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From index cards to computers

Retiring school secretary Bonnie Schultz has worked through three generations of children during her 42 years with the district. (Roberta Olson / Osakis Review)

Bonnie Schultz is retiring from the Osakis Public Elementary secretary position she has held for 42 years.

"It's the right thing to do. It's time, pass it on to somebody else," she says.

She reminisced about the career she loves. "The thing about my job is you are always doing something different," she says. "Like the census. Kindergarten Roundup. Throughout the year you are always working on other things. It's so enjoyable."

Bonnie began working at the school on Jan. 2, 1975. At first she was employed under the CEP Program, working with Art Haug and Nora Mikkelson.

In the fall of 1976, the elementary position opened up and she went to work for the Osakis School District.

At that time the elementary office was in the old building, which has since been removed. Her office was on the third floor. "Up three flights of stairs, at the end of the hallway. It was nice and warm and cozy with all that oak wood," she says.

Those were the days before computers. Everything was done with paper and pencil. There were ditto machines, and stencil machines, and everything was typed on manual typewriters using carbon paper for duplicates.

"In 1977 we actually kept everything on index cards. Every family had an index card when we started the census. I kept the index cards up to date."

"We didn't have phones. We had to run around to track down kids who owed lunch money. You got your exercise. Now 90-95 percent of the time is spent sitting at my desk," she says.

She knew all the parents, as well as all the kids, by name, and most of their telephone numbers. Each started with 859, so there were only four numbers to remember, and half started with "2" and half with "4," she recalls.

Bonnie worked with eight elementary principals, and a couple people who filled in during years when there was no principal.

Principals were Paul Olinger, 10 years; LaRayne Johnson who came out of retirement to serve as principal one year; John Kraker, who helped out when he was a sixth grade teacher, and later served eight to nine years; Jerry Hanson who served six years, followed by Greg Essala, four years. Patrick Ryan served 11 years after Kraker moved on. She worked with Randy Bergquist for a half year until he became superintendent; and then with Shad Schmidt the past year and a half.

Bonnie has worked through three generations of kids. "Patrick Kalpin and Carmen Silbernick were in the first elementary kindergarten class when I started. We have a lot of staff that have gone through elementary," she nods. "I always said I would quit working when I hit three generations. My third generation is in fifth grade this year!"

In addition to the office job, Bonnie organized Summer Recreation for 12 years. She also was cheerleader advisor for 13 years. "A lot of staff are former cheerleaders," she says.

She worked through the new technology as it went into place, recalling the old Macintosh computers were shaped like small television sets.

"Now everything is on computer. The job has changed drastically with Skyward now. You data enter absolutely everything from the state."

Among Bonnie's favorite parts of the job are the Kindergarten Roundup. "Kids are so excited to come to school, and get to stay here all day, and eat lunch here."

"Years ago you had the criers coming to Roundup, because the moms stayed home and the kids had to leave home. You don't see that anymore. They cry when they have to go back home."

Bonnie won't have trouble filling her new-found retirement time. She and husband, Stan, own two businesses, Schultz Construction, and Two Mile Trailer Park, north of town on Lake Osakis.

They also have three children and five and a half grandchildren.

Bonnie is passionate about her genealogy hobby, which finds her haunting cemeteries, and doing research at the Minnesota Historical Center. She loves the challenge of finding new family, and even finding some skeletons in the closet.

She embroiders cross stitch blankets for each of the grandkids. She loves to read. She hopes to volunteer at the Osakis Visitor Center in the future.

The Schultz family includes son, Jason, married to Renee, and children, Alayna, second grade; and Easton, kindergarten. Son Craig is married to Mandy, and they have Parker in kindergarten, and McKenna, 3, who will be a preschooler next fall. They all live in Osakis.

Daughter Ashley is married to Mike Shrode and they live in Ham Lake with their son, Liam.

An open house retirement party will be held Friday, June 1 from 11:30-12:30 in the school cafeteria. Cake and coffee will be served, along with a brief program.