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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Bill Yingst says he nearly fell off his chair when he saw the check for $50,000.
The School District of Colfax has received a check for $50,000 from the estate of Dolores Clark, who began teaching in Colfax in 1970 and retired in 1991, the Colfax Board of Education learned at the July 15 meeting.
Yingst, who is now the superintendent of schools in Colfax, said he had met Dee Clark, as she was called, when he was first hired in the school district as a teacher.
The school district was notified a few months ago that Colfax would receive a portion of the Clark estate, Yingst said.
The letter with the $50,000 check arrived recently, and “I almost fell off my chair, quite honestly,” he said.
It is “unbelievable” that someone who retired nearly 30 years ago would think of the school district “for the future,” Yingst said.
The first step is for the Board of Education to accept the money on behalf of the school district, and then at a future meeting, the school board can discuss the best use for the money, he said.
Yingst noted that over her career as a fourth grade teacher in Colfax, Dee Clark touched the lives of hundreds of students.
In fact, Todd Kragness, president of the Board of Education, was one of Clark’s fourth grade students.
According to an on-line obituary published in the Kansas City Star on September 23, 2018, Dolores Clark was born in 1928 and died on September 19, 2018, at the age of 89. Private services were held at Leavenworth National Cemetery
Colfax resident Pam Arntson and her husband, John, were very good friends of Dee Clark and her husband, Jack.
Arntson taught kindergarten at Colfax Elementary for many years, and Yingst said he had asked if she would give him some background information about Dolores Clark.
According to the information Arntson provided, John (Jack) Clark was a history professor at UW-Stout. The Clarks had two sons, Gregory and Vince. Greg stayed in the Kansas City, Missouri, area when the rest of the family moved to Colfax. Vince Clark graduated from Colfax High School in 1974.
Dee Clark began teaching reading at Colfax and served in that capacity from 1970 to 1972. In 1972, she began her career as a fourth grade teacher.
“Dee loved teaching and was truly a gentle spirit with a sincere interest in her students. She continued to keep learning while she taught, always interested in new ways to help her students excel,” Arntson wrote.
“Jack and Dee built a house in the township of Tainter in 1971. Their older son passed away in the spring that Dee retired in 1991. They wintered in Las Vegas for a few years after retirement. They sold their house and moved to a townhouse in Chippewa Falls. They both wanted to move ‘home’ to Missouri, so they made that move only to realize that the Kansas City they remembered was no longer, and they missed their home and friends in Wisconsin. John and I visited them many times, and I always felt badly that they were unhappy with their move. They both had family in that area, but what they remembered as home just wasn’t the same,” Arntson wrote.
Jack Clark was diagnosed with cancer, and after he passed away, Dee Clark moved to a nursing facility, Arntson said.
“In the last few years of her life, Dee developed Alzheimer’s disease. She has feared this, since her mother had the same illness at the end of her life,” Arntson wrote.
“We spoke on the phone often, and she always remembered the many things we had done together. We laughed about stories from teaching years and shopping trips and our visits to see them in Vegas. She was the sister I didn’t have by birth,” she wrote.
Yingst told school board members he had searched through the school district’s employment records and had found some additional information about Dee Clark.
According to the educational background information, Dee Clark graduated from East High School in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1946. She attended Metropolitan Junior College in Kansas City, Missouri, beginning in September of 1960; Central Missouri State in Warrenburg, Missouri, beginning in March of 1965; Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska, beginning in September of 1965; and the University of Nebraska, beginning in June of 1968 to earn credit toward her master’s degree.
She taught first grade in Auburn, Nebraska in the 1967-68 school year, and taught primary one in the Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska, from September of 1968 until she applied for the position in Colfax.
Dee Clark’s other employment experiences included being a medical stenographer at General Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1946-1957; a secretary in the communications department of Owens-Corning Fiberglass in Kansas City, Kansas, from 1959 to 1961, and a secretary, treasurer and credit manager at Pay Way Feed Mills, Inc., in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1962 to 1964.
“It’s a wonderful gesture, (and) perhaps others will think of the school district in their estate,” Yingst said.
The Colfax Board of Education unanimously approved a motion to accept the donation of $50,000 from the John and Dolores Clark Trust.
Yingst said he would research options for ways to use the money and would present those options at a future meeting of the school board.
The Colfax Board of Education also unanimously accepted a donation of $1,500 from Colfax Chevrolet.
According to an e-mail message from Shannon Psak, co-owner of Colfax Chevrolet, the donation was for the “student assistance fund.”
The Colfax school district has a poverty rate of 40 percent, and money in the student assistance fund is used to help students in need, Yingst said.
According to the audit report, as of June 30, 2019, the student assistance fund had a balance of $41,051.
The money in the student assistance fund is used for anything from scholarships to poverty assistance — for whatever is determined to be a “bonafide student assistance need,” Yingst said.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Learned that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation bus inspection had gone very well and that the school district’s buses passed inspection with only a few minor items to correct. “Great job” to Chad Johnson, Yingst said. Having an updated bus fleet helps the bus inspections go more smoothly as opposed to having a fleet of older buses that need more repair, he noted.
• Learned that the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) rates will be increasing from an employee and employer contribution rate of 6.55 percent in 2019 to an employee and employer contribution rate of 6.75 percent in 2020.
• Approved students fees for the 2019-2020 school year for physical education/weight lifting and sport practice attire. All fees are the same as they were for the 2018-2019 school year. The only way the fees would change is if the vendor pricing changed, Yingst said.
• Approved the school district’s academic standards that will be in effect for the 2019-2020 school year, pursuant to section 120.12(13) and section 118.30(1g)(a)1 of the state statutes. The academic standards for junior kindergarten through sixth grade are Wisconsin Model Academic Standards (WMAS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in math, science, reading, writing, geography and history. For seventh through 12th grade in the same subject areas, the standard is CCSS.
• Approved The Standard as the long-term and short-term disability insurance carrier for the 2019-2020 school year. The increase is $300, which is “not huge,” Yingst said, noting The Standard has provided good service for the school district.