Columbus School Board Member Mary Arnold addresses the board at her final meeting, April 8 at city hall. Arnold served nine years on the board. Looking on is Superintendent Annette Deuman.

After nine years, Mary Arnold is leaving her post on Columbus’ school board.

Arnold, who was elected in 2010, chose not to run for reelection this spring. Arnold will be replaced by Keith Loppnow, who begins his three-year term April 22.

Columbus School Board honored Arnold with a reception prior to the April 8 board meeting. Arnold said quite a bit has changed in public education in the past nine years.

“In December of 2010, my husband asked me how I like being on the board,” Arnold said. “I said, ‘Well, it’s interesting, not terribly exciting.’ Then February 2011 happened and so many things changed with Act 10 and funding cuts. Things got exciting pretty quickly.”

Arnold grew up in Columbus and attended school with fellow board member Mike O’Brien. Her daughter recently graduated from Columbus High School and is on the dean’s list at UW-Stevens Point.

“I have always felt very passionate about public education,” Arnold said. “I worked as a social worker in Stevens Point and California for almost 20 years. I believe public education is just an essential part of every community and completely support public education in Columbus.”

Arnold supports the board and district administrators and believes Columbus is in good hands.

“I think we have done and will do great things in this community and it’s been an honor to serve,” Arnold said.

Update on facilities

Matt Wolfert from Bray Architects provided an update on the district’s Updated Facilities and Use Report. Wolfert and his firm have been hired by the district to work with a Community Facilities Advisory Committee tasked with giving the board evaluations and recommendations on facility improvements this summer.

The committee, a 24-member panel of Columbus residents and school staff members, met for the first time April 1.

“We had a great first meeting with a lot of engagement,” Wolfert said. “I told the committee we’re going to be doing a lot less sitting around and things will get more interesting and dynamic as the process moves along.”

The district plans to livestream the meetings through Facebook Live. Wolfert said more than 600 people viewed the first meeting April 1. On Monday, Wolfert presented a draft of his study to the board.

“Our goal is to provide a very graphic and realistic look at facility needs,” Wolfert said.

He said roofs on district buildings are in good condition. Wolfert also said HVAC engineers made an assessment of building systems recently.

“In all three schools, your HVAC systems are in good condition,” Wolfert said. “This process is also pointing out good investments with your facilities as well as pointing out challenges. We have consistent challenges but they’re very typical. We’ve worked with other districts that have more severe problems.”

Wolfert said Bray and the committee is receiving feedback from district staff. He said recommendations on infrastructure will be gleaned from staff surveys. Columbus athletic coaches may also be involved in the survey.

“We want to look at facilities through multiple lenses,” Wolfert said. “The process is off to a great start and we have an exciting few months ahead.”

At the next committee meeting, April 15, members will tour district buildings. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. In May, the board will tour facilities and look at areas that need substantial improvement.

Board and principal vacancies

Superintendent Annette Deuman said the district is forming an advisory committee to help select the next Columbus High School principal. Jake Ekern resigned in March. Deuman said the committee is open to high school students. Deadline to apply for a committee seat is April 12.

Principal candidate interviews will take place April 23-24.

“We encourage people to be part of the hiring process,” Deuman said.

Six finalists will be chosen and three will be interviewed each night. Committee members should commit to a total of seven hours of interviews.

The board will also soon fill the vacancy left by Barb Hesselberg in February. Board President Cindy Damm said a number of candidates applied. She said a new board member will likely be appointed next week.

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