Westside District Named Employer of the Year by Ollie Webb Center


Ava Van Gelder

Raymond Cich (left) and Chad Kracher (right) work in the print shop at Westside's ABC building and are a partnership that allowed Westside to win the Employer of the Year award.

The Westside School District was recently awarded ‘Employer of the Year’ by the Ollie Webb Center on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The award is presented annually by the organization, who is devoted to working with people with disabilities and helping them become independent by completing their education and teaching them job skills. Chad Kracher has autism and has been working in the print shop at Westside’s ABC Building for 26 years, and his mother, Nancy Kracher, nominated Westside as the Employer of the Year.

“[This award is] a huge honor for [Westside] because we are an inclusive school district,” Westside Director of Communications and Engagement Brandi Paul said. “We have [all of] our students in classroom pre-K [through] 12 [and] our graduation rate for our students with special needs is one of the highest in the state at 96%. [This shows] we’re not just walking the walk, here’s one of our employees that is treasured and valued.”

Paul said this award validates the hashtag, ‘#WeAreWestside’ that Westside Superintendent Mike Lucas has been using all year, as it shows that no matter who you are, we are all a part of the Westside district and community.

“[At Westside] we are one big team, and that’s not only true of our students, but of our employees as well,” Paul said. “We have some of the best teachers in the country, we have award-winning administrators [and] we also have some of the best employees on the planet.”

Paul said that Chad and his supervisor, Raymond Cich, work together in the print shop at the ABC Building, and they communicate incredibly well with each other.

“It’s been an honor to receive [the award], but then again it’s a team effort for everyone that’s involved with us here in the print shop,” Cich said. “It’s a huge honor, but it’s something that we don’t feel special about because we just come in and do our thing everyday.”

Cich said although Chad has autism, he is a fully functioning adult who occasionally needs help with certain tasks. Ollie Webb provides Chad with job coach, Nan Byers, who visits him every 2-3 weeks to monitor him at work. A service plan is then created, which is a list of things Kracher may need extra guidance with. Goals are then set for him to accomplish at work and home.

“I observe [Chad] most of the day,” Cich said, “[If] he’s not doing [something] correctly, I try to go over and talk with [him] and we figure out a way to correct the situation if there is a problem.”

According to Cich, Chad is very well loved and respected at the ABC building. 

“He’s got a good sense of humor and we all love [him] very much around here,” Cich said, “We don’t know what we’d do without him, he’s [just] a very good person and we’re glad to have him here.”