Haslett High School’s Principal, Bart Wegenke Passes

Haslett High School's Principal, Bart Wegenke Passes

Monday, January 13, 2020. A date that will be significant to the staff and students of Haslett High School for years to come.
Monday was the day staff had to inform the students their beloved principal Bart Wegenke had died the previous Saturday from pancreatic cancer.
“Saturday was super stressful with all the news,” principal Brandy Butcher said, “because no one realized Mr. Wegenke was that sick. I was next in line to get all the news out and organize it.”
If students hadn’t already found out through social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, the news broke in a letter the staff had to read to students first hour.
“I partially found out through social media,” senior Sydni Maloney said. “I saw ‘RIP’ posts on Snapchat, but my mom was the one who told me it was Mr. Wegenke.”
Monday was filled with lots of emotions, mourning and a sense of connection through the school community.
Senior Danny Ezzo is Wegenke’s nephew, and that Monday morning was especially hard on him.
“I came to school, but I just walked through the hallways with Mrs. (Jan) Shoemaker,” Ezzo said. “It was a terrible week.”
The halls were filled with therapy dogs, retired staff members including Shomemaker and therapists on hand to help with anything staff or students needed.
“For the people who like dogs, I feel like the therapy dogs helped a lot,” senior Mythreyi Parameswaran said.
There was a visitation held at Estes-Leadley Funeral Home on Jan. 17. The original time was 5-7 p.m., but a 4-6 p.m. session was also added.
The funeral home was crowded with people in line to hug the mourning family and observe pictures of Wegenke.
As a member of the family, Ezzo was at the visitation and funeral on Friday and Saturday.
“It was hard seeing my aunt and cousins in such pain,” Ezzo said. “But I wasn’t surprised by how many people were there (visitation and funeral), because I knew he touched a lot of people in his life.”
The funeral was held Jan. 18 at Resurrection Church in Lansing. The church was crowded with all the people Wegenke had influenced during his 53 years of life, with people standing along the sides of the church.
The whole community has been generously sending love to the high school. The staff at the middle school provided a potluck for the high school staff.
Surrounding schools including East Lansing and Mason have also sent their condolences through lunch for the staff and posters sending positivity.
On Jan. 30, Okemos High School had students passing out donuts in the morning before school and also hung up a poster with positive messages.
“It was a very nice gesture from Okemos, props to the seniors,” sophomore Sophie Novak said.
With the way the events took place, everything happened very fast. Many staff and students were unsure of how the district would handle the loss. Some of those questions were answered in an email from Superintendent Steve Cook to staff on Jan. 24.
It was announced that, “effective immediately, Brandy Butcher will assume the responsibilities of Haslett High School Principal. In addition, Stephanie Livingston will assume the responsibilities of Associate Principal.”
With the change in positions, arises some complications.
“Mrs. Livingston is our new assistant principal,” Butcher said. “We still have to have that transition time where she hands over her job and then I hand over my assistant principal things.”
With Butcher thrown in as the new principal, she has basic goals to finish out the year strong.
“Right now, I want us to just keep on keeping on, to be as good as we were before and to celebrate our successes to make it to the end of the year,” she said.
With big shoes to fill, Wegenke’s absence is something that will be noticeable.
“Mr. Wegenke had a presence in the building,” Butcher said. “I feel awkward sometimes, he had such a big personality.”
The 2019-2020 school year will be a significant period of time forever for people of the Haslett community.
For the staff and students, Wegenke’s memory will live on through “Rack em’ and stack em’” and the sound of keys jingling.