Two long-time educators and administrators are stepping down from positions at Central Heights at the end of the year and leaving big shoes to fill.
High school principal Tom Horstick and middle school principal Buddy Welch have both decided to retire — ending education careers that began at the same school. Horstick graduated from Central Heights in 1976 and Welch followed a year a later in 1977.
Brian Spencer, Central Heights superintendent, said they will be missed.
“What a great pair of Vikings,” he said. “When I travel to other parts of Kansas and mention Central Heights they always mention Mr. Welch. And for Mr. Horstick to return and be successful says a lot about him. It’s not easy to come home but both these men have done that. They will definitely be missed.”
After graduating from Central Heights, Horstick went to Ottawa University to play basketball but was not sure of the job path he would take. He said after he got saved in 1978 as a sophomore in college, felt God had a plan for him.
“I had to declare a major and I felt like God was leading me to education,” he said. “I loved kids and wanted to coach. I played basketball in college and knew I wanted to coach and teach.”
His first job took him to Litchfield, Illinois, at a small private school where the best part of the job was meeting his wife, Linda.
“It was a private Christian school. I had eight kids in four grades in the basement of a church,” he said. “I feel like God had me there to meet Linda.”
Horstick came back to Kansas in 1983 and spent 20 years as a teacher, coach and administrator in the Jayhawk-Linn school district.
He started there as an elementary physical education teacher and ended up as an elementary principal for four years. While there he coached basketball, boys and girls teams at every level. He came back to Central Heights as high school principal in 2003 when his youngest son Jordan was in second grade, and all of his kids have graduated from the school.
“People ask me all the time if the kids hated me being in their school,” Horstick said. “I always say you would have to ask them, but we tried to keep our distance and I didn’t ask what was going on but if they wanted to tell me they would. But it was the best thing ever to hand a diploma to every one of your kids. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
He also shared the school district with Linda who is an elementary teacher and is not planning to retire just yet.
“She wants to go another couple of years and see how it goes,” he said. “We’ve been married 33 years and this will be the first time in 32 years that we have not been at the same school doing the same thing on the same schedule. We are pretty spoiled. Some people might not think it’s a good thing but it has been awesome for us to be around our kids and for both of us to work in the same place. She taught all four of our kids in kindergarten in Mound City.”
As for the future, Horstick said he plans to keep working somewhere but has no firm plans.
“I’m not limiting myself to anything,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have a lot of feelers out. I don’t have enough hobbies to sit at home. The ideal job would be flexible to let me chase my kids around the world.”
Horstick said for 55 years he has been getting up and going to school and next year will be different. He said what he will miss most are the relationships with students and staff.
“I will miss the kids,” he said. “I will miss the conversations and seeing the growth. I will also miss the staff. They say surround yourself with good people and they will make you look good and I think I’ve been pretty blessed to have that happen. It’s never been about me but it’s always been about having good people around me. I’m going to miss it. I won’t know what to do on Friday nights when I don’t have to go to a football game. I guess I’ll have to pay to get in now.”
Welch started at Johnson County Community College playing baseball right after high school. After two years there he transferred to John Brown University and finished his baseball career and got a teaching degree.
“When I graduated I really didn’t have any reason to come back to the area but I interviewed at Pomona and the day I interviewed there, Warren Watson, who was principal here and was my principal said ‘I want to interview you,’” Welch said. “He told me there was a PE [physical education] job and a basketball job helping Ike Cearfoss. The interview was this, he asked if I was interested and if I could handle it and I said yes and he hired me and I have been here 38 years.”
His career began as a PE teacher and he also began teaching driver’s education, something he has continued to do for all of his time at the district. In 1993 he became the assistant principal at the high school which was sixth grade through 12th grade at the time. When the schools split into junior and senior high in 2002, he became middle school principal.
“I guarantee you I have had just about every job here. I have been the attendance director, the maintenance director, I’ve been assistant principal at the high school, middle school principal, elementary principal for three years. I’ve had every job available.”
For many years Welch was the head basketball coach and started the baseball program in 1996. For one year in 1992, he was even the football coach.
Like Horstick, all of his kids graduated from Central Heights and he looks back on his career with no regrets.
“Someone asked me if I would change anything, I guarantee I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “I have enjoyed coming to work every day. I wanted to be surrounded with good people and I’ve two of the best secretaries you could ever ask for. They made my job easy, they greet our parents with a smile every day, you couldn’t ask for any better.”
When the school year is over, Welch said he has no definite plans but wants to have the freedom to do many different things and also work on his farm.
“I don’t want to do the same thing every day,” he said. “I have been here for 38 years and I have loved coming to work every day but I want to go out in the world and see if I can do something different. I will find something I enjoy.”
Welch said he has been talking to schools about how to build relationships with kids and has been to eight or 10 schools so far. Welch said he already has some schools lined up for next year and is excited about the possibility. He also said he misses coaching and would consider it again if the right situation came along.
As far a teaching career goes, Welch said it was a perfect choice for him and his family.
“If you’re about money, you’re not going to find it in the teaching profession but it’s the best job to raise a family,” he said. “I don’t care what anyone says. You get the same days off that your kids get off, you are with your kids at school every day. There’s not a better family job than teaching.”
Spencer said filling the shoes of both men will be difficult and the district is considering hiring a principal and assistant principal that would be in charge of sixth through 12th grade. He said both will be hard to replace and will be greatly missed at the school.