Retired LqPV superintendent grateful for public support

MADISON -- Appleton, Madison, Milan and Marietta-Nassau operated independent schools when Bob Munsterman began teaching English and physical education at Milan in 1974.

MADISON -- Appleton, Madison, Milan and Marietta-Nassau operated independent schools when Bob Munsterman began teaching English and physical education at Milan in 1974.

The districts might have continued on their separate ways had some farsighted local leaders and supportive community members not used the devastating Madison High School fire on Jan. 30, 1987, as an opportunity to establish a new cooperative high school.

"Nobody at that time, at least initially, gave it any thought,'' said Munsterman about the possibility of constructing a cooperative high school for the four districts.

"We in Milan at that time probably had about 300 students or so in the K-12 system there. Appleton and Madison both had at least probably double or better than double that size. I think the expectation was Madison would probably just rebuild and life would go on,'' Munsterman recalls.

But enrollment was declining, buildings were aging and officials were realizing they had to do something in order to continue to provide the best options for students, he said.


"I think the communities are fortunate that there was leadership that had the foresight to look at the Lac qui Parle Valley cooperative efforts,'' Munsterman said.

The districts formed the Lac qui Parle Valley Joint Powers District in March 1988, and applied for and received an $8 million state grant under the 1987 Cooperative Secondary Facilities Grant Pilot Program.

The program encouraged districts with declining enrollment to improve curriculum and educational opportunities while cutting operating costs.

The bill was sponsored by former state Rep. Glen Anderson of Bellingham. Anderson, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was instrumental in getting the bill passed.

If the program had not been enacted, Appleton and Madison could very possibly still be operating their own buildings, but would probably have 300 to 400 students and Milan would have consolidated somewhere or dissolved and split between Appleton and Montevideo, Munsterman thinks.

Additional funding was provided by a $3.8 million bond issue approved voters on July 26, 1988. The new school opened in September 1990.

Munsterman, who served the districts for more than 34 years in teaching and various administrative positions, retired Wednesday. He had served the final eight years and three months as superintendent of Lac qui Parle Valley School District.

Munsterman grew up on the family farm near Holloway and graduated from Appleton High School in 1969. He attended Willmar Junior College for five quarters and graduated from Moorhead State College with a degree in English and physical education in 1974.


Munsterman says declining enrollment has caused much of the change to rural school districts.

Change to education itself, he says, boils down to accountability: are schools preparing young people for changes in society, business and industry. He says rural schools in general are doing an excellent job.

"We're still in good shape as far as being able to offer a broad curriculum. Granted, we can't offer as wide a variety as you might find in the metro schools and suburban schools,'' he said. "But I think our kids go to college well prepared and they are successful in college and successful after college.''

The Lac qui Parle Valley graduation rate is virtually 100 percent, and from 90 percent to 95 percent of students attend post-secondary education.

"So I guess to me that's telling me that they have some value in education. Their elementary and high school education experience provided them with something that they feel further education is important,'' he said.

Munsterman and his wife, Deb, a small-business management instructor at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, will continue to live in Milan where he plans to catch up on some projects.

Munsterman is grateful for the public's support. Voters initially supported the bond issue to build the high school, and they've supported three operating levies while he was superintendent.

"I think that's a good reflection on the values that the communities have for education,'' he said. "That's not true in most other districts, and especially cooperative districts have struggled to get that kind of support.''


Ray Farwell of rural Alberta, who retired from Montgomery-Lonsdale Public School, has been appointed Lac qui Parle Valley interim superintendent.

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