By TRICIA HILL
After seven years serving as the Boscobel School District Administrator, Dr. Steve Smith will be retiring. Smith began working for the Boscobel School District in July of 2006 and will be leaving June 30.
When Smith came to Boscobel, he was living in Wausau with his wife Nancy. However, he later moved to Boscobel and made himself a home on Oak Street.
Nancy was a cancer survivor and she chose to stay in Wausau and continue her career and be able to stay close to her doctors if anything were to go wrong. So this left Steve and her to only be able to spend weekends together.
“Sunday nights were tough saying goodbye to my wife, but she knew I was doing something I loved and that made her happy,” Smith said.
In Dr. Smith’s seven years at Boscobel, he feels he has seen a lot of good things accomplished by both the community and staff and without their help he doesn’t see that it would have been possible.
Smith has seen many things change in the Boscobel School District over his seven years, both academically and in the infrastructure of the school.
“I feel the changes to the infrastructure are one of the cool things the school board, staff and community members have attended to,” Smith said.
Smith says he can remember when Boscobel High School held the very first sectional track meet and as guests arrived in the parking lot they looked around at everything surrounding the track area and seemed to scoff and wonder why they were there. However, by the end of the evening he felt they knew why they were there because the community members came together to put on an efficient meet and a great sectional event.
“It was then that I knew I wanted to make it a point to work on the infrastructure of the school,” said Smith.
Since then there have been changes made at all of the Boscobel School District buildings and athletic areas, including new roofs on all buildings, the grounds of the high school, a new 4k classroom, and renovations done to the washrooms.
Some of the changes done to the high school grounds included updates done on the press box and ticket booths, a new concession stand contributed by the Boscobel Athletic Boosters, and changes made to the baseball diamonds.
Smith feels that a lot of hard work and time was put into working on making the infrastructure better and he would like to thank all involved in making it possible.
“These things have been done to give people pride in being a Bulldog,” said Smith.
After Smith leaves, he feels there is always room for improvement, especially at the high school. Some of the things he would like to see worked on at the high school would be fixing the potholes in the student parking lot, more landscaping, and fresh cement for the walkway to the school.
Even though there have been many improvements done to the school that Smith is proud of, he is also proud of many changes that have been made academically to advance student knowledge at the school.
One of those changes that has shown through is by the eighth grade class of the 2012-2013 school year. When taking the state test, the eighth grade class scored the highest for Boscobel in the area of math.
Smith feels this is due to the change from students being in math classes every other day to on a daily basis.
“For the class that is seen to be the most challenging kids to work with, this tells me the eighth grade students are very capable of making the changes they need to grow as youngsters in our school,” said Smith.
They are hoping to make this change in the reading program for the 2013-2014 school year, and see the same change in student reading scores for next year testing.
Changes in school finance
When Smith came into the district, he was saddened to say it was at a time where the district was handing out many pink slips to staff and consolidating with other schools due to the poor economy. However, in the past several years he feels they were able to avoid that and were actually preserving jobs.
“It was all in good planning, however, some of it was due to teachers retiring and opening the door for changes in our staff,” Smith said.
The referendum that was passed in 2008 made the people of Boscobel come out in full force. It was helpful in stopping Smith from having to cut staff, not having to look at class sizes at 30 to one in primary grades, was able to keep things such as foreign language classes at the high school, along with other programs that would have been cut otherwise, slowed down conversations with area districts about consolidation, and allowed the district to get the new roof on the high school.
Another area that Smith feels was a great accomplishment in the financing area was in revenue. The past few presidents on the Boscobel School Board, have been able to put together the kind of revenue that they need to pay off an unfunded liability. The district owed $1 million to the retirement system. By working together, they were able to save enough money to pay it down to $500,000.
Smith was also proud of the work that was done with the Title One program. In 2010, the Boscobel School District was able to turn out for the 2010 Census and increase the amount of Title One money that they were entitled to.
Why he loved his job
The thing that Smith most loved about his job was that whenever the job or the politics from Madison would get him down, going to school activities brought him joy.
“We send kids to state in Division Two, when we are really more of a Division Three school; it proves that we can compete with the best,” said Smith.
One person who stands out to him is Jean Salzgeber and her success with forensic students.
“Give her 25 students as a team and she can take all 25 students to state and have them bring home medals, that is just remarkable.
“That tells us that we have a teacher who is worth her weight in gold as she can take kids and take them up against kids from Madison and come home with medals.”
“It helps us earn the respect that we deserve,” said Smith.
Smith is not only proud of his students, but also their families. Boscobel has been labeled as the poorest school district in the SWAL with 59.9 percent of its students eligible for free or reduced lunches.
As some may see this as a bad thing to be seen as the poorest school district, Smith feels differently.
“It is something to actually be proud of because the people here have a work ethic,” Smith said. “Parents in this area work two to three jobs and work hard to make the best life for their children.”
Smith feels it is sad that the parents have to do this and it will take a long time for the community to turn poverty around to put Boscobel in the 30 percent range.
As Smith leaves the Boscobel School District, he will also be leaving the Boscobel area. He plans to move back to Wausau to be with his wife and just take some time to relax.
“My parents have had me working since fourth grade to save money for college, so now I plan to take a few days and enjoy not having to get up for work,” Smith said.
However, Smith does not plan to just relax for long. He would like to be an advocate for education by fighting for funding for smaller schools.
Even though Smith will no longer be living in Boscobel, he has already pinpointed on the calendar days he will be coming back to attend school activities in order to see the changes that have been made and see the students he has come to know grow.
As Thomas Woznicki takes over as the School District Administrator July 1, Smith hopes he will be blessed with all the support he has received over his seven years from both the staff, school board and the community.