All in the family
It’s a family affair in the Wentzville School District as the Schulte family occupies both teaching and administrative posts
By Brett Auten
You have heard the expression, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
For the Schulte family, it is more like a whole bushel.
It’s a family affair in the Wentzville School District with a Schulte representative spread near and far.
At the core is John and Matt Schulte and their sister Ellen Eikel. John is the assistant superintendent of admission services for the district. Matt is the principal at the newly-opened Wabash Elementary and Ellen is a fifth-grade teacher at Lakeview Elementary.
But it doesn’t just end there.
Both of John’s and Matt’s spouses also teach in the Wentzville School District while Ellen’s is an administrator in the Parkway School District.
This lifelong dedication to education got its initial start over 40 years ago. The Schultes are lifelong St. Charles County residents and St. Dominic graduates. Their father, Steven, spent 32 years as a math teacher in the Pattonville School District and their mother, Barbara, was also a teacher. So were many cousins and aunts as well.
Education has long been an important part of the family and it continues to be. It has been ingrained in the Schultes to do their part to put positive change in the community, whether it be a restaurant manager, teacher or some other sort of community service.
Ellen, being the oldest, was the first to follow in her families’ footsteps.
“Without a doubt, the biggest influence on my career was my dad,” Eikel said. “It felt like a calling. My entire family is always doing some sort of service. It’s how our family rolls. We see a need for help and we just do it.”
The brothers were both interested in a lot of different things. In high school, both were accepted into the Junior Achievement program where one of the obligations was to teach lessons to students in lower grades. Both brothers found the experience to be extremely rewarding.
“I thought, maybe (teaching) is cut out for me,” Matt, 39, said. “And from there I kept going.”
The Wentzville School District has been booming and the Schultes have had a front row seat. Though they have each spent time in neighboring or nearby school districts, all of them have been with Wentzville long enough to see the numbers rise like mercury on a summer afternoon.
The district – with an estimated 16,000 students – has grown more than any other school district in the state over the past decade. With that growth has come 11 new schools built and the addition of 10,000 students since 2000.
With no slowdown in site, some speculate that the district could reach 22-23,000 in less than 10 years. Over this expansion, the district has dumped hundreds of millions into buildings including two elementary schools, Wabash and Stone Creek, opening this year.
“In the same week we are opening two buildings and it’s the second time this has happened in the last couple of years,” John Schulte said.
This is John’s 15th year in the Wentzville district and has seen the growth happen right before his eyes. When the 41-year-old started, there were around 6,000 students in the district.
“The new development hadn’t taken off, but it was on the verge,” he said. “At the time, you could follow I-70 and Highway N and watch it expand with new subdivisions. It’s unique to be a part of. I got to see the overall community grow. We got to see which part was going to blow up with housing next.”
At the recently-opened Wabash Elementary, Matt feels the growth firsthand.
“There are so many neighborhoods circling me that are either in phase two or three of construction and others they are just breaking ground,” Schulte said. “The growth continues to push from every perspective. At Wabash, we were expecting 750 students in August and, as of today, we are at 805.”
There doesn’t look to be a plateau as nearly 1,500 new residential building permits were issued in 2016.
“Every year we are getting 5-600 student increase and that rejuvenates everyone,” Schulte said. “It’s a lot of work and pre-planning but the excitement of it, whether it’s with the employees or the community, weighs more than that.”
After school hours, if it’s a nephew’s birthday or a big holiday, the Schulte’s try their best to keep the shop talk to a minimum.
“It’s a lot more about what the kids are up with all of their activities and athletics,” John said.
But eventually, the conversation turns. It is almost impossible for it not to.
“Inevitably it circles back to different trends in education, what we see, what we hear,” Matt said. “We compare notes and ideas.”
“We throw out lot of acronyms and talk a lot of lingo,” Eikel said. “The others are bored to death, but we enjoy it.”