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Waukesha School Board welcomes new leaders

LaBorde, Schlei, Yow familiar with district

April 16, 2013

The Waukesha School Board unanimously approved two administrative positions and welcomed three new staff members to the district for the 2013-14 school year at its April 10 meeting.

The two approvals are for David LaBorde as Waukesha West's principal and Brian Schlei for Waukesha North's athletic director/assistant principal position.

And the transition for them doesn't appear too difficult as both are familiar faces at those schools.

LaBorde has been serving as Waukesha West's interim principal since January after the abrupt resignation of David Towers, who cited personal reasons in his resignation.

The board and West students see many positives in making LaBorde West's permanent principal.

Before the board voted, two student representatives told the board the school was "lucky to adopt Mr. LaBorde into our school as our principal."

Board member Joseph Como concurred and said hearing their feedback was beneficial.

"That testimony was very strong," Como said. "That really backs this decision. We don't always get input from our students on this and it's actually the first time I think in 11 years I've been on the board I've heard testimonials like that because it's just not part of our process. It was a coincidental thing but I thought it was really nice timing."

Board member Steve Edlund said LaBorde has "provided strong leadership at both building and district levels, he's focused on student success and consistently surfaces issues for his faculty and the district to pursue."

LaBorde previously spent 15 years as the principal at New Berlin West Middle and High School.

North's new AD

Schlei, a physical education and health teacher at Waukesha North High School who also serves as the PE coordinator, was named the school's new athletic director/assistant principal for the 2013-14 school year.

Schlei was described by Edlund in his interview as "a great thinker and has a great vision, knows this program, leads by example and takes everything he does to the next level."

The Carroll University graduate has been in the district since 2009 and is working on his master's degree in education and leadership from Carroll.

Schlei replaces Mitch Weber, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

New secondary leader

Three other new administrators were also introduced at the board meeting.

Ron Rivard, the assistant district administrator for the Waterford Graded School District, will be the new director of curriculum of secondary education. The position had been vacant.

He was also previously a principal in the Muskego-Norway School District.

"I am very appreciative of the opportunity," Rivard said. "That said, I am up for the challenge. I'm looking forward to working with an incredible team. The more research I do about the system, reinforces the great potential that is already here. I'm excited to bring some stability to the position."

Yow 'comes home'

Melissa Yow will be the new principal at Bethesda Elementary School. She was previously with the Waukesha School District working at Whittier Elementary School but left last year to become a principal in the Greenfield School District.

"I'm just overjoyed we're getting (you) back," said Board President Daniel Warren said about the board's decision. "We're happy to have you back."

Yow was happy, too.

"It's good to be back home," Yow said. "That's what it really is to me. When I got the call they wanted me at Bethesda, I said 'I'm coming home.' So it feels so good to be back here. It was a great learning experience this past year. Being a principal is what I want to do and I'm so honored to be working with the Bethesda staff and students."

Yow replaces Randy Kunkel, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

Hispanic population key

Mary Garcia-Velez, Banting Elementary School's new principal for the 2013-14 school year, said the district integrating bilingual programs was important in her decision.

She has worked at the Spanish Immersion School for the Milwaukee Public Schools and most recently has been with the St. Francis School District for five years where she currently is a principal at its intermediate school.

But there, she hasn't had the opportunity to frequently use her Spanish skills.

"I really missed working with the Latino population and utilizing my Spanish," Garcia-Velez said. "I really look forward to utilizing it quite a bit more."

Banting Elementary added to its bilingual program this school year as it has a Dual Language Two-Way Program for kindergartners through third-graders and a Dual Language One-Way Program for fourth- and fifth-graders.

The One-Way Language Program allows Spanish-speaking students to learn English, while the Two-Way Program is when Spanish and English speakers learn the opposite language in addition to their native language.

Warren said with 20 percent of the student population in the district Hispanic, this hire goes a long way in the success of the program, which changed last year when it spread out its bilingual/ESL services at four schools instead of just one. White Rock Elementary was the main bilingual hub before it closed last year.

"I'm personally happy our board and our administration have made those moves and now we're in implementation mode and we need people like you," Warren told Garcia-Velez.

She replaces Brian Babbitts, who asked in January to be released from his contract, effective June 30.

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