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Retiring staff, longtime employees of Kaneland School District 302 honored

District 302
District 302

MAPLE PARK – During Kaneland High School counselor Cyndi Violett’s first year working in the district 25 years ago, there were three failed referendums, a condemned gymnasium, a teacher tragically died in a classroom, a student passed away over spring break and another teacher died at a graduation party.

“So you would think with it being my very first year that I’m done, I’m out of here,” she said. “But it’s this community and these people that kept me going.”

Violett was one of 17 Kaneland staff members who were recognized for 25 years of employment or because they were retiring this year during the Kaneland School District 302 Board of Education meeting on May 13.

“Education is a people business,” said Superintendent Dr. Todd Leden. “We have wonderful people in Kaneland and wonderful kids we educate. There were close to 400 years of service among these two groups so on behalf of our board, our parents, our community and those without the opportunity to say thanks again, thanks for your years of service to the adult graduating 2019 class.”

Tom Huels, a retiring computer instructor as well as the athletic director at Harter Middle School, has spent nearly four decades in education with most of it at Kaneland.

“The bottom line is 32 years at Kaneland and 38 education,” he said. “I’m truly in it for the kids and I’m going to have one of my best memories this weekend going to the state track meet. We have a chance of doing some serious accomplishments at that level, and it was something I kind of brought into the middle school program and I think it’s going to be a perfect way to end things.”

Caryn Spitzzeri, a retiring paraprofessional at Harter, reminded Huels that he taught her daughter who will be turning 36 in July.

“Natalie was one of your youngest and she’s my eldest so that tells you how long you’ve been here,” she said. “It’s going to be different now, but it’ll be good, but it will be different.”

Harter secretary Joan Rule acknowledged that she’s going to miss her job.

“This has been a wild ride and a fun one that I will truly miss,” she said. “It’s very bittersweet to go. This is my family here and I’ve been really blessed to have this job and work for this district. I thank you all for the opportunity to be here. The next chapter will be what it will be. Fun, I hope.”

Welding instructor Gene Heinsohn explained how his sons refuse to go shopping with him because he always runs into former students. That still may be a problem even during retirement.

“I’ve been at it so long that my sons refuse to go shopping with me,” he said. “They say that everywhere I go some former student has to talk to me and being in the Fox Valley Career Center, I can’t go anywhere without it happening.”

Linda Smykowski took a lunchroom aide job at John Stewart Elementary School when her son was going into first grade. That was 18-and-a-half years ago.

“It’s been a wild ride in the lunchroom,” she said. “After 18-and-a-half years I think it’s time to go – with a lot of crazy stories from the little ones.”

Malissa Straughn also took a job at Kaneland that worked well with her children’s schedules. She has been a learning resource center assistant since 2004.

“I’ve loved every minute of it – just about,” she joked. “The best part is knowing all the kids in the school because I worked in the library. Now I’m looking forward to my next chapter as a grandmother.”

Dana Alterie, Betty Anderson, Karen Devereaux and Gail Payton were also recognized for 25 years of service. Anderson, Sue Blackney, Lucille Conrardy, Lynn McHenry, Cindy Miller, Nancy Palpant and Betty Wojnowski were among the other retirees who were honored.

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