Lena Names Heimke Co-Athletic Director
Jeff Heimke has been selected to serve as the new athletic director for Lena School District. Current athletic director Jim Torzala resigned that position, but will work for the next year as co-director while Heimke transitions into that position. He will also continue as Middle School/High School principal and is taking classes to become certified as a Director of Special Education.
At its meeting on Monday, Oct. 3 board members present formally accepted Torzala's resignation from his full time position and approved a new contract with him as co-director for the remainder of the school year.
District Administrator Ben Pytleski, who also serves as elementary principal, said there were four excellent internal candidates for the athletic director position, and Heimke, who teaches Business Education, was selected as best suited for the post.
"Jeff's experience in the district, with the WIAA, with the M&O Conference, with varsity athletics, and his potential openings in his classroom schedule made this a confident decision for us," Pytleski said.
He added that Torzala's schedule allows him to spend two hours each day on athletic director responsibilities. He will monitor Heimke's work and help improve his leadership abilities, Pytleski said.
The board also approved hiring Michelle Evans as a full time special education aide and approved a contract with her for the current school year.
Pytleski said Evans came highly recommended by two staff members. She had formerly worked part time as a special education aide in the Oconto School District and had been employed at a local bank.
Pytleski said money for her wages will come from special ed funding, and the help is definitely needed. Board member Chuck Imig asked if benefits for special education aides is also covered by the special ed funding. Pytleski was not certain, but will find out.
As to need for the position, he explained the district's philosophy is to have special needs students in regular classrooms as much as possible. When the school year started they found out they did not have enough help to meet the needs of all of them. Some, without close supervision, were disrupting the regular classes in which they had been placed. Having an aide on hand helps prevent this. "There is a major area of need to support the Middle School Special Ed students," Pytleski declared.
Pytleski reported that Torzala is finishing some of his classes and said by coincidence had an instructor who was also one of his instructors.
Pytleski has been attending superintendent classes at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. He said he found them enjoyable, and added, "I am the only currently employed superintendent and this allows me to add a lot to our discussions."
In a written report to the board Torzala congratulated Connor Heise for being named Lena's first student of the month for this year, and said he would be honored at the Tuesday Lions Club meeting.
He said on Saturday, Oct. 1, new National Honor Society (NHS) members Erin Ducaine, MecKenna Portier, Jordan Dolata, Desirae Hurning, McKenzie Pawlak, Alanya Peterson and Maddy Herald were inducted. Mike Hodkiewicz was guest speaker. Torzala extended congratulations to Jeff Hermersmann on being named the Honorary NHS member, and said he really deserves it. He thanked Mollie Jones for setting things up and conducting the induction ceremony.
Response To Intervention (RTI) groups were starting at high school and middle school last week, Torzala said. He thanked Laurie Jensen for testing the students and placing them in groups, which he described as a very difficult task.
Pytleski and Torzala both remarked on how great homecoming had been, with students and staff putting their spirit on display. Pytleski noted the senior class had a tailgate party before the game, which he felt was a great idea.
Torzala's report thanked Bobbie Windus, Fritz Weidner, Pete Gard, Vickie Magee and Sylvia Rose for staying late on Wednesday to monitor the powder puff game and for staying late for the bonfire.
He also thanked Ron Windus and Hermersmann for picking up the pallets for the bonfire and cutting down a dead tree in the school forest that was dangerously close to the trail.
Late in the meeting Pytleski mentioned that in the homecoming parade the truck with the homecoming king and queen and her court was also sporting a large flag and a huge "Trump" sign. He felt a political sign was not appropriate in a school parade, but also could not pull the truck from the parade. He said there is no policy in place saying the sign could not be there, and they could not let the king and queen walk in any case.
He suggested that in future the board should set a formal policy and have a written agreement for parade participants and drivers stating there will be no advertising of businesses or political beliefs.
"We do have freedom of speech in this country, but that was not the place for it," Pytleski said. He added its sad that they need to have a rule for it, "but that's how most rules get put in place."
In routine action, the board accepted first readings of 11 policies that mainly covered rules for handling and reporting finances in regard to state and federal grant funds.
Pytleski said these are referred to as the "EDGAR" policies, meaning Education Grant Review, as they mostly make sure the district complies with all the federal regulations for federally funded programs.
"I assure you we do," he added. "No one does a better job than Donna (Loeffler) and Tina (Rouer) of keeping better tack of things in the office. Donna keeps very careful reports. He said as to inventory, "We keep very careful track of everything we have."
While invoices were being reviewed prior to payment approval, Pytleski was asked about a $19,800. He explained that was to pay the interest on the old referendum bond issue, which will be paid off in 2022.
After an enthusiastic report by Ag Instructor Windus and student Levi Potter, the board approved the annual FFA trip to the national convention in Indiana. The trip is open to students in grades seven through 12, and they are allotted 10 seats on the bus, which accepts students on a first come, first served basis, with preference for those who have not gone before. Since dates this year conflict with the girls volleyball competition no girls from Lena will be going, but all the seats are filled. Cost is $450 per student for the entire 3-day trip, of which the students or their families pay $350 and FFA Alumni contributions pay the remaining hundred plus expenses for the teacher.
Pytleski reported everything is ready for the trip to Washington, DC Oct. 27 through Nov. 1.
"We can't give the results yet, but the state report card (for school districts) just came out and you'll be pleased with it," Pytleski told the board.
Pytleski reported the student count is down slightly, with 423 students this year compared with 435 last year.
Recent stories, opinions and photos