2016 Grants Award Luncheon celebrates Strong Schools, Strong Community

panaromic view

About 240 people were on hand for the 2016 Grants Award Luncheon.

Former Superintendent Jerry Kember, recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, recognizes and thanks former Superintendent Richard Swantz for his support. (Diane Gebhart photo)

Recipients of 40 grants honored at 2016 event

Nearly 240 people came together on Jan. 18, 2016, in a celebration of public schools at the annual Grants Award Luncheon hosted by the La Crosse Public Education Foundation.

Festival Logo - high resolution jpg formatThe luncheon — presented by Festival Foods — celebrates teachers, staff, students and community members whose grant requests provide examples of the kind of creativity and dedication seen every day in the School District of La Crosse.

In all, nearly 60 teachers and other grant recipients were on hand for recognition, where they joined by three special award winners:

  • Corporate Partner in Education — The Insurance Centernamed grant sponsors
  • Distinguished Service Award — Former Superintendent of Schools Jerry Kember
  • Leadership Award — Jeff Fleig, Central High School Principal

For more information on the special award winners, please see: Celebrating our volunteers and partners.

See photo gallery from the luncheon

Grant recipients honored came primarily from two rounds of grants announced last year by the Foundation. (Download a PDF presentation showing all grant recipients and award winners honored at the luncheon.)

Thomas Thibodeau

Thomas Thibodeau (Diane Gebhart photo)

Thomas Thibodeau, Distinguished Professor of Servant Leadership and Director of the Master of Arts in Servant Leadership at Viterbo University, provided an inspirational talk on the relationship between strong schools and a strong community. (For more on his talk, see this story from the La Crosse Tribune.)

He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in saying: “Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Said Thibodeau: “Why is it that we have a strong community?”

“Because we have a community full of servants.”

Two of those servants who received special recognition at the event were former teachers honored by having grants awarded in their names.

Barb Kroner

Barb Kroner

LPEF recognized the late Barb Kroner, who died last February. Her career spanned nearly 40 years, most of it spent at Longfellow Middle School. The principal at Longfellow, Penny Reedy, describes Barb as “the quintessential educator of her time. She truly believed that all students could learn and backed it up with her teaching. She cared deeply about her students and insisted they master the material. She did all this in in a very caring manner — working extra hours with students over her lunch and after school. She did this up until the very last minute of her teaching career as she frequently talked about the need to do so much more for her students. Her quiet demeanor was a powerful motivator for the thousands of students she touched to this day.” On hand for the event were Barb’s husband, Russ Kroner – himself a former teacher – and their daughter, Jill Fink, a teacher at Emerson Elementary. The grant awarded in Barb Kroner’s name went Jeanne Halderson at Longfellow.

Susan Houlihan

Susan Houlihan

A grant also was awarded in the name of Susan Houlihan, who retired last spring after 29 years of teaching, the last 25 at Southern Bluffs Elementary. The selected grant, submitted by teacher Derek Fuglsang, will support a special effort to celebrate and teach expectations for positive student behavior at Southern Bluffs. Susan Houlihan’s principal at Southern Bluffs, Lisa Schreiner, says Susan “was a dedicated educator who made sure that EVERY student in her classroom felt that they were a valuable member of the classroom community. Susan understood that the curriculum she was responsible to deliver was important but also knew that if caring relationships were not established and maintained, then learning would be compromised.  Children who had Mrs. Houlihan as a teacher appreciated her passion for the environment and were excited when their learning took them from the confines of the classroom and out to the fish hatchery in Genoa.  Caring, compassionate, inclusive, always growing, kind, understanding … Susan Houlihan.”

Dave Skogen Matt De Koch Andrea Kramer

Festival Foods Chairman Dave Skogen along with grant recipient Matt De Koch and AVID teacher Andrea Kramer of Logan High School. (Diane Gebhart photo)

The La Crosse Public Education Foundation has been supporting La Crosse public schools for more than 27 years. The Foundation provides classroom grants, staff development money and other support for students – funding programs and projects that are not covered by tax-dollars. In all, the Foundation expects to provide almost $170,000 in support this year to the School District of La Crosse.

grant sponsorsThe Foundation’s work would not be possible without the generous support of many people, including these luncheon sponsors:

  • Presenting sponsor: Festival Foods.
  • Named Grant Sponsors: Coulee Bank; Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare; Trust Point; LHI; Gundersen Health System; the La Crosse Tribune; and Rachel Gundersen.
  • Grant Sponsors: Borton Construction; Dairyland Power Cooperative; Kaplan Professional Education; and News 8 WKBT.
  • Corporate Sponsors: State Bank Financial (also a Named Grant Sponsor); First Supply/Gerhards; Wells Fargo; The Insurance Center; and Altra Federal Credit Union.Corp investors
  • Table Sponsors: Altra Foundation; Association of La Crosse School Administrators; Board of Education, School District of La Crosse; Johns, Flaherty & Collins; La Crosse Education Association; US Bank; UW-La Crosse/UW-L Foundation; and Viterbo University.
  • Teacher Sponsor: WIPFLI LLP