Tommies return to help seniors in final year

MARYSVILLE – For 3 1/2 years, Marysville-Pilchuck students and staff have bravely dealt with their emotions related to the shooting in October of 2014.

This year’s seniors were freshmen classmates of the five who died. A key component of the M-P culture for staff has been to do whatever it takes to help these kids graduate. That will happen in June.

Principal Dave Ross and assistant principal Jeff Ingrum both graduated from Marysville high years ago. They returned this year and have tried to be there for students and staff.

But both said staff and kids already have their own support systems. “They developed their ‘go to’ people,” Rose said. They said counselor Wendy Wiley has a special connection with the senior class.

“She’s rock solid,” Rose said. “She’s going to cry tears of joy and relief” when they graduate. “She’s helped 300 kids through something nobody would wish on anybody.”

Rose said he and Ingrum tread lightly when talking about the shooting. “We try to be there for staff and be really good listeners,” Ingrum said. “We know who to check on when something happens that could stir the memory back up.”

Rose said the district has offered all kinds of help. “But each person handles it their own way,” he said. “A lot of people struggle with asking” for help.

Both went to M-P

Rose graduated in 1975 from what was then Marysville High School, which is now Totem Middle School. After four years of playing baseball for MHS, he played two more at Everett Community College and then played infield at Washington State University in Pullman under legendary coach Chuck “Bobo” Brayton. He taught math and coached at Monroe High School for 25 years. He quit coaching to watch his daughter play softball and got his administration credentials. He was assistant principal at M-P in 2004 when there were 3,200 students. “It was like a city here,” he said. He then was a principal at Marysville Getchell for 10 years before returning to M-P as an associate principal last year. He took over when Rob Lowry retired.

“I love the community and want nothing but the best for all the kids,” he said, adding it’s taken time and been hard to improve the culture since the shooting.

Ingrum graduated from M-P in 1988. His dad, Fred, was a principal in Marysville years ago, and Jeff is following in his footsteps. He played football and wrestled at M-P before going to Central Washington University in Ellensburg. He taught at Lakewood Middle School before getting his administrative credentials. He was an assistant principal at Sedro-Woolley for nine years then was principal of a middle school in Mount Vernon the past three years before he “came home.. The culture has been reeling since the shooting, and I wanted to give back,” he said. He’s enjoyed being on campus. “I used to come here as a kid” with his dad, he said.

Tough being new

Even though Rose was up on the hill at MG during the shooting, he was at M-P the next day to help and during the reunification process. Even so, both he and Ingrum said they feel the “you weren’t here” barrier from some at M-P.

“Even though we weren’t physically involved,” our hearts are with them, Rose said. “We live it because you lived it.”

Ingrum agreed. “Our hearts are in our community,” he said. “We felt it because it’s our hometown. We care.”

Rose said they have tried to build trust. “We have no hidden agenda. We want to work together to make this the best place we can make it. We want to achieve, but also tend to their needs.”

Ingrum said it’s always tough being the new guy and building relationships at a school. But he and Rose are fortunate because they know many people at M-P from previous years.

Ingrum said when he came back it was like a reunion for him with “hugs from people I’ve not seen in a long time.” Ingrum said he was fortunate in that his dad also was a school administrator. Fred’s strength was working with people, so his son went to him for advice.

Rose said many of his old relationships were father figures. His dad died when he was 2, and a handful of men took him under their wing.

“They knew without a dad things might not work out for me. I didn’t want to let them down,” he said, adding, “It could have gone bad in a hurry.”

Tragedy unites students

M-P students often say the tragedy brought them closer. “It’s the closest class I’ve ever seen,” Ingrum said. “All over there’s the happy family theme.”

Rose said they are protective. “They watch out for each other and make sure no others hurt them,” he said. They said they have enjoyed watching the students get stronger as time goes by. They especially are impressed how the students are speaking out since the shooting in Parkland, Fla., after being so quiet for years.

Rose said the kids focused on protecting students. “It’s about time to stand up and say no” to school shootings, he said, adding he likes how they went after lawmakers and told them they would “vote them out.”

Rose also was impressed with their school walkout late last month. “They stepped up,” Rose said. “I was nervous. It could have gone sideways.”

Instead, students were “stone silent” in a 17-minute tribute at Quil Ceda Stadium when a victim’s name was read and a balloon released every minute. “I got goose bumps,” Rose said.

He added it has been hard for students and staff to come back to the site of the shooting every day, even though the cafeteria has been closed every since and a new one has been built.

“Kids are resilient,” he said. “It’s the adults I still worry about. They are the forgotten ones.”

Ingrum again agreed. “They’ve been in the role of caring for four years,” he said. “Next year they can finally breathe a sigh of relief.”

Rose concluded: For the students, being at school has been a “constant reminder. They deserve to move on.”

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