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Musco to donate $400K lighting for new school ball diamonds

  • Charles City High School graduate and then-Iowa State Board of Education member Diane Crookham-Johnson talks with Ryan Wise, director of the Iowa Department of Education, during a visit to Charles City schools in 2017. Press file photo

  • Examples of lighting systems installed by Musco Sports Lighting of Oskaloosa. Photo submitted

By Bob Steenson,

A Charles City High School graduate who says her years as a Comet helped shape her life is the reason the new school softball and baseball fields will get state-of-the-art lighting systems — for free.

“We received word on Thursday that Diane Crookham-Johnson, who is a proud Charles City alum, but is one of the daughters of the Crookham family that owns Musco Sports Lighting in Oskaloosa, has decided to donate sports lighting for the new baseball-softball field,” Superintendent Mike Fisher said at the Board of Education meeting Monday evening.

“It’s a $400,000 donation,” he said. “It will include the equipment and the installation. It will be state-of-the-art LED lighting, and I got word that this is not their base model stuff, it’s their best stuff. It’s gonna do a lot of cool things.”

Crookham-Johnson is a 1984 graduate of Charles City High School and one of the daughters of Joe Crookham, the principal owner, president and CEO of Musco Lighting, which has installed lighting systems at some of the biggest indoor and outdoor sporting facilities in the country.

Crookham-Johnson has her own law practice in Oskaloosa and is a former Iowa State Board of Education member, but she told the Press in a phone interview Monday afternoon that she has also been involved with Musco for a long time, “particularly from the community involvement standpoint.”

She said she and her father had been aware of the problems with flooding at the current school softball and baseball fields and the efforts to raise money to build new diamonds.

Fisher said he and Kurt Herbrechtsmeier, president and CEO of First Security Bank and Trust in Charles City, along with others went to Oskaloosa to talk with Crookham-Johnson.

Herbrechtsmeier helped facilitate the agreement, Fisher said. “It was awesome. He had some personal connections.”

“Crookham-Johnson is a wonderful person and gave us a call and said they are willing to do this for the benefit of the community,” Fisher said.

Crookham-Johnson told the Press that former softball coach Jerry Newton, who retired in 1999, had a tremendous impact on her when she was in school.

“When I was in Charles City I was not an athlete — didn’t pretend to be one,” she said. “But I was very fortunate that Coach Newton saw something in me … that said to him I needed to be involved in something and part of something, and he asked me if I wanted to be manager. I was in eighth grade, and so I was manager for summer and fall softball eighth through 12 grade.

“Coach Newton just had tremendous influence in my life and I think probably kept me involved and kept me going in a positive direction that might not have happened otherwise, because I wouldn’t have been part of something,” she said.

She said Musco likes to get involved in projects that have a youth component to them, “with the belief that every kid needs to leave school with a memory of being part of something, whether that’s the star athlete or the manager of the team, or music or fine arts.”

“Kids are more successful if they’re part of something, so we try to look for ways to donate that are going to help that process,” she said. “I think softball and baseball have a long history in Charles City of helping get kids involved in things, and so supporting that is important.”

Crookham-Johnson said the donation is also a thank-you to Coach Newton “for what he’s done for the history of softball for the community and also what he did for our family.”

She said the lighting will be the company’s newest LED system that will allow programmed color light effects, for example, during player introductions or during the fifth-inning stretch.

“Principal Park has it,” she said of the Iowa Cubs field in Des Moines. “Most of the time I think of it in college and NBA arenas for basketball games, but it’s that kind of light show feature that they will run. They can program that to do whatever they want.”

The system can also be programmed to turn on and off at certain times so community groups can use the fields without school personnel needing to be there to control the lights, and the system can be operated remotely from Oskaloosa.

“There’s an 800 number you can call and say, ‘please turn our lights on’ or ‘please turn our lights off,’ if you don’t want to give people access to your electrical room where the switches are,” she said. “If there’s ever a problem we might know it before you do.”

Although the donation will include installation, Crookham-Johnson said the company likes to get the community involved in that. Much of the assembly is done at the factory in Oskaloosa so volunteers can help install the lights at the site.

“One of our philosophies, particularly where it comes to youth facilities, is the more you can get the community involved in the building of it, the more ownership there is in the project, long term,” she said. “Whatever we can do to help the community be involved in this process we see as a plus.”

Crookham-Johnson said the plan is to have the lights installed and operational before winter so they can be used as soon as spring arrives next year, “because you never know when spring is going to finally arrive in Charles City.”

Also at the school board meeting Monday, the directors:

• Set a public hearing for 6:15 p.m. Monday, June 24, to receive comments regarding the proposed sale of the building at 500 N. Grand Ave. for $1 to developers Shawn and Meg Foutch, to be turned into residential apartments. The district and perhaps other groups would continue to use space in the newer parts of the building as the historic part that fronts on North Grand is developed into market-rate housing.

• Approved these personnel changes:
— Resignation of Jenna Hardy, grades 5-8 language arts teacher.
— Appointments of Josslynn Lovik as grades 5-8 reading teacher; Brittany Quigely as grades 5-8 special education teacher; Rick Lynch as technology COOP assistant; and Alec Elsbernd as technology COOP student.
— Transfer of Alexandra Holbach from middle school special education teacher to K-2 special ed teacher.

• Renewed the agreement with Chautauqua Guest Homes to provide clinical instruction for students enrolled in the certified nursing assistant (CNA) course at the high school.

• Approved school fees for the 2019-20 school year. There were no changes in fees for the preschool extended day programs or for textbooks or technology fees in any grades, or for activity tickets.

There were increases of 5 cents per meal, to $1.50 for grades preK-12 breakfasts, and to $1.90 for adult breakfasts, and an increase of 10 cents per meal, to $2.70 for grades preK to 12 lunches, to $3.85 for adult lunches, and to $1.60 for an extra entree.

• The next board meeting will be Monday, June 24. Meetings are usually held at 6:15 p.m. at the seventh grade learning center in the middle school.