Retiring principal leaves a big hole at Edgerton High

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Stacy Vogel
Friday, June 12, 2009
— Edgerton High School staff agrees: No one works harder at the school than its top official, Principal Jim Halberg.

He’s often there when administrative assistant Margie Lund arrives at 6:50 a.m., and he’s been known to work long into the evening, especially when he’s attending an athletic event later.

Soon that work will come to an end.

Halberg spent his last day with students today and officially retires June 30 after 10 years as Edgerton principal. Mark Coombs, assistant principal at Janesville’s Craig High School, will take over July 1.

Retirement promises to be a huge change for Halberg. Superintendent Norm Fjelstad said Halberg always is working on two or three things at once. He walks fast, talks fast and says exactly what he means.

The certificates on his walls and binders on his desk are arranged in neat rows with no clutter. Lund calls him “the spreadsheet king” because of his fondness for electronic charts.

But alongside that efficiency lies a passion for the high school and its students, said Clark Bretthauer, associate principal.

“The guy lives, breathes and dies for the Crimson Tide,” Bretthauer said. “I don’t think you find that type of devotion every day.”

Halberg sometimes takes students under his wing to personally make sure they graduate and excel, said Mary Hays, administrative assistant.

Tom Lenox said one of those students was his daughter Marcelaine Lenox. When Marcelaine wanted to get her pilot’s license, Halberg arranged her classes to make sure she had time for training, Tom said.

“When she did get her license, he was one of the first people who got in her plane,” Tom said.

Marcelaine graduated in 2005. Halberg has helped several students get outside training in the years before and after, Tom said.

Halberg’s passion extends to his staff. He tries to catch all the teachers after the students leave on Fridays to wish them a good weekend, Lund said. He sends out “apple cards” to staff members to let them know they’re appreciated.

And he’s not shy about nominating his staff for awards. Several Edgerton teachers and administrators, including Bretthauer, have won state awards during Halberg’s tenure.

More important than the awards, though, is how he treats staff with respect and kindness, Hays said.

“He’s just really easy to work for,” she said. “We’re going to miss him.”

Halberg looks back—and ahead

Principal Jim Halberg retires this month with 35 years of education experience.

His love of woodworking and drafting led him to become a technical education teacher in his home state of Michigan in 1974. He spent time as a teacher and administrator in Portage and Monticello before arriving at Edgerton High School 10 years ago.

Here, he reflects on his past and future:

Q: What are you most proud of from your time in Edgerton?
A: “When I came to Edgerton, it was a good school, and in the 10 years that I’ve been here, I’ve worked with staff to make it a better school.”

Halberg is proud of the way the school has incorporated technology as a teaching tool, he said. He’s also proud of the referendum the community approved in 1999 to build the Edgerton Performing Arts Center, a new field house and additional classroom space.

This year, students and staff completed a mural surrounding the field house showing students participating in athletic and academic activities.

“(The mural) certainly isn’t my legacy, but it’s a legacy of our staff and our teachers and the students that produced it.”

Q: What’s next?
A: “Right now, I am going to take the summer off and try to do nothing. After that, I am going to do something. Something that takes less than 60 to 70 hours a week but something that’s still going to be challenging.”

Halberg would like to teach at an alternative school or be a substitute teacher or principal, he said. He wants to focus on his hobbies, including woodworking, furniture making, tennis and golf, he said.

Most of all, he wants to spend time with his family, including his wife, Teresa; sons, Jim Jr. and Mike; and three grandchildren, Henry, Claire and Milena.

Q: What will you miss the most?
A: “I’m going to miss the kids. I’m going to miss the staff. I am also going to miss the daily routines. As crazy as this job is, it has always been very motivating, very rewarding, and it’s always been a job where I’ve woken up in the morning and I’ve thought, ‘Ok, let’s go get ’em.’…

“One thing I’m not going to miss is the new changing picture of the economy and the effects that’s going to have on schools, Edgerton not excluded from that. There’s going to be some big challenges.”

Last updated: 10:43 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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