Boyd Bradbury is resigning as superintendent of the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District, but he is not leaving education -- he has accepted a job as a professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Essentially, he will be training future school administrators. And he will not be a stranger in Waubun and Ogema, since part of his new duties will include a new program to improve educational outcomes for American Indian kids in six area school districts.
Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School Board Chairperson Jim Helliksen said the district will miss Bradbury's leadership.
"We begged him to stay and offered him more money," Helliksen said. "He was a wonderful addition to the school ... I think we were very fortunate to find him and hire him. We're very sad to see him go."
Bradbury has been generally well liked and respected by district teachers and helped bring them and administrative staff together and working in one direction, Helliksen said.
"He got the bond measure passed," that resulted in renovation and new construction at the high school in Waubun and grade school in Ogema.
"He tightened up discipline and created a whole different climate," in the schools ... He was a good leader."
Bradbury became superintendent in May of 2000 and will continue to serve throughout the summer, after which interim superintendent Joe Merseth will take over for a year.
Waubun was Bradbury's first superintendent's job. He was a high school principal in Benson, Minn., for five years and taught Spanish at Blue Earth and Wadena prior to that.
His new job will be as associate professor of educational leadership at MSUM. He will also be a program coordinator for educational leadership in association with Tri-College University.
Through the Tri-College gig, he will continue to work with the White Earth Tribe on a comprehensive education study that will look at six area school districts that serve Indian students, from birth through their post-secondary education.
The districts are Waubun, Mahnomen, Circle of Life, Pine Point, Bagley and the Naytahwaush charter school. Human Services and Indian health services will also be part of the study, which will result in a list of recommendations for each entity.
Bradbury can look back on a number of accomplishments at Waubun-Ogema-White Earth, starting with the $10.7 million building bond referendum that passed in 2002.
"That was no small undertaking," he said. "There were two failed referendums in the 1990s ... a lot of people worked on that ... the early 1900s buildings were really substandard to educate today's kids. We very much appreciated that there was so much support -- a very strong group effort was needed to pass that."
It took another three years to finish up all elements of the construction project, he said.
"Quite a number of people are pretty happy (with the improved schools) now that they're there," he said. "We try to make it available to the community, so it serves as a community center of sorts. We try to accommodate so people can use the facility -- they are paying for it."
Local dollars now pay for 100 percent of debt service on the building bonds. Equalization aid started out paying a third of the debt costs, but rapidly rising property values have caused a corresponding drop in equalization aid, he said.
Bradbury also oversaw a number of reform issues regarding student management: He tightened the dress code (no more baggy pants) and implemented a zero tolerance policy towards the worst swear-word and its substitutes. He also put strict limits on the amount of time students could spend in the hallways, requiring them to be in class during class time.
He also improved school lunches and found money for professional development of teachers, with 40 percent of staff involved in an on-site master's degree program.
The result of all these efforts was "a dramatic decrease in discipline referrals -- there really was a cultural shift within the district," he said. "What used to be acceptable is not acceptable anymore. If you were to walk through the hallways today you'd see a much different school than a few years ago."
He worked to make sure curriculum was scoped and sequenced properly and in line with state standards.
"Our focus really is on increasing student achievement at this time," he added. "We try to keep that in the forefront."
The district also added a baseball program, and baseball field, as well as a summer recreation program. An Alternative Learning Program was also added.
"We've tried to provide as many opportunities as we can for kids to succeed," Bradbury said. "The No. 1 thing we had to do is raise the expectations for the district -- behavioral and academic expectations, from staff through the board. This is a collaborative effort, not just because of me, but the kids have responded well to that, and it's a much better learning environment because of it."