Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Mike Chapes is getting settled as new Tomah Middle School principal. Chapes comes to Tomah after six years as an administrator in the Desoto school district. Herald photo Bob Kliebenstein

New TMS principal eager for start of school year

Michael  Chapes knows what it's like to work in a small school district and a large school district.

Chapes is the new principal at Tomah middle school, replacing Steve Buss, who took an administrative position with the Altoona School District. Chapes comes to Tomah after working as principal in the Desoto school district, down the road along the Mississippi River. Chapes has worked in education 25 years, the last 12 in administration.

Prior to Desoto Chapes was an administrator in the Oregon school district, outside Madison. He and his wife Elizabeth have four adult children.

The oldest just graduated from the University of Wisconsin -Madison. Their second child is a junior at UW- Eau Claire. They are the parents of twins, one at UW-La Crosse and the other at UW-Madison. Their two sons are in the Army National Guard.

But Chapes and his wife are not completely empty nest parents. They have a dog named Hunter and a cat named Key Key. Working at a school district with the Mississippi River nearby would be tough to leave, but Chapes said Tomah had strong attractions.

"One factor that lead me to apply here was the school district and community," Chapes said. "Both the district and community are great place to work and raise a family. The cornerstone for a good school district is the sense of family, and that exists here."

Chapes feels there are clear similarities working in a small district or a larger enrollment and more staff.

"I was in the Oregon school district, a large district much like Tomah," he said. "I would say there are some differences between both districts (Tomah and Desoto) but the responsibilities and expectations are the same."

The Tomah middle school Summer Pack program gave Chapes the opportunity to see how the building can buzz with student activity.

"The first few weeks have been great," Chapes said. "With Summer Pack happening at the middle school it gave me an opportunity to meet staff, students, and parents. This place is really jumping, and I’ve enjoyed every minute."

Chapes has leaned on family values during his career and will continue to focus on those values in his role as TMS principal.

"My professional trademark is that I am a family man," Chapes said. "The strong sense for family was one of the qualities about the district that I love, and will continue to build on. I am looking forward to a great start of the school year and running with the Tomah wolf pack to new heights."

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