Skip To Main Content


3 USDD Student Services staff members pose with award certificates

District's Student Services team members among more than 40 local educators nominated

The Wisconsin Council Of Administrators of Special Services (WCASS) recognized USDD's Jane Mathes, April Smith and Katie Saffran for their outstanding contributions to student services and special education.

Mathes has worked in the District for 20 years. She holds several roles in which she collaborates with colleagues district-wide to ensure comprehensive supports for students. This entails partnering with our early childhood program, participating in building-level student services team meetings, providing assistance to special education staff and fostering relationships with community partners-- all aimed at helping students thrive.

"This award was very unexpected, and I'm humbled to be recognized by my colleagues," she says. "I love having a role where I support our students, their families, and our staff, and I certainly couldn't do it alone. I am so fortunate to work alongside talented and supportive individuals who are always focused on doing what is best for students."

Smith is a Special Education teacher for 4K students, based at Altmayer Elementary School. She also is a member of Altmayer's PBIS team, safety team and School Improvement Team. She joined the District in 1997.

Smith says the most rewarding part of her job is being part of the students' journey as they grow to be the best person they can be.  "I also truly value when I can build relationships with students and their families, some of whom become life-long connections. I am thankful to be part of an amazing school and work with colleagues who support each other in doing what is best for students."

Saffran, a Speech and Language Pathologist, works with preschool and kindergarten students.

"I love my job as a speech therapist working with our youngest learners. I’m able to work closely with families, helping children to better communicate and engage in their environments. The joy of seeing their progress and knowing I played a small part in their journey is incredibly rewarding. Additionally, I'm grateful for my supportive coworkers who make challenging days a little easier."

She joined USDD in 2018.


photo of Jerry Nicholson, Named Top Student Services Leader in Wisconsin by WCASS

Nicholson's leadership, commitment and empathy cited in award nominations

Jerry Nicholson, Director of Student Services for the Unified School District of De Pere, has been named Wisconsin’s 2024 Outstanding Special Services Administrator by the Wisconsin Council of Special Services Administrators (WCASS).

“It is an incredible honor to be recognized with this award. I want to share my gratitude with the staff, educational leaders, parents, and students that I have worked with over the last 26 years. Thank you for believing in my genuine care for each of you and working with me to meet the needs of all our learners,” says Nicholson. The award was presented to Nicholson at WCASS’s annual spring conference held in Appleton yesterday (Thursday, May 2).

USDD Supt. Chris Thompson (left) and Director of Student Services Jerry Nicholson

De Pere Superintendent Christopher Thompson says Nicholson brings strong leadership skills and deep empathy to his role.

“Jerry is a giver. He has a heart devoted to those he can help. Families deeply appreciate that he does what he says he will do.  Our school board and staff respect that he “walks the talk.”  Such leadership is commendable because he does so selflessly without regard for himself or the work required to do what needs to be done,” says Thompson.

Nicholson joined USDD in 2018. Previously he held a similar role in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, as well as in other school districts in south central Wisconsin.

Nicholson’s contributions to USDD were cited by several individuals who nominated him for the award. They include:


  • Guiding the district’s creation of an equitable Multi-Level System of Supports (MLSS) that successfully addresses student academic and behavioral intervention needs based on strong, research-based intervention practices. As a result, the district’s referral and identification rates for special education programming have been reduced.
  • By meeting student learning and social-behavioral needs within the regular education realm, De Pere closed the pandemic-related learning gap as demonstrated on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s 2022-23 State Report Card.
  • Researching and advocating with the Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction, and communicating statewide, the ability of school districts to use designated funds to provide a mental health navigator service not only for students but also for the staff and community members.  His foresight made mental health services, delivered by CareSolace, truly accessible for all individuals within the De Pere community.
  • Leveraging existing funds to hire additional school psychologists in the district,  and increasing English Language Learner classroom support.
  • Being a visible proponent of equity-related discussions within the community through  professional, steady interactions in challenging conversations, with the goal of providing all students a top-notch education regardless of socioeconomic status, racial background, gender preference, or family experiences.

The Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services, Inc. (WCASS) is a professional organization comprised of over 300 members who administer and support special education programs throughout the state of Wisconsin. 

DPHS student Aiden Cartier Earns Appointment to US Naval Academy

DPHS senior says academics, opportunity to compete in track and field, and desire to serve his country all played a role in his decision to apply to the Naval Academy.

Aiden Cartier, a high-achieving De Pere High School student and track and field standout, has been appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD. 

The news of his appointment to the Academy came during a surprise call from U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher's office. 

"“They called me down (to the office) and I was like why am I getting called down,” he said. “It was 8:41 (a.m.) or something, they gave a specific time, I was really nervous and I walked in and I was on a zoom call with (Representative) Mike Gallagher and it was just the coolest thing ever.”

"I chose the Naval Academy because it was an amazing opportunity for me to get a great education, continue to run track at a high level, and serve my country. Once I set foot on campus, I knew I wanted to be there, I didn’t even care if I would have to go the prep school route," says Cartier. 

US Naval Academy logo

"The dedication that the professors have to the Midshipmen also stood out to me. Athletically, I didn't find any other place where I connected so well with the athletes and coaches. I'm so excited to get there and begin competing. They focus on making us the best version of ourselves and giving us the tools to make that happen, which is very important to me." 

Cartier notes the support he received from many DPHS teachers, including those who wrote recommendations for him, was especially helpful. 

"And I would like to thank my parents too because they have sacrificed so much for me to get this opportunity. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have them helping me throughout this process."

Although he's a little nervous for Plebe (first year) Summer, Cartier is excited.

"I will be away from my family and friends. However, I think it will be great for me to go outside of my comfort zone and experience a different way of living."

After his service is completed Cartier hopes to become a high school teacher and track coach.