Fare thee well Cindy Flechner, heart of Humboldt Park School
April 30, 2012
By Sheila Julson
Cindy Flechner is just weeks away from her final day of employment at Humboldt Park K-8 Charter School after serving its students, principals, teachers, and staff for 30 years. Faced with the anguishing choice of early retirement with full benefits, or employment under a new contract with reduced benefits, she chose retirement. With great sorrow.
For the past fifteen years, Flechner has been employed full-time as general assistant at Humboldt Park School (HPS). Prior to 1997, she worked part-time and volunteered at the school.
Flechner’s roots run deep in Bay View’s Humboldt Park School neighborhood. Her childhood home, 3041 S. Hanson Ave., was eleven blocks from HPS. She was Cindy Berka then. She is a lifelong member of Unity Lutheran Church, located halfway between her childhood home and the school.
She carried her books through the halls at HPS, wrote on its blackboards, and romped on the playground from kindergarten through sixth grade before moving on to Fritsche Middle School and then Bay View High School.
Later she and husband Jerry Flechner settled on Logan Avenue, a little more than a mile from HPS. She enrolled her daughters Alica and April in HPS. Alica met her future husband, Ian Magolan at Humboldt Park School—when they were both in first grade.
In 2005 Alica was a student teacher at HPS, working with children in the rooms where she spent her K4 and K5 years. The following year she was hired at HPS and taught third grade until 2009 there.
Before beginning her career at HPS, Flechner was employed as a pharmacist’s assistant. In 1982, when daughter April was diagnosed with leukemia, Flechner left her pharmacy job to attend to her daughter during her three-plus years of treatment. During that period, Flechner began working at HPS one hour per day when MPS introduced the school breakfast program. She also began volunteering in her daughters’ classrooms.
Flechner’s hours gradually increased over time, leading to full-time employment in 1997. As a general assistant she has been responsible for recording attendance, breakfast and lunch duty, keeping track of the honor roll, performing clerical tasks in the school office, and giving directions to substitute teachers assigned to HPS.
Each day she shows up at school at 6:30am, although she officially punches in from 7:30am-3pm. From 3-6pm, Flechner works at Journey House Community Learning Center (CLC), located in HPS.
During her three decades of service, she has been a friendly face trusted day by day, year after year, by thousands of HPS students, many of whom she knew from their first kindergarten days through eighth grade. Whether a child wanted to share an accomplishment or needed advice to deal with the emotional bumps of childhood, Ms. Cindy was there for them, patient and warm-hearted.
Mary Bergeson, CLC director at Humboldt, speaks warmly of Flechner.
“I have worked with Cindy for over 10 years and she is a huge influence on the Humboldt Park K-8 School community. She is amazing. After all the years she’s been here, she continues to learn every student’s first name and is warm and caring to each of them, no matter what she is dealing with in her own life,” Bergeson said. “Cindy is also the prime person older students come back to see after they graduate. I can’t imagine a bigger influence this school has had.”
“Every child is special to Cindy. She did unique things,” said Kristi Cole, HPS principal from 2000-2007. “She always remembered the kids’ birthdays and gave each of them a birthday treat. She was also always willing to help a child in need.”
Cole stressed the importance of the educational assistants’ role. They are responsible for ordering supplies, creating newsletters, helping plan events, assisting with after-school programs, and lunch duty. “They do many things that help the teachers do their jobs,” Cole said. “Cindy was my right-hand man.”
Flechner speaks warmly and highly of the HPS staff and administration. “We have been blessed with many great principals and staff over the years,” she said. “I feel as close to them as my family. It takes all of us to make Humboldt Park what we are.”
Flechner leaves HPS with a heavy heart with good reason given her long history and deep personal ties to the school.
In truth Flechner’s decision to take early retirement had much to do with retaining her health insurance benefits. These were a crucial factor in her decision. Two years ago her husband was seriously disabled by a stroke. The dramatic changes caused the family to make many adjustments and reassess their financial future. “We’ll have to just see what happens,” Flechner said.
She gazed out the large office window by her desk, and smiled. “As it gets closer to the end of the year, it gets worse,” Flechner sighed.
There is much that she dreads as she faces the end of her career at HPS but more than anything she will miss the students. “Missing the kids. Definitely that’s the hardest part right now for me to face,” she said.
But she will retain some contact with the students and her colleagues. She is keeping her part-time CLC job, and she will volunteer 10-15 hours per week at HPS.
At home she will provide care for her husband. She will have more time for her garden and plants.
Flechner said she offered to volunteer full-time the first two weeks of each new school year when the challenges are greatest for new students and their parents. And she will still manage the honor roll and help out with making copies or whatever is required to assist the teachers and principal throughout the academic year. She’ll be helping out in the office, doing what she used to do, but this time ’round with no pay.
Flechner voiced no bitterness about leaving her beloved school. Instead, she spoke about rewards. “I am so grateful to have been able to work at the school that I attended,” she said. “To have the chance to be involved with so many wonderful families—whether they be staff or students—has been such a wonderful opportunity. My heart bursts with pride for Humboldt Park School.”
Daughter Alica and husband Ian Magolan live next door to Cindy and Jerry Flechner. Their
daughter April, considered to be 99% cured of leukemia, is an optometrist’s assistant in Reno, Nev.
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