DPI superintendent visits Bonduel High School

Underly gets the chance to observe school’s efforts to provide many different career paths
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Bonduel High School’s assortment of career learning opportunities and programs were on full display Feb. 7 when Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Jill Underly came to town.

Underly started off by seeing sixth and seventh grade students and high school AP students showing their circuit boards and what it’s showing them about the computer sciences. She also talked with some students about their work in website branding, social media and promotional media.

The school also showed Underly its fairly new esports program, and then she saw the school’s new gymnasium, which served as a backdrop for the superintendent as she recorded a message for the community about February being a month to observe career and technical education programs in schools.

“One of the best parts of my job is meeting the incredible students and educators doing innovative work across our state,” Underly said in her recorded message. “Innovative and important work like CTE (career and technical education) opportunities you have here at Bonduel High School are so amazing. Students can explore their passions, develop their skills and literally see their futures begin to take shape.”

The next stop for Underly was the school’s well-established agriculture program. She talked with students about their hive mentality when it comes to beekeeping and producing honey. Underly also got to see the greenhouse, which had a limited number of plants on display for the winter but had plenty of fish to see in the aquaponics display, as well as the program’s vertical garden, which boasted plenty of lettuce for the state’s education leader to see.

“I was telling the ag teacher that we hear a lot of good things about different school districts, and Bonduel is at the top,” Underly said after she finished the tour. “It’s really exciting to come and see first-hand all the exciting and different things, especially the opportunities the kids have in so many different pathways.”

BHS also showed off its longstanding technical education programs. Underly got to see students talk about plumbing and welding, as well as see a demonstration of the CNC machine programs. Next door, Underly got to watch students as they were putting together cabinets, furniture and other woodworking projects.

Wrapping up the 90-minute tour was a trip to the school library, where Underly sat down with high school students who work to help younger students at the middle and elementary levels in a variety of things, as well as learn about the school’s youth apprenticeship program conducted by Bonduel and a consortium of other schools in the area.

Eric Ward, BHS principal, welcomed the opportunity for Underly to see that his school, even though it’s smaller than many in northeast Wisconsin, offers a huge variety of career-oriented programs so that students can hit the ground running when they graduate high school.

“I think it’s really exciting,” Ward said. “I think we have a lot to show and a lot to showcase here in Bonduel. There’s an awful lot to see, and I’m really proud of our teachers and our students and the work that they do, so for the state superintendent to come in and see the hard work that we’ve done as a community.”

For a school district with just under 700 students, there are plenty of different opportunities for exploring the career options available to ambitious workers with drive, but Ward believes there’s always room for expansion.

“We’re always looking to expand,” Ward said. “With computer science and tech ed, we’re always looking at that next thing. We want to grow our opportunities for our kids so they have every opportunity those big schools have. We compete really well that way.”

To have career-oriented programs is “essential,” in Ward’s view, considering the demand currently for educated workers in what’s considered the blue-collar industry.

“Whether you’re getting a certification here, or whether you are going into the workforce, you’ll have the skills when you leave Bonduel High School in order to take that next step in your career,” Ward said. “These kids are going to see and experience many things when they are in high school that will prepare them for that next step.”

Underly was impressed with how much BHS was accomplishing.

“We certainly want the kids to have these opportunities,” Underly said. “We were glad to see the community support and administrative support behind the teachers and the kids.”

Having that support makes all the difference, in Underly’s view, when it comes to exposing students to the amazing careers they can be in right away or even a few years down the line.

“They’re killing it here at Bonduel,” Underly said. “With small schools, they can definitely struggle because they’re sharing kids, but the way that Bonduel has infused career and tech ed into everything — we were in a woodshop, but that could have been art, as well, and kids are using geometry and other skills like problem solving. That’s the beauty of small schools. You have that freedom to be flexible and be interdisciplinary, too.”

Underly was impressed with how BHS students engaged with her and were very kind and helpful when she inquired about their work.

“Coming here and seeing that was amazing and good to see,” Underly said.