Midlakes High School Timeline
During a time when leaders of schools in Phelps and Clifton Springs faced growing enrollments and dwindling space, residents of the two communities decided to merge and build a new high school.
"I was in the very first class to graduate from Midlakes," said Stephen Tears, who now lives in Virginia Beach. "We were not looking forward to it because we didn't know anyone from Phelps High School. Well, it went without a hitch .. we started to make lifelong friends."
A 12-member student council helped select the name “Midlakes” for the school due to its location between Canandaigua and Seneca lakes. Colors from the former schools were combined to represent the black, white, and blue colors of today.
On Feb. 7, Midlakes High School celebrates its 50th anniversary of unifying two schools and educating students as one community, with graduates becoming educators, athletes, musicians, philanthropists and more.
The following is a timeline of some significant dates and interesting facts in school's history.
1971: The opening was delayed from the start of the year due to a strike by construction workers. George D. Bidleman, the first principal of Midlakes High Schools, served in that role from 1971-1979. "I remember being apprehensive but very excited to get into the 'new' school," said Linda Schutt. "We would be the first class to graduate as Midlakes. It was fun to be entering as a senior, while my brother was entering as a freshman. My nephew is also a Midlakes graduate and now his two daughters are students at Midlakes."
Dawn (VerStraete) Nieskes, a freshman at Midlakes in 1971, added: "It was the best year ever and marked the beginning of many new friendships. Also, a very proud parent of two now-adults that graduated from Midlakes. GO EAGLES."
1971: The first combined cheerleading squad wore plaid uniforms home-made by a Home Economics teacher," said Bette "BJ" Hicks.
1973: About 40 students join the cast of "Hello Dolly!" — the school’s spring musical
1975: The Class of 1975 was the first class to go to Midlakes the entire four years," said Sandy (Naukam) Case. "I started school in Phelps, then my family moved to Clifton Springs, then back to Phelps five years later. I was one of very few that knew both Phelps and Clifton kids. I thought it was great to bring my old and new friends together. The school was so clean and smelled new."
1978: The 1977-78 boys varsity basketball team coached by Pete Herrmann," said Jim Dehoover. "We were a less than .500 team but turned it around towards the end of the season. We were the underdogs in sectionals and fought our way to the finals. We fell short, losing to the Victor Blue Devils, but it was a season I’ll never forget with an incredible coach and incredible teammates."
1979: Midlakes wins its first Boys Volleyball Sectional Championship. The program won its 12th sectional title in its 24th finals appearance in 2019.
1980: Approximately 150 foreign exchange students attended Midlakes High School from 1971-2021, including students from Finland, Japan and Ghana in 1980.
1981: Hugh Kane is hired as principal. By 1997, when he became a district administrator, all Midlakes students were eligible to take the Regents curriculum and receive a Regents diploma or certificate of completion.
1982: Lisa Albrecht, a trombonist with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, graduates from Midlakes. The RPO has held several performances at Midlakes thanks, in part, to generous support from G.W. Lisk Co. "If I didn't have that kind of education in public school with music, I wouldn't be doing what I’m doing now," Albrecht said in a 2018 interview.
1983: Mary (Dorgan) Magill-Being graduates from Midlakes High School. Currently a teacher at Midlakes Elementary School, she fondly recalls how participating in band, theatre, and sports helped her make connections. "Being a part of the musical was something I looked forward to every year," she said in 2021. "The friendships and experiences are memories I cherish to this day!"
1984: The varsity baseball team wins its first sectional championship. The team won another title during a magical run in 2018, led by coach and current physical education teacher Jeff Maher.
1986: The Lady in White is filmed at the former site of Phelps High School using Midlakes students. Leading actor Lukas Hass meets several students. Midlakes health instructor Carolyn Wescott took over the high school's annual blood drive. "It was exciting to see the kids get so involved," Wescott said in 2021. "They have been great memories for me. We had so much school spirit and the kids were really involved."
1987: Julie Bellomo, a teacher at Midlakes Elementary School, graduates from high school. "Midlakes for me has always been HOME," she said in 2021. I was thrilled to be hired here in 1993. It felt great to come home. I have had many opportunities to teach my classmates children. A high school memory ... Friday night basketball games will always be my favorite memory. I was a cheerleader and I loved to watch the games and cheer on those EAGLES."
1988: The Class of 1989 visits Washington D.C. The trip began at Clifton Springs High School and continues to be a Midlakes tradition.
1989: Midlakes Theatre Experience produced "West Side Story."
1990: All faculty (K-12) were allowed to march in cap and gown for Commencement.
1992: Sean Manns, a math teacher at Midlakes, writes in the 1992 Reflections yearbook: “Relax and have fun but not at the expense of others.”
1993: Coach Dave Whitcomb leads the varsity football team to the first of two Sectional Championships. The second came in 1996. Also, District voters approved building a new $16 million middle school adjacent to the high school.
1995: Midlakes Middle School opens for the first day of school on September 6. "We were the first sixth-grade class to enter the new middle school building and the last fifth grade class to leave Clifton Springs Elementary," said Karen Busby in 2021, a Midlakes special education teacher. "I remember meeting many new friends as we came together for the first time. I attended Midlakes my entire academic career and am so thankful I was hired to teach here in 2008."
1996: Amber McCarrick-Moore participates in the National Cheerleaders Association All-American Performance at the Outback Bowl in Tampa Bay, Fla.
1997: The Midlakes girls volleyball team becomes the school’s first Scholar-Athlete team recognized for academic excellence by the state. Approximately 130 teams — and many more individual student-athletes — have been recognized with the honor.
1998: Rick Bley is hired as principal of Midlakes High School. In 2021, Midlakes technology teacher Dan Wheeler said, "Our programs would not be possible if it wasn’t for Rick Bley’s hard work and advocating in the late 90’s and early 2000’s to get the new math, science and technology wing built in '03."
1999: Lois Roll became a high school secretary right after graduating from high school and remained in that role for more than 30 (maybe even 40) years until she passed away in the year she planned to retire," said Mike Ford, former superintendent. "She was a fixture at Midlakes."
1999: One milestone is that my first year at Midlakes, 1999, I taught first grade at the Banta Street School, now the PCC," said teacher Julie Backus. "This year I am teaching the son of one of my first graders in fourth grade! I also remember having 'Fun Runs' (2001) with my classes while teaching third grade at the Teft Avenue building and during our Thanksgiving Run we actually had a wild turkey join us!"
2000: District residents approve a $45 million project that built a pool, a new athletic entrance and a new math, science and technology wing at the high school.
2005: The new athletic wing entrance and pool opens for public use.
2006: District residents approve renovation work on the auditorium. Carpeting for the auditorium was inspired by students wanting it to look like the Opera House in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC.
2010: Coach Laura Van Laeken leads Midlakes to five sectional titles in fall and winter cheerleading, from 2010-2012, and a National competition win in 2012. "We had fun those years!" Van Laeken, a teacher at the elementary school, said in 2021. Also, Kori Hughes & Cassie Goodman were the first female athletes to be named First Team All State in Midlakes. Kori went on to play soccer at the University at Buffalo, and Cassie ran cross country and track at SUNY Geneseo.
2012: The Midlakes wrestling team wins a sectional championship. Sean Peacock is named Outstanding Wrestler in the tournament. Peacock wins individual state title. “I was trying to go one weight class lower and I remember Howie (coach Stephen Howcroft) looking at me and saying, ‘Well, we’ll take our lumps this year at a heavier weight and see what happens.’ I don’t think anyone thought I would win the title that year – myself included, until a few weeks prior,” Peacock said in a 2020 interview.
2012: The Midlakes Indoor Drumline won the New York State Percussion Circuit Championships in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016. In 2012, the drumline finished with a World Ranking of 21st in the Class A Division of WGI Percussion Championships.
2014: Frank Bai-Rossi becomes the principal of Midlakes High School.
2016: Aubrianna Lantrip, owner of several school track and field records, wins the New York State high jump championship. "I have so many fond memories with Q (coach Michael Quagliata)!" Lantrip said in a 2020 interview. "Winning the indoor state championship title in 2016 is definitely one of my favorites … I really feel like I share that win with him since I never would have achieved that without him. Ending that season nationally ranked and ranked first in the state was surreal."
2018: The girls basketball team wins the first of back-to-back sectional championships on the way to consecutive appearances in the State Public High School Athletic Association tournament.
2019: Midlakes High School students escort several veterans to the World War II Museum in New Orleans as part of the Soaring Valor trip sponsored by the Gary Sinise Foundation and American Airlines. District residents approve a $15.6 million to bring renovations to the high school music wing, cafeteria as well as upgrades to Midlakes Elementary and the district's bus garage.
2020: The Phelps-Clifton Springs Central School District joins with more than 40 area partners for the Midlakes Strong Chicken BBQ to feed thousands of community families. "The Midlakes Strong Chicken BBQ highlighted the caring compassionate nature of our community," said Ryan Davis, a member of the Board of Education at the time. "The strong bond between our District and all of our local organizations was on full display and the food was pretty good, too."
2020: Midlakes High School holds commencement ceremonies outdoors. "Midlakes will always hold a special place in my heart. I developed such strong connections with the other students and teachers, and the small-town environment felt like a family," said 2020 graduate Jillian Wright. "I honestly wouldn’t be who I am today without all the love and support that I received from the faculty and staff at Midlakes. Thank you for all that you do."
2022: Nicholas Ganster is appointed Superintendent of Schools. Midlakes Girls Volleyball and the Fall Cheerleading win Sectional Championships.*
2023: Boys and Girls Indoor Track and Field win sectional championships. Daniel McAlpin appointed as principal of Midlakes High School for the retiring Frank Bai-Rossi. Katelyn Wilkes ends her interscholastic athletic career was one of the most decorated athletes in school history with several individual and team Sectional Championships.*
— Posted to Midlakes.org on Feb. 7, 2021 and *updated in 2023