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Michigan City Area Schools Honored Retirees of 2024

Michigan City Area Schools Retirees of 2024

2024 MCAS Retirees

(L-R): Connie Althoff, April Burns, Sheila Sobecki, Mark Marz, Cathy Knouse, George Olson, Marlene Dean-Chandler, Tess Pavloff, Juli Chappell, Janine Peo, Stacy Attar, Bruce Parker, Barbara Eason-Watkins. (Missing from photo: Shelley Deutscher and Karen Gehr)

Michigan City Area Schools honored 15 employees who are retiring this year - many of whom have 25, 30, 35 or more years of service! A special dinner in their honor, sponsored by MCAS and the Michigan City Education Association, was held on May 22 at Blue Chip Casino.

Connie Althoff
(21 years) worked for MCAS as a Special Education teacher, serving students with special needs at Knapp, Edgewood, and Springfield Elementary Schools. Her plans for retirement are TBD (To Be Determined), which she says means just doing "what I want to do, when I want to do it!"

Stacy Attar (12 years) is retiring as the Director of Special Education for MCAS. In addition, she has served our district as a Special Ed teacher, a Special Ed teacher support specialist, and the Assistant Director of Special Ed. As she moves on to new adventures, she will continue working in the community to support families who have children with special needs. She will also enjoy spending time with her family, attending live performances of any kind, reading, and traveling.

April Burns (39 years) has worked for MCAS since 1985. She taught first, second, and third grades at Marsh Elementary and then served as the Curriculum Coach at Knapp and Pine. She also taught after-school remediation and summer school IREAD3, and was a tutor at the Sand Castle shelter. Now, she plans to be a "stay-at-home grandma," raising her granddaughter, Madelynn. She also plans to travel to places she has never been before! 

Juli Chappell (20 years) retired from MCAS in 2023, after serving students with special needs in our district since 2003. She was a paraprofessional at Knapp Elementary, Pine Elementary, and finally at Krueger Middle School. Since she retired, she has been healing from cancer - and she is enjoying spending time with her family.

Marlene Dean-Chandler (36 years) has been a lunch room aide, a paraprofessional, and an instructional assistant for the Even Start program. Over the course of her long career with MCAS, she has worked at Joy Elementary School, Elston High School, Barker Jr. High, Elston Jr. High, Michigan City High School, and the A. K. Smith Career Center. She has a variety of plans for retirement, which include traveling, hanging out with her grandbabies, volunteering, and (maybe!) getting a "retirement job."

Shelley Deutscher ( 41 years) began her career with MCAS in 1974. She worked as a K-2 teacher at Central, Mullen, and Eastport Elementary Schools, and she was the STEM Coordinator at Lake Hills. She led many extracurriculars for students, including the DUNE (Discovering Unique Natural Environments) Club at Mullen, and Science Club, Math Club, LEGO Robotics Club, STEM After-School Clubs, and Lunch & Learn Clubs at Lake Hills - where she also was the facilitator of the FAB Lab. Now that she has retired, she is enjoying spending time with her family. 

Karen Gehr (20 years) has worked as a paraprofessional for MCAS since 2004, serving students with special needs at both Mullen and Lake Hills Elementary. In retirement, she plans to enjoy her hobbies and spend time with her family.

Cathy Knouse (32½ years) spent the majority of her career with MCAS (31 ½ years) at Joy Elementary School - but also worked at Park Elementary for one year. She has taught every grade at the elementary level except kindergarten! She was the sponsor of the Joy Newspaper Club for several years. She is looking forward to having time to travel and visit family and friends whenever she feels like it. (She plans to see as many National Parks as she can.) Most of all, she will enjoy sleeping in!

Mark Marz (40 years) began teaching for MCAS in 1984, at Krueger Jr. High, and then worked at Elston High School before moving to Michigan City High School after consolidation. He has taught Chemistry, Chemistry II, Physics, AP Chemistry, AP Physics, Integrated Chemistry and Physics, General Science, and Eighth-Grade Math. He also served as the Science Department Chair, and was the sponsor of Science Club, Fishing Club, and Table Tennis Club. He was a N Assistant Girls Basketball Coach in the 1990s and was a Class Sponsor in 2001 and 2006. In retirement, he will spend time on his many hobbies, will finally get his house remodeled, and will do some traveling with his wife, Sue. He also has an idea for a book. Stay tuned! 

George Olson (34 years) has been a music teacher for MCAS since 1990, teaching at every grade level, K-12! He was a K-6 General Music teacher, a Chorus Director for grades 5-9, and a Band Director for grades 4-12, working at Mullen, Niemann, Coolspring, Marsh, Joy, Park, Pine, Lake Hills, Rogers High School, Michigan City Jr. High, Michigan City High School, and Krueger Middle School. He also directed the high school Jazz Band, Pep Band and Marching Band. In retirement, George is looking forward to raising his new baby girl, Madison Christine Olson, who was born on February 24, 2024.

Bruce Parker (44½ years) began his career with MCAS in 1979! He has been a physical education and health teacher (K-12), a coach, a Team Leader, a Department Chair, a lunchroom supervisor, and a summer school teacher. Over the years, he worked at Elston, Rogers, and Michigan City High Schools, Krueger and Barker Middle Schools, and Coolspring, Joy, and Marsh Elementary Schools. He was the Baseball Coach and an athletic trainer at Elston High School, and he coordinated the American Heart Association "Hoops for Heart" program at Barker for many years, raising over $15,000. His retirement plans: "Do what I want to do, when I want to ... and travel with my wife."

Tess Pavloff (23 years) is a kindergarten veteran! She began her MCAS career splitting her time as a kindergarten teacher between Niemann and Edgewood, then spent the remainder of her time teaching kindergarten at Edgewood. She sponsored the Dream Big Drama Club and led a family art program called "Picassos with Pavloff." In retirement, she will continue working in education in some capacity, volunteering in the classrooms of colleagues. She will also travel with her husband and family, watch her grandchildren grow, and pursue a second career as an artist and author.

Janine Peo (37 years) taught Social Studies and French at Rogers and Elston High Schools, Barker Jr. High, Krueger Jr. High, and Elston and Krueger Middle Schools. She was a Team Leader, breakfast and lunch supervisor, Academic Coach, Middle School Volleyball Coach, and Student Council Advisor. She now plans to spend her time with her husband and three children, her daughter-in-law, and grandson. Traveling to new places is also in her retirement plan, along with gardening, refinishing furniture, and making home improvements. You may find her volunteering in the community and at State and National Parks.

Sheila Sobecki (20 years) is retiring as the High Ability teacher for grades 4-6 at Springfield. She previously taught second, third, and fifth grades, as well as a multiage High Ability classroom (grades 3-5), working for 19 years at Springfield and one year at Edgewood. She served as the sponsor of the National Elementary Honor Society and coached the Math Bowl team. Her retirement plans are to do all the things that she loves: "Travel, read, entertain, volunteer, and most importantly, spend time with my family."

Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins (14 years) will retire on August 2, 2024. She has served as the Superintendent of Michigan City Area Schools since July 2010. Her top priorities have centered on strengthening the instructional core, expanding college and career preparation opportunities, and providing increased educational options for families and students. She led efforts to establish elementary magnet schools in the Arts (at Pine) and in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (at Lake Hills) and supported both Lake Hills and Barker in obtaining Indiana STEM certification. She has also focused on creating programs for high-ability students K-12, establishing Michigan City High School as a leader in dual credit and AP opportunities.

Dr. Eason-Watkins has collaborated with partners in higher education, business, and industry to realign programs and curricula to support students and meet workforce needs. Among the initiatives she launched for MCAS are the Early College Program, the Compressed Air Academy, the Little Wolves Early Learning Center, and a comprehensive K-12 technology program. She has received numerous awards for her continued commitment to education, and serves on several boards for community organizations and higher education institutions.

Dr. Eason-Watkins’ retirement will mark the culmination of her 50-year professional career in education. Her vast experience includes teaching in Highland Park, Michigan, and serving as a nationally recognized school principal in the Chicago Woodlawn community. In 2001, she was appointed to serve as the Chief Education Officer of the Chicago Public Schools. As the lead curriculum and instruction strategist for the nation’s third-largest school district, Dr. Eason-Watkins led efforts to reform policies and institute key instructional initiatives.

In retirement, she plans to enjoy the next phase of her life with her husband, family, and friends, and will find ways to positively impact the community. She remains fully committed to our district and Michigan City, and her heart and spirit remain deeply rooted in the Wolves culture.