Former Clintonville superintendent receives Alumnus Honoris award
By Bert Lehman
Dr. Jerald Schoenike said he never had any intentions of coming back to Clintonville for a job.
That changed in 1983 when he became the Clintonville School District Superintendent.
Schoenike said he knew about the vacancy but didn’t apply because it was his hometown and he was apprehensive about becoming superintendent in his hometown.
“There are many difficult decisions that need to be made in the position,” Schoenike said. “You have people who know my parents and I went to school here so I knew a lot of people, but I was gone for 30 years. So a lot of people knew me, but I didn’t know them anymore.”
At the urging of the interim superintendent at the time, Schoenike applied and interviewed for the position. He was offered the job, which he accepted.
“It turned out not to be a problem,” Schoenike said regarding his worries about working in his hometown.
Looking back, Schoenike said there wasn’t a precise time when he knew he wanted to get into the education field. While attending Clintonville High School he said his shop teacher was influential in nudging him to attend the University of Wisconsin – Stout.
He attended Stout and after graduation accepted a job in Park Falls, where he taught tech ed for three years.
“I expressed some interest to the dean at Stout to go back and get my masters degree,” Schoenike said.
“He said, ‘How about you come back and teach a half time instructorship at the university,’” Schoenike said. “This gave me a paycheck, so I was able to afford to go back to school and finish my masters degree.”
He added, “It was a good experience.”
After receiving his masters degree, Schoenike taught industrial arts in the Sheboygan School District. He was also hired as a department head. He was the youngest of the 10 tech ed teachers.
“That became a good experience for me in trying to work with and lead as the young guy on the block,” he said. “That became an interesting challenge.”
In the early 1960s he followed some federal legislation pertaining to vocational education, which resulted in him being given the responsibility for all vocational programs in the district.
By the late 1960s it was time for Schoenike to go back to school.
“In 1969 congress established 100 scholarships in the United States to beef up leadership in vocational education in the country,” Schoenike said. “Two scholarships were given to each state. I was recipient of one of them.”
The scholarship was a full ride to one of 10 universities in the country. Schoenike chose to attend the University of Illinois.
It was a three year program, but Schoenike finished in two and a half years.
“It was an eye-opening experience. I never worked quite as hard as I did during that particular timeframe,” Schoenike said. “I had a chance to grow professionally and became more aware of the importance of doing a good job. It exposed me to a tremendous amount of variety as to what was going on in the country which gave me a national perspective of vocational education.”
He returned to Sheboygan, as the school board had given him a leave of absence. There he became the director of administrative services for the district.
“I was responsible for all the principals and we had 13 schools,” Schoenike said. “I was responsible for legal services for the school district, and long-range planning.”
Back to Clintonville
Schoenike returned to Clintonville in 1983 and served as the Clintonville School District Superintendent until he retired in 1996.
During his tenure as superintendent he said he is proud of the fact the district was able to set goals, and the board and administration worked together as a team.
“I was fortunate in that regard,” he said. “I think we had a good working board. Communications between the superintendent and the board is absolutely high importance if you want to get anything done. If you’re not on the same page things are much more difficult.”
He said he had a goal of retiring when he was 60 years old, but was urged to stay one year longer, which he did.
“I had other interests I wanted to pursue,” Schoenike said about his decision to retire.
He was also serving on the Fox Valley Tech board at that time.
“That was again, a tremendous growth experience,” Schoenike said. “It made me a better superintendent because I was now sitting on a board. It was a role reversal. It made me a better superintendent because I looked at my board differently and was much more helpful I think to them with information I provided to them and things of that nature to make them a better board member because I was experiencing the same thing at Fox Valley Tech.”
He said he was equally busy in retirement. He continues to stay active in the community.
Schoenike and his wife of 59 years , Julie, live in Clintonville and have three children, and four grandchildren.