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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Peshtigo Graduation Option To Include Parade On July 2

Issue Date: June 17, 2020

With COVID19, the graduation ceremony as we know it will not be the same for the 2020 graduates. Middle-High School Principal, Chad Sodini presented ceremony options at the Peshtigo School Board meeting on Wednesday, June 10.

Two options were presented by Sodini with option one, holding the ceremony at the football field with the graduates seated on the bleachers and family seated on the football field.

Sodini stated, "Social distancing would be practiced, masks would be required and there would be limited participation. This option would be a bit of a struggle with trying to assign different pods and areas for family and non-family to control social distancing. It would be very difficult to control the amount and whom can attend. How do you tell a grandma or special aunt they can't attend their grandchild, niece or nephews ceremony because of limited seating"?

The second option would be a car parade with graduates being in the vehicles parading down main street and some of the side streets as well. Sodini said, "Vehicles would line up at either Faith Church or NewLife Church. The drive would be escorted by Police and Fire Trucks all the way through the route and we would encourage all residents to have their lights on and greet the graduates as they ride by".

Sodini said, "We want to honor our graduates and have some sort of graduation ceremony, I am asking the board to make a decision so we can fine tune whatever option is chosen".

Either of the two options will include graduates ending up at the High School for a private ceremony with each graduate being presented their diploma and their picture being taken.

Superintendent Patrick Rau commented, "It is a celebration of our seniors. A parade gives the option of the most people being able to show their support and tribute to the graduates and we wouldn't have to limit attendance. It is safer and would still be a special ceremony for the graduates and the audience". Sodini added, "With a parade, it becomes a community celebration" Board Member Jennifer Schwittay commented, "This is something special that others may never have again, hopefully it is a one time thing. It is a good story and celebration for the graduates and the community". The Board then voted to approve the second option of the community parade. The Celebration will be held on Thursday, July 2 with further details to follow.

In the public comment section of the meeting, Cheryl Lange representing the Peshtigo Association Teachers Group said, "We surveyed teachers to get feedback of when and how we will be re-opening schools for the 2020-21 school year. I invite you to seek out teachers you know to discuss and get ideas for opening. We are all in this together".

Nate Motkowski also commented, "I would like to thank the School board for your support for the many years being involved. It was a difficult decision, but we are expecting our first child the first week of basketball season so I am stepping down from being the Boys Varsity Basketball Coach".

Two school employees present at the meeting that retired were recognized, including Karen England who was a support staff member and most recently, Study Hall Supervisor. Sodini said, "England had 36 years in the district, she did every single job behind the scenes with a smile on her face. She was a joy to deal with and wish I could have worked more with her. She was a mom to some of those that didn't have a mother figure in their life and they looked up to her. She most recently was study hall supervisor and has worked in both buildings. Any task asked of her she said yes to stating, It's for the kids".

Sodini then recognized High School Guidance Counselor Randy Verkerke. "We were very fortunate that after his career as Guidance Counselor and more at Menominee School District that he chose to be part of the Peshtigo School District for 13 years. He was a mentor, friend and I learned a lot from him. In his 46 year career as Teacher, Counselor and in Administration, he has seen decades of changes in school districts. It was a pleasure working with him and as great of a job he did with Menominee, he did even a much better job here in Peshtigo".

Sodini added, "With over 120 years of overall education, if these three touched 100 students per year, they have touched over 12,000 students in their time in Peshtigo. We will miss them and the students will miss them as well".

Another teacher who retired but was not present at the meeting was Middle School / High School Teacher, Donna Hart. She was off on a vacation enjoying her retirement somewhere". Other resignations include, Jon Noffke as Boys Junior Varsity Basketball Coach and Lucas Pedersen as Assistant Varsity Football Coach.

Rau announced "We had a great candidate pool to pick from of applicants for Principal of the Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center (PELC). We had two rounds of interviews and the decision was made to choose Kate Willett to fill the position".

In the interview process of Willett, Rau said, "Many credentials came to mind, she is a very good listener, is empathetic, wants to learn about others, wants to walk in the shoes that others walk in and is very consistent".

Some of the Scholarship donations received for the month of May included $1,000 from Jeanne McDougal in memory of her husband Richard McDougal former teacher and principal in Peshtigo School District; $1,000 from Aacer Flooring; $2,000 from Rennes Health Care Center; $15,000 from PHS Alumni; $1,000 from Peshtigo National Bank; $910 from the Jim Stillman fund and $1,500 from Peshtigo High School Student Council.

Two other donations were received for the SEED (Students Eat Every Day) program from Tim and Mary Kay Duket and from Pepsi Cola Bottling Company with each donating $500.

Josh Seefeldt outlined the long term facility project plan with $40,000 being set aside for the High School and Elementary School for COVID19 to be used for office remodeling, touchable entry, shut down of bubblers and have more water bottle filling stations. "We are looking into costs, depending on how we return back to school, part-time, full-time or virtual.", Seefeldt said.

Rau added, "This is a longtime plan for updates and the money can be used for any project. It frees up to use Fund 46 money and if we don't use the money, it stays in the Fund 46 account". Seefeldt noted, "Not everything will get done, there is not enough money for everything. Most of our meetings we spent time prioritizing what we can get done, what we can't get done and what the priorities are".

Due to having to meet the USDA pricing requirements, the 2020-21 year brings an increase in the lunch and breakfast program. Breakfast fees will go from $1.45 to $1.55 and lunch will go to $3.20 from $2.95. Adult meals will be $4.00.

In his Building and Grounds report, Seefeldt announced Brian Williams and his crew demolished the first five rooms of the PELC starting with the oldest rooms and rebuilding of those rooms has been started. The floors were sanded and refinished, playground decks are in and awaiting installation. At the High School, the freezer is half way done and is expected to be completed in mid July.

Muriel Carter in her Presidents Report addressed the teachers saying, "I would like to thank all of you for working so hard to get us through the end of the school year. I enjoyed being able to see your faces and seeing everyone of you. I just want to add, my kids are connected to you even if they can't be together with you. You made the best out of the terrible circumstances and changed your lifestyle through this pandemic. Also, thank you for your lunch delivery, you all did a great job of working through this and making the best of a bad situation".

In his Superintendent report, Rau thanked Sodini and all those that helped with making the graduation banners possible throughout the city. A banner of each Peshtigo High School graduate is hung in the City of Peshtigo. The students will each receive their photo banner once they are removed.

Rau said, "I met with eight parents for an hour to get feedback on different situations and ideas for opening of the 2020-21 school year. On June 23 and 24, the Re-opening Committee Administrative Team will meet to determine if and when they will open and discuss the details. Despite of what happens, in adversity there is opportunity. We can take those challenges and turn them into growth and improvement. It's time to regroup and make it the best year of our lives".


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