The Apple Leaf

Bus trip assault chaos caught on video

Story broke here Nov. 21, 2014; published in The Apple Leaf Nov. 26, 2014.
2nd place, National Scholastic Press Association, News Story of the Year

A 10-second video on the social network Snapchat was how one mother saw her son sexually assaulted on a Wenatchee High School freshman football trip on Sept. 6. She described, in an interview with police, her son being held down by a “huge kid and he (her son) was screaming like a little girl,” while approximately six other student athletes stood around watching and laughing.

Story broke Nov. 21, 2014
Story published Nov. 26, 2014

On Nov. 6, the now 15-year-old freshman suspect appeared in court for what was supposed to be a hearing to determine if both parties were ready to go to trial, which has been continued. The suspect will now appear in court on Dec. 30 for a readiness hearing, and is scheduled to go to trial for the three counts of second-degree rape on Jan. 9. At the Nov. 6 hearing, both parties were still waiting for the final report from law enforcement, according to the hearing minutes. The suspect’s attorney, Brandon Redal, did not return a request for comment.

The final police report was filed Nov. 13, but Jared Reinfeld, Wenatchee Police’s lead detective for this case, noted that a police interview with WHS Principal Bob Celebrezze is still missing, which will be added in a later report. At least four more detectives or officers have worked on this case.

This report and more, obtained by The Apple Leaf through public disclosure requests to the Wenatchee Police Department, contain interviews of players who were on the freshman football team’s trip to WHS from Spokane, after their first away game of the season. Police also interviewed the bus driver and parents of some victims. Names of most interview subjects were redacted in police documents.

The student who took the video and posted it on Snapchat was suspended by Celebrezze, the police report said.

One of the three victim’s mothers told police Sept. 15 that her son hasn’t been the same since the assault. “He’s stressed and he wants to move,” she told police in an interview. “He made the comment he understands why people could commit suicide because all the negative and all the pressure he feels.” The victim told his mom that he wouldn’t go to that extent, and she told police that she would get her son a counselor, according to the police interview.

The coach, Kevin Sellers, who was the only Wenatchee School District employee on the bus, was asked to be interviewed when the police department began investigating, but instead requested a lawyer. “Given what Wenatchee School District did to Ed Knaggs, my client decided it would be wise to have an attorney present when interviewed by police,” Sellers’ attorney John Brangwin said in an email. Brangwin has contacted the police department twice for that interview, but the detective has yet to schedule it.

According to Reinfeld’s written report filed Nov. 13, “Kids mentioned the fact that (suspect) should not have been on the bus trip due to grades and or not having enough practice time.” A copy of the bus roster for that trip shows a name was added in writing to the bottom of a typed list, and one interview subject told police “(the suspect’s) name wasn’t posted on the bus ride.”

Story broke Nov. 21, 2014
Story broke Nov. 21, 2014

Athletic Director Jim Beeson said his department’s duty of care manual clearly outlines procedures for travel. If a student is academically ineligible, they can’t travel. There’s “no gray area,” he said. In the case of a student showing up to travel but not being eligible, Beeson said he would expect the coach to send the player home.

The A&A Motorcoach bus driver told Wenatchee police detectives Sept. 17 that it was the worst bus trip of her life — 47 passengers were on board. Students were loud and not staying in their seat, eventually to the point that the driver ended up calling her boss to request pulling the bus over to address the situation. The boss instructed her to let Sellers handle it, according to the police report.

The driver also told police that other coaches drove separately in a school vehicle. According to the police report, this was to allow more students to ride on the bus. One of the team’s assistant coaches said the assistants were told to ride in a separate vehicle by Sellers.

The bus did have a camera, according to the bus driver, but it was not activated during the trip. Beeson will contact A&A Motorcoach to see what can be done to ensure cameras are activated on every trip, he said.

Sellers remains on paid administrative leave at this time. Brangwin said his client didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary during the return trip Sept. 6.

“My client doesn’t have that perception (of the bus driver) that it was exceptionally loud,” Brangwin said, adding that freshmen boys football players are likely to be a louder group of people. The bus driver’s story is inconsistent with parts of Sellers’ story, Brangwin said.

When interviewed by police in September, multiple student athletes told police how “wild” and “crazy” the bus trip after the game was — details of screaming, students testing how many students could fit in the charter bus’ bathroom, depantsing other players, and general “horseplay” that eventually “got way out of hand,” according to police interviews.

“I think that was the first time he’s (the suspect) done anything like that. Everything else he’s done bad are usually with fights,” one witness told police. “He just was kinda different on the bus.”

A witness told police Sept. 11 that the suspect was watching pornography on the bus and trying to show other athletes.

Another witness on board had to use the bathroom during the bus trip, but before going, tightly secured his pants so no one could pull them down while walking the aisle, according to the police report. Some students in the middle of the bus, who knew what was going on, simply warned students from the front of the bus to stay out of the back.

Most students reported that Sellers walked the bus aisle two to three times during the return trip, and often asked students to quiet down from his seat at the front of the bus. “When he would walk back, everybody would be quiet,” one witness told police. “But then when he would walk to the front, it would just get loud again.”

When the assault was originally reported Sept. 8 by a football player’s parent to police, detectives dismissed the call after one interview with a student who said the bus trip was fairly normal, people were just messing around, and nothing “that bad” happened, according to a police report.

After that original interview, Celebrezze conducted follow-up interviews with students on the trip to discover that more happened than originally thought. That’s when he called detectives back in, and the investigation continued, according to the police report.

After five initial interviews on Sept. 9, Reinfeld had probable cause to arrest the suspect, which he did on Sept. 10 in a meeting with the suspect and his parents at the police department.

Not all witnesses described the incident as serious. Some heard yelling and saw horseplay, according to police interviews, but nothing inappropriate.

The suspect pleaded not guilty to all three counts of rape in court Sept. 25, and $50,000 bail was posted Oct. 1. While the suspect remains out of custody, he has not returned to WHS. He was emergency expelled following the incident. One of the suspect’s parents alleged that others on the bus participated in the assaults.

Attorney for the school district Danielle Marchant declined to comment on the student’s current status with the district, but she did say, in general terms, that emergency expulsions can only last for 10 days. “If the emergency expulsion is converted to another form of corrective action, then the requirements for the new corrective action will govern,” Marchant said in an email. She added that there are circumstances when an emergency expulsion can be converted to a long-term suspension.

Marchant wouldn’t go as far to call it a policy or even a rule, but she said the Athletic Department instituted a new plan that more than one adult has to be on each bus, in addition to the bus driver. Beeson said three coaches have to be on a bus — one at the front, middle, and back. If three coaches aren’t on board, the coaches that are present have to rotate between the three locations. This change took effect after the incident and is now a clear requirement in the duty of care manual, Beeson said. Although this procedure was in the duty of care manual prior to the incident, Beeson said it’s been reworded to make it a requirement. The procedure has yet to go before the school board for approval.

The district hired a private investigator to conduct the internal investigation, Superintendent Brian Flones said in early October. Marchant declined to comment on the status of the investigation because it’s ongoing. Brangwin said his client has been interviewed three times — once by Marchant; twice by the investigator — and anticipates that the internal investigation will end in December.

It is The Apple Leaf’s policy to not name student suspects or victims prior to trial and the paper would only print a name in the case of a serious felony. In addition, it is the paper’s policy to not publish graphic details, as disclosed in police reports.

Click here to read the story that was updated over a few days after originally posted as breaking news.

The Apple Leaf

Report: Sellers’ supervision lax, unaware of policies

Story broke here Feb. 6, 2014; published in The Apple Leaf Feb. 11, 2014.

The report from Wenatchee School District’s investigator said the freshman football coach in charge of supervision during the alleged rapes on a return trip from a game in Spokane Sept. 6 was not familiar with school policies and that there was lax and ineffective supervision on the bus.

The investigator also concluded there was a high level of misunderstanding and miscommunication among coaches and administration in the high school athletic program about rules and standard safety procedures.

Freshman football coach Kevin Sellers

Despite these findings, the freshman coach, Kevin Sellers, remains on paid administrative leave. Sellers has been on leave since Sept. 11, after a freshman player was expelled from school and booked into juvenile detention for allegedly raping three other players during a Sept. 6 return trip to Wenatchee High School.

And at this time, there’s still no estimate as to when Sellers’ leave will end, Sellers’ attorney John Brangwin said this afternoon. Those details are still being worked out, he said.

Superintendent Brian Flones was out of town today and couldn’t be reached for comment.

According to the report released today by the Wenatchee School District, Sellers “was generally unfamiliar with many of the District’s policies and procedures.” This report came from the district’s hired investigator, Kris Cappel.

But Brangwin calls this case a management failure. “[Wenatchee School District and WHS] just have a management mess… Sellers is the lowest guy. … He shouldn’t be the scapegoat for this thing,” he said.

Football coach’s attorney John Brangwin

Wenatchee Education Association President Kris Cameron said this afternoon that she believes “that the members I represent have been treated fairly and appropriately during the investigation as well as the outcome. The union won’t be taking any further action on behalf of our members at this time.”

The district’s investigator interviewed 33 witnesses and reviewed “hundreds of pages of documents.” That included the suspect’s student file with the district, Wenatchee Police Department reports, and communications between several district officials, staff, and stakeholders, among others, the report said.

According to Brangwin, the district’s investigator based her investigation primarily on interviews done by the police department. But, the police department interviews, he said, are “very flawed” because they didn’t follow “standard child interview techniques.” The questions were too leading and failed to report appropriate details, he said.

“Theres a lot to this case that has really been blown out of proportion, and that starts with poor child interview techniques,” Brangwin said.

The district issued a press release this afternoon, stating that actions are being taken to update policies and procedures, provide instruction to personnel, and requiring personnel to engage in student supervision and safety training.


For the Sept. 6 trip, the normal 55-seat charter bus was unavailable, so Sellers requested a Suburban, which was approved by head football coach Scott Devereaux, according to the report. Sellers directed three of his assistant coaches to ride in the Suburban, which the investigative report says he “modeled his decision on what had been the longstanding practices of Coach Devereaux.”

“Two of the freshman assistant coaches told Coach Sellers that they didn’t think it was a good idea to take the Suburban,” the report said. “[Sellers] had no reservations whatsoever about being the only adult on the bus with supervisory responsibilities.”

Before each sports season, coaches met with the athletic director for what’s called a pre-season meeting. BJ Kuntz was athletic director up until this year, when Jim Beeson took over. But interviews with coaches indicate not everyone was aware of the same policies, according to the investigative report.

Former Athletic Director BJ Kuntz

“Coach Sellers and Coach Devereaux all reported that they were not aware of any policies or procedures, or verbal guidelines dictating 1) the number of coaches who must ride a charter bus; 2) where coaches must sit on the bus; 3) coach to athlete ratios; 4) whether coaches should roam throughout the bus during road trips. AD Kuntz agreed that those kinds of details were not a focus of her pre-season meetings, and stated that there had never been any issues or problems associated with supervision of bus transportation.”

The report goes on to say that Beeson’s first meeting with coaches this school year “reminded coaches to diligently supervise their athletes to assure their safety” and that “it has been practice of the WHS athletic department to leave it to the discretion of each head coach to determine how many coaches ride the bus and where they sit.”

Supervision was a problem in previous years, according to an email from Kuntz, sent to former freshman football coach Mike Dacey and Devereaux on June 7, 2012. “I just came to school for a meeting and there are about 20 or so freshman boys outside the athletic office waiting to get picked up by their parents. [They] are climbing on the roof, playing chase, and not being supervised,” it said. This email was obtained through a public disclosure request by The Apple Leaf.

It was also a policy of the athletic department for academically ineligible athletes to avoid traveling with the team. But Sellers said he was not aware of any policy or rule that prohibited the suspect from traveling with the team in street clothes. His decision to allow the suspect to travel “did not violate District, WHS, or WIAA (Washington Interscholastic Activities Association) eligibility policies.”

Athletic Director Jim Beeson

His decision, though, was “contrary to the plain meaning of the WHS football handbook, but Coach Devereaux stated that the handbook was not intended to supersede or change the policy that allowed [redacted] players to travel as long as they didn’t miss school or dress down.”

According to the report, Devereaux crafted the handbook, but “didn’t review or rely on District, WIAA, or other policies or regulations in drafting the sections that were added to the handbook,” which was revised two or three years ago, at the request of Kuntz. It was originally created by Devereaux more than five years ago.

The report states that during Kuntz’s time as athletic director, she “largely left it to the discretion of the coach to decide whether to take ineligible players on away games.”

The two athletic directors promoted different guidelines and policies, which contributed to the confusion among coaches.

The rape suspect had a history of violent encounters in the Wenatchee School District, and according to Cappel’s report, “There is no formal policy or practice of sharing information between middle school and high school coaches about incoming freshman student-athletes.”

Coaches, however, have disciplinary records available to them on the school’s student information system, Skyward. Cappel’s report indicates that coaches do not regularly review that information.

One of the freshman coaches said that he was familiar with the suspect’s Pioneer Middle School assault charges, “but that he was pleasantly surprised by [suspect’s] behavior once he joined the freshman team. He saw no indication that [suspect] posed a risk to his teammates. The other coaches did not recall being told that [suspect] should be closely supervised.”


The report says that Sellers walked the aisle of the bus between two and 10 times during the bus ride, and each time, the rowdiness settled.

“This was a bus full of teammates — it wasn’t a prison bus heading to Walla Walla — and Mr. Sellers wasn’t a prison guard on a prison bus,” Brangwin said.

In his first interview with Cappel, Sellers stated “that the noise level was not excessive and was no different than any other bus trip he had ever taken in the past.” Sellers changed his statement in the second interview with Cappel, and “conceded that it might have been a little loud, but as far as he could tell all of the kids were having a good time, and he didn’t want to spoil their fun,” the report said.

Cappel concluded in her report that there was lax and ineffective supervision on the bus. But Brangwin disagrees with that statement, because his client was contacted by a concerned parent after the alleged incident occurred. He responded to that email on Sunday, Sept. 7, which Brangwin says indicated the coach wasn’t “lax” at all.

“He’s an intense, dedicated football coach who’s really big into football,” Brangwin said, adding that most parents and athletes respect Sellers’ coaching.

According to documents obtained by The Apple Leaf today, Sellers completed approximately 45 minutes less of sexual harassment policy and prevention training this year, compared to two hours of training in this area for many previous years.

The freshman suspect appeared in court Jan. 29, but his trial was again pushed back to March 13. He was bailed out Oct. 1 and plead not guilty on Sept. 25.

Adrian Robinson contributed to this story. 

The Apple Leaf

Did you know there is a District policy on homework?

The Apple Leaf photo / Luke Strahm
Photo by Luke Strahm / The Apple Leaf

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf Jan. 22, 2015.

It’s with great amusement that I find a Wenatchee School District policy for homework. Yes, Wenatchee High School students, there is a board policy that outlines guidelines for teachers when assigning homework. The policy number is 2422, and it states: “The board believes that homework is a constructive tool in the teaching [and] learning process when geared to the needs and abilities of students.” According to the policy, homework can be assigned for one or more of the following purposes: practice, preparation, extension, or creativity. “As an extension of the classroom, homework must be planned and organized; must be viewed as purposeful to the students; and must be evaluated and returned to students in a timely manner,” policy 2422 states.

As many of us students know, this is rarely the case. Returning homework in a timely manner? Homework that is planned — AND organized? And purposeful? … Well, that could be debated. Homework, by far, is purposeful for practicing and preparing for exams — I think every student could agree on that, considering this type of homework finalizes your understanding of topics before a test. But, my fellow classmates, needless to say, use this policy to your advantage as leverage which assignments truly are constructive, planned, and organized. If they don’t fit the policy, should you have to do it?

And teachers, it might be time for you to review this policy. But please don’t make my last semester too difficult.

The Apple Leaf

Data reveals large discrepancies in discipline for substance-abusers

Story originally published here Jan. 9, 2015.

Wenatchee School District discipline statistics show some student substance-abusers aren’t being disciplined according to district policy by high school administrators — a common trend for the last six years. And survey results show that drug and alcohol use by WHS students exceeds the state average.

Story published Jan. 9, 2015
Story published Jan. 9, 2015

“It’s kind of a mystery to me,” Wenatchee School District Student Intervention Specialist Amy McCubbin said of the discipline statistics.

According to a report obtained by The Apple Leaf from Wenatchee School District’s Safety and Security department, 286 students have been referred to the WHS administration from September 2008 to June 2014 for suspicion of alcohol-, tobacco- or drug-related offenses by the Safety and Security department. Of those cases, only 10 alcohol- and 47 drug-related cases have continued to a criminal case with the Wenatchee Police Department.

Wenatchee School District procedure 2121 states: “Law enforcement agencies will be called upon for investigative and consultative assistance where illegal drug or alcohol activity has occurred.”

WHS Principal Bob Celebrezze said the police will always be called for consultation, but that doesn’t mean they’ll need to be called in to investigate every situation. If a student admits to substance abuse or it’s blatantly evident that they’re under the influence, no call to local law enforcement is necessary. When a student is in possession or involved with purchasing or selling controlled substances at school, the police would automatically be contacted, he said.

District Administrator of Student Services John Waldren said in most cases, law enforcement is contacted as the policy states, but there is some flexibility that just depends on the situation. Waldren said he is more interested in the intervention cycle for students because he wants to see them in school, he said.

Some might look at the large discrepancy in data and conclude that students aren’t being treated equally. Multiple sources told The Apple Leaf that this is true, but were afraid to be named. They cited “circumstances” (specifically athletics) or the “timing [of the alleged violation]” as two reasons students might not be receiving consistent discipline.

So, if students are being disciplined differently, is this a sign that administrators need more training on district policy? Or if students are going to be treated differently to allow for flexibility, is it wise to rewrite district policy?

Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Teaching Jodi Smith, who oversees instruction policies, according to Waldren, hasn’t returned a request for comment since originally contacted Dec. 11. Director of Risk Management and Safety Adam Bergstrom said he had nothing to add to what Waldren said.

The school board approved a risk management plan in December, which promoted Bergstrom to become the director of risk management and safety for the district. The draft proposal for this plan, provided to The Apple Leaf by the Superintendent’s Office, does not include reviewing substance abuse policies or procedures as part of the nearly 100 areas identified for needing initial attention.

According to Wenatchee School District procedure 3241, the use of alcohol, drugs, sale, and/or delivery require emergency expulsions.

Records obtained through a public disclosure request to the Wenatchee School District indicate not all 286 cases reported to high school administrators by safety and security in the last six school years have resulted in suspensions or expulsions — only 195 have.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” McCubbin said. “Going by policy [for drug, alcohol, and tobacco], there should not be that big of a discrepancy.”

Celebrezze said some reasons for the difference in referral and discipline data could be that the student decided to drop out or transfer schools when found guilty, or because they are not found guilty after an investigation of their referral.

The Range of Sanctions chart, part of district procedure 3241, indicates the minimum corrective action for possession or use of alcohol or any controlled substance is a long-term suspension. This action can last for 11 to 90 days, according to WHS Safety and Security Officer Don Durden. The maximum action is expulsion, which lasts for a year at the least. An expelled student can’t attend a public school in the state for that time period, Durden said.

Ultimately, it’s the administrator’s decision to decide what to do with a student brought to their attention for drug, alcohol, or tobacco violations, McCubbin said. McCubbin noted that it is sometimes “days” before she finds out from administration about students who have violated the drug or alcohol policy.

The “biggest and boldest move” by the Wenatchee School District, Celebrezze said, was deciding to hire a school resource officer back into the district as part of the risk management plan, contracted through the Wenatchee Police Department. He said students might be less inclined to come back from lunches under the influence with a trained police officer on campus watching.

WHS officials often detect student misconduct on the surveillance cameras, Durden said. He described a time that he saw students poking holes in an apple, which he said is a common sign that apple would be used for smoking marijuana.

Durden said school officials have a broader standard than police officers when searching or investigating student misconduct. While law enforcement officers are held to the standard of “probable cause,” he said school officials simply need “reasonable suspicion” in order to pursue a discipline or turn an investigation over to law enforcement. The new school resource officer, who still has to be hired, will operate under law enforcement guidelines, Bergstrom said in an email.

The definition for “reasonable suspicion” has two parts, according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

— It’s justified at its inception. There are reasonable grounds for suspecting the search will reveal evidence that the student has violated or is violating the law or school rules.

— The search is reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the search, meaning that the measures used to conduct the search are reasonably related to the objectives of the search.

Story published Jan. 9, 2015
Story published Jan. 9, 2015

“It is looser than probable cause,” according to the Cornell University Law School website.

Safety and security officers at WHS have access to an Alco-Sensor Field Sobriety Test breathalyzer, and are also equipped with a drug recognition testing kit. Both officers are trained with both of these tools, and use them in situations where reasonable suspicion is present. Durden said the breathalyzer has been used at school dances in the past. The tests can be refused by students, he said.


After The Apple Leaf’s coverage of intoxication at school events, Celebrezze issued a statement to all parents and faculty outlining new guidelines and procedures in place for future school dances.

At the larger-scale dances, like Prom and Homecoming, there will now be two administrators, 10 teacher chaperones, parent chaperones, two on-duty police officers, and WHS safety and security staff present, Celebrezze said in his Dec. 2 letter to all families and faculty.

This is a change, as only one on-duty police officer was present at the 2014 Homecoming dance. New this school year, teachers were compensated for chaperoning the dance. The compensation will continue for future dances, Celebrezze said.

Celebrezze also said in his Dec. 2 letter that students who attend school events under the influence of drugs and alcohol will receive school discipline, after being turned over to local law enforcement. WHS would follow “due process and district procedures” for handling these situations, he said.

In an earlier interview with The Apple Leaf, Celebrezze said three students were arrested at the 2014 Prom, held at the Town Toyota Center, which The Apple Leaf reported in this Nov. 5 article. A check of Wenatchee Police Department and Chelan County Sheriff’s Office records indicated only one arrest was made, of a non-student, for being a minor in possession. The 18-year-old was taken to the Chelan County Regional Justice Center.

Originally, the student was only going to receive an MIP citation, which was requested by Celebrezze, but became “belligerent” with Celebrezze, which is when Celebrezze requested the sheriff arrest him, according to the sheriff’s report. In an interview Dec. 3 with The Apple Leaf, Celebrezze revised his statement, saying there were three students law enforcement were “dealing with” during the event.

“We have no interest in any type of rebuttal to the [Nov. 26] article and are both moving forward,” Celebrezze and Assistant Principal Dave Perkins said in an email to The Apple Leaf. “All members of the Wenatchee High School administration believe and demonstrate through action that students making good choices is paramount to their learning, safety, and well-being.”


According to the 2012 Washington Healthy Youth Survey, WHS sophomores and seniors were higher than the state average by up to five-percent for alcohol use, binge drinking, substance use at school, and marijuana use.

According to Celebrezze, one reason he sees for the higher statistics, compared to the state or metro areas, could be the socioeconomic demographics at WHS.

McCubbin said this is the third school year that the freshman class has received an intervention education “crash course,” called Project Success, initiated by the state Department of Behavioral Health Resources. Since the state marijuana laws have changed, McCubbin said her caseload of student-users has gone up.

The 2014 Healthy Youth Survey was completed last school year, and the results will be available to school district administrators in March. These results will be compared to 2012’s, Durden said.

The Healthy Youth Survey is administered by the Washington Department of Health.

The Apple Leaf

Kuntz steps away from athletic department legacy

Story published March 5, 2014
Story published March 5, 2014

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf March 5, 2014.

Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” rattles through the walls of the athletic office on a bittersweet day. The spirits of the employees of the office are high. The telephone is ringing and the athletic director is away for the moment, but in a few months, for good.

Suddenly, “This song fits us,” Assistant Athletic Director LeAnne Branam spouts off. “It’s the end of an era.”

This is Feb. 26, the day that Wenatchee High School Principal Bob Celebrezze named Athletic Director BJ Kuntz to replace Mike Franza as Dean of Students in August.

“We will definitely miss her,” Branam said. “She’s going to be spectacular at whatever she does.”

Kuntz was promoted to the dean position because Franza is retiring at the end of the school year. Kuntz has been the athletic director for the past 12 years, according to an announcement email from Celebrezze.

“I’m super excited to go and tackle some new things,” Kuntz said. While the dean position is still “evolving,” Kuntz is prepared to help the position progress and support the building, students, and staff at WHS, as well as support the principal and be a part of the leadership team.

The promotion for Kuntz will allow her to have more time with her family, which she is looking forward to. “Life as an athletic director is a lot of pressure,” Kuntz said, mentioning the nights and weekends involved with the job and varying opinions from multiple people.

She believes her organization, love for kids, and high standards will bring a nice approach to the dean position.

But currently, Kuntz doesn’t get to work with kids as much. She said it’s all about “going back to grounding yourself and why you got into [education] in the first place.”

Celebrezze offered Kuntz the opportunity after confirming the switch with Wenatchee School District Superintendent Brian Flones. Kuntz was the only person considered for the position, Celebrezze said.

”It was such an easy decision,” Celebrezze said. “She loves kids, she’s been here for years, I know her well, and she’s taught at the high school and Orchard Middle School as well. What really sold me was that she loves Wenatchee High School.”

“She’s always been a strong supporter of the swimming program and it’ll be sad to see her go,” swimming coach Brian Lee said. “She has some big shoes to fill — I feel sorry for anyone who has to take the place of Mike Franza.”

“This was my first year coaching and without her assistance, we never would have had the success we had this season,” girls soccer coach John Springer said. “Although I am excited for her new opportunity, she will really be missed in the athletic department.”

A new athletic director will now be hired, Kuntz confirmed, but doesn’t have the details of what that process will entail.

“We’re blessed to work in this office,” Branam said. She noted the smoothness of how everything works within the department and how the staff gets along with each other. “Hopefully whoever comes next will keep that flow.”

Kuntz didn’t formally request to leave the athletic department, she said. She will begin as Dean of Students in August, but didn’t have a comment on how long she plans to stay in the role, saying she never knows where her life will take her.

The Apple Leaf

Latin princess steps out of her comfort zone and onto the stage

Story published June 4, 2014
Story published June 4, 2014

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf June 4, 2014.

She took the stage in a blue evening gown, with lights shining bright and her eyes on the prize. She didn’t think she would make it this far in the competition, but she knew looking out into the audience that somebody, somewhere out there, was completely buying into the message she delivered.

While senior Guadalupe Martinez didn’t win a spot on the Apple Blossom Royal Court, the prize she did receive was even better.

“It was scary at first,” Martinez said. “I remember shaking while I gave my speech. But at the same time it was like a moment of bravery. Once I was up there, I knew this was my time. I can do this. It was the time to prove myself — that I could do something I had wanted to do.”

Martinez moved to America at age 9. She moved from school to school, ending up finally in Wenatchee.

“It was very different. I was very excited. I came with hopes even though I was young. I knew I was going to get more opportunities here (in America), and it was a challenge because I had to learn a whole new different language. It was more that I had to challenge myself because I knew my parents only understood a small amount of English,” Martinez said.

She used to consider herself the “shy and quiet girl,” but early this spring, Martinez took to the stage during the Apple Blossom Pageant, and learned a little bit more about herself during the process. Following the speech, feedback flooded in to Martinez — her speech was a hit.

“It was surprising because I didn’t know I was going to make that big of an impact on people,” Martinez said. “They didn’t even know me and I was thinking that I would not get their attention … I got a lot of feedback. They said they did not know me, but they definitely liked my speech and they hoped that I would win.”

Martinez had to choose one word that described her. She chose determined. “It goes back to the fact that I said I want to be someone different and be different in my family. I want to be a good role model for my brother and sister. I want them to go higher than me,” she said.

She plans to attend Wenatchee Valley College this fall and get the general education classes out of the way, then decide if she will pursue a career in the medical or law field. Martinez is a first generation college student from her family, following behind her two older sisters.

“My family didn’t get the opportunity to go [to college] for what they wanted,” Martinez said. “I know they want me to go for what I want, and I want to make them proud. I want to show them it’s possible.”

After obtaining her degree, Martinez hopes to return to Wenatchee and pursue the career of her dreams. Her family currently works in the orchard industry.

“I want to help [my family] stop working because orchard work isn’t easy,” Martinez said. “It’s tough work. I know that because I’ve been there. I want to help them.”

Martinez doesn’t want others to be afraid of trying new things. “Life may get tough, but it’s better to go for it,” Martinez said. “Life is not easy. Sometimes by going through tough things, you learn bigger and more important lessons than by not going through them at all.”

The Apple Leaf

From high school technician to Bruno Mars team member

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf May 14, 2014; story published in The Wenatchee World May 30, 2014.

Just three months ago, more than 112 million people tuned in to watch Super Bowl XLVIII on television, the highest ever recorded. Nearly 83,000 people packed into MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to watch the Seattle Seahawks whoop the Denver Broncos. Some people piled in, simply to see the halftime performance from chart-topping artist Bruno Mars.

Wenatchee High School 1996 graduate Erik Rodstol was at his home in Orlando. It was his daughter’s birthday the day prior to this history-making Super Bowl.

Story published May 14, 2014
Story published May 14, 2014

In the week leading up to this, he was assisting at the rehearsals with Mars, making sure the sound was right on cue for Mars’ unforgettable performance with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Rodstol is currently on tour with Mars as a monitor technician through his company Clair Global, a sound company that caters to the professional touring industry. It was in 1992 when he got his start right inside the walls of WHS — setting levels and writing cues on the soundboard for performances in the auditorium, as part of the WHS Tech Crew.

“[Tech Crew] gave me insight as to possibilities of what I could get into,” Rodstol said. “I could see potential.”

One day, Rodstol realized he could make a good living doing what he did. That’s when he decided, “I’m going to work with some really big bands and tour the world.”

In 1998, Rodstol graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle with an Associates Degree of Applied Arts, majoring in Audio Production.

Since then, Rodstol’s career has taken him all over the country, from Asia, to Australia, to Europe. He has toured with country singer Keith Urban, hip hop singer Enrique Iglesias, and rock band Nickelback. It look him a long time to get where he is.

“You don’t go to that level right away,” Rodstol said, “but when you do, it’s pretty cool.”

Rodstol now lives his life on planes, tour busses, and stages. During legs of the tour, he wakes up on a bus and is handed a day sheet. From there, he gets to work with his crew of four on the current tour from Clair Global.

He helps wire the stage, tunes the PA, sets up and tests the microphones, helps the band with their soundcheck, and by that time, the audience has arrived for the concert.

Rodstol then goes for a nap on the tour bus or dinner, depending on how much sleep he got the night before. The concert begins and Rodstol is back in the arena, sitting next to the monitor engineer backstage.

After the opening act, a 30- to 40-minute set change occurs, Mars then takes the stage, and finally, Rodstol is able to begin the “load out” process of taking down the stage and packing up for the next show.

That is generally done by 1 or 2 a.m. He gets time for a shower, relaxes with his crew members, and finally gets time to sleep.

“It’s not a 9-to-5 job with an hour lunch break,” Rodstol said.

There’s no doubt that Rodstol sees incredible things, like Lenny Kravitz performing with Mars in Paris, or soon Pharrell Williams, singer of hit song “Happy,” opening for Mars. Regardless of who it is, Rodstol tries to “keep it professional,” as does most of the crew.

Rodstol doesn’t try to gloat or act starstruck, even though he casually passes Mars on a regular basis.

“We’re not like buds or anything,” Rodstol said. “Bruno’s just a genuine, down-to-earth, nice guy.”

In the last few years, Rodstol married his wife Rebecca. He has two daughters, 1 and 3 years old. He’s thinking now about doing less overseas touring, citing the time change and consistent stream of travel.

“It’s quite tough and it’s very taxing,” Rodstol said.

Although the travel is consistent, Rodstol has a travel agency, which keeps up with all of his booking. Another agency takes care of all of his work visas and passports for overseas tours. Sometimes, Rodstol knows ahead of time where he’ll be touring next. One time, however, he was called, told to pack his bags, and hop on a flight.

Mars’ current tour has a crew of approximately 50 people, Rodstol said.

“I want people to realize we’re a team, there’s seven of us (in the audio department),” he said. “It takes a lot to put on a production at this level.”

Rodstol realized during his days at WHS where he wanted to end up. Coincidentally, he’s right where he thought he would be. “Set a goal and just go for it,” he said.

The Apple Leaf

Bob Celebrezze: the new face of administration

Photo taken during first sit-down interview with the new principal. Photo by Storrie Skalisky / The Apple Leaf
Photo taken during first sit-down interview with the new principal.
Photo by Storrie Skalisky / The Apple Leaf

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf Sept. 18, 2013.

A dreary morning early before school and a dark gray coffee cup with a large logo of Washington State University. Many credentials and diplomas hanging on the wall behind his head. Enough silence in between questions to hear the clock ticking. His first week with students at Wenatchee High School was coming to a close. His first impressions had come and gone; his lasting impact still formulating.

A normal school day for Bob Celebrezze, the new principal at Wenatchee High School, puts him at school usually by 6:30 a.m. He likes to make his own coffee when he arrives.

Story published
Story published Sept. 18, 2013

He arrived in early July and found Wenatchee to be pretty hot.

Celebrezze comes from Moscow, Idaho, where he formerly served as principal at the high school and won an award for secondary principal of the year. Now, he’s the principal at WHS and he’s not afraid to let it be known.

“I’m real comfortable here,” said Celebrezze. “I love the support I have here.”

The first day of school, however? “It felt a little uncomfortable,” said Celebrezze. “I think because people didn’t know who I am so they would have a tendency to stare at [me] for a while so after a while, I felt a little awkward at times.”

And day two? “It felt great,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many students have gone out of their way to want to get to know [me] a little bit.”

Throughout his first two months at WHS, Celebrezze has done a lot of looking and even more listening. Due to his awareness, his initial read is that “it’s very positive, it seems inclusive, students seem to want to be here, [and] the faculty and the staff seem anxious to help,” he said.

Celebrezze did his research. According to him, he asked a lot of people what WHS was like before even coming here.

“I researched it very heavily and I didn’t want to make a mistake,” he said.

Before coming to Wenatchee, Celebrezze knew next to nothing about the Wenatchee Valley. In fact, before applying to be principal, he had only visited once in 1986.

For his first year, he wants to continue looking, listening and learning, even though he’s a self-proclaimed “do-er.”

“You can’t come in and just flip something on a dime — that’s the wrong way to do business,” said Celebrezze.

Now that he’s here, he plans to stay for at least 10 years and doesn’t plan on leaving his position as principal.

“I plan to leave, wherever I leave, proud,” he said. “Whenever I leave, anywhere, I want to leave on top of my game.”

He also shares a concern that many WHS students have and can often be heard complaining about. “I wish the classrooms had windows,” Celebrezze said.

Former principal Mike Franza has stayed on as dean of students, and according to Celebrezze, he has realized how lucky he is to still have the support from Franza. Celebrezze thinks they both have the same philosophies but perhaps a different approach.

“He’s been nothing but great to me, and that will continue,” said Celebrezze.

Franza returned in 2011 as interim principal after principal Michelle Wadeikis’ quick exit. Prior to, Franza served as WHS principal for 5 years.

“I think it was really smart of the Wenatchee School District to hire a principal from the outside,” said Celebrezze, “but being the principal from the outside is not overly comfortable; it’s not easy because everybody else knows each other and nobody else knows you, so that’s been awkward.”

But the mistake that he was worried about making when applying? So far, it doesn’t exist. “Wenatchee High School is anything but a mistake,” Celebrezze said, “it’s a gift, so I’m very fortunate.”

The Apple Leaf

Scotty McCreery: ‘American Idol’ star comes to Wenatchee

Story published Oct. 31, 2012
Story published Oct. 31, 2012

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf Oct. 31, 2012.

What does Scotty McCreery know about Wenatchee? Well, he’s “heard good things,” and he “expects good fans.” Get ready, Wenatchee, because Scotty “loves you this big.”

McCreery, American Idol season 10 winner, and 19 year old Garner, NC native, has two songs that most people know. “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble With Girls.” Recently, McCreery won the Academy of Country Music Awards award for Best New Artist. He also won CMT Music Awards USA Breakthrough Video of the Year.

During a phone interview Oct. 23, the American Idol winner was in Philadelphia. When he’s not performing a show, he’s busy taking classes at North Carolina State University. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Scotty is learning communications. While usually being the focus of the interview, McCreery explained that he is excited to see the other side of it for once.

On show day, McCreery said his crew is loading in the set, he’s rehearsing, and sometimes stopping by the local radio station for an interview. “[I] love the road life,” said McCreery.

Fans watching American Idol do nothing more than tune in and vote once a week. McCreery said that when he wasn’t performing on American Idol, he was filming commercials and making appearances. When asked if that kept him busy enough, he said, “Oh my goodness, yea!”

McCreery auditioned for American Idol before his junior year of high school. Little did he know, he’d be on the radio and touring the country. According to McCreery, his family made “a lot of sacrifices” to make his dream come true. “My family was by my side,” said McCreery. “[They] helped me make it.”

Growing up, McCreery said that he was quite the Elvis fan. “[I was always] hummin’ a tune,” said McCreery. He often told himself that he “wouldn’t have a job behind the desk.” He went on to say, “I couldn’t sit still for that long!”

Being on tour, social media has made McCreery feel “connected to [my] fans.” He explained that he thinks social media is “tremendous” and “huge.” When using social media, McCreery said he views it as “not just a username on a screen, but real people.”

But who exactly was McCreery singing, “I Love You This Big” to on his last night of American Idol. While he understood the song could be interpreted in many different ways, such as a love song, he said it really was a “thank you to the fans.”

If McCreery hadn’t enjoyed the overwhelming success on American Idol, what would his secondary career choice be? He said that he’d probably be doing the same thing, but most likely on a smaller scale. But, at this point, he said he’s “really hoping for a song that goes No. 1.”

McCreery’s new Christmas album was released Oct. 16. The new album debuted at No. 2 on the Top Country Album charts, No. 1 on the Top Seasonal Album charts, and No. 4 on Billboard’s Top 200 charts. Opening sales exceeded $40,000. So far this season, McCreery’s holiday album is the best-seller.

Scotty shared advice to young people with big dreams, “Go after ‘em,” said McCreery, “If you’re not, somebody else is.”

The Apple Leaf

Should high school teachers be allowed to carry guns?

Story originally published in The Apple Leaf Oct. 15, 2014.

Some high schools in the United States are equipped with high-tech security systems, extra campus officers, and even sniffing dogs. With the traumatic school shootings that have occurred in the last few years, some schools are even sending their teachers and faculty members to school with loaded weapons. And I say, more power to them.

When schools allow their faculty to be better equipped to take charge in an emergency, not only are they protecting the lives of the nation’s most vulnerable, but they’re also sending a message to any intruder that may think of shooting up a school. Putting myself in the shoes of an intruder, I would likely think twice about a school standoff if I knew that people inside could fire right back.

In Utah, it’s actually legal for someone with a concealed weapons permit to have a weapon with them at any time. For teachers in that state, bringing a gun to school isn’t out of the ordinary, and if anyone wonders, Utah’s state law says it’s illegal for them to ask.

This brings up the point of: “Yikes, I don’t want just any teacher to be carrying a gun around…” Well, yes, I would completely agree with that. In order to be effective, a school would have to be discreet in who gets selected to conceal a weapon.

If there were only a few “first responders” in a building, who were unknown to all except administrators, the hype and uncertainty would likely be minimum and a non-issue to most people in a school. These select individuals would also need special training and a background check to ensure complete safety while serving as concealed weapons bearers of a school. It might also be smart to require frequent mental health evaluations to completely confirm that a weapon on that person is making the school safer, rather than dangerous.

If weapons are out of the picture, it seems appropriate that specially-trained dogs got a job in schools to sniff out bad things that could pose an imminent threat to the building.

Wenatchee High School is already supplied with two great security officers, who work tirelessly to ensure a safe campus. As pointed out by the editorial board of The Apple Leaf, it might be smart for the Wenatchee School District to be proactive and re-evaluate the safeness of our schools and what’s being done to make them safer.