Lohman enjoys new district position - Republic-Times | News

Lohman enjoys new district position

By on October 4, 2017 at 11:53 am

Bob Lohmann

A lot of dominoes fell at once for the Waterloo School District last year. 

The entire community suffered the tragic and unexpected loss of a Waterloo High School student. The issue of mental health was brought to the forefront. And more people in the community came to realize they needed to play an active role in their schools.

Not to mention, the healing would take time. And it has.

Now, with the recent retirement of Kelly Lerch as the district’s wellness coordinator, and a need to develop a new strategy, longtime Waterloo High School guidance counselor Bob Lohman is stepping up to serve in the district’s newly created position of director of guidance and social work.

“We have a growing concern for mental health issues among students and throughout the community and an increasing need for us to respond as a school district,” Waterloo school superintendent Brian Charron recently told the Republic-Times. “That need, plus Kelly Lerch’s retirement, caused the creation of this position to address these responsibilities.”

Lohman, after only about a month into the new school year, said he needs to figure out what skills and experiences he can bring to the position.

“I knew before accepting the position that I would be absorbing some of what (Lerch) did. And I knew then and have only been reaffirmed over time that I’m no Kelly Lerch,” he said. “As I’ve tried to figure out how she did things, it makes me appreciate all the things she did even more.

“What she did for students, as much as people know, no one will ever know the full scope. But I’ll be the best (version of me) that I can be. It’s a huge learning curve. 

“I’m still getting comfortable with organizing and scheduling my day and with who I need to contact for certain resources.”

Lohman has been with the district since 1998 and began serving as a guidance counselor in 2002. 

In this new position, he will supervise guidance counselors and social workers, as well as use community outreach to meet the needs of students outside of school. He also emphasized the importance of providing a smooth transition for students from one building in the district to the next.

“Our wellness coordinator has always worked with counsel workers and social workers as a resource,” Charron said of why Lohman is the right fit. “Adding someone with a degree and expertise in these areas allows him to expand that work and oversee and evaluate the effectiveness of the districtwide social work program and the services provided in the upper grades.”

The district’s social workers include Mike Nehr serving as the social worker for Zahnow Elementary and Rogers Elementary, Jen Mechler as the Gardner Elementary and Waterloo Junior High social worker,  and Brianne Rick as part-time social worker for WJHS and WHS. Guidance staff at WHS include Kathy Schmidt, Jill Landgraf and Taylor Sebestik.

Sebestik came from the junior high to serve as a guidance counselor when Lohman entered into the director role.

“He knows the kids from the junior high  and has already established a relationship with them,” Lohman said of Sebestik. “It’s been a smooth transition.”

As Lohman and the district adjust to some major changes this school year, the experienced counselor looks forward to the opportunity to connect more with students and find the proper resources for them.

“It’s changed a lot from when I first started,” he said. “You do a lot more personal counseling now than before because the kids are more comfortable sharing their hurts. 

“A lot of kids bring things into the school that make it harder for them. Let’s give them coping skills for outside of school and find resources to connect them with.”

Sean McGowan

Sean is a die-hard Cubs fan, despite the relentless peer pressure coming from the rest of the Republic-Times staff. He and his wife, Jacqui, have been married for two years. Originally from the west suburbs of Chicago, Sean and his wife moved down to Normal to attend Illinois State University and stayed central Illinois residents for the past four years. email:sean@republictimes.net