EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard  Peshtigo School District Superintendent Kim Eparvier works at his standing desk Thursday at his office. Eparvier has submitted his retirement papers and his last day will be June 30, 2018.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Peshtigo School District Superintendent Kim Eparvier works at his standing desk Thursday at his office. Eparvier has submitted his retirement papers and his last day will be June 30, 2018.

PESHTIGO — A prominent Peshtigo School District administrator will be leaving the district at the end of the school year.

Superintendent Kim Eparvier, 61, who has been with the district for 23 years, recently announced his retirement, which will be effective June 30, 2018.

"I have been contemplating it for the last five or six months," he said. "I got to the point where I knew it was critical to make a decision very quickly if I wanted to retire at the end of this year. I wanted the board to have the opportunity to have enough time to advertise the position very early in 2018, where they could broaden the pool of candidates."

While many school districts across the country often see high superintendent turnover rates, Eparvier said one of the main reasons he stayed in Peshtigo for 23 years was because of the board of education and colleagues.

"I've been very gracious for the trusting, supportive relationship that I've had with the board of education," he said. "In my letter to the board, I feel that was the No. 1 factor in the longevity in the school district.

"If you have that trusting, supportive environment, it just provides all parties with more of a focus so they can key in on their main mission and that's student achievement and accomplishments." 

Throughout Eparvier's time in the Peshtigo, he said without the collaboration between every single employee within the district, it wouldn't be as successful as it is currently.

"I think looking back in general, we're extremely proud — and when I say we, I mean the board, the administration and the staff because everybody's participation is key in any success of an institution."

A look over the years

The advancements in advanced placement (AP), concurrent and articulated coursework — in four-year institutions, as well as technical colleges — is a key aspect in which Eparvier recalls.

"This certainly has been a huge advantage, not only for our students to be in the position to gain post-secondary credits while still in high school, but we know the burden of college debt," he explained. "By having those opportunities available as high school students, we've been really able to lessen the burden on college debt for our parents and the affected students."

The articulated coursework, Eparvier said, allows students to gain a head start on a career path.

"They're also saving dollars and time on receiving credits in high school and going through to pick up an associate's degree," he said.

Eparvier also pointed out, he thinks the district has done a great job in preparing students for the workforce immediately after graduation.

"We've developed partnerships with local manufacturers and other businesses in the community and provided shadowing and internship experiences for our students so they can prepare for their career path," he said. "If they choose to begin work as soon as they graduate, they have those entry level skills."

Eparvier said he cannot be more proud for Peshtigo to be considered a destination school district.

"You look at the amount of students that we have choosing Peshtigo on open enrollment is astonishing," he said. "Number one, I think parents want to see a safe and respectful environment and our teachers, staff and administrators take that job very seriously. They're in the hallways and working with kids on an individual basis. They're getting to know the students as people first and students second."

Eparvier said he believes the school district is able to establish those meaningful relationships that many bigger districts cannot.

"I believe we do an excellent job educating the whole child," he said. "Many years ago, we really focused on the academics. Based upon societal needs today, we've expanded that. The board has always been supportive to broaden programs and services for kids. I think we should be proud of that."

For the past several years, the Peshtigo School District have gone to referendum for a new middle/high school building and will once again do so next year.

"No matter who's in this leadership role, the needs of the facilities will not change," he explained. "Certainly the referendum, the pre-planning, ultimately the option that will be chosen by the Ad Hoc Committee and that supported by the board —  it doesn't make a difference who's sitting in this particular chair.

"It's not about what the superintendent or board may want, it's really about the needs of the facilities and what's going to service the student population for the next 40 to 50 years. Whatever decision is made is certainly going to be critical, but it shouldn't change based upon who's sitting in the superintendent's chair."

Eparvier said being a Peshtigo Bulldog means supporting the school district and community as a whole.

"Coming from Oconto and being so close in proximity to my hometown and being an athlete, it was really quite strange to come in and be a full-fledged Bulldog," he said. "At that time, I had nieces and nephews playing for Oconto, but obviously with my children being involved in athletics and getting to know their classmates and parents from the Peshtigo community, I guess I consider myself the top dog.

"This community is very passionate in athletics and it certainly has been a job to be a big part of that. More than that, my bigger role was just a cheerleader and advocate for kids in general. I guess I couldn't be prouder in the last 23 years to have the opportunity to facilitate leadership in this district."

Plans for retirement

"I do have some recreational interests; I particularly love playing golf," he said. "Obviously, the summer is short in Wisconsin. I also think this will provide my wife (Lori) and I some time to winter for a couple of months — either in Arizona or Florida.

"I also cannot wait to spend more time with my grandkids."

A word from the board of education

The entire school board agreed that Eparvier has done an outstanding job and will be missed.

School board secretary Kelly Jones said working alongside him for the past eight years has been a true blessing.

"His passion for our children and the school district goes beyond any 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job., he has been truly dedicated to providing an excellent, safe, and caring education for our students while using the taxpayers' dollars to his best ability," she said. "He has advocated for our school funding in ways that go above and beyond, calling, emailing, and meeting with our state legislators regularly.

"He has such a great knowledge that he has been more than willing to share with all of us, if he is unsure of something he is quick to find out an accurate answer. On top of all of this he is a wonderfully kind man with the highest integrity."

Vice-President Julie Muenster said Eparvier has done an outstanding job managing the district's finances.

"Despite being denied funds because of complex school funding legislation, our district has maintained lower-than-average per pupil spending, enjoyed lower-than-average property taxes, grown a healthy fund balance, and has not had to go to referendum for operational expenses," she said. "In this economic climate, Kim's legacy of outstanding financial leadership is exceptional and appreciated."

Jenni Schwittay, a school board member, echoed Muenster's remark regarding Eparvier being a great financial leader.

"He leaves us in a great fiscal position," she said. "His stability has been an asset to the district and his successor will have big shoes to fill."

Eparvier said he has enjoyed his 23 years at the Peshtigo School District.

"I think most importantly we have to really recognize the people in the trenches that work with kids," he said. "I can't give enough credit to our administration, administrative support staff, teachers in the classroom, the aides who are there to support the students, our technicians and custodians — every employee in this district played a contributing role and without their efforts, really nothing gets done.

"At the end of the day, the credit really has to go to the people that are working most closely with the kids. The research demonstrates that the teacher in that classroom is the No. 1 reason for academic success. I've been so fortunate to work with committed staff that give up their own time and make those personal and professional sacrifices to meet the challenges of students in general today.

"I count my blessings that I've been here for the time that I've been here."