Knapp’s retirement generates response from WW staff

George Browning

The news of West Washington Junior/Senior High Principal Mary Anne Knapp putting in for early retirement at the end of the school year sent a wave of emotions through Senator Nation.

Many of the teachers expressed sadness that the person who has led them for the past eight years was moving on to a different opportunity.

Knapp said she got into administration because she wanted to have an impact on more kids and the teachers she led said she was able to accomplish that mission.

Kayla Ambers said Knapp looked out for her staff, but always made students the priority.

“Mary Anne has been the most caring boss I have ever had,” Ambers said. “She goes out of her way to make sure the kids are taken care of inside and outside of school. She has a way of making students and staff feel comfortable enough to talk about anything. She knows students’ situations before staff even communicates concerns and she is already on it!  She has gone above and beyond on all levels the last couple years with COVID! I was excited to come work for her and I am very happy for her new opportunity, but also sad to see her retire!”

Ambers wasn’t the only one who was impressed with Knapp’s handling of the COVID situation. Michelle Chastain had a daughter who was a senior.

She said Knapp made promises to the Class of 2020 and she delivered on every one of those promises.

“How (Knapp) dealt with the graduating class of 2020 was to me what I will remember most,” Chastain said. “My daughter and all of the other students at West Washington didn’t think there would be a prom or a graduation! Mary Anne as true to her normal self made both events happen and they were wonderful. She promised the seniors, that she didn’t know how or when the events would happen, but they would happen! Mary Anne did exactly what she said she would do and it was fantastic and our seniors had what many schools didn’t, a successful and fun prom and an amazing outdoor graduation ceremony!”

Knapp took the reigns of the West Washington program at a time of transition.

Karen York was principal for a year, followed by current superintendent Keith Nance and Knapp had not only provided stability at the helm, but she has also provided innovation.

“If you could dream it, she could make it happen,” Chastain said. “Our school constantly evolves because she has never been afraid to try something that is out of the box. If it was something that would improve our school spirit, test scores, environment or morale, she was willing to try it. She truly has been a principal who cares about everyone from a student to a parent, faculty member or a community member!”

Kayla Seybold agreed. She said as far as her teaching career, she felt like her trip to the Ron Clark Academy in Georgia was a game changer and Knapp was instrumental in making that happen. Plus, Seybold said there have been some difficult times at West Washington that Knapp has led the West Washington community through.

“Mrs. Knapp has been a servant type of leader for us here and led us through some dark days as a staff and school community,” she said. “We will miss her very much.”

Knapp’s departure won’t just be felt in the halls. Ruth Gilbert, who works in the administrative office knows Knapp in many capacities and said she will be hard to replace.

“I know as a parent, I am very grateful for Mary Anne as a teacher and an administrator while my daughter attended West Washington,” Gilbert said. “I feel like she has and still is very engaged, involved and committed to helping all students achieve their goals and graduate.”

Knapp understands the sadness, but she does still have children in the school corporation. Elle is an eighth-grade student and Kye is 10-years-old.

“I am not going anywhere,” Knapp said. “I won’t be in the school every day, but I am still going to be around.”


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