During a school year that saw a return to plays, concerts, festivals, in-person learning and more, the Exeter Township School District was grateful and humbled to have been chosen once again as a Best Community for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation--an honor bestowed upon fewer than 800 schools throughout the nation who demonstrate outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education. Throughout recent trips to Hershey; Norfolk, VA; and local, regional and state events, Exeter musicians won numerous accolades and ratings--proving yet again they were worthy of NAMM's award. Our music department is thrilled to present highlights of this year's accomplishments by our Exeter musicians:
Senior High Marching Band
- The 2021-2022 marching band returned to full time performance and rehearsal mode this past fall, participating in several parades, local marching band competitions, and cheering on the varsity football team all the way to the state semi-final playoff game. This year’s field show theme was titled, “Shipwrecked” and featured music of sea shanties and hope. In addition to the local parades in Reading, Exeter Township, and Elverson, the marching band performed in the 69th N.A.T.O Parade of Nations in downtown Norfolk, VA and received a silver metal rating.
Senior High Concert Band
- The concert band performed several pieces of varying difficulty this year and featured senior saxophonist and All-State musician, Xadiel Benejan-Rodriguez in a piece called Diversions scored for alto saxophone soloist and concert band. Nine band members participated in various honors festivals at the county level and this past April, the concert band received a superior rating at the Virginia International Arts Festival in Norfolk.
Senior High Jazz Band
- The jazz band was excited to have more performance opportunities this year and performed at the Twin Valley and Kutztown jazz festivals. The band also performed at the Reading Royals in February and concluded with its final performance during the spring concert in May. The band looks forward to growing its membership and is eager to add on more performances during the 22-23 school year. Special congratulations to Xadiel Benejan-Rodriguez for his participation in the MEBC All-Star Jazz Band and their performance at the 2022 Berks Jazz Fest.
Senior High Orchestra:
- The 2021-2022 School year has been a successful one for the Senior High Orchestras. The groups returned back to full in-person performances (Winter and Spring) and also including String Jam (Grades 3-12). 18 students in the SHS Orchestra participated in Junior and Senior County Orchestras, 2 students participated in PMEA District 10 Orchestra, and 1 student (Emily Holliday - Viola) participated in PMEA Northeast Region Orchestra. The Senior High Orchestra also traveled to Norfolk, VA, where they received “Superior” ratings for their performance.
Senior High Chamber Strings:
- The 2021-2022 SHS Chamber Strings was back in full force this year with performances at the Reading Royals, Senior Awards Ceremony, Academic Awards Ceremony, and the Baccalaureate Service at the end of the year on June 8, 2022.
Senior High Chorus & Concert Choirs
- The SHS choirs were beyond excited to begin singing in-person again this year! In addition to our Winter and Spring Concerts, Concert Choir began a new tradition of performing a Christmas concert at Schwarzwald Lutheran Church. This was a beautiful and festive evening where community members could participate by singing carols and hearing holiday readings. The highlight of our Spring Concert was a difficult and haunting piece called, “I’ve Been in the Storm So Long,” which featured senior soloist Julia Weaver and program artwork by senior Olivia Biancone. Several of our choristers made it all the way to Region Chorus (Tyler Casiano, Becky Cherry, Ryan Menet, Robert Tufariello, and Jeremy Weaver) and Jeremy Weaver represented Exeter at the PMEA All-State Chorus Festival in the Poconos. The choirs also participated in an adjudication in Norfolk, VA where they ranked first and earned a superior rating. Tanner Moore, 10th grade, was also awarded a trophy for best soloist. The choirs also enjoyed performing the anthem at the SHS 9/11 Ceremony, a Reading Royals Hockey game, and at the NATO Parade of Nations.
Senior High Eagleaires
- Eagleaires is a select group of about 20 members. This ensemble has enjoyed the opportunity to perform the National Anthem at the PIAA football state semi-finals. The Eagleaires men wooed audiences by singing a Valentine’s serenade at EMA’s Spaghetti and Song fundraiser. The senior men (Deacon Hearing, Nate Morgan, Ashton Lewars, Ryan Menet, and Jeremy Weaver) brought many tears to the eyes of our audience members when they sang their surprise piece at the Spring Concert, “Graduation Day” by the Four Freshmen. They also performed this for the senior class at the Graduation Ceremony. One of the highlights of the Eagleaires season was accepting an invitation to the Berks County Barr Association’s Law Day Luncheon. Here the Eagleaires performed a concert for various Berks County politicians, including State Senator, Judy Schwank. To quote the Senator, “The Eagleaires were the best part of the whole event!”
Senior High Norfolk Trip
- In April, 120 students from the SHS music department, representing 4 performing ensembles, traveled to the Norfolk/Virginia beach area to perform in the Virginia International Arts festival. The concert band, orchestra, and choir performed select repertoire from their respective spring concerts in the beautiful Chrysler Hall, home of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. All 3 performing ensembles received superior ratings and an on-stage clinic from collegiate directors representing several different colleges in the region. The students experienced national and international performances from military groups featuring dancers, vocalists, a mass bagpipe band, a drum & fife corps, and fleet bands during the 25th anniversary of the Virginia International Tattoo. The choir was honored to sing the National Anthem to international dignitaries and high ranking military officials prior to the 69th N.A.T.O Parade of Nations and the marching band was thrilled to perform for an amazing crowd that lined the streets of downtown Norfolk. The trip was certainly a memorable experience and students and staff alike were glad to be able to travel and perform once again!
Junior High Chorus
- Besides our Winter and Spring Concerts, the Choirs have performed at the Reading Royals and the Fightin’ Phils. Recently the 8th grade chorus had a phenomenal performance at Hershey’s Music in the Parks where they received 1st Place in their category, a Superior rating, and were selected as the Top Overall JHS/Middle School Choir.
- We also had 19 choral students selected for the 2022 MEBC Junior County Chorus Festival!
Junior High Orchestra
- The Junior High School Orchestras have had an outstanding year for the 2021-2022 school year. We had very successful performances at our Winter and Spring Concerts and also enjoyed the experience of returning to an in-person String Jam concert. Students enjoyed hearing the younger students perform and encouraging them, but also looking up to and admiring the SHS Orchestra. We were thrilled to put on this performance. Additionally, the 8th grade Orchestra had a very successful trip to Hershey Park where they received 1st Place in their category, a Superior rating, and were selected as the Top Overall JHS Orchestra.
- Finally, we had 12 string students be selected for the 2022 MEBC Junior County Orchestra Festival. A huge feat! We are looking forward to next year!
Junior High Band
- We combined the 7th and 8th grade bands this year for a larger group for our first live performances in some time. Band students joined our SHS band members several times this year most recently in Side by Side rehearsals leading up to the Spring Concert. At Hershey’s Music in the Parks performance, the band was ecstatic to receive an Excellent rating and 1st place in their category. In addition, five of our students were selected for the 2022 MEBC Junior County Band Festival.
- This year we saw the return to live performances. We also increased the number of students in the band and string programs by recruiting a record number of beginners. In December, the students worked hard to pull together a Winter Showcase that featured their talents and different skill levels of our musicians. For the spring concert, students put on a fabulous performance that showed their growth and highlighted their excitement for music. Throughout the year select students performed at board meetings, the Reading Royals and Reiffton’s Talent Show. Reiffton Students also had the opportunity to play ukulele for the author visit.
Elementary Strings and Band
- Elementary Strings and band have been practicing diligently all year with full group rehearsals and weekly small group lessons. Students also had video practice challenges over winter break and spring break, where they went above and beyond to watch the practice videos made for them and record their own practice. Students had the opportunity to perform in a video recorded concert in the winter, a live 4th grade strings performance at a Reading Royals game, and live concerts at each school in the spring. Each building played a concert for the school and a concert for their parents, where both the band and strings each performed three songs. Some Owatin Creek students even volunteered to perform solos at the Art Show in May!
- We would also like to congratulate our students who participated in music activities outside of school! Madalyn Mell and Maya Touri performed with Genesius for their production of Once Upon a Mattress Jr., and Madalyn was also on stage for Dear Edwina Jr. with First St. Players. Benjamin Campling performed with Reading Symphony Junior Strings Orchestra for their 2021-22 season, including concerts at Hershey Park and the Reading Phillies! We are so proud of our young musicians and can’t wait to see all they will do next year!
- The 4th graders at Lorane pulled off an amazing Spring Concert. The students practiced for weeks during general music class and their hard work really paid off. Each child played the ukulele in the concert during the refrain of “Lava” and three soloists sang the verses. We also performed a flashlight routine in the dark for “Fireflies”, which was a crowd favorite. For the first time, the 3rd graders played recorder in the concert. They stole the show with their amazing sound, rhythm and accuracy.
District String Jam
- After a virtual 2021 String Jam Concert, the Exeter Township Music Department was thrilled to have String Jam back in-person this year. Hosted in the Senior High School Main Gym, this event brings together all string students in Grades 3-12. Each grade level performed their own selections: Elementary under the direction of Ms. Emily Remp, Reiffton under the direction of Mrs. Dawn Keebler, and the JHS and SHS under the direction of Mr. Micah Albrycht. The concert closed out with a performance of “Orpheus in the Underworld” by all ensembles combined.
Music Educators of Berks County Selections:
Senior High Orchestra:
- Emily Holliday - MEBC County Orchestra, PMEA District Orchestra & Region Orchestra
- Frank Conte - MEBC County Orchestra, PMEA District Orchestra
- Eric Dunbar - MEBC County Orchestra
- Dylann Backenstoss - MEBC County Orchestra
- Leah Wentzel - MEBC County Orchestra
- Serenity Zawilla - MEBC County Orchestra
- Valerie Thompson - MEBC County Orchestra
- Macy Feathers - MEBC County Orchestra
- Charlotte Rismiller - MEBC County Orchestra
- Patricia Tran - MEBC County Orchestra
- Zachary Kauffman - MEBC County Orchestra
- Hansika Kunduru - MEBC County Orchestra
- Leah Nester - MEBC County Orchestra
- Ian Carr - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Katharine Hoover - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- George Hajj - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Esteban Ruiz - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Dylan Holland - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
Senior High Band:
- Nathan Bayer - MEBC Senior County Band
- Xadiel Benejan-Rodriguez - District Band, Region Band, All-State Concert Band, MEBC Senior County Band, MEBC All-Star Jazz Band, PMEA District 10 Band Scholarship recipient, Ringgold Band Scholarship recipient
- Ryan Cherry - MEBC Senior County Band
- Alyssa Gillner - MEBC Senior County Band
- Devon Ravert - MEBC JHS County Band & orchestra
- Jordan Wolfe - MEBC JHS County Band
- Sophie Sowers - MEBC JHS County Band
- Carson Frederick - MEBC JHS County Band
- Riley Mazur - MEBC JHS County Band & orchestra
Senior High Choir:
- Hope Hoffman - MEBC Senior County Chorus,
- Becky Cherry - MEBC Senior County Chorus, PMEA District Chorus, PMEA Region Chorus
- Julia Weaver - MEBC Senior County Chorus, PMEA District Chorus, RCT Scholarship Finalist
- Jeremy Weaver - MEBC Senior County Chorus, PMEA District Chorus, PMEA Region Chorus, PMEA ALL-STATE Chorus
- Ashton Lewars - MEBC Senior County Chorus
- Robbie Tufariello - MEBC Senior County Chorus, PMEA District Chorus, PMEA Region Chorus
- Ryan Menet - MEBC Senior County Chorus, PMEA District Chorus, PMEA Region Chorus
- Tyler Casiano - MEBC Senior County Chorus, PMEA District Chorus, PMEA Region Chorus
- Alexa Hyman - RCT Scholarship Finalist
- Alison Applegate - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Raelyn Tufariello - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Molly Lubenow - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Ryan Claudfelter - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Devon Ravert - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Nate Govan - MEBC JHS County Chorus
Junior High Orchestra:
- Danny Nguyen - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Kendal Druzba - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Logan Davis - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Evan Harvey - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Simon Bolich - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Morgan Kauffman - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Samantha Shipley - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Harrison Brumbaugh - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Alyssa Tursack - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Andrew Schwenck - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Grace Campling - MEBC JHS County Orchestra, MEBC JHS County Band, RMF 1st place String Bass Scholarship
- Payton Klein - MEBC JHS County Orchestra
Junior High Band:
- Adam Crotty - MEBC JHS County Band
- Nicholas Pasquale - MEBC JHS County Band
- Jillian Crotty - MEBC JHS County Band, MEBC JHS County Orchestra
- Ava Diaz - MEBC JHS County Band
Junior High Chorus:
- Eviana Jones - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Ella Mackey - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Sophie Seamans - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Cece Brower - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Julianna McCarthy - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Kayla Shade - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Jillian Crotty - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Alyssa Tursack - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Callista Schlappich - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Kaelyn Reynolds - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Ava Diaz - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Leoni Choy - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Grace Campling - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Harrison Brumbaugh - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Gavin Isselmann - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Jesus Devalle - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Andrew McBride - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Peter George - MEBC JHS County Chorus
- Adam Crotty - MEBC JHS County Chorus
6th Grade String Fest:
- Zander Bogust
- Jordan Coakley
- Maddalena Crichton
- Aralyn Esquivel
- Camryn Follweiler
- Juleen Fortney
- Levi Fox
- Lea Goodhart
- Sophie Gove
- Lily Jordan
- Michael Jordan
- Chloe LaRiviere
- Keegan McCarthy
- Danielle McLaughlin
- Joshua Ross
- Elizabeth Schwenk
- Taylor Shadel
- Michael Waters
6th Grade Band Fest:
- Lena Bluestone
- Ryan Jones
- Lily Jordan
- Michael Jordan
- Aidrick Vize
Richter Bogust delivers "Coping Kits" to the Exeter Township Junior High School. He's joined by Amy Lutz (left), Executive Director of the Exeter Community Education Foundation; Alex Brown, Principal of ETJH; and Kim Shaw, Counselor.
Exeter Eagle Scouts pose with Exeter Township Senior High Principal Tom Campbell earlier this year. They are (from left): Deacon Hearing, Alex Podaru, Nathan Morgan, Nate Brundage, Emmet Larson, Johnathan Newnham, Sam Orzolek and Jason Boone.
Logan Endy (left) and Richter Bogust both completed their Eagle Scout projects this spring.
Today, 9th grader Richter Bogust began his delivery of student “Coping Kits” to Exeter schools, which will be distributed by school counselors to students in need who are dealing with anxiety or stress. Each kit contains a unique mix of items that are age-specific to help students who are struggling with anxiety, such as journals, pens, colored pencils, coloring books, coloring pages, crayons, Play-Doh, stress balls, fidgets, chocolate, mints, cards of encouragement, motivational stickers, etc. Richter collected and assembled more than 500 kits thanks to community donations and support from the Exeter Community Education Foundation as part of his Eagle Scout project, which is a distinctive and honorable rank earned by less than 5% of Boy Scouts, and represents the highest achievement that Scouts can earn.
Exeter schools and our community are often the lucky beneficiaries of Eagle Scout projects, which can take Scouts up to a year to organize. For his Eagle Scout project, Sam Orzolek, now a senior, created benches for Exeter wrestling last year, and Deacon Hearing, also a senior, helped build an outdoor classroom at Owatin Creek in 2020. Other Eagle Scout projects by current Exeter students include: a food drive by Jason Boone; outdoor decking and wall construction at First Unitarian Universalist Church by Johnathan Newnham; a pet food drive by Emmet Larson; construction of benches at Joanna Furnace by Nate Brundage; restoration of the youth room at Schwarzwald Church by Nathan Morgan; construction of a half-mile trail at Joanna Furnace by Alex Podaru; and most recently, organization of a blood drive by Logan Endy, which he just completed at the end of April.
With the majority of Exeter’s Eagle Scouts on the verge of graduation and the program suffering a more than 40% decline in enrollment from 2019 to 2020 partially due to the pandemic, and partially due to social trends, Exeter’s Eagle Scouts said they hoped that a new generation of students would consider joining the centuries-old organization, which now accepts girls as well as boys. “It taught me skills that I would have never learned otherwise,” said Nathan Morgan. “I loved that Scouts gave me something unique to do,” said Emmet Larson. “I was out learning how to create shelter with no tent and only available materials while my friends were back home playing video games.” Exeter’s Scouts also say that earning the Eagle Scout rank allows them a competitive edge to put on their resume and college applications that makes them stand out to employers and admission officers. It also gave them a built-in network of friends as they grew up together with common interests.
In addition to learning survival and leadership skills, the group said that they appreciated the opportunity to give back and do something meaningful for other students and their communities through their Eagle Scout projects. “I liked that I had a chance to help my community through a project that has a lasting impact,” said Logan, referencing his blood drive and how he hoped it would help save someone’s life. Richter agreed and said, “People have been going through rough times because of the pandemic and mental health among students is not very good right now,” he said. “I hope that these coping kits may be able to help students feel better while being in school.”
To learn more about joining the Boy Scouts, please visit https://beascout.scouting.org.
The Exeter Township Board of School Directors is pleased to announce they selected Dr. Christy Haller to be the District’s next Superintendent. Dr. Haller will begin serving as the Superintendent of Exeter schools on July 1, 2022.
No stranger to Exeter Township, Dr. Haller has worked in the District for nearly 15 years, and currently serves as the District’s Director of Human Resources. Prior to her role in central administration, she led Owatin Creek Elementary as its principal for a year and Lorane Elementary as its principal for 8 years, leading Lorane to a Title I Distinguished Schools Award. She first came to Exeter schools in 2008 as the assistant principal at Reiffton School. Before becoming an administrator in Exeter, Dr. Haller served as an elementary and middle school teacher and a reading coach and administrator in the Reading School District for 11 years. Dr. Haller earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership and her Letter of Eligibility from Immaculata University, and her master’s and principal certification from Alvernia University, where she received the Founding Dean’s Award. She completed her undergraduate work in education at Kutztown University. Dr. Haller also serves on the board of the Exeter Community Education Foundation and is a former Exeter Community Library Board Trustee.
In addition to working in Exeter Township, Dr. Haller has lived in the township for 22 years and has three children: Riley and Jacob, who both recently graduated from Exeter, and Maggie, who is a current 1st grader at Owatin Creek. She is married to Dr. Christian Haller, an Exeter graduate and principal at Octorara Intermediate School.
Dr. Ann Hearing, president of the Board of School Directors said, “After a careful and thoughtful national search for the next leader of Exeter schools, we are so excited to welcome Christy as the next Superintendent. She has demonstrated her deep commitment to excellence in Exeter with her distinguished leadership both in and out of the classroom, as well as her dedication to building relationships with parents, teachers, staff, students, administrators and the community. We are confident she fulfills all the key qualities that our Board, our schools and our community wanted–and needed–in the next Superintendent; we look forward to working with her.”
The Exeter Township Board of School Directors selected Dr. Haller following a national search. Early in the process, the community, as well as students, staff, administrators and teachers were invited to participate in a community survey that asked for key qualities and attributes for the next leader of Exeter schools. After more than 500 responses were captured, the Board created a Superintendent Profile based upon the key traits that were identified as being the most important to those in the community. They were:
- Committed to the Exeter Township School District
- Team builder
The Board then formed an interview panel to help them select eight candidates to interview from the 14 applications that were received. Afterwards, the Board invited three candidates back for second round interviews this week, announcing their selection on Thursday.
Dr. Haller will replace Dr. Cynthia Mierzejewski, who has served as interim superintendent since Dr. Kimberly Minor’s departure from the district in February.
Editor's note 5/20/22: Dr. Haller's appointment will follow successful contract negotiations and a board vote.
After 31 years and serving more than 2 million meals to hungry Exeter students, Suzie Haas plans to take off her apron for the last time when the kitchen at Owatin Creek closes for the school year. She’s been an institution in the kitchens at Exeter for as long as most of the parents of her students have been alive.
“Suzie’s one of a kind. She has a great sense of humor that makes a tough job more enjoyable. She will definitely be missed,” said Courtnay Epler, Food Services Supervisor. Tracy Lis, Food Services Secretary, agreed, “She knows the name of each and every student that comes through the line. On their birthdays, she goes out of her way to make sure they feel special by finding little gifts for them, like rubber bracelets. She really puts her whole heart into the job.”
Suzie began working at Lausch in 1991 and stayed there for 20 years until the building closed. From there, she moved to Jacksonwald until 2017, and then to Owatin Creek five years ago. While she said that technology in the kitchen’s changed a bit over her career, the premise of cooking and serving healthy and nutritious food hasn’t. Reflecting on her time in the kitchen, she said that being a “lunch lady” is a career that’s tougher than most think–especially during the pandemic and dealing with the supply chain issues of the last year–but she said that great co-workers, a family-friendly schedule and getting to know so many kids were all the favorite parts of her work–as well as the food they served. “I’ll miss our brunch the most!” she said with a laugh. “And my orange-slicing machine!”