NDA Turns 30 Years Old, Veterans Reflect on Changes

Adison Karbon, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

This school year marks the celebration of 30 years of Catholic education and community at Notre Dame Academy. 

A lot has changed, but much remains the same, including the faith, motivation, academic excellence and a few staff members who have been here for the long run.

Mr. Ken Flaten, the Business Manager since the beginning in 1990 and Athletic Director from 1990-2015, has loved has time here as he watched the “children get the greatest education and life experiences while they were in school.” 

Before NDA, he also worked at our predecessor, Premontre High School, since 1979 and believes his favorite memory was the combining of the schools–Premontre, Pennings and St. Joe’s Academy–to become Notre Dame Academy. 

I remember the football games that season where we would have great student attendance, but they still were mostly rooting for the kids from their previous schools,” said Flaten. “They were getting to know new students from all over the area and we hoped they would all bond into a thriving student body.”

That year, NDA qualified for the WISAA playoffs and played Milwaukee Pius on November 1, 1990, on the Abbey grounds. 

“It was that night that I first saw the student body come together as one as the team played a phenomenal game and beat Pius 35-7,” said Flaten. “As the game ended, and I turned around and looked at the stands that was when I first knew NDA was going to work out and with all of the changes that had taken place we were going to become a great school with a great athletic department.” 

After 30 years, he believes this to be true.

Flaten also believes NDA has always been a leader in maintaining state-of-the-art facilities. For example, when the turf field and the field house were added, the school was able to provide “so many more opportunities to students.”

Mrs. Andrea Hearden, a science teacher here for the past 29 years, has stayed due to her love of the students.

If she could have any students to teach again, they would be her three children because she “loved sharing this place with them.” 

Some of her favorite memories include the many musicals she helped create and “the gifted artists” she got the privilege to work with. 

English teacher Carolyn Brown has been at NDA for 24 years and has experienced many changes over the years, particularly in technology.

I was telling one of my classes how we thought it was so sensational the first time we used computers in the Mr. NDA Contest; now the contestants do all kinds of computerized stuff, and Jake Gelikovski, the school’s tech director, blows my mind away with the technical aspect of that show and all the musicals,” said Brown. “Back in the ‘old days’ the dances were just music playing, not lights and all the extras.”

Overall, Brown believes the students are pretty much the same by being “very involved in school activities” and “concerned about their grades.” 

The biggest difference she notices is the influence of social media and the entertainment business and students not being “very attuned” to the “real news” of national and international affairs.

Brown’s favorite memories revolve around Student Government activities, Mr. NDA and teaching freshman who come back as IB students. She usually has the IB students for two years so they build “some tight bonds because of so much time together.”

The more time we get to spend together the more funny, memorable, and crazy stories we experience,” said Brown. “We tease each other; we encourage each other; and we usually stay in touch after graduation.