CLEAR FORK VALLEY — The lead chair in the principal’s office at Butler Elementary School is going to be occupied by a person whose credentials include stints as a worker for the Ohio Department of Education, and work at Mansfield, Madison, Crestline, Lucas and other schools.
Libby Nickoli was named principal in what she called a “whirlwind” of activities earlier this month.
She interviewed with Clear Fork Valley School District superintendent Janice Wyckoff and Bellville principal Kirsten DeVito.
Though there were nine other applicants, she was asked if she would like the job that day, she said. She gave her answer — yes — the next day.
Nickoli said she “didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.” It came at a time when she was trying to sell her house and moving, her son A. J. was having a graduation party, and she was preparing all the food for 300 people.
She said she is “thrilled” at the opportunity and is happy to be in the job where the future holds construction of two new elementary school buildings.
In the interview process, Nickoli said she was asked by Wyckoff is she was afraid of bats.
Nickoli said she asked “do you mean the flying variety?”
Wyckoff said yes.
Nickoli said she asked “do I need to corral them?”
The flying critters were mentioned because there have been instances in the past when they have been seen in the buildings.
Both the Butler and Bellville structures are old, and will be replaced by buildings in the same locations.
Nickoli said the current Butler building is multi-floored. The new building will be on one level and more accessible for children who might need wheelchairs or walkers.
She said she thinks it is good the Clear Fork district decided to have two elementary buildings, rather than go into one, which many districts have done.
A survey was done asking residents’ opinions on the matter.
Nickoli is coming into the position after having several jobs involving working with children with multiple disabilities.
When she graduated from Bowling Green State University she worked for four years at Madison, teaching children with multiple disabilities.
She moved to part time work after taking a leave of absence at the birth of her son, A.J.
Her daughter Ellie was born, and because she was found to have been born without a hip socket, caring for her required a permanent leave of absence.
The time was “pretty intense” and she couldn’t find a babysitter.
When Elllie became well enough, at about three years old, Nickoli went to work for the Ohio Department of Education, in a job training teachers in various school districts.
Her third child, Trey, was born and she stayed home for five years.
Then she was contacted to work in putting together “articulation agreements,” which meant coordinating relations between career schools and North Central State College.
The idea was that a student studying cosmetology at a career school, for intance, could get credits going toward college.
Nickoli said she became interested in working with children with disabilities when she saw how kids would be segregated in schools. She asked if one such child could be allowed to work with her. That happened.
She said “every child has a gift or strength.” Teachers working with them must find that, and nurture it.
She taught for a time at Madison High School, and said she at first wondered about being able to do that. She said she asked her husband, Greg, how she should approach that: being strict and mean or nurturing.
Greg told her it should be a balance of the two.
She said she likes to take the time to get to know her students. If she knows someone has been involved in wrestling, she will ask “how it went.”
She said kids appreciate that, and when it comes time to “put the hammer down” they know they’ve disappointed somebody who cared.
Nickoli said she will begin by being a “good listener” and getting to know Butler, the building and the students.
Her husband Greg is now superintendent at Pioneer Career Center. She said her free time can involve working with flowers because she loves them.
But she said “my children are my spare time.”
She coaches swimming, and has a personal athletic record. She was an All Ohio player in volleyball and was school record holder in basketball. She said she was a three point shooting guard.