Wolf was Force Behind CIR Compromise

Former President Also Led Association Headquarters Remodel

Former NSEA President Jess Wolf died at his home in Hartington on Feb. 11. He was 69.

Wolf was a long-time classroom teacher, school administrator, community volunteer and association leader in Nebraska. He was NSEA’s 116th president and served from August 2005 through July 2011.

It was under Wolf’s watch in early 2011 that NSEA turned back drastic changes to the state’s collective bargaining law proposed by LB397, avoiding a battle that could have resulted in the elimination of collective bargaining in Nebraska. The final compromise version of

LB397 preserved the Commission of Industrial Relations, set a firm bargaining calendar and added a mediation step.

Under his leadership, the Association in 2009 completed a $4.6 million renovation of the 47-year old NSEA Headquarters building, retaining the key location across the street from the State Capitol. Prior to renovation, there had been discussion about moving from the site, which has been home to NSEA since 1931.

The remodeling gutted and modernized the NSEA building, replacing all heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing, windows and the roof, and put new walls in a more efficient configuration. Also added was a geo-thermal well field to provide thermal heating and cooling.

‘An Amazing Teacher’

NSEA President Jenni Benson served on the Association Board of Directors for three years while Wolf was president.

“Jess was an amazing teacher who skillfully led the NSEA with dedication for our students, educators and public education,” she said.

Dr. Craig R. Christiansen was NSEA executive director during Wolf’s presidency and knew Wolf for nearly 40 years. In 1992, they both ran for the NSEA presidency. Christiansen won by just four votes.

“We started that election as friends, and we ended as friends,” said Christiansen.

“He was a class act. Absolutely honest in everything he did, he was also absolutely fearless in standing for what he believed was right. Jess was proud of his Sioux heritage and was very respectful of that legacy. At the end of his long career in teaching, Jess and I served as a team: he as NSEA president and I as NSEA executive director. In those six years, I came to know just how much he was respected across the state, in the NEA Western Region, and nationally at the NEA. Teachers across the state have lost a true friend.”

A college professor nudged Wolf to a career in education. He was a lab assistant at Mount Marty College in Yankton, SD, when the professor suggested Wolf had a talent for teaching. He later worked in a summer environmental science course for high school juniors.

“I got along with the kids well, they were fun to be around, and I felt like I was accomplishing something,” Wolf said after he was elected NSEA president in 2005.

30 Years at Hartington

Wolf completed 30 years with the Hartington Public Schools in May 2005. He taught high school science for 29 years, and in his last year served as the district’s high school principal.

In just his second year of teaching, Wolf was elected president of his local association, and his involvement in association work grew from there. He served multiple terms as president of his local; was chief negotiator for the Hartington Education Association for 20 of the 25 years he was on the negotiations team; twice served as president of one of NSEA’s six regional districts; served six years as a member of the NSEA Board of Directors; and served a three-year term as NSEA vice president.

Wolf sponsored the Hartington High School Student Council and was a district advisor for Student Council. He was also Junior Class adviser.

At Christmas, he loved to dress as Santa and give out candy. He also enjoyed decorating his home for Christmas, and making cookies and candies for his nieces and nephews.

Wolf served on the Holy Trinity Catholic Church Parish Council, the library board, the Cedar County Foundation Board, the Hartington Education Foundation Board and on the Mount Marty College Alumni Board.

His wife Loxie, a retired Hartington High School English teacher and counselor, survives.