SOUTH WHITLEY — For nearly 20 years, the Whitko School Board and superintendent have upheld a tradition that separates them from many other public school representatives. At home football games, they grill brats, burgers and sausages at the concessions area, and more importantly talk with their community.

Whitko Superintendent Steve Clayson grills brats at the Sept. 1 home game. “Like we say, it’s a good opportunity to see people.”

“The Board feels like it’s a good way to be out in the community and at the same time supporting students in the athletic program,” Superintendent Steve Clason said. “Like we say, it’s a way to give back. It’s a good opportunity to see people.Some of them wave as they go by, but a lot of them come up 10-15 minutes into the game and start talking.”

And talk the community did. Throughout the game, there was consistently someone chatting with one of the board members.

Clason and school board member Joe Begley agree that talking to the community is their favorite part.

“I think it’s a great way to show our interest in the students and being involved with the school and it gives us an opportunity to talk with the community,” Begley said.

Joe Begley checks the temperature of the grill as he prepares to cook more sausage and hamburger patties.

Mother and third grade South Whitley Elementary teacher Kathy Wright thinks that people have grown accustomed to the transparent and community oriented board. “I think people take it for granted around here because it’s just what Whitko is,” she said. “It’s how they stay in touch with the community. They’re out there talking to friends and family.”

This relaxed atmosphere does not escape Clason, as it presents parents and community members a casual forum. “It gives patrons a chance to stop by and talk if they have things to talk about,” he said. “They don’t have to feel like it’s a formal setting. And the biggest thing is they like being out with the kids.”

The Wildcat burger

The trademark dish of the school board is the Wildcat burger. Consisting of a sausage patty, ground beef patty and ample cheese, the almost legendary burger began with an idea by Clason.

“I’m a double cheeseburger and strange hamburger fan, and about six years ago I said, ‘Hey, what if instead of a double cheeseburger, we did the same thing but used a sausage patty and a hamburger patty and put that together,’” he said. “We tried it, I liked it, and the first night we sold one.”

About a year later, according to Begley, the board began publicizing it and were met with success.

“People don’t even have to ask anymore, they just know,” Clason said.