The Duluth Parent Teacher Student Association showed its appreciation Tuesday to retirees from Duluth Public Schools with a tour of The Depot and a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

About 15 retirees and their guests enjoyed a relaxing ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad during a beautiful day. This was only the second year for this train ride for retirees, as last year was canceled due to the pandemic. Parent Teacher Student Association Council President Stacey DeRoche said retirees from 2020 were also invited this year.

Retirees who attended the tour and train ride also received a gift distributed by Duluth School Board member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp.

According to DeRoche, the train ride started after the Duluth School Board came to the PTSA for ideas to celebrate those who retired from Duluth Public Schools.

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“I approached Ken Bueller, and without hesitation, he offered a train ride to all retirees of Duluth Public Schools,” DeRoche said. “It’s through his generosity that it came about the first year and now we’re really excited to offer it to our retirees this year, too.”

DeRoche said it’s been a tough year for everyone in the school district and they really wanted to make them feel recognized for all their hard work.

“This is just something that really celebrates the hard work and the commitment that they’ve had to students and our community this year,” she said.

Pam Bowe, food service director and a registered and licensed dietitian, was planning on retiring at the end of the 2019-20 school year, but decided to stay on an extra year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have a really great crew of child nutrition staff, and it just didn’t feel right leaving them in the middle of a crisis,” Bowe said.

The food service staff at Duluth Public Schools served over 500,000 meals during the course of last school year. Many of those meals were made as bagged lunches during distance learning.

“My crew could turn it on a dime,” Bowe said. “One day we would be serving hot meals directly to kids in school and the next we could be making cold meals for bag lunches.”

ISD 709 retirees Pam Bowe, left, and Peggy Blalock visit onboard the North Shore Scenic Railroad on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. As food services director, Bowe oversaw the preparation of 500,000 bag meals during the pandemic. Blalock was the district’s director of finance. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
ISD 709 retirees Pam Bowe, left, and Peggy Blalock visit onboard the North Shore Scenic Railroad on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. As food services director, Bowe oversaw the preparation of 500,000 bag meals during the pandemic. Blalock was the district’s director of finance. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Bowe said the biggest challenge over the last year was the supply chain for food as their providers were also having issues due to COVID-19, but they were able to make it through.

“It was very challenging, but very rewarding at the same time,” Bowe said.

Bowe, who has worked with the district for 25 years, is set to retire Aug. 6. Her plan for retirement is just to relax. Bowe said she’s going to miss her co-workers and serving the children.

Lowell Elementary School math interventionist Cindy Upton also noted she will miss working with children the most.

Upton has been a math interventionist for eight years. Before that, she worked as a third and fourth grade teacher. An interventionist works with students in small groups with more individualist plans to help the students succeed. When COVID-19 closed the schools in March 2020, Upton said it became a challenge to keep in touch with her students.

Upton said the last few months of the 2019-20 school year were very hard, but she felt better prepared by the time fall came around.

Math interventionist Cindy Upton was one of approximately 30 ISD 709 retirees and guests riding the North Shore Scenic Railroad on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Math interventionist Cindy Upton was one of approximately 30 ISD 709 retirees and guests riding the North Shore Scenic Railroad on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

“The biggest challenge was just getting all the technology on both sides to work,” Upton said. “Making sure that our sound was working, that they were able to respond and their cameras were working and trying to troubleshoot that on the fly was really difficult.”

During distance learning, Upton said she spent a lot more time reaching out to the families of her students to connect with her students.

“Getting to know the families and meeting them was kind of a neat thing,” Upton said.

Upton said she’s not really sure what retirement holds for her, but she would love working in the education field in some sort of aspect.

“I’m just going to see what happens,” she said.

North Shore Scenic Railroad General Manager Ken Buehler, right, visits with Peggy Blalock and other ISD 709 retirees as they board a train Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
North Shore Scenic Railroad General Manager Ken Buehler, right, visits with Peggy Blalock and other ISD 709 retirees as they board a train Tuesday, June 22, 2021. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)