The newest member of the Milaca Public Schools Board is ready to listen, learn and advocate on behalf of students.
Bryan Rensenbrink was appointed to the board to fill the seat left vacant by Pat Nelson, who resigned in early March. He said he applied for the position in an effort to facilitate a quality education for his children, Ellie and Will, who are in the seventh and sixth grade, as well as the other students at Milaca.
“It was just a sense of giving back to the community,” Rensenbrink said. “I ran the gambit of coaching for my kids’ sports and now they’re old enough to have school coaches. I thought I’d see what I could do while they’re still in school.”
So far, he’s participated in just one school board meeting. Much of that time was spent observing and learning the process.
“I still feel like I’m learning a lot,” he said. “The school board doesn’t jump into a decision. They talk it out and deliberate before reaching a decision. I like what I’ve seen so far as that goes. Jumping in with both feet can prove to be disastrous.”
Rensenbrink plans on seeking election in November to retain his recently appointed seat. As a normally reserved and private person, he said opening himself up to run for public office required a little prodding from his wife, Laurie. Both the Rensenbrinks grew up in the area and graduated from Milaca in 1986 and 1989. Bryan studied criminal justice at St. Cloud State University and moved back to Milaca in 1995 to work for the Department of Corrections. Laurie is a clinical lab scientist at Fairview Hospital in Princeton.
“I think I’m pretty easy to work with, and I’m not coming into this with any set agenda,” he said. “My goal is to make school the best place to be. I’m not set in my ways any way, shape or form. If someone has a good idea, I’ll listen. I’m in it for the kids, not me.”
Rensenbrink views learning how school funding mechanisms work — and how to make that lack-luster funding work the best — as the biggest obstacle he and his fellow board members face.
“Everybody seems to have to do more with less, so that’s going to be our challenge,” he said. “I’ve been a little disappointed that the referendum hasn’t passed. The economy is part of the problem. People don’t have a lot of money to do anything. But space is an issue, and I don’t want to see programs being cut.”
Another issue Rensenbrink is concerned about is the rapidly changing use of technology in education.
“We need to keep up with technology and manage it properly — for students and parents — that’s important,” he said. “And I want to make it as equal as possible. No one kid should lose an opportunity because of financial ability.”
Rensenbrink is willing to learn the ropes and make the tough decisions sure to face the school board in the coming months and years. And through it all, he plans to keep one thought a priority.
“My main goal is to make school a good experience for kids,” he said. “As a school board, we can make that possible.”