Todd Pequignot (front, L), president of the Warsaw Education Foundation board, presents a plaque to Barb Smolen (front, R), who retired as executive director of WEF in June at her retirement party at the Warsaw Community Schools administrative building Tuesday. Behind Pequignot and Smolen are representatives of Warsaw Community Schools, WEF and the WEF board. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
Todd Pequignot (front, L), president of the Warsaw Education Foundation board, presents a plaque to Barb Smolen (front, R), who retired as executive director of WEF in June at her retirement party at the Warsaw Community Schools administrative building Tuesday. Behind Pequignot and Smolen are representatives of Warsaw Community Schools, WEF and the WEF board. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
Barb Smolen was honored at her retirement party Tuesday at the Warsaw Community Schools administration building.

She retired as the executive director of the Warsaw Education Foundation (WEF) June 4.

During the retirement party, she was presented with a plaque made by Edgewood Middle School students with equipment they were able to purchase with funds from the Red Apple Grant.

Smolen said she is the third executive director of WEF since it started in 1987, but is the longest-serving with 15 years under her belt.

She was a stay-at-home, PTO president and served on PTOs. She said she when she originally went into the workforce, she was in manufacturing. Two WEF board members approached her when the previous executive director had to relocate. Smolen said they told her she’d make a good fit for the position.

After being interviewed and hired, Smolen said she told the board she’d help WEF out until they found someone who has the experience and the knowledge to keep WEF going.

“So those two years turned into 15,” Smolen said.

When Smolen started at WEF, she said they had several fundraisers and they narrowed it down to one, which was the Community Quiz Bowl. At the time, the Quiz Bowl was bringing in 20 to 25 teams to participate in the event and about $8,000 to $10,000 in donations. By the time she left, WEF was getting between 50 and 55 teams participating and revenue was somewhere between $20,000 and $28,000.

One thing that was implement during Smolen’s tenure was the Nontraditional Employment for Women Opportunities Workshop. It started out as a grant and she approved it to be a regular part of the budget. During Smolen’s tenure, WEF also increased the number of Red Apple Grants that were awarded. Between $10,000 to $16,000 was awarded every year, she said.

Smolen said she never selected any of the grants that were awarded, but she did process them. She said reading through those grants “was really, very cool because there are some teachers doing some amazing things.” She also said presenting the grants was rewarding.

Another thing she found rewarding dealt with the Honor an Educator program, where people can write a special message on a certificate and deliver it to the teachers. Reading and presenting the certificates were what Smolen found rewarding.

Smolen said when she retired June 4, her thought was she would take the summer off. She’s currently trying to figure out her plans going forward.

Todd Pequignot, president of the WEF board, said Smolen was the face of WEF for 15 years.

“She did a lot for local teachers in terms of Red Apple grants, fundraising with the Community Quiz Bowl. She’ll definitely be missed,” Pequignot said.

WEF Board member Vanessa Barber said Smolen did a lot more than what people realized.

WEF board member Rob Parker said they just really want to thank Smolen for 15 years of great service and great leadership.

“We didn’t realize how much she did until she stepped aside,” Parker said.

A new executive director is being sought. Those interested in the position can send their resumes to Edfoundation@warsawschools.org.