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Promotions cause consternation in Waupaca schools

Moore and Feldt

New business manager, associate principal

By Robert Cloud

Unexpected promotions in the Waupaca School District have caused what some school board members called “disruptions” at the Feb. 13 meeting.

In response to Carl Hayek’s resignation as the district’s business services director in January, District Administrator Ron Saari quickly promoted two district employees.

Austin Moore was promoted from associate principal at Waupaca Middle School to the position of business services director.

Devon Feldt was promoted from being a seventh- and eighth-grade advisor at the Chain Exploration Center (CEC) to associate principal at WMS.

At the meeting, Saari read a memo that he sent to board members about the appointments to fill the vacant positions.

“We knew that we had one highly qualified individual on staff working on finishing his director of business services certification,” Saari said. “We also knew that earlier this year when Weyauwega had that same position posted, it took approximately eight months to find someone. There are currently several business director positions posted around the state. Qualified candidates are hard to find.”

Saari noted that Moore has worked in the district for three years and has 27 years experience in education.

“He also demonstrated evidence of high educational and professional standards,” Saari said. “Austin is a known entity with a background in teaching, technology integration coach and administrator.”

Moore worked as a technology coach at the Neenah Joint School District from August 2014 to July 2021 and as a teacher in the Oshkosh School District from 2014 to 2021.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UW-Oshkosh and advanced training in educational leadership and administration.

“It has been a very busy past month and a half, but I think I am starting to settle in,” Feldt said.
In his statement to the board, Saari said administrative staff reviewed its options when hiring an associate principal at the middle school.

“We believed that hiring an interim external or internal AP would create more disruption than finding a quality and proven person from within our organization,” Saari said. “We also mutually agreed that Mr. Devon Feldt was a highly qualified person on staff who had previously interviewed for an administrative position inside the district. Devon has proven himself to be a leader as a person who commands respect while exhibiting the qualities of genuine kindness and good humor, which are essential in effective leadership.”

Feldt began teaching in 2019 at the Chain Exploration Center (CEC), a charter school where the focus is on project-based learning.

He received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UW-Stevens Point and a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy from UW-Oshkosh.

Prior to coming to Waupaca, Feldt taught for four years in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District.

His father, Dale Feldt, is a retired WHS math teacher and president of the Waupaca School Board. He left the meeting during discussion of the contracts for the promotions.


At the beginning of the meeting, Sandy Robinson, a former school board member and current president of the CEC Governance Council, spoke about the impact of the sudden promotions.

“For the things facing you in light of the disruption that’s happened not only in our school, but in echoes throughout the district, I feel for you and I appreciate how hard you are working to make things as right as you can in a very challenging situation,” Robinson said.

She urged board members to continue honoring its “commitment to our families and our community, our students, our staff, to fulfill the mission of the CEC, which is to provide a place where children will explore their passions and gain a strong educational foundation through project-based learning in a collaborative community.”

“I am sorry that this all happened so quickly,” board member Betty Manion said. “In hindsight, it’s easy to see steps that were missed and interviews perhaps that could have been held but weren’t, and this has nothing to do with Austin or Devon, who are highly qualified.”

She said the hiring process should have been equally open to all qualified employees.

Board member Ron Brooks asked if they could step back from the associate principal’s appointment and allow WMS and the Chain to share Feldt until the end of the school year.

Board vice-president Steve Klismet criticized the lack of communication with the CEC, noting the school board and governance council have been making progress while working together.

“I feel that we might have bent that trust a little bit,” Klismet said. “It’s a little upsetting that it happened so fast.”

Several board members commented positively on Moore and Feldt’s qualifications.

The board voted unanimously to approve the appointments.

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