Green River Star -

By Ruth Lauritzen
Green River Historic Preservation Commission 

From Katana to Covey at Monroe Intermediate

 


New principal at Monroe Intermediate School, Anne Marie Covey, recently took charge of a renovated building with a history that is close to her heart. The school originally opened in September of 1963 under the administration of Tony Katana, who happens to be Covey’s grandfather. Katana, who passed away in 2013, was a well-respected educator and administrator who spent 20 years as principal at Monroe.

Covey is proud to carry on the heritage of her grandfather who, she says, was, “a humble man, but a great man who had a huge impact on his teachers and his students. He admired the professionalism of his teachers and cared about the kids he was in charge of. But he was concerned not just with their educations, but with the development of good character and values. He used to say, ‘the kids are why we are here’ and took every opportunity to share not just his passion for knowledge, but also modeled good behavior.”

Covey remembers her grandfather as a hands-on administrator. In addition to his duties as principal, he was also known to teach math classes and help the janitors with the cleaning and refurbishing of the building during the summer months.

The ”Katana years” at Monroe began in the early 1960s. In Green River development was booming on the south side of the river with the construction of new housing. Part of the development was post-WWII veterans housing, however, a large part was filled by people coming to work in one of Wyoming’s newest mining ventures, the trona industry. In 1962 Stauffer Chemical opened up a plant west of Green River and was employing several hundred people. These employees brought with them families and where there are families there are kids. Where there are kids, schools are needed.

The first school built on the south side of the river was Roosevelt Elementary which was dedicated in the mid-1950s. The high school and junior high schools were located in the old Lincoln and Jefferson schools on the west end of town, north of Flaming Gorge Way. Things were crowded at these schools and thus a bond issue was passed in 1962 to fund the construction of a new junior high school to be built on the edge of the south side of town, now Monroe Avenue.

The building was designed by Cheyenne architect Armand Kellogg, who designed many public buildings built in Wyoming during this era. The general contractor was Julian Construction Company of Cody, Wyoming. The final bid amount was $823,519 and included construction of the new building as well as renovations on the Lincoln High School on the north side of town.

As a result of the Cold War era of construction, a fallout shelter designed to house 700 people was included in the basement.

“Modifications of the original building plan have enlarged the basement to provide a shelter to accommodate 700 persons, together with the necessary room for water storage tanks, provisions and equipment. Shielding against fallout is provided in the building plans and in construction of the floor over the basement of materials and design which conforms to minimum government requirements,” reported the Green River Star Feb., 22, 1962.

The building was built around an internal courtyard “for maximum lighting,” said the Green River Star in May of 1963. It included 13 classrooms, offices, faculty room, library, band and chorus room with practice rooms, shop, drafting and home economics sections and a large multipurpose room with sliding doors to divide it into separate boys and girls gyms.

As the building went up, decisions were being made about the administrative and teaching staffs. Anton “Tony” Katana was named as the principal for the new school in 1963.

Katana was a graduate of Rock Springs High School and the University of Wyoming where he was part of the 1943 National Championship Basketball team. Following graduation and army service during World War II, Katana taught in Rawlins and Superior before finally moving to Green River in 1954 to serve as math teacher and coach at Green River’s old Lincoln High School.

In a May 23, 1963 article, the Green River Star quoted Katana as saying the faculty and staff were “ready to go” for the upcoming school opening after Labor Day. The school mascot was announced as a wolverine and the school colors were brown and gold. He also announced that there would be monthly “mixers” to give students a chance to get together and socialize.

After a busy summer completing construction, the building was ready for public inspection and an open house was held on August 29, 1963 and school started the following week. Tony Katana was the principal at the helm of the Monroe ship for the next 20 years until his retirement in 1983.

The “Covey years” began this fall when Anne Marie Covey took a new administrative position in the district—that of principal of Monroe Intermediate School. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher, so upon graduation from Rock Springs High School she enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley in the elementary education program. Following graduation she taught in Denver and Colorado Springs.

“I never thought I would be a principal,” she states, but things started moving that direction when she was encouraged by a mentor. Following completion of a master’s degree, Covey gained her administration credentials and served as both assistant principal and principal in Colorado schools.

She returned to Sweetwater County as principal at Washington Elementary and thence to her current position at Monroe, beginning another chapter in the story of the 53-year-old building.

“Members of my family have said, ‘Grandpa would be so proud,’” Covey said. “But I am the proud one to be carrying on his legacy.”

 

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