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Linkage announces Hall of Fame inductees

Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune

The Madera Linkage Foundation sponsored the student Champion Hall of Fame Awards held at Torres High School on Oct. 19. From left are Madera Unified School District Superintendent Todd Lile, recipient Anastasia O’Neill teacher, on behalf of recipient Patricia Butler, her daughter Kathy Butler Forga, recipient Carles Beckett, on behalf of Joe Flores, his daughters Joetta Fleak and Dr. Marcella Evans, recipient Pat Schwartz, recipient Kathy Davis, on behalf of Perry “Frank” Smith, his daughter Julie Smith-Reid, recipient Kathleen Lopes, Tim Riche’ and recipient Mike Lennemann, Madera Linkage Foundation President.


At the Madera Unified School District State of the District reception at Matilda Torres High School, the Madera Linkage Foundation announced its first class of the Student Champion Hall of Fame.

These recipients were former employees of Madera Unified, met the criteria for eligibility and were voted on. These are the first members inducted and the foundation hopes to add to the list every year.

MUSD Superintendent Todd Lile’s idea was about honoring past employees of Madera Unified because they championed the cause of students. They were exemplary in how they did their job but also went above and beyond in what they were asked to do.

Madera Linkage honored them or their families with a trophy and their name will go up in the hallway by Human Resources at the district office. When new or current employees pass through, it is a reminder that MUSD values excellence and it raises the standard of what is expected daily as we encounter students.

This year, the Hall of Fame group is made up of former teachers, former teachers that became administrators, a lunch lady, staff that became a board member and something that no school can run without, a school secretary.

Hall of Fame Inductees and what their nominators wrote.

Mike Lenneman

Mr. Lennemann has consistently served as an ambassador of hope and inspiration for countless Madera Unified students and staff members alike. He has been an educational leader, role model, coach, sideline cheerleader, and a male father figure to so many over the years. He exemplifies servant leadership and to this very day gives freely of his time to support the success of our students. He is friendly, charismatic, and he has always championed students to dream big and do more than then they thought possible. Always giving 110 percent made Mr. Lenneman a person that staff wanted to work for and students wanted to succeed for.

Kathleen Lopes

Starting as a teacher at James Monroe in 1969, Kathleen Lopes has dedicated herself and career to making sure that every student has the opportunity to grow and develop. After retiring as the Associate Superintendent of Educational Services after 40 years, Ms. Lopes has returned several times as Interim Director of State Preschool Programs and countless times mentored new administration, supported district endeavors all the time providing insight and encouragement. She is a resource in our community in many service clubs and continues to adore her family. Many students, staff and Madera are better because of Ms. Lopes compassion and leadership.

Perry 'Frank' Smith

Mr. Smith came to teach in Madera in 1963. He stopped for a year and returned to University of Arkansas to finish a Masters Degree and PPS Counseling credential. He went back to work at Dixieland working as a teacher, later as a counselor, administrator throughout Madera Unified. Mr. Smith is still remembered today as a model administrator who exemplified service above self. He simply wanted to make each day a little better for staff and students to be at their best. Mr. Smith also was the swimming pool manager for 20 years and retired after 38 years in education. His ability to recognize students that greeted him years later was legendary. Gentleness, kindness and truly loving the community separated Frank and made him without a doubt a Champion for students. Receiving in honor of her father was Julie Smith-Reid

Kathy Davis

Ms Davis began her career working for Madera Community Hospital as a Diet Clerk before coming to Madera Unified School District. Filling in as a sub, initially, working her way into the district and attending classes at Fresno State, along with numerous certifications, Ms. Davis became an assistant manager at the production facility at Thomas Jefferson, overseeing 40 employees and over 600 meals a day cooked from scratch to sites all over Madera Unified. Overseeing multiple sites and after 20 plus years and finishing up at Madera High School, Ms. Davis retired. Although receiving the Classified Employee of the Year, her greatest prize is knowing that many students were fed because of her leadership and ability to get the job done. The employees that worked for her not only saw her as a boss but also more importantly that someone that cared for them.

Patricia Schwartz

Ms. Schwartz started in Madera Unified teaching English in 1969 and taught that subject for 36 years, working as cheer advisor and new teacher mentor. As a student that used dyslexia as a means to strive for mediocrity, Mrs. Schwartz refused to let this happen in her classroom. I will always remember a conversation we had during break, where I went in looking for a pity party for being a student with dyslexia. She quickly made it known that at the end of the day I was just making an excuse for myself and as long as I was in her class that excuse was unacceptable. Mrs. Schwartz’s being the excellent teacher that she is known for, that simple motivation and accountability would only get me so far. She took it upon herself to give me strategies and processes that I used throughout college and still use today in my professional life.

Joe Flores

Joe Flores graduated Madera Union High School in 1945 and after serving in the Army during World War II, he married Katie DelaO after his return. Together, they raised daughters as he began his career as a groundskeeper for Madera Unified and finished with 40 years retiring as Director of Maintenance. During that time, Mr. Flores was coaching baseball, scoring football and wrestling or umpiring games. His 30 years as Volunteer Fire Chief, member of Madera Arts Council and volunteer/cancer survivor with American Cancer Society driving patients to appointments filled his time, as well as his work with the North Fork Mono Tribe. He served on the Madera Unified board in 1989. He is remembered that not only did he love his family and Madera, he demonstrated it with his efforts in making everything around him better.

He is most proud that he had one daughter that became a doctor and the other became a teacher and his daughters Joetta Fleak and Dr. Marcella Evans received the honor on his behalf.

Carles Beckett

Mr. Beckett is a living time capsule of Madera and Madera Unified. His relationship with Madera Schools, spans eight decades. Beginning as a student in the 50’s Carles began teaching fifth grade at Ripperdan in 1979 before transferring as the Principal of Dixieland Elementary. Opening up Lincoln Elementary in 1993 until the district needed him to help out there. Mr. Beckett retired after 36 years, but after the mandatory six months separation, Larry Risinger called him back to come work again. Carles has held many different positions — PIO, HR Director, Special Ed Director, Migrant Ed Director, just to name a few The stories he shares and memories are enough to build a library. Along with his wife Georgia, it is hard to go anywhere with people not knowing him and appreciating his contributions to their lives.

Patricia Butler

Ms. Butler graduated from Madera Union High School class of 1957. She was active in Rainbow for Girls, Future Business Leaders of America, Horizon Club & was in the A Cappella Choir. She went to Fresno State College and was in the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority. She was a bookkeeper and secretary at Madera High School, starting in 1966. She left and worked at Thomas Jefferson Middle School and John Adams for 24 years. Her compassion and kindness were based in her faith and she was active at Harvest Community Church. Not only did she run the campuses, but she helped so many families and students. Ms. Butler was an inspiration to all the students, especially at John Adams. She was a kind & loving person to every student that walked through the doors. She was helpful and gave great guidance to everyone. Received by her daughter Kathy Butler-Forga

Anastasia O’Neill RN

In 1978, Mrs. O’Neill began working at Madera Adult School, then later at Madera High School. Anastasia should be in the Hall of Fame for this position because she laid the strong foundation for what our ROP nursing programs/medical careers program are today at both Madera High, Madera South and at Matilda Torres. Her hard work, determination and expertise provided the current programs to expand and flourish under her direction. Ms. O’Neill expected integrity and effort, nothing less than excellence. The hours and evenings she spent with her students to build success cannot be measured. Anastasia was a student advocate, especially with the EL students in encouraging them to work hard. After 34 years, there are literally thousands of successful nurses, doctors and health care professionals because of her desire and gift to teach.

Peggy Ferguson

Ms. Ferguson started teaching in Madera in 1957, teaching at Easton Arcola. At this time, she was one of a few teachers that could speak Spanish. To the students’ delight, the Kindergarten students would be surprised when she could comfort them on their first day of school. Kindergarten, 2nd and even a short stint at Thomas Jefferson teaching Spanish rounded out her career. Sixteen years at Sierra Vista were her longest tenure and, upon retirement continued to serve as a substitute teacher for 12 years. She spent 39 years working in the Madera Unified School District. Ms. Ferguson continues being a grandparent, went on Mission trips to Mexico sleeping in tents well into her 80’s and enjoying playing dominoes with her friends as time allows her.

The Madera Linkage Foundation will begin receiving nominations again in January for next year’s Student Champion Hall of Fame. For more information on the program or to be a part of the foundation, please visit or email



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