Timing has been important to many of the decisions Dr. Robert Knadle has made concerning his 38-year career in education.
Deliberating over his decision to retire has been among the most difficult.
Knadle informed the Viroqua School Board last month that he plans to retire on June 30 after a nine-year tenure as district administrator of the Viroqua Area School District.
He reflected on his career in education Feb. 29 — saying he valued working with students and their families the most.
“Education was a good choice for me,” Knadle said. “I have been very fortunate in the positions I’ve held. It’s been a privilege to work for the communities I’ve worked in and the school boards I’ve worked for.”
Viroqua has a reputation for having high test scores, a quality staff and a community that understands the overall needs of the schools, Knadle said.
Knadle pointed to some circumstances that help define the school-community relationship.
During his time here, Knadle said the district dealt with trying circumstances, including the untimely deaths of students, staff and family members.
“You can learn a lot about the strength of a community when you see it go through its worst times — everyone supports and stands up for one another,” Knadle said. “It’s something we wish we don’t have to deal with, but Viroqua is a very sincere community. When you witness how people help each other, it’s uplifting.”
Knadle said the community has twice during his tenure approved operational referendums that allowed the school district to raise money beyond the budget cap. This helped the district maintain its facilities and avoid having small maintenance issues become seven-digit budgetary emergencies.
“People in Viroqua are wise to pay to maintain facilities, saving money in the long run,” Knadle said.
Viroqua has been a state leader in the Farm-to-School food program. Knadle said the district’s work to bring in locally-raised food to students has been a model for other districts.
“It has been exciting to be a part of that and see the district recognized for its work with Farm-to-School,” Knadle said. “We’ve been a state leader and it’s another example of many people working together to provide a quality educational program in Viroqua.”
Knadle is a graduate of Hillsboro High School. He received his undergraduate degree in education at UW-La Crosse. He served as a sixth-grade middle school teacher for eight years in Waunakee. Knadle earned his master’s degree from UW-Madison.
Knadle moved into administration as the elementary school principal at North Crawford for seven years.
He became a middle school principal in Chilton, where he served for 14 years — the period of time during which his son and daughter went to high school. He earned a doctorate degree.
“Being a principal in North Crawford was a good job to learn a lot about administration, because you wear a lot of hats in a small school district,” Knadle said. “Chilton was a very good place... I met a lot of nice people there. In the places I’ve lived, I’ve always met the people who I consider to be friends. I’m very sincere about that. We’ve met very good people along this journey.”
For the last nine years he’s been the district administrator at Viroqua.
“Viroqua has been a very good place, it truly has,” Knadle said. “They took a risk hiring an administrator who did not have experience as a district administrator.”
Knadle said he’s been fortunate to work with the school boards he’s had in Viroqua.
“I can’t say enough about the staff here in Viroqua,” Knadle said. “I’m very, very proud of the staff. In the nine years I’ve been here, we’ve had solid test scores. That’s due to the quality staff that we have.”
Knadle will have four months before his retirement becomes official. Once retired, he plans to spend more time with his grandchildren and enjoy cycling. He also plans to spend winters “some place other than in the snow belt.” Yet, he will miss education.
“I’ve always liked getting up and going to my job,” Knadle said. “Working in Viroqua for the last nine years has been such a privilege. I know people from other parts of the state who come to Viroqua for vacation. I get to work here.”