While I’ve had the privilege of being a principal at Lodi schools for just six years, I have been a staff member for the school district for 30 years. Five years ago I was invited to write my first “Community Voice” article and I reflected on my first 25 years in the district. At that point I lamented about feeling old...five years later I won’t even touch on age! I will, however, comment on how working in the Lodi Schools for as long as I have has truly shaped me as a person and an educator, regardless of the changes that have occurred in our district.
In 1987, I was hired by Carol Tierney to teach first grade at what was then the Lodi Elementary School. In 1993, Ms. Tierney moved me from teaching first grade to second grade. In 1994, excitement mounted as the fifth and sixth graders moved out of our building and into the brand new Middle School. One year later, Mrs. Christine Breunig became the principal of the Elementary School. She noticed that I had experience teaching first and second grade and thus began my 15-year-career as a looping teacher. In 1999, under Mrs. Breunig’s leadership, the Dane Kindergarten Center closed, the third and fourth graders moved to what is now known as the Elementary School and the fifth graders joined them, coming from the Middle School. That year the new High School was built and our building became known as the Primary School, housing early childhood through second grade. Dan Rikli was the principal at the Primary School from 2000-2002, Mr. Carl Paradise from 2002 to 2008, and we were lucky to have Lyle Hendrickson as our principal from 2008-2011. In the fall of 2011 I was fortunate to make the move from being a looping teacher to becoming the principal of the Primary School. In addition to leadership changes the physical building changed. Along the way the old gym, lunchroom, stage and special education classrooms were removed and a new gym, kitchen, art and music rooms were added on.
The 2013-2014 school year brought further changes for the Primary School building and staff. First and second grade students were moved to the Elementary School, 4K students were brought in from public daycare sites, and the Ouisconsing School of Collaboration moved in. It was at this point that the building became the Primary/OSC building, which are the names you see proudly displayed on the outside brick. This move was an extensive change for me. I had two years under my belt as principal experiencing how 4 and 5-year-olds learned best; it was now time to learn about meeting the needs of 8 through 11-year-olds. Again, the building went through changes, removing walls and moving the library to best accommodate project based learning. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that older students behaved better than younger students. It seems that older students have mastered the concept of the stern look! They are much less likely to respond with an “I don’t want to!” than a 4 or 5-year-old.
The first year with the new combination of students went quickly and at the start of the second year with this combination we realized we could use the good behavior, longer attention spans and experience of our older students to our advantage. Consequently, our meme became “Students, staff and families will feel a sense of belonging at Lodi Primary/OSC. Everyone will feel that they are a part of the school community and are successful within that community.” This initiative led to weekly mentoring activities between the older and younger students including reading buddies, writing projects, art projects, recess mediators and a field day run entirely by the OSC students. The 2017-2018 school year will see approximately three early childhood students, 90 4K students, 90 kindergarten students, and 80 third-fifth grade students.
I’ve seen staff retire, some have taken other jobs and a few have remained as long as I have. Students have graduated, we are seeing children of past students, the number of classrooms and grade levels have fluctuated, and buildings have had structural changes. And still another great change is coming. I was privileged to be part of the groundbreaking ceremony for what will be the new Primary School opening the fall of 2018. While we will continue to see changes in education, one thing has always remained constant - the support our community provides the district. The future Primary School will be the third school built in 24 years. I am proud to be part of a community that places so much value on education and has taught me that we can make the best of every change as long as we all work together. Lodi Schools are a great place to be! I’ve been lucky to have been a part of it for 30 years.