04/05/13 Pat Harding, secretary of Menominee Elementary in Plymouth, postponed retirement for a number of years, but has decided to free up her time to spend more time with her grandsons. Harding has devoted 25 years to the Plymouth Schools.
She spent seven years working in the library at Lincoln Junior High. She said, “I was there when they started computerizing the library.”
Harding said she had volunteered a Jefferson Elementary with Patti Bates. At Jefferson, Harding volunteered for Saturday enrichment programs and competed a number of spreadsheets. As luck would have it, Patti Bates told her husband Dan about Harding’s organizational and computer skills Dan Bates had been the Superintendent of Triton Schools and then moved to Plymouth in the same capacity.
Harding said she was asked to consider the secretary position at Menominee Elementary as the school was becoming more computerized. She said, “When I moved to Menominee, it turned out to be a great place for me.” “She said former Menominee Principal Melody Kruger taught her “people skills”. She said, “Kruger is an icon with her graciousness.” “It started with Melody’s expectations.”
As Kruger was leaving Menominee, Harding was asked to be a part of the interview committee for a new principal. She said, “That was in 2006. Once I met him (current principal Michael Dunn), I knew he was made for this.” She added, “He didn’t know who I was during the interview because I was so quiet.” Fortunately for Harding, the committee shared her opinion and Dunn was hired. Harding said, “Mike (Dunn) came with the same philosophy as Melody (Kruger). They both believe in bringing kids and their families into the fold.” She added, “Mike is the best. He cares so much. He wants his people to be inclusive and know that they have a voice.”
Harding said, “I have modeled myself after Melody and Mike.”
A new school building for Menominee was built and Dunn and Harding were among the first to get the new school setup. Unfortunately, Harding broke her leg only two weeks before school started, but kept up with the task using a wheel chair and then crutches. Making her life even harder at the time was the shoulder surgery her husband Don had just gone through. She kiddingly said, “Don and I basically had one arm and one leg.”
Harding could have retired in 2008, but stayed on as the schools went through re-districting and new families moved into the Menominee district.” Harding said, “The biggest change I have seen is with the student population.” She said she has been especially pleased that Hispanic families have stayed on year round.
Harding’s husband of nearly 46 years retired six years ago. Harding claims he has become a great “house husband” who does all the cooking, laundry and shopping .”
Plans for the future may revolve around the schedules off her four grandsons and another grandson due to arrive in August. The Harding’s daughter- in -law Kalin is completing a degree as a nurse practioner and son Matt will be starting on his Master’s Degree in nursing in the fall. They have sons Colin, 13, and Alex, 6. Their daughter Lisa and husband Anthony are the parents of Aiden 9, and Keaton, 6. Harding said there are a number of ways Don and I can help and support them.
She also plans to try to sleep in and read more books. However, she is taking a realistic look at the future as well. She said, “I think Don is hoping I will start cooking again. I don’t know about the laundry.” Additionally, she said she would like to work part-time-maybe substituting for school secretaries and librarians.
Dunn said, “Pat exemplifies grace under fire.“ “She has helped me to grow and a leader due to her insights and guidance.” He said. “For a petite lady, she will leave great big shoes to fill.
At the School Board meeting on April 2, Superintendent Dan Tyree shared his appreciation for all of the years and contributions that Harding has made for the Plymouth Schools. After the meeting, Tyree said, “She is the face and voice of Menominee.” He added, “These kinds of people are difficult to replace-they are problem solvers, public relations people, directors of first impressions.” “She does all of these things well.”
Carol Anders Correspondent