Colleagues with teary eyes and grateful smiles thanked retiring Elmbrook School District employees during a recognition event Wednesday evening.
Thirteen employees — including Superintendent Matt Gibson and Principals Julie Kremer (Hillside) and Bil Zahn (Burleigh) were honored in a ceremony in East High's cafeteria. Nine employees received Outstanding Employee Awards, nominated by their peers. And one employee — Fairview South's Leslie Gray — was honored for 30 years of service.
After a record-setting year of retirements in the 2011 that moved the event to the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts with a video tribute, Wednesday's event was more intimate and personal.
Elmbrook School Board President Tom Gehl said Gibson showed unwavering leadership, listening attentively to diverse voices before finding the courage to make his own recommendations and decisions.
Gehl said Gibson was not only a good leader but a "good man."
Gibson said he relished taking on challenges and working to forge common ground among sometimes entrenched groups and positions. Gibson, who is retiring after 17 years with Elmbrook and 40 years in education, will be honored in a separate reception June 14 at the Sharon Lynne.
Zahn and Kremer received moving tributes from their staff members. Kremer summed up her time at Elmbrook and coworkers as "simply the best."
Zahn credited his colleague Margaret Willms, who also is retiring next month, as helping him steer instruction and curriculum. "Thank you," a tearful Zahn told the audience.