Engel honored at retirement banquet

As his 40 years of service to the Maple Lake School District draws to a close, retiring school superintendent Ken Engel was honored at a banquet on Friday that featured speakers such as retired superintendent Roger Riesgraf, Elementary Principal Dan Olberg and High School Principal Mary James.

Olberg recalled his first impression of Engel as a soft-spoken administrator changed considerably when he witnessed the superindent’s tough questions to legislators regarding inadequate school funding and graduation standards. And Olberg said that determination to take care of Maple Lake’s children was a defining aspect of the superindent’s tenure at Maple Lake.

“We thank you,” Olberg said, “for your caring personality and the love that you had for kids.”

James said she was a junior at MLHS when Engel was hired as a teacher and enjoyed his support and encouragement after he hired her as a teacher and later when she succeded him as high school principal. “We will miss your humor, gentleness, kindness and support,” she said. “You are our biggest cheerleader.”

Teacher John Donohue offered a humorous look at Engel as a woodshop instructor wannabe and concluded his remarks with an Irish toast to the retiring superintendent.

The school’s cafeteria staff and School Board Chair Arnie Michelicek presented Engel with a variety of gifts, including the gold school bell that is traditionally awarded to retiring school board members.  Engel began his remarks by praising his former neighbor and mentor, Riesgraf.

“Without question, you are one of the finest men I’ve ever known, he said.

Engel thanked his wife, Sharon, introduced his gathered family, and thanked school board members and the staff of the school he led for so many years.

“I want to thank all of you who have created something different at Maple Lake and cause this school to become truly extraordinary,” he said.

Engel will conclude his years at Maple Lake School District 881 on July 1, when new superintendent Mark Redemske, an elementary principal in the Croby/Ironton School District, takes over the post.