Inn East in Columbus. Fifty-nine “official” members were claimed at the end of the year. Dues were initially established at $5.00 per year.

1975 proved to be the year that marked much of the formal establishment and recognition of the organization. It “had arrived”. Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State of Ohio and tax exempt status was granted by the Internal Revenue Service. The official mailing address was established in Columbus and the first full slate of officers was selected under the new constitution with Ted Grotsky chosen as the first President. Groveport became the first school site to be used for the annual conference. Despite an ice storm that closed many school systems, over 200 educators attended the one-day session that was chaired by Pat Lal.

Recognition was gained with other state organizations as affiliation was made with the National Middle School Association, and the state elementary and secondary principals’ associations invited OCMSE to participate in dialogue regarding middle school concern.

The organization’s first position paper was written and approved, and subsequently served as the basis of testimony before the state legislature regarding a bill that had been introduced to establish standards and certification for middle schools. Unfortunately, the lack of unified thinking and the fragmentation of various groups kept the legislation from becoming reality.

Dave Liggett, as Publications Chairperson, became the editor of the first journal, published in the spring of 1975. Its purpose, as stated in the editorial in that first issue is “to provide a communication link among all who share a common concern for educating the emerging adolescent.

The state conference in 1976 was held in Gahanna under the direction of Burt Reed. Keynoted by Donald Eichorn, it was an extremely successful conference.

To identify more closely with the National Middle School Association, OCMSE changed its name to the Ohio Middle School Association in the spring of 1975. This seemingly simple change came after much debate, however. There was reluctance to give the appearance of excluding upper elementary and junior high people with the name “middle school”, but it was eventually decided that the term middle school represented the concept of education for which we stood and that it should be stated strongly. A commitment was made to include upper elementary and junior high in all our activities.

The first of what has become an annual event marked the beginning of Pat Lally’s presidency in 1976 as the Executive Board met at the Mohican State Park Lodge that summer. The meetings and social times helped the Board organize for the year and members to get to know one another better.

Northmont Junior High School in Clayton hosted the 1977 conference. Chaired by Sheri Russell Scott, it featured Bob Malinka and James Uphoff as chief speakers plus both mini-sessions and action lab.

Tom Hannan began his term as President in 1977 with an expanded summer workshop at Salt Fork. This meeting was highlighted by a discussion session with Dr. Franklin Walter, the recently appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction. The work of this retreat was guided by the report of the yearlong efforts of the Future Goals and Directions Committee as chaired by Ted Grotsky. One of the chief recommendations was for a full constitutional review and revision (subsequently completed in 1979). A second recommendation was for a greater emphasis on the regional organization. Vince Barra was named to chair a committee to study this area and make recommendations. As a result, the regions were changed from six to nine, which corresponded with those of OEA. The main reason for this was to coordinate with an existing regionalization and to facilitate workshop activities utilizing established in-service days. An extra $1.00 had previously been added to the organizational dues to foster regional development.

Jerry Rottier and Dwight Moody co-chaired the 1978 conference in Findlay. School calendar changes necessitated by severe weather that year forced a late change to the YMCA, but the conference was still a success due to strong efforts made by the chairpersons. Chief speakers were John O’Donnell and Jerry Mallet.

Standards for the middle school in Ohio was one of the chief concerns at the summer workshop of 1978 as new president Vince Barra led the meeting at Mohican. The session was highlighted by the attendance of representatives from the State Department of Education, the elementary principals association, and the secondary principals association. Further recognition of the importance of this area was marked by the establishment of a Certification and Standards Committee under the chairmanship of Dwayne DeMei.

“The Uniqueness of the Middle Grade Student” became the first published position paper of OMSA in 1978. Written by Dwight Moody and Jerry Rottier, “it...was prepared in an attempt to show how the unique needs of middle grade students suggest the need of certification for the teachers in grades five through nine.

Brady Middle School in Pepper Pike was the site of the 1979 conference. It was highlighted by the attendance of over 200 parents and speeches by Joe Rogus and Dorothy Fuldheim. The Middle School Educator of the Year Award was inaugurated at this time with Burt Reed honored as the initial recipient.

Bob Edwards assumed the presidency in 1979 and chaired the summer workshop at Mohican. His term of office was marked by the completion and implementation of the constitutional revision and the development of in-service program.

Service to members has always been an important priority with OMSA and the availability of low-cost in-service programs to members or potential members gained in importance. Although individual members have presented programs upon request, this service became an official organizational activity in 1977 as several programs were made available. Topics at that time included The Middle School Story, Characteristics of Middle School Children and Program Implications, and What Is A Middle School?. Tailoring programs more to the identified needs of requesting schools or districts became the trend, especially where organizational changes were being made to establish middle schools. Presentations have been made in recent years in Mansfield, Springfield, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

Extensive OMSA efforts in the area of middle school standards began to bear fruit in late 1979 as former president Vince Barra was named to the Blue Ribbon Committee that would direct the overall revision of state standards for elementary and secondary schools. This representation on the controlling committee was important in assuring that middle school concerns would be adequately represented. A position statement was adopted by OMSA in 1980 and became the basis of testimony presented to the committee. Follow-up testimony was given in 1981 in reaction to the initial draft of the new standards. At the time of this writing, the second draft of the new standards is being prepared.

Five hundred participants made the 1980 state conference at Madison Middle School in Groveport a huge success. Chaired by Ted Grotsky, it was the largest conference to date. Speakers were John Lounsbury and Dorothy DeBolt, and Dr. Gordon Vars was the recipient of the Educator of the Year award.

Lake Hope was the rainy site of the 1980 summer workshop that began the presidency of John Church. Discussion of the aforementioned standards revision and planning for institutional memberships in OMSA dominated this retreat. Although it did not take effect until 1981, the planning for and commitment to institutional membership occurred at this session. An entire faculty could (and still can) enroll as members for an established fee, $100.00 at that time.

Vince Barra was named as Educator of the Year at the 1981 Conference held at Harmon Middle School in Aurora. Chaired by Bob Homansky and Dave Rathz, it featured Mike Buscemi and Dave Patterson as speakers.

The tenth year of the organization began under the presidency of Larry Lewis with the summer workshop held at Kent State University. It was marked by an effort to put more stress on the development of the regional organization. Job descriptions for regional coordinators were established and an orientation program given to those involved. The underlying theme was that the regions collectively make up the state organization and it would only be as strong as the region.

This look back on the first decade of the Ohio Middle School Association shows a great deal of progress from a time when a small group of concerned educators struggled for recognition for the organization and the middle school movement, to the present time when OMSA is recognized by many across the state as the voice of the middle school. However, the recognition is by many, not all. The need for progress is still there. Perhaps, at the next writing of OMSA history, we can say “recognized by all.

The Second Decade and Beyond

Compiled by Philip R. Binley

  • Establishment of specific certification for teaching in the middle grades was a major thrust of the association in the 80′s, with Larry Lewis providing the leadership.

  • How to assess the effectiveness of individual middle schools was another association goal and Rob Hayden, followed later by Larry Lewis, devoted many hours to this endeavor.

  • Position Papers were completed on the following topics in the years indicated:

  • Rationale for Maintaining Middle Grade Organization; 183

  • Interscholastic Athletics; 198485

  • The Need for Middle Level Teacher Certification; 185

  • Effective Parenting + Good Middle Schools = Successful Children; 186

  • Transition: A Shared Responsibility; 187

In celebration of their first annual conference being held in Columbus in 1974, the National Middle School Association held their tenth conference in Columbus in 1984 with some assistance provided by OMSA members. The beginning of OMSA marketing efforts can be traced to the summer of 1987 with Cookie Grafton providing the impetus. Pins, pens, mugs, shirts, and many other items were gradually added to an inventory and offered for sale at conferences and to the general membership. In March of 1988 it was determined that while there would be no “official” colors for OMSA, the association pin, the design of which was approved at the same meeting, would reflect the association logo (shape of Ohio) with a black background and gold letters. Also, a large replica of the logo, cut out of wood, was created to display at OMSA function.

In 1990, OMSA Component Awards were presented for the first time to identify and recognize schools and districts, which had developed programs or practices of merit, with Cookie Grafton as the first coordinator. Nominees had to hold current building memberships, were required to prepare and submit an application, then received the award if they successfully completed a review and visitation process. The initial component areas were: Student/Staff Recognition; Teaming; and, Scheduling. An Advisor/Advisee component was added for 1992, and Interdisciplinary Curriculum created for first-time recognition in 19.

Increased emphasis was placed on the formal recognition of individuals who had made significant contributions to middle grades education as a result of dialogue at the 1991 summer planning workshop. It was felt that more needed to be done beyond determining an Educator of the Year. Regional Awards were established, nominations to be made by a member of that region, and a Presidential Award created to be given at the discretion of the president.

A realignment of regions was approved in 1991: Lorain County moved from Northeast to Northcentral; Morrow and Knox Counties from Northcentral to Central; Logan, Champaign, and Clark from Central to West; Ross from Central to Southeast; and, Eastcentral and East were combined to form one region, the Es.

Also in the summer of 1991, Urban Issues was established as an association point of emphasis with Larry Lewis as chairperson, and the decision was made to develop a needs assessment survey of association members with Cookie Grafton as chairperson.

NMSA held its 1994 Annual Conference in Cincinnati with support from OMSA.

For the first time during the 1995-96 academic year, middle grade schools in Ohio were invited to apply for one of ten min-grants of up to $500 each for TEAMING and INTERDISCIPLINARY UNIT development. Recipients were required to present at a breakout session at the next state conference and submit an article for the Ohio Middle School Journal. Also introduced for 1995-96 was the School Development Network, a service schools could purchase to assist them for one year with the study, implementation, evaluation, and refinement of middle grade practices. The Executive Board determined that the annual state conference would be held every other year in Columbus; for these conferences each region would be responsible for one aspect of the conference.

In the spring of 1996 a position paper on Curriculum Guidelines for the Basic Preparation of Middle Level Teachers was finalized. The term of elected officers (President, President-Elect, Immediate Past President, Vice-President, Secretary) was increased to two yer.

OMSA celebrated its 25th year at the 1998 conference held in Columbus. Due to growth of the organization and the number of programs undertaken, the position of Executive Director (part-time) was finalized in 1998. In January of 1999 Philip Binkley was selected as OMSA’s first Executive Director. The following additional Component Awards were approved for the 1999-2000 academic year: Parent Involvement, Service Learning, and Staff Development.

At the 1999 Summer Workshop the Executive Board determined that emphasis would be placed upon creation of committees within each region to help promote the association. Regional Representatives were responsible for fostering the committee—in the Northeast Region the group formed was called the Affiliate Committee—and nurturing its development.

State-wide visibility and influence of the association significantly increased in 2000 as a result of OMSA becoming a member of the Coalition of Educational Organizations created by Dr. Susan Zelman, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, due to the efforts of Executive Director Binkley. This led to OMSA’s participation and involvement in other statewide initiatives and activities, one of which is the Ohio Learning First Alliance (OLFA) comprised of eleven major educational associations and the Ohio Department of Education. This partnership has been formed with support of the national Learning First Alliance to actively assist Ohio public school districts in improving student learning. The purpose of OLFA’s first project, the Jennings Initiative, funded by the Jennings Foundation, was to enhance district and school-level implementation of Ohio’s new academic content standards in ten pilot districts.

The OMSA Student Award was approved in the summer of 2001 and awarded for the first time at the 2002 OMSA Conference in Cincinnati to Mary Ellen Dominguez of Medina and Joseph Shivers of Salem. Based upon demonstrated positive leadership abilities, good citizenship, and positive contributions to school and/or community, one girl and one boy are to be selected, and receive a $500 Savings Bond in addition to a commemorative plaque.

On March 2, 2002, the Executive Board approved Resolution 1-2002 which states: Effective middle grade schools are committed to academic excellence. OMSA is committed to schools promoting academic excellence as the foundation of a school’s overall mission and doing so in a developmentally responsive manner.

At the 2002 Summer Workshop a “Hot Topics” publication was approved and the first edition was sent to OMSA members in the fall. The plan is for “Hot Topics” to be one-page long and focused on a specific topic of current interest to middle grade educator.

In September of 2003 the Executive Board decided to provide members with NMSA’s “Classroom Connections” as a benefit, and to incorporate “Hot Topics” in the OMSA newsletter.

A highly successful one-day Scheduling Workshop was held in January of 2004. In the morning, representatives from four middle level schools described their flexible block schedule; during the afternoon attendees worked on their own master schedule with morning presenters available to assist. 

By Executive Board action in March of 2004, Building Membership benefits were changed from all members of the building being able to vote to five (5) votes per building, which mirrors the number of publications sent to schools for Building Memberships. Also, election ballots no longer are required to be sent by first class mail.

Ohio was selected as a 2004 Schools to Watch (STW) state by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. The Forum believes that high performing middle level schools are academically excellent, developmentally responsive, and socially equitable. Ohio joins California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia as STW states. Middle level schools in Ohio meeting established criteria will be recognized for their accomplishments in the hope that they will be used as models for others to copy. Leadership partner organizations Ohio’s STW project are the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Federation of Teachers, OMSA, and Otterbein College.

OMSA and PMSA (Pennsylvania) partnered with NMSA in a pilot Regional Institute for Middle Level Leadership held in June of 2004 at Seven Springs, Pennsylvania. The curriculum was the same as NMSA’s national institute as were the faculty members.

The 2004-05 school year was an exciting and productive year! The third OMSA Unified Arts Conference was held in October in Columbus, a one-day Taking Teaming to the Next Level Conference was held in Independence in November, and for the second time a Scheduling for a Middle Grades School Workshop was held in Columbus in January. Erwine Middle School from the Coventry Local Schools in Akron was selected as Ohio’s first School to Watch. A K-8 Grade Configuration Position Statement was developed. A Summer Camp for groups of educators from the same school to work on projects with the assistance of OMSA “advisers” was scheduled and planned, but then cancelled. To be presented for the first time at the 2006 Annual State OMSA Conference is a Parent-of-the-Year Award based upon applications submitted by members.

At the 2005 Summer Workshop the Executive Board decided to eliminate Hot Topics since NMSA’s Classroom Connections is very similar and is being provided to members. Team-of-the-Year Award parameters were also established with $1000 to be given to the team to use any way they wish along with up to $1000 given to the team for expenses to attend the OMSA Annual Conference. The award will be given for the first time at the 2006 Conference.

OMSA supported a one-day joint conference in December, 2005 with the Ohio Association of Gifted Children (OAGC) on use of data, and released a joint statement of support with OAGC for “Meeting the Needs of High-Ability and High-Potential Learners in the Middle Grades”, a joint position statement of the National Middle School Association and the National Association for Gifted Children. In the spring of 2006, the Executive Board approved a new professional development program called the School Improvement Program (SIP). A comprehensive list of presentation topics has been developed from which schools can choose; speakers will be provided for schools at the rate of $100 per contact hour. [The School Development Network (SDN) remains as a professional development option for schools].

“Serving the Needs of Middle Grade Students” continues to be OMSA’s commitment.


Compiled by Kirk V. Pavelich

At the annual Ohio Middle School Association conference held in Toledo in April, 2005, Charlie Beard was named OMSA Educator of the Year. Charlie had previously been recognized as the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators as the middle level Principal of the Year in 2003.

Regional Award Winners in 2005 included: Shelly Daub (East), Nancy Morningstar (East), Liz Anderson (Northeast), Tammy Darrow (Northwest), Mary Riepenhoff (Northwest) and Pat Grove (West).

2005 Component Award Winners included: Lamuth Middle School for Interdisciplinary Curriculum, Napoleon Middle School for Advisor/Advisee, North Royalton Middle School for Teaming, Tallmadge Middle School for Scheduling, McPherson Middle School for Scheduling and Advisor/Advisee, Nagel Middle School for Teaming/Parent/Community, Wiley Middle School for Scheduling/Advisee, Pfeiffer Middle School for Student-Staff Recognition/Teaming and Green Middle School for

Teaming/Scheduling/Parent-Community Involvement.

Clayton Moore (Eisenhower Middle School) and Jenny Evans (Albion Middle School) were named Students of the Year at the 2005 State Conference.

OMSA’s President for 2005 was Dr. Su Johnson with Philip Binkley serving as the Executive Director.

OMSA sponsored another Scheduling Workshop in January 2006, held in Columbus at the Embassy Suites Hotel. The state capital was also the location for the 2006 OMSA State Conference, with the event held at the Hilton Columbus (Easton) Hotel.

OMSA’s President for 2006 was Tom Burton with Philip Binkley serving as the Executive Director.

Regional Award Winners in 2006 included: Gary Spinell (East Region), Larry Minamyer (Northeast Region), Barb Zimmerman (Northeast Region) and Virginia McClain (West Region).

The President’s Award, a special award given at the discretion of the OMSA president, recognizes an individual who promotes and supports middle level concepts. NMSA Executive Director Sue Swaim was recognized with this award at the 2006 State Conference.

The OMSA Educator of the Year was Jerry Manganella from Parma and the Parent of the Year Award was presented to Audrey Schilb for her efforts at Kettering Middle School.

Danielle Davis and Zachary Rybak were named Students of the Year at the 2006 State Conference.

The Team of the Year Award was designed to recognize Middle School teams that build identity and cohesion, utilize flexible scheduling and integrated teaching, increase student achievement, recognize student accomplishment, and promote parent and community involvement. The award winning teams would also receive $1,000 to use in any manner they chose. The Teams of the Year in 2006 were: Nagel Middle School Team 7B and Napoleon Middle School Team 7Blue.

2006 Component Award Winners included: Grant Middle School (Teaming and Scheduling), Indian Creek Middle School (Staff Development), Upper Sandusky Middle School (Student/Staff Recognition and Service Learning), Willard Middle School (Teaming and Interdisciplinary Curriculum), Monticello Middle School (Student/Staff Recognition and Staff Development), Wiley Middle School (Teaming), Pfeifer Middle School (Scheduling), Wadsworth Middle School (Student/Staff Recognition), Cuyahoga Heights Middle School (Teaming), La Muth Middle School (Teaming) and Indian Valley Middle School (Interdisciplinary Curriculum).

To avoid conflicting with new testing dates starting in 2007, the OMSA Executive Board approved moving the annual state conferences from their traditional time of being held in April to February for the next five years.

The Middle School Practices that Improve Learning workshop, a combined OMSA/NMSA endeavor, was held in September 2006 at Orange Middle School in the Olentangy School District.

After 25 years of being associated with the OMSA as an Executive Board member and the last seven as the organization’s Executive Director, Philip Binkley resigned from his position in September, 2006 in order to seek a full-time position with The Department of Education. Charlie Beard, a 14-year veteran of the OMSA Executive Board and past president from 2002-2004, was named the Interim Executive Director.

OMSA sponsored another Scheduling Workshop in January 2007, held in Columbus at the Embassy Suites Hotel. A panel of four schools – Wiley Middle School in Cleveland Heights, McPherson Middle School in Clyde, Springfield Middle School in Holland and Willard Middle School in Willard – presented their schedules and worked with participants on developing their own.

OMSA’s President for 2006-2007 was Tom Burton with Charlie Beard, the previous interim executive director, now serving as the Executive Director.

The 2007 OMSA State Conference was moved to February and held at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland.

Keynote speakers at the State Conference in 2007 included Kathy Hunt Ullock (“Return to Camelot: Merlin, Magic and the Middle School”) and Betty Hollis (“What Every Middle Level Educator Should Hear”). A total of 86 break-out sessions were held over the course of the two days.

For the first time, the Gordon F. Vars Distinguished Service Award was presented at the conference, with the recipient being Philip Binkley, former OMSA Executive Director. The award, named in honor of Gordon F. Vars, Professor Emeritus at Kent State University, was created to recognize individuals with a reputation as a state and national leader for dedicated service to middle level education and a commitment to the development of middle level philosophy and programs.

The Team of the Year in 2007 was the 8th grade team from Upper Sandusky Middle School. Also receiving awards at the 2007 State Conference were: Dan Major (Principal, Willard Middle School), Nancy Rundell (Shiloh Middle School), Nancy Waynyerka (Teacher, Cuyahoga Heights Middle School) and Carol Tomasko (Parent).

The Parent of the Year Award was presented to Linda Braden for her efforts at Franklin Middle School. Megan Kuhlman (Mayfield Middle School) and Enante Pearl (Heritage Middle School) were named Students of the Year at the 2007 State Conference.

Shannon Federinko from Claggett Middle School was named OMSA Educator of the Year.

2007 Component Award Winners included: Willard Middle School (Staff Development), Main Street Intermediate (Teaming), Wadsworth Middle School (Teaming), River View Junior High (Teaming, Student/Staff Recognition and Scheduling), Jones Middle School (Service Learning and Teaming), Frank Wiley Middle School (Staff Development), Maysville Middle School (Service Learning) and Cuyahoga Heights (Parent/Community Involvement).

OMSA celebrated 35 years of advocating for the young adolescent in 2007. Over the past three decades, OMSA has been the leading middle level voice in the state.

The 2008 OMSA State Conference was held at the Hilton Columbus at Easton in February.

Keynote speakers at the State Conference in 2008 included Monte Selby (“The Location of Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) and Kathy Hunt, who filled in when Friday’s speaker Cynthia “Mama J” Johnson was unable to travel due to the inclement weather. A total of 92 break-out sessions were held over the course of the two days.

The Regional Award Winner in 2008 was Jennifer Poulton (Central). The OMSA Educator of the Year was Dr. John Swaim. Courtney Hittepole from Troy Junior High School was named Student of the Year at the 2008 State Conference.

The Team of the Year Award in 2008 was presented to Team 601 from Shanahan Middle School in the Olentangy School District.

The 2008 Component Award Winner was Main Street Intermediate for Student/Staff Recognition and Scheduling.

OMSA’s President for 2008-2009 was Nancy Poliseno with Charlie Beard serving as the Executive Director.

At the June 2008 Executive Board meeting, the board approved the posting of a webmaster job position. The webmaster will be responsible for timely web site updates, training for board members and providing technical support.

In September 2008, the Executive Board made a formal resolution to change the name of the organization to the Ohio Middle Level Association (OMLA) after studying the cost and feasibility of the plan during the 2008 Summer Workshop. The decision was made in order to ensure that the OMLA would be inclusive of all schools in Ohio that serve this age group, regardless of grade configuration or title, and to better meet the needs of members. This resolution was sent to the membership for a vote in November 2008 and the OMLA name change was officially unveiled at the 2009 State Conference at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky.

Keynote speakers at the State Conference in 2009 included Mark McLeod (“Planting a Seed to Be the Best!”) and Ty Sells (“Creating Connections That Count.”) A total of 75 break-out sessions were held over the course of the two days with nearly 800 educators attending the conference.

OMLA membership at the end of 2008 consisted of 710 individual members and 5,424 staff members within the 117 building memberships.

The 2009 OMLA Educator of the Year was Jack Berckemeyer.

2009 Component Award Winners included: Troy Junior High School (Advisor/Advisee and Scheduling) and Streetsboro Middle School (Teaming).

In January 2010, Eric Jurkovic, principal at Indian Valley Middle School, won the election for President-Elect of OMLA, an office he will hold for the next two years while Thom Jones serves as the organization’s president. Jurkovic, an OMLA member since 2002, has served as the East Regional Representative and the chairperson of the Component Awards Committee.

More than 600 middle level educators gathered Feb. 18-19, 2010 at The Renaissance Hotel in Columbus for the 2010 OMLA State Conference. As the conference theme suggested, “The Good Stuff is in the Middle” and for those working with middle level kids and the programs that are developmentally appropriate for their success, 80 breakout sessions were offered.

Jack Berckemeyer and Darrell Scott provided attendees with two entirely different messages revolving around the theme of making a difference in the lives of middle level students.

Berckemeyer, a nationally-recognized presenter, author, and humorist, kicked off the conference Thursday with a hilarious keynote address with motivational advice and practical teaching ideas communicated through hope, laughter and insight to the nature of the young adolescent.

Scott, the founder of the Rachel’s Challenge program, spoke at Friday’s keynote and shared the story of his daughter Rachel, the first person killed at Columbine High School in April 1999. Rachel Scott’s acts of kindness and compassion, coupled with the contents of her six diaries, have become the foundation for one of the most life-changing programs in America.

Regional Award Winners in 2010 were Karen Hennessey (Central), Les Ryle (Central), Sue Weaver (Central), Bellbrook Middle School (West), South Vienna Middle School (West), Wantz Middle School (West), Jeff Cicerchi (Northeast), Jean Richardson (Northeast).

The OMLA Educator of the Year was Dona Gardner Klein. James MacAdam from Indian Valley Middle School and Tanner Murray from Main Street Intermediate School in Norwalk, were named Students of the Year for 2009. Nick Miller, from Bunsold Middle School in Marysville and Aemilee Ziganti, from St. Anselm School in Chesterland, were named Students of the Year for 2010.

OMLA Board Member Dustin Sabo, the CMLA representative, was presented with the OMLA President’s Award by outgoing President Nancy Poliseno. Pam Pelini from North Canton Middle School was named 2010 Parent of the Year.

The Team of the Year Award in 2010 was presented to the Solar Flares from Visintainer Middle School in Brunswick.

Component Award winners in 2010 included: Van Buren Middle School (Interdisciplinary Curriculum), Bolich Middle School in Cuyahoga Falls (Teaming), Dixie Middle School in New Lebanon (Student/Staff Recognition), Cuyahoga Heights Middle School (Staff Development), Rapid Run Middle School in Cincinnati (Parent Involvement).




Compiled by Jay Clark

The National Middle School Association (NMSA) made the official shift to a new name in June 2011, the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE).  President Thom Jones led OMLA into 2011. Throughout the fall of 2011, the organization held regional workshops throughout the state featuring Jack Berckemeyer with the theme, “You don’t know Jack… Berckemeyer”.  It was during the summer workshop of 2011 that association also focused heavily on updating the OMLA website.

The 2010-2011 OMLA State Conference was held at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky in February.  The team of the year was team 7B from Weisenborn M.S. in Huber Heights. OMLA recognized Tom Burton as Educator of the Year.  President Thom Jones presented his mother, Margaret Earley Jones with the President’s Award. Independence M.S. seventh grader Hannah Blaze was student of the year while North Royalton PTA president Tricia Stanton was named Parent of the Year.  Eight schools were awarded component awards including: Wiley M.S. (Service Learning), Teays Valley West M.S. (Teaming), Hicksville M.S. (Advisory), Hastings M.S. (Service Learning), North Royalton M.S. (Student & Staff Recognition), Erwine M.S. (Scheduling), Edwards M.S. (Parent & Community Involvement), and Mayfield M.S. (Staff Development).  Keynotes included Dave Caperton and Jack Berckemeyer.

The summer workshop of 2012 brought new leadership in president Eric Jurkovic.  In the fall of 2012, Mr. Jurkovic resigned his position on the OMLA board and president-elect Lorrie Kubaszewski moved to president.   

The 2012-13 conference, with the theme “Middle Level… At the Core of it All!” was held at Kalahari Resort.  Jack Berckmeyer delivered the first Kathy Hunt-Ullock address at the conference that year. Dave Caperton was the other keynote.  Team Magic from Strongsville’s Center Middle School was named the team of the year. Patricia Grove was recognized as the educator of the year.  Nikki Patel, from Mayfield Middle School and Troy Middle School’s Keenan Kinnel were our students of the year and Laura Harper of Independence Middle School was the parent of the year.  

The 2014 state conference was held at the Columbus Hilton at Easton February 21-22.  The theme was “Meet Us in the Middle “ with Rick Wormeli as the keynote for both days of the conference.  Educator of the year was Jay Clark of Van Buren Middle School. Ravenna Balla (Wickliffe MS) and Ian Eldridge (Teays Valley West MS) where the students of the year and Stacy Wilfing from Sailorway MS was our parent of the year.  LeMuth Middle School’s Fighting Camels was the team of the year.

Kalahari Resort in Sandusky was the location of the 2015 state conference held February 12-13.  Wendy Fragasse, school counselor at Edison Middle School in the Perry Local District was named educator of the year.  Mayfield Middle School’s “Team Hele” was named team of the year and Stephanie Johnson, former principal of Troy Middle School, was awarded a president’s award.  Jenessa Miller (Van Buren MS) and Michael Carlile (Mayfield MS) were named our students of the year. Keynotes for the 2014-15 conference included Ron Clark and Jack Berckemeyer.  

The association moved from a late winter to a fall conference in conjunction with the Association for Middle Level Education holding its annual conference in Columbus in fall 2015.  Our educator of the year for the 2015-2016 school year was James Trogden, a science teacher at Coventry Middle School. Because there was no state conference this school year, the award was presented on-site at the recipient's school.  Students and staff, along with Mr. Trogden’s family, were able to be present as OMLA board members surprised him with the honor.  

In summer 2016, the board moved its annual summer workshop to a more tranquil setting in Ohio’s Hocking Hills region.  This allowed for more opportunities for board members to become acquainted with one another and to “disconnect” from their daily lives.

October 27 and 28, 2016 marked a return to the “Queen City” for OMLA’s state conference, held at the Cincinnati Hyatt Regency.  Jay Clark was assumed the role of president of the association. Nancy Wanyerka (Cuyahoga Heights MS) was named educator of the year.  Dane DiGeronimo (Hudson MS) and Kamryn Ohly (Briar MS) were named students of the year while Jodi Largent from Center Middle School was recognized as parent of the year and a team from Shiloh Middle School was named team of the year.  Rick Wormeli and Anthony Muhammad were keynotes for the event. 

The 2017 conference was held November 2-3 at the Hilton Easton with the theme, “Putting Your Gears in Motion”.  Eric Sheninger and Manny Scott were keynote presenters. The 2017 educator of the year was Kyle Leatherman. The association introduced its Support Staff of the Year award, which was awarded to Coventry Middle School custodian Dawn DeBarr.  Bridgetown M.S. student Maxx Zwerin and Kenston Middle School student Hannah Fender were students of the year. Shelly McDonough, also of Kenston, was named parent of the year. The team of the year was from McKinney Middle School in Yellow Springs.  


“Getting to the Core of Middle Level Education” was the theme for the annual conference held October 25-26, 2018 at Kalahari Resort.  Educator of the year for 2018 was Michelle Koussa of Independence Middle School. At the 2018 conference, Nicki Bertke took the role of president.  Christopher Lee (Big Walnut M.S.) and Abigail Clack (Bellbrook M.S.) were named students of the year while parent of the year was Julie Batey from Wadsworth Middle School.  “Team 7 Red” from Kings Junior High School was recognized as the team of the year. Kim Hicks, a paraprofessional from Loveland Middle School was named support staff of the year and Wright State University student James Taylor Smith was awarded the Kathy Ullock Hunt Memorial Scholarship.  Keynote presenters were George Couros and Kim Campbell with Jack Berckemeyer as a featured presenter.


Over 850 attended marked the association’s annual state conference at the Hilton at Easton in Columbus November 7-8, 2019.  “Thriving in the Middle: Planting seeds for a growing tomorrow” was the theme. In addition to keynote presenters Todd Whittaker and Dave Burgess, Jack Berckemeyer was a featured presenter and the conference offered 110 breakout sessions to attendees.  Our educator of the year was Lorrie Kubaszewski, OMLA board member, past-president, Wright State University faculty member, and retired middle level teacher. The team of the year was from Hastings Middle School in Upper Arlington. Students of the year included Norah Bodley from Kings JHS and Parker Gaines from Coy Middle School.  Parent of the year was Hudson Middle School’s Laura Jones while Rosemary Salisbury, a paraprofessional at Van Buren Middle School in Van Buren was named the association’s state support staff of the year.  

As OMLA entered 2020, membership records show 113 building or institutional memberships and 713 individual members.



  • 1975-76 Ted Grotsky

  • 1976-77 Pat Zally

  • 1977-78 Tom Hannan

  • 1978-79 Vince Barra

  • 1979-80 Robert Edwards

  • 1980-81 John Church

  • 1981-82 Larry Lewis

  • 1982-83 Jerry Brodsky

  • 1983-84 Kathy Zachel

  • 1984-85 Rob Hayden

  • 1985-86 Wayne Ambrose

  • 1986-87 Philip Binkley

  • 1987-88 Philip Binkley

  • 1988-89 Lucious Ware

  • 1989-90 Larry Pieratt

  • 1990-91 Susan Wynn

  • 1991-92 Tom Fletcher

  • 1992-93 Helena Sturkey

  • 1993-94 William Kaderly

  • 1994-95 William Kaderly

  • 1995-96 Edward Vittardi

  • 1996-97 Don Jostworth

  • 1997-98 Joseph Shivers

  • 1998-99 Richard Hanes

  • 1999-00 Richard Hanes

  • 2000-01 David Kommer

  • 2001-02 David Kommer

  • 2002-03 Charles Beard

  • 2003-04 Charles Beard

  • 2004-05 Susan Johnson

  • 2005-06 Susan Johnson

  • 2006-07 Tom Burton

  • 2007-08 Tom Burton

  • 2008-09 Nancy Poliseno

  • 2009-10 Nancy Poliseno

  • 2010-11 Thom Jones

  • 2011-12 Thom Jones

  • 2012-13 Eric Jurkovic / Lorrie Kubaszewski

  • 2013-14 Lorrie Kubaszewski

  • 2014-15 Lorrie Kubaszewski

  • 2015-16 Lorrie Kubaszewski

  • 2016-17 Jay Clark

  • 2017-18 Jay Clark

  • 2018-19 Nicki Bertke

  • 2019-20 Nicki Bertke

Annual Conference Location

  • 1973 Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware

  • 1974 Ramada Inn East, Columbus

  • 1975 Groveport

  • 1976 Gahanna

  • 1977 Northmont Junior High School, Clayton

  • 1978 Y.M.C.A., Findlay

  • 1979 Brady Middle School, Pepper Pike

  • 1980 Madison Middle School, Groveport

  • 1981 Harmon Middle School, Aurora

  • 1982 East Muskingum Middle School, New Concord

  • 1983 Springfield Junior High, Holland Springfield Local Schools

  • 1984 Franklin Middle School, Springfield City Schools

  • 1985 Burneson Junior High School, Westlake

  • 1986 Princeton Junior High, Princeton

  • 1987 Dublin Middle School and Stouffer Hotel, Dublin

  • 1988 Ashland University

  • 1989 Park Hotel, Canton

  • 1990 Smith Middle School and Holiday Inn, Vandalia

  • 1991 Copley-Fairlawn Middle School

  • 1992 Ashland University

  • 1993 McCord Middle School and Holiday Inn Hotel, Worthington

  • 1994 Ohio University – Chillicothe

  • 1995 Malone University and McKinley High School, Canton

  • 1996 Radisson Hotel, Columbus

  • 1997 Radisson Hotel and SeaGate Convention Centre, Toledo

  • 1998 Hyatt Regency Hotel, Columbus

  • 1999 Sheraton City Centre and Cleveland Convention Center

  • 2000 Hyatt Regency Hotel, Columbus

  • 2001 Radisson Hotel and SeaGate Convention Centre, Toledo

  • 2002 Hyatt Regency Hotel and Convention Center, Cincinnati

  • 2003 John S. Knight Center, Akron

  • 2004 Hilton Columbus at Easton

  • 2005 Radisson Hotel & SeaGate Centre, Toledo

  • 2006 Hilton Columbus at Easton

  • 2007 Renaissance Hotel, Cleveland

  • 2008 Hilton Columbus at Easton

  • 2009 Kalahari Resort, Sandusky

  • 2010 Renaissance Hotel, Columbus

  • 2011 Kalahari Resort, Sandusky

  • 2012 Hilton Columbus at Easton

  • 2013 Kalahari Resort, Sandusky

  • 2014 Hilton Columbus at Easton

  • 2015 Kalahari Resort, Sandusky

  • 2016 Hyatt Regency, Cincinnati

  • 2017 Hilton Columbus at Easton

  • 2018 Kalahari Resort, Sandusky

  • 2019 Hilton Columbus at Easton

Executive Board Summer Workshop

  • 1976 Mohican State Park

  • 1977 Salt Fork State Park

  • 1978 Mohican State Park

  • 1979 Mohican State Park

  • 1980 Lake Hope State Park

  • 1981 Kent State University

  • 1982 Bowling Green State University

  • 1983 Wright State University

  • 1984 Holiday Inn, Westlake

  • 1985 Harley Hotel, Columbus

  • 1986 Harley Hotel, Columbus

  • 1987 Harley Hotel, Columbus

  • 1988 Harley Hotel, Columbus

  • 1989 Harley Hotel, Columbus

  • 1990 Sheraton Inn North Hotel, Columbus

  • 1991 Woodfin Suites Hotel, Dublin

  • 1992 Woodfin Suites Hotel, Dublin

  • 1993 Woodfin Suites Hotel, Dublin

  • 1994 NMSA offices and Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 1995 NMSA offices and Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 1996 NMSA offices and Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 1997 NMSA offices and Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 1998 NMSA offices and Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 1999 Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2000 Airport Radisson Hotel, Columbus

  • 2001 Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2002 Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2003 Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2004 NMSA offices and Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2005 Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2006 Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2007 Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2008 Embassy Suites Hotel, Columbus

  • 2009 Hilton Netherland Plaza, Cincinnati

  • 2010 Drury Inn, Columbus

  • 2011 Drury Inn, Columbus

  • 2012 Embassy Suites, Cleveland

  • 2013 Embassy Suites, Cleveland

  • 2014 Omni Netherlands Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio

  • 2015 Embassy Suites, Columbus, Ohio

  • 2016 Crockett’s Run, Logan, Ohio

  • 2017 Crockett’s Run, Logan, Ohio

  • 2018 Crockett’s Run, Logan, Ohio

  • 2019 Crockett’s Run, Logan, Ohio

Header Image: 
2019 Board Photo