The first time Richard (Dick) Vroman ran for the Milroy School Board, he said he got defeated rather handily.
When community members told Vroman that they didn't vote for him because they felt he was too busy farming at the time, Vroman decided to make a commitment. And, in light of being recognized for his 36 years of service on the board this past week, it's obvious that Vroman made good on that promise.
"I made up my mind, if I got on the board, I wouldn't miss any meetings," Vroman said. "In my 36 years, I only missed one regular scheduled one, and that was because I didn't get my agenda. Something got messed up with the computer that time."
Photo submitted by Jeff Hansen
At his last official board meeting on Dec. 19 at Milroy Area Schools, Richard (Dick) Vroman, right, received a certificate of achievement for his 36 years of service as a board member. Presenting Vroman with the recognition is current board chairman Jason LaVoy.
Milroy School Principal Jeff Hansen was one of the many people who thanked Vroman for his dedicated service at his last official board meeting on Dec. 19.
"Dick has been serving since 1975," Hansen said. "In this day and age, that just doesn't happen. When I think of public service, this is a great example."
Though Vroman never regretted his decision to be active in the education system in Milroy, there were a few things that bothered him.
"It's a long time to serve," he said. "There were times when I felt I should've spent more time with my family. But that's part of what happens when you're so committed."
Vroman said he initially wanted to be part of the board when his children were young. He believes he was a strong, consistent advocate for keeping the district alive.
"The desire to keep the school open made me stay on the board," Vroman said. "We mostly have young parents on the board. That's what it should be. But we need some experience, too.
"I knew the particulars of what we could do and couldn't do. We've had a considerable number of part-time superintendents who have been younger and inexperienced, so I felt that I added something many times."
Vroman said he learned a lot about representing his community during his time of service.
"We have a six-member board and when we had a 3-3 vote, it was frustrating at times," he said. "But decisions were always made and board members are supposed to support the decision whether they voted for it or not."
Board members have a difficult job, Vroman said, and there is no way to please everyone.
"You make your decisions, not necessarily on your friendships, but what's best for the students, both financially and education-wise," Vroman said. "You're bound to irritate some people."
Discontinuing the Milroy High School was the hardest decision Vroman had to make during his tenure.
"We knew it had to happen," Vroman said. "We were so short of numbers. You can offer the basic classes, but you can't offer many of the others. The last graduating class had 12 students."
Milroy also had to come up with a plan for its sports programs.
"We decided to pair sports with someone else," Vroman said. "It was hard because of all the records that the kids had made. The girls basketball team went to the state tournament once with seven players. I think they ended up runner-up in their class, which is just amazing. But it wasn't really fair to the students not to have substitutes."
The board chose to go with tuition agreements with Tracy Area High School and Marshall High School.
"We had open enrollment before the state promoted it," Vroman said. "Our kids could go to Marshall or Tracy. We provided transportation."
Vroman said that at the time, the school was in stationary operating debt.
"Someone in the state department wanted us to close," he said. "But our superintendent at the time came up with the idea of a charter school. It all got approved and it progressed very well. We came out of operating debt and we're still here."
Part of that is because of the continual support from the community, Vroman said.
"We've had tremendous support from the community," he said. "None of the referendums have ever failed. We're a small school, but we have a lot of local support."
In the past three decades, Vroman said he's built some good relationships with area superintendents and other education officials. He's served on a number of other boards, including one at Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative.
"Everyone has somewhat the same financial problems," Vroman said "It's too bad that education isn't getting the funds they need to operate. The Service Cooperative has done a lot to help us and other small schools, with the financing expertise that they have."
Vroman, who served at various times as chairman, treasurer and clerk, still has one grandson left in Milroy Schools. Though he won't be on the board any longer when his grandson graduates, Vroman is proud to have handed out three diplomas to his own children in Milroy and three diplomas to grandchildren in Tracy.
"It's quite an honor to be able to do that," he said. "Most people don't get that opportunity."
Vroman said none of his children or grandchildren ever complained about the education they got in Milroy, which is a true compliment.
"We're very proud of all of them," Vroman said. "We're happy to have our youngest daughter (Jill Vroman) come back to Marshall as a doctor. We're also pretty proud of that Milroy students have been salutatorians and valedictorians at Tracy. The principal says that when Milroy kids come over there, they're well-prepared."
While Vroman is officially retiring from the school board after 36 years of service, he's still planning to farm for awhile.
"I wouldn't have to keep on farming, but I like to farm," he said. "It might be time to lay the hoe down, but I've seen a lot of people retire and say that it's sad if you get up in the morning and don't have anything you have to do."
Vroman is certainly looking forward to spending more time with his family.
"It's sad but true, I have more time for my grandkids than I did for my kids," he said. "You get to spoil them and send them home."
As for the students at Milroy Schools, Vroman is confident that they're in good hands. Four new board members will begin serving in January.
"We have quite a young staff now in Milroy," he said. "We're in good shape."