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January 02, 2013
Kronback retires from school board
After serving nearly 28 years Gene Kronback decided to step aside from the WWG school board
|Gene Kronback at his desk in his home office.|
|Tom Merchant photo|
WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) -- Westbrook — This past fall longtime school board member, Gene Kronback, decided to not run again for a position on the board and its chairperson for all but two years of his tenure.
Kronback, a rural Westbrook farmer, has always had strong ties with education. He went to South Dakota State University to get his degree in agriculture and teaching. He then taught agriculture at Brewster for 12 years. In 1976 he and his wife, Maydelle, moved with their three children back to Westbrook to take over the family farm when his parents retired. After moving back, he filled in for sixth months as ag teacher in Walnut Grove.
He noted all three of his children have followed suit by getting their teaching degrees. Two of them are still currently teaching.
In the spring of 1985 Kronback was asked to run for school board by several friends and board members. Also having three children in school he wanted to take a more active role in their educational opportunities. He was elected and replaced Kenny Jans who was going off of the board.
At the time Marlowe Nelsen was the board chairman, and when Nelsen ran for county commissioner two years later Kronback was named board chairman.
Kronback said, “it takes a couple of years being on the board to really learn how the district operates with budgetary matters. Back then it was easier to deal with budgets, they were more black and white. Today the budgets are much more complex with so many funding sources to deal with.”
Back then boards had to deal with many more changes in staffing — “today teachers tend to stay longer, with many staying through retirement,” Kronback said.
During his time on the board Kronback worked with three full time superintendents, and one part time. When he started Doc Quincey was superintendent, then Steve Kjorness was working towards getting his superintendent’s certificate. During that time Don Knutson helped out on a part time basis. For the past ten years Kronback has served with Loy Woelber. “I have been fortunate have a limited number of superintendents and a low staff turnover while I served,” he said.
In the first few years one of the biggest problems was letting bids for fuel oil and gas. Kronback said, “We had several bidders from the area at the time. Of course we also had to deal with teacher contracts, budgets, and maintaining our buildings.”
Teacher contract negotiations were always a big thing. “We have always had a good working relationship with the teachers, and we always settled before the deadline,” Kronback stated.
Coming from a teaching background, Kronback knew where they were coming from. “I was in their shoes at one time, on the other side of the table,” he said.
When it came to setting levy’s Kronback felt there is no sense in levying for more than they needed. We tried to hold it down — and have been fortunate to have the funds to do that.
One of the biggest things the district had to deal with, was in the late eighties when they were looking to pair with another school. The board looked at pairing with Storden Jeffers, Red Rock Central, and eventually joined forces with Walnut Grove.
The two districts paired in 1991 and consolidated in 2001. In ‘91 the boards decided to have the high school in Westbrook, the middle school in Walnut Grove, and K-4 in both schools. More recently the board decided it would be better if all of the K-6 would be in Walnut Grove, and the 7-112 in Westbrook. Kronback said, “that was a difficult decision, but we had to do what was best for the students.”
With all of the change that came about since the original pairing, Kronback felt overall it was very successful.
During his tenure on the board Kronback pointed out some of the successful things that have been accomplished in the district.
In the late eighties we were fortunate to receive Sparsity Revenue. Kronback said, “we spent a lot of time at the legislature working to get Westbrook eligible for the additional revenue. That really has helped us over the years to keep our budget in the black.”
Getting designated as a Magnet Arts School after pairing with Walnut Grove, also has been a great accomplishment. “It has been a great program for the students and a real asset to the district,” said Kronback.
The past several years the district has received great financial support from the communities. It enabled the district to add the new science wing at the high school, and upgrade the bus garages, and facilities with new windows, doors, and much more.
Kronback said, “it has been great working with administration, board members, staff and parents. For me personally I was given some personal achievement through awards from the school board association. He was named All State School Board Member, Directors award, and the Presidents Award. Kronback said he learned a lot going to the annual conventions, hearing some good speakers, learning about new products, and being able to visit with fellow board members from other districts about common issues.
When it comes to down to it, Kronback said, “there’s a lot more to this job than just going to monthly meetings, especially when you are the board chairman.”
“I will really miss the interaction with the administration and fellow board members, and staying informed about things going on in the district,” Kronback stated.
One thing for sure, the board and communities will surely miss Kronback’s steady hand at the helm of the board.
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