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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — Three veteran teachers, each with more than 30 years of service, will be retiring from the Colfax school district at the end of the school year: Linda Bilodeau, Deb Larson and Mark Mosey.
The Colfax Board of Education approved their requests to retire at the February 15 meeting.
Bilodeau, who currently teaches sixth grade, has been a teacher and coach in the Colfax school district for 33 years.
“I am grateful for the support and opportunities I was given during my years in the district. I was so fortunate to be able to work with several wonderful team-oriented individuals in and out of the classroom. It is truly hard to believe that thirty-three years has already passed,” Bilodeau wrote in her letter to the Board of Education dated February 2.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Colfax students in both the classroom and coaching situations over the years. In the future, if a part-time position would ever become available, please consider me. I would also be open to stay on as a part of the present Colfax volleyball staff,” Bilodeau wrote.
Larson, who currently teaches fourth grade, also has been a teacher in the Colfax school district for 33 years.
“It is with mixed emotions that I leave the position which I have held for the last 33 years, but I have decided the time has come to start my retirement,” Larson wrote in her letter dated February 10.
“During all of these years, I have developed many cherished relationships and connections with the staff, parents and students. I have sincerely appreciated the care and support from every part of this school community. The people that make up this community have a very special place in my heart,” she wrote.
Mosey, who teaches biology at Colfax High School, has been a teacher in the district for 31 years.
“When I interviewed for the job 31 years ago, I had hoped I would land the job at Colfax and luckily I did. The opportunities to be involved at the school and in the community seemed limitless. Not only did I want to get involved but I really wanted students to be involved with projects that had life-long learning values,” Mosey wrote in his letter to the Board of Eduction dated February 5.
“Those opportunities started in the mid 1990s, when Chuck Bille donated the property now known as the Red Cedar River Environmental Study Area. With countless hours of student and staff help and financial support from the school district, the ‘environmental site’ evolved into an outdoor classroom. It was there where Colfax 4th graders learned how to make maple syrup; freshman biology students removed buckthorn every spring; and National Honor Society members developed trails and installed interpretive signs. The underlying lesson was for each of them to someday become a good steward of the land,” he continued.
“Students also had opportunities to job shadow WDNR foresters over the years at the school forest in Otter Creek and on state properties. On those properties, they planted thousands of trees and assisted in cruising timber in preparation for future timber harvests and sales,” Mosey wrote.
“Field trips around the state and country provided learning opportunities outside the classroom. Students found themselves waking at 5 a.m. to survey cranes and bird watch. Early morning hours found them boarding a bus to travel ‘downstream’ to test the waters of the Mississippi River. Many got to meet an author whose book they read in class. The culminating experience was to canoe the backwaters with him and learn of his life on the river,” he wrote.
“Thirty-one years later, I still love interacting with the students in and out of the classroom. Everyday is different and presents its challenges but the rewards are worth it all. Being able to teach alongside colleagues with a deep passion for and knowledge of their content area has been fulfilling. Most importantly was the professional support I received over all of those years from our school board members, superintendents, principals and support staff. I was trusted to teach and treated as a professional of which I am truly grateful,” Mosey wrote.
“In closing, I would like to commend all the current school board members, Mr. Yingst, Mr. Dachel, Mr. Hovde, Mrs. Rudi and Mrs. Bowe for all the time and effort that went into planning to welcome students and staff into our school in the face of a pandemic. Your efforts need to be recognized and emulated by other districts who are still figuring it out. I am thankful for being in the classroom where we as teachers know we are most effective,” he concluded.
The Colfax Board of Education also approved the school calendar for the 2021-2022 school year at the February 15 meeting.
The first day of school with students will be September 1, 2021, and the last day of school will be June 2, 2022.
August 24-25-26 is planned as part of the summer school programming as has been done the past few years, said William C. Yingst Jr, district administrator, noting that the plans could be subject to change because of the pandemic.
Having the students back in school at the end of August helps the students prepare for the school year and allows students and teachers to meet each other, he said.
If the Colfax school district cannot have summer school, then the end of August school dates will be especially helpful for the students and it will help the district with obtaining some state aid, Yingst said.
Teacher in-service days are planned on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week, and the students will have the entire week off from school, he noted.
Jaclyn Ackerlund, school board member, asked about days “built into” the calendar for snow days.
Some adjustments could be made if necessary, Yingst said.
The school district also now has the ability to do “virtual snow days” with classes, which could be useful if a large snowstorm is predicted that could make travel hazardous for a couple of days, he said.
In other business:
• Learned that Yingst had received a call from Marshfield Clinic on the day of the school board meeting asking if the district was interested in getting the vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus for staff, to which Yingst replied, “Yes!” The Colfax school district is doing okay with COVID and is taking the situation day by day and week by week, he said. Students and staff have been working hard to follow all of the protocols. “You have to be a little lucky, but what we are doing is working,” Yingst said.
• Learned that the high school play performance of “Shrek” will be Friday, June 11, and Saturday, June 12, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, June 13, at 2 p.m.
• Learned that the earliest starting dates for the spring sports of track, softball, baseball and golf will be April 19.
• Learned that 352 students at Colfax Elementary are participating in Accelerated Reader. They have passed 18,864 quizzes and have earned 14,063.1 points. The average percentage correct for everyone is 89 percent. The goal is 85 percent correct for everyone.
• Learned that summer swimming dates will be June 7 through June 18 at the Elk Mound High School pool. The dates are tentative and could be subject to change because of COVID-19. “If it can be done safely, we will do summer swimming and summer school,” Yingst said.
• Learned that summer school dates will be June 21 to July 2 at Colfax Elementary. The dates are tentative and could be subject to change because of COVID-19.
• Learned that the Colfax school district has been awarded $23,560 in Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) grant funds. Over the next five years, the district is expecting around $132,000 in TEACH grant funds, said John Dachel, principal at Colfax High School. The grant money is used for infrastructure, cable, hotspots — anything related to Internet access, he said.
• Agreed to continue with the district’s harm reduction plan and to continue requiring that masks be worn in the school buildings. School has not had to be closed, and the school district has not been put into the position of multiple shut-downs, so what is being done appears to be working, Yingst said, adding, “There’s not much reason to change.” Ackerlund observed: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”