Madera Linkage Foundation
Going above and beyond for our students and employees
By Tim Riche, President
This has been an exciting year for the Madera Linkage Foundation. We have added new items to our tasks and are poised to do even more this coming year. Thankfully, the generosity of the Madera Unified staff has been commensurate to the growing needs of our students and of the city we serve.
Last summer, following Superintendent Lile’s lead, we created the Student Champion Hall of Fame to underscore and highlight the many Madera Unified employees whose extra work champions student causes. A widely diverse group of individuals from district staff, Madera residents, and even former students nominated the Hall of Fame candidates.
The Human Resources department at the district office will dedicate a conspicuous space to display the names and faces of those who have substantially and positively impacted our students. One of our goals is for new staff to clearly see that MUSD values the exceptional contributions of our employees, as they sign their employment contracts when coming on board. The 2022 inductees are a truly inspiring group.
Hall of Fame inductees and what their nominator wrote.
Mike Lenneman: Mr. Lennemann has consistently served as an ambassador of hope and inspiration for countless Madera Unified students and staff members alike. He has been an educational leader, role model, coach, sideline cheerleader, and a male father figure to so many over the years. He exemplifies servant leadership and to this very day gives freely of his time to support the success of our students. He is friendly, charismatic, and he has always championed students to dream big and do more than they thought possible. Always giving 110 percent made Mr. Lenneman a person the staff wanted to work for and for whom students wanted to succeed.
Kathleen Lopes: Starting as a teacher at James Monroe in 1969, Kathleen Lopes has dedicated herself and her career to making sure that every student has an opportunity to grow and develop. After retiring as the Associate Superintendent of Educational Services after 40 years, Ms. Lopes has returned several times as Interim Director of State Preschool Programs and countless times mentored new administration, supported district endeavors while providing insight and encouragement. She is a resource in our community in many service clubs and adores her family. Many students, staff, and Madera are better because of her compassion and leadership.
Perry “Frank” Smith: Mr. Smith came to teach in Madera in 1963. He stopped for a year and returned to the University of Arkansas to finish a Masters Degree and acquire his PPS Counseling credential. He went back to work at Dixieland working as a teacher, later as a counselor, and administrator throughout Madera Unified. Mr. Smith is still remembered today as a model administrator who exemplified service above self. He simply wanted to make each day a little better for staff and students to be at their best. Mr. Smith also was the swimming pool manager for 20 years and retired after 38 years in education. His ability to recognize students who greeted him years later was legendary. Gentleness, kindness and truly loving the community separated Frank and made him without a doubt a Champion for students. His daughter, Julie Smith Reid represented the family.
Kathy Davis: Ms. Davis began her career working for Madera Community Hospital as a Diet Clerk before coming to Madera Unified School District. Filling in as a sub initially, working her way into the district, and attending classes at Fresno State along with numerous certifications, Ms. Davis became an assistant manager at the production facility at Thomas Jefferson, overseeing 40 employees and over 600 meals a day cooked from scratch to sites all over Madera Unified. Overseeing multiple sites, Ms. Davis retired after 20 plus years, finishing up at Madera High School. Although the received the Classified Employee of the Year, her greatest prize is knowing that many students were fed because of her leadership and ability to get the job done. The employees who worked for her not only saw her as a boss but, more importantly, that she was someone who genuinely cared for them.
Patricia Pat Schwartz: Ms. Schwartz started in Madera Unified teaching English in 1969 and taught that subject for 36 years, working as a cheer advisor and new teacher mentor. As a student who used dyslexia as a means to strive for mediocrity, Mrs. Schwartz refused to allow perceived limitations reduce the scope of her student’s ambitions in her classroom. I will always remember a conversation we had during break, as I went in looking for a pity party for being a student with dyslexia. She quickly made it known that, at the end of the day, I was just making an excuse for myself and as long as I was in her class that excuse was unacceptable. Mrs. Schwartz’s being the excellent teacher that she is known for, that simple motivation and accountability would only get me so far. She took it upon herself to give me strategies and processes that I used throughout college and still use today in my professional life.
Joe Flores: Joe Flores graduated Madera Union High School in 1945 and after serving in the Army during World War II, he married Katie DelaO after his return. Together they raised daughters as he began his career as a groundskeeper for Madera Unified and finished with 40 years retiring as Director of Maintenance. During that time, Mr. Flores was coaching baseball, scoring football, and wrestling or umpiring games. His 30 years as Volunteer Fire Chief, member of Madera Arts Council, and volunteer/cancer survivor with American Cancer Society driving patients to appointments filled his time as well as his work with the North Fork Mono Tribe. He served on the Madera Unified board in 1989. He is remembered that not only did he love his family and Madera, he demonstrated it with his efforts in making everything around him better. His two daughters, Joetta Fleak, a teacher, and Marcella Evans, a medical doctor, proudly received the honor on his behalf.
Carles Beckett: Mr. Beckett is a living time capsule of Madera and Madera Unified. His relationship with Madera Schools spans 8 decades. Beginning as a student in the 50’s Carles began teaching 5th grade at Ripperdan in 1979 before transferring as the Principal of Dixieland Elementary. Opening up Lincoln Elementary in 1993 until the district needed him to help out there. Mr. Beckett retired after 36 years but after the mandatory 6 months separation, Larry Risinger called him back to come work again. CB has held many different positions, PIO, HR Director, Special Ed Director, Migrant Ed Director just to name a few The stories he shares and memories are enough to build a library. Along with his wife Georgia it is hard to go anywhere with people not knowing him and appreciating his contributions to their lives and to our community.
Patricia Butler: Ms. Butler graduated from Madera Union High School class of 1957. She was active in Rainbow for Girls, Future Business Leaders of America, Horizon Club & was in the A Cappella Choir. She went to Fresno State College & was in the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. She was a Bookkeeper & Secretary at Madera High School starting in 1966. She left and worked at Thomas Jefferson Middle School & John Adams for a grand total of 24 years. Her compassion and kindness were based in her faith and she was active at Harvest Community Church. Not only did she run the campuses but she helped so many families and students. Ms. Butler was an inspiration to all the students, especially John Adams. She was a kind & loving person to every student that walked through the doors. She was helpful & gave great guidance to everyone. Received by her daughter Kathy Butler-Forga.
Anastasia O’Neill, RN: In 1978 Mrs. O’Neill began working at Madera Adult School, then later at Madera High School. Anastasia should be in the Hall of Fame for this position because she laid the strong foundation for what our ROP nursing programs/ medical careers program are today at both Madera High, Madera South and right here at Matilda Torres. Her hard work, determination and expertise provided the current programs to expand and flourish under her direction. Ms. O’Neill expected integrity and effort, nothing less than excellence. The hours and evenings she spent with her students to build success cannot be measured. Anastasia was a student advocate, especially with our EL students in encouraging them to work hard. After 34 years, there are literally thousands of successful nurses, doctors and health care professionals because of her desire and gift to teach.
Peggy Ferguson: Ms. Ferguson started teaching in Madera in 1957, teaching at Easton Arcola. At that time she was one of a few teachers who could speak Spanish. To the students’ delight, the Kindergarten students would be surprised when she could comfort them on their first day of school. Kinder, 2nd, and even a short stint at Thomas Jefferson teaching Spanish rounded out her career. Her 16 years at Sierra Vista was her longest tenure and, upon retirement, she continued to serve as a substitute teacher for 12 years. 39 years working in the Madera Unified School District in total. Ms. Ferguson continues being a grandparent, went on Mission trips to Mexico sleeping in tents well into her 80’s and enjoying playing dominoes with her friends as time allows her.
The nominees were individually highlighted during the Madera Unified State of the District Address housed at Matilda Torres High School on October 19, 2021. The night had a charcuterie board that was over 30 feet long and the desert table had plenty of cupcakes for everyone. MUSD staff and the public then worked into the theater, where we presented to our hall of fame class, followed by Superintendent Lile who spoke to the crowd about the continued vision of Madera Unified.
We are planning on adding to our list of Hall of Famers again in October 2022. If you are interested in nominating go to www.maderalinkagefoundation.org and click on programs. It closes mid June 2022, so please submit them soon.
At the event we also awarded Mini Grant winners. Mini Grant applications are submitted by staff that have a vision, idea or something they want their students to experience. Any MUSD employee can apply at the beginning of September and the idea is to give away five hundred dollar awards to the staff to allow them to complete their idea.
Our Mini Grant Recipients
- Lisa Howery: Howard Art Teacher, 3D Printer and Supplies
- Jill Standen: Howard STEM Teacher, STEM Fair at Howard
- Irma Raygoza: Howard 2nd Grade, Student Garden
- Luz Stegner: Pershing 1st Grade, Children’s Spanish Books for the Dual Language students
- Yajaira Sanchez and Rosa Benitez: Pershing Kinder, Student Garden
- Beth Morris and Nicole Torres: Martin Luther King, Yoga supplies to teach students how to calm themselves, exercise and focus
- Castella Rios: MSHS 9th, Self-Contained Ecosystems science that students will build and maintain
- Roxanne Schallberger: Madison 6th, Positive Bathroom quotes – words on the wall that uplift and encourage students
- Charmain George: MSHS Law Enforcement Pathway, Bumper Balls to have activities with (the kind you climb in); Law enforcement classes, giant bumper balls, kinda speaks for itself
- Marta Escarcega: Furman k-8, Book a month club – students will get books that are geared more towards what they want to read
- Andy Underwood: MHS Baseball PE, Class set of Leadership Books for team to work through during Baseball PE
The foundation also continues itsr partnership with Evening Lions Leo Club and Vans store. Vans donates shoes to Linkage Foundation and school site administration complete applications for students to receive socks, shoes and a jacket. The Leos fundraise to purchase more shoes, socks and jackets. Our local California Highway Patrol Office was involved again this year, donating money but also helped us pass them out during some of the Covid months. It is a great way to give and really helps so many of our students, many of whom had never worn a new piece of clothing in their entire lives.
The Madera Linkage Foundation plans on continuing these activities into the 2022-23 school year. We hope to expand our giving next year by raising money at the State of the District Address in October. Our friends at Educational Employees Credit Union were our Gold Sponsor and Mid Valley Disposal were our Silver Sponsor. Their name and the names of the staff of Madera Unified who contribute monthly are on a sign in the foyer at the district office. Any donations we get this year at the event will 100 percent go directly to students in the 2023 spring school year.
For More Information:
The Madera Linkage Foundation is a 501(C)(3) foundation created to secure funding and to provide financial support for supplemental resources that enrich teaching and enhance student learning in Madera Unified School District. For more information please go to www.maderalinkagefoundation.org or email Timriche@maderausd.org. We are always looking for new partnerships.