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Retiring Cormier principal honored

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – Cormier School & Early Learning Center Principal Maria Arena, who is retiring at the end of this school year after 23 years, was honored Wednesday, May 13, by the Ashwaubenon school board.

Superintendent Kurt Weyers read a statement praising Arena, who participated in the meeting via teleconference along with other staff and a board member.

Weyers said Arena is a “tremendous leader in our district who has consistently put kids at the center of every decision she’s made.”

“Maria’s student-centered approach has had a profound impact on thousands of lives of students she has worked with,” he said. “Maria has a true gift of knowing all the students and their families.”

Weyers said Arena “took every opportunity to connect with students, staff and parents and volunteers through her work at Cormier school, whether that was in the hallway, cafeteria, classrooms or at major school events.”

“Cormier, under Maria’s leadership, provided numerous opportunities for both students and families,” he said. “Maria, we’re very happy for you in your next journey and your next chapter in your life. We’re certainly going to miss you.”

Arena said it has been an honor serving as Cormier’s principal.

“All of the things you talked about happened because of everyone, everybody working together,” she said. “Our staff is great. Our elementary principal team is strong… It’s just been a tremendous honor for me.”

Parkview Middle School Associate Principal Brian Carter will take over as principal July 1.

To fill the vacancy created by Carter going to Cormier, the board approved the hiring of Michael Heim as Parkview’s associate principal.

New positions

Board members also approved hiring additional staff in some positions created following voter approval April 7 of an operational referendum to override the state-imposed revenue limit by $730,000 annually, starting with the 2020-21 school year and ending in 2024-25.

The board decided to designate $650,000 of the operational referendum for student mental health services and the other $80,000 to operate air conditioning to be added throughout the high school and Pioneer and Valley View elementary schools as part of the $10.05 million capital referendum voters also approved.

Three additional school counselors being financed as part of the operational referendum were approved by the board with the hiring of Kristy Sutrick at Valley View, Kari Breitenfeldt at Parkview and Panya Yang at Cormier, effective with the 2020-21 school year.

Laura Briese was hired to a new position as a high school social worker.

Weyers said staffing additions related to the operational referendum also include Meegan Kaster, a second-grade teacher at Valley View, becoming a social-emotional learning coach at Valley View and Cormier, while Lisa Bellile, a special education teacher at Pioneer, will become the social-emotional learning coach at Pioneer, where a special education teacher vacancy is being posted.

The hiring of four full-time elementary teachers was also approved by the board for 2020-21.

At Pioneer, Alexis VanHiel will fill a second-grade position, and Jill Olson was hired as a third-grade teacher.

At Valley View, Lauren Fisher will fill a new second-grade position, and Sean Quinlan was hired to a fill a vacant fourth-grade position.

Partial layoffs

In what Business Director Keith Lucius described as the worst part of an administrator’s job, the board approved his recommendation of three partial layoffs for 2020-21.

“As administrators, we struggle with this the most, but the reality is we set our class sizes, and our budget limitations force us to issue layoffs when student counts change,” he said. “That’s where we are now. It’s an odd year for us, because we’re reducing staff and FTE at the high school, because we’ve got a small class-level group as freshmen, and we’re increasing some sections at the elementary school (level).”

When the district has licensed teachers unable to move between the high school and elementary school level, Lucius said “it forces us to make choices that we don’t like.”

“But we have to balance our budget and keep class sizes where they need to be,” he said.

Lucius said the three partial layoffs include:

• Kelly Lafevere, a part-time high school English teacher, being laid off from .17 of her .5 FTE position to leave her with a .33 FTE.

• Jason Finch, a physical education teacher at the high school and Parkview, being laid off from the .2 FTE of his high school position. He will maintain a .8 FTE position at Parkview.

• Sarah Curiel Meli, a Spanish teacher at Parkview, being laid off from .3 FTE of her position. She will maintain a .5 FTE position.

“It doesn’t mean that we’re cutting ties, and all three of them have some FTE with us, so we’re still expecting them to be on our staff,” Lucius said.

He said the possibility exists the three teachers could be recalled from those partial layoffs, if staffing changes before the start of the next school year, such as with a resignation.

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