By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Superintendent Brian Hanes has one more month left on the job before he closes out a 36-year educational career with his retirement.
“It’s 36 years of interacting with a lot of kids and parents and staff, community members – many, many fond memories,” he said. “Many people in my life have helped me grow. The highlights would certainly be seeing kids grow and experience success.”
Hanes had previously been a superintendent at Oostburg before becoming Ashwaubenon’s superintendent 2011.
He began in Oostburg in 1995 as a high school principal before becoming the district’s superintendent two years later.
He has also been a middle school principal at Sheboygan Falls and an assistant middle school principal in Sheboygan.
Prior to having been a music director at Sparta Senior High from 1985-86, Hanes began his educational career in 1982 as a music director at Roncalli High School in Manitowoc.
“It’s been a really good career and filled with a lot of people I’m thankful for,” he said.
Upon making the switch from a teacher to an administrator, Hanes said what he missed the most was “being so connected to the kids.”
“The challenge when you become an administrator is how can you keep yourself connected to kids and to activities, and to your passion of why you’re in this business in the first place,” he said. “I tried to work hard on that over my career to attend a lot of events and to be as engaged with kids as I could. Being visible, that’s important to me.”
When asked about his decision to retire at the end of the current year, Hanes said “it’s a bittersweet decision for me.”
“It’s a hard decision,” he said. “I now understand why sometimes people say it’s a stressful decision to make to decide when to retire. I understand that now as I’m living through that. I’m going to really miss Ashwaubenon – the board, the people, the community, the staff – hard-working people. It’s a great place.”
Hanes said his wife, Jill, who is middle school instrumental music teacher in Oostburg, will also be retiring at the end of the school year.
“We are both extremely busy people involved in a lot of things,” he said. “Certainly it’s going to be nice just to, for me, to dial down the stress button. It’s time for me to do that. I realize that, but we’ll still both be busy, I’m sure of that, doing different things.”
Hanes, who plans to live in the Sheboygan area upon his retirement, said he expects to be involved in volunteering and possibly also part-time work opportunities as well as spend more time with his parents and visit his daughter in Colorado.
Originally from Oconto, Haines noted Ashwaubenon is where his parents lived when he was attending college.
“(Ashwaubenon is) a high-quality district,” Hanes said. “It was definitely a district I was very interested in.”
In the seven years he has been the superintendent at Ashwaubenon, Hanes said he is proud of the staff, administration and school board.
“The whole system works so well together,” he said. “That’s not always the case in a lot of school systems in a lot of communities. I think there’s a uniqueness here that people shouldn’t take for granted.”
Hanes said he has been involved in Ashwaubenon with improving student learning and the quality of programs and course offerings in the district.
“It certainly helps to have the support of good facilities and business partnerships,” he said.
Hanes said he is proud of the Ashwaubenon school district not having a lot of staff turnover.
“I always say the most important decision is who we hire,” he said. “People are our best resources. It’s important to have and get the right people on the bus, and then let people do their job.”
Hanes said he has seen a lot of positive changes over his educational career as well as changes that concern him.
“A positive, and a person could also say is a negative, has been the obvious change of infusion of technology and the impact that’s made on learning, on communications,” he said. “It’s very positive that a parent can engage in multiple ways now with teachers and the schools with technology. Grades are available to them. There’s voicemail, email, website information. That’s a positive. I would also say that’s a huge negative in what some of the social media has done impacting the role of a principal.”
Hanes said he didn’t experience when he was a principal what principals now face when dealing with social media outside of the school.
Hanes said school districts face challenges with more competition for students, as well as the future supply and demand of quality teachers and superintendents, though he’s optimistic that will change.
“If the college enrollment for teacher education is down by 40 percent, it’s a supply and demand issue,” he said. “The districts that can attract students, because of ‘X’ reasons, are at an advantage to hire the smaller talent pool that’s available.”
Given approximately one-third of Ashwaubenon’s 4K-12 enrollment is comprised of students who live outside the district, Hanes said open enrollment “has a positive effect, but it can also create some challenges some times.”
“Certainly more positives in that we can offer more opportunities for kids,” he said. “They have a lot of choices here with the curriculum and the educational opportunities that are offered, co-curricular educational (opportunities). But you also have to look at class size and balance, and you have to be able to service the needs of all students you have. Like all school districts in the state, sometimes we have to put caps on what we can allow (with) special education and some of those things.”
Upon Hanes retiring, the principal at Valley View Elementary School, Kurt Weyers, will take over as Ashwaubenon’s superintendent, effective July 1.
Hanes noted he has been helping Weyers make the transition to become superintendent.
“He’s an outstanding leader,” Hanes said of Weyers. “He’s been spending a lot of time with me. He’s been in a lot of meetings. He’s been doing a lot of mentoring and having a lot of conversations. He brings a lot to the table. My advice to him is to not try to do everything all at once, to get to know people and systems like he’s doing throughout the district.”
After retiring, Hanes said he would be open to the possibility of part-time work as a school administrator in the event a school district would be in need of one, among other things.
“I love golfing, so it would be nice to play more golf, certainly, volunteer at church,” he said. “Music is definitely a hobby that will be with me through the rest of my life. I’ll also do a little bit of fishing and a little bit of hunting. I’ll look forward to spending more time with Jill and my parents and my daughter…. I’ll look at some consulting work, as well.”