Summer is nearing its halfway point, but things are still happening at Milaca High School.
One week after sitting down with the Union-Times for an in-depth Q & A session, Superintendent Tim Truebenbach filled an important position in the district with the hiring of as Activities Director/Dean of Students Brian Julson.
Julson is a Princeton native and spent the past 15 years teaching and coaching in St. Francis. With key administrative hiring behind him, Truebenbach will focus his time on preparing for the upcoming school year.
Here is Part 2 of Trubenbach’s in-depth Union-Times interview.
Q: What things can you do differently to persuade people who are against voting “yes” or are on the fence regarding an operating referendum or voting to spend money for faciliites?
A: Last year, there were a lot of things on the ballot. There were four open seats on the school board and I think that was a distractions to the other questions. Once you have so many things on there it’s kind of like a buffet. I think it’s going to be more focused, and I think we need to work on our internal groups being ambassadors of what we’re trying to do here and be promoting and communicating. They can’t say “vote this way” or “vote the other way,” but just accurately communicate, and when untruths are out there, let’s have the truth speak up. We should be proud of what we’re doing. We’re going to need the help of a lot of people. I don’t know if the community is going to put together some type of “vote yes” group. That’s not what I do. If something like that occurs, that sends a lot of messages. You never know. I’m optimistic because we have to. It’s right by our kids.
Q: How difficult were the most recent round of budget-related position terminations?
A: The only time in my superintendent career I’ve not had to cut is one year. Granted, it’s only four years. But I can tell you in my entire career as an educator I’d be willing to bet there was probably less than four years that I’ve been part of a district that hasn’t cut. There is always adjusting that’s going on. There is a bigger issue here with the funding. I really believe that. It’s responsible of us to be constantly looking at that budget and what we can afford. Unfortunately, sometimes that means something has to go. Even with in that $1.2 million in cuts, we did reduce staffs and some programs and have capitalized on some gracious donations.
Benedict and Dororthy Gorecki donated $250,000 to our athletics and activities to help purchase uniforms and help kids pay for fees. If you look in our weight room, there is brand new equipment. There are lifts in the gym for wrestling mats and we had been saving for years to get those. There is football equipment, football and baseball equipment and scoreboards that we purchased with those donation dollars.
And then, an anonymous donation came of $2 million and that’s unprecedented. We are so fortunate. The donation came with three priorities. One, school safety. Two, to support under-privileged children. And three, as school officials deem fit. We are doing our dandiest to honor that request and follow through with that. Coming back to those cuts, we refer to it as a subsidies portion, and we’re using those donation dollars to subsidize the cost of some of those items.
Q: What are the most important Early Childhood Education trends facing the district?
A: We’re starting to see an influx of some of those identifiers and we’re having to address low-incident type settings. So, if we had a blind student. We’re starting to see some of those needs to be at a younger age. Another example would be our nurse’s office with diabetic students. We’ve got some very sensitive needs at an early age, so you can imagine having any Early Childhood student having to maintain themselves on a diet is challenging.
We’ve got some programs in place. Two years ago, started what we refer to as wrap-around care. So a student can go to Early Childhood for half a day and then to day care for half the day on-site. We’ve got that rolling. So we’re exposing them to the classroom setting. Some of the challenges are always going to be funding. It’s an expansion of our school and our offering.
Q: How are you dealing with declining enrollment?
A: Unfortunately, we’re seeing that. Smaller classes are coming in than the ones that are leaving. We’ve got another 110 students coming into kindergarten next year, which is low. But I’m hoping we start to see this roller-coaster of enrollment over the past 10 years. I’m hoping to see an upswing and some of the successes we’ve experienced start to draw some younger families.
When it comes to declining enrollment, there are a couple reasons. There is quality programming around the area, whether it’s Pease Christian School or Faith Community Christian, but we’re also seeing a decline of families in the community. I don’t know that we have a lot of additional housing. We don’t have a big company booming in this community. Heggies purchased every industrial lot the city had for sale because they’re going to be expanding, but they haven’t expanded yet. But I’m waiting because they’re talking 50 or 100 more jobs and that means we can continue doing more awesome programming. And Kwik Trip is going to bring 30 or so more jobs. We’re monitoring that. Those things can’t happen soon enough, and the housing needs to catch up too.
Q: What would you say to people who are against a referendum or on the fence?
A: I do think the perception that’s out there is the state just gave us an increase and that’s going to be a challenge to overcome and communicate. We need to communicate “when is average good enough?” We’re below average. The average referendum across the state is $1,200 (per student) and we’re currently at $724. If you went to the doctor, would you take the below-average doctor? We’re trying to do something special for our kids, our future and our community as a whole. To be honest, my job is not to convince people how to vote. My job is to make sure they are informed. We’re just doing trying to do best by our kids, our programs and our community, and that’s what we’re here for. I can be proud to say I’m a Milaca Wolf.