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Bob Benoy was a hometown educator

Bob Benoy's very first experience with public education began on his first day of school at what was then Fourth Street Elementary School. He will finish out his career in public education just a short distance and a couple of buildings away this June when he officially retires as the Hudson School District's director of personnel.

Benoy, 56, was born and raised in Hudson, one of Alton and Delores Benoy's six sons. Along with attending Fourth Street Elementary, he was in the first freshman class to attend the Hudson Junior High School. He graduated from the former Hudson High School, now Willow River Elementary School, in 1967. He was also a very successful high school athlete.

Benoy must have liked education. After earning a degree from UW-River Falls, he became a teacher. His 32-year education career began in Boyceville as a sixth-grade teacher. From there he went to St. Croix Central, where he taught fourth grade and then moved into secondary education. He also served as athletic director there and as head football and basketball coach.

In 1987 Benoy came home to Hudson as athletic director and director of community education for the district. In 1992 he became the district's director of personnel and also oversees the district's transportation services.

The job is a big one. The Hudson School District is the largest employer in the Hudson area with nearly 700 teachers. Each year, Benoy's office receives between 600-800 applications for jobs in the district, from custodians to the superintendent, all of which are reviewed and screened before being sent onto building principals and other administrators for consideration. Benoy is a permanent member of the school board's personnel committee and has also served on the building committee for most of the district's major construction and remodeling projects. He also supervises the transportation of the more than 4,000 students who ride the bus to school daily.

Benoy's job has always been a busy one in part because Hudson and the Hudson School District are considered good places to live and to work. "Because of that reputation we have been able to select from the very best people to teach and work in our schools, and that has benefited everyone."

In a nod to the contentious relationship the district's administration has had in recent years with some critics, Benoy said only, "The more challenges that you have delivering education, the more impact it has on who wants to work here. The atmosphere of the last few years doesn't help. I'm not sure of the degree of impact it has had, but I'm sure it has had some."

Benoy, who credits his longtime secretary Diane Radle and transportation secretary Monica Bulla for the efficiency of his office, is also proud of the district's safety record and relationship with the district's bus company, Safeway of Wisconsin. "We have had a very cooperative relationship with them that has led to a strong safety record and efficient service. They have always done what they had to make it work."

And Benoy's office was charged with establishing before- and after-school care programs at the district's elementary schools. He gives credit to program director Michelle Hagen for much of the success of the program, which has now expanded to provide care during the summer. Benoy said the program has benefited countless families in the district and is completely self-sustaining.

"We saw the writing on the wall. It was something our working parents needed, and I don't think we put anyone out of business doing it."

As a former Raider football player, Benoy had a special interest in upgrades he oversaw at Newton Field in the early '90s as well as at facilities around the district. "I think we are all proud of the facilities in this district. Some have presented some pretty big challenges, but I think we have made the best use of every building we have."

Benoy is also involved on the school board's teacher contract negotiating committee. His wife, Dianna Benoy, is a teacher at Rock Elementary so he is sensitive to the issues important to teachers. "The biggest challenge is to try and make sure all parties are treated fairly - that taxpayers are not overburdened and that teachers are compensated fairly."

For the most part he believes that challenge has been met, and he points to what he believes is a group of teachers who are "second to none" in the state.

"The majority of our teachers are among the most talented you will find in any district. They are lifelong learners. We are so fortunate to be able to pick the best, the most professional people out there."

Benoy said the district's biggest challenge in recent years has been how to maintain and improve the quality of the district as enrollment increases. "It is about keeping that balance between what we can provide and what we can afford to provide. I hope that we will always be able to afford the very best people to work here."

Time to prioritize

Next month will mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Benoy's son, Brian, from a brain aneurysm. He was 25, and Benoy said his decision to retire was influenced by the loss of his son.

"Losing him has led me to a realization of what life is worth, what is important in it and what we should value in each and every day. That's what I want my life to be about now."

Benoy is looking forward to his daughter Megan's wedding this summer and to spending more time with his wife, who is also retiring this June. Beyond that he isn't sure what the future holds, but he may not be entirely finished with education yet.

As much as he is looking forward to retirement, he says he will miss his friends and colleagues in the district and the chance to build a career in his hometown.

"I have been very fortunate to live and work in Hudson. No matter how big it gets, the values of the place haven't really changed. The community has always valued a quality education for our kids. We have never compromised on that. I've been part of something important in this community and gave back to the place that has always been home. Those are hard things to leave behind."

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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