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VanDerBill retires from Willmar School Board for more family time

Liz VanDerBill served as chairwoman of the Willmar School Board for two years of her four-year term. She decided not to seek re-election this year. She counts the approval of bonding for a building and maintenance plan as her proudest moment. Briana Sanchez / Tribune

WILLMAR — The Willmar School Board will begin 2017 with two new board members and a new leader.

Chairwoman Liz VanDerBill is retiring from the board after serving a four-year term, two years as chair.

VanDerBill said she decided to step down for family reasons.

When she was first elected, her daughter Abby was in kindergarten, and now she's a busy fourth-grader. As she becomes busier and involved in more activities, VanDerBill said, she finds herself pulled in many directions. Serving on the board "takes up a lot of time I should be spending with her," she said.

Board meeting nights can now become "another night we can do things together."

VanDerBill said she plans to stay involved in Willmar's schools in other ways that might be less time-consuming.

In an interview last week, she reflected on her time on the board.

"It's been an incredibly busy four years," she said.

During her time as chairwoman, the board saw the retirement of one superintendent and the hiring of another one, the approval of a building referendum and the beginning of construction on a new school and two building additions.

The superintendent search added extra duties for her as the board's leader, and so did the referendum effort, she said.

Her work on the School Board taught her a lot about how a school district operates, she said.

"I think that teachers and staff are doing a great job of showing students that they care," she said.

VanDerBill is a product of Willmar's schools, but a student is not aware of the way all the adults in a school system work together for the students, she said.

"The biggest thing I learned is the intricacy of how everything works," she said. She had not known about the meetings staff and administrators need to have and how carefully things are planned.

The most impressive thing about the school district — "how passionately everybody wants our children to be successful," she said. It's the constant focus, she added, and she has seen staff members, teachers and administrators give up their free time to attend events or meet with parents.

VanDerBill chose the adoption of the bond approved by the voters in a referendum as her proudest moment.

"It was something the board worked on for a long time," she said. The broad building and maintenance plan adopted should help the district move into the future, she said.

More people should consider running for office or getting involved with the schools in some other capacity, VanDerBill said.

"It was a great experience; I learned a lot," she said. "I would do it again, even though it impacted my family. ... I'm very glad I did it."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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