Candidates for the Exeter-Milligan School Board were asked to give a brief biography and also respond to the following questions:
1. Why did you decide to run for school board?
2. How do you see your role on the Exeter-Milligan School Board?
3. What are the three greatest challenges facing small school districts in Nebraska?
4. What are solutions you propose to solve the challenges facing small school districts in Nebraska?
5. What strengths do you have that would benefit the Exeter-Milligan school board?
6. Where do you stand on the consolidation issue? Pro-Friend or Pro-Fillmore Central or no consolidation?
I have a diverse background that hopefully can add value to the school district, and a passion to see that our students get the best educational and extra-curricular opportunities possible.
The role of elected officials, first and foremost, is to set policy and direction. With that, it is essential to work hand in hand with the Administration to create the best educational and extra-curricular environment possible in the most fiscally responsible way, while at the same time, being accountable to the public that elected you.
Rural schools offer countless benefits. They are also faced with challenges. At the top of the list are: Attracting and retaining quality administrators and teachers; Offering top-notch educational and extra-curricular activities for students; Battling the declining population of rural areas.
The number one asset of any organization is its employees. We can’t settle for average or middle-of-the-road. We are fortunate to have great employees. However, if we are using salary comparisons of our peer schools as a guide, we need to be at the top, not the middle, to assure we can continue to hire and maintain a top-level staff.
Similarly, we need to stay ahead of the curve with our educational and extra-curricular offerings. In order to stay relevant in rural areas, these investments can’t be shorted. Once we fall off the pace, it is hard to get back to the top.
We need to continue to find ways to attract people who want to live and work in the area. The utilization of rural broadband has opened many doors and Covid-19 is changing how companies think. They are finding efficiencies with employees working from home. We need to capitalize on these. If you polled recent graduates, many would love the opportunity to return to rural areas to work and raise a family. More jobs=more families=more students=successful rural school districts.
I have experience crafting and implementing a governmental budget that is very similar to the school district’s budget. In my current job, I have planned and overseen more than $20 million of projects, including working with bond companies on financing and special elections. I have experience working with TIF (tax increment financing), as well as determining valuations and setting tax levies. I have been involved in many projects that have utilized state and federal funding resources and I have testified before the state legislature on issues of importance to Fillmore County. One of my primary job responsibilities is promoting economic development with the goal of retaining and attracting businesses. A unique characteristic of my position is the opportunity to keep learning through new projects and ever-changing policies.
I have managed employees for the past 25 years and am well-versed in employee relations, insurance and compliance issues and all the general issues that go with overseeing the day-to-day operations of a public entity that operates on a $6 million annual budget. I have served on numerous local, regional and state boards throughout my life that have provided me insight and contributed to my knowledge on the processes and creativity needed for elected boards to work together with the administration and the public to move in a positive direction.
History has shown consolidation is an unavoidable topic in regard to public education in rural areas. Exeter and Milligan have proven how successfully it can work. History also indicates that about every 20-30 years rural population and enrollments drop to a point that the topic is at least discussed by many districts. Taxing implications, educational opportunities and cost per student typically drive these conversations; however, for some it comes down to issues of losing the identity of your town or school, community vitality, job loss or whether one’s kids will have the same opportunities when it comes to activities. Truth is, all these factors are valid and need to be evaluated and scrutinized to determine if consolidation is a healthy option for the district. These discussions are rarely easy and deserve a slow, thorough and open process with public involvement and input.
ERIC MILTON - Incumbent
1. I want to make a difference in our rural community and be active in the education of our children.
2. My roll on the Exeter-Milligan School Board has been to learn what our administration and staff need in order to maximize the experience our students have at Exeter-Milligan. We try to do this while being good stewards of the tax payers’ money.
3. Student numbers in rural Nebraska continue to decline. The state Legislature at any time can put a burden on the rural schools as we continue to lose population which also costs us representation in our state government. Changing regulations make it difficult on small school districts because we only have so much staff to keep up with all these changes.
4. Additional housing would helpful in our district and many districts similar to us. We recognize in our communities that we are able to attract families as long as we have a house for them to live in.
We must remain vigilant about what the Nebraska Legislature is doing, that can have a negative consequence on our district.
5. Patience and the ability to listen are strengths I feel I have. I also understand that not every person on a board will agree on every subject matter, and I am okay with that.
6. When you look at our student population today, and the projections moving forward, there are obvious concerns about the number of students attending Exeter-Milligan. While being the smallest student population in the county, and one of the smallest in the state, it does present its challenges. However, it also presents opportunities for our kids. We know consolidation is very hard, but Exeter-Milligan has been extremely successful with what was done 20 years ago. As a district, we will be very successful if we go through another consolidation at some point in time. To be for consolidation, I would want to see what the package looks like for our district. The Friend package included retention of our staff, activities in our communities, increased educational opportunities for our students, and keeping our taxes the same or a little lower. I would expect that a Fillmore Central package will do similar things for our district. I feel that it is the job of the board to look at a potential package with a district, negotiate the best package possible for our district, and then present that to our district for a vote. I do believe that the public should have the final say in a consolidation. I don’t believe that being for one district over another, is as important as what our citizens feel is the best for our district when they see an equitable agreement.
ANTHONY DUE – Write-In Candidate
Hi I am Anthony Due of Exeter. My wife, Tara and I have 5 children. I work on our family farm near Cordova and have served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve since my graduation from Exeter Milligan High School.
1. I will have kids in this district for the next 20 years so I would like to be more involved in it’s future to try and ensure all students of Exeter Milligan get the same amazing education, friendships, and experiences that I was able to enjoy.
2. To ensure the citizens of the district are always informed and their concerns and ideas are heard without a bias opinion.
3. As I am running for the Exeter Milligan school board that is the only district I am concerned with and our challenge in my opinion is student enrollment.
4. We need to work with our communities and local businesses to create more opportunities for employment and incentives to move families into the district.
5. I believe my military experience will bring a desperately needed strong leadership role to the board and assist in making good outside the box decisions that will benefit the district.
6. No consolidation
Hi, I'm Paul Jurgensen from Cordova. My wife Amy and I have 2 kids attending school at E-M.
Amy Is an RN with a Bachelor's degree from Midland University, and I graduated from SCC MIlford and am now a farmer.
1. A while back I inquired about being on the school board. When I was told there may be a couple vacancies, I felt it may be a good time to run.
3. I feel some of the biggest challenges facing our school are class size and funding. E-M has done an exceptional job with sharing teachers and combining sports with other districts to give our students the best education and best experiences possible. It is proof that good things can happen when working with others.
5. I am a good team player. If elected, I would take a step back and consider all of the pros and cons to any decision that would potentially affect the education of our students; or have an adverse affect on the taxpayers in our district.
6. Given the right scenario, I would support a consolidation with any neighboring district that would come to the table and give us mutual support. Not losing teachers, neighbors, and classmates would weigh very heavy on my mind.
The recent Curricular Audit between the E-M and Friend districts stated that if there were more students in each grade, it would create an opportunity that would allow for splitting into groups tailored to the different learning styles of each student. I feel that would be a "win" for every student.
No matter which district we do a study with, it will probably yield a similar result.
Hi I am Allen Vavra. My wife Carri and I have three children and we live in Exeter. I graduated from Milligan High School and obtained an Associate of Applied Science degree in Ag. Business Management from Southeast Community College Beatrice. After living in Lincoln for a few years, Carri and I decided to move back to the community we grew up in to raise our family. I currently am the location manager for Farmers Cooperative in Exeter.
1. I believe that our school is the backbone of our community and would like the opportunity to be part of guiding a successful future for the Exeter/Milligan students.
2. To review essential facts, consider the ideas of others, present personal opinions during board deliberations and be transparent and accountable to the public.
3. School finance, student enrollment and hiring and retaining quality teachers.
4. Setting a vision for the school district that represents the values of our community. Developing policies to help improve student achievements. Hiring teachers that are endorsed in multiple areas.
5. I work well with other people. I am open minded. I am involved in the community.
6. I don't feel I have all the information I need to have a solid stance on the consolidation issue at this time.