By Kaitlyn Von Behren, Current Staff
Eleven years ago, after a myriad of donations and hours of organization, East seniors planted a pine tree in honor of retiring principal Mary Skalecki.
They picked a spot in the East yard, but that spot is where the Silver Linings Arts Center now stands. So what happened to Skalecki’s monument?
Skalecki was the East principal from 1989 to 2004. She was, according to science teacher Dan Millin, a motherly person who moved West Bend students towards being tolerant and helping each other.
Teachers remember her as someone who always thought first of her students and colleagues. “She cared about the students and the staff, the teachers here. She was quiet, but she had an air about her that was commanding in terms of people respecting her,” art teacher Jay Krueger said.
An engraved stone beside Skalecki’s pine tree honored her contributions to the West Bend School District over the years. All of this was planned by the East seniors independently from the faculty. This past year, because of the construction of the Arts Center, the monument was moved nearer to the East entrance.
“She cared about the students and the teachers here.”
– Jay Krueger, East art teacher
After countless donations from members of the community and school, the Silver Lining Arts Center was finished in December of 2014. Because Skalecki’s stone was in the exact location of the Arts Center today, it was the first thing that needed to be moved nearer to the East doors. The pine tree couldn’t come along because it was too expensive to move. It was quickly cut down, but it is imperative to remember what Skalecki herself would’ve wanted. Ruth Ruh, Skalecki’s secretary for all 16 years she was principal, said Skalecki wouldn’t have “wanted money wasted on” carefully moving and re-planting a tree.
At the 2004 graduation, the surprise gift from East’s seniors was made public. “She was quite taken aback and honored. It was a very special night,” Ruh said.
Over her 16 years as head principal, Skalecki touched the lives of over 10,000 students. Although Skalecki was ending her tenure, she was ready for this change. In a May 2004 interview with the East Horizon student newspaper, Skalecki said, “I feel a bit like our seniors must at graduation. I think when you retire it’s sort of like graduation, accomplishing something great and then moving on to something completely new and different.”
(Photograph by Kaitlyn Von Behren, Current Staff.)