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The North Bend Eagle


Havelka looks at NBC past, future, retirement

by Nathan Arneal
Posted 6/7/10

Jim Havelka will retire as superintendant of North Bend Central June 30, his 62nd birthday. The North Bend Eagle sat down and talked to Havelka about his tenure at North Bend and his views on where NBC is at now as a school district and where it is heading.

North Bend Eagle: What exactly does a superintendant do?

Jim Havelka: The most important thing is to be the resource person. To make sure the resources are in place for what we need to do for kids and what we want to do as a school system. Those resources include the money, the staff and the expertise to get done what we want to get done. It includes not only the financial side and making sure that we’re managed in such a way that we have what we need, but making sure that we have the right kind of staff in place, to make sure people are trained and effective at what we do, and we’re able to operate and accomplish our goals.

Although I know folks don’t like to think about it— we probably need that second gymnasium facility over time.

NBE: What have been some of the challenges that you’ve faced during your tenure at NBC?

JH: The first big challenge was that we were so spread out with five or six elementary schools located across the countryside. When I came here they were one year into the consolidation. It was a matter of working with the board and community to try to get us into a more efficient setting.

The first effort at that wasn’t very successful. We tried a bond issue in 2001 to expand the elementary school and that failed pretty spectacularly. About 2-to-1 or so. But the board was determined to go back at it again and we took a little bit different approach in creating a community committee to work with the architects directly. They came up with a little less elaborate plan that was successful.
By 2004, we were into two sites, the high school and the elementary site. That made it greatly easier to have our staff available for a variety of things we needed to have them for because we weren’t having them have to run around the country side to get things done.

There was nothing wrong with what was happening in those outlying schools. They were good schools and the people who worked in them were good people, but it’s just not a very efficient way to operate an elementary setup. By getting it all in one location, we kind of resolved that problem.

On the high school side, I don’t know that there were a lot of challenges. There was a good system in place. It was largely a matter of maintaining it and allowing it to grow in certain areas as those areas became more important. I think we’ve tried to do things over time to strengthen English, math, science, basic skills while still maintaining a wide variety of elective programs.

The other thing that was a challenge was while we were doing all this, we were facing a period of declining enrollment. We were at about 650 kids (K-12), when I first started here. Right now we’re down to about 485 or so, so it was a fairly significant decline. When you coupled that with the closing of the outlying elementary schools, we had to do quite a bit of staff reduction in the first few years. That’s never pleasant or easy to do, but I think it got accomplished fairly well. Everybody that we reduced we were able to find a position for somewhere.

NBE: In the media you hear a lot about schools having budget problems and making cuts. How has North Bend fared in that regard?

JH: We went from a period where we were getting quite a bit of state (financial) aid to a period where we get very little state aid. What’s happened is that our area is very attractive farm ground and and is very productive, so its value has been going up over the last several years. While we’ve lost state aid, we’ve been to afford to keep going at a relatively low (tax) levy. We’ve also done things during that time to maintain ourselves as efficiently as we can. Part of reducing staff was to maintain that efficiency.

In the time I’ve been here, the boards of education have been very attuned to I would say is a couple of major things.

One is to make sure our facilities are in good shape. They’ve been willing to see us put money and time and effort to see keep the facilities good. That’s avoided a lot of problems for us. As a result, we haven’t gotten hit with a lot of huge, unexpected expenses. For example, they have worked out a plan for roof removal so we’re doing that over time, not on an emergency basis.

Secondly, the board has been very attuned to managing the school resources in an effective way. We’ve spent money to maintain the system, but we haven’t gone crazy. We’ve been able to be in a situation where we have a good, stable financial condition.

NBE: You mentioned that the district’s state aid has gone down. Why is that?

JH: Two reasons. One is our number or pupils declined, and two, our valuation increased. State aid is all about valuation per pupil. In fact, the only state aid money that we now get is from option enrollment students. The net between option enrollment out and option enrollment in is paid to us. We’ve been pretty successful in having more coming in than going out.

NBE: What do you see as challenges in the future for NBC?

JH: On the enrollment side, I’m kind of positive. I don’t think we’re going to get huge, but I think you’re starting to see more and more folks seeing North Bend as a pretty good place to move into. The last couple of years our enrollment has trended up. At the lowest point I think we were around 460 kids. We’re now up to about 485. It looks like we may stay pretty stable around those numbers. I think North Bend is an attractive community in a lot of ways.

A big challenge is going to be preschool. We know at some point down the line we’re going to need to create a preschool opportunity within the public schools. Finding space for that is going to be a challenge.

Fortunately, Mrs. (Martha) Settles has operated a great program for a number of years, but she’s indicated that in the future she is going to want to retire. So that’s going to be an issue we’ll have to deal with.

Probably another area is regarding activities facilities. Within the conference, more and more schools are getting two gymnasiums. That changes the whole setup as to what you can host and what you can offer. There probably is going to come a time when this community is going to need to look at that.

I think we’re set up nicely with the facility we have for wrestling and for weights— although I know folks don’t like to think about it— we probably need that second gymnasium facility over time.

Beyond that I think just managing in a time of change. This is an ongoing challenge, but standards are going up. We need to make sure we’re doing a lot to make sure kids are getting there. This year we’re investing in a new reading program that the staff has been working for over a year getting ready to go. It’s going to put more and more effort into reaching our goal of having every child read on grade level by grade three. That’s a very hard goal to achieve, and one that need a lot of time and effort, and some money. Again we’ve had the resources in place to be able to do that.

NBE: What’s been your favorite part of the job?

I like being around the kids. I like going to ball games and doing those sorts of things. So if there’s a favorite part of the job, I would say that is it.

I’m not a big socializer as far as getting up and down the halls visiting, but I try to see a lot of the activities as far as music, sports, speech and those things, and try to see how kids are involved.

NBE: What are your plans once you’re done?

JH: Don’t have a lot. We’re just going to relax and take about a month to get our bearing and so forth. Then there may be some opportunities out there. I’d like to do some substituting. I always enjoyed teaching and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to do much of it.

The community has been willing to put in the resources to make a good school and maintain it. Now they’re reaping the benefits of that.

There’s some possibilities of helping other schools with some stuff. We’ll just have to see what occurs. If I wanted to work full time I’d have continued doing what I’m doing. I just kind of want to back off a bit. I’ll be 62 June 30, and it’s time to go a little lighter.

We are going to stay in North Bend, we really like North Bend, so we’ll continue to make our home here. Linda will continue in Schuyler at the bank for the foreseeable future, though maybe in December she’ll go to half time.

Nothing exciting. Play golf.

NBE: What's changed during all your years in education?

JH: We have, in my opinion, much better schools than we had 40 years ago, or 37 years ago when I started. At that time we didn’t even really serve special ed. kids. There’s been a lot of growth and development.

I think kids are great nowadays. I know you can get people who complain that kids were so much better 40 years ago. I was there, they weren’t.

I think by and large our kids do really great things. This is a school I think our community can be really proud of. The community has been willing to put in the resources to make a good school and maintain it. Now they’re reaping the benefits of that. The school is by and large a leader in this area and recognized as such. I’m sure it’s going to continue that way. You have to feel pretty good about where North Bend is.

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