Faced with community support for keeping a mural in the Northeastern High School gym, the school board decided last week to let it remain, at least until next summer.

Part of a summer renovation project included painting the high school gym, including a wall with a Northeastern Knight mounted on a horse that has been there since 1976. The board altered this year’s project to include painting only the gym ceiling.

Michelle Wise, who was then a 17-year-old Northeastern student, painted the mural in 1976.

On social media, Elizabeth Ann Williams encouraged school alumni who wanted to keep the mural to write respectful emails to Hicks and school board members. 

A 1980 graduate, Kevin Lewis, posted on June 19, “I don’t have money, but I have a priceless amount of pride in our ‘Knight in Shining Armor’ that defends us every day since 1976! I officiate with many other officials who know Northeastern High School because of the giant Knight painted on the wall in the gym! … It is not just colors on a wall! If you take ‘our’ Knight down, you are equivocally doing the same thing as burning our American Flag!! Allow Michelle ‘Fuzz’ Wise to touch it up and celebrate our pride and tradition since 1976 (actually 1967)!”

His post gathered 60 comments and 200 likes.

Before the board met on June 21, superintendent Matthew Hicks said he received approximately 35 emails about the original plan, advocating for keeping the mural. During a work session that preceded the board meeting, five speakers encouraged the board to keep the painting. Other mural supporters also attended.

“The artist’s mother came to talk about the artist’s work since leaving Northeastern,” Hicks said. “Alumni from the 1980s also spoke of the mural’s importance.”

Board members decided to reconsider the painting plan. Hicks said they will have a year to decide what to do as there will not be another opportunity to close the gym for repainting until next summer.

In other business, the board learned that a search is underway for a high school band director. Thom Crist resigned to take a similar job closer to home. Kimberly Miller, who teaches middle school band and jazz band, is directing the band as it prepares for summer shows.

“The band is actually our largest student organization,” Hicks said on Friday. The school administration “is conducting interviews as we speak.” Miller is among candidates for the job.

The board also learned of the resignation of Jessica Neal, who was assistant superintendent for the past two years. She took a middle school principal’s job, closer to her home. 

Hicks also noted the establishment of the Noah Johnson Memorial Scholarship, funded with a $25,000 donation from Belden Corp. of Richmond. Johnson was a student at Northeastern High School who passed away this spring. His family helped select this year’s scholarship recipients.

Donations for the fund can be sent to Northeastern High School, 7295 U.S. 27 N., Fountain City, IN 47341, with “Noah Johnson Memorial Scholarship” in the memo line.

The board’s next regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, in the Northeastern student services building, 7299 U.S. 27 N. The public may attend.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 28 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.