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May 12, 2024 - 00:00
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    FORMER OKARCHE girls basketball head coach Haley Mitchel, right, was hired last Wednesday to teach English and coach basketball at Kingfisher. [Photo by Russell Stitt/]

She graduated from Okarche.

She coached and taught at Okarche.

But she’s always had Kingfisher in her blood.

And now? Haley (Myers) Mitchel is back in the fold of the school system in which she was raised and a program her family played such a big role in building.

Mitchel was approved unanimously Wednesday night by the Kingfisher Board of Education as an English teacher at Kingfisher Junior High.

Superintendent David Glover said Mitchel will also be the head junior high girls basketball coach as well as an assistant on the high school staff.

“This was a no-brainer as far as being an excellent hire for our students at the junior high as well as our girls basketball program,” Glover told the Times & Free Press. “She’s an excellent person and teacher and brings with her a tremendous basketball pedigree on top of that.”

Mitchel is the daughter of hall of fame coach Cherie Myers, who won a state title as a player at KHS, then coached the Lady Jackets to state championships in 1989 and 2000.

During Myers’ time at Kingfisher, Mitchel went to KPS through the eighth grade.

“Growing up in Kingfisher, this town has always held a special place in my heart,” Mitchel said. “With my mom coaching and teaching here and many of my family members graduating from this district, I have always appreciated and admired this school and community.”

When Myers resigned after the 2001 season and took over the girls’ program at Okarche, Mitchel went with her.

After four successful years as a player and then four years of college, Mitchel joined her mother as an assistant at Okarche beginning in the 2009-10 school year.

Over the next eight years, Okarche played for a state championship six times and won three of them.

Myers retired in 2017 and Mitchel also stepped away from coaching for three years.

Mitchel then took over the Okarche program as head coach in 2020-21.

The Lady Warriors reached the Class A state semifinals in 2022 and 2023, but her tenure came to an abrupt end in December.

Mitchel and assistant coaches Kaylene Ullom and Skye Tilley resigned their coaching duties not long after an anonymous letter was distributed throughout the community. The letter made allegations against the staff members.

“When I accepted a coaching position at Okarche 15 years ago, I never dreamed there’d be a day like today,” Mitchel said when reading a resignation letter to the board.

She remained at the school in her role as high school assistant principal, curriculum director and English teacher during the second semester.

Mitchel, her husband, Jared, and their two children have lived in Kingfisher for several years. Like she was, Mitchel’s children will be regulars inside the APB.

“It’s special to me that my children will get to grow up in the same gym I did,” she said. “I have so many great memories of Kingfisher basketball and all of the success my mom and her teams had.

“It’s exciting to be able to be a part of future teams that will continue on the great tradition that’s been established here.”

Mitchel will coach the seventh and eighth grade teams along with Nicole Kippenberger.

She’ll assist Taylor Young, who just finished her third year in charge of the high school program.

“I am excited for Haley to be a part of our girls basketball program,” Young said. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be beneficial to both our junior high and high school programs.”

Mitchel’s hiring was one of several personnel moves either made or announced during the special board meeting.

The May regular meeting was originally scheduled for Monday, but was postponed due to potentially dangerous inclement weather, forcing the special meeting two days later.

Another hire approved was Stefan Seifried, who will be in charge of the district’s in-school inclusion (ISI, formerly known as in-school suspension).

Seifried will also be the school’s cross country and track and field coach, a role he’s had at Moore High School for several years.

“He reached out to us,” Glover said. “He was looking for a smaller community and told me Kingfisher was always a place that was on his radar.”

Kerri Lafferty has been Kingfisher’s head cross country and girls track coach for a number of years, but announced earlier this year her desire to step away from the former. She currently plans to remain a part of the track and field program to coach alongside Seifried. Timmy Winans is currently the boys head track coach.

“He’s going to come in and work with our other track coaches who are here,” Glover said. “He’s a team player and will work well with our coaches. I’m excited; we’re lucky to have him.”

Also approved at the meeting were two new kindergarten teachers for Gilmour Elementary School, Tiffany Blundell and Jessica Stewart.

First grade teachers approved were Jill Farrell and McKenna Gilles.

Also approved was Cortney Deterding as a special education teacher.

Those hires were on top of two lists of re-hires approved by board members.

Certified staff approved for 2024-25 were Amy Barnett, Dan Bivins, Dylan Blundell, Jordan Booth, Katy Buckner, Jacob Farrell, Melissa Hardison, Nicole Kippenberger, Matthew Loch, Jannason Long, Lana Miller, Kinsey Mueggenborg, Morgan Shuman, Jordan Waltman, Steven Wilson and Winans.

Certified staff on temporary contracts given the approval were Connor Brooks, Xavier Bryant, Leslie Click, James C. Connell, Drew Dennis, Morgan Dutton, Miranda Guthrie, Sierra Harney, Doug Jech, Dr. A.J. Johnson, Bradley Pennock, Becki Richards, Stacy Ruhl, Jamie Shults, Jan Swart, Melissa Warren, Hannah Wittrock and Stefanie Wolf.

All hires were made after board members met for just over 90 minutes in executive session.

Several resignations were also provided to the board, though they don’t require board approval.

Those included Carma Reagan, who coached Kingfisher to the Class 4A competitive cheer state championship in the fall, and Jeremy Young, the district’s athletic director each of the last two years.

Classroom teachers resigning were Rebecca Whiteman, kindergarten; Jennifer Leal, English at KJH; Suzanne Crow, first grade; and Amanda Matthews, fifth grade English/ Language Arts.

Whiteman said in her resignation letter that her family is moving closer to other family members while Leal’s stated her husband had accepted a job in Texas.

Crow accepted a position at Cashion Elementary, where she taught for 12 years prior to spending eight years at KPS.

Matthews has accepted a position at Dover Elementary, where she also previously taught.

Other resignations were received from Kori Mink, a paraprofessional at KJH, and April Askey, a secretary at Heritage.